The Murder OF Frederick Gladstone Geach

Edward Charles Holland found not guilty of the Murder of the son of Mr William Foster Geach and his wife Susan Winifred Geach on the grounds of insanity.


This report from 'The Ballarat Star', Tuesday 22nd January 1901, adds to the information given in the other article on this website.





On Saturday night Frederick Gladstone Geach, a winsome little child, two years and three months old, was so brutally belabored about the head with an iron wedge, that twelve hours later he died in the Children's Hospital, Carlton.

The deed was committed by Edward Charles Holland, a waiter, who for some months had been lodging in the house of the mother of the murdered child, Mrs Susan Winifred Geach, of 21 Baillie street, North Melbourne. The house in which the tragedy took place is the most westerly of a terrace of four brick three-roomed cottages, situated on the southern side of Baillie street, that thoroughfare being simply an avenue of connection between Curzon and Abbotsford streets, on the crest of what is still known as Hotham Hill. The occupants of the tenement were Mrs Geach, five of her children, namely Ruby May, 14; Constance Muriel, 13; Reginald Clarke, 9; Vera Juanita, 4; and Frederick Gladstone, the murdered infant; and Holland.

Mrs Geach and her husband, Mr William Foster Geach, stock and share broker, of 412 Collins street, have for some years lived apart, the separation being insisted upon, it is said, by Mr Geach, who suspected his wife of infidelity. Mr Geach undertook to contribute £l weekly towards the maintenance of his children, one of whom, William Lewis, aged 17, decided to remain with his father. Since the separation Mrs Geach has supplemented the sum allowed her family by her husband in various ways, being at present employed by the caretaker of St James’ buildings, William street, to clean out the offices in the building. She was away from home all day on Saturday, leaving for her work soon after 4 a.m., and not returning until about 7 p.m., being delayed a little by shopping on the way home. As she entered the house the girl Ruby ran up the passage to meet her. Noticing that her daughter appeared upset, Mrs Geach drew her into the front room, and as she did so Holland walked towards them. The girl noticed him advancing, and with a hysterical cry said to her mother, “Protect me from that man.” Holland attempted to follow them into the sitting-room, but was prevented from doing so by Mrs Geach, who, with her hand, pushed him back into the passage, exclaiming, “Go out. Let me hear what my child has to say,” and pushed to the door. The Story which the girl told her mother in explanation of her appeal for protection was that on returning home after visiting an aunt at Richmond she was looking for a wedge used to split firewood, when Holland, who the girl believed, to have been drinking, began to tease her because she could not find the wedge. When she manifested her annoyance at being made the object of his taunts he seized her by the hair, and threw her violently to the floor in the passage, an act which he repeated a moment later on. The girl then threatened to tell the police of his conduct, and said she was actually fleeing from her tormentor when her mother entered the house.

Finding himself shut out from the sitting-room, Holland turned to go towards the rear portion of the house, when he caught side of the child Freddy, who was playing about the back door. Holland said, “Come here, Freddy,” and the little chap, who had but a short while back begun to prattle, promptly replied, "Aw wi’ Wally,” the last word of the sentence being an attempt at the lodger’s name. Holland let the child pass into the bedroom, and followed, saying, as he closed the door behind him, “get up on the bed.” According to a statement which he made later on, Holland then drew from some place of concealment the wedge which had been missed, and with it rained blow after blow upon the head of the little victim. Evidently believing he had done the little fellow to death, Holland slipped beneath the counterpane the blood-stained wedge and stole into the street. At the intersection of Victoria and Chapel streets he encountered Constable Davey, who was so struck by Holland’s peculiar pallor of face and unsteady gait that he exclaimed, “Halloa, where are you off to?”

Holland stopped instantly, and in a husky voice replied, “I’ve done it.”

“What have you done?” queried the officer.

“I’ve killed the child,” was the reply. “Come and I’ll show you.” Constable Davey seized Holland’s arm, and was by him taken to the house in Baillie street.

Meanwhile the unsuspecting mother had entered the bedroom, and, finding Holland gone and the child lying upon the bed to all appearances dozing, quietly removed her hat and cape, saying playfully to the little fellow, “Get up, lazy boy.” The little fellow struggled to rise, but with, a groan fell back upon the bed. The mother then went closer, and stroking back the hair found, to her horror, that her fingers were covered with blood. She dispatched the girl Ruby for Dr J. K. Troup, of Victoria street, instructing her to inform the police also as to what had happened. When Holland and Constable Davey entered the Child was hurried to the Children’s Hospital, where Dr Kelly recognised that recovery was almost an impossibility. The top of the skull was fractured, and across the forehead extended a deep, ugly gash, nearly 2 inches long. Death occurred at about 8.30 a.m. yesterday. The constable found the wedge where Holland had put it. Holland was lodged in the local lock-up, where the customary search brought to light a pencil written statement, which, singularly enough, he had written in the bar of the Earl of Zetland hotel, Swanston street, some seven hours before the crime was committed. The document, which let in some remarkable side-lights upon the case, ran thus:-

19th January. The facts of the case are these:- On or about the 26th September last Mr W. F. Geach, of 412 Collins street, sent me to lodge with his wife at 9 Peel street, North Melbourne. Unknown to her, he wanted me to find out what sort of life she was living, and the sort of house she was keeping. I was about two months in his employ. Because I could not get him sufficient evidence to get a divorce, he got full up of it, and told me it was no use my stopping there any longer. Soon after - I had been there about a fortnight - Mrs Geach and I got to like each other very much, and eventually it grew to love. I told the husband I had left there about two months, but I hadn’t. I had been living with Mrs Geach all the time. I assisted her to remove to 21 Baillie street.

The letter goes on to assert that intimacy had existed between him and Mrs Geach, but that he was disappointed, and did not care what became of him now. “The act I have committed will benefit her to this extent - she will have one less to keep. She cannot possibly keep her family properly on her husband’s paltry allowance of £1 per week. I had to pawn my boots to get food for the children only this week. I am sure that when I see Mrs Geach in the hereafter she will have forgiven me.” In a footnote Holland expresses a desire that his sister, Mrs Beckwith, of Roydon Lodge, Roydon, Essex. England, may be made aware of the matter.

To Detective Wardley Holland said, “The child was on the bed when I done it. I left the chisel (meaning the wedge) in the house. The child was awake when I done it. I don’t know how many times I hit the child.”

Mrs Geach gives most emphatic denial to the allegations made against her by Holland, who, she states, once attempted to chloroform her, in order that he might effect evil designs upon her.

Mr Geach, who, with his eldest son, lives in Punt road, South Yarra, acknowledges that he engaged Holland to watch Mrs Geach for the purpose if possible of securing confirmation, through verbal ad missions by his wife, of his suspicions, as to her fidelity. On being informed that the child was dead, Mr Geach expressed sorrow, but asserted that he was not the father of the child. He also gave flat contradiction to a statement said to have been made by Holland that he (Holland) was to be paid £100 on qualifying himself for the position of co-respondent in a divorce suit against Mrs Geach.

Holland is a man of 33, and so far as could be ascertained had never previous to his present arrest been in the hands of the police. He was to all outward appearances an honest and respectable man. At different times he has been in the service of Messrs Parer Brothers, of Melbourne, as a waiter, but he had for some time latterly been working as a laborer for a Dr. Webb from whom, Mrs Geach asserts, he stole the anesthetic, which he attempted to use upon her. After the death of the child Holland was removed to the Melbourne Gaol and charged with murder.