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WAS ERNIE BURR MURDERED AS HE SLEPT?, NZ Truth, Issue 1302, 27 November 1930
WAS ERNIE BURR MURDERED AS HE SLEPT?
BAFFLING RIDDLE OF WEST COAST MAN'S DISAPPEARANCE ♦ — Police Discover Bloodstains On Wallpaper of Room In House From Which He Vanished SEARCHERS COMB DENSE, BUSH -CLAD HILLS (From "N.Z. Truth's" Special Representative with the Searchers.)
£MHiimmiMttimi!iimmmmiimniimmmiminmmnnmmmmimimimmiiim^ iinimiiiinniiiiiniiiuuniiinuiiiniiiiiiiniiiiiiuiiiuiiiinirtiiiiiiiiniiiiiiiiiiiiuiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiuiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiimiiimimminiiji j What is the baffling mystery that lies behind the sudden and dramatic disj appearance of Ernest Mansfield Burr, the 30-y ears-old West Coast mill hand who vanished | on November 8 last as completely as though the earth had swallowed him? | ' All the facts point to his having been foully and brutally murdered, and police | believe that his battered body now lies hidden somewhere m the dense and rugged country j | around Marsden, outside Greymouth, possibly m some abandoned mining shaft. § | In his home, a number "of bloodstains, found on the wallpaper above a bed that j J had been stripped of its bedding, seem to silently testify that Burr has rriet with foul play, | I and as each day passes without the huge army of searchers unearthing any clue as to | 1 Burr's whereabouts, the theory that he has been murdered gains added strength. 1 | ' .-, ' ; - ' f : A ' | -..luimuiHiiiiiiimimiiiiiiniiiMtiiiimNiiiiiiiiiimmniiiMiiiiiiniiHiiiiiH
THE thorough search which is being made for him will go down m history as one of the most dramatic incidents m the varied criminal annals of the Dominion. Not since the hunt for "DeadShot" Ellis, a man who committed a brutal murder m the Wairarapa nearly thirty years ago, has such a grim search been undertaken, and the excitement along the whole of the West Coast to-o!ay must be something like that felt throughout Nelson when, away back m the '60's, police and public combined to undertake an organized search for the victims of the Maungatapu Murderers. CINCE Burr's disappearance was reported to the police and the discovery of the bloodstained wallpaper made, a huge army of searchersj have been combing the Marsden district for a trace of the missing man. A large police party is combing the district under Detective - sergeant
Young, of Christchurch, who is conversant with the country. Men have been drawn from all available stations to assist; The area, however, is so large and heavily-wooded that they realize the hopejessness of the task. There are many abandoned mining shafts which also provide inaccessible hiding-places should the body be hidden. The searchers have little to report, but what is looked upon as a likely clue is the discovery of a tin of tobacco of the kmd^ Burr smoked. This was found near where the searchers were* 'dragging Maori Creek, the tin having been kicked idly by one of the party and found to be half full of tobacco. Burr's relatives ahd friends are strongly of the opinion that it is secreted m the district, and they continue to beat the bush energetically. Unfavorable weather has been encountered by the searchers, but the work has been carried on unceasingly. The country, however, is dense and rugged, Jand almost impenetrable m places, so that the task confronting the police is exceedingly difficult. Burr is a married man, but at the time of his disappearance he was living alone, his wife being on. a visit to her mother's, home m Nelson, their three children accompanying her. So far- the search has been unproductive. And it is quite on tfte cards that, if < Burr has been killed, as the police firmly believe, his corpse will never be discovered. There are thousands of secure hiding-places m the dense bush that the murderer could have chosen, and it will be something like a stroke of amazing luck if the police discover which one has been used. Some weeks ago Burr's wife left to visit her mother's home m Nelson, taking the three children with her. She was recalled to the house by the police to "be interviewed, but her statement has not been made public. Burr disappeared on November 8 last, but it was some considerable time before his disappearance was reported to the police. Employed asa loco, trolleyman at Ogilvie's mill at Kahikatea, Burr occasionally absented himself from home,, and when he did so a neighbor, Mrs. Johnstone, was accustomed to attending to various matters about Burr's place. When she found that Burr was not «t home on November 8, she carried out these tasks as usual, feeding Burr 8 fowls and doing other similar odd jobs. She felt no apprehension as to Burr's safety; for she had often performed these tasks before during his brief absences from home. For a week she attended to the various matters, but at the expiration of that time she began to think that Burr's continued absence was strange, and as the days drew on and the young man did not appear, Mrs. Johnstone grew uneasy arid at last suspicious. Eventually she notified the missing man's brother, Jack Burr, and his brother-in-law, Charles Hill, -telling them that Butr had disappeared quite suddenly and that she feared he must ha met with some accident. The two - men at once responded to Mrs. Johnstone's summons, and visited Burr's home. Entering the house they found everything m apple-pie order until they came "to one room. There they noticed deep splashes of what appeared to be blood on the wallpaper, while they saw also that the bedding had been completely stripped from a bed standing m the .'room — a bed that stood mi'
mediately beneath the spot where the bloodstains could be discerned. Fearing. that Burr had met with foul play, they immediately informed the police, and inquiries were at once instituted. A thorough search of Burr's home and the immediate locality failed to reveal the slightest .trace, of the missing man or any clue as to what had occurred. The bloodstains appeared to be the sole clue, pointing irresistibly to the conclusion that something untoward had taken place. The police set about tracing Burr's movements' immediately prior to his disappearance, .but when they had at length obtained these particulars they were still without any clue as to the cause of his disappearance. The police, were informed that Burr was last seen riding a bicycle near Runanga on the Tuesday after his disappearance, but subsequent inquiries disclosed that the man had no bicycle of his own though he had ridden over the road on a Tuesday, but previous to the disappearance. The whole affair seemed to be shrouded m impenetrable mystery, and at every turn the police found themselves up against a blank wall. On the evening of November 7, the night before his disappearance, Burr
visited Greymouth. He was picked up by Frederick Tibbies, a farmer, at about 7.30 p.m., the two men motoring to Greymouth. They spent the evening at an hotel, m company with Tibbies' brother and another man friend, and, according to Frederick Tibbies, when the party broke up he motored his brother and friend to South Beach, a few miles from Greymouth, and dropped them there. Tibbies then took Burr home, arriving about midnight. "I intended to stop the night with Burr," he told the police, "but when we got there he told me he • was going away early m the morning." Burr did not tell Tibbies where he intended to go or give him any clue as to his future movements, and Tibbies was u/iable to thrqw any light on the mystery of his friend's disappearance. It would certainly seem, however, that apart from his murderer or murderers, Tibbies was the last man to see Burr alive. That was m the early hours of the morning of November 8, When the two men said good-night to
I__ : —I 5 each other and parted. Burr at that time appeared to be m his usual spirits, quite unworried and without any fear. What happened after that must necessarily be a matter of conjecture, buf it would certainly seem that there is only one theory that fits all the facts as they are at present known. Burr probably at once went to bed. There was nobody at his home, so far as is known, to keep him awake, and since Ke apparently expected to make an early start that morning for an unnamed destination, it is extremely unlikely that he remained up for any length of time. The police believe that some time during the early hours of the - morning, between midnight, when Burr parted from Tibbies, and dawn, one or more persons broke into Burr's house and brutally battered him to death as he peace- ' fully slept. They base this deduction on the discovery of the bloodstains on the wallpaper, and the fact that the bedding had been stripped from the bed on which Burr presumably slept. If foul play has occurred, and every tittle
of evidence at the moment points m that direction, it would certainly appear that Burr was asleep when attacked. They favor the belief that the bloodstains on the wallpaper -were made by an assailant swinging a weapon for a second blow. t* The only thing missing is the blue suit which Burr was. wearing on the night he disappeared. The absence of his blue suit, however, makes it possible that he was attacked before he got into bed, or that his suit, lying by the bedside, was spattered with blood and carried off to a hiding-place along with the body and bedding. It is probable, indeed, that he was savagely attacked, and that the murderer or murderers afterwards sought to hide every trace of the callous crime by removing the corpse and the bed clothes, hiding them m some portion of the dense bush which, surrounds Burr's home. They may possibly have been buried or hidden m some log or crevice. And it seems equally obvious that the bloodstains on the wallpaper were overlooked. The niurderer thought that he had left no clue' to his crime, and that when Burr's disappearance was discovered it would be thought that he had become lost m the bush or suffered from loss of memory. The only evidence that Burr was apprehensive of someone or something is the carefully locked and shuttered condition of the house. The doors were locked and the windows nailed. Many^ explanations for this habit, which is unusual m a locality where everyone is known, are put forward, but not even relatives claim to know the real reason for such a precaution. The house gave every indication of having been vacated hurriedly. The larder at the house had recently been restocked, and his bank book, which was discovered m the house, shows a credit balance of £8. There is no suspicion of Burr having made any attempt, to obtain money recently. A tin of tobacco was found where it had been left lying when last opened, while everything about the house spoke of Burr's careful attention. Not only had the neighbors been given -no hint by Burr of his intended departure, but that it was hurried and unintentional is borne out by the fact that no arrangements were- made for the care of livestock about the place. There were sitting hens and an unmilked cow to testify to the haste with which the house was deserted. The conveying of the corpse and the
I . , 1 bed clothes to some secure hidingplace must have been a task that occupied some, time, and it must have been undertaken under cover of darkness. Burr was about 5 ft. 9ins. m height, and was a strong and healthy man, so that his body must have been fairly weighty, and, if one man was concerned m the crime, he could not have carried it very far. There is the. possibility, of course, that some sort of conveyance was used m order to transport the body from the house to the resting-place which had been chosen, and m this eventuality it is possible that the body lies hidden some considerable distance from the house. On the whole, however, the police are inclined to believe that the body lies hidden at no great distance from Burr's house, and an intensive search is therefore being made m the immediate locality, m k the hope that the corpse will be discovered. If it is not, the sphere of the search will have to be enlarged, and the police net flung further .afield. There is, of course, the possibility that Burr has not met with foul play. He may have left home that morning as he intended, and it is possible that he is now alive and unaware of the search which is being carried on for him. Burr's actions right up to ' the last, however, seem to discount any suggestion of hiding, and his relatives are emphatically of the opinion that he. has not run away. They assert that it would be against the man's whole nature to do so without notifying them, as he was very attached to his. widowed mother, four brothers and sisters. Burr's relatives scout the idea of suicide. They state that though Burr had no real enemies he was of a., retiring disposition. From Tibbies' story of Burr's condition when he last saw him the theory of suicide seems hardly tenable. Tibbies states Burr was m his usual health and did not appear worried. It is extremely unlikely that Burr, being a good bushman and
conversant with the district, has met death through an accident or that he is lost. He is said to know the bush intimately, and is aware of every disused mine shaft m the locality. People have been lost for a few days at times m the district surrounding Burr's home, but m no instance has anybody failed to reappear and the police experienced little difficulty m the district on this account. Yet no motive is apparent for the deed. Burr is not known to have possessed any enemies, and the police have been unable to learn of any threats made against his life. They know of nobody who could have desired his death, and they have, been unable to learn of any strangers having been seen m the vicinity. His disappearance, indeed, is a profound mystery, and the task of unravelling the riddle has been made more difficult by the time which has elapsed before the police were notified. More than one clue may have been lost, and the murderer may have removed the body m. the interval to a more secure hiding-place, possibly miles from Burr's home. Until the body is discovered, the police can make little headway. They cannot tell how Burr was killed or
SOUND-. OF CAR
I:: : = 1 when,, and they are continually moving m the dark. Johnstone, the husband of the woman who fed Burr's fowls, declares that he saw Tibbies and Burr leave the house on the night of November 7. He went to bed about eleven o'clock and before he fell asleep he heard a* car draw up. He was awakehe'd shortly afterwards by the sound of a car leaving. The police have not overlooked the possibility of Burr having left the district and a strict watch is being kept m adjacent towns. Their line of investigation, however, makes it evident that they suspect foul play and are working on this theory. Curiously enough the floor m the room where the bloodstains were found Seemed tO have recently been scrubbed. - The blood-spattered wallpaper is considered an important clue, but only expert analysis will disclose if the traces are human blood and until this is done no definite seal can be placed on the investigations to support a theory of murder. Burr was sft. 9ins. m height, dark corriplexioned, clean-shaven, with a dark, full, round face. He usually wore a navy blue suit, black felt hat, and black shoes. Interviewed, Detective - sergeant Young would say nothing for publication beyond the fact, that every possible inquiry was being made.. Summed up the chance of clearing up the mystery, if the body is hidden m the bush, is remote indeed. The search will no doubt be continued for a further week, but it is doubtful if it will be carried on after that. It is obvious that the police may conduct a year's search m the wilderness without success. . Burr's aged widowed ""mother and large family of brothers and sisters are all well-known and respected on the Coast, where they have spent all their lives. He comes from a family of average means, his father being a wellknown Ngahere farmer.
WAS ERNIE BURR MURDERED AS HE SLEPT?, NZ Truth, Issue 1302, 27 November 1930
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