Mysterious explosion killed farmer while sitting on Court House Hotel’s outhouse dunny

court house hotel sheparton victoria
The Court House Hotel, Shepparton, Victoria. Picture: State Library Victoria.

THE tragic death of Victorian farmer Charlie Dealy while sitting on the dunny of a pub outhouse remains a mystery to this day.

A North Mooroopna farmer, Charlie was in the backyard outhouse of Shepparton’s Court House Hotel when he was killed by a thunderous explosion heard across the neighbourhood about 4.30pm on Friday, August 26 1932.

The 49-year-old farmer, who with his wife, Amelia travelled the six kilometres to Shepparton once a week to do their shopping, had dropped into the pub on that fateful day, where the unexplained explosion almost instantly ended his life.

Poor old Charlie’s mutilated body was discovered by shocked pub patrons sitting on the seat of the lavatory. The whole of his left side and a portion of the front section of his body were completely shattered, as was also his heart, but his face, legs, and hands were unmarked. The clothing on his left side were in shreds.

The force of the explosion had blown-out the outhouse’s glass window, and left a number of small holes in the door. Cast iron shrapnel, consistent with the casing of a bomb, were found embedded in the walls, roof and door of the outhouse.

Edward Ray Wood, a returned soldier, was one of the first to rush to the outhouse after the blast. He told an inquest into the strange death that he heard Charlie flush the lavatory cistern before the explosion filled the outhouse with thick smoke, smelling of gunpowder. The digger said that pieces of metal he picked-up from the scene appeared to be from a bomb.

A theory that Charlie had killed himself by making a bomb from gelignite kept on his property for removing tree stumps was dismissed. An inspection of the gelignite kept on his farm found that there were no sticks missing from where it was stored.

Benjamin Daly told the inquest that his brother had been in a cheerful mood prior to his death and that he was positive his death was due to an accident and not suicide, unless he had been murdered, as there was a rumour a person had been seen leaving the scene of the explosion.

Constable R. Buckley told the inquest that he had been unable to discover any suspicious circumstances, and that he couldn’t say how the explosion had occurred.

The Coroner recorded a finding that death was due to haemorrhage and shock caused through “the explosion of a bomb but there was insufficient evidence to show how such explosion occurred”.

Charlie had lived in the North Mooroopna district all his life, where he had married Amelia Hueston in 1908 and raised a family of five boys and a daughter, the youngest son being 15 at the time of his death.

Charlie’s funeral at the Mooroopna Cemetery was largely attended.

Charles Healy’s headstone in the Mooroopna Cemetery. Picture: Carol Judkins, Carols Headstones

Court House Hotel, Wyndham Street, Shepparton, 1908. Picture: Supplied

Established in the 1880s, the Court House Hotel closed for business, and had its entire contents, including five cash registers, bar refrigeration, “30 as-new inner spring mattresses”, blankets, linen, cutlery – and bathrooms sinks, sold at auction in April 1962. The historic hotel was sadly demolished soon after the auction.

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