Mr Jew Killed on the Hill (1921)

Auckland Mystery,” Ashburton Guardian 41.9558 (19 July 1921): 4:

Death of Young Man. Stated To Be Case of Murder. (Per Press Association.) Auckland, July 18.

Within a few minutes of the discovery of the body of the young man [Francis Edward, i.e. “Frank”] Jew [of Arnold Street, Grey Lynn, a grocer’s assistant at Tracey’s of Grey Lynn; “a carefree 20-year-old youth-about-town,” according to the Encyclopaedia of NZ], Superintendent Wright, Inspector Eales, and Detective-Sergeants Cummings and Ward, with practically all the remaining members of the detective force and a considerable number of plain-clothes policemen arrived on the scene [at 7.30 am on Sunday 17 July]. A thorough search of the [vacant] section [next to St Joseph’s] was in progress where the body was discovered [at 11.20 am on Saturday 16 July] and a slope overlooking Arch Hill. The gully is covered with blackberry bushes. Many of these were cleared away but no clue was discovered. Detective-Sergeant Cummings stated last night that there was no doubt that it was a case of murder, but there was no suggestion that robbery was the motive, as the clothes of deceased were not disarranged in any way. There was a sum of money in the pockets of the trousers. J. H. Jew, deceased’s father, stated that he had not attached any importance to the fact that his son did not arrive home for tea on Saturday evening, for he frequently was in the habit of visiting the home of a friend. It was thought that he had gone there. This friend, however, informed the police that deceased did not go to his house on Saturday evening. He had not seen him since shortly after the football match. The matter meantime is shrouded in mystery. Those who know deceased can offer no suggestion or any reason why he should have been brutally battered to death. Later. There is no development in the murder case. Doctors are of opinion that death was instantaneous, resulting from the first two blows [with a fence paling]. A postmortem revealed internal bleeding. The upper jaw was smashed, and the right arm broken at the elbow.

A few days later, a reward was offered for information about the victim (“The Arch Hill Murder,” Ashburton Guardian 42.9561 [22 July 1921]: 4).

Police Offer £250 Reward. (Per Press Association.) Auckland, July 21. A reward of £250 is offered by the police for evidence leading to the conviction of the Arch Hill murderer. The detectives are unable to trace the movements of Jew, the murdered youth, on Saturday evening.

Nothing was forthcoming, however (“Local and General,” Ashburton Guardian 42.9580 [13 Aug. 1921]: 4):

Nothing has transpired of late to afford the detectives any hope that they are getting nearer a solution of the Arch Hill murder mystery (says the Auckland “Star”). Although every possible avenue of investigation has been explored, every probability weighed and sifted, every rumour analysed, the affair remains an apparently impenetrable puzzle. Yet the Criminal Investigation Department’s men are not hopeless of an eventual satisfactory solution. There must be, it is conjectured, more than one person who could tell the terrible tale of the death of young Jew.

At the inquest two months later, his movements were elucidated (“The Inquest Continued,” Ashburton Guardian 42.9605 [13 Sep. 1921]: 5).

Movements of the Deceased. (Per Press Association.) Auckland, September 12. The inquest on Francis Edward Jew, who was found murdered at Grey Lynn on July 17, was continued before Mr McKean, Coroner. Dr. D. N. W. Murray testified that about 12.30 p.m. on July 17 he examined the body of the deceased on the section at Grey Lynn. The body was on its back, inclined to the left, the left arm being outstretched. Witness minutely described the attitude and appearance of the body and clothing. Describing the injuries, witness stated that the bone of the nose and the upper and lower jaws were broken. The wound extended from the upper lip to the nostril. There was a gash to the bone in the upper part of the forehead. Two wounds, also bone deep, were over the right ear, one of them having fractured the bone. The head was resting in a pool of blood that had soaked into the ground, having come from the ears and wounds. Post mortem rigidity was well marked, and had come from the back. The wounds were not self-inflicted. [The autopsy took place at 3pm that afternoon.]

To Mr Meredith: There was no sign of a struggle at the spot. From the small amount of blood on the overcoat witness would conclude that the coat had been placed over the young man’s legs after he had fallen. He would say that death would have occurred not longer than 20 hours before he saw the body, and not less than 12 hours. Then you think death must have occurred at least before midnight, and not earlier than 4 pm the previous day?—Yes. Among other witnesses, Stuart Alfred Smith, professional fighter, said he lived at the Whangarei Hotel, Whangarei, but in July last was living at “The Vines,” in Symonds Street. He was with a man named Prosser on July 17 last, graining with him. They left Prosser’s house in Great North Road, Grey Lynn, at about 10 o’clock on Sunday for a spin along the road, and returned along Arch Hill Gully and over a hill. Witness then described the finding of the body of the deceased with a piece of board [a fence paling—the murder weapon] lying near it. “I was at the Prossers’ house the night before,” said witness, “and we went to the pictures. We all left the house at about 7 o’clock, I think. I returned home with the Prossers. We came out of the pictures about 9 o’clock, and went straight home. We had been in a picture theatre opposite the Strand.”

Mr Meredith: What was the picture you saw?—Some Italian picture, I think. Did you see the end of that picture?—No. Did you see the beginning[?]—No. Then where did you go?—Across to the Strand, and we could not get in. And then?—We strolled down the road to Court’s, and got the tram. When you went to catch the tram at Grey Lynn, did you see a man under the influence of liquor?—We thought he was. He was sitting on a box, and looked half asleep. How close were you to him?—About 25ft. What time did you finally leave Prossers’ to go home?—About 11. And where did you catch the tram?—At the same place.—Did you know deceased before?—No. A number of other witnesses were examined at length [sixty-six, in fact, out of the 1,500 interviewed by the police]. The enquiry will be resumed tomorrow.

See “Who Killed Francis Jew? The Grey Lynn Murder Mystery. Evidence at the Coronial Enquiry. Jew’s Jovial Evening and its Tragic End. Some Startling Evidence” (NZ Truth 828 [24 Sep. 1921]: 5) for a full account of the events leading up tp the murder. “The Murder of Frank Jew. Conclusion of Coronial Inquiry. Searching Examination of Thomas McMahon. Blood-stained Clothing—Unexpected Interruption of Proceedings by Alleged Psycho-Analyst,” NZ Truth 829 [1 Oct. 1921]: 6 continues the story of the trial.

Apparently “[a] woman of unstable mentality complicated matters with a fantastic confession, but she withdrew her story when the police were able to demonstrate its complete impracticability” (“Case of F. E. Jew” at 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand). But despite all the enquiries and the sifting of “[a] large crop of rumours, anonymous letters, and family representations,” the case went unsolved. The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand suggests that his drinking partner—Thomas (Tom) Edward (a.k.a. “Billy”) McMahon, 23, according to the Truth—may have been the culprit:

A young companion of the murdered youth, who had been in his company throughout a daylong drinking spree, and who later was sent to prison for another serious offence [the theft of money and tram tickets from the National Electrical Engineering Co. in Wellesley St.], was the last person to be seen in Jew’s company. The most exhaustive inquiries produced nothing but mere suspicion against this man, and certainly nothing to support a charge.

(The case was also reported in Melbourne’s Argus (19 July 1921): 5.)

See “Case of Mr Jew” at the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.


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