Postcard confessions: Edward Wenzel’s Murder

Postcards laid out

James Hampson and Norman Osborne walked into the Murgon Police Station, about 100 kilometres west of Gympie, at about 8.40pm on Wednesday 6 June 1917. Hampson said that he had shot Edward William Wenzel. He did not know if Wenzel had survived.

Hampson and his wife, Mary, ran a small shop in Murgon with their young children and also had some cows on their property. Sometime around 1911 the couple met Edward Wenzel, but ‘highly strung’ James soon found that Wenzel and Mary enjoyed one another’s company a little too much. Hampson confronted Wenzel about this but, for the sake of Mary, he allowed the man to continue visiting as long as he changed his ways.

The affair continued. Postcards exchanged between the couple testify to their trysts in Brisbane and Wenzel’s visits to the Hampson house when James was out of town.

Fold out postcard from the indictment of James Hampson for the murder of Edward Wenzell
Fold out postcard, 06 August 1917; ITM95663

When James discovered the postcards, he demanded that his wife cease all communication with Wenzel, other than what was necessary for the sale of their cattle, as Mrs Hampson was housing cattle on Wenzel’s farm. Mary shot back, ‘Write and tell him yourself.’

James did just that and followed his terse letter with a visit on 5 June to discuss the cattle. The next day, worrying that Wenzel might leave town, James packed a revolver and a box of cartridges and returned to Wenzel’s house, where he cut straight to the source of his torment: ‘You have frequented my wife’s bedroom with a husband’s freedom’.

Hampson was considering £2,000 in damages but would accept £300 on the spot. Wenzel didn’t have any money so Hampson suggested cattle as payment, but Wenzel said his cattle were mortgaged. With nothing else to gain, Hampson pulled out his revolver and, standing almost two metres away, fired one shot.

Wenzel cried, ‘Oh, Mr Hampson!’

Hampson then fired three shots into Wenzel’s chest, one of which went straight into his heart. He turned and walked back to Murgon, and then went with his brother-in-law, Norman Osbourne, to the police station.

The ‘Young American’ Double Action .22 Revolver used to kill Edward Wenzel, produced by H&R; ITM3504159

At his trial, Hampson was tried for wilful murder, although the jury returned a verdict of ‘manslaughter under great provocation’. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment with hard labour; however, after three months his petition for liberty was accepted by the Governor.

Hampson returned to an unhappy house. Family legend says that Mary continued to have affairs and, tragically, James later jumped off the Victoria Bridge and drowned in the Brisbane River.

The price of a wife’s honor: The Goomeri tragedy, Farmer and Settler (Sydney, NSW : 1906 – 1955), Friday 17 August 1917, page 4

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