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SHOCKING TRAGEDY IN DUNEDIN., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 74, 16 March 1880
SHOCKING TRAGEDY IN DUNEDIN.
MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR. Dunedin, March 14. One of the most horrible tragedies which ever occurred here happened this morning in Cumberland street, when James Murray Dewar, alias Grant, a butcher in the employ of Mr. Dornwell, of George street, was found dead, his wife injured almost beyond hope of recovery, his child suffocated, and the bedroom on fire, a lighted candle having been placed under the bed. The deceased man was aged about thirty years, and has been in this colony nearly twentytwo years. His proper name was Dewar, but his mother (who resides in a house just behind his) having remarried a carpenter named Grant, he adopted his step-fathei’s name- Between five and six o’clock this morningthe milkman, who supplies the family, on making his customary visit to the house, was startled by seeing smoke issuing from one of the front windows. He knocked loudly at the front door, and received no reply. He then raised an alarm, which brought some neighbors to the scene, and subsequently a member of the Fire ' Brigade, and Sergeant Deane and a constable. On the house being entered, Mrs. Grant was discovered lying on the floor in her nightdress, with blood issuing from her head, and quite unconscious. The bedroom was next visited, and it was full of smoke. On the bed lay Mr. Grant, with a severe blow on his head, evidently inflicted by an axe, which lay at hand, and which bore marks of blood on it. The infant was also in bed, apparently suffocated, the lower part of the mattress having been set fire to by a lighted candle, which, was found alongside it. Mrs. Grant was then lifted from off the floor, and carried into the sittingroom, and Dr. Niven, who was sent for, on seeing her condition, ordered her removal to the Hospital. The tragedy must have been committed very early this morning. By whom it has been done —whether the act of a stranger or by either of the Grants—is a question that the police are endeavoring to solve. So far as can be learned, nothing has been missed from the house, nor does anything in the other rooms appear to have been disturbed. The only suspicious circumstance is that the door of the house was found to be open. The wounds on Grant’s head and those on his wife appear to the unprofessional eye to negative the theory of having been selfinflicted, and there is an additional circumstance, vouched for by many people who knew the couple intimately, that they lived very happy lives. The strangest part of the whole affair is that none of the neighbors, some of whom lived about twelve feet from Grant’s house heard the slightest noise or were awoke by an alarm of fire, which was raised by a fireman who lives close by. The woman, who still lies unconscious at the hospital, has three wounds on her head, causing a compound depressed fracture of the skull. One of the wounds is on the crown of the head, the second behind the right ear, and the third on the temple. The affair has caused great excitement. [by teleoeaph, yesterday.] Dunedin, March 15. There is every reason to believe that yesterday’s affair was the result of a brutal murder, that the sleeping, unconscious man had been killed by one stroke, and that a deliberate attempt was made to conceal all evidence of the crime by burning down the house in which the deed was done. The last thing known of any member of the family on Saturday night is that Grant travelled by tram-car from South Dunedin to the corner of St. David street, whence, no doubt, he proceeded home. The next thing we hear in connection with the family is that about four o’clock on Sunday morning a neighbor named Henry Haydon, who happened to be up for a few moments, saw a light in one of the front rooms of the house. This was the sitting- room. From this till close upon 7 o'clock nothing is known. Shortly before 7 o’clock Mr. Robb, sen., who lives in Lambeth place, opposite, noticed smoke issuing from the residence of the Grants, and his son being a member of the Fire Brigade, the father naturally aroused him, after satisfying himself that the smoke was really proceeding from the house. Robb,
jun., donned his uniform and ran across the street. He called to the inmates, but got no answer, then tried the front door, but found it locked, and ran round at once to the back. At this time he was certain that the house was on fire, as smoke was issuing from underneath the eaves, from the window, etc. He found the back door open, and rushing in, he went up the passage and into the bedroom, hearing, as he did, a gurgling noise. • In the room he found the smoke was so thick as to prevent his seeing anything, and he had to go down on his knees. He had not made his way for more than a moment or two in this way before he felt a body on the floor. Catching hold of it, he dragged it out, and placed it in half-way in the sitting room. As he moved it in he heard a groan, which convinced him the person was alive, and when he got the body out ho found it was that of a woman. Then he obtained assistance, and quenched the fire. During this time Robb found Grant himself lying on the bed, but, seeing he was dead, and having got the fire under, he did not move the body. At the head of the bed was an ordinary American axe, which belonged to the house. Grant had a severe blow on the head, inflicted by this instrument, for it was covered with blood. Blood was also on the pillow and over the bed, spattered over the wall. The wound had been made, not by the sharp blade of the axe, but by the butt. Dr. Brown states that there can be no question that the blow was given while Grant was sleeping and 'that it caused death immediately. Mrs. Grant had three wounds inflicted, also by a portion of the axe other than the sharp edge, and they had undoubtedly been inflicted while the woman was in bed, for she has burns about her body and legs, and her nightdress is also burned. Thus, apparently, she must have had conscious intervals after receiving the blows, and made an abortive attempt to get from the room. The baby had no blow upon it Underneath the bed, after the blows had been struck, and the axe placed at the head of the bed, a lighted candle had been placed. The bedclothes were partly burned, and the mattress was burned pretty well through, and a hole made in the floor. A strange thing was that none of the neighbors heard any noise. The parents of the deceased, who are living immediately in the rear of the house, saw nothing of any of the family after between 3 and 4 o’clock on Saturday afternoon. There was not the slightest sign about the house afterwards of any disturbance or struggle. There was not the slightest reason to believe that any robbery was committed. Mrs. Grant’s jewellery remained untouched on the chest of drawers in the bedroom, and the house was perfectly in order. Mrs. Grant died at the hospital this morning at 12.30. Dr. Brown, when she was was admitted, at once treated her wounds, and, as the result of this, during the afternoon she breathed more easily, and slight hopes were then entertained of her possibly recovering consciousness. 8 p.m. Nothing new regarding the Cumberland street tragedy has been elicited. Mrs. Grant died from the effects of her injuries soon after midnight, not having regained consciousness. No arrests have yet been made, and no clue as yet has been obtained as to the perpetrator of the crime.
SHOCKING TRAGEDY IN DUNEDIN., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 74, 16 March 1880
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