A CHANGE OF AIR FOR MRS JOEL
On April 15 1918, Mr David Joel and his wife Emily left Sydney by train for the Blue Mountains village of Wentworth Falls, about 95km (60 miles) west of the city. Forty seven year old. Mr Joel was a small time, but successful bookmaker in Sydney. Emily was prone to mental breakdowns and had recently been in an asylum. Her husband had organized her discharge, hoping a change of air might be beneficial.
They arrived at about 7.30pm, and Mr Joel asked a cab driver to take them to the house of a Mr. Smith. There, the couple asked for board, but were turned down. They were then taken to the Hotel Grand View.
It was noted by both the cab driver and hotel staff that the Joels appeared to act rather strangely, as if they were intoxicated. At one point David Joel had almost fallen out of the cab, and during dinner he astonished other patrons by putting a mixture of jam and pickles on his fish.
The couple enquired about accommodation, but were informed there were no double rooms available. Leaving a bag at the hotel they told staff they were going for a walk. It was assumed they would return, and perhaps take single rooms. At about 9.30pm they were spotted together on secluded Burragorang Road. It was then scarcely more than a bush track.
Next day a local farmer saw Emily Joel by herself on the same road. Her clothes were disarranged and her hair awry. She screamed when she saw him, causing his cows to stampede. She told him, ‘I get some terrible frights here’, then disappeared into the bush. On the following day he saw her again. She was now barefoot. She said she wasn’t lost and commented that it was a fine day. He thought she sounded a bit odd, but drove on past. He did tell a young boy to report the sighting to the police, but there was some confusion and nothing was done
The next person to see Mrs Joel was a resident called Joseph Clarke. It was now the evening of April 18, and had been raining. Emily was lying almost naked by the side of Burragorang road, six and a half miles east of Wentworth Falls. Clarke thought she was dead. He immediately raised the alarm When Constable Davis arrived Emily was alive, but barely conscious, and smelling strongly of alcohol. Oddly enough, no bottles of liquor were found in the area. She said she didn’t know where her husband was. She was taken by train to Penrith hospital at the foot of the Blue Mountains.
Asked by a doctor whether her husband had been wandering in the bush with her she said yes, but it was difficult to know just how rational she was. To the question, ‘Have you been drinking?’ she first said, no…then yes. Soon she lost her voice and was unable to speak at all. During this time she was physically sick, producing vomit that smelled strongly of alcohol and contained blood from gastric bleeding. She died on April 26, a week after being admitted
At a coronial inquest a long term friend of the dead woman testified;
Witness had known deceased for 20 years. She was one of the best and sweetest women in the world, and was of strictly temperate habits, but of a delicate constitution. The deceased suffered from the severest form of gastritis and breakdown of the nervous system. About four years ago her mind became deranged and she was placed in a mental institution, remaining there for 11 months. Her husband was an ideal husband, and a very temperate man. Medical men had [previously] ordered her brandy as a stimulant, but she could not retain it on her stomach, and she had a strong aversion to alcohol.
Members of Emily’s family spoke in a similar vein, particularly regarding David Joel’s love and concern for his wife.
The Coroner found that death was due to exhaustion and exposure during four days spent in inclement weather on the Burragorang Road.
Initially, Emily Joel was buried at Penrith. However, her family arranged for the body to be exhumed and she was reinterred at Rookwood Cemetery on May 4.
A search party scoured the area around Wentworth Falls and Lawson, but no trace of Mr Joel could be found. Stories of him being sighted in Sydney were quickly discounted.
So many questions remained. Where was David Joel? Why had this caring man seemingly abandoned the woman he so clearly cherished? To this date, no answers have been found. His body has never been found.