The Remittance Man Part Two: Lock, Stock and One Smoking Barrel
After Cyril Gidley had beaten, raped and emotionally abused Audrey Jacob for nearly two years, she shot him through the chest at point blank range. She did not plead guilty, she did not plead temporary insanity — she pleaded innocence. And she walked away a free woman.
On the 26th August 1925, in the crowded Government House Ballroom, Audrey Jacob shot Cyril Gidley in the chest with a .357 revolver. He fell to the floor with his hands covering his face and died within five minutes. There were many witnesses, most assumed it was an act of theatre but soon noticed blood pouring out of his mouth and nose. The gun, wrapped in a handkerchief, was still smoking in her hand when the police reached her. She gave it to officer Timms and said, “I know what I have done, please take me from here.” Stunned, the band quickly changed from their jazz number and played the national anthem to try and calm the disrupted audience.
Timms asked her, “Why did you do it?”
“He had plenty of warnings, he got what he deserved.”
Audrey Jacob was formally charged with the wilful murder of Cyril Gidley — if found guilty she would be executed at Fremantle Prison. It should have been open and shut, there was an entire ball room full of people who saw her shoot Cyril Gidley. It would have seemed her only option was to plead temporary insanity; until her lawyer, the “theatrical, eccentric, oratorical, creative, clever and cunning” Arthur Haynes stepped in.
Haynes had a reputation for creative and skilful cross examination. For Audrey Jacob, he had a cunning plan. The first order was that Audrey quickly and discreetly converted from Judaism to Catholicism. Then, in an expert manoeuvre, Haynes objected on various grounds to all jury members until he had a suitable all Catholic, all male jury. The next finely choreographed move was to ensure that she was perceived as the most finely dressed, artistic, delicate rose petal — someone incapable of murdering in cold blood.
Courtesy the State Library 150280PD
At first, the prosecution thought Jacob would be pleading temporary insanity. The first witness called forth was Mrs Jessie Jacobs, Audrey’s mother.
She told the court about Gidley, the sociopath.
She told the court that Gidley had met Audrey through her then fiancé Claude Arundel; that he had driven a wedge between Audrey and her fiancé and given her a stolen engagement ring. She told them that he was never welcomed by Audrey’s father, Edward, because of his cruel and domineering treatment of her. She told the court how he was harsh and cruel to Audrey in front of the whole family, and threatened her with violence if she should ever leave him. She told the court that for no other reason than malicious intent, Cyril Gidley had spun a web of lies that had caused their marriage to break up, and she told the court about her suspicions that he had raped Audrey.
As the first witness to take the stand, it was a damning character assassination. Witness after witness, Haynes was masterful in the way he manipulated the telling of events, and rigorous in his cross examination. The prosecution misjudged Haynes’. As he elicited more and more detail, it became obvious that he had no intention for Audrey to plead temporary insanity — of a jealous ex-girlfriend overcome with rage — Haynes was going for broke. He wanted to prove her absolutely innocent.
Anyone who had come in to close contact with Cyril Gidley had had a bad experience. He was charming, devilishly handsome, suave, wealthy and silver tongued. But he was also vicious, cruel, entitled and took great pleasure inflicting pain and misery whenever and wherever he could. Whether he had destroyed the life of multiple young women, or been involved in an altercation that resulted in an open wound from a sledgehammer attack, Gidley had few friends. His sociopathy became the defining topic of discussion during the case. The prosecution found itself on the back foot and having to defend the reputation of an indefensible character — while trying to prosecute a beautiful, young, sad, artistic girl whose life had been ransacked by a monster.
The court had heard the testimonies of those close to the victim, Cyril Gidley, and of those close to Cyril Gidley’s victim, Audrey Jacobs. The media was in a frenzy and the court of public opinion quickly passed its judgement. The story was a national sensation, and people from all over the country poured out their heart felt sympathies to the beautiful young murderer.
In Haynes most masterful manoeuvre, he cross examined Dr D.S McKenzie, the coroner.
He began, “Is it not an established law that the velocity of a bullet increases after it has left the muzzle of the gun some distance? — To steady down?”
“A certain distance.”
“There is, is there not, a backward pull because of the vacuum in the muzzle created by the bullet leaving it?”
Justice Northmore’s interest was spiked, “That is when it first leaves? — The bullet, when it leaves, apparently for some little distance, is pressed upon by the air on each side. That gives the bullet a wobbly motion.”
Haynes produced Audrey’s revolver, “A weapon like this [is] supposed to steady down pretty rapidly.”
“After travelling a distance of about five or six feet — I could not commit myself to a definite statement as to the distance.” Said the coroner.
“Anyway,” continued Haynes. “The point is this: the bullet did not go right through the man?”
“If she had taken aim from five or six feet away, or if, as another witness puts it, she tapped him on the shoulder and retreating some steps, fired, is it not the extreme probability that the bullet would have passed right through his body and then not be a spent bullet?”
“While it is possible, it could not be proved without a trial.”
“Is this correct, what you said at the Lower Court, that if the person who fired the shot had stepped back a couple of paces, there would have gone through the man’s body, and it would not have been a spent bullet?”
“I stick to that.”
“Will you give an indication on your body of the course the bullet took?”
“It entered below the armpit on the left side forward from the armpit, and entered between the fourth and fifth ribs, and passed in a slightly oblique fashion. I took it out from behind the lung, just beneath the skin. It went behind the heart and penetrated the descending aorta. It was from there the excess of haemorrhage occurred.”
The suggestion was that the bullet was not fired at his heart, nor was it fired intentionally.
On the final day of court, Haynes opened with a powerful speech, begging the jury for mercy. “I want to make an appeal for fair play for this young girl who is here on a very serious charge. Her life may be forfeited if she is found guilty. Therefore, I want to place before you all the circumstances, even though apparently unimportant, but all having a part in their influenced on this young girl’s mind. I want you to see the whole picture. This is a drama of deep emotions. The story as I shall unfold it to you will justify and I think even demand a verdict of ‘not guilty’.
The accused had met Gidley two and a half years ago. Up till September 1924, they were only friends. But he lay a violent siege to her and they became engaged. Gidley was a cold, calculated schemer from the very start. He was a smuggler who wanted a safe den for his smuggled goods. From the end of last year he began to court the girl to pursue an insidious propaganda in the home against her father. It was a blackguardly, cowardly act.
The overpowering personality of Gidley prevailed, and he succeeded in separating the father and mother. Later, he prevailed on the girl leaving home, and while she was away visited her every day while, at the same time, pretending to the mother that he did not know where her daughter was. He even wrote threatening letters to the mother. Gidley had taken advantage of the girl’s deep affection for him to seduce her in dastardly circumstances. After that, by his continual pestering and domineering ways, he got her to return the engagement ring. He was a man who carried around a collection of engagement rings — keepsakes from former engagements.”
He continued to narrate Cyril Gidley’s crimes against Audrey and her family, right up to the moment when Audrey Jacob left the ball to change into her peacock blue ball gown.
“Picture the girls distraught mind. She went home to her room to hide her misery. After crying for about half an hour, she started to undress for bed. Then she saw the revolver and determined to end her life. She dressed, putting on the first costume that came to her hand — the blue frock. Her first intention was to make for the river front, but she decided first to make her peace with God. So she walked to the grounds of the Roman Catholic Cathedral. She knelt there and, taking her beads from her purse, said her Rosary. The Rosary calmed her mind and through divine intervention, she resolved not to commit suicide.
On returning to her room along the terrace, she saw the lights in the ballroom and decided to make one last appeal to Gidley, for him to give her some reason for his conduct. She saw him dancing with another woman and walked toward him, quite unconscious that she still had the revolver wrapped in a silk handkerchief. She tapped him lightly on the shoulder. He turned and said coldly, “I am dancing.”
She was in a daze. This was the final insult. She had finally given up on Gidley and something snapped. The distracted girl threw her hands to her forehead — and that was all she remembers of the tragedy. She did not even see the man fall or hear the report. She was in a daze. When she came to herself she was in a cell at the police station with the policemen questioning her. She was in no condition to answer their questions. Even the next day, when the detectives came, she was not fit to make a statement, and told them so.”
Haynes turned to Audrey as he spoke of the revolver and motioned for her to produce the handkerchief. She produced it and Haynes unfolded it, revealing the bullet hole. He told the court that there is no way she could have intentionally shot Cyril Gidley. The bullet entered under his armpit and travelled behind the heart. A shot like that would be impossible if it were not an accident. He concluded his speech and Audrey Jacob was called to the stand.
“I, Audrey Campbell Jacob was born in Western Australia and I am 20 years old. My father is a clerk of the courts at Fremantle and I have seven younger brothers and sisters. Until recently I lived with my parents. I was educated at a Roman Catholic convent at Norseman until I was 16. Among other, things I learnt painting. Then a little over three years ago my father was transferred to Fremantle. I have kept up my painting and sold 200 to 300 of my works.
I first met Gidley two years ago, but in August 1924 Gidley asked me to break off my engagement with Arundel and become engaged to him. When I realised he was serious, I consented to marry him, and our engagement was announced in October.”
Haynes began his line of questioning. “As a result of what Gidley said, was there an estrangement between your mother and father?”
We had many words about Arundel’s letter. I said he had made no objection to my reading it. He replied, “I suppose you still think a lot about Arundel?” We said a great many things and he was very angry with me and I was crying. He picked me up in his arms and carried me to his bedroom. He put his arms around me and said to me several times, “Say yes.” I knew by his actions what he meant.”
Audrey began to sob gently in the stand and wept as she buried her face into the handkerchief with the bullet hole on display. After a pause, she faced the jury and tried to start talking again, but again broke down into sobs. Haynes questioned her twice, but she was unable to speak. Audrey then swallowed a mouthful of water, and the judge asked, “Well, did you say yes?”
“No. I said “No””
Haynes continued, “Did he do anything Miss Jacob? Did he overpower you in the bedroom or not?”
“Yes, he did.”
“And afterwards he went for Mrs Murphy?”
“And did he ask you to do anything before he left?”
“Yes, he asked me to promise not to tell my mother.”
“And did you promise?”
“Yes, but mother noticed me crying in my bedroom, and the bruise marks on my throat and she asked me what happened, and I said I had bruised myself. The next day, he came to the house, but mother refused to let him in. She told him that Father was due home in two days. I told him that I didn’t say anything, that she guessed it all from the bruising and that I didn’t say anything, but he was terribly angry with me.”
“Now,” continued Hayes, “Let us come to the day of the ball, August 26.”
“I arrived at the ball at around 6:30 pm. I danced with Ms Humphries all evening, two men asked me to dance, but I refused. At about 9pm, I saw Cyril Gidley near the door. I saw him continually, but he refused to recognise me. He passed right by me four or five times —more in fact— but he was very cold. Sometimes he would look at me and put his chin up. Several times as he passed he gave a bit of a sneer and then laughed. He was talking to a young lady in a heliotrope dress, and she ran up the stairs. He ran after her and pulled her back down. Then he looked at me and sneered. I knew he only did it to annoy me.”
“What sort of a man was he?”
“It is very hard to explain what kind of a person Cyril was. He was rather domineering: in fact, he was the living embodiment of The Sheik, to put it shortly.” (The famous villain from Hulls 1919 novel who sold women into slavery.)
“And what was your feeling toward him?”
“I was very fond of him.
I was feeling very upset and ill and my head was aching. I went to my room to lay down on the bed and I cried for about half an hour, I think, then I started to undress. When I opened the draw I saw the revolver, and after everything that had happened, I decided to end my life. So, I started to dress again. I meant to go down to the foreshore to end my life. I didn’t put on the Pierrot costume, because I didn’t want to do it in fancy dress, so I picked up the nearest dress handy.
I wrapped the revolver in my handkerchief and went out intending to go down to the foreshore, but on the Terrace, I changed my mind and decided to go to the Catholic Cathedral first to say my Rosary. I wanted to make my peace with God. I went inside the gates of the Cathedral where I knelt down. I had my beads and I said my rosary. After that, I felt quite better, but my head was still quite queer and my heart was aching. I decided I was not going to do it and set out to go home. I passed the ballroom on my way.
They were still dancing. The thought came to me that I should go to Cyril and ask what was the matter. I went in, but I could not see him at first. I saw Ms Humphries and asked her to send Cyril to me on the balcony. He came under where I was standing, looked up at me and then turned away with a nasty look. I felt that I must know what was causing him to treat me like this. When the dance stopped I went down to the floor and stepped forward to where he was standing. The music struck up again and he hurried toward his partner. I touched him on the shoulder. He looked round and said “Excuse me I am dancing” in a laughing manner. Then something snapped in my head. I don’t remember any more. Everything seemed to be going around and around. When I came to my senses, I was in a cell in the lockup.”
“Is that the handkerchief which was wrapped around the revolver?”
“Yes, it was a new one.”
“Did you have any intention of causing Cyril Gidley any injury?”
“No, none whatever.”
“Ever threaten or wish him harm?”
“No. If I could, I would undo what has been done. Despite all his faults, I loved him very much.”
The court had been presented with the evidence, the facts and the testimonies of everyone concerned with the case.
In summing up the evidence, the judge made the point that there was no room for manslaughter or temporary insanity. There could only be two possible outcomes—guilty of wilful murder or innocent.
The day of the verdict, the crowd surged outside the courthouse. The media were in a frenzy, and the jury were asked to retire and come back with a verdict.
It took just three hours. The jury agreed unanimously that Audrey Jacob was not guilty. Arthur Haynes had convinced a jury, a judge, and Australia’s media that Audrey’s public assassination of her fiancé was something other than that, although what it was remained completely undefined.
The court erupted into cheering and applause, Audrey broke down into tears, and her mother and Annie Humphries rushed to hug and congratulate her. The judge demanded silence in the court, but after he became convinced he could not contain the joy, he cracked a smile and permitted the celebration to continue.
After Audrey was acquitted of Cyril’s murder, she moved to Melbourne and met a wealthy New Yorker named Roger Sinclair. They met on Boxing Day 1925, and were married within the fortnight. On January 27, Audrey moved with her new husband to New York.
Author: Gerard McArtney