Bridgewater Beauty Killing Pt 3:
Through the Eyes of a Murderer
On November 18th the hearing of William Haines proceeded with the following statement from Haines:
“I knew Nellie for about 12 months prior to October 12, 1927. I used to call her Vi. She and I were sweethearts. I loved her dearly, and she loved me. However, our love was not allowed to run smoothly. Her mother was against me going with her right from the start. She used to take every opportunity of belittling me in the eyes of her daughter. On one occasion Mrs. Schmidt asked me home to tea, and later picked me to pieces to Vi. I had two fingers off my left hand. This was caused by an accident. Vi’s mother used to delight in harping on this deformity of mine. At first her parents did not actually forbid us going out together, and used to let us do so, but all the time Vi’s mother made things very hard for us. She said I was not good enough for Vi and that I was too old. But Vi loved me and I loved her, and put up with all these things so long as we could go out together. Vi told me that her parents were making her life a hell on earth. She burst into tears and asked me, ‘Why can’t they let us alone and be happy like other sweethearts are.’ Vi swore that she loved me and would not give me up.”
“About the end of August last,” continued the accused, “her parents told her that she must give me up, and forbade her to meet me or to go out with me. Poor little girl. She told me this news, and, crying bitterly, said, ‘Bill, I will have to give in to Mother and Dad. I do not know a moment’s happiness in the house, and I am broken in health and spirit. I feel I cannot fight any longer.’ About this time, one Sunday afternoon, I spoke to Vi’s father. He told me that I was never to see Vi again, and that if he ever saw me with her again he would break my neck. He also said he did not care if heart and mind were broken as well. Vi told me that her parents could never make her forget me. After this her parents would not let her go out to dances, and she was often met after work, so that I could not see her. Nevertheless, I used to meet her secretly during working hours. Poor girl; she was broken-hearted, and I knew that she loved me, and the whole thing was killing her.
“On Sunday, September 11, Vi went to Victor Harbour, for a holiday. While she was away her parents could not resist the temptation to further taunt me. They sent back all the presents I had given Vi, but I would not take them. Their action in sending them back hurt me very much.”
“During the whole time Vi was away,” proceeded Haines, “I was heartbroken. The strain was too terrible, and I made up my mind to end it all by taking my own life. I wrote to Vi at Victor Harbour, and told her that nothing mattered to me now. I had made up my mind that life without her was useless, and that I intended to shoot myself and finish it all. In this letter I said, ‘God knows I love you, and want you. Darling Vi, they cannot say I never loved you and made you happy when you used to come to me crying, because your mother made you unhappy. I know I am mad, and just about done in, but if you love me just think of me always.’ Vi begged me not to be foolish, and do anything terrible to myself. She wrote, ‘I love mother and dad better than anything in the world and after them I love you, Bill. But Bill, it is no good going on fighting any longer. Dear, you will have to just know me, that is all. I know I am hard to say this, Bill, but you don’t know how I feel. I told you I am trying to do what you said to me. Go away, and forget that I ever existed.’ She told me in this letter that she would see me at the Osborne dance hall on September 26. After I got home I began to buck up a little, and thought that perhaps things might be different with her parents when she came back. But when she came back things were no better, but got worse. Her parents would not let her go to the dance on September 26. She was still seeing me while at her work. On October 3, I waited for her to come out from the Executor trustee building, in Grenfell street, where she was working. Clarke was waiting there for her, and she met him. I followed them and caught them up in James place. I asked Vi to come down to North terrace with me, as I wanted to speak to her. She would not go with me. I believe this was because she was with Clarke. She told me on several occasions that she was not fond of Clarke, and that her people had forced her on to him. I said to Vi, ‘Will you come down to North terrace with me?’ She replied, ‘No, Bill. I can’t.’
“I then left her,” continued Haines. “I emphatically deny that I threatened to shoot Vi as Clarke said. I was too fond of her to do her any harm. When Vi refused to come with me on October 3 it was too much for me. I was in the depths of despair, and went away for three days. I just wandered round, broken in spirit and mind. On the Wednesday night I slept in the parklands. I do not know why I did, as I could have gone home. My mind just seemed to go, and nothing mattered. On the following Friday, October 7, I saw Vi at work on two occasions. On Monday, October 10, I again saw Vi at work, and asked her how she was. She said, ‘Bill, I am sick of it all, and feel like taking poison.’ I asked her what she was doing on the holiday, and she said that she was going to Bridgewater for a picnic. She said she was going with Clarke. She did not want to go with him, but her parents made her go. I asked her not to go, but she said that it was no good, her parents insisted on it. I saw her on the Tuesday, and asked her if she was still going to the picnic. She said that she was, and told me of the arrangements she had made.
“I told her that I could not bear this any longer, as it was driving me mad. I said, ‘If you are going to Bridgewater, Vi, I am going, too. I will shoot myself and end it all.’ The affair was playing on my mind. Such was the state of my mind that I decided to end my life. I decided to go to the picnic at Bridgewater the next day and there see Vi. I decided to shoot myself in her presence and die in her arms and once and for all end this terrible feeling of depression that was slowly killing me. On Wednesday, October12, I went to the Adelaide railway Station at about 9 a.m. I saw Vi there with Clarke. I purchased a ticket to Bridgewater, and I saw Vi and Clarke and the others in the party get on the Bridgewater Train. I got on, too. When I got to Bridgewater I followed the party and saw where they went. They started on a paper chase, and I waited until they came back. I saw Vi and Clarke coming back and I walked over to speak to Vi. When I spoke to her I was about a yard away, facing her. Clarke was about two yards away. When I spoke to Vi, I was leaning against a tree with my right shoulder. I said to Vi, ‘Will you come down here with me for a while? I want to speak to you.’ She replied, ‘No, Bill.’ I asked her again, and then turned to Clarke and said, ‘Will you come down here while I speak to her?’ He replied, ‘No.’ I then said, ‘Well, Vi, you know what I’m going to do. I am going to finish myself now.’
“My mind was then made up. The time had come for me to end it all. I would shoot myself and die in Vi’s arms. I did not want any one else about. I then pulled out the revolver I had brought with me and swung it round and called out to the others present, ‘Hands up all of you and get out of it quickly.’ All present got for their lives immediately I spoke. Vi moved away a couple of yards and I swung the gun up to my own head. She saw me, took hold of my left hand, and said, ‘Bill, don’t be mad.’ With the gun pointing at my own head I pulled the trigger. I felt a stinging sensation in my head and a ringing noise, and my mind seemed to snap. After that everything seemed to go blank and I can remember no more until I was kneeling down beside Vi, asking her to live. I was horrified when I realized what I had done. My darling Vi was dead.
“I took out my handkerchief and tied it around her head and tried to stop the bleeding. I tried to lift her up, but I was too weak. I called out to some of the others to come over and help me. They did not come at first but I called out, ‘Hurry up and help me get her to a doctor. She might still live.’ Powell and Rickard came over to me and I handed the revolver to Powell and said to them, ‘Get hold of her. Get her to a motor car and take her to a doctor.’ We then picked Vi up and carried her down to the gully to the recreation ground. We carried her to a motor car. I took my overcoat off and placed it around Vi and got into the car and held her. Powell got in the front seat and we drove towards the Stirling Hospital. On the way to the hospital Constable Gumley spoke to me. He said, ‘Did you shoot this young woman.’ I said, ‘Yes, I went mad. I meant to end myself but this is what I have done. Her people drove me to it.’ I did not say to the constable that I was jealous of Vi.
While driving to Stirling I looked at Vi and asked her to forgive me, but I saw that she was dead. My heart was sick. I then fully realized what had happened. I had killed the girl I loved – the girl, the hair of whose head I would not have dreamed of touching a few minutes previously, yet in a frenzy of madness, caused by the injury to my own head, I must have turned the gun on her and, without the slightest knowledge of what was happening, killed her in my madness. Even then I could not realize that Vi was dead and I could not bring myself to believe that I had killed her. When I got to the hospital I spoke to Powell and said, ‘You and your cobbers are cowards running away like you did. Why didn’t you stop me instead of leaving her when I put up the gun?’ He said, ‘Yes, I know I was a coward, but I was afraid as soon as I saw you pull the gun.’
“After we left the hospital we drove to the Stirling West Police Station and put Vi in a cell. I was then locked up, and later an ambulance came. I asked Constable Gumley to allow me to see Vi before they took her away. He said I could. I went into the cell, and stooped down and kissed Vina goodbye. I said to her -‘Vi darling, forgive me. You know I didn’t mean to do it. But you are happy now, and with some one who will give you peace and happiness instead of misery, like your parents did. Goodbye, darling and may God make you happy and forgive me for what I have done. I know that you loved me, Vi, and I didn’t mean to harm you.’ I was then taken to Adelaide Hospital.
Gentlemen, as God is my Judge, I had no intention of shooting my darling Vi. I meant to end myself and not to harm her as I loved her too much. After the bullet had entered my head my reason went. My mind seemed to snap, and I cannot account for anything that happened after that until I found myself kneeling at her side asking her, begging her, to live.
Gentlemen, I was mad, and not responsible for my action. I am innocent of this charge of murder.”
After Mr Haines lengthy recount of his horrible crime, previous witnesses were recalled to stand to again make statements that would go against Mr Haines. Both witnesses denied Mr Haines claims that he had put the gun to his own head saying he was going to kill himself before shooting Miss Schmidt.
It was brought before the court that Mr Haines may have been suffering some sought of temporary insanity. Dr M.H. Downey, Superintendent of the Mental Infirmary at Parkside examined the accused, and his wounds.
He summarised that the wound would not inflict any kind of temporary insanity on the wounded man, nor would he be coherent enough to have the conversations with the witnesses or police officer if he was insane, or unaware of what had happened, as Mr Haines had claimed.
He had examined his mental state and found no indications of insanity.
The Jury retired at 5pm, and took only 20 minutes to come to the conclusion that Mr Haines was not mentally deranged, and therefore guilty of the murder of Miss Schmidt.
Haines sat quietly in the dock as his sentences of death by hanging was read aloud.
Next week on the
Haunts of Adelaide: Bridgewater Beauty Killing Pt 4: A Smoking Death