Friday, September 14, 2012

Wickham House and Wickham Terrace murders

A multiple murder is still a rare event in Australia (thankfully), but yet I fear that we are becoming numb to them because of events in other nations. Imagine how shocking such an event would have been almost sixty years ago. And for it to occur at a place of healing and to involve several members of the medical profession must have made it doubly shocking to the public of Brisbane, where the following event occurred in 1955.

Before I recount what happened we should look at the buildings involved, for they have their own history.

Wickham House was erected in 1924 on Wickham Terrace, originally a place for the wealthier citizens of Brisbane to build their houses. Gradually the flavour of the area changed into a medical precinct, as doctors first built their houses with consulting rooms and then had purpose-built medical suites constructed. In 1923 Dr ACF Halford asked architect Francis R Hall (step-brother of TR Hall, the Hall who designed City Hall) to devise plans for a building that would contain "professional flats" to a cost of £25,000. Wickham House was built by FJ Corbett and opened in 1924. This is how the opening was recorded in The Brisbane Courier:  
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(Photo: trove.nla.gov.au)

The Architectural and Building Journal of Queensland put it this way:
'Brisbane is be congratulated on the enterprise of Dr ACF Halford in erecting such a modern and up-to-date suite of professional chambers known as Wickham House, just completed... on Wickham terrace... The building consists of five floors and basement, that portion facing Wickham Terrace consisting of two shops, one occupied by Mr DJ Clark (Chemist) and the other by Medical and Surgical Requisites Ltd... the main entrance... vestibule... is panelled and floored in marble with swing doors of bevelled glass...'

On 1 December 1955, a disturbed man with a grudge against the medical profession because of a denied disability claim armed himself with a revolver and twelve home-made bombs and paid a visit to Wickham House. There he shot a doctor at close range (the doctor miraculously survived) and left explosives an the ground floor. That bomb was thrown out into the street by an alert passerby. 

The following photo is from 1998, and below that is a current picture of the building.
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(Photo: DERM)
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Although that was the total involvement of Wickham House, the tragedy was to unfurl further at nearby Ballow Chambers, where the man went next. Here he shot and killed two doctors and menaced a third who managed to escape. Then, in an attempt at suicide, the man detonated the remaining bombs in a doctor's surgery. This blast did not kill him, so he then shot himself. Here is a photograph of the surgery after the violence ended.
 (Photo: http://waywewere.couriermail.com.au)

Click here for a Google Map.

tff

4 comments:

  1. How bizarre..I was only a young child at the time but this is complete news to me. I've been in Ballow Chambers several times over the years. Very interesting!

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  2. I had no idea about this shocking event.

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  3. I had no idea either - learning new things about Brisbane all the time on here!

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  4. Thanks for your comments melbo, mark & Pauleen.

    It must have been a dreadful day.

    ReplyDelete

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