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Told in a Trance

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This story was published in the Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld, Saturday 7th December 1907




LONDON, Tuesday. - Thomas Kerr, caretaker of the golf links at Grahamstown, Cape Colony, has been re-arrested in connection with the outrage and murder of a little ten-year-old girl named Edith Pinnock, whose body was discovered in a sack in a cellar under the golf club-house, as the result of revelations made by a trance-medium named Staples.

The jury failed to agree at the first trial, and Kerr was discharged.


The Grahamstown "Journal" of October 15 contains full details of the sensational discovery of Edith Pinnock's body underneath the local Golf Club house. She was, it is related, a daughter of Mr. John Pinnock, toll-keeper at the Craddock-road toll, and left her parents' house on the previous Tuesday morning, shortly after 11 o'clock, on an errand to the shop of Mr. Jabez South, about a mile and a half away. She reached the shop about noon, and was there served by Mr. South himself, her purchases including three tins of potted meat. These were put up in a cloth, with a loop made for her arm to slip through, and she left the shop, presumably for home. She was seen by a girl friend, Maud van Wyk, near the "Grotto," and afterwards near the Cradock-road bridge by Georgie Walker about 1 p.m. From this time all trace of the child was lost, till her body was found.

Mr. South, the storekeeper at whose shop the girl brought the goods, is described as an old and very well-known resident of Grahamstown, taking no part in public affairs, and leading a quiet life, respected by all who knew him. He took a deep interest in the mysterious disappearance of the Pinnock's little daughter. He has dabbled in the occult sciences, and, in this instance, called in the assistance of a young man named Staples. He has on one or two former occasions put Staples under mesmeric influence. On this day he mesmerised Staples, and asked him if he could find Edith Pinnock; if she was dead or alive; if the former, where her body lay?

"She is dead - murdered," said the clairvoyant. "Her body lies under the floor of a house."

"Is it not in the dam?" was asked, for the suspicion was abroad that the child had fallen into a dam which she had to pass on her way home.

"She is under the floor of a house," was the reply.

Asked if he could see the house, Staples replied that he could. He described the crime, stating that he could see the girl walking along the road. A white man called to her, but she refused to come to him. The man ran and caught her, dragged her to the house, outraged and murdered her.

Staples was awakened out of his trance, told what had occurred, and, in company with Mr. South and some some neighbours, set out for the Craddock-road. The clairvoyant turned away from the railway bridge, and went towards the golf house. Again stating that the body was not in the dam, he faced towards the cottage, and said: "This is the house -her body is under there."

The cottage is built of wood and iron, and stands on the slope of a steep hill. On the side where the ground falls away there is a cellar. It has been bricked up, and is closed by a trap door. The little party halted, and looked at the house. "We have no warrant to search the place," some of them said. "Where is the caretaker?"  He was in the boat with another man in the centre of the dam.

"It's no use sticking at trifles," said one of the party, Hartwell by name, and so saying, he forced open the trap-door, and went into the cellar. Under a sack in the corner lay the body of the little girl, cruelly done to death, six days before. Staples was asked at the golf-house if he could recognise the man, and replied in the affirmative. "Can you see him?" "Yes; there he is, the second man in the boat over there." This was the caretaker, Thomas Kerr.

Detective Reynolds was called, and at once summoned the boat to shore. As Kerr stepped off, the Detective touched him on the shoulder, and said: "I arrest you for the murder of Edith Pinnock," Kerr laughed sheepishly, and said: "Why, how can you say such a thing? I know absolutely nothing about it." He was taken to where the body lay, and confronted with it. Again he protested his innocence. "You may cut me to pieces if you like," he said; "I know nothing about it. Before God, I am not guilty."
The magistrate and acting district surgeon were at once informed of the discovery of the body, and Kerr was removed to the local gaol.

Staples, it is asserted, had never before seen the golf-house, and did not know  it was there, or that it was a golf-house, simply describing it as a "house."

Some of the tins of potted meat were found pushed under the floor of the golf-house. They were fixed so firmly that the floor boards had to be taken up to get the tins out.

At the inquest, a verdict of murder was returned against Kerr, who is about 25 years of age, slightly off-colour, and is said to have been drinking about the time the crime was committed.

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