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Died by a bullet from her husband

Updated: Mar 9

Edith Lovett was in her prime when her husband came to her workplace on 15th March, 1910. She was only 26 years old when he aimed and fired a gun at her, killing her with a bullet to the head.

Photo 1: Edith Lovett's final resting place. There is no headstone with her name, but she is buried with other family members. Photo: Northern Cemeteries


On a busy weekday afternoon, around 2.15pm, as Pitt Street was bustling with people going about their business, the sounds of a succession of gunshots ripped across the normal city noise. When people rushed to see what had happened, they witnessed Walter Lovett with a pistol in hand. He was in the Cafe Italienne, a wine bar in Bond Street.


Just before the shooting, customers and staff at Cafe Italienne had seen Walter, dark in appearance, enter the doorway of the premises. He moved to a small window in the shop near the cash register. He pointed the revolver through the aperture and shot the gun three times quickly. It was this action that ended his wife Edith's life.


Edith fell to the floor, mortally wounded. Customers and waitresses were stunned by Walter's actions and froze, although a couple of people rushed to Edith's aid. At the cafe Edith was known under her maiden name, as Nellie Stark and was a striking, tall blonde with a friendly nature.


Edith and Walter's marriage, however, was not a friendly one. They had been married in 1908 and all had been well, but in the last six months, the relationship had started to turn sour. He had accused her of staying out all night drinking, cheating on him with a certain Frenchman and working in a brothel.

Constable Schrader who was on traffic duty at the corner of George and Hunter Streets, witnessed a number of people yelling and running towards him. When he found out what had happened, he rushed to the embattled cafe.

Schrader arrived in time to see Walter turn the gun on himself and fire. He managed to wound himself in the leg and the constable arrested him promptly afterwards. Walter was taken by the police and Edith was conveyed to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.


Photo 2: Police photo of Walter Roydon Lovett taken September 1910. Source: Ancestry.com


A coroner's inquest into Edith's death was held 8 days later by Dr A. A. Palmer who found that Edith had died from the effects of a bullet wound to her head, maliciously and wilfully inflicted by Walter Roydon Lovett. Walter was arrested for her murder. His trial was held in September of that same year, but he was found not guilty on a verdict of insanity. He was ordered to be detained in Parramatta Gaol at the pleasure of the Governor.


Walter was released in 1914 and for the rest of his life was in trouble with the police for violence against his next two wives. He died in 1951 and was buried in Sandgate Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

When she left school in 1900 Edith had been training as a teacher in the Newcastle area, showing plenty of promise. She resigned, however, in 1903, coincidentally the same year her little boy Neville was born and shortly afterwards died.


Edith's body was taken to her mother's home in Newcastle where she was then buried in the family plot at Sandgate cemetery, along with her deceased father John, and baby Neville.


Photo 3: The headstone on the plot where Edith is buried. Photo: Northern Cemeteries


References

* ' A City Tragedy, Woman Shot Dead', Evening News, Tuesday, 15th March, 1910, Page 7.

* 'Edith Lily Stafford Lovett', New South Wales, Australia, Registers of Coroners' Inquests, 1821-1937, ancestry.com.au, accessed 6th March, 2020.

* 'Barmaid shot while at work', The Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times, Wednesday 16th March, 1910, Page 2

* 'Edith Lovett', Findagrave.com, accessed 6th March, 2020

* 'Edith Lovett's death', Mullumbimby Star, Thursday 31 March, 1910, Page 7

* 'NSW, Australia Police Gazettes, 1854-1930' for Walter Roydon Lovett

* 'NSW, Australia, Gaol description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930' for Walter Roydon Lovett

* 'Neville Stark', Australian Births, Deaths, Marriages, bdm.nsw.gov.au, accessed 6th March, 2020

* 'NSW, Australia Teachers Rolls, 1869-1908' for Edith Lily Stark


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