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TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 4 OCTOBER

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4 October 1884, William Griffin murders Grace Kelt at “The Flag is Ours” Club in Dutoitspan village.

DID YOU KNOW

“A SHOCKING TRAGEDY AT DUTOITSPAN”

This tragic headline appeared in the columns of the Diamond Fields Advertiser after an attempted double murder ended in the death of one of the victims and the suicide of the alleged murderer. The tragedy occurred at around 4 am on Sunday, 4 October 1884, at the “Flag of Ours” Club in Dutoitspan village when the murderer, William Griffin, entered George and Grace Kelt’s bedroom, fatally wounded Grace, killed George and then took his own life in a room outside the Club itself.

There had been several differences of opinion between Griffin, a partner of George Kelt in the “Flag of Ours” Club, and it had all come to a head over the weekend. There had been words between them the previous day over some fittings in the bar, but like most partners in businesses it had all blown over, as had many other arguments prior to that. Griffin, however, had been moody and “seemed sometimes strange in his actions”, and had not drunk any alcohol for more than five weeks.

Griffin and Kelt had gone to the market together on the Saturday, and it appeared that the argument was forgotten. Even when Grace McDonald Kelt took tea to Griffin in his room that evening at 7, he had spoken to her and “seemed in a cheerful humour”. Grace could not account for his shooting either her husband or herself, but something had indeed snapped in Griffin’s head. Whether it was business problems, or perhaps having feelings for Grace that were not reciprocated, will never be known. What is known is that at 4 am that Sunday, Griffin had left his quarters, and armed with two revolvers, climbed through the window of the African bar into the Club – all the doors were locked – and entered the Kelt’s bedroom.

Griffin shouted loudly, frightening the sleeping George and Grace Kelt, who leapt out of bed. He fired a shot, and Kelt fell dead at the foot of the bed, a bullet through the heart. “As I sprang out I fell, I do not know whether I was stunned or not….when I jumped out of bed I saw Griffin standing by the bed,” related Grace in a statement to Magistrate George Bradshaw when she came out of a coma in hospital. “I heard no more. I was insensible. When I recovered my senses I saw my husband lying on the ground at the foot of the bed. He was dead. I knew I was wounded as I felt the blood coming out of my face.” It appeared that Griffin had carried the unconscious Grace – who had fallen to the floor – to a nearby chair. Whether Griffin had shot her before he carried her there, or shot while sitting in the chair, no one could say. Grace herself assumed she had been shot while in the chair according to her deposition.

Griffin had then gone out to his room and blown his brains out, as he was found “lying on his left side on the floor with a wound over the left eye and a revolver in his clenched hand.” Four of the chambers in the revolver were loaded, while two had been discharged. Another revolver was found under the body with another two chambers discharged. Four bullets had been fired from two revolvers, and all four had made contact, but still did not answer the question whether Grace Kelt had been shot while sitting in the chair. The only question that could possibly be answered is that two revolvers had certainly been used to shoot both the husband and the wife as George had received one bullet and Grace two.

Doctors Josiah Matthews and Herbert Crook had been called to the Club and arrived there at 6 am, two hours after the shooting. After removing Grace to the Carnarvon Hospital, the murder/suicide was reported to the police and to the Magistrate, the latter going to the hospital to interview Mrs Kelt should she regain consciousness. She did regain consciousness long enough for her to make a statement in explanation of the tragedy, a statement that was accepted at the inquest into the deaths of George Kelt and William Griffin. Grace survived the attempt on her life and ultimately left Kimberley, for her, a town of sad and terrible memories.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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