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OMEO MURDER CASE
RONALD GRIGGS ON TRIAL ------------- SUICIDE THEORY COMBATED SALE (V.), Wednesday.
Unusual public Interest was shown in the trial of Ronald Geeves Griggs (28), which began in the Supreme Court to-day, before the Chief Justice (Sir. William Irvine).
Griggs, who was formerly a Methodist
probationer minister at Omeo, is charged with having murdered his wife, Ethel Constance Griggs (22), at Omeo on Janu- ary 3. Griggs was arrested following the exhumation of his wife's body and the analysis of the contents of the stomach and other, organs, in which 15 1/2 grains arsenic were found. Evidence was given at the inquest last week that Mrs. Griggs died from the effect of arsenic poisoning. Mr. J.A. Gurner, K.C., appeared for the Crown, and the case for the defence was conducted by Messrs. G.A. Maxwell, K.C., and J. M. Cullity. When asked to plead, Griggs replied, "Not guilty" in a firm voice. Motive Suggested. Outlining the case for the Crown, Mr. Garner said:— 'It is important to remem- ber that in his statement to the police Griggs said he was on good terms with his wife all the time at Omeo. We have his own account of what happened after his wife's return, but it is questionable whether that is correct. Evidence will be given that arsenic was kept at two farmhouses to which Griggs had access, one place being Condon's home, where two kerosine tins of arsenic were kept in a case in the blacksmith's shop. When inspected by the police the case had been tampered with. There appeared to be only two possible alternatives —either Mrs. Griggs poisoned her- self, or her husband poisoned her. Mrs. Griggs was in good health and spirits, and looked forward to coming back to her husband. Why should a woman come all the way from Tasmania to commit suicide an hour after she arrived home, and then lie in agony for two days? The suggestion is ridiculous. It was a case of a man becoming infatuated with another girl whom he promised to marry when his wife obtained a separation. Griggs told Lottie Condon that his wife could not live with him." Detective's Evidence. Det.-Sgt. Mulfahey produced a state ment by Griggs, in which he described his relations with Lottie Condon and his wife's illness. A statement by Lottie Condon was also read. Continuing, Det.- Sgt. Mulfahey said: — "On the day when he was charged with' murder, Griggs ad- mitted, that he had been in Condon's blacksmith's shop for hours at a time, mending his motor cycle. In this shed I found a case containing two kerosine tins of arsenic. The boards in the case had been split, and I was able to open it with my hands. One tin was open. Mr. Maxwell— It seems that the interview you had with Griggs was of an extra ordinarily candid character?— I don't think I can answer that. Was there any indication on his part that he was fencing any questions?— No. He told a consistent story from begin- ning to end?— Yes. Mr. Gurner— Have you made enquiries in regard to a statement that Mrs. Griggs once threatened to commit suicide? -Yes. Have you found any one who. could throw light on it? The Chief Justice disallowed the ques- tion. No Indication of Suicide. Dr. A. C. Mathew. who was relieving at Omeo when Mrs. Griggs died, in reply to Mr. Gurner, said there was no arsenic in the medicine which he prescribed. Mr. Gurner— Did you hear or see any- thing to indicate that Mrs. Griggs would commit suicide?— No. Francis John Perry, chemist, Omeo, said:- "Griggs called at my shop some months ago and enquired about sulphuric acid and nitric acid, and I asked him what he wanted them for. He did not answer straight out. He called again about a month later, and enquired about arsenic and cyanide. He gave me to understand that he was thinking of mak- ing some experiments in assaying. Mr. Maxwell— Have you ever made a mistake in dispensing?— No. How long have you been dispensing?— 65 years. Is it -possible that you made a mistake In making up the prescription for Mrs. Griggs ?— Impossible.
You have told the Court that when you asked Griggs what he wanted acids for he did not answer straight out. Did you mean to convey a subtle impression to the jury that he came to you with an ulterior purpose?— No. That should be made perfectly clear. Mr. Gurner— Did you take any excess liquor on New Year's Day?— I don't think so. You are clear about the prescription?— Yes. - After having explained the results of a post mortem examination, which showed that death was caused by arsenic poison- ing; Dr. C. H. Mollison said the fatal dose was three grains.
RONALD GEEVES GRIGGS.
Mr. Maxwell -You say that there were at least two doses in Mrs, Griggs's body. How much was in the second dose?— I should say somewhat more than what was found in the stomach. How much liquid would be required to give a person the quantity of arsenic found in Mrs. Griggs's stomach?— About a cup of tea, two or three hours before death. Discrepancy In EvIdence. John Henry Condon, grazier, Tongio, said:— 'Griggs, with whom I have been friendly, had the freedom of my place. I kept two tins of arsenic in a case in the blacksmith's shop. Mr. Gurner- When you went to tne blacksmith's shop with Detective-Sergt. Mulfahey, who opened the case?— I did. But Mulfahey has. sworn that he opened the case with his hands?— No, I opened it with a punch bar. It opened easily ?— Yes. Mr. Maxwell— As far as you could see, the case was the same as it had been before?— Yes. Henry Harmen, farmer, of Ensay, gave evidence that he kept a billycan of arsenic in a shed at his place. Griggs had visited his house. Tlie Court adjourned until 10 a.m. to- morrow.