The Rhynie Tragedy
On April first 1920, tragedy struck the small country town of Rhynie, a little hamlet not far from Riverton in the States Mid-North, when the bodies of Mrs Muriel Lee and three of her five children, aged three, five and six years old respectively, were found laying in their beds in their country home, murdered by their Husband and Father Alexander Lee.
Mrs Lee's husband, Alexander had come home a couple of days previous, after being away for a lengthy time shearing sheep at homesteads around the State.
He had returned home drunk one night and accused his wife of a number of petty things, but had soon wound himself up, and accused her of having a series of “fancy” men in the house in his absence.
|The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. 1848 - 1957), Monday 5 April 1920, page 6|
The night before the murder, Charles Glen, Mrs Lee's brother had visited the house, where Alexander was laying on the sofa, smoking a pipe. Glen went to leave saying “I will get away now, as I want to get a pint of beer before 6”, after which Lee said “A Pint would do me good.”
Mrs Lee said to her brother “Don't talk to me about beer, I had enough of it last night. He came home drunk and accused me of all sorts of things, and he said I had men in the house when he was away."
Lee then called his daughter Amelia into the room and stated “"I will keep you and little Alice, and I hope to God the rest of the ------- are dead by the morning." Lee then looked at his wife and said “You must have riled me to say a thing like that!"
This was not the first time Alexander Lee had been harsh to his wife, the married couple also had twins babies which at the time of the murders were in a hospital in Adelaide as they had been unwell with influenza.
Emily Mellery, a young nurse looking after the young twins, who was later called upon as a witness, reported she had been staying with the Lee family when one evening Mr Lee arrived home in a bad state of intoxication and began to call his wife all manner of names and curses.
After a while Lee began to make accusations about the fatherhood of his twins. "I am not responsible for your condition." Lee said, to which his wife answered, "Don't say that to me, Alex You know I don't do that."
|Advocate (Burnie, Tas. 1890 - 1954),|
Wednesday 9 June 1920, page 3
The following afternoon Mrs. Lee was removed to the Riverton Maternity Hospital, and was away from home for about three weeks. On the day she reached home the twins began to cry, and Lee remarked to his wife, "Chuck the little ----- outside they don't belong to me." Mrs. Lee replied. "Oh, Alex don't say that to me. God put them into the world for something, and we must look after them."—Alex replied "I Wasn't Home, I wasn't home when the twins arrived, I was away shearing. I think your memory has failed you considerably."
There was much speculation that Alexander Lee thought his brother, Leonard, may have been the Father of the twins, this was speculated because, on a day in March, Leonard had been standing at the front gate of the family home when Alexander had returned from work. Alexander said unto him “Hello you F$#@er!” and then had continued to berate his wife inside the home saying “why don't you keep your fancy man in here?”
My Alexander Lee obviously had trust issues and a drinking problem, but also had murder on his mind – next week on The Haunts of Adelaide, we take a closer look at the murders, trial and hanging of Alexander Lee