When many hear the name "Horton" in Adelaide, their mind goes back to the man hung in Adelaide Gaol for killing his Wife, Florence Horton in Rundle Mall, outside Adelaide Arcade, but the name is associated with another murder case in South Australia, this time in Norwood.
Herbert Ernest Hall, aged 66, was found dead in his chicken yard in the back of his premises in Norwood. Mr Hall was the company director of local cordial manufacturer, “Halls”
She had married her husband, Philip Trythall Horton in 1944, who she described as a most affectionate man. Since his discharge from service during World War Two, the couple and their children, aged four and two and a half, had happily lived with her Father in his Charles Street, Norwood home.
Everyone in the family got along well with each other, but on that fateful evening of January 28th 1950, Jean Hortons world was turned upside down.
After returning home at about 8pm that night after visiting Philips parents, the husband and wife worked together to bathe their children and put them to bed, as they had always done together.Jean retired to the living room to read magazines, while her husband and Father went outside. During the evening, her husband came inside several times, quietly moaning to himself, then leaving to return to the yard.
Philip cam back inside about 9pm, and said Jean's Father was attending to the brooding hens, and that he would like to speak to her in their bedroom, as he didnt want the children to hear what he had to say.
The couple entered the bedroom, Jean curious as to what Philip had to say, but unable to garner any details from his body language what it could be about, but she had a sinking feeling she new he was about to utter some terrible news.
Philip said to Jean:
"Something terrible has happened to Father. I've covered him up I don't want you to see it. I was going to do something terrible to you and the children, but I don't remember what it was.I want you to help me."
Before he had finished speaking he knelt beside the bed and began to pray, unsure what to do, Jean left him there and went and phoned the Doctor, but before doing so, she first phoned a neighbour friend and told them of her Father laying in the chicken yard.
When she returned to her husband, he was laying upon the bed, and seemed to be dazed and somewhat confused...
When police arrived to the family home they Mr Horton still in the family bedroom, asking for a drink of water. He was interrogated by Officer Harvey at about 10pm that evening. Horton told the Officer “I have been in reasonable good health, but I have been pretty sick after I was demobilised from the army, I have had a few attacks of pyelitis (A kidney complaint) and I've been to Daws Road Hospital a few times”.
Officer Harvey noted Hortons quiet demeanour, his calm and apparently rational answers to questions, but noted he seemed “too normal” for someone who had just dealt such a cruel blow, there “Should be more abnormality” Harvey stated, “Horton was aware his Father-in-law was dead and what was alleged. Horton seemed casually interested in what had happened”.
Officer Harvey could not identify a motive for the murder.
Another officer went out to the chicken yard, where Mr Halls battered body had been found. The Police Officer assumed Mr Hall had been beaten in the back of the head with a large blunt object, at some point he had tried to walk towards the house, and had been beaten again into unconsciousness. His body was dragged into the chicken yard, his feet were tied with rope, his hands were tied behind him, and his mouth was stuffed with a handkerchief.
At some point whilst being bound, he was again beaten, this time to death.
The feet of the dead man were then placed in a drum, a large packing crate, a piece of galvanised iron and some lengths of wood were then used to cover the body. (This was later recounted during the court case)
During the court case which ensued, Mrs Horton gave evidence. She remained calm in her seat, but wept the whole time. She told of her gentle and loving husband, and how he was sometimes prone to terrible nightmares and, how on one occasion, Philip, her husband had told her, “I could take you by the throat! - If you had not broken the spell with a smile, something might have happened to you. You know how to handle me. It was luck and chance”
to the Coroner's Court today when an inquest was
held into the death of Horton's
father-in-law Herbert Ernest Hall,
66,on January 28.
Horton has been charged with the murder of Hall.
Dr. J. M. McPhie, police medical officer, who said he saw Horton on January 28 about 11p.m.
The Doctor stated “ The body was that of Herbert Ernest Hall, a company director associated with G. Hall & Sons, cordial manufacturers of Norwood. At 2 a.m. on January 29, I took the body to the City Mortuary. Later the same morning Dr. Wilhelm conducted a post-mortem.”
Plain clothes Constable A. C. Horsnell, acting Coroner's Constable, said about 10 a.m. On January 29 he went to the City Mortuary with the deceased's brother Frank Tinley Hall, of Hewitt avenue, Rose Park. Frank Hall identified his brother's body."Later in the day I pointed out the same body to Dr. Wilhelm," witness said
Dr. Wilhelm was the next witness. He said on making the post-mortem, he found a blood-stained handkerchief had been used as a bandage across the mouth and lower face."A second bloodstained handkerchief was plugged in the mouth." he said. "One corner of that handkerchief protruded."The hands, were securely tied by a woman's stocking,and the articles were firmly tied together with two woman's stockings. The body was dressed In grey flannel trousers and a blue sports shirt.
There was much blood staining on the shirt, singlet and trousers."
On the 22nd of March 1950, Philip Horton, 37, technical adviser to the Royal Auto-mobile Association of South Australia was found Not Guilty on the grounds of insanity – the jury did not leave the box.
He was ordered to be kept in strict custody at the hospital for criminal defectives, Parkside for the duration of the Governors Pleasure.
No motive was ever brought forth.
© 2014 Allen Tiller
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