MURDER IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS

Forty eight year old Ronald Lachlan Leslie was a wealthy, retired  grazier living in the Sydney suburb of Manly.  He was a happily married family man with two young children. On Wednesday,  October 12 1927  he set out  to drive  to  the central western town of Forbes, where he was negotiating the sale of a property. It was said that he had an uneasy feeling about making the journey alone and  had asked  two of his  brothers to join him.  Unfortunately, neither could do so.  His wife Elsie  accompanied him as far as Spit Junction in Mosman, where she kissed him goodbye and returned home. From there Mr Leslie drove on alone in his blue Buick tourer.

Mrs Elsie Leslie

Ronald Leslie

The victim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that morning  Mr William Bourke, storekeeper  and postmaster in the village of Blaxland, noticed two cars travelling on the old Bathurst Road. A smart blue sedan was being followed by a darker coloured  car. They were driving in the direction of Rusden Road, a rough track  in an isolated area about half  a mile from the village.

Mr Bourke left for Penrith by train at 11.00 o’clock. On his way back  at 4.30pm he looked out the window and saw the blue sedan parked in Rusden Road.  Meanwhile a passing motorist, Mr John Wise,  had also noticed the car and felt something was wrong. He knocked on Bourke’s door and they went to investigate. The men were shocked to find  a body crumpled in the back of the undamaged Buick.

 

Ronald Leslie's Car 1917

Ronald Leslie’s car.


Map showing the look-out

 

Police were called and the dead man  was identified as Ronald Leslie. The few pounds in cash he had taken with him had not been touched,  nor had his cheque book or other documents. He was still wearing his wristwatch. Robbery was clearly not a motive.

Dr Frederick Higgins  arrived at dusk and made an initial  examination of  the body before it was removed to the mortuary in Penrith, at the foot of the Mountains.  He discovered there were three gunshot wounds, high on the left hand side of the spine. They had been fired from very close range, exiting through Mr Leslie’s chest.  Dr Higgins concluded  it was not possible for them to have been self-inflicted, and that the assailant must been inside the car.

The shooting itself had occurred  in broad daylight a few miles away, at a spot near Valley Heights Station , where the highway passed under the rail line.   Mrs Hilda Fessey, a fettler’s wife who lived  in  the railway gatehouse,  had unknowingly witnessed  the murder. She was  outside tethering a cow just after 10am when she saw the Buick and heard loud noises, but assumed it was the car backfiring.  In fact, it was the sound of  three bullets being fired into Mr Leslie’s back.  Mrs Fessey  described the two occupants of the car as ‘jumping about’ . She then saw the person in the passenger seat push himself up, obscuring the driver.  The car rolled backwards  down a decline for a short distance before disappeared from her  sight.  Asked if it had moved backwards in a straight line she said no, and that she thought the occupants might have been drunk. For many years afterwards the section of road would be known as Leslie’s Dip.

Afterwards Mrs Fessey picked up a hat which had somehow fallen from the car. She handed it into the police when she heard about the murder and it was identified as belonging to the dead man.

When Detective Matthews and Sergeant  George Loomes searched the area around the car they found the first clue. A blood stained dustcoat had been pushed into a hollow log, though it was not particularly well hidden.  There was a set of keys in the pocket, and a boot cleaning rag with name Higgs Shoe Store, William Street printed on it.

The shoe store was located in Sydney’s Darlinghurst and owned by a highly respected businessman, Albert Higgs.

A.A. Higgs Shoe Store

A.A. Higgs Shoe Store circa 1914.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A closer inspection of the coat revealed  a ticked with the name  Federal Laundry and the number 3340 .  A check was made, and when the laundry’s  log book was  checked,  customer  no. 3340 turned out to be  HIGGS – ROSE BAY.

The Higgs family’s  home Deloraine, was located in Salisbury Road, Rose Bay. It was here that the first of  three Higgs brothers, Hubert, was charged  over Ronald Leslie’s murder on Thursday evening, October 13th.  His younger brothers William and Bruce were charged shortly afterwards at Rose Bay Police Station.

Higgs brothers.

The Higgs Brothers, From left – Bruce, William and Hubert.

Albert and Margaret Higgs were shocked when their sons were arrested, but believed implicitly in their innocence.

 

Albert Arthur Higgs

Albert Arthur Higgs

Margaret Higgs

Margaret Higgs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ronald Leslie’s death rocked the town of Forbes.

 

The trial at Sydney’s Central Criminal Court  in Darlinghurst was presided over by Chief Justice Philip Street. It was one of the most sensational held  in the city for many years.

Darlinghurst criminal court before Higgs Bros. trial.

Throng of people waiting for the trial to begin.

The defence team in the murder trial included a recently qualified Clive Evatt.

A second tragedy for the Leslie family occurred just months after the murder. Ronald’s five year old niece  Margaret, daughter of his brother Tom, died in the family’s backyard at Cremorne. She was swinging on the clothes line when it came down. Her neck was broken by a wooden support pole.

Click HERE for episode two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments
  1. Looking fwd to the next instalment!

    Thanks

  2. So many murders were done by murderers who thought they’d get away with it. I guess a great proportion were caught with very few goin unsolved compared with the number committed.

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