An Insane Organist Kills His Wife.
[Abridged feom the ‘Telegraph.’]
The residents of the quiet suburb of Box Hill were thrown into a state of intense excitement on the 9th inst. when they became aware that Mrs Plaisted, of Nindo street, had been found murdered in her dwelling. For about four years or more had Mr Plaisted, who was formerly well known as the organist of several places of worship ip the city—notably St. Francis’s (Elizabeth street) and Scots Church (Collins street)— and his family been living at Box HiU, and they were consequently well known in this rather sparsely-populated suburb. About twelve months ago (or perhaps a little more) Mr Plaisted, who had become de ; ranged in his mind, gave grave anxiety to his family and his friends, and it became indispensable that be should be restrained. Accordingly he was taken into custody, and, after proper examination, was certified to be insane, and was committed to a lunatic asylum, from which he was released—whether on probation or not has not yet been ascertained and he afterwards officiated as organist at a chnrcb at Toorak. Immediately upon his liberation he returned to his wife and family at Box Hill. He made periodical visits to the city, and was well-known to the residents and the railway officials. They knew of his confinement in the lunatic asylum, and some of them were aware that since his liberation he had beett drinking freely. So well was bis musical talent known, together with the prominent position he had held, that considerable attention was centred upon him, and it was hoped that he had permanently recovered from the mental disease which had compelled his incarceration in the asylum, so that there was not the faintest expectation of the tragedy that was to come. The family consisted of several daughters pretty well on in years and several sons, the youngest only between six and seven years of age. This much having been given of preliminary information, the details of the fearful tragedy may be entered upon. They are both terrible and pathetic, and above all there is a lamentable absence of information of what transpired between the insane organist and his martyr wife in the deadly encounter, although there is not the faintest doubt (witness his remark after arrest) that he was her murderer. Yesterday morning all the children left home, leaving Plaisted and his wife there alone. The elder ones went to their several avocations, and the younger ones to school. At half-past one one of the daughters returned home, and, with her parents, had the usual mid-day meal. Then it seems Plaisted was quiet and amenable in every respect. His daughter left again, and about five o’clock the little boy made his way to the villa from scbooL His childish mind was fearfully agitated, because of the solemn silence that pervaded the place and the non-response to his knock. He seated himself, on a stump close by, and wept bitterly. As he sat there Mr Murphy, the local schoolmaster, camb along, and inquired the cause of his grief. The child replied that he was very hungry, and that he could not get into the villa. The schoolmaster took him to his own home and fed him. So far, it does not appeal* that there was the remotest idea that anything untoward had happened. About 6.20 or 6.30, Mr P. C. Waller, of Gippsland, who had come on a visit to the locality, and who is a brother-in-law of the victim, arrived at the villa actuated by a desire to learn how matters were progressing. He was alarmed at the absence of any response to his repeated and loud knocks for admission, and having carefully scrutinised the various windows and doors, went to a side window, broke one of the panes, and forced the catch. Patting up the window he entered and walked into the passage. Silence still reigned supreme, and he found that all the doors of the rooms opening into the passage were closely shut. There were splashes of blood here and there, and on going into a kind of lobby or recess at the rear be saw still plainer indications that some tragedy had been enacted. Upon a bag winch lay on the floor there were plentiful blood stains. His haste to the local police station on the other side of the railway line was great, and Senior-constable Lloyd and Constable Jones went back with him just as quickly. In the washhouse, not far from the lobby, was found the body of Mrs Plaisted. She lay on the floor on her right side. On the left side of her throat was a ghastly gaping wound, from which the blood stUl issued. It had been inflicted with some very sharp weapon. On the left temple was a very prominent braise, apparently caused by a blunt weapon. Her left arm lay under her breast, and her right was extended along the floor. She was cold. Her feet were close to the brickwork, in which an ordinary household “ copper” was set. In this copper there was water highly discolored with blood, and a dishcloth, which had apparently been used, but whether by the victim in her attempts to staunch her wound or by the murderer will never be known. Whilst the boy was sitting on the stump weeping, and before the schoolmaster found him there, he says he saw father about 300 yds from the house, going towards the railway station, with a crown paper parcel under one of his arms; that he called out to his father, who did not reply. The police continued to search for him, but it was not until about eleven o’clock that he was captured, not far from the villa. Senior-constable Lloyd, Constable Jones, and three young men saw a figure flitting about in the darkness some few hundred yards from the field. After some manteuvring Lloyd confronted the figure (who stood quite still), and said “Plaisted.” It was Plaisted, and he quickly answered: “No ; I’m the man devil,”
Lloyd : What have you been doing ?—I tumbled in a waterhole. My knife would not act.
Where is your wife ?—She is the Queen of Heaven. I sent her there.
Did you kill her ?—Yes, I did,
No weapon wasfound on the maniac, whose appearance was simply frightful. Poorly clothed, with his prematurely grey hair cut short, and blood flowing from his haggard face and throat, it was indeed a heartrending spectacle. The relatives of the couple express great surprise at the tragedy, because they say Plaisted was very much attached to hu wife, who always managed to control him during his fits of aberration. The only reason they can advance for this last outbreak of insanity which led to the committal of the awful deed is that a brother of Mrs Plaistcd’s died on Tuesday, and was buried on Thursday afternoon. Plaisted seems to have taken this so much to heart that he did not feel equal to attending the funeral, which took place just about the time he must have taken his wife’s life. The relatives further say that Plaisted was not a man who was given to drink, although his demeanor at times might lead one to assign it to that cause. He first developed signs of insanity some eight years ago, when he became very despondent at not receiving the appointment of city organist, to which he thought he was entitled. A short time after this be was confined in the Kew Lunatic Asylum, but subsequently released on probation. In one of his apparently lucid moments Plaisted said he had first struck his wife on the head with a flat-iron in the dining room, and that he had then carried her bodily into the other part of the house and completed the murder with a razor; that he had then taken off the clothes he bad on, and, having washed himself, put on other clothes; that he papered up the clothes he had taken off and carried them and the other articles away, but that he did not know what he had done with them. Plaisted also said whilst in custody that the villa had not been paid for, and that no rent had been paid for many months. Thus it would seem that a combination of misfortunes—the death of his brother-in-law, lost ground in the past, and the want of sufficient funds—had brought about the last and worst attack of in which he had committed the murder. The insane murderer was originally a clerk in the Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Company, in Elizabeth street, for about four years, and left there in the early part of 1864 with his parents for England, where he studied his profession of organist under the principal London organists for about twelve or eighteen months. In Melbourne he bad studied nnder Mr Pringle and Mr Horsley, two well-known organists. Mr Pringle was then at St Peter’s Church, Eastern Hill, and also St Stephen’s, Richmond, On his return to the colony he
followed hia profession for a short time, but afterwards entered the service of James Henty and Co,, merchants, of Little Collins street, where he held an important position for several years; but his musical predilections supervened, and he again entered the musical world. He went to Adelaide and gave several recitals, securing for himself an excellent reputation. Returning to Melbourne, he was engaged as organist to one of the suburban churches, and got also many pupils. He gave a concert in aid of the hospital fund, which realised a handsome sum, and that gave him a status as an entrepreneur. Some time after (four or five years ago) he gave recitals and concerts in the Town Hall. Then his madness showed itself plainly, and he talked about being knighted, etc. Previously he had been in the asylum. He composed several anthems of no mean merit. Since then he has been off and on in the asylum. At the inquest on the 13th hst., Plaisted, who was present in custody, and had his head and wrists bound up in bandages, presented an improved appearance. Throughout the proceedings he was silent, and betrayed no emotion. The evidence seemed to clearly point to the prisoner as the man who killed his wife, and this was the view taken by the coroner in his summing up, though tho question of his sanity or insanity at the time he committed the act was not clearly put before the jury. The coroner advised the jury that it would be better to leavei this question to be decided by the higher Court, as the evidence as to his previous confinement in lunatic asylums (in tho absence of the testimony of experts) was not sufficient to enable them to judge this point. The jury asked the coroner if they could bring in a rider as to the neglect of any persons concerning the case, but the coroner refused to receive such an expression from the jury, as being illegal in such a case. The jury had no other option but to bring the prisoner in guilty of wilful murder. In any case, it was represented to them, whether the accused was exculpated by them on the ground of insanity or not, the case must go before the Central Criminal Court.
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An Insane Organist Kills His Wife., Evening Star, Issue 7912, 21 May 1889
An Insane Organist Kills His Wife. Evening Star, Issue 7912, 21 May 1889
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