Contact Person Nick Jarvis


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The Mercury Thursday November 13, 1952 (p19)

It took a Launceston Criminal Court jury only five minutes yesterday to declare John James Gilchrist (35), farm labourer, of Thule, Flinders Island, not guilty of murder on the grounds of insanity.

Gilchrist was charged with having murdered his son, Alan Charles Gilchrist (7), on June 29 at Flinders Is.

The jury found that Gilchrist committed the act for which he was charged but was not guilty on the grounds that he was insane at the time and was not responsible according to law.

Mr. Justice Gibson ordered Gilchrist to be kept in strict custody at Lachlan Park Mental “Hospital at Her Majesty’s pleasure. He told Gilchrist: “I hope this will be of great consolation to you. You must not feel badly about this, and try to recover.”

Gilchrist remained calm. His wife spoke to him consolingly as he left the court.

Gilchrist was in the witness box for only 40 minutes yesterday morning. He answered questions slowly, but in a clear voice.

He said he was visited by Det.-Sgt. E. G. Cole and Det. Sen.-Constable J. H. Smith at Lachlan Park on September l0 and made and signed  a statement.

Statement Correct

As far as he could remember the statement was correct. His recollection of the events on June 29 was no better now than when he made the statement.

He said he must have killed his son and injured his wife be cause he; his wife, and son were the only ones in the house at the time.

Replying to Mr. D. M. Chambers, who prosecuted, Gilchrist; said he could recall vaguely being in the Flinders Is. Hospital and a doctor’s surgery on June 29.

He had no clear picture of what happened at his cottage He remembered being in the   sun room, and seeing a hammer near the sewing machine. He could not remember striking either his wife or son.

No particular event at the time had caused him despondency Constable L. J. Donohue said he ‘had guarded Gilchrist at the Launceston General Hospital on 15 times in eight hour shifts. On August 4 about 12.15 p.m. Gilchrist endeavored to throw himself off the balcony, and he had to drag him back. Gilchrist pleaded with him to let him kill himself, and three-quarters of an hour later, he Charged at the window, striking the woodwork. A few minutes later, he ran   across, the ward, and asked a patient to lend him a razor. The guard was doubled after that incident.

Doctor’s Finding

Dr. J. R. V. Foxton, Director of Mental Hygiene, said he was convinced Gilchrist was suffering from melancholia, a mental disease; on June 29.

He believed Gilchrist would understand that he was killing but his judgment would be so disordered by delusions that he would be incapable of forming any proper judgment as to right or wrong.

He considered Gilchrist killed   his son by impulse and in certain ways was incapable of controlling his conduct.

He was sure Gilchrist’s was a genuine case of melancholia, and thought it quite impossible for a man to feign madness over a long period.

One delusion Gilchrist was suffering from was that he would have to stop his wife and child learning that he was responsible for the death of has daughter, who was burned to death in Melbourne two years ago.    

He also believed he was not   doing’ his job satisfactorily and feared he might lose it, and be without money or home for his family. He thought they would be better off dead.    

Mr. V. C. Halt appeared for Gilchrist.