Bridgewater Shooting Case

 Haines Found Guilty

 Death Sentence Passed


The trial of William Ephriam Peter Haines, (25), a labourer, of Adelaide, was begun in the Criminal Court on November 17, before Mr. Justice Angus Parsons and a jury.  Haines was charged with having, on October 12 last at Bridgewater, murdered Devina Nellie Schmidt (18).  He pleaded not guilty. The jury next day returned a verdict against him, and sentence of death was passed by the Judge.

 The strangers' gallery was crowded at the opening of the case.

Mr. R. R. Chamberlain appeared for the crown, and Mr. L. M. S. Hogan for the accused.

Mr. Chamberlain told the jury no motive could explain a crime such as murder, and the discovery of a motive would not be of any assistance to the jury.  After dealing with the attachment between the accused and Miss Schmidt, Mr. Chamberlain described to the jury an incident in James place, Adelaide, on October 3.  Miss Schmidt was with a young man named Clark, when the accused approached them.  On her refusal to accompany him, he said, "Well, I will shoot, you know," and he put his hand to his pocket, but did not take anything out.  On October 12, Clark and Miss Schmidt were members of a party who went to a picnic at Bridgewater.  While they were waiting at the Adelaide Railway Station, the accused came up and spoke to Miss Schmidt in a low voice.  Clark did not hear what he said but Miss Schmidt replied, "If you do, I will get the police."  The accused travelled to Bridgewater on the same train as the party, and alighted there.  After having had lunch, the party had a paper chase.

"Will You Come With Me?"

Continuing, counsel said they reassembled in a gully near the Bridgewater Oval about 2.20pm.  The accused was seen standing on the opposite side of the gully, and a few minutes later he stepped between Miss Schmidt and Clark, who were walking together, and said to her, "Will you come down here for a while and speak to me?"  She refused, and Clark also declined to go with him while he spoke to the girl..  Saying, "Are you coming down with me?" the accused then placed a hand on Miss Schmidt's shoulder, and fired five shots at her head.  The young men, who were startled by the sight of the revolver, stepped back a few paces, and the girl fell to the ground.  Some of the boys then hurried the other girls away, and others went for the police.  Haines reloaded the revolver, and another shot was fired.  He then called two young men named Richards and Powell over to him, saying, "Come over here.  Give me a hand to lift her up.  I am not too strong, as I have a bullet in my head." He gave the revolver to Powell, and they carried the body to a motor car.  They were met by Constable Gumley, of Stirling, to whom the accused said, "I am the man you are looking for.  I am the man who did it.  I shot her with a revolver. I went mad.  I was jealous of her. Her people drove me to it.  I wish I had ended myself. The poor girl is happy now."  A packet of 38 bullets was found in the accused's pocket.  Six bullet wounds were found in the girl's head when a post-mortem examination was made.

Seemed Dull and Quiet

Dr. P. Gorrie, of Mount Lofty, gave evidence of having examined Miss Schmidt's body at the Mount Lofty Police Station at 3.30 p.m. on the day she was killed.  He told Mr. Hogan he also examined Haines on the same afternoon.  He had a bullet wound in the head, but there was no injury to the brain.  The accused did not seem to be excited.

Mr. Hogan - Were there any signs of irritability?

The Witness - No. He was rather quiet.

Mr Hogan - Particularly quiet? - He did not speak unless spoken to.

Mr. Hogan - In fact, he was almost dull? - Yes, dull and quiet.

"She Was My Girl"

Horace George Clark, farm labourer, of Geranium, who was Miss Schmidt's companion at the Bridgewater picnic, said he saw the accused twice on October 3 while he was with Miss Schmidt.  The second time the accused said to her, "I will get you, you ------.  I will come up for you this afternoon." 

In reply to Mr. Hogan, the witness said he had known Miss Schmidt for about three years, and during part of that time he had corresponded with her.  Prior to September 27 he was not aware that Haines knew her

Mr. Hogan - As far as you were concerned, she was your girlfriend? - Yes.

The witness said he had eight day's holiday in Adelaide in April, and had been to the girl's home several times.

Mr. Hogan - You were very friendly with the mother and father? - Yes.

And they were anxious you should be friendly with their daughter? - Yes.

And you never heard Haines's name mentioned in the home? - No.

His Honour - did you regard yourself as the young lady's sweetheart? - Yes.

In reply to Mr. Hogan, the witness said he visited Schmidt's home several times while he was in Adelaide in September.

Mr. Hogan - From what you heard at the home, what was the parents' attitude towards Haines? - They did not want her to have anything to do with him.

The mother was very bitter, I think? - Yes.

And the father something the same? - Yes.

You did not care whether Haines went to Bridgewater? - Yes.

His Honour - Why? - Because I knew he would not be there for any good.

The witness said when the accused took out the revolver at Bridgewater he said to the party, "Hands up, the lot of you!"

"Too Old For Her"

Jack Rickard gave evidence of the shooting. He said as they were carrying the body towards the motor car, Haines said, Her people drove me to it.  She loved me, but they said I was too old for her, and she would not go against them." Haines, who was helping to carry the girl, seemed very calm.

Cross-examined by Mr. Hogan, the witness said as Haines said, "Put up your hands," he pointed the revolver towards the group of men.  It was not immediately pointed towards Miss Schmidt. He believed that after the shooting Haines said, "Give me a hand to take her to the doctor. She might live yet." The accused took off his overcoat and wrapped it round her head.

Other Witnesses

Albert Edward Powell, electroplater, of Taylor's road, Thebarton, said, after the first lot of shots were fired he saw Haines kneel beside the body of the girl and place the revolver against her temple.  There followed a click as if he had pulled the trigger.  Haines the rose and went away.  The witness bent and looked at the girl, and the followed Haines, who turned and said, "Get out, I've got another six here."  The accused seemed to be handling the weapon, and when he turned and faced the witness, he ran away.  Shortly afterwards he heard another shot, and when he next saw Haines he was supporting the girl's head.

In reply to Mr. Hogan the witness said the accused did not seem excited or to have lost his head after the shooting.  Haines might have said,  "You were nice ones, why didn't you stop me?"  The witness might have said, "yes, we were, weren't we, but I was frightened as soon as I saw you pull the gun."  "I was not frightened'" said the witness.

Corroborative evidence was given by Edward James Howe, of Airlie avenue, Prospect; Henry Blencoe, motor mechanic, of May terrace, Ottaway; Harold Almond, motor mechanic, of River street, West Marden.

Mounted Constable Walter James Gumley, of Stirling West, deposed having heard the accused say, "I'm the man you are looking for.  I did it." The witness said, "Where is the revolver," and Powell produced it.  The witness then cautioned the accused and asked him if he had shot the girl.  He replied, "Yes, I went mad." Asked why he shot her, he replied, "I was jealous. Her people drove me to it." Subsequently he searched the accused and found the cartridges (produced) corresponding to the shells found in the revolver.

To Mr. Hogan the witness said the accused had asked to see the body before he left the police station. He knelt down and kissed the deceased. He did not appear agitated, but seemed quite normal.

The crown prosecutor intimated that that closed his case, and the hearing was adjourned until the next day.


"I Have Killed My Darling Vi"

At the resumption of the hearing on November 18 Haines read a statement from the dock. He said: - "I knew Nellie for about 12 months prior to October 12, 1927.  I used to call her Vi.  She and I were sweethearts.  I loved her dearly, and she loved me. However, our love was not allowed to run smoothly. Her mother was against me going with her right from the start.  She used to take every opportunity of belittling me in the eyes of her daughter.  On one occasion Mrs. Schmidt asked me home to tea, and later picked me to pieces to Vi.  I had two fingers off my left hand.  This was caused by an accident. Vi's mother used to delight in harping on this deformity of mine.  At first her parents did not actually forbid us going out together, and used to let us do so, but all the time Vi's mother made things very hard for us.  She said I was not good enough for Vi and that I was too old.  But Vi loved me and I loved her, and put up with all these things so long as we could go out together.  Vi told me that he parents were making her life a hell on earth.  She burst into tears and asked me, 'Why can't they let us alone and be happy like other sweethearts are.'  Vi swore that she loved me and would not give me up.

Parents Forbade Meeting

"About the end of August last," continued the accused,  "her parents told her that she must give me up, and forbade her to meet me or to go out with me.  Poor little girl.  She told me this news, and, crying bitterly, said, 'Bill, I will have to give in to mother and dad.  I do not know a moment's happiness in the house, and I am broken in health and spirit.  I feel I cannot fight any longer.'  About this time, one Sunday afternoon, I spoke to Vi's father.  He told me that I was never to see Vi again, and that if he ever saw me with her again he would break my neck.  He also said he did not care if heart and mind were broken as well.  Vi told me that her parents could never make her forget me.  After this her parents would not let her go out to dances, and she was often met after work, so that I could not see her.  Nevertheless, I used to meet her secretly during working hours.  Poor girl; she was broken-hearted, and I knew that she loved me, and the whole thing was killing her.

"On Sunday, September 11, Vi went to Victor Harbour, for a holiday.  While she was away her parents could not resist the temptation to further taunt me.  They sent back all the presents I had given Vi, but I would not take them.  Their action in sending them back hurt me very much."

"Strain Was Too Terrible"

"During the whole time Vi was away," proceeded Haines, "I was heartbroken. The strain was too terrible, and I made up my mind to end it all by taking my own life. I wrote to Vi at Victor Harbour, and told her that nothing mattered to me now.  I had made up my mind that life without her was useless, and that I intended to shoot myself and finish it all.  In this letter I said, 'God knows I love you, and want you.  Darling Vi, they cannot say I never loved you and made you happy when you used to come to me crying, because your mother made you unhappy.  I know I am mad, and just about done in, but if you love me just think of me always.'  Vi begged me not to be foolish, and do anything terrible to myself.  She wrote, 'I love mother and dad better than anything in the world and after them I love you, Bill.  But Bill, it is no good going on fighting any longer. Dear, you will have to just know me, that is all.  I know I am hard to say this, Bill, but you don't know how I feel.  I told you I am trying to do what you said to me.  Go away, and forget that I ever existed.'  She told me in this letter that she would see me at the Osborne dance hall on September 26. After I got home I began to buck up a little, and thought that perhaps things might be different with her parents when she came back.  But when she came back things were no better, but got worse.  Her parents would not let her go to the dance on September 26.  She was still seeing me while at her work.  On October 3, I waited for her to come out from the Executor trustee building, in Grenfell street, where she was working.  Clarke was waiting there for her, and she met him.  I followed them and caught them up in James place.  I asked Vi to come down to North terrace with me, as I wanted to speak to her.  She would not go with me.  I believe this was because she was with Clarke.  She told me on several occasions that she was not fond of Clarke, and that her people had forced her on to him.  I said to Vi, 'Will you come down to North terrace with me?'  She replied, 'No, Bill. I can't.'

Depths of Despair

"I then left her," continued Haines.  "I emphatically deny that I threatened to shoot Vi as Clarke said.  I was too fond of her to do her any harm.  When Vi refused to come with me on October 3 it was too much for me.  I was in the depths of despair, and went away for three days. I just wandered round, broken in spirit and mind. On the Wednesday night I slept in the parklands.  I do not know why I did, as I could have gone home.  My mind just seemed to go, and nothing mattered.  On the following Friday, October 7, I saw Vi at work on two occasions.  On Monday, October 10, I again saw Vi at work, and asked her how she was.  She said, 'Bill, I am sick of it all, and feel like taking poison.'  I asked her what she was doing on the holiday, and she said that she was going to Bridgewater for a picnic. She said she was going with Clarke.  She did not want to go with him, but her parents made her go.  I asked her not to go, but she said that it was no good, her parents insisted on it.  I saw her on the Tuesday, and asked her if she was still going to the picnic.  She said that she was, and told me of the arrangements she had made.

Decided to Die

"I told her that I could not bear this any longer, as it was driving me mad. I said, 'If you are going to Bridgewater, Vi, I am going, too.  I will shoot myself and end it all.' The affair was playing on my mind. Such was the state of my mind that I decided to end my life.  I decided to go to the picnic at Bridgewater the next day and there see Vi. I decided to shoot myself in her presence and die in her arms and once and for all end this terrible feeling of depression that was slowly killing me. On Wednesday, October12, I went to the Adelaide railway Station at about 9 a.m. I saw Vi there with Clarke. I purchased a ticket to Bridgewater, and I saw Vi and Clarke and the others in the party get on the Bridgewater Train.  I got on, too. When I got to Bridgewater I followed the party and saw where they went. They started on a paper chase, and I waited until they came back. I saw Vi and Clarke coming back and I walked over to speak to Vi. When I spoke to her I was about a yard away, facing her. Clarke was about two yards away. When I spoke to Vi, I was leaning against a tree with my right shoulder. I said to Vi, 'Will you come down here with me for a while? I want to speak to you.' She replied, 'No, Bill.' I asked her again, and then turned to Clarke and said, 'Will you come down here while I speak to her?' He replied, 'No.' I then said, 'Well, Vi, you know what I'm going to do. I am going to finish myself now.'

"My mind was then made up. The time had come for me to end it all. I would shoot myself and die in Vi's arms. I did not want any one else about. I then pulled out the revolver I had brought with me and swung it round and called out to the others present, 'Hands up all of you and get out of it quickly.' All present got for their lives immediately I spoke. Vi moved away a couple of yards and I swung the gun up to my own head. She saw me, took hold of my left hand, and said, 'Bill, don't be mad.' With the gun pointing at my own head I pulled the trigger. I felt a stinging sensation in my head and a ringing noise, and my mind seemed to snap. After that everything seemed to go blank and I can remember no more until I was kneeling down beside Vi, asking her to live. I was horrified when I realized what I had done. My darling Vi was dead.

 "My Heart Was Sick"

"I took out my handkerchief and tied it around her head and tried to stop the bleeding. I tried to lift her up, but I was too weak. I called out to some of the others to come over and help me. They did not come at first but I called out, 'Hurry up and help me get her to a doctor. She might still live.' Powell and Rickard came over to me and I handed the revolver to Powell and said to them, 'Get hold of her. Get her to a motor car and take her to a doctor.' We then picked Vi up and carried her down to the gully to the recreation ground. We carried her to a motor car. I took my overcoat off and placed it around Vi and got into the car and held her. Powell got in the front seat and we drove towards the Stirling Hospital. On the way to the hospital Constable Gumley spoke to me. He said, 'Did you shoot this young woman.' I said, 'Yes, I went mad. I meant to end myself but this is what I have done. Her people drove me to it.' I did not say to the constable that I was jealous of Vi.

While driving to Stirling I looked at Vi and asked her to forgive me, but I saw that she was dead. My heart was sick. I then fully realized what had happened. I had killed the girl I loved - the girl, the hair of whose head I would not have dreamed of touching a few minutes previously, yet in a frenzy of madness, caused by the injury to my own head, I must have turned the gun on her and, without the slightest knowledge of what was happening, killed her in my madness. Even then I could not realize that Vi was dead and I could not bring myself to believe that I had killed her. When I got to the hospital I spoke to Powell and said, 'You and your cobbers are cowards running away like you did. Why didn't you stop me instead of leaving her when I put up the gun?' He said, 'Yes, I know I was a coward, but I was afraid as soon as I saw you pull the gun.'

Kissed "Vina" Goodbye

"After we left the hospital we drove to the Stirling West Police Station and put Vi in a cell. I was then locked up, and later an ambulance came. I asked Constable Gumley to allow me to see Vi before they took her away. He said I could. I went into the cell, and stooped down and kissed Vina goodbye. I said to her -'Vi darling, forgive me. You know I didn't mean to do it. But you are happy now, and with some one who will give you peace and happiness instead of misery, like your parents did. Goodbye, darling and may God make you happy and forgive me for what I have done. I know that you loved me, Vi, and I didn't mean to harm you.' I was then taken to Adelaide Hospital.

Gentlemen, as God is my Judge, I had no intention of shooting my darling Vi. I meant to end myself and not to harm her as I loved her too much. After the bullet had entered my head my reason went. My mind seemed to snap, and I cannot account for anything that happened after that until I found myself kneeling at her side asking her, begging her, to live.

Gentlemen, I was mad, and not responsible for my action. I am innocent of this charge of murder."

Witnesses Recalled

The witness Clarke was recalled and denied that the accused told the deceased that he was going to kill himself. He did not see the accused put the revolver to his own head.

The witness Rickard corroborated.

Constable Gumley denied that the accused told him he meant to end himself.

Dr. Downey's Opinion

Dr. M. H. Downey, Superintendent of the Mental Infirmary, Parkside, said he examined the accused on November 8, and found an injury to his head that appeared to be a bullet wound above the right ear, and below the motor area of the brain, in the frontal lobe. He did not consider, from the evidence that the accused would have lost consciousness after he shot himself and while shooting the girl. His opinion was that the bullet wound did not cause any mental derangement. He believed an injury of the kind was capable of producing either convulsions, paralysis, or concussion. The site of the injury -(not over the motor area)- would make it unlikely that the first two conditions would result. As regard the third, however, the person would immediately fall unconscious, and remain so for at least a few minutes. If the concussion were only partial, there would be a staggering, not a fall, and the man would be dazed and semi-conscious. He believed that in that condition of partial concussion, elaborate muscular action and coherent speech could not occur. He did not think, therefore, he could have fired five shots while in that condition. During such a state, implying semi-consciousness, there would be a hazy realization of the nature of his act. The subsequent conversation of the accused would lead the witness to believe that the accused had known what he did, and that he had known it was wrong. He had examined his mental state and found no indications of insanity.

The witness told Mr. Hogan that the three effects he had described would result irrespectively of the man's mental condition. Grief and disappointment could become in a predisposed person exciting causes of melancholia. Disappointment in a love affair had been known to bring on mental pain. The majority of cases of melancholia arose usually fairly suddenly, but it worked up for a few days. Melancholia was, in many cases, associated with a suicidal impulse. On the evidence it did not appear likely that Haines had suffered from melancholia. The actions of the accused were open to other interpretations from that of melan-cholia, although a melancholic person might have acted in that way.

Re-examined, the witness said that on the evidence, he did not consider the accused was suffering at the time either from melancholia or homicidal mania.

Murder, or Insanity

His Honour said that on the law it seemed to him that the only verdict could be either murder or insanity.

Mr. Hogan submitted that the injury of the accused might have rendered him incapable of knowing what he did, and so place his act on all fours with that of a man who got voluntarily drunk and killed some one. That might reduce the verdict from murder to one of manslaughter.

His Honour asked the jury to retire, and suggested there was no evidence that the injury to the accused did render him incapable of knowing the nature of his act.

Mr. Chamberlain said the onus being on the defence, he could not submit the case to the jury for inference unless there was some evidence for some state of mind equivalent to drunkenness.

Counsel's Addresses

The Crown Prosecutor, addressing the jury, suggested that a great deal had been introduced to excite sympathy on behalf of the accused. He asked them to disregard the tears that had been shed over the girl's grave, because if the accused had committed the offence he did not need their sympathy, and if he had not their sympathy would be unnecessary. He also asked them to disregard the consequences upon the accused, of their verdict. They were not concerned with the consequences, but only with the verdict.

Mr Hogan said that for his defence to succeed, it was necessary to prove that the first shot the accused had directed to himself, and that the others had been fired while his mind was clouded as a result of the first shot.

The Summing Up

His Honour, in summing up to the jury, said in the present case it was his duty to direct them that the issue was a plain one. Either the accused murdered Miss Schmidt, or he was entitled to a verdict of not guilty, because he was insane at the time. Every person was presumed by law to be sane until the jury was satisfied he was insane. A peculiar feature of this case was the unusual number of eye-witnesses, no less than six. The learned counsel for the accused had rather led the jury to infer that his attempt to commit suicide was evidence of his insanity. There was nothing unusual about that. It was the commonest explanation of murder that could be given. When a man, animated by the strongest impulses implanted within him, became infatuated with a woman and failing in his quest and in anger, or grief, or the desolation of despair at the prospective loss of her, found his only satisfaction in killing her - that was what the French called "a crime of passion." In his own experience in trying cases of murder, in no less than three cases a man had shot the woman he loved, because she would not be either his wife or his mistress, as the case might be.

The jury retired at 5 o'clock, and after 20 minutes' deliberation returned a verdict of guilty.

The accused, who took the verdict quietly, was formally sentenced to death.