Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The “Insanity” of a 15 Year Old Boy.



The “Insanity” of a 15 Year Old Boy.


 In June 1941, Adelaide was waking up to headlines about the trial of 15 year old boy Brian John Turner of Linden Park Gardens, sentenced to life imprisonment in Yatala Labor Prison for the murder of Boot-maker, William Thomas Halse.
 William Halse lived with his Wife and son in Kensington. He owned a boot making shop on O’Connell Street in North Adelaide, and had operated out of the premises for 28 years. Mr Halse loved routine, and would always return home on a Friday night at 9:30pm.
 On May the 2nd, Mr Halse hadn’t returned to his home. The family waited until 1am before the son went to the North Adelaide Police station and reporting his absence.
  A police officer and Mr Halse’s son went to the O’Connoll street shop, and found it locked and in total darkness. They jumped the side fences and found the back door of the shop wide open, but the lights turned off at the mains power board.
  Near the back door, they found a pool of blood. The blood trailed across the rear garden and into a small shed at the rear of the property. The two men entered the shed cautiously, and found there, lying in a pool of blood, the 77 year old man.
 Mr Halse had been viscously attacked with a blunt metal instrument. The back of his skull was broken into pieces, he had cuts across his face and jaw and one of his eyes was severely damaged.
 
 An investigation began into goings on almost immediately. A search for a murder weapon was undertaken, with no missing hammers of other tools in the workshop missing, which meant the murderer had brought the weapon with him.
 The inquiry turned up evidence that this was not a robbery. Mr Halse had 3 pound notes in one pocket, and 2 pounds of silver in a wallet in his jacket.
 His apron was found hanging on its hook, and he was wearing his jacket, which led the detectives to believe he was readying to leave the shop and his assailant was waiting in the yard for him. Mr Halse’s hat was found under a table, with a small hole in it that matched up exactly with a hole in the back of his skull, leading the investigators to further deduce that his attacker attacked first from behind and took Mr Halse by Surprise, then bludgeoned him at least another 30 times..
 Investigations led to Ward Street, North Adelaide, and the home of the Fergusons. On Friday night, the night of the murder, Brian Turner had showed up at the house about 7 o’clock with what looked to be a hammer wrapped in brown paper, like one would buy from a hardware store at the time.
  Turner was soon arrested on this evidence, and when questioned by the police, with no emotion, admitted to the crime.
 The court case was fairly swift by today’s standards. The defence team for Turner were pleading “insanity” and tried to prove their defence by using character witnesses such as Tuner’s Father. Turner was described as a “morose, underachiever and loner” who had brothers with incredibly successful careers, but he himself, lacked any care for his own future prospects.
 Such as young man had not been trialled in Adelaide, in regards to possibly receiving the death penalty for murder.  Politician’s became involved, and spent 6 hours reading through all the depositions for and against the 15 year old boy.
 In court, when asked why he did it, Turner at first denied any knowledge of the crime, and pleaded not guilty, going against his earlier admissions.
 It soon came to light that Turner had bought the hammer with the preconceived notion of robbing the shop, and that the murder happened because the old man said to him “Hitler was a good fellow and that we had no chance of winning the law”.

 The Judge declared that the evidence of “insanity” was not proven, even though there was medical evidence to prove of previous bouts of schizophrenic activity. It was not enough proof that the murder was not premeditated, so the defence of “insanity” was removed from the court.
 The jury sat for around 25 minutes, and delivered a “guilty” verdict, but with a clause for mercy. The judge took this on board and when it came time for sentencing, the original sentence of hanging for murder was commuted to life imprisonment in Yatala Labor Prison.
Brian John Turner, aged just 15 years and 10 months, was taken away to Yatala and placed in the first offenders wing, where he will stay until he is an adult.
 In 2016, Turner would be aged about 90 years old – I am interested to hear from anyone who may have served time with him in the Yatala Labor Prison, and to find out what became of him…please contact me via eidolon@live.com.au if you have any information.