Mrs Eva Hallett arrived in the Blue Mountains town of Katoomba by rail in the autumn of 1916, accompanied by her 16 year old daughter Violet. For a few days the pair stayed in a well known boarding house. However, Mrs Hallett then visited a local estate agent and enquired about renting a cottage. She requested that it be in a quiet location, and not overlooked by neighbours. Subsequently, she and Violet transferred to a furnished property at Katoomba Street South.
The Blue Mountains was renowned for its fresh, clean air. Sanatoriums had been established to cater for tuberculosis patients. Walks amid the spectacular scenery at Katoomba were promoted as being of great benefit to the infirm, both physically and mentally;
However, from the moment mother and daughter moved to the cottage nothing was heard or seen of them. They were definitely not taking advantage of their surroundings. As the days slipped by the owner of the property became concerned and contacted the agent. On April 17 a member of the agent’s staff called to check on the tenants. At the same time a post boy happened to call to deliver some mail. When there was no response to their calls and knocks on the door, they managed to climb in through a front window.
All appeared to be in order and there were no signs of violence. The kitchen table was set for a meal for two. With a growing sense of disquiet they searched the other rooms.
In the bedroom the men found Mrs Hallett lying in one of the beds. Her daughter Violet was on the other, fully dressed. Both women were dead. A bottle containing Veronal tablets was on a chair beside Violet’s bed. The police were called, and a local doctor who judged that Mrs Hallett and her daughter had died several days earlier. On a dressing table was a revolver, with bullets in four of the chambers. At the foot of one of the beds was a dressing-case containing various medicines. There were four empty bottles marked Aconite, a potentially toxic preparation used for sedation and pain relief. Two more were labelled Veronal.
From papers in the house it was revealed that the women were from Brunswick, Victoria. They had been travelling together since 1913, when Violet was only thirteen. It seems the girl’s life had been sacrificed to that of her mother as is unlikely Violet had much opportunity to attend school. According to Eva’s husband, book keeper Mr Waldemar Hallet, his wife and daughter had been on the long pilgrimage in search of better health for Eva. He said he corresponded with them regularly, although he had not seen either of them for twelve months. Insisting they had previously lived happily together, he said he had always contributed to their upkeep. Eva Hallet also had a small private income. Whether there was more to this strange story of family separation was never determined.
The most distressing finding at the inquest was that Violet did not die until at least two days after Eva . One can only imagine what went through her mind during that time, with the body of her mother lying on the bed beside her own. She was socially isolated, and had been emotionally and financially dependent on Eva. Evidence was given that Eva regularly took medication to help her sleep.
On May 13 the coroner, Mr Richards, concluded the inquest. Oddly enough, when a post-mortem was performed on Violet there were clear signs of tuberculosis. She may not have been aware of this. Veronal was found in both bodies.
It appeared that in Eva Hallett’s case, death was premeditated. A note was found on the veranda reading, ‘Please leave no more bread, we bake our own.’ Money for what was already owed was found with it, wrapped in paper. Clinical depression can lead people to take their lives in the belief that those left behind would be better off without them. However, it does seem strange that a mother would deliberately leave her vulnerable sixteen year old daughter alone in a strange town where she knew no-one.
Mother and daughter were buried together in Katoomba Cemetery on April 16 1916.
Waldemar Hallett died in 1937. He did not remarry and his death notice records him as the beloved husband of Eva May Hallett.
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