Sandilands Murder: Part IV: Conviction and Release
|Herbert Cyril Curnow - after his arrest|
Constable West asked Curnow if had “shot a girl named Eleanor Louise Bockmann at Sandilands this afternoon? “, which Curnow replied “Yes, how is she? Is she dead?”
The constable then proceeded to tell Curnow that she was dead and asked him what he shot her with. Curnow replied that it was with a 12-gauge shotgun. The gun was now in Mr Rowe's wheat paddock.
The constable searched Curnow and found in his pocket a spent 12-gauge shotgun shell and a photo of Eleanor Bockmann. He asked Curnow if it was the shell with which he shot Bockmann, and Curnow replied “yes”.
Constable West charged Curnow with murder.
Mounted Constable Ewens, stationed at Ardrossan received a message at 4:15 pm on Friday, September 8th, requesting him to go to the Sandilands home of the Bockmann family posthaste.
When the constable arrived at the family home he found Dr Alpers sitting in a bedroom with the deceased. Dr Alpers described her wounds to him before the constable then made an inspection of the house.
He found in a bedroom a box containing 12 gauge shotgun cartridges. In the dining room, near the window was a large pool of blood. The constable followed a trail of blood from the dining room, through the kitchen and enclosed verandah, then outside for nine yards, stopping just near the rainwater tank.
The wall and chairs in the dining room were covered in small holes consistent with shotgun pellet spray.
The Constable travelled over to Rowes farm and located the gun in a paddock. M.C. West and M.C. Ewens both travelled to the paddock the following day and recovered a number of unspent shotgun shells.
When appearing in court, Curnow seemed indifferent to what was going on around him. He was wearing football boots and a football Guernsey under a jacket and refused to speak. Members of the Bockmann family offered their evidence.
Curnow was formerly committed for trial at the close of the Coronial Enquiry. The following morning Curnow was officially charged with Wilful Murder.
The trial proceeded in Adelaide. It did not take long for the jury to find Curnow guilty of murder. He was sentenced to hang, with the date chosen to be two days after Christmas in 1922. Curnow's lawyer appealed for mercy, due to his young age, but it fell on deaf ears.
Within days, supporters for Curnow pleaded for mercy for the 18-year-old. A Parliamentary enquiry proceeded, and after their investigation, Curnow's sentence was reduced to life in Yatala Prison with hard labour.
But, Curnow's story doesn’t end there. In 1935, after many petitions to the Government on his behalf, prison officials decided to release Curnow. He was released from Yatala Stockade in February 1935 and sent to live in Melbourne with family.
After that, the trail left by Curnow becomes harder to follow…reports are inconsistent, with some saying he died that year, others say he may have changed his name and lived out his life in Victoria.
Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019
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South Australia Police Gazette Indexes, 1862-1947. Ridgehaven, South Australia: Gould Genealogy and History, 2009.
South Australia Police Gazette Indexes, 1862-1947. Ridgehaven, South Australia: Gould Genealogy and History, 2009. AU5103-1922 SA Police Gazette 1922
South Australia Police Gazette Indexes, 1862-1947. Ridgehaven, South Australia: Gould Genealogy and History, 2009. AU5103-1935 SA Police Gazette 1935