The night of 20 November
1930 was to be a gay and convivial evening at the Bijou theatre in Bourke
Street, Melbourne with the screening of Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” (“My
Fair Lady”) the highlight for the group of bohemian friends
that included Colin Cuthbert Orr Colahan (1897-1987), the well-known
Australian artist and his fiancé.
After discussing the play
for about half an hour, the group decided to bid adieu and the fiancé heaved
a heavy sigh before walking to Flinders Street station with Colahan on her
way home to 86 Milton Street, Elwood. But something was troubling the
young girl who remarked to Colahan, “I wish to God I did not have to go
Mary Winifred ‘Mollie’
Dean (1905-31) was a petite girl aged twenty-five, with brown eyes, dark bobbed hair
and the world at her feet. Engaged to be married to Colahan, she
taught art at the State Opportunity School in Queensberry Street North
Melbourne, a school that specialised in educating backward children and had
her sights set on a career as a writer. Soon after arriving at the St.
Kilda railway station, she made a telephone call at 12:04am to Colahan’s
apartment in Yarra Grove, Hawthorn to discuss leaving her teaching job to
take up journalistic work. Colahan told her that any hurried decision
was impetuous and foolish, and advised her not to do it. After the
eight minute call, the worried girl probably missed the last
Brighton-electric tram at 12:11am, and instead walked the two kilometres
But fate reared its ugly
head just before 1:00am when Beatrice Owen of 5 Addison Street, Elwood was
awoken to the sounds of a moaning voice. On the footpath outside her
front gate was found a pool of blood, a women’s hat, coat, handbag, and a
book. No screams were heard indicating the victim knew her attacker.
Dean’s body was found in the laneway opposite - traces of blood showed that
she had been dragged across the street - and was rushed to the Alfred
Hospital, but died at 4:25am that morning due to shock, haemorrhage and
collapse of the lungs.
Jeremiah O’Keeffe and Percy Lambell believed the motive was jealousy and the
outrage had been committed to look like a sex attack. Various
witnesses verified seeing a young girl 5 feet 6 inches in height, dark complexion
and slim to medium build wearing a green floral frock, red beret, black
shoes, black topcoat and with a silk bandanna handkerchief tied around her
neck. Significantly, a Mr Harry Coles of Jackson Street, St. Kilda saw
Dean sitting outside the St. Kilda station and noticed a man watching her who
had a peculiar walking gait wearing a “blue-grey” suit. Other
witnesses saw Dean being followed by the same man.
At the two day coronial
inquest held on 29 and 30 January 1931, sensation after sensation was played
out. Evidence was heard against a close family friend Adam Graham
a 30-year old engineer having a peculiar walking gait; that blood was found on his “blue-grey” suit
which could not be accounted for; that Dean’s mother, Ethel Mary née
Wright (d 1962), who strongly
objected to Mollie’s bohemian friends clashed repeatedly with her daughter,
and had Graham follow her on a number of occasions; and finally, that both
Mrs Dean and Graham had an improper intimate relationship. The coroner
Mr D. Grant concurred and found that Graham had wilfully and maliciously
inflicted the injuries and ordered he stand trial in the Supreme Court on
February 18. He was given bail on the surety of £1,000.
However, the Crown
Prosecutor (Mr Book) thought otherwise and on 16 March 1931 a no-presentment
was filed against Graham leaving yet another shocking tragedy unsolved
coming just a fortnight after the brutal murder of Mena Griffiths
(Springvale Necropolis) in November 1930. The girl described by Colahan as
“self-reliant, independent and courageous” was buried in a private service
attended by fifty people officiated by Rev. G. Phillip Bray of St. John’s
Congregational Church in St. Kilda.
Footnote: In George Johnston’s autobiographical-novel “My Brother
Jack” (1964), both Dean and Colahan were portrayed as Jessica Wray and Sam
(above) 5 Addison Street, Elwood where Dean
(above) The laneway opposite 5 Addison
Street where Dean was dragged
(above) The laneway where Dean's body was
found looking towards the house
Monumental headstone to
Mollie Dean (enlarge
The Argus 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 November
1930; 24, 26, 27, 29 December 1930 & 6, 17 March 1931.
The Age 22, 24, 25, 26 November 1930.
The Herald 21, 22 November 1930.
Kinnane, G., "Colin Colahan. A
Johnston, G., “My Brother Jack” (1964).
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