For some years British born Captain William Waterson had been involved in an on-again, off-again relationship with Marion ‘Dorothy’ Jackson. Dorothy, 25 years old, lived with her wealthy, widowed mother Matilda at No. 2 Pillinger Street, Sandy Bay, an upmarket suburb of Tasmania’s Hobart.
In 1922 the engagement between Dorothy and William was broken off yet again by the young woman, and the ring returned. Dorothy would later say that this was because she could not rely on Waterson’s word. It seemed that the romance was now over for good, a situation the Captain simply could not accept.
At Hobart’s Sailors’ Rest Hotel, he hatched a foolish plan to win his sweetheart back.
Two men, Thomas Macdonald and Arthur Watson were separately approached by Waterson as accomplices in a scheme more suited to a tawdry crime novel. The plan was for Dorothy’s 67 year old mother to be tied up in her own home while Dorothy was out. The ‘heroic’ Captain would then arrive like a white knight to rescue her, earning such gratitude from poor Mrs Jackson and her daughter that all would be forgiven. Dorothy would marry her gallant hero and the pair would live happily every after.
On November 8 the men broke into the Pillinger Street home. It was never determined exactly who did the tying up, probably Watson, but unfortunately, the plan went horribly wrong. Mrs Jackson died suddenly before Captain Waterson could carry out his ‘rescue.’
Dorothy arrived home from shopping at 5.00pm to find her deceased mother in the living room, still bound hand and foot. Prominent Hobart physician Dr E, Crowther concluded that Mrs Jackson had died from shock.
Following a coronial inquest, Captain Waterson was charged first with murder, but subsequently with manslaughter. Surprisingly, neither Watson or MacDonald were charged with any offence. So who was the man facing trial? A brief profile had appeared in the press;
In a case of manslaughter, there must be a reasonable assumption that an action on the part of a perpetrator could lead to death. Did the tying up of an elderly woman meet this criterion? The break-in and what followed must have been absolutely terrifying. Furthermore, Waterson was well aware that Mrs Jackson’s health was fragile. The pair had actually been quite close, and Mrs Jackson never opposed the match between her only daughter and Captain Waterson.
The judge’s summation appeared in a Melbourne newspaper, The Argus, on December 8.
HOBART – Thursday. The trial was concluded of William Henry Victor Waterson, who was charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of Mrs. Matilda Jackson, aged 67 years, at her residence, Pillinger Street, Sandy Bay on November 8.
Mr Justice Ewing, in summing up, said that the jury should not consider manslaughter as an insignificant charge. The case called for the utmost care on the part of the jury. Although the Crown said that the accused did not actually bind the woman, it alleges that he instigated the act. Therefore in law he would be equally responsible. The onus on establishing the fact that the man was guilty was upon the Crown. Suspicions were useless, and suggestions of guilt were of no value whatever. The jury, after being absent for an hour and a half, returned a verdict of not guilty. Waterson was then released.
AN INNOCENT VICTIM
Mrs Jackson’s considerable estate went of course to her grieving daughter.
Captain Waterson married Clarice Gregson from Rockhampton in 1927. The ceremony was held in Sydney, where Waterson was living, but the couple made their home in Rockhampton. Waterson became superintendent of the wharf; a position that had its risks. When men were passed over for casual employment, tempers could flare;
Dorothy Jackson married 32 year old engineer Victor Augustus Ward on November 24, 1924, in Hobart’s Holy Trinity Church. I hope she found happiness with him. (My sincere thanks to Maureen Austin for this information).
For the sake of balance, here is a genuinely heroic story involving Captain Waterson.