A Thrill of Horror Ran Through the Town . . . (1886)

Papers Past — Otago Witness — 10 April 1886 — MURDER & SUICIDE.

“Murder & Suicide,” Otago Witness 1794 (10 April 1886): 11.

Murder & Suicide: Shocking Tragedy Near Auckland.

Auckland, April 2.

At Arch Hill this evening a young woman named Emily Keiling [sic], aged 16, while returning from work, was met by a young man named Edward Fuller, aged 26. A conversation took place, and a few minutes afterwards a loud report was heard, and the young lady fell. She was, carried into an adjacent shop, and immediately afterwards a second report was heard. It was then discovered that the young man had shot himself through the head. Both died soon afterwards.

The Arch Hill Murder” gives fuller details (Nelson Evening Mail 20.81 [6 April 1886]: 2):

Per Press Association, Auckland Saturday.

It will be seen from the following letter, which was found upon Fuller’s body by Constable Clark and produced at the inquest this afternoon, that Fuller had fully laid out his plans, and that he deliberately determined not only to commit suicide, but also to murder the unfortunate girl for whom he had conceived such a violent passion. The letter was written in red ink, and all the characters are evenly formed, there being no evidence of haste. The note paper was closely ruled, and in no instance had the lines run into each other; this proves conclusively that the crime had been carefully premeditated. The following is the letter, which is headed “Friday afternoon,” but no date is appended-—

“Dear sisters and brothers,—This will be the last time that I shall be able to write to you; for by the time you get this letter I shall be dead, as l am going to shoot myself to-night. Life is a misery to me now. I love Emily Keeling as no one ever loved before, and she cannot go with me because she is afraid her father would make a row again. If he had consented when I asked him first time this would never have happened. I don’t think she likes me so well now as she did then. It don’t matter where I go, as I cannot stop, and that is the reason that I could not stop at Henderson’s Mill, so I have made up my mind to shoot myself, as I cannot live without her. I shall speak to her to-night and ask her whether she will have me without her father’s consent. If she objects we will die together. You can divide my money between you and Lizzie. So now I bid you all good-bye for ever. I am your loving brother, Edward James Fuller.”

The following letters were also found in the breast pocket of Fuller’s coat. They are signed with the names of his victim, and no doubt were written by her. Both letters were written in lead pencil, and must have been carried for some time in Fuller’s pocket, as they were almost undecipherable on the outer side; in fact the greatest trouble was experienced in reading them. It is apparent from these that the unfortunate girl had been clandestinely keeping company with Fuller. The first letter is headed Monday, but unfortunately there is no date. It is as follows:—

“Dear Edward,—I am writing this letter to you on the quiet. My mother told me I was not to write to you. We are going out tonight to a tea meeting down at the Church, If you are anywhere about I will speak to you. I don’t know whether we are going out on Wednesday night, so am very sorry that I cannot see you, but you know that it is not my fault. Mother says that if father saw me with you he would not let me go with you at all, and she says she will try to make him let me go with you before I am 18. I would go with you if I could, you know that. On Sunday morning I think my father saw you go out, because he said he might be upon the New North road, and I did not want to be caught. I do not think you love me as much as you say you do, or else you would not do things that you are ashamed to let me see. I thought it made you look very low to be smoking a pipe. If ever I hear of you drinking, even if you only taste it, I shall give you up, although it would be hard for me. My mother was very much surprised at you. She would not believe it was you till we got up to you. Bessie gave me such a scolding on Sunday, but I only laughed at her and told her she was an old maid. You must not be offended; I don’t mean anything by what I have said. Please write to me as soon as you can. You must excuse writing, as you know I am unwell, and I am sitting up to write this to you, and I am in my nightdress, and it is cold. My very best love to you, and a kiss. I remain, dear, yours truly, Emily Keeling.”

“Dear Edward,—If ever you want to speak to me, or see me about anything, go up to the paddock on Thursday morning, so as father may not see you. I think that you seemed rather white or sick. Is anything the matter with you? I love you as much and better than I have done before, so cheer up l am having such a time of it. My father is so cross and angry; we can’t move or speak for him. My best love to you and a kiss. I remain, yours affectionately, Emily Keeling.”

See also “Love and Crime. Fearful Double Tragedy at Arch Hill. A Young Lady Shot by her Lover. Suicide of the Murderer. The Crime Premeditated” (Te Aroha News 3.149 [10 April 1886]: 5):

From the Auckland Star. Auckland, April 3.

A thrill of horror ran through the town last evening when it became known that the horrible crimes of murder and suicide had been committed at Arch Hill. The sad news was first conveyed to the Newton Police Station by a youth named Arthur Shannon, who at that time simply knew of the suicide of the murderer. Constable Clark sent word to the central police station, and at once proceeded to the scene of the crime. It was not until some time afterwards that it was known that the perpetrator of the rash act had also committed the fearful crime of murder. It subsequently transpired that, as usual in these sad affairs, love might be considered as the cause of the crime.

The Particulars

It appears that a young girl named Emily Mary Keeling, who would have been 18 years of age next month, was proceeding up King-street, Arch Hill, on her way to the Bible Class at the Alexandra-street Primitive Methodist Church, when she was met by a young man named Edwin James Fuller, with whom she had been acquainted for some time. He was seen by a young woman who was passing to address her, and then seize her by the arm, she apparently wishing to escape from his importunities. Immediately afterwards two shots were fired, Mr J. E. Thomas, who keeps a grocery store at the opposite side of the road, hearing the reports, ran across the street and got between the murderer and his victim. Fuller than ran rapidly along Stanley-street until he reached the corner of Brisbane-street, where he completed his crime by taking his own life.

Death of the Victim

Meanwhile the girl had crossed the street and sat down on the doorstep of the grocery store. Mr Thomas at once came over to her, and finding her in a fainting condition, he, with the assistance of his son, Mr W. A. Thomas, conveyed the unfortunate girl inside his house and placed her on a sofa in the parlour, where she died about twenty minutes afterwards. The girl retained consciousness until the end. Dr Lawson was quickly in attendance, and found that two bullets had entered her right breast.

The Scene of the Crimes

King-street, where Emily Mary Keeling was murdered, is the second street past the Newton West School, leading from the Great North Road to the New North Road. Stanley-street is the first thoroughfare parallel with the Great North Road. It crosses both King and Brisbane-streets. At the corner of King and Stanley-streets is situated Mr Thomas’s store, in which the poor girl expired, and it was at the opposite corner that the murder was committed. The perpetrator of the crime then ran along Stanley street past the rear of the public school until he reached the corner of Brisbane-street, which also runs parallel with King-street, and it was at this corner that he completed his work by committing suicide, just at the side of the residence of Mr George Stanton. In his case, death must have been instantaneous, as the bullet passed through the mouth and a portion of the brain, and ultimately lodged in the nape of the neck at the left side.

The Discoverer of the Suicide

A boy named Arthur Shannon, aged 11 years, who resides with his parents in Stanley-street, states that he saw Fuller running rapidly towards Brisbane-street. He watched him turn the corner, and immediately afterwards he heard a shot fired. Shannon ran to the place, which was about fifty yards away, and he was horrified to find Fuller lying on his face in a pool of blood. The lad at once called his mother. Meanwhile a youth named John Murphy, about 16 years of age, arrived upon the scene. He resides in Kepple [sic] street, and hearing the shot, he immediately ran up to see who was firing. The next to arrive was Mr Deerness, who immediately sent the lad Murphy to the police-station. The news was received by Constable Clark at about 5 minutes to 7 o’clock, and he, with commendable promptitude, despatched the lad for Dr. Challinor Purchas. He then hurried off to Arch Hill, and arrived upon the scene about 7.10 o’clock. Almost immediately afterwards Dr. Challinor Purchas arrived, but at once pronounced life to be extinct. Constable Clark found Fuller lying on his right side, face downwards. In his right hand doubled under his body he held a British bull-dog revolver, apparently quite new. His thumb was upon the trigger guard. Upon examining the revolver, it was found that three barrels were loaded, and also that three had been discharged Fuller was dressed in a black sac coat and waistcoat, and light tweed trousers. In the pockets were found several letters, £3 9s 10 1/2d in cash, an open-faced silver watch, one pipe, and six revolver cartridges. The constable at once obtained assistance and removed the body to the house of Mr J. Jenkins, in King-street. It was while doing this that the startling information was received that the man they were carrying had also murdered a Girl.

Further inquiries were made, and soon elicited the facts as stated above. The news had also been conveyed to the Central Police Station, and Senior-Serjeant Pratt was soon in attendance, accompanied by Dr. Tennent and Detective Walker. Naturally large crowds soon gathered, and all along the street there were for hours small groups of people speaking with bated breath of the terrible tragedy that had occurred in their hitherto quiet district. Other groups seemed to find special fascination for the pools of blood that had oozed from the body of the murderer as he lay in Brisbane-street.

Description of the Murderer

Edward Fuller, the perpetrator of the terrible double crime of murder and suicide, is a young man who has hitherto borne an excellent character. It is stated that he was always quiet in his style, and never exhibited any peculiarities that would have marked him as the perpetrator of such a fearful deed. He was between 21 and 22 years of age, about 5 feet 8 inches in height, of fair complexion, and moderate build. Did not wear a beard, but had a light moustache. He was the brother-in-law of Mr Jenkins, builder, who resides in his own house in King-street. Fuller was a labourer, and had worked for some time in the brick-yards at Henderson. About a year and a-half ago he went to the Northern Wairoa district, but returned to town for Christmas, remained with Mr Jenkins, and assisted him at the building trade.

His Victim

Miss Emily Mary Keeling, whose life was so ruthlessly cut short, was the daughter of Mr George Keeling, bricklayer, and his wife Emily. Miss Keeling bears an excellent character, and appears to have been somewhat of a favourite with the neighbours, who all speak of her in the highest terms. She was decidedly good-looking, about medium height, with blue eyes and brown hair. She was not engaged in any business, but resided with her parents in King-street, next door but one to the house in which he who caused her untimely end resided. As previously stated, she was at the time of her murder on her way to attend a meeting of the Bible-class of the Primitive Methodist Church, Alexandra street, at which, it appears, she was a regular attendant. We learn that the unfortunate girl was to have delivered an essay on April 16th, the title being “Mount Ararat.” Her companions in the class describe her as an intelligent and engaging young woman, and she was evidently a favourite with all who knew her. Although the hour was early, strange to say no person actually saw the shots fired, though naturally there were people close at hand when the terrible crime was committed. It will perhaps be better to give their own versions of the sad occurrence.

Miss Hattie Burgess, who resides in Home-street, about 200 yards from the scene of the tragedy, states:—”At 20 minutes to 7 o’clock I was coming down past Thomas’s store at the corner of King and Stanley Streets, I saw the young man Fuller standing at the opposite corner of the street, and looking as I thought somewhat peculiar or strange. I saw the young woman, Miss Keeling, attempt to pass him. He took her by the arm, and said something to her. I passed by. Immediately afterwards I heard a shot fired, and then a second one. When I turned round I saw her running towards the shop. The young man first ran towards her, and then ran along Stanley-street. I returned to the girl, and found her in the arms of Mr J. E. I Thomas and his son, Mr W. A. Thomas, who carried her inside the shop. I was not then aware that Fuller had shot himself. After Miss Keeling had been carried into Thomas’s I went down and told her mother what had happened.”

Statement of Mr Thomas

Mr Jabez Edward Thomas, store-keeper, corner of King and Stanley streets, stated:— “At about 20 minutes to 7 o’clock I was in my shop, when I heard the report of firearms, at once ran to the door, and looking across the street, saw a girl standing at the opposite corner. I heard her scream. I also saw a man standing alongside of her, but did not recognise him. I ran across the road, and the girl cried, ‘Oh, save me.’ I went between her and the man to save the girl. The man then ran up Stanley-street towards Brisbane-street. The girl also ran across the road to my shop, and sat down on the doorstep for a few seconds, when she fell forward and again said ‘save me.’ I then, with the assistance of my son William A. Thomas, took her into the house, and my wife came to assist. We laid her on a sofa in the parlour. My son immediately went in a trap for a doctor, and returned with Dr. Lawson, who arrived shortly after 7 o’clock. The doctor found that two shot wounds had been inflicted on her, both entering her right breast, and apparently penetrating the lungs and the heart. She was still living, and quite conscious when he arrived. She retained consciousness until the end, and died about fifteen minutes past 7 o’clock.

Statement of Mr Thomas Jun.

Walter Arthur Thomas, son of the above, states:—”I was lying on the couch of the parlour at 20 minutes to 7 o’clock, when I heard two reports. I at first thought that the shop shutters were falling. I ran into the shop, and mother said, ‘Oh there’s a poor girl shot.’ I went to the door, and saw Miss Keeling lying on her back on the steps of the shop in my father’s arms. She said, ‘Oh, save me.’ I assisted my father to carry her inside, and we laid her on the couch in the parlour.

I then rushed out to find a doctor. On going round the corner, I saw a cart belonging to Mr Campion. I jumped in and told him to drive for a doctor, as a girl had been shot. We drove to Dr. Lawson’s residence, Karangahape Road. I found him at home, and he sent me to telephone the news to the police station. Upon returning with the doctor, the girl was just dying.

The Scene of the Murder

Our reporter also visited the scene of tho tragedy this morning. Save in the mournful, subdued look of the residents of the vicinity there is nothing in the surroundings consonant with the hideous occurrence of the previous evening. He examined the spot where the shooting took place. It is a patch of rough scoria on the junction of King and Stanley-streets, about a dozen yards from Thomas’s (late Cuckson’s) store. The locality was examined with great minuteness, but not a spot of blood could to seen, neither were there any stains between the place of shooting and the store, distant about twelve yards. Thomas’s is a small grocery store of the same type as dozens that may be seen in our suburbs. It is approached by a flight of three steps, on the lowest one of which Miss Keeling sat after her agonised run across the road with the fatal bullet in her breast.

Fuller’s Body

Fuller’s body as it lay in Mr Jenkins house this morning presented a most gruesome spectacle. It was placed in a pleasant-looking, neatly-furnished, little room in the point of the house, which even the drawn blinds and the awful presence of death did not deprive of an air of cheerfulness. The corpse was stretched on a rude temporary table, the top of which was apparently constructed of the door of a cupboard. The body was fully dressed, but was covered with a clean white sheet. When the upper portion of this was removed, the blood-stained visage of the murderer was exposed to view. It was the face of a very personable-looking young man of twenty two years, though he looked much older His ruffled hair was light brown, and a crisp little moustache of the same colour shaded the upper lip. With this exception, the face wag shaved, there being a short stubble on the chin. Tho nose was slightly aquiline, with an uncommonly shaped point, and the nostrils were rather broad. The forehead was slightly retreating and the contour of the chin and lower part of the face indicative of considerable determination. On the back of the neck a small protuberance could be felt, occasioned, no doubt, by the lodgement of the bullet under the skin or a displacement of a portion of the vertebrae of the neck. On the face and especially the left ear were ghastly smears of blood, and a few marks of earth showing that he had fallen on his face.

Fuller’s Antecedents and Peculiarities

One of our reporters interviewed Mr John Jenkins this morning at his house in King-street, and was very obligingly furnished with a clear and straightforward statement concerning the deceased young man. Mr Jenkins said:—”Edward James Fuller was my wife’s youngest brother. Until three years ago he lived with his brothers and sisters in his native village of Drayton, near Norwich, in the County of Norfolk. His parents were both dead, and hearing that he was desirous of leaving Home, I sent to him to come out to New Zealand in order that he might better his condition. Ho accepted the invitation, and came out here by the ship Rangitikei, accompanied by a younger sister, who is now Mrs Yearbury. Dr. Erson was a passenger by the came vessel, and next month it will be just three years since he arrived. He took up his residence at my house, and worked with me on my building contracts for the first three months. He then seemed to tire of carpentering, and as he had been brought up on a farm he had a longing to go farming again. He accordingly went out to Avondale in search of a job, and being offered employment in a brickyard there he took it, He remained at this place for six months boarding and lodging out at Avondale, but coming home to us on Saturday night, and returning again on the following Monday mornings. Towards the end of this period he obtained a job at the Arch Hill Brick Yard, and left Avondale in order to take it. About the same time he seems to have made the acquaintance of Miss Keeling, whoso parent’s house was only separated from his brother-in-law’s by that of Mr Mclntosh. He was too reserved by disposition, however, to take anyone into his confidence or to talk freely of his affairs The girl was very nice, and as innocent as a child. My brother-in-law worked at the Auckland Brick Yard for over 12 months. When it was shut up, as usual, last winter, he left along with the other men. He bought a double-barrelled gun and some powder and shot, and went up to Dargaville to do some shooting of game. While there his whare took fire in his absence, and his gun and other belongings were destroyed. He was left merely with what he stood up in. Up till that time I do not think he had any intention of stopping in the Wairoa, but after that he got work as a carpenter on the Railway Wharf, which was being constructed at Kaihu. He wrote to us saying that he would come down to town about Christmas last, but he did not arrive until after the New Year. Since then he has remained with us and been without employment. He had a little money saved, and wanted to pay us tor his board and lodging, but we declined any payment, telling him to keep his money. He had money deposited in the Auckland Savings Bank (some £12 13s), and gave his deposit book to my wife to keep for him. As I have already said, he was habitually reserved, but during the last few days we can now recall the fact that he was more reserved than usual, although the difference may not have impressed us much at the time. He kept more to his room, appeared to sleep longer, and showed no inclination to see the Star when it reached us the last two nights. This was the more remarkable, as always before he had been the first to ask for them.

His Doings Yesterday

Yesterday morning be went out after breakfast, and was away for a short time. He was back for dinner. He stayed in the house for the rest of the day, and this reminds me that he had not been out of the house the previous day. Yesterday afternoon he spent mostly in his room. When tea was ready he was called and came and took his place without speaking a word. Ho did not ask for the Star, but took his tea very quickly indeed—so quickly, indeed, that although I was half finished when he came he was done before me. After tea he sat down on the couch by the window and gazed out of it in the direction of King-street, of which it commands a view as far as Thomas’s shop. It was Miss Keeling’s custom to go up the street about this time with her little foster-sister in her arms in order to meet her father arriving from work, and Fuller was evidently on the look-out for her. He had a patent medicine pamphlet in his hand, but seemed to give no attention to it. While I was out in the yard, and Fuller was at the window, I saw Miss Keeling go up the street with the baby in her arms. She returned some time afterwards, having evidently failed to meet him, and I have since learnt that that evening he came home by way of the paddocks, lower down the street. She must then have gone home to change her dress in order to set out for the Bible class. I was still in the yard, my brother-in-law left the house, going out, I believe, by the back stairs, instead of by the front door, as usual. Outside I understand he met one of my little boys, and gave him a packet of lollies, telling him to give Annie (my little girl) some. Another of my boys—some years older than the one just referred to—saw the deceased a little later standing at the corner of Stanley-street, and addressing him familiarly said, “Halloa, Ted,” but received no answer. He was then apparently waiting for Miss Keeling, and a few moments afterwards they must have met. He would have completed his 22 years this month, So far as I could judge, he was not a man of nervous temperament, but he was very reserved in manner, and always has been so. He was addicted to light reading, and perused with much interest the stories which run through the Star and “Herald.” He was also a heavy sleeper. In this respect be was strange. I have known him when leaving the house in the morning for work to run back if a shower of rain has been falling, and go to bed again. He would stop in his room for days together. I remember saying to him once, banteringly,

“Ted, There Must be Something Wrong with you. You must have some disease. You are always so ready to lie down.” There is no doubt that he was very fond of Miss Keeling, but it is wrong to say that he had asked her in marriage. He may have intended to marry her, and doubtless wished to do so, but he had not asked her to marry. His desire seemed to be to be allowed to keep her company, Latterly he appeared to be very miserable, but kept the cause to himself Mrs Jenkins corroborated her husband’s statement, and also added that after Mr Jenkins left the house her brother did not speak. He went out quietly while she was undressing the baby,

Miss Keeling’s Dying Moments

Our reporter subsequently interviewed Mrs Thomas in her shop, and that lady, with much emotion, described the affecting death of the poor young girl. She said: I was in the shop, when I saw a flash of light on the opposite side of the street and heard a report. I felt no alarm at the report, for I thought the noise was made by some children playing, but the flash attracted my attention. It was followed by a loud and piercing shriek of agony, and I went towards the door. The night was dark, but 1 saw a girl running across the street towards me. She sank down on the lowest step from the door, and then slid gently towards the ground. As she sat down she exclaimed, “I am shot; save me. Take me in.” My husband had meanwhile heard the report also, and rushed across the street. He came back, and assisted by my son, carried the poor young thing into my parlour, which is just off the shop. We laid her on tho sofa, and I saw that she had been shot just below the right breast. There was a hole where the bullet had entered, and her clothing around it was singed. I undid her dress, and saw a wound. Blood was slowly trickling from it. She said, ‘Take off my boots and gloves, and put my feet up. Oh, my mother.’ In a little while, as her life seemed to be ebbing away, she put up her arms to me saying, ‘Love me, l am dying.’ I answered, ‘Yes, darling, I will, God bless you.’ I asked her who had shot her, and she replied ‘Ted Fuller did it.’ Her parents came in, and she recognised her mother, and when asked by her who did the deed she returned the same answer that she had given to me. I gave her some wine, and she remained conscious until just before she died. She passed away so peacefully, that the change could hardly be noticed. About twenty minutes after she came to the shop she was dead. Meantime my son had gone for medical aid, and he arrived with Dr. Lawson just two minutes before death. When the doctor came the poor girl was gasping for breath.

Sundry Particulars

It only remains to add to this moving narrative that Dr. Lawson afterwards probed the wound for the bullet, and that Detective Walker and Mr Thomas carried the deceased to her parents’ home. Our reporter visited them this morning, and found them quiet and composed, although stricken hard by their sore distress. The Rev. A. J. Smith was present offering consolation. Both father and mother were anxious to give all the information in their power touching the sad affair. The deceased was a modest-looking and handsome girl. She was of the average height of women, of alight and graceful figure, and regular and very pleasant features. Her brown hair slightly overhung her forehead in a short fringe, and behind her neck it fell in short ringlets. There was nothing flashy or vain about her appearance. She was evidently a quiet, well-behaved girl, and an affectionate and obedient daughter—a girl in short who would have made a loving and loveable wife. From inquiries made this morning at the Newton branch of the Auckland Savings Bank, our reporter learned that Edward James Fuller opened his accounts there on March 14th, 1885, and that closed it on Wednesday last, March 31st, by drawing out all he had to his credit, viz., £12 16s 8d. Mr J. W. Watts paid him the money.

The Mother of the Victim

Shortly after the occurrence, one of our staff visited the residence of the parents of the murdered girl in King-street, and naturally witnessed a most distressing scene. The mother appeared scarce able to realise the terrible bereavement which she had sustained, and as the big tears rolled down her face she could only say, ” Oh, sir, she was my companion; my only girl,” and as she held the light in order that the body of hei child might be seen, she said, “to think that not an hour ago she went out to Bible Class all well.” Meanwhile the father stood by bearing his sorrow with the stern, stoical silence of one who was stricken sore, but still determined to bear it like a man. The mother further stated:—”My daughter, Emily Mary Keeling, was 17 years of age, and would have been I8 next month. She had been acquainted with Fuller for about two years. He lived in the next house but one. She had not been keeping company with him. He was away at Dargaville for some time, but returned at Christmas, and since then had been constantly annoying her. Her daughter had told her mother that she had done everything to get rid of him. He had asked for her two years ago, but they had refused because she was so young, little more than fifteen years of age. Last night my daughter went out to go to Alexandra-street Church Bible class and I know nothing more except what Miss Burgess told me. We have one son, 19 years of age, who is now residing in Brisbane. She was our only girl. We have no other children except a little boy that we have adopted.

(“Murder and Suicide at Auckland,” North Otago Times 31.6019 [5 April 1886]: 2 and “Shocking Tragedy Near Auckland,” Bruce Herald 17.1738 [6 April 1886]: 3 cover much the same territory. There is a fuller treatment at “The Murder Premeditated. Letter by the Murderer,” Te Aroha News 3.149 (10 April 1886): 5.)

In the Otago Witness (1794 [10 April 1886]: 15), it is reported that

At the inquest on Edward Fuller, the principal in the Arch Hill tragedy, a verdict of felo de se was returned, also of the wilful murder of Emily Keiling [sic]. The girl’s funeral was attended by 7000 persons [!]. . . .


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