Monday, 14 August 2006

Unk. male, greying hair, blue eyes, about 55 yrs, false upper dentures, bull neck, very solid build. JACKIE tattooed on U.L.A. Heart below elbow. Old scald mark at back of left arm.

Although there were no documents on his body, police identified my father from his fingerprints, which they had on record from his various stints as a burglar and who-knows-what-else. My uncle George visited the Coroner's Court and confirmed the identification. That couldn't have been a barrel of laughs for him. In that stilted style of witness statements, the form concludes:

I didn't see him very much. He did drink a bit. I've seen him drunk. I couldn't say how he acted when drunk. I don't know where he worked.

On the same day, the pathologist Robert Charlton performed the post mortem examination and completed his report. He found that, although there were few external signs of trauma, Dad had suffered from a linear fracture of the skull. The crack extended from above the left ear across the back of the skull almost as far as the right ear. The varying width of the fracture suggested that the point of impact was on the right side.

What killed him was the gross subdural haemorrhage affecting the left side of his brain. The pathologist thought the contre coup injury indicative of:

... the (moving) head striking a fixed hard object making contact in the right occipito-parietal region.

Moving was added as an afterthought.

Charlton referred the case to the Homicide Police.

Detective First Constable Noel McCracken from Prahran CIB performed a cursory investigation at what was described as 'a later date'. He and Schipper went to the rooming house in Windsor where Dad lived and 'found nothing of any significance'. A hand-written note at the end of McCracken's deposition said 'Found no enemies of this man'. Sounds like laziness to me. But Prahran police were no doubt overloaded with dead derelicts in the 1960s. (And they probably still are.) How much time could they afford to spend on each one?

Did Dad fall over in a drunken stupor and crack his skull on the cobble stones in Barry Lane? Or was he murdered? The reports and witness statements waggle their fingers towards the former, but the Coroner couldn't decide.

The witness statements of his friends are fascinating. Graham John Carey, a drainer who had lived at Barry Street but had moved away by the time of the inquest, had a particularly interesting story to tell.

This is his deposition.

On Friday, the 7th October 1966, I was drinking at the Royal Exchange Hotel, in Commercial Road, Prahran, with a friend Nick, I do not know his other name but he is a bar-man at the London Hotel.

We drank there until closing time and we left the hotel about 10:10 p.m. I only had a couple of drinks that night because I was working late and I was sober.

After we left the Hotel, we walked home along Osbourne Street and over the railway bridge and then down Grovesnor Street and along the lane that runs along the back of the Shops in Chapel Street. We were walking towards Barry Street in the lane when I saw Ian SCOTT lying in the lane. He was lying on his back with his arms and legs spread right out, and his head closer to Grovesnor Street. He had a smile on his face and I thought he was in a drunken sleep.

I am not certain what he was wearing but I think it was a jumper and trousers and the zipper on his jumper was undone.

This time that we saw him there would have been about 10.25 p.m.

There was no other person about at the time

But there was more hand-written testimony after that.

I knew deceased—he used to come around home on Saturday morning for breakfast.

I've seen him under the influence many times. I've seen him fall over in the hotel but never outside the hotel.

When I saw him this night I thought he was drunk and having a sleep. I didn't try to touch him as he'd said in the past 'leave me where I flake'. I thought he'd sleep it off there O.K.

It is a cobble stone lane. I suppose you could slip on them but I doubt it very much.

Lighting is very dark in lane. I thought it was [illegible] in the lane. I couldn't see what it was. We did intend to go this way. We found him by accident and thought he was asleep

Was he trying to tell the police something? Or did the statement style just make him sound like a plonker?

You be the judge.


tapperboy said...

Amazing to read this one, how did you get hold of the records? Interesting for me, far more personal for you.

No idea really as to what might have occurred cept it seems possible either scenario is a on the cards, fall/strike head or struck by another.

"there were few external signs of trauma" it only takes one blow though. There wouldn't be a need to rough the person up if the blow took them out in one. <-- guessing always when it comes to these sorts of things.

tapperboy said...

I've just read previous blog entry. I now know how you came to have the records of your fathers death.

That'll lern me for not reading more of your blog!