Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Adelaide Arcade Part Four: Madame Kennedy

Madame Kennedy

Previously we read about the death of the Arcade Beadle, Mr Cluney, this week we look into the second recorded death at the Adelaide Arcade, and the possibility of two more spirits lingering in the impressive structure!
In 1902 a scandal broke out in quiet Adelaide town, A little boy, just three years of age had died, or possibly been murdered, in the upstairs home of a shop in the Adelaide Arcade. What seemed like an open and shut case soon unravelled in to a story reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel.

There have been many psychic's and clairvoyants take up residence in the Arcade over the years, even in the present day the Arcade boasts at least one clairvoyant. In around 1900 Professor and Madame Kennedy set up a business in the Arcade in shop 11. The couple used the upstairs section of their business as a living quarters, and downstairs as their reading rooms, advertising in local newspapers under the alias “Madame and Professor Kennedy, Clairvoyants, Phrenologists and Palmists, may be consulted daily – 11, Arcade, Hours 9 to 9” - ( The Advertiser: Wednesday 29 May 1901 page 7)
Their real names were Bridget Lauretta Kennedy Byron and Professor Michael Kennedy Byron
The Kennedy's were very successful in their business, but behind closed doors their relationship was falling pieces. The couple had a son named Sydney, when the boy was one year old, The Kennedy's separated, and Professor Kennedy left with the young child, without telling Bridget. Mr Kennedy made his way to Tasmania with the boy, where it appears he struck up a relationship with another Clairvoyant named Madame Cleria – (It is not clear if he knew her from Adelaide or elsewhere on the mainland or whether the relationship began in Tasmania).

Bridget was a left a distraught woman, her husband had left and stolen her son, she enlisted the help of a private detective who travelled the country in search of the Professor and finally tracked him down in Tasmania, by this time Bridget had started to resort to alcohol and pills to calm herself and to help with going to sleep. The detective returned with Sydney's where-abouts and Bridget collected her son before Christmas of 1901.

It is not known publicly if events that unfolded happened on the 10th or the 11th of January in 1902, but on the 12th of January Adelaide, and the rest of Australia, awoke to a news story that would catapult the small Adelaide family into the national newspapers.
In Kalgoorlie on the 14th of January the story was reported as follows: ( Kalgoorlie Western Argus 14 Jan 1902 page 30)
ADELAIDE, Jan. 12.The three-year-old son of Professor and Madame 'Kennedy, palmists and phrenologists, of the Arcade,Adelaide,was found dead yesterday in one of the rooms under peculiar circumstances,the nature of which had been kept a secret by the police. At the formal opening of the inquest Madame Kennedy was cautioned that she need not say anything that might incriminate Herself Later on.
Madame Kennedy was placed in custody on no charge, but, it is alleged, for her own safety. Professor Kennedy is at present in Tasmania.

The story broke nationally, intriguing the public, who wanted to know all the details, rumours of foul play spread across the state, Mrs Kennedy was allowed some leave as she awaited the arrival of her legal representative, Mr Glynn, from Melbourne, special circumstances were laid in case Mr Glynn's arrival was delayed allowing more time if needed.

On Friday the 17th of January 1902, Mrs Kennedy was formally brought before Magistrate J Gordon and Justices at the City Police Court on a charge of murder.
Proceedings were published in the Advertiser, the following is small extract ( The Advertiser page 5 - Wednesday 15 January 1902 )

"Bridget Lauretta Kennedy, Byron,",continued the clerk, "alias Madame Kennedy, you are charged, on the information of Inspector Sullivan, that on or about the11th day of January, 1902, you did feloniously, wilfully, and of malice afore-thought kill and murder one Sydney Kennedy Byron." The Assistant Crown Solicitor (Mr. J. H. Sinclair) appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. H. A. Parsons for the defence.
On the application of Mr. Sinclair further proceedings were adjourned until Friday next, at 11 a.m.
Professor Kennedy arrived from Melbourne on Tuesday morning, and called at the watch-house to see his wife, who had just previously been removed to the Adelaide Gaol. He journeyed to the prison in the afternoon, and there conversed with Mr Kennedy. The professor found police-men in possession of the premises in the Arcade, and after the latter had communicated with their superior officers they allowed him to take charge of the place.
The following day after a lengthy hearing the bench came to the conclusion that no jury would convict on the evidence before the court, and the case was there upon dismissed."

So by now you are wondering what happened to the poor Kennedy boy? As it turns out, with the coverage the story was getting nationally, all the details of what happened emerged, here is one of the reported versions from the Barrier Miner: ( Barrier miner – Broken Hill - Tuesday 14 January 1902 )
ADELAIDE, Tuesday.
The inquest on the body of the child Sydney Kennedy, 3 years, was concluded yesterday afternoon. The jury concluded that death was due to coal-gas poisoning, but that there was no evidence to show by whom the gas was turned on. Mrs. Kennedy there upon was released from custody, but later on the police took action and arrested her on a charge of murdering her son.
The accused was to appear at the police court this morning. After formal evidence she will be remanded to enable the police to prepare their evidence.
Mrs. Lauretta Kennedy, giving evidence at the inquest yesterday, said “The child was registered under the name of Sydney Kennedy Byron. Her husband's name was Kennedy Byron” Witness' full name was Bridget Lauretta Kennedy Byron.
The first thing she could remember on Saturday was that Mrs Marshall came to her room and called, "Are you awake, madam? 'There is a great smell of gas " Mrs. Marshall then opened the windows and put on the gas jet on the wall,which was burning low. That was in the dining-room, where deceased was found.
Witness went into her bedroom and left Mrs. Marshall to do anything which was necessary. The boy usually slept in the dining room on a rug on the floor, and would go into witness' room when he wanted anything. That was the reason she had left the gas burning. The child was able to look after himself in that respect, being a smart boy. She did not remember how she went to sleep in the dining room that night. She had visited Tasmania a week before Christmas.
Her object in going there was to get the boy, who had been taken away by bis father, who had gone away with a woman who had practised as a palmist and abortionist " Palmistry was only a blind for the other," added the witness. She had detectives looking for the child, and had spent a great deal of money in all the Australian States. Witness' life was insured, and the policy was in force Deceased was not insured.
In the event of the death of witness her husband would have benefited. by the policy. (The policy produced and numbered " 158,010,A. M. " was put in.)
By Mr. Glynn : Witness did not know at the time her husband left where he had gone to, but she had led people to think she did know. She was very anxious about the child, and had telegraphed to New Zealand, West Australia, Broken Hill, Tasmania, Mount Gambier, Bendigo, and other places to endeavour to find where her husband had gone. She also reported the matter to the police. She ascertained that he was in Tasmania She was very fond of the child, who was a strong, bright boy, and very playful. Everybody liked him. The drugs she had taken lately were to make her sleep. .She had taken some on the night before the child died, and, had also taken some champagne
The child was in the habit of waking during the night, and would walk about and take a drink of water. There were two gas stoves in the dining-room. The deceased had been in the habit of turning on the gas, and she had found it necessary to beat him for it.
The coroner read certain clauses in the insurance policy, and called attention to one, which set out that if within one year and, 30 days the policy-holder should take her own life the policy should become void,The time limit for this provision expired on December 28 last.”

The story gives us some insight into what happened but misses a few key details that are found in other newspaper stories.
Mrs Kennedy's cleaner, Elizabeth Marshall, arrived, as she did every day at a quarter to 7 in the morning to begin her chores, not long after her arrival Sydney’s Nanny, a 13 year old girl named Jeannie Barrett arrived.
Mrs Marshall roused Mrs Kennedy, who was lying on the dining room floor with Sydney  and complained of the smell of gas, she then began to open the windows to help remove the smell.
Jeannie tried to wake Sydney, and found that she couldn't rouse the small boy.
 A doctor was called, Dr Hines declared the boy dead at 7:30 am
After a post mortem it was declared the boy died of coal Gas poisoning.
Dr Hines also reported that Mrs Kennedy smelled of alcohol and was in a drug haze, most likely brought on by “Chlorodyne”, a very popular drug at the time that contained Cannabis, Opium and Chloroform, a highly addictive combination that often resulted in addictions and overdoses.
In his statement Dr Hines concluded that the drug could cause memory loss and that Mrs Kennedy was “Mentally Unhinged” and therefore not responsible for her actions

Mrs Kennedy had dictated a note to Sydney’s nanny, Jeannie on the day before, or perhaps the day of, Sydney’s death, the note is as follows
Tired of life; heart broken; husband in Tasmania, with long Ada Brown, called Madame Cleria, abortionist, by trade. Let my baby and myself go to the students to the hospital. Has been connected with Mrs. Brown for about two years. Anything I have left will go to my friend Mrs. William Clarke, Mirtna Charters Tower, insurance money, or any money I have left.”

Another interesting side-note about the case includes Dr Hines refusing to kiss the Bible in Court, as he though it was an unsanitary thing to do, the court overruled him.

The case was so well documented because of the national interest that every aspect of the court case was written about, even the clothing worn by Mrs Kennedy, it was also reported that the Court case was so popular that the place was packed like a “tin of sardines” and was standing room only, with some onlookers turned away at the door.

Mrs Kennedy, as we read earlier was not formally charged with murder, and left the court a free woman, not facing any other prison other than that in her own mind.
It would appear that Mrs Kennedy suffered greatly with loss of her infant son, turning to Alcohol and drugs to calm her nerves. It is recorded that twice she was pulled up by the law and charged with public intoxication over the following months after Sydney’s death.
In August 1902, 7 months after being under public scrutiny over the death of her son, Bridget Kennedy's body was found in the west park lands, near the southern train lines of Adelaide.
Police were not able to determine if she was murdered or if her death was self administered, but due to the large amounts of drugs she had in her basket and the fact a witness had come forward stating Mrs Kennedy had been on a two week drinking binge, it was thought her death was accidental. Professor Michael Kennedy formally identified the body

Mr Kennedy went back to work at the Adelaide Arcade, offering his psychic abilities for a while, before turning his shop into a waxworks museum, and offering lectures on the various waxworks of famous people he had created.
In 1903 Mr Kennedy was charged with assault, but the case was dropped after the prosecutor didn't appear at the court proceedings.

Mr Kennedy later moved from the Adelaide Arcade and died at his new premises (The Register: Monday 30 November 1908 page 4)

BYRON.— On the 28th November, at his residence, 173 Flinders street, Adelaide, Michael Byron (known as Prof. Kennedy), in his 60th year.

The Adelaide Arcade Museum is situated where the Kennedy shop and apartment would have once stood

Is it possible after her tragic death that Bridget Kennedy returned to the scene of Sydney's death, and together they haunt the old shop 11 in Adelaide Arcade? Is it Bridget that is seen at times walking with the Beadle of the Arcade, a man who died a few years before her, and a man she quite possible knew ?
Anything is possible....

Next week we look into the murder of Florence Eugena Horton at The Adelaide Arcade


Kalgoorlie Western Argus 14 Jan 1902 page 30 : http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/32607410?searchTerm=opening%20of%20adelaide%20arcade&searchLimits=l-australian=y


© 2012 The Haunts of Adelaide
Written and Researched by
Allen Tiller