The Late Albert Cheetham, Body Found In The River

Adelong and Tumut Express and Tumbarumba Post

5 September 1913

During the past two months the relatives, of Mr. Cheetham have had a very anxious time concerning his whereabouts. They missed him and in conjunction with the local police have been making enquiries. Thinking he might be in the river two of his relatives rode along it as far as Johnson's corner on Sunday, and to their horror found him fast on some snags. The deceased was a man of 72 years of age and leaves a wife and 15 children. His remains were buried at South Gundagai on Sunday.

Inquest.

A magisterial inquiry was held on Sunday before Mr F. W. D. Martin, J.P., when the following evidence was given; -

Constable McCurley deposed : About 9 a.m. this morning from information received I went, in conjunction with a man named Sheather, to the south side of the Murrumbidgee river where I saw the   body of a man in the river fast between two snags. I procured a boat and boatman, secured the body and brought it to the bank. The body was that of an aged man fully clothed, minus a hat, and wearing a fawn-colored Chesterfield over coat. The body was in a very decomposed condition and beyond recognition, but I identified the overcoat as that worn by the late Albert Cheetham. I examined the body but could not find any external marks of violence thereon. I searched the clothing on deceased and found on him a metal watch and chain, a knife, pocket book, pair of spectacles in a case, and purse containing one penny. I have known the deceased during the past four years. He was a man of intemperate habits. I last saw him alive about the 2nd July last. He was then partly under the influence of drink and made a complaint to me about not being able to draw his pension, which I know he was precluded from doing on account of his intemperate habits. Towards the end of July Mrs. Cheetham reported to me that her husband was missing, and although every effort was made by myself and the police at North Gundagai to ascertain his whereabouts no trace or information concerning him could be obtained.

Martha Cheetham disposed : I am the widow of deceased, whose body I have seen on the bank of the Murrumbidgee river at South Gundagai, but which I can only recognise by the clothes thereon. For some time past the deceased and myself had not been living on the best of terms and have been living apart. I last saw deceased alive about the end of May. He was then sitting on the verandah of the Star hotel at South Gundagai, and as far as I could see he was then in good health. For some considerable time past he has been addicted to intemperate habits and neglected to support me and the younger members of my family. He was in receipt of an old age pension of 26 per annum, half of which I received. Although advanced in years he was a strong, able-bodied man, and was frequently employed fencing, etc., the earning from which he always squandered in drink. About the middle of July I missed the deceased from about the district, and although I made persistent enquiries from relatives and friends throughout the State of N.S.W. I could not get any information or trace of the deceased until this morning, when I heard his body was recovered in the river. The body was very much decomposed when I saw it and beyond recognition, but positively identify it by the clothes thereon. I never had any idea that the deceased contemplated suicide at any time, nor can I form any idea or give any information as to how his body got into the river. The deceased does not own any property either real or personal, and I intend to defray all expenses in connection with his burial. The deceased was a native of Sydney, and as far as I know was never out of the State.

Sidney Sheather deposed : I am a laborer residing at Adelong Crossing. Between 8 and 9 a.m. this morning, in company with James Fuller, I was riding along the south side of the Murrumbidgee river, when I noticed the body of a man lying on a snag in the river about 30 yards from the bank, I did not then recognise it as the body of any person known to me, and at once reported it to the police constable at South Gundagai, who immediately proceeded with me to the locality. The constable procured a boat and boatman, secured the body, removed it from the snag and brought it to the bank. The body, owing to decomposition, was beyond my recognition, but I have no doubt it was that of my father-in- law, who I last saw about the month of April. The deceased was a man of very intemperate habits and any money he earned would be spent on drink. I know that for some time past he has neglected to provide for his wife and younger members of the family. I never heard of his intention to commit suicide.

Dr Gabriel deposed : I have seen the body shown to me as that of Albert Cheetham lying on the bank of the river, which I have exam- ined. The body is that of a man in the seventies. It is clothed and lying on its back. It is without a hat, the face and head being covered with mud. The right arm was extended over the head and the right leg was crossed over the left. There was a partial separation of the scalp on the right side of the head, but no sign of fracture of the skull. This had the appearance, of having been inflicted after death and was probably caused through coming in contact with snags. The body had apparently been in the water for some weeks, and bore the appearance consistent with death from drowning. There are no marks of violence on the body, and it is impossible to say whether he was under the influence of drink at the time of death.

Finding

I find that the said Albert Cheetham, in the waters of the Murrumbidgee River in the district of Gundagai, in the State of N.S.W., on 31st. August, 1913, was found dead without any marks of violence appearing on his body. I further find that his death was caused by suffocation by drowning, but how or by what means he came to be drowned there is not sufficient evidence to enable me to say.