Investigation commenced with an urgent circular to members of the Brisbane Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) on 30 September 1919, from their Inspector Michael O’Sullivan. It read, “A man named Bailey [correct spelling is Baylie] was murdered near Giligulgul Juandah Miles Railway on Saturday the 27th September 1919 and a man named Henry Richard Elterator is strongly suspected of having committed the murder, footprints found near scene of murder are similar to those of boots worn recently by suspect, and it has since been ascertained that suspect sold the murdered man’s saddle”.
The suspect was described as 34 years of age, 5ft 8 inches high, medium build, grey to brown eyes, dark brown hair, sallow complexion, clean shaven or small clipped moustache, stooped shoulders, sullen downcast appearance, labourer, Church of England, of German descent and lived when a boy at Scone, N.S.W., boil scar centre of back, mole near right arm pit, scar inside left wrist, one tooth missing front upper jaw, mole inside of bottom lip, when last seen was dressed in grey trousers, brown coat, furry hat with black band, new elastic side boots which he purchased at Coolumboola, also had another pair of boots with remarkable nails in heels, and followed the occupation of scalper and had with him a 32 Winchester rifle.”
Whilst searching for Elterator, renowned for using alias’ including Alterator, Cohen and Hall, police received a letter and accompanying photo from a most concerned Mrs Alma Hall from Collingwood, Victoria, enquiring whether her husband might be the man the police were looking for. Detective Senior Sergeant James Farrell forwarded the letter and photo of Mrs Hall’s husband to Inspector O’Sullivan on 10 November 1919. The Inspector forwarded the enquiry with his opinion for the information of Police Commissioner Frederic Urquhart, “Photo of H.R. Alterator, alias J.G. Hall, herewith. It will probably be found that he is not identical with the person inquired for.”
The suspect had actually purchased a railway ticket for himself and a dog from Coolumboola, near Miles, to Toowoomba at noon on the 29 September, the dog arriving in Toowoomba at 5.20pm that day, unaccompanied. Police believed Elterator left the train between Coolumboola and Pengaray Junction.
The more likely location for suspect to flee was in Scone, N.S.W, the town he grew up in and where his sister Norah still lived. Previous arrest warrants had been issued by the Scone Bench, including in 1912 for the theft of horse tack, and “with a view of inducing him to contribute toward the support of his illegitimate child”, (Queensland Police Gazette, 27 July 1912, page 340).
It was Kingaroy Sergeant Frank Price who made the arrest, five days after the murder, and the suspect remanded in custody to appear before the Miles Police Court later that month. Constable William Gooch and Doctor Short described their examination of the crime scene; a partially buried, fully clothed soldier in uniform, lying face down in a sandy grave. Inspection of the body revealed a bullet wound to the head. A felt military hat was located nearby, and showed entry and exit bullet holes. All the evidence was tended in court; the suspected murder weapon compared with wounds possible by a 32 Winchester rifle, footprints at the murder scene matching the suspect’s boot tread, and his sale of the victim’s saddle with a history of saddle theft. A guilty verdict was recorded and the offender sentenced to death, the sentence later commuted to life imprisonment.
Elterator’s served his prison term at Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane. He was released in 1933 after just fourteen years, describing the stay as “hell”. Assistance was given to him by friends and the Returned Soldiers League, also a returned trooper, to effect the release after many previous unsuccessful pleas of innocence.
This article was written by Museum Assistant Georgia Grier from the best resources available within the Queensland Police Museum. The Police Museum is open 9am to 4pm Monday to Thursday and 10am to 3pm on the last Sunday of the month (Feb-Nov) and is located on the Ground Floor of Police Headquarters at 200 Roma Street, Brisbane. Contact: E: email@example.com
“FROM the VAULT- Murder near Miles” by the Queensland Police Service is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (BY) 2.5 Australia Licence. Permissions may be available beyond the scope of this licence. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/au/legalcode