Poignant Circumstances In State’s Worst Domestic Horror


Mr Knifton open the Door

The written notice you see above confronted Samuel Knifton, resident of Carlisle, when he called round about 9 o’clock yesterday morning at the back door of his friend and neighbor, Richard Davies, at 58 Star-street, Carlisle.


It was just a casual call, but he obeyed the written summons and pushed open the door. He will carry to his grave the memory of what he saw inside.


There was a dead man in the cane chair in the first room with a bullet hole in his head and a bloody gash on his left wrist. He had a revolver in his hand and a blood-stained razor lay nearby. On the bed alongside barely covered with blood-stained bed-clothes, and with a bullet hole in her head, was a dead woman. Mr. Knifton recognized his neighbor, Roderick Davies, and this man’s wife.


There was no sound in that house of death that was usually so noisy with children’s laughter. An oil lamp still burned on the table. The great family bible rested on a shelf near the dead body of the man and there was blood on it.


The horror-stricken Knifton waited for no further investigations. He rushed away and telephoned immediately for the police, who were followed soon after by Detective Sergeant Reed and Detective Campbell. Their investigations completed the revelation of the magnitude of the tragedy.


There were seven dead bodies in that little four-roomed house—the whole family had been wiped out!


Passing from the room where Davies with a seven-chambered revolver still clutched in his hand sat close to his dead wife, the searches went to the two other rooms. In one front bedroom were three children—Dulcie, Robert, and five-months-old Alfred in his bassinette. They were all dead and had apparently been shot in the head at close range in their sleep. They had known nothing before their end.


There was a neatness and order about the house that made the tragedy more poignant. On a table near the dead man were six letters, one to the police and others to relatives or friends. Perhaps when the Coroner has read these there may be more known of what immediately preceded the crime.


Apparently the man had smoked heavily before he had ended his own life, for 18 fresh-looking cigarette butts on the table told their own story. There were dregs of a bottle of cough mixture on the table, suggesting that one of the other of the kiddies had had a dose before retiring to bed.


Everything in the house, apart from the ghastly evidence of blood and death, pointed to a poor but well-ordered home. The rooms were clean and well kept, and on a table were the paper areoplanes which the kiddies had been making before they went to bed for their last sleep. And now it was a house of horror and death, with no living person to testify to the why and the wherefore of it all.




“They were all lovable kiddies” was how headmaster H. F. Dunne summed up Rita, Robert and Dorothy Davies, the three members of the family who were attending the Carlisle State School. Rita, he said, was a bright girl of 14 and, as the master spoke, it could be gleaned that she had been a favorite pupil of his and the he was deeply moved by the tragedy that surrounded her death. “She was always eager to take an effective part in her school work and help in every way. Rita has a particular gift for drawing,” he went on, “and her ability in art suggested that she would have a bright career in this sphere in after years.”


“Robbie used to play with me” said one of a group of kiddies outside the Davies’ home yesterday. “But he won’t play with us any more.” piped up another youngster. And so the conversation went the rounds of the children who deeply felt the loss of one of their little mates. Everywhere in the district the Davies’ kiddies were held in high esteem.




Just before her death, Mrs Davies had been reading a magazine story. The page was opened in the middle of it. There was a grim significance about the title. It was “Strange Partners.”




It is not quite clear when the tragedy occurred. The neighbors’ kiddies had been playing at the Davies’ home until 9 on Thursday night so it must have been considerably after that. Although there are houses a hundred yards of an away, no sound of shooting was heard.




There are several conflicting theories in connection with this seven-fold tragedy. It is obvious that some of the facts presented will support the original idea that it was a death pact between the husband and wife, who were known to be deeply attached to each other. Both were fully dressed when found dead. The last letters of the dead man will throw their own light on this theory. On the other hand, if a death pact had been agreed upon, it had not interfered with the normal way of life of the family. The kiddies had been prepared for bed in the usual way and one, it is believed, was even given a dose of cough mixture. Food had been bought for breakfast next morning, all of the washing-up and tidying had been done, and there was a big pile of freshly-chopped wood in the yard. The verandah and approaches to the house had been recently scrubbed and cleaned. The home was just in such a state as that of the normal family which expected to get up and resume the usual tenor of life in the morning


The Seven Victims


The seven victims were:—

DAVIES, Roderick Australia (38), carpenter;

DAVIES, Dorothy Imogen (32);

DAVIES, Dulcie Rita (14);

DAVIES, Robert Beveridge (12);

DAVIES, Dorothy Lorna (9);

DAVIES, Roderick Henry (7);

DAVIES, Alfred Norman (5 months)


A Neighbor’s Tribute


“Did you know the father?” a “Mirror” man casually asked a neighbor of the Davies. “Known him for years and there was never a more popular fellow. “I can’t understand why he should do such a thing like this, but he’s been worried for so long that everything must have gone ‘black’ to him and he decided to finish it”, was the parting remark.




The home is a wee four-roomed weatherboard cottage and there is no made road in front of it. There is a big yard attached and everything is green and fresh-looking. In the back is a fallen grand tree which the dead man recently chopped down for firewood.




Roderick Davies was a 26 year-old carpenter out of work and receiving for himself and his family Government relief amounting to £2/0/ a week. He was a thinker above the average man. His stock of books in the rough bookcase in the room in which he died featured works of a scientific and philosophical nature, proved this. Like most seekers after truth, he changed his views frequently, and from atheism he had lately been converted to spiritualism, and was keenly interested in the after-life.


“As life continues after death, what’s the use of struggling on?” he said to a friend recently. No notice was taken of the remark at that time, but perhaps it was an expression of the thought that led to the awful act.


Davies, being a quiet man, was not very well known in the district, but all who knew him like him for his simple, unostentatious ways. He deeply loved his wife and family.


Davies was much concerned with religious theories during recent months.




Mrs. Davies, who was 32, was a devoted wife and mother. She lived for her husband and family, and was proud of the kiddies, who were bright and happy and well kept on the meagre financial resources obtainable.



The Mirror, Perth, Australia
22 August 1931