The Colourful and Tragic Life of Alice Tree: Part 2 – “Riotous Behaviour and Death.”
Alice Tree was certainly no angel, her long list of crimes, mainly theft and prostitution, made her an easy target for police patrolling the notoriously seedy area around the Shamrock Hotel in north-west Adelaide. Light Square, Currie Street, Rosina Street and Elizabeth Street were all known hotspots for opium dens, prostitution, and other serious crimes.
In 1875, Alice Tree was fined 20 shillings for loitering with her friend Matilda Lattin.
November 1878, 21-year-old Alice Tree and 23-year-old Francis Major are found guilty of stealing 19 pounds from Robert McKinnon at the home of W.R. Evans.
January 1879, Alice Tree, Annie Kelly, and Mary Ann Young were charged with behaving in a riotous manner in Light Square but were acquitted.
October 1879, Alice Tree, Georgina Aslee, and Mary Minchin were charged with riotous behaviour while in a cab. Fined 10s each.
November 1879, and Miss tree and her cohorts find themselves in trouble with the law once again. This time Alice Tree, Elizabeth Hillman and Elizabeth Alderson was charged with ‘riotous conduct in a public conveyance in Rundle Street’, the ladies were fined 10s each. Another young lady, in the company of the three women, Mary Ann Gearing was fined 10s for indecent behaviour at the same hearing.
In January 1880, Alice Tree with charged with stealing the pocket watch of Francis Major. At court, Major stated he got out of gaol on December 27th, 1879 and met Tree at the Phoenix Hotel. Tree stole his watch, but he later went home with the prostitute. The court dismissed the case.
On 9 November 1882 Constables Lucas and Donahue were walking the beat in Adelaide. The police officers were walking down Currie Street when they stopped at the house of known prostitute Alive Tree. Through Tree’s window at Boddington’s Cottages, they could see a man holding Tree with one hand, while his other hand was raised in a fist about to strike her. The man said to Tree. “Stop it now, or I’ll do for you yet!”
Donahue called out to the man to stop what he was doing. The argument stopped for a few minutes but commenced again. Again, Donahue called out to the man to stop. The man replied, “it’s all right bobby,” and the fighting stopped. The constables waited ten more minutes, and as the fighting had stopped, continued walking their beat.
On 10 November 1882, Constable Holmes was on duty at the Light Square police station when he was called to attend an address on Currie Street. When he arrived, he found Constable Pascoe in attendance at the home. Pascoe and Holmes then inspected the body the naked Alice Tree, who was lying on her bed, dead, but still warm.
They inspected her body under candlelight and discovered bruising on her face and other areas of her body. A woman from across the street spoke to the police and told them she had seen a man strike the woman with a glass and a bottle.
When Constable Pascoe had arrived, Henry Page, who lived with Tree, had run off to find a doctor. He did not return. Constable Holmes went in search of Page and found him in Morphett Street. Page told him he had gone in search of a doctor, tried three, but none would come back to Currie Street with him. Holmes took Page into custody and took him to the Light Square station and made a report, he then returned to the Currie Street address with Detective Burchell.
The detective found broken chairs in Tree’s room. There was dried blood on the wall near where Tree and Page had been arguing the night before. Several towels and handkerchiefs were found soaked with blood. Other blood-stained items were found throughout the house, as well as broken bottles and glass covered with blood.
Dr Melville R.H. Jay was called upon to conduct a post-mortem examination on the body of Alice Tree at the Destitute Asylum. Jay discovered bruising on the face, left breast, shoulder, arm and forearm. He could find no external signs of injury on her head but found a large blood clot covering the left side of her brain.
During an inquest into the death, witnesses were called. Thomas O’Neil had been drinking at the house on the Friday in question with Henry Page and another woman. Page told him that he and Tree had been fighting the night before. O’Neil had seen Tree lying in her room, and figured she was asleep. He had tried to wake her, but she did not move, so he told Page to go get help.
the next witness was Tree’s friend Petrea Larsen. Larsen had seen Tree after she had been beaten by Page and tried to reduce the swelling on her eye. Larsen declared that she had previously heard Page say to Tree that he would kill her before her ex-partner, Cunningham, got out of gaol.
Emily Harris, who also shared the house with Tree and Page, deposed that she had seen Page throw Tree against a hard, wooden box on the floor. She also stated that Tree had told her, that Page had previously beaten Tree down, then jumped on her as she lay on the floor.
A neighbour, Maude Wenden gave evidence that she had seen Page strike Tree on the nose, but it had not knocked her down. She put forward that Tree aggravated Page, implying she deserved the treatment. Wenden had heard a woman’s scream on Friday morning at about 11:30 am. She checked on Tree, but saw her laying on her bed asleep, so let her be.
The jury delivered the verdict; “That the deceased, Alice Tree, came to her death through injuries received from the ill-treatment of Henry Page and they found Henry Page guilty of manslaughter.
On 15 December 1882, Henry Page was brought before the South Australian Supreme Court charged with manslaughter. Page, who had no lawyer, pleaded not guilty to the charges. Evidence was presented by the police prosecutor, including a statement by O’Neil, who failed to show up to the hearing. Evidence from Ah Kong was put forward, that he had heard O’Neil at the previous inquest hearing, state to Page that he need not fear the hearing, as he would not speak of what he had seen.
The Judge asked Page if he would like to give evidence, but told him if he was sworn in, he would be cross-examined. Page opted to offer a statement instead; denying he had ever struck Tree with any weapon and protesting that he did not inflict the wounds that killed the 25-year-old woman.
The Jury, on the advice of the Judge that the evidence was insufficient that Page had caused the death of Alice Tree delivered a verdict of Not Guilty. Page was discharged and allowed to go free.