27 May 2015

Lingering Doubts - 68 years ago - Coronial Inquest - Part 10

27 May, 1947

Our grandfather's body was found in a Boggo Road Gaol cell just 9 days into his life sentence. Five weeks later -  68 years ago today - an inquest was held in Brisbane. City Coroner, Thomas Elite, heard evidence from Dr John Tonge - State Pathologist, one police constable, four prison officers and Reg Brown's 20 year-old son, Ian.

Ian told the inquiry that only four days before his father's death, he had visited him in Boggo Road Gaol. Although Reg warned his son not to 'get off side with the police, you will never win' and described the prison as 'worse than you could ever imagine', Ian said there were no good-byes, nothing to indicate his father was considering suicide. In the courtroom environment Ian was shown, for the first time, his father's last words; a final and concise statement of innocence written and signed in pencil on a piece of gaol issued toilet paper.

Each prison warden, one of whom we actually met during our research, gave their testimony regarding the prisoner's final days; each concluded with, 'He never said or done anything which might suggest to me that he was going to take his own life.'

Although our grandfather was unwell and had been prescribed Phenobarbital by the prison doctor, the doctor did not appear at the inquest. At the end of one hour and forty minutes the coroner ruled no suspicious circumstances. But as we show in Lingering Doubts, there are  some reasons for suspicion. Unanswered questions remain e.g. was our grandfather in an observation cell? We were told there was some contention over this matter amongst prison staff. Also was Reg assessed by the medical officer after receiving a life sentence? He was distressed, still professing his innocence and subsequently suffered a severe asthma attack. Even so, he wrote a heartfelt letter to his equally distraught wife and family.

Adding to the heartbreak, Bronia Armstrong should have celebrated her 20th birthday on 26 May - the day before the inquest. If things had been different, yesterday in 2015 Bronia might have celebrated her 88th birthday, perhaps surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In a strange twist of fate my (Deb's) gorgeous granddaughter turned 1 year old yesterday - 26 May.

Deb and Jan

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We look forward to your comments and feedback or any information you may wish to share about our grandfather's case.