This is one of the few stories in my family history that brought me to tears. It certainly shocked the country. Is it so very sad and tragic. I guess that they were mentally ill and their religion gave them solace to take their lives and go to meet their maker. But I will never know. The stories in the paper tend to hide things that might not rather be known or may not want to be said.
It is the story of Walter Reuben Rees, his wife Francis Barr and their daughter Winifred Emily Rees. I have not found out what happened to Emily after this. Was she taken in for foster care, or perhaps looked after by other family members or the church.
GIRL HUDDLED BESIDE DEAD PARENTS. (1949, November 26). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26676304
SYDNEY, Fri. – Police at Dubbo today entered the home of Walter Reuben Rees (34), market gardener, and found the bodies of Rees and his wife, Frances, in a bedroom. Huddled beside the body of her mother, was the couple’s 10-year-old daughter, Winifred.
The child was alive, but was suf- fering badly from malnutrition and was in a comatose condition.
She was rushed to Dubbo Hos- pital, where she was given light food. She apparently had had no- thing to eat since the tragedy occur- red, probably on Tuesday.
Police entered the home after be- ing told that neighbours had seen no sign of life there for a few days.
It is thought that the deaths of the parents were the result of a sui- cide pact. Police said the child had been able to tell them that her parents had not quarrelled.
Starving girl on parents’ bodies. (1949, November 26). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49715022
SYDNEY, Friday.— Police this morning found a starving- 10 year-old girl lying across the decomposed bodies of her par-ents in a tumbledown shack near Dubbo, North-western New South Wales.
A quantity of strychnine was found In the hut and police think the couple died in a sui- cide pact last Tuesday.
The girl, Winifred Emily Rees, was taken to Dubbo Base Hospital in a critical condition, but is expected to live.
The dead couple are Walter Reuben Rees and Francis Rees, who lived at a small market garden on the old Dubbo Road about two miles from the town.
Mrs. Rees had been very ill with asthma and bronchitis for several months. Although the family lived in a brokendown shack almost devoid of furni- ture it is believed they had no financial worries.
PARENTS DIED. (1949, November 26). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18137556
DUBBO, Friday. – Police this morning found a starving 10-year-old girl lying across the decom-posed bodies of her
parents in a tumbledown shack near Dubbo.
Police believe the couple, Walter Reuben Rees and Fran- ces Rees, died in a suicide pact last Tuesday.
A jar of powder labelled strychnine was found in the room where the bodies lay. Near the bed were three cups containing white powder.
The girl, Winifred Emily Rees, was rushed to Dubbo Base Hos- pital in a critical condition, but is expected to live.
The Rees lived at Avondale, a small market garden on the old Dubbo Road, about two miles from the outskirts of the town.
Mr. and Mrs. A. Wheatley, who live on the adjoining pro- perty, became anxious this morn- ing, because they had not seen Winifred going past to school at South Dubbo.
Constable Wedlock and the Dubbo Child Welfare Officer, Mr. Frank McGrane, immediately went to the shack and burst in- side.
They saw what they thought to be three bodies lying on the bed. Then they discovered that the little girl was alive, although so weak and emaciated that she could not talk properly.
The girl kept calling for cool water. She said she had had nothing to eat or drink since Tuesday.
The couple had lived on the old Dubbo Road for many years, and Walter Rees had owned the property for 15 or 16 years.
Mrs. Rees had been very ill with asthma and bronchitis for several months.
Although they lived in a bro- ken-down shack almost devoid of furniture, it is believed they had no financial worries.
STARVING IN SHACK. (1949, November 26). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), p. 12. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47685664
Girl Lying Across Parents’ Bodies
SYDNEY, Nov. 25: A starv- ing ten-year-old girl found lying across her parents’ bodies today in an old shack at Avondale, near Dubbo, is believed to have been given a poison which had killed her mother and father. She is in hospital in a critical condition. The girl, Winifred Emily Rees, who was in an emaciated condition when police burst into the shack, had not had anything to eat or drink since Tuesday.
A post-mortem tonight failed to reveal the cause of the deaths of Walter Reuben Rees (32) and Frances Rees (33) but detectives believe that they died of poison- ing after making a suicide pact. Three cups containing a white powder were found close to the bed on which Mr. and Mrs. Rees and their daughter were lying, and a jar of powder labelled with the name of a poison was in the room. The bodies were found after a neighbour, Mr. A. Wheatley, had become suspicious after he and his wife earlier had commented on the fact that they had not seen the girl on her way to school for three days. Mr. Wheatley went to Dubbo and returned with police, who forced their way into the family’s ramshackle home. No notes were found by police in the shack.
The girl told the police later that her parents had not quar- relled and that she could not account for their deaths. They were in comfortable circum- stances. Mrs. Rees had been ill with asthma and bronchitis for some months.
Winifred, 10, Tried To Waken Her Dead Parents Shack. (1949, November 27). The Sunday Herald (Sydney, NSW : 1949 – 1953), p. 1. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18472529
DUBBO, Saturday.-Mr. Walter Reuben Rees and his wife Frances, found dead in their ramshackle two-room shack near here yesterday, were buried to-day in the Church of England cemetery at Dubbo.
Their 10-year-old child, Winifred May, who was lying huddled close to her dead mother when a police- man and a welfare officer burst into the shack, will not be, questioned by police until Monday or Tuesday at the earliest.
They do not think she will be fit before then.
Winifred, wearing a crumpled yellow frock, was so dazed when Constable Wedlock and Welfare Officer Frank McGrane found her lying on the bed with her dead parents that she could not tell what had happened.
“WOULD NOT WAKE”
All she could tell them was: “I’ve been trying to wake mummy and daddy, but they are still asleep.
“I knew my mummy was sick because she had pains in the stomach and was moving around, but daddy didn’t move at all.”
Neighbours have told Con- stable Wedlock that they saw Winifred in their gardens on Wednesday-the day after her parents are believed to have poisoned themselves with strych- nine-but she did not try to attract attention.
Police believe that this was be- cause she is so shy. The head- master of her school has told them that she is retiring and does not make friends.
When her father was shopping in Dubbo on Tuesday morning he bought only one loaf of bread instead of the usual four. He told the shopman that he had food left over from the week-end.
Tradespeople thought he seemed very depressed.
Police have established that although the family lived squal- idly in their shack on their 20 acre property, Rees was earning big money as a market gardener.
They say he was a deeply re- ligious man whose principles would not allow him to buy lottery tickets or to eat anything but the simplest foods. Re- ligious pictures were pinned to walls of the room in which he and his dead wife lay.
He was keen on photography and hundreds of photographs have been found in a trunk in the shack.
Rees and his wife were 49.
10-year-old Tried To Wake Dead Parents. (1949, November 28). The Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld. : 1874 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81616281
DUBBO, November 26
Mr. Walter Reuben Rees and his wife, Frances, found dead In their ramshackle two-room shack, near Dubbo, yesterday were buried to-day in the Church. Of England Cemetery at Dubbo.
Their 10-year-old daughter, Winifred May, who was lying huddled close to her dead mother when a policeman and welfare officer burst into the shack, cannot be questioned yet.
Winifred, wearing 4 crumpled yellow fuck, was so dazed when they fount her lying on the bed with her dead parents that she could not tell what had happened.
She said: I’ve been trying to wake them, but they are still asleep.
‘I knew my mummy was sick, but she had pains in the stomach and was moving around but daddy didn’t move at all.’
Neighbours have told police that they saw Winifred in their gardens on Wed-nesday, the day after her parents are believed to have poisoned themselves with strychnin, but she did not try to attract attention.
Police have established that although the family lived squaily in their shack earning big money as a market gar- en their 20-acre property, Rees, was dener.
Can’t Say Who Gave Poison. (1950, January 15). Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59501981
Can’t Say Who Gave Poison
Sydney, Sat: Dubbo cor-oner today found that a mar-ried couple had died from strychnine in a shack near Dubbo on Nov. 24, but he was unable to determine whether the husband or the wife ad- ministered the poison.
Couple were Walter Reu-ben Rees (49) and Frances (49).
Their 10-year-old daughter Winifred was found starving at the foot of the bed.