The Tragedy at Towitta (Part 3) – Intruder
On December 27th1901, Matthes and Johanne Schippan left their cottage in Towitta and made their way to Flaxman’s Valley, about 20 km’s away. They intended to stay with friends to see the New Year in, and had planned to return home on January 2nd1902.
At home on the farm, were Mary and Bertha, August and Wilhelm.
|The original Schippan house at Towitta: SLSA B43959
, New Year’s day, August and Wilhelm tool their rifles and went shooting for meat, rabbits, foxes and birds, on this occasion they managed to snag some parrots. They left just after breakfast and returned around lunch time. Wilhelm took the parrots out into the shed and plucked them, he then took the carcasses inside to clean them. Mary took them and put them in the meat safe.
The two Schippan boys then headed off to a nearby friend’s house, and didn’t return until that evening.
Mary and Bertha were home most of the day, but in the late evening, Bertha went to play with some neighbouring friends in the nearby paddocks and only returned home to help Mary with her chores of feeding and watering the animals.
The two girls ate dinner about 7pm that night, then Bertha made her way to the girl’s bedroom, whilst Mary waited on the porch for her brothers. They returned about 8pm, ate cake in the kitchen, then retired to the shed they shared as a bedroom in the back yard of the cottage.
All was quiet, and the family, girls inside the three roomed house, boys in the shed-come-bedroom, slept quietly.
At around 10pm that night, Mary woke suddenly as she felt a large weight press upon her. Mary screamed, and as she did so, a person grabbed her by the wrists, pulled out of the bed she shared with Bertha and threw her across the room, slamming her into the old family sewing machine.
Mary screams woke Bertha, and both girls screamed at the top of their lungs “Gustave!” – calling for their brother in the shed.
The stranger told them to “Shut up or I will kill you!” again and again, and forced Mary into the kitchen – she saw the flash of a knife, then heard it hit the floor of the cottage.
Mary ran outside, leaving her much younger sister Bertha with the intruder. She called out to Gustave constantly, and ran into the boy’s room to wake him, telling him there was an intruder. Gustave was slow to wake, and didn’t believe Mary. A final chilling scream from Bertha convinced him to get up and get dressed.
According to statements from Mary during the initial investigation, rather than enter the house and face the intruder, Gustave (August) ran to a near-by farm for help. Mary and Wilhelm waited in the boy’s room until he returned. The three of them then armed themselves with pitchforks and entered the house.
They lit a light in the kitchen, and could see pools of blood everywhere, this made them all hesitant to go any further, so instead they all headed off to the Lambert’s farm, only 1km away for help.
District Constable Lambert lived with his parents across the way, and upon hearing the story of the two Schippan boys, rushed back to their farm house with him, with Mary in tow.
The group entered the house through the open kitchen door, lit a light, and followed the trails of blood through the kitchen, into the parents’ bedroom, and lastly into the girls bedroom, where laying on the floor in her night clothes, was Bertha, in a pool of blood, with her throat cut.
The 2 Schippans and Constable Lambert returned to his family farm, where his parents offered comfort for the Schippans, whilst the constable headed out by horse to Truro, to the local police station to make a report and get help.
The next day, Gustave headed out to bring him his Mother and Father and alert them to Bertha’s untimely, brutal demise.
The officer in charge in Truro, Mounted Constable Mowbray, headed out first thing in the morning to Towitta, to secure the crime scene at the Schippan house. Upon inspection he found two knives in the kitchen, a small one on the kitchen table, and a large one in the meat safe.
There was blood on the wood in the fireplace, blood on a towel, blood on the bedding in both bedrooms, a bloodied towel, and remnants of clothing spread about the girl’s bedroom.
Next Week – The Tragedy at Towitta (Part 4) –The Death of Johanne Elizabeth “Bertha” Schippan