CONTINUING THE STORY OF SYDNEY SOCIALITE AIMÉE EDOLS . CLICK HERE FOR PART ONE
In 1932, bankrupt Sydney socialite Aimée Edols evaded police for nearly six months. She had turned for help to an old friend, Amy Styles, from nearby Vaucluse. Mrs Styles was a widow, whose husband had drowned in the Greycliffe ferry disaster. Aimée pleaded with Mrs Styles to hide her, saying she was going to be arrested. The kind hearted widow took her in for several days and lent her £100. After a brief trip to Melbourne, Aimée took a flat in Darlinghurst under the name of Mrs Bray. Mrs Styles visited her regularly and continued to lend her money, about £900 in all. It was compensation she had received after her husband’s death. She told the court that Mrs Edols was in great distress and frequently crying. Aimée swore that her mysterious capital of £45,000 was now in Sydney and that she would soon repay the loans. ‘I trusted her implicitly’, Mrs Styles said,
MRS EDOLS’ PROFLIGATE LIFESTYLE REVEALED
As Aimée’s finances were examined it was discovered that in the five years from 1926 until 1931 she had ‘blown’ the incredible sum of £56, 000. Betting losses accounted for a hefty £14,000. She spent £4,000 on all her smart outfits for the Randwick races and other social occasions. Another £4,000 went on entertaining her friends at the Queen’s Club and the Royal Sydney Golf Club. £8,000 vanished on taxis, theatre parties, jewellers, florists and general living expenses. It was disclosed that Earnest had received £35,000 as his share of the family’s vast Burrawang station in the Central West of NSW, but unknown to him, Aimee had frittered it all away. When giving evidence he was asked why he kept giving his wife such large sums of cash and parcels of shares. His response was that she told him she was going to invest the funds. He confessed that he had no idea of business, and that his life had been spent just, ‘loafing about on stations.‘
Revelations of the couple’s lifestyle incensed the public. Australia was in the grip of the Great Depression. While Aimee Edols had been swanning about the city with other people’s cash, the unemployed ate at soup kitchens and stood in dole queues.
In a blistering article the Workers Weekly referred to Mrs Edols in a headline as SCUM OF THE EARTH. The piece continued;
‘Leading a parasitical existence, surrounded by luxury, wanting for nothing, Mrs Aimee Edols obtained £56, 598 in the years 1926 to 1931. This sum is sufficient to give employment to forty-seven men for five years, at a little more than £5 per week.’
Meanwhile, Aimée found herself in an invidious position. If she didn’t provide the information about the mysterious £45,000 she could be kept in the debtor’s prison for an indeterminate period. Mind you, it was relatively comfortable, She could order in food and wear her own clothes etc. No work was required of her. The press pointed out that she was still far better off than the unemployed and their families.
FINALLY – AN ADMISSION FROM MRS EDOLS
By December, Aimee had had enough. She filed an affidavit, then stated in court that the £45,000 Melbourne investment did not exist, it had all been a fabrication. Asked by her own lawyer why she hadn’t said this before she said, ‘I knew I would get into trouble, and I thought that by serving a sentence I might not have to say anything further.’ She said that all the money she had obtained from friends and relatives had been spent.
Her problem was that now it was thought she could be lying, and that the money was being held on her behalf somewhere until she was free.
AIMEE ON TRIAL
Since it was now obvious she had received money with no intention of repaying it, Aimée was charged with fraud relating to one of her victims. While the Edols were on holiday in Fiji in the 1920’s they had been entertained by a tea planter and his wife, Mr and Mrs Percy McConnell. The McConnells visited Sydney in 1930, and Aimee said she wanted to return their hospitality. They met at the Queens Club, where Percy McConnell unwisely revealed he had £3,000 invested at 6 percent. Aimée told him she could double his money in a few months, but couldn’t reveal the details of the scheme. The gullible man handed over the money in several instalments. He returned to Fiji and each time he tried to withdraw his capital, Aimee sent him a letter saying it was tied up, but had doubled in value. The prosecutor said it was a mean deception, there was no investment in Melbourne or anywhere else; it was a deliberate, cold, calculated falsehood. The prisoner had traded on friendships and her previous high standing in the community. A verdict of guilty was returned after the jury had been out only twenty minutes.
On May 29 1934 Aimée was sentenced to imprisonment for two years. She would now be part of the normal prison population at Long Bay, with none of the ‘soft options’ enjoyed as a mere debtor. When her sentence had expired, she still faced the ongoing contempt of court issue over the fabricated £45,000. Back she went to court in an effort to have it waived.
BANKRUPTCY COURT, SYDNEY – WED 29 JAN 1936
Judge Lukin adjourned until Monday the application by Mrs Aimée Belle Edols, for the variation of a contempt of court order made against her for refusing to disclose the whereabouts of an asset of £45,000, under which she has been in gaol.
On Tuesday she will have finished the sentence of two years imprisonment on charges of fraud and irregularities under the Bankruptcy Act, but the contempt order is still in operation against her, and she asked that this be varied so she could be free.
Mrs Edols sobbed bitterly during the proceedings, and in an impassioned outburst said she would sooner be sentenced to death now, in view of the terrible strain. It was killing her and her husband.
When the court reassembled the judge commented that although the prisoner’s contempt of court remained, he considered her continued detention would be futile. He added, ‘I have not been impressed by her hysterical appeal for forgiveness. That should be addressed to her unfortunate victims. She cries for herself and seeks sympathetic treatment. She has no tears and no sympathy for her victims. I must however, take into consideration that she has been about four years in gaol, and that no doubt is a very long time.’ She was allowed to go free, with a warning that her finances would remain under strict scrutiny.
It was said that Aimée Edols was now grey haired and haggard; a pale shadow of her old self. She left the court in a daze and went home to Ernest, who had been surviving on £2 a week from his sisters. He died a year later, aged 67. The stress of the whole, sorry mess apparently proved too much. There would be nothing for his beloved Aimée to inherit, as she had cashed in his life insurance policy during her wild years of spending.
Never again did the name Mrs Edols appear in the social pages. However, she was remembered through a joke that circulated in Sydney;’ ‘Did you hear that Mrs Edols told her friend his investment was going nicely? So nicely it was soon gone completely!’
Aimée lived on for another thirty years, no doubt supported by her daughter and son-in-law. Not surprisingly, she left the Eastern Suburbs after Ernest’s death. She died in 1967. There is a memorial plaque for her at Northern Suburbs Crematorium.
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