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May Letchford (1875–1896)

An inquest on the body of May Letchford, found dead on the Brighton Rocks on Sunday, was held at the Thatched House Tavern before Mr. Joseph Curnow. J.P. and a Jury of six on Monday. Mr. A. Pontifex was foreman of the Jury.

John Letchford, commission agent, residing at Maylands, father of the deceased, said he last saw her alive on Friday, at 8.30 a.m. at home. She was then leaving to go to business in the city, being employed as assistant at Messrs. Hunter's boot shop, in Rundle-street. She had been employed there about four weeks. When Friday midnight arrived and she had not returned he felt alarmed. At 11 o'clock p.m. learned that she had not been at business at all. Went to Norwood Police Station and reported the matter. On Saturday morning made enquiries from several friends, but could not find any clue to her whereabouts. Heard on Sunday morning from the police that his daughter had been found dead on the Brighton Rocks. Came on to Brighton and identified the body. On March 20 last she was twenty years of age. About four months ago she had a very severe attack of influenza, and she had never been quite well since. She was of a very retiring disposition, and did not make many friends. She knew her services were to be dispensed with, Messrs. Hunter having sent a message by another daughter to say that she would not be required after the present week. Thought this preyed on the mind of the deceased.

William Birrell, plasterer, Goodwood Park, was on Brighton Rocks about 9.30 a.m. on Sunday, in company with George McFie, Denis Richardson, and George Bartlett, searching for periwinkles. Richardson said ''What is that white thing over there?" Called to McFie to go and see what it was. All went together and found it was the body of a woman lying face downwards between two rocks. The hands were folded across the chest under the body. The body was about half a mile from the commencement of the rocks, about twenty feet from the water's edge, and about three feet below high-water mark. By a Juror— Could not say that she had been the subject of foul play.

George McFie, painter, Goodwood, gave corroborative evidence. Noticed a bruise on the forehead.

Samuel Wheatland, Corporation Labourer and constable, New Brighton, said he took charge of the body until the arrival of the police. It was about a chain from where the morning's tide had come.

William Highet, tramdriver, Brighton, said that on Friday last about 11.45 he saw a lady leave the tram at Jetty-road, wearing a black dress and white straw sailor hat. Believed the deceased was the same person. She went down Jetty-road alone. She did not take a return ticket.

John Letchford, recalled, said the deceased wore a white gem straw hat with a veil when she left home. Believed she had visited Brighton Rocks before.

Randolph George Stewart Payne, headmaster Kangarilla State School, said on Friday last about 4 p.m. he was out in a boat off Brighton Rocks, accompanied by his wife and four children and the boatman, L. Bemold. When about a quarter of a mile away from the rocks his youngest daughter said, ''Pa, what is that dark object on the rocks?" Turned and saw a young lady standing on a rock. Shortly afterwards she sat down, and it appeared by her behaviour that she did not want to be recognised. Was about a chain distant from where she was sitting. She wore a black dress and white straw hat. The sun was shining on the back of her head, and was very hot. The water was encircling the rock on which she sat. By a Juror — The rock seemed to be about 3 ft. above the water.

William John Whitters, mounted constable, stationed at Brighton, gave evidence as to searching the body. Found a handkerchief and brooch produced, and a piece of brown paper, on which was written in pencil: —
January 10.

Dear Mother — I did not think it would come to this. I am now on one of the Brighton rocks and can't get off. So mother, forgive me the — all — and me. Mr. Hunter told me I would not suit, but I had not the heart to tell you.

Found sixpence lying on the sand under the body. Examined the body very carefully, but could find no marks of violence. Did not think that death had occurred more than twenty-four hours previously.

The following verdict was returned :— "That the deceased May Letchford was found dead, but there is not sufficient evidence to show how she came by her death." The following rider was added : — "The Jury desire to state their high appreciation of the very efficient way in which the police carried out their duties."

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Citation details

'Letchford, May (1875–1896)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 March, 1875


12 January, 1896 (aged 20)
Brighton, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cause of Death


Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.