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Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Weston Tragedies: Daisy and John James

Cessnock Eagle and South Maitland Recorder, Tuesday 22 October 1935, page 3

Terrible Sequel to Pathetic Tragedy.


After Wife's Dead Body Recovered. Five Little Orphans.

ONE OF THE most awful tragedies in the history of the Coalfields occurred yesterday. Following the discovery of the body of poor Mrs. James, three hours later her husband shot himself dead at his father's home in Abermain. The father of John Gwyllian James, like the Christian he is, endeavoured to give his bereaved son spiritual comfort, but apparently the heart broken husband had been thrown off his mental balance owing to the tragic death of his wife, to whom he was greatly attached. A further tragedy is that five young children, whose ages range from 18 months to 8 years, are bereft of the love and care of their parents. The whole hearted sympathy of the Coalfields goes out to the two stricken families in their great hour of trial. 

On Monday morning, following appeals by the police, the miners of Hebburn No. 1 and 2 and Pelaw Main colliery decided at the pit top to lose a shift, and make a great effort to discover the whereabouts of Mrs. James. Relief workers also joined in, and about 2000 searchers offered their services. A more intense search was conducted from Weston, and at 9.30 a.m. Thomas Street, a relief worker, and Douglas Parker, a Council employee, discovered the missing woman in the bush within fifty yards of a number of houses close to the Weston Soccer ground.

John Gwyllian James (32), husband of Daisey James (28) had participated in the search since his wife was reported missing on Friday morning. Charles James, father of the dead woman, was at the hospital on Monday morning, and was making an appeal by 'phone to Mr. Baddeley to request the Premier to make a 'plane available to assist in the search. 'I am unemployed,' said Mr. James, and spent all the money I had in chartering a 'plane on Saturday for four hours. I considered my daughter, the mother of five children, was just a great an asset to Australia as some of the other un fortunate missing people in whose search the Government spent large sums of money.' 

Before he could receive a reply, the ambulance had arrived with the body of his daughter. 'She is dead,' said Mr. James. 'I can tell that. Otherwise those men would be running over to congratulate me.' Inspector Noble identified the body. Having heard that his son-in-law had threatened to take his life, in the event of his wife being found dead, Mr. C James hastened to Abermain, and collected the five little children— Margaret, Beatrice, John, Bryn, and Allan. They were taken to his home, and instructions were given that they were not to be allowed out of sight, and on no account to be left alone. 

The husband of the dead woman went to his father's house at Abermain. Both family names are James, and the deceased couple were cousins. The police had been informed that John James had threatened to take his life, and was in possession of a revolver. Sergeant Whitechurch went to the residence, and whilst extending sympathy to the bereaved husband, surreptitiously placed his hands over his body in a search for a possible hidden weapon. It was apparent that James was not carrying a weapon on him. The father of John James was endeavouring to comfort his son, and to point out to him what a wrong it would be to take his own life. When Sergeant Whitechurch (said to James, 'I have heard you are threatening to take your life, Jack?' he replied, 'If I had wished to do that, there is lysol in the house, and I could have taken that.' His attitude partly allayed the fears of those present. James then made a cigarette, and asked what time it was. Sergeant Whitechurch told him it was a quarter to one. James then walked behind a partition, and the Sergeant decided to follow him. Just as the Sergeant got within six paces of him, James, with one movement, pulled a revolver from under a cushion, and shot himself in the forehead, dying shortly after. The spring forward of Sergeant Whitechurch was just too late to prevent the second tragedy in the family.

Whilst their parents were being prepared for burial, the little sons of the deceased couple were playing, unconscious of the terrible tragedy that had entered their young lives. There is a tremendous wave of sympathy for both families of the deceased, who are highly respected throughout the Coalfields. 

The mysterious disappearance of Mrs. Daisy James from the Kurri Hospital in the early hours of Friday morning gave an opportunity for the residents of the Coalfields to show their splendid spirit of sympathy. Hundreds of citizens gave up their pay week-end holiday in an effort to find the missing woman. At three o'clock on Friday morning the night sister discovered that Mrs. James, aged 28, was missing from her bed, and after it was ascertained that she was not in the building, the alarm was at once raised, and a search commenced. 

The police quickly got into action, and at commenced, under the leadership of daybreak an organised search was Sergeant Wood, of Kurri. When the news became broadcast, many of the relief workers in the district left work, and joined in the search. As the miners left the various collieries, further search parties were organised. Superintendent White, of the North Eastern Division, was notified at Newcastle, and he immediately made arrangements for a black tracker from Bulga to join in the search. The thick scrub was searched for many miles, and was kept up whilst there was a ray of daylight. Appeals were made in all the Coalfields districts for volunteers to assist on Saturday, and many appeared at the various centres to assist the police in their arduous task. 

Two parties left Kearsley on Saturday to search for the missing woman, Mrs. James. One party was in charge of Constable Hollis, and the other party was the 1st Kearsley Scouts, in charge of Scoutmaster G. Whitfield and Mr. G. Jeffery. One party searched from Kearsley through the scrub to Weston, and the ether party searched the scrub from Kearsley to Hebburn No. 2. Another party left Kearsley on Sunday morning, in charge of Forrest Ranger Wilson and Scoutmaster G. Whitfield, and searched the scrub from Kearsley to Tomalpin, and from there through the scrub to Weston, but found no trace of the missing woman. 

Mrs. James had left the institution apparently only clad in her night attire, with one shoe. Owing to the hard nature of the soil, and its dry ness, the trackers were unable to find any footprints. What appeared to be a print was seen at the foot of Tumble Bee. This, it was thought, pointed to the direction of Abermain. The direction was followed for several miles through the thick bush, without result. 

An aeroplane was requisitioned on Saturday, but the thick ti-tree scrub militated against clear observation. Every water-hole in the vicinity was searched, and the colliery dams dragged. Footsore and weary, the splendid band of searchers returned after sundown to their starting points, with not a clue to report. Arrangements were made that in the event of Mrs. James being found, the colliery whistle should be sounded to recall the searchers, who were spread over a wide tract of country. 

Despite heavy rain all day Sunday, the search was maintained, and air though the searchers were soon drenched to the skin, the search was unabated. Dragging operations were again carried out on Sunday, and at sundown the discouraged searchers returned home worn out and with the opinion that little hope could be entertained of finding the missing woman alive. Again on Monday the search was continued with zeal. 

A few months ago Mrs. James was seriously injured in a motor smash. With her father-in-law, Charles James, of Abermain, she was tra velling in a car from Singleton to Abermain. Coming along the Allan dale Road, Cessnock, they suddenly came to a barrier where the bridge was being rebuilt It was too late to stop the car, and it crashed over to the concrete bed below, a distance of about twelve feet. Mrs. James suffered head injuries as a result of this accident, and had been in bad health since.

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