Irish born 62 year old Miss Mary Fahy owned a two storey property on the corner of The Corso and Marine Parade in Sydney’s Maroubra. She ran a successful mixed business, and lived in a flat behind the shop. Her upstairs tenants were the Potter family; 47 year old George Potter, and his two daughters. Her longtime close friend, 78 year old Sarah Turner, also had a room upstairs. Miss Turner owned her own home in Burwood, but she loved Mary’s company and enjoyed helping out in the business.
On 13 April 1949 the shop closed just after 6 o’clock. Mr Potter’s daughter Una saw Miss Fahy washing down the shop windows at around 6.30pm.
Miss Turner and Miss Fahy had a drink together after closing up; a nip of gin for Sarah and a glass of wine for Mary. When Sarah went up to bed a couple of hours later, she left her friend reading in the lounge. Next morning she rose early to attend Mass. As she walked downstairs she noticed that, unusually, the connecting door to the bottom flat had been left open, and that the radio was still on. She went in and was horrified to find Mary Fahy lying dead on the floor of her blood spattered bedroom. She rushed to a neighbour, who called the police.
In a frenzied attack the killer had inflicted seven stab wounds.to Miss Fahy’s head and chest.
There was no sign of sexual assault and robbery did not appear to be the motive. Miss Fahy had money hidden all around the flat, but the rooms had not been ransacked and Miss Turner helped detectives locate the various packages of bank notes. Cartons of cigarettes by the dead woman’s bed were also untouched, as was a quantity of silver coins.
On April 21, after several delays due to examinations of the stab wounds by the Government Medical Officer, the funeral took place. It was a day made more sombre by the inclement weather.
The stab wounds were examined to determine the strength required to inflect them. Rumours were published suggesting the killer could have been ‘a close woman friend.’ This could only have been a reference to the elderly Miss Turner, which was as unlikely as it was unkind.
The murder had occurred during the Royal Easter Show. One line of inquiry involved showmen, who had been camped at Maroubra Beach. Mary had mentioned a strange man hanging around at the time and this led to detectives travelling to Queensland, following up leads. Unfortunately the investigations came to nothing.
George Potter, the upstairs tenant, was also a suspect, There were allegations that he owed money for rent, which he denied. However, there was no doubt he was short of money. He worked only intermittently as a cleaner, due to chronic ill-health. His doctor, also a friend through racing, had recently loaned him £5. On the evening of the murder, Miss Fahy had asked (via Potter’s daughter Una) to borrow Mr Potter’s newspaper, which does seems to indicate an amicable relationship.
Significantly, Miss Turner said she knew of no-one who would be likely to have killed her friend, who was very well liked. If there had been bad blood between Mary Fahy and Mr Potter, or trouble over money, surely she would have been aware of it.
Questioned at the inquest George Potter testified that on April 13 he arrived home from work, ate a meal and went straight to bed, taking with him a bottle of wine or beer. Apparently this was his usual routine. He said he left for work early next morning and knew nothing of his landlady’s death until his daughter, 18 year old Una, told him that afternoon. He insisted that he had no animosity towards Miss Fahy, and said she had been very kind to his two daughters and himself when he was sick.
The coronial inquest found that Miss Fahy had been murdered by an unknown person. No-one ever faced trial over her brutal killing.
George Potter died in tragic circumstances in 1951. Exactly what happened was not disclosed, but he was found unconscious in his bath, and passed away in hospital. He was never in good health, so it could well have been from natural causes. However, the strain of being considered a suspect in Mary Fahy’s death must have weighed heavily. Of course some would say that he was worn down by the burden of guilt and simply could not go on.
MAN DROWNED IN BATH
George Patrick Potter, 47, of Marine Parade, Maroubra, was drowned in his bath last night.
He was last seen by his daughter at about 2.30pm. When she noticed water running under the bathroom door at about 6.25pm she called a neighbour, who broke open the door.
As ambulance was called and Potter was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital and placed in an iron lung, but he did not respond.
Sergeant Rath, of Daceyville police, is in charge of inquiries. (Sydney Morning Herald, October, 22 1951) The result of those inquiries was not revealed.
George had written his will on August 15. However, he did not name an executor. For that reason he was considered intestate. The Public Trustee appointed his sister Mary Fraser as administrator.
The only death notice was inserted by his mother and sisters and there was no mention of any children. I have been unable to find a record of a marriage for George, and can’t help wondering whether his daughters were illegitimate.