Sunday, October 9, 2016
THE TRAGIC DEMISE OF WALTER FARRER MIDDLEBROOK 1899-1933
Walter Farrer Middlebrook was the youngest of the 12 chidren of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook. He was born in 1899 only a few years before the family made the move from Auckland to Te Awamutu . He followed his brothers lead by working as a butcher in the store owned by is father John.
It appears that Walter may have been quite the ladies man, and this unfortunately lead to his demise at the young age of 34.
The events leading up to Walter’s death are best described by a newspaper report in the Auckland Star on 28th February 1933 which reported on the judgement of the coroner.
TE AWAMUTU SUICIDE.
DEATH OF YOUNG BUTCHER. VERDICT of CORONER
A verdict that death was caused by a gunshot wound, self-inflicted, while suffering from strong, mental strain, disposed of the possibility of murder or accident in the caee of Walter Farrer Middlebrook, aged 33 years, butcher, of Te Awamutu, whose body was found on a vacant section on Monday, January 23, under circumstances which at first suggested the possibility of foul play. The inquiry was held before the coroner, Mr. G. A. Simpson, J.P. Detective-Sergeant J. Thompson represented the police and Mr. C. G. Downes appeared for the relatives.
Ernest Joseph Ramsbottom, married, of Te Awamutu, said he was a fruiterer and confectioner by occupation and his shop adjoined that of Middle brook. He had known the latter, who was employed in hie father's butchery business, about 10 years. For about six months prior to his death Middlebrook occupied a room at the back of the washhouse in the back yard. At 5.45 p.m. on Saturday, January 21, he invited witness to go to the hotel for a drink. They had two medium beers each and deceased had tea with him. Witness then drove a friend home, leaving the deceased in his house with his wife and children. On returning home, witness looked through the kitchen window and saw Middlebrook grasp his wife and kiss her. "I went into the kitchen," witness continued, "and the deceased went to his room. I was naturally very angry about this and spoke to my wife and the deceased. Middlebrook said: 'I'm guilty, Joe, it's my fault.' That night Middlebrook went to the pictures. About midnight I closed the shop and then had an argument with my wife over the kissing incident. I was worrying and brooding over the matter and I told my wife she would have to come with me and have it out with Middlebrook.."I went into the kitchen," witness continued, "and the deceased went to hie room. I was naturally very angry about this and spoke to my wife and the deceased. Middlebrook said: 'I'm guilty, Joe, it's my fault.' That night Middlebrook went to the pictures. About midnight I closed the shop and then had an argument with my wife over the kissing incident. I was worrying and brooding over the matter and I told my wife she would have to come with me and have it out with Middlebrook. So I went to his room in a rage, and swore at him. There was a struggle and my wife fell over a bucket there. He kept telling me he was guilty and that it was all his fault. I hit him on the chest with my fist and Middlebrook returned to his room. There were further words between my wife and me." Mr. Thompson: I believe you cleaned up everything in the place with the axe?— Yes, I smashed up the room. You took several bottles from your shop and smashed them there? —Yes, I hurled them at the pictures. You threw eggs about? —Yes.
Running With Firearm. Albert James Westbury, night porter employed at the Te Awanlutu Hotel, deposed that while working in the commercial room at 1.45 a.m. on January 22 he heard a door bang. On going outside he heard a noise at the back of Middlebrook's shop and a voice calling, "Open the door!" He then saw Middlebrook run in his pyjamas with bare feet. He was carrying a firearm. Witness cried: "What's all the row about, Walter?" Middlebrook replied that everything was all right and ran on down Palmer Street towards the paddock where his dead body was found. Dr. F. C. Blundell, of Te Awamutu, said he inspected the body after it was found. There was a rifle in the left hand and the face was covered with blood. The rifle was lying across the body at an angle of about 45 degrees. Death had occurred about 36 hours previously.
At the post-mortem examination the bulletwound was observed between the right ear and the eye. It was clear that the shot had been fired at a close range. To Mr. Downes, witness discounted any possibility of death being due to accident owing to the position of the body and the bullet. From his knowledge of the deceased over 14 years he did not regard him as one who would take hie life. Medical Evidence. Dr. J. B. W. Roberton, of Te Awamutu, said he saw nothing inconsistent with suicide. In view of the track of the bullet he doubted whether an accident had occurred. He was certain that Middlebrook, if he took his life, was suffering from some strong emotion tantamount to a temporary derangement.
Dr. A. G. Waddell, of Hamilton, considered the muzzle was against the scalp when the shot was fired. Stanley A. L. Brandon, relief worker, deposed to finding the body. There were no signs of a straggle there. John Middlebrook, butcher, of Te Awamutu, father of the deceased, testified that his son was single and worked in his shop. Deceased often complained to him about the suffering he experienced from varicose veins. Several times since Christmas deceased had told witness that he did not have much to live for. Witneses saw his son for the last time when he took him home from the pictures on the Saturday evening. He appeared to be perfectly normal then. Constable A. R. Eimmer said Middlebrook was the registered owner of a rifle. He knew the deceased well ard would not think he would take his own life.
Consistent With Suicide. Detective-Sergeant J. Thompson, of Hamilton, said he took over the investigation on the evening of January 23. In his opinion the rifle had been discharged with the muzzle close against the head. He carefully examined Middlebrook's room and found a distinct barefoot mark on the window-ledge. There were no bloodstains about. Everything in the room had been smashed up. Mr. Downes: Do you think it was an accident? —I wish I could say so. I found no evidence of that. Everything was consistent with suicide.
The version of this story passed down through the family, is that Walter was in fact murdered, however his father John Middlebrook instructed the police not to investigate further into his son’s death, as “no good could ever come of it”
The fact that in the coroners report the detective, before signing the his typed statement, crossed out the sentence indicated he felt Walter had committed suicide is further evidence of this .
Why would Walter, if he was consumed by guilt, go to the pictures with his family, organise a famiky dinner the following night, get into his pyjamas before climbing out the window, running down the road and through a blackberry and thistle infested field to shoot himself in the head.