Daring City Crime - Murder and Robbery at Caris Brothers - Caretaker Killed and Diamond Jewellery Stolen
The brutal murder and jewel robbery at Caris Bros. shop in Hay Street, Perth, on Tuesday night will go down on record as one of the worst criminal acts yet perpetrated in Western Australia. At a comparatively early hour, when people were at the picture shows and about the city, a caretaker was done to death and diamond studded jewellery valued at Â£4500 calmly lifted from the invisible windows.
The police were on the scene of the crime within a few minutes of the escape of the criminals, and the Criminal Investigation Department, under the control of Chief Inspector G. V. Purdue, is straining every resource of the force to bring them to book. The public can gain some comfort from the fact that they will do so if it is humanly possible.
The murder of the caretaker, Edgar Arthur Whitfield (60). of South Perth, and the theft of the jewellery was discovered when the police were called to Caris Bros. Hay-street shop about 11p.m. by telephone call from a man who said he was speaking from the General Post Office in Forrest-place. He stated, that he had just heard a dreadful crash of glass as he was walking along Murray Street, and he indicated the rear of Caris Bros. premises.
A constable was sent to investigate immediately, and a wireless call was flashed to the police patrol car, which was then in West Perth, under the control of Detective-Sergeant S. Dowsett. The patrol car reached Caris Bros. at 11 p.m., and the police clambered over a wall at the rear of the premises and gained admittance through a rear window.
Constable Lamb was the first to enter, and as he did so he was confronted by the body of the dead caretaker lying face down on the floor of the small lighted room which he had apparently occupied. The room was in disorder, and shattered fragments of a large mirror were strewn about. The body, which was fully clothed, except for coat and vest, had a towel tied with a single knot around the neck. The right arm was bent under the stomach, and the left, which was badly gashed, lay across the small of the back. The keys of the firm's safes were in a table in the room.
Whitfield, who was given the job of caretaker about two months ago at his own suggestion and request, was responsible for the removal of the jewellery from the invisible windows to the safes between 10 p.m. and 10.30 p.m. At about 10.5 p.m. he was seen by a street nightwatchman, with whom he exchanged signs of recognition.
At first it was thought that the caretaker had been struck heavily on the head, and shot through the mouth, but a post-mortem examination showed that his death was due to a broken neck. He had not been shot, and there was no evidence of a weapon having been used. Whitfield's loaded revolver was found under the pillow of his bed. The state of the room in which Whitfield's body was found indicated that he had struggled desperately and courageously to defend his employer's property, and it is believed that his neck was unintentionally broken in a fatal scuffle, probably by a wrestling hold. Whitfield, who was about 60 years of age, was of delicate build, weighing about nine stone.
Presumably the murderers entered the premises by climbing two walls, 10ft and 12ft high respectively, at the rear, climbing up to the unbarred window of the room in which Whitfield was murdered, by means of boxes, which were found by the police placed in position. Entering the room, they surprised the old man, and killed him in a struggle, or stunned him and killed him after robbing the windows, the struggle ensuing when he came to. Having murdered the caretaker and tided the windows, the murderers doubtless left by the same way as they entered.
The Criminal Investigation Branch, under the direction of Chief Inspector Purdue, is following every possible line of inquiry, and a strict watch is being kept on all means of exit from the metropolitan area and the State. Descriptions of a man who may be able to throw some light on the occurrence has been circularised.
On Thursday night the CIB was informed by a man that at 10.24 on Tuesday night he saw a man removing watches from one of the invisible windows of Caris Bros. He was lifting them from their trays with his left hand, and placing them in his right, depositing them inside the shop. He was not wearing gloves, his arm being clearly visible in the light of the window, but the eye-witness observed that the sleeve of a striped shirt hung loosely around the forearm. The color of the shirt was indiscernible, but the man who saw the watches removed is of the opinion that it was not blue, which was the color of that worn by the murdered caretaker.
It is considered possible that the eye-witness saw the caretaker fulfilling the duty, but the fact that no glove was seen suggests that he saw the criminal at work. It is a rule at Caris Bros. that the staff must wear gloves when handling such stock.
Naturally, a firm with the clientele of Caris Bros. could not afford such depletion of their diamond stock, and the* managing director (Mr. George
Ledger) took immediate steps to replace the jewellery stolen. A high pressure transaction with a big dealer who recently landed a large consignment of specially fine diamonds in Australia, resulted in the departure of a fast plane from Sydney for Perth with a precious cargo. The plane left Sydney during the week; and is expected to reach here during the weekend.
The detectives are most anxious to get into touch with the person who telephoned the first news of the crime, but all efforts to locate him had not been successful up to yesterday. The silence of this person has led to a good deal of speculation in connection with the crime.
REWARD OF Â£500 OFFERED
A reward of Â£500 has been offered to any person or persons who can give information leading to the conviction of the thieves and the recovery of the stolen jewels. The reward will be paid by Bennie S. Cohen and Son (WA) Ltd., of Pastoral House, Perth, acting on behalf of, Lloyd's underwriters in conjunction with Caris-Bros. Ltd., irrespective of and in addition to any reward which may be offered by the Government.
The information can be given to the nearest police station, or to Mr. R. A. Forsaith, assessor, St. George's House, St George's-terrace, Perth, on to any
interstate office of Bennie S. Cohen and Son Ltd., or to Caris Bros. Ltd., Hay-street Perth.
Source: Sunday Times (Perth) - 10th February 1935
MURDER CHARGE AGAINST FOUR MEN - DEATH OF PERTH CARETAKER
The hearing was begun In the Perth Police Court, before Mr. H. D. Moseley, P.M., today, of the case In which Charles Silverman, 44, tailor, Stanley Thomas Flynn, 26. electrician, Cyril Thomas Brennan, 27, labourer, and Matthew Walsh, 23, barman, are charged with having murdered Edgar Arthur Whitfield, caretaker, at Caris Brothers' jewellery shop In Hay-street, Perth on February 5. Whitfield was found dead after jewellery, valued at almost Â£5000, was stolen from Caris Bros. shop.
George Ledger, managing director of Caris Bros., said that Whitfield was quartered in a bedroom at the rear of the building. His Instructions were to open the door only to persons whom he had been told would be working back. On the night of February 5 two watchmakers were working back. He (witness) left the shop at 6 p.m., but about 11 p.m. he accompanied the police back to the shop. He found that diamond rings had been removed from the pads, which were lying in the shop. He produced a list of the stolen property, and identified a ring produced as one which had been stolen.
John Patrick McGovern said that he passed Caris Bros.' window at 10.22 p.m. on February 5, and saw a man removing a tray of rings from the window. He and the man looked straight at each other. To the Crown Prosecutor (Mr. C. B. Gibson), Witness said: "Walsh was that man." Constable Wilson said that, at 10.55 p.m. on February 5, the telephone at the Central Police Station rang, a man's voice said, "I just passed Caris Bros, and heard a crash inside. I think there is something doing there." Witness asked the informant for his name and address, and he said, "Mr. Weekie, of North Perth." Requests for further particulars were not answered.
William Thomas Wimbrldge said that after seeing Flynn Brennan, and Walsh In Murray street, at the entrance to the lane, about 9 p.m. on February 5, he went to a billiard saloon, and the three men later came in. Flynn and Brennan went away together, and shortly afterwards he saw them in Hay-street. He could not say at what time.
Mrs. Pearl Walters said that she began to keep company with Flynn last October. This continued until she went to Kalgoorlie on February 17. Before then. Flynn introduced her to Brennan and Walsh. She had occasionally seen Silverman with Walsh. On February 5, Flynn seemed upset when he returned about 11 p.m. to a hostel where he was staying with her. Before that, he had told her that, he and Walsh planned to break into Carls Bros. shop. When he got back that night, he said that he thought Walsh had killed the caretaker at the shop. Mrs. Waiters said that Flynn told her that he and Walsh stood behind Whitfield's door after they had got into the shop through climbing up boxes stacked outside a window. Walsh grabbed hold of a man, but he struggled away and crashed into a mirror. Flynn went outside to see If anybody had heard the crash, leaving the man lying on the floor. At the shop, Walsh got jewellery, and, after being there about 20 minutes, they left. Walsh rang up the police so that assistance might be obtained for the caretaker. Flynn told her that when they left the man was breathing. Some time afterwards, witness proceeded, Flynn said to her that Silverman was trying to get the jewels sold. After she returned to Perth from Kalgoorlie, Flynn told her that the jewellery was hidden around the Children's Court building, and that Silverman was going to send it to Walsh, who was by that time in Melbourne. One evening Flynn told her that they had packed the jewellery at Silverman's place and that, using a label from a pharmacy, they were going to send it to Bill Williams, Melbourne. In the morning, a telegram was sent to Walsh under that name, saying that "Aunty was leaving with all children by train that night," and later a telegram was received saying that "Aunty had arrived safely." Flynn told her that Brennan was supposed to be outside the shop when the robbery was committed, but that he was not there, although Brennan himself told him that he had kept watch outside.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald - 30th July 1935
PERTH TRIAL - MURDER CHARGE AGAINST FOUR MEN - ACCUSED MAN'S EVIDENCE
Evidence for the defence was begun today at the trial in the Criminal Court, before the Chief Justice (Sir John Northmore), of the four men charged with having murdered Edgar Arthur Whitfield on February 5. The four men are Charles Sllverman, 44, tailor; Cyril Thomas Brennan, 27, labourer; Stanley Thomas Flynn, 26, electrician; and Matthew Walsh, 23, barman. Whitfield was caretaker at Caris Brothers' jewellery shop in Hay-street, Perth. To-day, Flynn gave evidence in which he maintained that he and Walsh were the only persons concerned in the robbery at Caris Bros.
After the Crown case was closed, a submission by Mr. L D. Seaton, for Brennan and Silverman, that Silverman should be discharged on the ground that no case had been made out against him was disallowed by the Judge. Flynn was then called, and he said that he did not meet Silverman until March last. In January Walsh and Flynn discussed raiding Caris Brothers' shop. At no time did they consider taking weapons, but arranged to overpower, gag, and tie up the caretaker without injuring him in any way. Walsh told Flynn that he had suggested to Brennan that he should keep watch outside, but that Brennan had refused. After meeting at a billiard saloon on the night of February 5, Walsh and Flynn went to Caris Brothers' shop by themselves. After they got into the caretaker's room they hid behind the door. When an old man came into the room at 10.20 pm. Walsh stepped out and threw his arms around the man's face.
In the struggle they lurched against a table and a mirror fell, hitting the old man on the back of the head. The old man fell to the floor. Walsh then went into the shop. Flynn felt the old man's pulse and noticed that he was breathing. Walsh came back and the two of them left and went to Walsh's room, where Walsh tied up a quantity of jewellery in a handkerchief.
TELEPHONED FOR A DOCTOR
They decided, said Flynn, to telephone the police, so that medical assistance could be obtained for the man, and Walsh went out to do so. He returned about five minutes later with Brennan, who lived in the Vicinity. The happenings of the evening were not mentioned in front of Brennan, and a few minutes later Brennan and Flynn left the room. Arriving home, Flynn told Pearl Walters that he thought he had hurt an old man. He did not know the man was dead until he saw it in a morning newspaper. Just before Walsh went to Melbourne, continued Flynn, he showed Flynn where the jewels were hidden. Flynn told Silverman that a girl in Melbourne would be writing to him (Flynn), and that letters would be delivered at Silverman's address "so that the other girl would not know ". When they got a label from a chemist, Silverman thought it was to be used on a parcel of medicine. Flynn packed the jewellery at his own flat on a Saturday morning. He then saw a man named "Snipey" Evans, who lived on his wits, and told him to go to Silverman's and choose a pattern for a suit Flynn said that he wanted to send a parcel through Silverman to Melbourne, and he gave Evans Â£10 to get the suit and arrange for the posting of the parcel. Later Flynn, continued Evans, told him that he had gone to Silverman's shop, and said that he was in a hurry, and had asked Silverman to post a parcel. One day Silverman showed Flynn a telegram from Melbourne, and said that he could not understand it. Flynn said it was for himself Three or four telegrams came in this manner, until Silverman said that he did not like it, as they seemed suspicious, and so Flynn advised Walsh to address all letters and wires to the Post Office. In July he made a statement at the Detective Office. Making the statement, he said that Silverman was not to get a share of the proceeds. After Walsh was questioned by the police he thought that Brennan must have told the police of his suspicions, and so he told Flynn that if they were ever arrested they would say that Brennan was in on It was not true that Brennan was to get a share.
ACCUSED MAN CROSS-EXAMINED
Flynn was cross-examined by the Crown Prosecutor (Mr. C. B. Gibson) for two hours and a half. Mr. Gibson: Where is "Snipey" Evans? Flynn: That is what I would like to know. Mr. Gibson Why did you want the parcel sent through Silverman?- I wanted it sent through a business man, as it would arouse less
suspicion. Were all references to Brennan in the statement lies?- Yes, but I told the police as much truth as they told me. Did you hit the caretaker on the chin?-I did not hit him at all. The cross-examination had not concluded when the Court adjourned to Monday.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald - 24th August 1935
JEWEL ROBBERY - SILVERMAN'S SENTENCE
Six Years Gaol.
"You know you were assisting thieves and murderers to get the monetary advantages of their crime. ... It does not appear that you were driven to this course of action by poverty, or by anything except greed for money." These unequivocal phrases were used by Mr. Justice Dwyer in the Criminal Court on September 6 when sentencing Lazarus Silverman, known as Charles Silverman, to six years' imprisonment with hard labour. Such was the punishment imposed upon the middle-aged tailor for the share he was convicted of having taken in occurrences following the robbery of nearly Â£5,000 worth of jewellery from Caris Bros. shop.
Recently a jury in the Criminal Court acquitted Silverman of the charge (on which he was arraigned with Matthew Walsh, Stanley Thomas Flynn and Cyril Thomas Brennan) of having wilfully murdered Edgar Arthur Whitfield, caretaker of Caris Brothers' shop, on the night of February 5 last, when the jewellery was stolen from the premises. When the verdict of acquittal was announced Silverman was at once re-arested, under an ex-officio indictment issued directly out of the Supreme Court in order to obviate the necessity for a preliminary hearing before a magistrate in a lower court. Silverman, who has been carrying on business as Silverman and Sons, tailors, at Moana Chambers, Hay street, pleaded not guilty (when his second trial commenced before Mr. Justice Dwyer and a jury in the Criminal Court on September 4, to charges (1), that he stole from Caris Bros. shop a quantity of diamond rings, valued at over Â£500, the property of Caris Bros., Ltd., at Perth on February 5; and (2), that he received the rings, which had then lately been stolen, well knowing them to have been stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained, at Perth; on or about May 17.
On September 5 - a week after his acquittal on the wilful murder charge- Silverman was found guilty of receiving the rings, and was remanded for sentence, after the Crown Prosecutor (Mr. C. B. Gibson) had stated that there was no record of previous convictions against the accused. To learn his fate, Silverman, with an anguished expression on a countenance from which the colour had fled, walked unsteadily into the Criminal Court dock on September 6, and faced Mr. Justice Dwyer. He gave one swift glance at the scarlet figure of his judge, then bent his head. His lips were twitching, and occasionally he pressed his closed hand against his brow, while he listened to evidence called by his senior counsel (Mr. A. C. Muir), in support of a plea for mitigation of sentence. "When I learnt that Silverman had been arrested I felt as though someone had given me a blow on the face, and I think that is what was felt by everyone who knew him," said the Rabbi (the Rev. D.I. Freedman), from the witness box. "I have known the accused for 24 or 25 years," the Rabbi affirmed. "I have known him, indeed, ever since he first arrived in this State with his family. I can say, without hesitation, that up to the time of the charge on which he has been found guilty. Silverman bore a very good character. He was a clean-living, hard-working, decent citizen, a good father and a very good husband."
His Honour turned to the prisoner. "Silverman," he said, "the offence of which the Jury has found you guilty is punishable with 14 years' imprisonment. In your case, seeing that it is a first offence, a term of that duration would not be proper. The total (or maximum) period is intended for second or repeated offenders. It might seen to be justice that you should be sentenced to some term similar to those imposed on your confederates, but I must remember, again, that you have been discharged of the principal crime. "It would not be proper, therefore, for me to Impose the sentence imposed on those otherwise implicated. In considering'this particular crime of receiving I cannot overlook the fact that it ls just about as bad a case of receiving as could be conceived. At the time you committed the acts which have resulted in your appearance here today, you knew that a robbery and a murder had been committed. "It is not relevant to this point that other men charged with the offence were later convicted of manslaughter. At the time of your offence the matter bore an altogether different complexion. You knew you were assisting thieves and murderers to get the monetary advantages of their crime -a very bad crime. I cannot overlook (despite the evidence as in your good character by the Rabbi and Mr. Clarke), that you appear to have been I carrying on a business for many years; it does not appear that you were driven to this course of action by poverty or by anything except greed for money. At the same time, however, I must give you some allowance for the evidence of character, and I purpose to slightly reduce the sentence which I had previously been disposed to pass. Giving full consideration to this evidence of character, and remembering other circumstances attendant on your crime, I have decided that the necessities of your case will be met by a sentence of six years' imprisonment with hard labour. That, according: will be the sentence imposed."
With a faltering step the prisoner quitted the dock, to await his transfer to other scenes of captivity. As he descended the stairs to the cells below the court, prior to his transfer to the Fremantle gaol, his gaze fell upon one of the principal Crown witnesses, Detective Sergeant J. D. Cowie, who was seated near the iron-barred stairway. Silverman thrust his face close to the bars and in a low, tense voice heaped angry maledictions on the detective, who smiled and waived him aside. Silverman was promptly hustled downward.
Source: Western Mail - 12th September 1935
Filling in the missing reports: The jury found Flynn, Brennan and Walsh guilty of manslaughter. On the 30th August 1935, Flynn and Walsh were sentenced to imprisonment for life and Brennan was sentenced to imprisonment for ten years with hard labour. Brennan was later granted a re-trial, and was acquitted on the 14th July 1936. Flynn was released in 1950. The fate of Walsh is unknown at the time of writing.