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AN ATROCIOUS MURDER, Issue 10472, 16 November 1897
AN ATROCIOUS MURDER
A HUSBAND CUTS HIS WDJE'S THROAT. AND ATTEMPTS SUICIDE. Never Binoo 6he long-to-be-remembered Butler-Dewar tragedy has it been our unpleasant duty to record such an atiooious case of murder, followed by an attempt at suicide, as the one which came to light early yesterday evening The news of the tragedy was not long in spreadingY and the whole town seemed to know of it an hour or so after the first news of the affair was reported to the polioe, ; ; Crowds of people were to be seen about George street and other parts of the City discussing amongst themselves, and it was not until well on in the night that the little knots of .people—men, women, and children—dispersed and wended their way homewards. _ The scene of the tragedy is situated in a right-of-way off George street. An entrance is gained to the right-of-way by a ; narrow door between the shops of Messrs Freeman and Romeril, fruiterers, and Miss Grant, milliner, and at the bottom of the lane are four nicely-whitewaßhed briok cottages known as Lethaby's Terrace. Two of the houses are on each side of the alley, and semi-detached. The places are all occupied, and bear a very respectable appearance.
In the far-away house on the left-hand side lived a laborer named Charles Clements, his wife, Ruth Ann, and their two children—a pretty blue-eyed girl aged about six and a boy of four years of age. The husband and wife did not live on the best of terms, and oh more than .one occasion they were heard to quarrel; in fact, it was only last Siturday that some of the neighbors heard a sound resembling that of the smashing of crockery in the house. They had separated more that once when liviDg in Filleul street, Walker street, and other parts. When Mrs Clements removed into Lethaby's terrace two or three months ago her husband was then an imate of the surgical ward of the hospital, where he underwent an operation for hernia. He was discharged from the institution on the Ist inst., but not being in a strong state of health had not done any .work since. Mrs Clements seems to have been a hard-working woman. Sbe rose early in the morning, and after scrubbing out offioes would return home about nine o'clock, and then frequently go out washing. . She. was about twentyseven years of age, tall, and very good-look-ing; while her husband, who was a good deal older, was, so a neighbor Baid, jealous of her, and could not bear to have her out of his sight. As is stated above, quarrels between Clements and his wife had occurred very frequently of late. On Sunday another, and the last, disturbance was heard in the house. Clements then used such language towards his Wife that one of the neighbors, Mrs Brandon Cremer, an actress, and wife of a well-known Dunedin actor, living in the house opposite, threatened to call in the police. These threats, according to Mrs Cremer, had the effect of quieting Ulements. On the same evening Mrs Cremer had a talk with Mrs Clements, who told her that she had made up her mind tc leave her husband next morning. Whether Clements was aware of his wife's intention no one appears to know. A Mrs Treseder, living next to Mrs Cremer, says she saw Clements and his wife outside iheir door at about eight o'clock on Sunday evening, when they looked quite happy. Mrs Williams, who lives in the house adjoining the one occupied by the Clemen s. also noticed the murdered woman in front of her place the same evening. She was never seen «live again. The occupants of the other three houses, after sleeping all night, without hearing any unusual noise, went about their work as usual the next morning. The window blinds in the Clements's house, however, remained down, and as the day wore on, and no sign of life was seen about the place, the neighbors began to wonder. They became still more uneasy at not seeing the children, especially when it was the little ones' delight to play about the front of the house. At last Mrs Cremer, taking everything into consideration, had her suspicions aroused, and, starting out for :the purpose of finding some of Mrs Clements's relations, she eventually succeeded, after much trouble, in locating the whereabouts of Mr Peter Robs, a laborer, and brother-in-law of Mrs Clements, living in Athol place. Mr Ross lost no time in making for Lethaby's terrace. He knocked at the door of Cle. ments's house, but received no answer. He then burst in the door, and on entering the house he went into the one of the two rooms in front—and w.as there confronted with a most shocking and painful sight. his dead wife, and the two children were all lying in the same bed, the children being at the foot. The husband and wife were lying in a soaking mass of blood. The woman's throat was out in two places, and the blood from the.'?w6u.nds had flowed over her nightdress and too bedclothes. The husband was lying alongside hia wife's corpse with wourfds in his throat, and the blood from them had dried on his face and shirt front. The room bore a most shooking appearance, the whole of the bedolothes being Bmeared with blood, which waß one congealed mass in many placeß. The ohildren were at once removed to a neighboring house.
Mr Ross went off in search of a policeman, and meeting Constable Hickey in George street returned with him to the house. The husband was found to be alive, but the woman quite dead. - Ther childrenpoor little mites—had been untouched, but so frightened were they at the sight of their parents lying in a soaring bed of blood that they were afraid to move. They had gone to bed without tea on Sunday, and had remained in it all Monday without a bite of any kind until removed by Mr Ross to the house of Mrs Treseder, who gave them a good round meal and put them to bed. They were afterwards taken to their aunt's place in Athol place. Dr Fulton and Sergeant O'Neill were sent for, and arrived on the Bcene without a moment's delay. The doctor at once directed his attention to the husband,' for the wife waß past medical aid, and afterwards had him removed to the hospital. The police took possession of a pocketknife and tomahawk, both of which were stained with blood. Mr Ross spoke to Clements and asked him what he had been doing. The injured man replied: "I have done it at last.' Sergeant O'Neill arrested accused on the charge of murder, and left a constable to watch over him atthe hospital. Clements also made a statement to Constable Hickey to the effect that he placed the knife in his wife's throat and struck the knife with the tomahawk. He is also said to have declared that the knife was not big enough, or he would have done for himself.
The most pitiable and shocking circumstance in connection with the affair is that the little girl—a chubby-faced, intelligentlooking child—was an eye-witness of the murder of her mother. The unfortunate woman was asleep, and this no doubt accounts for the fact that none of the neighbors heard a noise during the night. There was, the child says, no candle burning, but her father put the blind up and then cut her mother's throat with the knife. He then went out of the room into the kitchen, and on returning pulled the blind down again and got into bed. It is not clear from the child's statement whether it was before or after he got into bed that he cut his own throat. The child, of course, does not know at what hour of the night the crime was committed, but it has been suggested that the light of the moon might, when the blind was raised, have been sufficient to enable the man to accomplish his object. The murdered -woman "died from two wounds inflicted in the throat. The fatal one was a deep cut, about a couple of inches in length,,whioh severed the windpipe. The man's injuries "oonsisbT of an incised wound in the throat and two or three punctured wounds. Independent of these there is a wound in his wrist, which suggests that he had endeavored to sever an artery. His" wounds were dressed by Dr Anderson, house surgeon, on his arrival at the hospital, and every prospect is entertained of his recovery unless serious afterconsequences should ensue. He is, however, very weak f rom-loas of blood.. -
Deceased, whose maiden name was Ruth Ann JMioholson, was born in Dnnedin. Her parents died some years ago, but she baß three married sisters living here. She was married m bydney about seven years ago, but returned to Dunedin about six months later, and has lived here ever since. Clements was born in Buckinghamshire, England, and is forty-one years of age. He arrived here about eighteen years ago, and was . a laborer by occupation. He was last employed at the erection cf a building in connection-with Kempthorne and Pro3Ber'B premises.
THE INQUEST. An inquest was.held on the• body at the Robert Burnß Hotel, George street, this sftarnoon, before. Mr Coroner Garew and the following jury :—Charles A. Breßsey (foreman), R. Duthie, R. Johnßton, J. Christie, G. Horder, and C. H. Niohollß. Sergeant O'Neill oalled Constable Hickej, who deposed: lam a police constable stationed at Dunedin. I have seen the body shown to the jury, and identify it as that of Ruth Ann Clements. I have known her for some time, and saw her on Saturday last. She waß the wife of Charles Clements, who is now a patient in the Dunedin Hospital and.in the custody of the police. I was present in the right-of-way off George street" at about nine o clock last evening, when I saw Clements arrested by Sergeant O'Neill and taken away in a cab.
The Coroner (to the jury): That is as far ™? m, a 5? ab,e t0 8° tO - da y- Sergeant 0 Weill, do you think the man will be able to attend if we adjourn till next Tuesday. Sergeant O'Neill: Very likely he will. The Coroner: Then the inquest stands adjourned until Tuesday next, at half-paat ten, in the Magistrate's Court. STATEMENT BY THE RELATIVES. A member of our staff this afternoon called upon Mr Peter Ross and his wife (sister of deceased) aud had a conversation with them. Mr Ross said :Oa being called to Clcments's house I knocked loudly at doors, but got no answer. 1 then smashed in the back door, and on going into the bedroom I saw what had happened. The first thing I said was 'Charlie, what have you been doing'" He replied : " I have done it," and added : "I have had plenty of provocation," or words to that effect. The children were cuddled up at the foot of the bed. They never spoke. I never touched the bed, but went straight away for a policaman. I looked to tee if there wai a candle, but could not see one in the room, which was in darkness. I lighted a match on entering. When I came back with the constable a bloodstained knife and tomahawk were found under a mat in the passage. Clements was all covered with blood. The doctor on arrival said the woman had been dead for hours. There was no sign of drink about the place. Neither of them drank.
Mrs Ross said : Some seven or eight years ago Clements and my sister left Dunedin and -went to Sydney to get married. They stopped in Sydney about six months, and then returned to Dunedin. My sister called at my place at about half-past six on Saturday night. She then complained of Clements breaking everything in the house. They had been quarrelling off and On for the last ten months. I was in their house about three months ago, when Clements accused deceased of drinking and carrying on with other men, but this she denied. He would get very excited, and they would have high words. He had threatened to kill himself. He often said he would go home and cut his throat. About seven weeks ago they had a quarrel, and Mrs Clements came and stopped a week with me. He came and took her and the children home again. She often used to come and stop at my place when they had had a qjiarrel. She told me she was sometimes afraid to stop in the house with him in case he would do away with himself. She would say to him : "I will not go home with you, because when you get me there you will tear off my clothes and thrash me." My two other sisters (Mrs Williams and Mrs Braithwaite) called at deceased's house on Saturday evening. Deceased said Bhe was going to leave him on Monday and then try and get a separation order against him. I do not know whether she told that to her husband.
Mrs Williams, sister of deceased, residing with her husband, made the following statement to the detectives :—Deceased and her husband came to my house at about half-past one on Saturday afternoon. The two children were with them, It was usual for her to- leave the children with me while she- worked at the offices qu Saturday afternoons. Deceased and Clements wero quarrelling outside on the green some distance from my house. She complained that he had bealen her and torn her clothes. I said ; " Give him another chance ?" She said: «• No, I will clear out on Monday morning. Every time I go baok he playg up worse and worse." Clements was swearing at her, calling her vile names. Deceased and I then went out to the gate, leaving Clements in the house. Clements pame out after us, and askod the children to kiss him, as that would be the "last time they would -see him. He kissed them, and then went away by himself. Mrs Clements afterwards went up town and returned to my house about a quarter past five that evening. She had a cup of tea and then went home with the children. I went to their house that evening about half-past seven and remained there until ten. Clements was then in the house. He said : "I want a shave, but if Igo out you will lock the door." Deceased replied : " I will not." He did not go out. Mrs Clements was sitting on the foot of the bed crying. I said to Clement 3: "CharHe, look what a mesß (alluding to the smashed crockery) you have made." He replied: " Charlie is never Borry for anything he does." I went to the house again on Sunday evening, about 6.30, and remained there until about ten minutes pa3t eight. Clements and his wife were both at hom9 still quarrelling. Deceased said "I am going to take my box away this time." I said "Charlie, what are you going to do now?" He replied "Nobody will know what Charlie is going to do this time." Deceased said : " 1 have always been hidiDg your faults, Charlie," but he made no reply to that. * J
Mr Hanlon has been retained to defend the accused.
AN ATROCIOUS MURDER, Issue 10472, 16 November 1897
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