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Southwick, William (1856–1925)

from Argus (Melbourne)

Some hours after his disappearance had been reported to the police William Southwick, aged 69 years, an estate and commission agent, with offices in Toorak road, South Yarra, was found murdered in a room at the rear of a garage in Toorak road at 11 o'clock yesterday morning. Detective-sergeant F. J. Piggott and Detectives E. Ethell, H. H. West, and R. Gill, who are making the police investigations claim to have established the motive for the murder of Mr. Southwick, and have detained a young man in connection with his death.

Mr. Southwick was very well known in South Yarra and Prahran. Until about nine or ten months ago he conducted a wood and coal merchant's business at the corner of Punt and Toorak roads, opposite Christ Church. After the sale of the business Mr. Southwick opened an estate and commission agency in the front of premises occupied as a garage at 36 Toorak road. That he was a man of considerable means is indicated by the fact that all the properties between Caroline and Ralston streets with the exception of the shop occupied by Mr. S. Bowman, butcher, were owned by him. In addition Mr. Southwick was the owner of several cottages in Caroline street and elsewhere in South Yarra. His private home was at 42 Rockley road, South Yarra. A keen follower of horse racing, Mr. Southwick was a member of the Victoria Racing Club, the Victoria Amateur Turf Club, and other racing bodies.

The building at the rear of which Mr. Southwick's body was found is of two stories with a galvanised iron wall at the rear. It is used by Mr. Southwick himself, Mr. Charles Brown, motor painter, and Mr McAloon panel beater on the first floor, and Messrs. Frank Vale and Leslie Pretty, motor-body builders, and Mr. George Isaacs, motor-trimmer on the second floor. The building was formerly used by Mr. Southwick as his distributing centre for wood and coal. Adjoining the garage on the western side is Mr. S. Bowman's butcher shop, and on the eastern side a motor accesories shop conducted by Mr. G. Fleming. Above Mr. Fleming's shop are several flats let by Mr. Southwick to various tenants. The rear of the presedential portion of that building overlooks a two story building with its frontage to Caroline street. That building was used by Mr. Southwick as a storehouse for building material required to carry out alterations which are in progress to one of his properties. The storerooms are separated by a lane from the buildings facing Toorak road. Two additional rooms a few yards from the store and also immediately at the rear of the garage building containing Mr. Southwick's office were used by him as lumber rooms, and, with his permission, by a young man suffering from a nervous complaint. It was in the larger of these two rooms that Mr. Southwicks body was found.

"Mr. Southwick was an enthusiastic race goer." said Mr. Alexander Anderson of Avoca street, South Yarra, yesterday. "On Saturday I had made an appointment to meet him at the Caulfield races but he did not come. Towards evening I rang his home to learn what was the matter, and was told that he had not been seen since early morning, and that it was believed that he had gone to the races." Alarmed at his non-appearance, Mrs. Southwick on Saturday night enlisted the help of her son-in-law and daughter (Mr. William Smythe and Mrs. Beryl Smythe). Inquiries were made from many of Mr. Southwick's friends, but no trace of him could be found. Nothing could be ascertained of his movements after noon on Saturday. About that time he was seen in a hairdresser's saloon in Toorak road by Councillor J. J. W. Flintoft, of Davis street, South Yarra. A little later Mr. Southwick visited the garage of Mr. Frederick L. Dupont, at 32 Toorak road and had a conversation about alterations to the building, of which he is the owner. Mrs. Mary Hart, occupier of a flat, has told the detectives that she was in the yard at the rear of the garage soon after noon. Mr. Southwick was also there, talking to the man he had allowed to sleep in the lumber-rooms. He was dressed to leave his office.

When inquiries from Mr. Southwick's friends proved fruitless, the South Yarra police were informed of his disappearance, but no trace of him was found. Mr. Dupont and Mr. McAloon went to their business places yesterday, and while there heard of Mr. Southwick's prolonged absence from home. Both decided to question the man who had been living at the garage. Knocks at the door were not answered, and Messrs. McAloon and Dupont concluded that some mishap had occured to him. Peering through a window of one of the lumber-rooms, they could see the figure of a man lying on the floor. The door of the room was locked. It was burst open and a message sent to the South Yarra police. On the arrival of Constable G. Bolton he entered the room with Messrs. McAloon, Dupont, and others. Mr. Southwick's body was lying face upwards, the head resting on a quantity of timber. He was dressed ready to leave the building. The face was covered with heavy bruises and blood which had poured from his nostrils, and the skull was fractured. In his hand were the keys to his office, the door of which was open, and of the building. His spectacles were broken, and lay several feet from the body. In a wallet in an inside coat pocket Constable Bolton found between £30 and £40. The contents of the wallet had not been disturbed. A tomahawk head, which showed no signs of blood, was found near the body.

The criminal investigation branch was informed by telephone of the discovery of the body, and detectives were assigned to the inquiry. Two doctors told Detective- sergeant Piggott that death had apparently occured between noon and 2 o'clock on Saturday afternoon. At that time men were at work in the garage. After the finding of the body Constable Bolton heard movements in the second of the two lumber-rooms. The door was closed and locked to prevent the occupant of the room from leaving. Soon after the arrival of the detectives he was placed under detention.

"In the yard at midday on Saturday," Mrs. Hart said yesterday, "Mr. Southwick told a man who had been sleeping in his rooms that he was to scrub my flat. The man protested and a heated argument followed. Bad language was used towards Mr. Southwick, who ordered the man to leave the rooms on Monday. I left the yard before Mr. Southwick. About two years ago," Mrs. Hart continued, "one of my rooms was rented by a man from New South Wales, who afterwards gave it up in favour of one of his sons. The son occupied the room until four or five months ago, when he went to live in the rooms behind Mr. Southwick's garage. He has done odd jobs about the place for some time, but has not been regularly employed.

The detectives, who believe that Mr. Southwick was attacked and killed in a quarrel, arranged for the removal of his body to the morgue, and took the man detained by them to the detective office. Statements were taken from several witnesses at the office, and the inquiries are being continued.

Later at the city watchhouse Cyrus Braby, aged 30 years, labourer, was charged with having insufficient means of support. The charge was made by Detective West. Braby will appear at the City Court this morning.

At 8 o'clock last night Detective H. H. West charged Braby, at the watchhouse, with having murdered William Southwick.

Original publication

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Citation details

'Southwick, William (1856–1925)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/southwick-william-18501/text30169, accessed 17 December 2018.

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