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FAMILY TRAGEDY. MURDER AND SUICIDE.
HOBART, March 19.
The adjourned inquest on the bodies of Andrew Thomas Edgar Archer and his wife and five children, which were found after their house had been burned down at Don on February 26, was concluded at Devonport yesterday. Detective H. J. Gibbens said that he visited the scene of the fire on Feb- ruary 27, in company with Senior Con- stable Woodworth. They found nine lead pellets, some of which were affect- ed by the heat. They were clearly gunshots. There was nothing to indi- cate that Archer had worn boots on the morning of the fire, but in the kitchen, where Archer was stated al- ways to have placed his boots before retiring, nails from the heels of boots were found, in the place occupied by the boys' bed was found a handker- chief covered with blood, and also a blood-stained, piece of flannel, which appeared to be the rematas of a shirt. The witness examined the shotgun found under Archer's body. It con- tained the remains of a cartridge that had been exploded by being struck by the hammer. Investigations made by the witness had revealed that Archer had debts amounting to over £100. The doctors and chemists in the dis- trict, continued the witness, affirm- ed that no poison had been supplied to Archer.
To Mr. Henry: Although it had been discharged the gun might have been used a month before.
Continuing, the witness said that last year a relative of Archer's got into trouble, and Archer went bail for him. Ho was heard to remark: "He is a dis- grace to the family, and I wish I was dead."
Dr. E. Juddison gave evidence con- cerning the condition of the bodies. In answer to Superintendent Dwan, he said there was nothing to show the actual cause of death. From the posi- tion of the bodies it could not have been caused by suffocation.
To the Coroner: Sufficient carbon dioxide could not have accumulated In the house to cause suffocation without waking the victims.
To Superintendent Dwan: I would say from the blood, &c, that one or both of the boys had been killed by being struck on the head, death taking place previous to the fire. Mrs. Archer's body was too much burnt to enable a definite opinion to be formed as to the cause of death. Further questioned, the witness said it was im- possible that at least one of the vic- tims would not awaken when exposed to considerable heat, unless drunk or insensible.
Dr. J. F. M. Paewne said he assist- ed Dr. Addison with the post-mortem examination at the morgue. It was evident that the blood on the blanket had poured out of the body before it was burned.
In answer to Superintendent Dwan, the witness said that deceased consult- ed him three years ago. He was suf- fering from nervous trouble, and was very worried and depressed.
Superintendent Dwan: Would a man in that condition be inclined to sui- cidal tendencies?
Mr. Henry: You would not say it was impossible for the family to be suf- focated?-Not impossible, but impro- bable.
Mr. Henry said he had a witness, William Henry Mead, of Burnie, who was an intimate friend of the Archers. A valuable silver teapot that had been in the house was not found after the
fire, and it looked as if it had been
Mead then was called. He deposed that he last saw Archer about Feb- ruary 17. On Boxing Day, 1927, be- tween £30 and £40 was stolen from Archer's house. The matter was not reported to the police for fear that suspicion would be thrown on a, cer- tain family at Don. On February 17 Archer used the gun to shoot a jackass. Witness saw the deceased return inside with the gun, and place it between the wire and the kapok mattress of the bed. Archer said he always kept his gun there. The ejec- tor was broken, and Archer repeatedly forgot to take exploded cartridges out. When the deceased went out to shoot the jackass he did not shoot, and re- turned without having loaded the
This closed the evidence.
Addressing the Coroner, Mr. Henry said it was inconceivable that Archer would have murdered his wife and family while in his right mind. A man meditating suicide would show signs of depression, but as evidence of his sound mind he had gone about his business as usual on the eve of the tragedy. Everything pointed to his being quite normal. He thought the Coroner should return an open
The Coroner said the position of the children's bodies showed that they were all dead before the fire. They must have been killed. If the house had been robbed the intruder would not have killed the children. The finding of the note narrowed the case down to Archer. He returned the following verdict: "That on or about February 26, at Don, Andrew Thomas Edgar Archer did feloniously, wil-
fully, and of malice aforethought, kill - and murder his wife and five children. Also that on February 26. at Don. Andrew Thomas Edgar Archer, being of sound mind, died by his own gunshot wound," .