Unsolved murder mystery

Screams in the night and bloodstains on the grass resulted in one of the most intense investigations in Ipswich history. The mystery remains unsolved 85 years later. I told a version of the story live on West Bremer Radio.

At around 8pm on Thursday the 16th of September 1937, Patrick Farrell of Goodna in Ipswich, Queensland, noticed a car drive along what was then the country road where he lived. It stopped at the corner a short distance from the railway bridge in a lonely part of Woogaroo Street.

After a short while, Farrell heard a woman screaming. As he approached the car, two men hurriedly jumped inside, started the engine, and swiftly drove away. When Farrell reached the spot, he saw two pools of fresh blood on the ground. He called the police.

Police at the Goodna crime scene

Farrell spoke with Constable John McErlean at the Goodna police station. McErlean made further inquiries, and at eleven o’clock he rang headquarters in Ipswich. That’s when Sub-Inspector Frank Kearney and Plain-Clothes Constable Murray McDonald motored to the scene, they made a brief inspection, and then got in touch with the Criminal Investigation Branch in Brisbane.

Officers from the CIB, including Detective-Sergeant George Stolz and Plain-clothes Constable Albert Hird, began working on the matter throughout the night. Inspector Alfred Jessen, with the Government Pathologist Doctor E.H. Derrick, arrived on the scene at first light and continued investigations.

Two more detectives and a black tracker from Oxley joined the investigation, but because of the grassy surroundings, there were no footprints found. Nor was there any sign of a struggle.

Police patrol cars loaded with detectives were seen scouring the district. The Goodna mystery with headlines about “Screams in the Night” and “Bloodstains on the Grass” had the public scared stiff.

The pinnacle of the Queensland police service was involved. There was Sub-Inspector Kearney who was in charge of Ipswich police, although he probably became more famous the following year for getting a hole-in-one at Nudgee golf course.

Sub-Inspector Frank Kearney

Then there was Inspector Jessen who was a thirty-year police veteran and head of the CIB. He’d been associated with the investigations of many of Queensland’s most serious crimes. He was famous for having set what was probably an Australian record when he investigated three murders in eight days when he was stationed in Townsville.

Inspector Alfred Jessen

And then there was the government pathologist Doctor Derrick who was one of the pre-eminent scientists in Australia. He would later receive the Cilento Medal for advancing the knowledge of tropical hygiene, and the prestigious Britannica Award for his outstanding contribution to medicine. As famous as he was, it should be noted that in 1940 Doctor Derrick did actually catch one of the diseases that he was studying, which was endemic typhus.

Dr E.H. Derrick

After days of intense police investigation and near-panic by the public, the dreadful truth of the woman’s screams, the blood-stained roadway and the strands of hair, was revealed.

Doctor Derrick’s report disclosed that the blood and hair collected at the scene came from a goat. Officials at the CIB therefore concluded that no crime had been committed.

But the big question remains unanswered to this very day – what were those two men doing with a goat at Goodna late that night? It’s a murder mystery that may never be solved, and it remains one of the most intense investigations in Ipswich history.


Photo credits:
Peggy the Goat – Warwickshire Rural Crime Team
Spot where mystery car and woman’s screams led to police investigation – Truth, Brisbane, 19th September 1937, page 20
Inspector Frank Kearney – Truth, Brisbane, 7th January 1940, page 8
Inspector Alfred Jessen – Daily Standard, Brisbane, 31st March 1936, page 1
Dr E.H. Derrick – Sunday Mail, Brisbane, 7th March 1937, page 4

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