TRAGEDY AT BRIDGEWATER
YOUNG GIRL KILLED
FIVE SHOTS FIRED AT CLOSE RANGE
Jealousy is believed to have been the cause of a tragedy, which occurred at a picnic party of young people at Bridgewater yesterday, when Miss Devina Nellie Schmidt (18), died almost instantly from bullet wounds alleged to have been inflicted by William Ephraim Peter Haines (25), of Angus-street, Goodwood. Haines is in Adelaide Hospital suffering from a bullet wound in the head, said to have been self-inflicted.
The little township of Bridgewater, on the Mount Barker-road, 18 miles from Adelaide, was the scene of a pathetic shooting tragedy yesterday, when a young girl was killed in the midst of a holiday picnic party. Six young men and six girls, all of them between the ages of 16 and 20, left Adelaide for a day's outing in the hills by the 9.45 train on Wednesday morning. The party, besides five other young ladies, included Miss Devina Nellie Schmidt (18), of Farnham-road, Keswick; Mr. Horace Clark, of Geranium; Mr. Harold Almond, of River-street, West Marden; Mr. Jack Rickard, of Walsh-street, Southwark; Mr. Albert Edward Powell, of Taylor's-road, Thebarton; Mr. Harry Blencowe, of May-terrace, Ottoway; and Mr. Edward J. Howe, of Airlie-avenue, Prospect. On the same train there travelled William Ephraim Peter Haines (25), of Angus-street, Goodwood.
The picnic party arrived at Bridgewater shortly after 11 o'clock, and after luncheon had been taken on the recreation reserve a paper chase was organized. While the party was on their way back to the reserve, it is alleged that Haines approached Miss Schmidt, and on her refusal to accompany him on a walk, produced a revolver, warned the remainder of the party to "put up their hands" and holding Miss Schmidt at arm's length, fired five bullets from a .22-calibre revolver into her head. Haines is then said to have walked away, reloaded his revolver and inflicted a wound upon himself. Aided by two male members of the party, he carried Miss Schmidt to a motor car, and remained with her until the arrival of Mounted-Constable Gumley, of Stirling West, who took him into custody. Life was extinct when Miss Schmidt was examined by Dr. Gorrie, of Mount Lofty. The doctor ordered that Haines be removed to the Adelaide Hospital, where he was admitted by Dr. Moreland at 5.10 p.m. His condition is not considered to be serious. Haines made a statement to police after his arrest.
The township of Bridgewater was full of people making holiday, parties were in little groups on the recreation grounds after lunch, gramophones were reproducing songs and jazz tunes, and couples were dancing, when the tragedy occurred not a quarter of a mile away. In the bush in the vicinity of the shooting were young people wandering about, and girls picking golden broom and other wild flowers. Not 25 yards from the actual scene a number of young men and girls were spending a pleasant day in the shade of two rough shelters they had made of green boughs.
The tragedy happened in a secluded part of the bush about eight yards from the bed of a tiny watercourse filled with iris plants. A road, which follows the side of a larger creek around the recreation ground, takes a sharp bend after a few hundred yards, and from that point a little track leads through a fence up a hill into the bush. It winds for about 100 yards and then suddenly turns left, sloping more steeply up. The party had followed this track in a paper chase, and had turned off through the rough bush. About 30 yards from the track, Miss Schmidt was accosted in a little glade of gum trees.
There was no sign of a scuffle at the scene of the shooting. The girl fell with her head sloping downward towards the bank of the creek, and the only indication of the tragedy was a small bloodstain on the ground. That the weapon was near her when it was fired was evident from the fact that the five bullet wounds were grouped close together, and that the side of the girl's head was blackened with powder marks. It is believed that when she saw the revolver pointed at her she had no time to call for help.
Story of the Tragedy
Mr. Horace Clark, who has been spending a holiday in the city staying with Mrs. Howe, Airlie-avenue, Prospect, informed a representative of "The Advertiser", shortly after the tragedy, that he had obtained permission of Miss Schmidt's parents to take her to the picnic on Wednesday. Haines had spoken to Miss Schmidt on North-terrace shortly before the picnic party caught the train, and though Mr. Clark had not heard what Haines said, he heard Miss Schmidt reply, "You had better not, or I will put the police on to you." Haines travelled to Bridgewater on the same train as the party to which he and Miss Schmidt were attached, and alighted first, walked across the line, and stood there until all the members of the party had alighted. After luncheon there was a paper-chase, the girls starting away first. Later the boys caught up with the girls, and they had been walking together for five minutes when Haines approached them. Fearing trouble, the girls walked on while the young men stayed behind. Haines asked Miss Schmidt to take a walk with him, and she refused. Haines then said, "You wont!" and grasped her by the shoulder. He then produced a revolver, and, brandishing it towards the boys who were standing near, and said, "All of you put up your hands!" The boys rushed to the other girls in the party and told them to "scoot", which they did. Haines then fired five shots into the girl's head. He walked away some distance, and appeared to be reloading his revolver. In the meantime several members of the party had gone to notify the police. Mr. Clark did not see Haines shoot himself, but heard a shot. He stated that some time ago Haines had spoken to Miss Schmidt in Stephen's-place, Adelaide, and he had heard him threaten to shoot her. Haines had then remarked that the whole trouble had been caused by the girl's people not allowing her to go out with him because they considered he was too old for her.
Mr. Powell said he and Mr. Rickard waited near the girl after she had been shot, while their companions went for the police. After Haines had shot the girl he walked some distance away and appeared to be fiddling with his revolver. He turned to the two young men and said, "I have another six here." Haines then walked away, and Mr. Powell heard a shot. Shortly afterwards Haines returned to Miss Schmidt and took her in his arms. He said to Mr. Powell and Mr. Rickard, "Come and give me a hand to get her to the hospital. There may be life in her yet." They assisted Haines to carry the girl to a motor car, in which they placed her.
Mr. Rickard said when Haines called to Mr. Powell and himself to assist him with the body he said, "I am not too strong; I have a bullet in myself."
Mr. Almond stated that after the paper chase had been proceeding for some time the girls ran out of paper and the boys joined them. While they were walking back towards the reserves a stranger approached Miss Schmidt and asked her to accompany him. She refused, and the man turned to Clark and said, "You come with her." When the girl declined to go with Haines he said, "What is it going to be?" and grasped her by the shoulder. Turning to the rest of the party, the man said, " Everyone of you put your hands up," and, holding the girl at arm's length, fired several shots at her, Haines then walked away a short distance and appeared to be reloading his revolver. Mr. Almond and two of his companions rushed away to look for the police.
Mounted-Constable Gumley said he was in the vicinity of the Bridgewater station when he was informed of the tragedy. He found Miss Schmidt in a motor car. Haines was holding her, and the constable took him into custody. In Haines's possession he found a .22 calibre revolver containing five shells and one that had been discharged. Haines had a wound in the right temple.
Detective Trestrail and Constable Bourke arrived on the scene of the tragedy soon after 4 o'clock and together with Constable Gumley interviewed witnesses. A search for the shells of the discharged shells proved fruitless.
An Only Child
Miss Schmidt was an only child, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Schmidt. Mr. Schmidt is a butcher, and has a shop on the Henley-beach Road, Brooklyn Park Extension. It is understood that the dead girl had kept company with Haines, but her parents disapproved, and the friendship had been broken off. At one time he used to board in the Keswick district. Miss Schmidt was employed at a city insurance office, and the picnic party included several of the girls from the office. An early start was made, and Mr. Schmidt drove his daughter to the Adelaide Railway-station, where the party was to meet at 9 o'clock. It is said that Haines knew of this arrangement, and when he saw the girl he tried to persuade her to accompany him. She declined and went with her friends to Bridgewater. Miss Schmidt was an active, athletic girl, and had won a number of prizes for running at picnic gatherings.
After their daughter had left for the hills, Mr. And Mrs. Schmidt motored to the Gorge for a quiet day's outing, and they had not returned when one of the young men of the picnic party telephoned in the afternoon to inform them of the tragedy. The girl's uncle, Mr. C. A. Schmidt, a plasterer, who lives nearly opposite his brother's house, was communicated with, and the household, knowing where the girl's parents usually went on their trips to the gorge, a car was dispatched bearing a messenger with the sad news.
A Happy Disposition
The family had lived in Farnham-road for many years, and Miss Schmidt was extremely popular on account of her happy disposition. Among her friends are Mr. And Mrs. A. G. Hall, who are neighbours, and they were much distressed when a representative of "The Advertiser" spoke to them about the tragedy. The neighbours are on such intimate terms that a gateway has been made in the dividing fence. Yesterday morning Miss Schmidt visited Mrs. Hall, and was in her usual good humour and eager to join her friends on the picnic outing. Mrs. Hall described the girl as being short and of slight build, a typical healthy young Australian of about 18 years. She was a good girl and of a lovable nature. The news of her death in such tragic circumstances was a terrible blow to them.
A coroner's inquest will be opened in Adelaide today.
The Advertiser, Adelaide, Friday, October 13, 1927