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The Murder of Our Female Recluse

Kate Glover Seul was born in India of English parents. Her life is difficult to trace as she was always a very private person but by following census forms, electoral rolls and marriage forms we can get an idea of her movements. In 1910, she was 31 years old, living in Washington state in America and on her third marriage to a much older German man by the name of Phillipp Seul. Although she appears to have 3 living children, only her youngest, Chester, is living with her. By 1914, Kate has moved to Kyabram in Victoria and there are a number of Glovers living nearby. Phillipp is not listed on the electoral roll until 1924 when he and Kate have a house on the Berwick Road in Hallam. By 1931 she is 51 years old and again on her own and has moved to a property in Peterson Road, Officer and her occupation is listed as a flower maker.  Phillipp is 71 years old and living with their son Chester in Tralalgon. Phillipp died in 1933 at the age of 73 at Mont Park Lunatic Asylum. In 1937 their son Chester is married, living in Oakleigh and working as a mechanic. After 1937, Chester just seems to disappear, I can find no other mention of him.

Kate remained on her own, living in a rough bush shack and slowly became a recluse. She is described as a tiny, softly spoken woman- yet she slept with a rifle and a machete at the head of her bed and a knife under her pillow. She had very little contact with the outside world apart from walking the three kilometers into Officer every fortnight to pick up her mail and supplies. Her ramshackle hut comprised of three rooms and was made of saplings, old corrugated iron and bits of timber. As she grew older her self -imposed exile continued and her contact with the outside world lessened.

In the 1940’s she had befriended a military pensioner by the name of John Charles Wilson. Charlie Wilson was a local hawker who had been in the district for many years camping on crown land or roadside verges. Wilson went door to door with his horse and covered wagon selling tinware, some of which he made himself. Kate sold him a part of her land and he lived there in a hut and his horse drawn wagon. Wilson had been seriously injured in WW1 and  was also suffering from a form of Pagetts disease, a disease that causes pain and shrinking of the bones.

On the morning of Dec 8, 1952 neighbors heard shouting and yelling from the direction of Kate and Wilson’s huts. Later in the afternoon they heard a rifle shot then the crackling of a fire. They ran to Wilson’s hut but found Kate’s shack completely engulfed in flames.  Wilson was standing in the doorway of his hut and the neighbors allege that he said “She’s dead. Isn’t it glorious?”  And later he said “She’s in there. She’s dead. You will find out about it in court. She’s dead and I’m going to the gallows.”

During the inquest Dr. J.W. Arundel was called. He had had occasion to visit Wilson in his hut in the months preceding the murder.  He stated that Wilson had a noose hanging from the rafters of his hut and he had told the doctor that he would hang himself because he could not live on the military pension. Dr. Arundel said that he felt uneasy in Wilson’s hut and believed that Wilson was not fully mentally capable.

Wilson made statements that his pain was so great that he needed to drink to stop the pain. He also said that he could not remember what had happened when he was drinking. He stated that he had had a number of glasses of wine on the morning of Kate’s death.

The crown alleged that she had been shot and then the room was doused in kero and set alight. The damage was so great to her body that they had trouble doing an autopsy. The crown prosecutor presented the court with a very small fragment of metal that was believed to be the remnants of the bullet.

Wilson pleaded not guilty to the murder of Kate Glover Seul. He claimed that he had not made the statements to his neighbors and that he did not know that Mrs. Seul’s house was on fire until he stepped outside his shack. On February 27, 1953 while giving evidence, Wilson was asked to strip to the waist. It was shown that his right arm was shrivelled and it was claimed that he could not have shot the rifle with any accuracy.

On February 28, 1953, John Charles Wilson was found innocent of both the murder and manslaughter of Kathleen Glover Seul. He was immediately released from custody and he disappeared from the district.