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John Wilson was running hard towards the screaming. As he crested the river bank he could see the reason why there was so much panic involved.

“Shit, it’s Helen. Damn, her kid better not be dead.”

Helen MacDonald was slumped on the sand, the bottom of her dress soaked. In one arm she was holding her 14 month old baby, in her other was her eldest child Elizabeth, awkwardly cradled, naked, wet, and apparently lifeless. John and Mrs Fallan, who had also just arrived, started rubbing Elizabeth’s body, desperately trying to coax the nine year old back to life.

As they rubbed Elizabeth’s body, John asked Helen what had happened.

Helen’s reply was breathless and her voice hoarse from screaming for help. “I don’t know. I had to go into town. Why would she come to the river, and with the baby? She couldn’t swim. Thank heavens the baby wasn’t injured. Oh Lizzie, why?” Helen started sobbing again, and the baby’s crying got louder as Helen held her tighter.

“Keep rubbing her, I’ll fetch the doctor” John urged.

John stumbled briefly on the sand as he again started to run, but he knew that no matter how hard he ran, the doctor would probably arrive too late to help. Elizabeth’s arms and legs were already cold, although her chest and stomach still had some warmth to them.  John knew that Elizabeth had been dead for some time and that he needed to call the police as well.


Inspiration provided by Inquest Papers into Elizabeth’s death by drowning.
Source: Queensland State Archives Item ID2730132, Inquest file

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