Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The Tragedy at Towitta (Part 8) – The Aftermath of a Famous Trial





The Tragedy at Towitta (Part 8) – The Aftermath of a Famous Trial


 Mary Schippan was now the most famous person in South Australia. Her trial had received media attention across the country, and celebration right across South Australia after the trial, and into the next day when local newspapers released special editions to get the word out of her Not Guilty verdict.

  The stay in Adelaide Gaol and the trial had worn young Mary and her family down. The public accusations and details about her sister’s death, and Mary’s sinful actions with Gustave Nitschke had ruined their reputations.


 The family had returned home in secret from Adelaide, and in the time Mary had been in prison, Matthes had seen to it that the house had been lime washed and everything cleaned from top to bottom.

Around Towitta a rumour began to take hold that in fact, it was Matthes who had done the brutual killing. The Rumour points to an Afghan Camel herder killed some years before near Sedan that Matthes had been accused, but acquitted of. And also a horse found in the sedan area that had been ridden very hard, this of course does not account for the fact that on the night in question Matthes was with family and friends in Flaxmans valley.

 Life for Mary was never the same again, continuously shunned and judged by her peers in the local towns, she tended to stick to the family farm and became withdrawn.
In 1908, Matthes decided to sell up and move away. The family moved into a 4 bedroom house at Light Pass near Nuriootpa.
Matthes Schippan died on the 31st of May 1911 aged 61.
Mary and her Mother Johanne lived on in the house, the boys had moved out and taken jobs in towns close by.
 Mary and her Mother lived in Light Pass until 1917 when Mary showed signs of having Tuberculosis and moved to Adelaide where she was confined in the Consumptive Home. Johanne moved to Mount Mary to live with August.

Mary grew sicker and sicker, and knowing death was not far away, went to Mount Mary to be with her brother and mother. It was here Mary died on July 4th 1919. She was buried at Bower Cemetery.

 Mary’s Mother lived until 1923 in Eudunda, supported by a small amount of money left to her by her daughter. She died on September 8th of that year.

Wilhelm never married. He eventually contracted tuberculosis and died at the age of 42.
 Of the other members of the family – not much is known about their whereabouts and the activities they undertook after Mary’s trial.

Gustave Nitschke could not set foot anywhere in South Australia without being recognised, during the trial his photo had been splashed across newspapers across the State. He eventually moved interstate and legally changed his name to Gus Nicholls, married, and had six children. He died in 1954