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The Sangal Murder

Selina Dubberke

Selina was born Augusta Selina Dubberke in 1869 and was the eldest child of the Dubberke family and a sister of Thekla who was involved in the terrible “Boot Box Tragedy” in 1898. Selina and Thekla grew up on a farm in the Berwick/Harkaway region that their parents managed for Mr. J. Buchanan MLA.  When Selena was 21 years old she married Edward Christopher Sangal, a German immigrant who had been in the German Navy and owned a market garden in the Dandenong/Keysborough area.  They had 4 children and Selina was pregnant again when this crime occurred in the August of 1902, roughly 4 years after the boot box murder.

From all reports Selina was not overly attractive but like Thekla she had a very forthright and decisive manner about her. A number of witnesses suggested that she was having an affair with a man called August Tisler. Tisler was a Russian Finn who had jumped ship whose correct name was actually Sippol. He chose to retain the name of Tisler during the trial so this is what I will call him. Tisler was working as a gardener/farm worker and had previously worked for Selina’s husband. In the year prior to the crime, the washhouse on Sangal’s farm caught fire. Sangal and two of his farm workers rushed to the house and found Tisler and Selina trying to stamp out the fire. Sangal rushed at Selina accusing her of leaving rags about and causing the fire. He then dragged her to the house where the witnesses heard her screaming. Tisler went to her defense and a fight ensued. Tisler claimed that Sangal had another worker hold him down while he (Sangal) hit him and then broke crockery over his head. A Dr. Thompson was called and gave evidence that Tisler had been hit with more than a fist, possibly a closed fist with a ring on it. Tisler was ordered off the property and Sangal expressed concern about meeting up with him again on numerous occasions. The case went to court and Sangal was convicted.

August Tisler did not seem to hold down a job for any length of time. He worked on farms in the Dandenong area and at the Carrum water treatment farm. He spent his money at pubs and racetracks and bragged about his sexual exploits. Numerous people gave evidence about his boasting of his affair with Selina Sangal.

On the night of Friday the 8th of August 1902 Edward Christopher Sangal was brutally murdered in his bedroom by August Tisler.  He was struck across the head with a piece of wood. His scull was caved in and he had numerous lacerations across his upper body.  A knife was used to slit his throat then his body was thrown into a 30 foot well. His slippers were found beside the well.

The baby was sleeping in the bedroom where Edward was murdered. The other children were in the next room.  Two of the older ones woke to hear their father calling out. Selina was in their bedroom and would not let them go in. The children gave evidence at the trial that they asked their mother who was in the room with their father and she replied “Gus” (August Tisler). The younger child claimed that their father called for a drink of water in the middle of the scuffle and that Selina went and gave him one. David Sangal (the eldest child) claimed that he had seen Tisler put his arm around his mother in the year prior to the murder and that he had conveyed letters between the two during that time.

Tisler spoke with broken English but made a statement at the trial on Wednesday, 24 September, 1902 and I quote  “I say I have been in this country two years and six months, and I have been keeping company with this woman 12 months and she always get around me. I say to her, ‘leave me alone now’ and she would not.  She write me letters and send messages to go out there.  She was pestering me to do away with her husband. That Friday she pester me so much and she say that she do away with herself.  I ask her not to do it.  I said I would not do it. Then I went away.  She ask me ‘will I come back tonight?’ I said ‘I might’, then I go drinking in Dandenong and then I go back at night.  She was waiting and she said ‘Is it you Gus?’ She put her arms around me and brought me inside.  It was pretty warm inside and I feel sick.  I want to go out again and she would not let me. She say ‘You go in now’ and I went and hit him on the head. He jumped up and hit me back again and I feel I have the worst of it. He had my finger in his mouth and I felt pretty well done.  Then I took my knife and I did it.  I sang to her to bring me some water and she did. I asked her ‘what are you going to do?’ and she said ‘put him down the well’.  She would not let me go away then and I went away in the morning.”

Selina also made a statement. In one of the newspapers it was reported that she was much affected and spoke with difficulty between her sobs. The report in The Argus on Friday 26th of September 1902 said, “she read from a typewritten statement that said  ‘I am not guilty. I had nothing to do with the murder of my husband and I would not have hurt a hair on his head.  He was seldom an affectionate man, and he worried himself very much about the farm.'” She described her rush from the bedroom to the room where most of the children were sleeping. “Almost as soon as I got there a struggle commenced, with heavy bumping against the wall. I did not know what to do. I was paralysed with fear and almost out of my mind. I heard my husband call out ‘Selina, Selina.’ But I was afraid to do anything.”

She also claimed that Tisler must have used her clothes to clean up some of the blood. She claimed that the infant in the cot next to the bed where her husband was murdered was screaming. She said that when the noises stopped, she went to the bedroom, saw the bloodstains on the bed and floor but did not see not her husband’s body or Tisler. She picked up the screaming baby and returned to the children’s room where she spent most of the night crying and unable to sleep.

In the morning she tried to clean up the room and suspected that Tisler had put the body in the well so she put her husband’s shoes beside it to keep up the idea of suicide. The children found  a flannel shirt with blood on it in the paddock which they brought to their mother and she burnt it. She claimed to be afraid of Tisler and this caused her to act stupidly.

A question that was never answered at the trial was that of the sleeping farm workers in a nearby outbuilding. It was claimed that they did not wake to the noise of the murder, but witnesses said that their St. Bernard dog was howling throughout. A surveyor gave evidence of the layout of the farm and stated that noises would have been easily heard in their bedroom. Selina did not send for the farm workers but the following morning she had one of the children ask the farm workers if they knew where Sangal was.  They answered “no”  and she replied to the child “It is a miracle where he has gone.”

On August 24 1902 a jury found August Tisler and Augusta Selina Sangal guilty of murder. The jury added a strong recommendation of mercy on account of the influence that Tisler had over her. The Chief Justice then passed sentence of death.

On Monday the 20th of October 1902 August Tisler was hanged by the neck until dead. Selina was never informed of his death.

On Sunday the 16th of November, Selina Sangal gave birth to a healthy baby girl who she named Myrtle Mary. On Tuesday the 2nd of December 1902 the State Cabinet recommended that the Governor-in-Council commute her death sentence into imprisonment for the term of her natural life.

The farm was sold and the estate was managed by a Perpetual Executors’ and Trustees’ Association.  When each of the children reached the age of majority, (21), they received a one fifth share of the money kept in trust. The five children were kept at a Miss Southerland’s Home for Neglected Children in Royal Park. Selina made an effort to receive one third of the estate but was rejected.

Selina died in Prahran at the age of 65.

Selina’s sister, Thekla Dubberke was involved in an unusual story in South Yarra called “The Body in the Boot Box”. http://www.oddhistory.com.au/windsor-east-st-kilda-and-prahan/the-body-in-the-boot-box/