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Grayland, William (1867–1897)

A gruesome discovery was made by a young man named John Wilson, at Grassmere, on Friday night. He was passing near the bank of the Merri River when his attention was attracted by an object in the water, which a closer inspection revealed to be a human body. He at once acquainted Mounted-Constable Akeroyd, who, with considerable difficulty, got the body out of the water and had it conveyed to the Grassmere Hotel. From the Warrnambool Standard we take the following particulars:

The first glance disclosed that there was something unusual in connection with the man's death, for the hands were strapped together in front. The constable found the body was that of a man about 30 years of age, with brown hair, a sandy moustache; he was about 5ft. 9in. in height; the body was fully clothed in a grey sac tweed coat and vest, blue serge trousers (with braces attached), woollen socks, light Balmoral boots, a Galatea shirt, with under garments.

On searching the clothing some documents were found which subsequently led to the identification of the body. There was an account rendered to "W. Grayland" by a tradesman at Drik Drik. A letter was also found, which commenced—

Viewpoint,
August 3rd, 1897.

My Dear Brother,—(Then followed some news concerning relatives and friends), and signed
Your Loving Sister,
Han
Or rather, your loving mother, for you do want to make me appear old.

An empty purse, an open pocket-knife, and a puzzle match-box were also found, the latter having the initials "W.G." engraved on one side.

Mounted-constable Akeroyd reported these facts to his superior officers in Warrnambool, and Sub-inspector Commons and Sergeant Mooney proceeded to make enquiries with a view of discovering the identity of the man. The fact of "W. Grayland" appearing on the account naturally led to the surmise that this was the deceased's name. However, there was no one of that name known in this district, and the Grassmere people had never heard of it. Several residents of that place viewed the body, but none of them had seen him there or could give any clue as to his identity. Attention was directed to discover the situation of "Viewpoint" mentioned in the sister's letter. It was ascertained that there was a place of that name near Bendigo, and a telegram was sent to the police there, but the reply did not throw any light on the mystery. Shortly after 11 o'clock on Saturday morning, information was given to the officers that people named "Grayland" resided within half a mile of Cobden, and more definite particulars were supplied by Mr. Louis Bayer, who said that "Viewpoint" was the name of their farm. A telegram was sent to Cobden, and in due course a reply came, stating that the deceased was probably a son of Mr Thomas Grayland, a farmer there, who would leave for Warrnambool by the next train.

In the meantime messages had also been sent to Heywood, and the replies tended to confirm the other information as to the name of the deceased. It was stated that Wm. Grayland had been employed at Drik Drik, some miles from Heywood, and had left there some three weeks previously riding a dark bay horse.

On Saturday afternoon the body was brought into Warrnambool for a post mortem examination to be made by Dr. J. W. O'Brien. When Mr. Grayland arrived by the express on that night he was enabled at once view the body. Owing to decomposition—for it had evidently been in the water for a fortnight—the features were very much disfigured, but from the general appearance and the clothing Mr. Grayland was enabled to say with some degree of certainty that it was the body of his son.

Is it a case of suicide or murder is a question which will not be definitely settled until further evidence is obtained. At present the circumstances point to suicide. The fact that the hands were tied with a strap is a circumstance which might be regarded in two ways. It was quite possible for the man to have tied the strap himself and fastened it securely with his teeth. There were about three inches of loose strap, the end of which had teeth marks. This, however, could be viewed in another light. For instance, if it were a case of murder, the hands might have been strapped by the murderer in the way indicated, and the teeth marks could have been caused by the victim using his teeth to untie the strap and unloose his hands. So far there is nothing to point to this conclusion. The presence of the deceased at Grassmere, and the fact that no one saw him there is mysterious. Certainly when riding from Heywood he could have a travelled by way of Hamilton, Penshurst and Caramut, and thence through Woolsthorpe and Winslow to Grassmere, but it is rather strange that he was not observed at the latter place. Again the part of the Merri river where his dead body was found is some distance from the road; the man must have travelled through private land in order to reach the river there. The police will endeavour to trace the movements of Grayland from the time he left Heywood, and information on this point will be of service. The horse should form a good connecting link; it is described as a good 10st hack, dark bay, and branded WM on near shoulder.

After viewing the body Mr. T. Grayland (who is a dairyman at Cobden) made a statement to the effect that the face was so much swollen and disfigured owing to decomposition that he could not positively identify it, but the forehead, moustache, and general appearance of the body was like his son, Wm. Grayland; he positively identified the vest, match-box, purse and socks as belonging to his son. The socks were knitted for him by his mother, and she also bought him the match-box at the Warrnambool exhibition, and had his initials W.G. cut on it; she gave it to him in February last. He had not been living at home for some years, but visited home occasionally; he came to see them in January last, and stayed about three weeks. He went to work at Drik Drik and they heard from him regularly. He (the father) bought his horse for £2, and in March he wrote asking for the balance on it and also the loan of £3, as he had seen a horse which he wished to purchase. He lent him the money. In his last letter he said he would be home about the end of August, and that he intended to go to Queensland. On Friday he received his son's swag at the Cobden railway station. The station-master told him it had been there several days. His son was a steady workman, and regular in his habits; he never knew him to threaten to commit suicide. In March of 1895 he complained of a pain in his head, while working at Cororooke, near Colac, and said he thought the sun had caught him on the back of the neck. About a week afterwards he got out of bed one night, and said he was going into Colac to get a tooth drawn. However, he went straight on to Melbourne, and remained there a week. When asked why he went away in this strange manner, he said he must have lost his memory through a pain in his head.

Dr. J. W. O'Brien made a post-mortem examination of the body, and found that death was due to drowning. There were no marks of violence on the body.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Grayland, William (1867–1897)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/grayland-william-14680/text25819, accessed 22 September 2019.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2019

Life Summary [details]

Birth

1867

Death

August 1897
Grassmere, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

suicide

Occupation