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Murder in the Ballroom

The story

In the early hours of the 27th August 1925, Mr Cyril Gidley, an engineer on the MS Kangaroo was enjoying the revelry of one of the highlights of the Perth social scene, the annual St John of God Ball.

The Ball was held in the Government House Ballroom and Miss Audrey Jacob, Mr Gidley’s ex fiancée, was likewise enjoying the grand social occasion in the company of her friend, Miss Annie Humphreys.

During the evening, Audrey noticed Cyril in the company of another young lady. Audrey stepped away from the ball and returned with a loaded revolver.

At approximately 1.30am she approached Cyril, pointed the revolver and shot him in the chest at point blank range.

Standing no more than six feet away and still clutching the revolver in her right hand, Audrey was alleged to confess; “I did it” and requested that the attending police officer take her away.

The trial was held on 8th October 1925 before Justice Northmore. Audrey, who appeared calm and self-possessed at this time, pleaded not guilty to the charge of wilful murder

It was almost 9pm on the 9th October when the twelve male jury returned with their verdict. By this time, Audrey Jacob was a pitiful figure, pale and trembling and seemed on the verge of collapse.

All held their breath as the jury foreman made the announcement – NOT GUILTY.

black and white photo of woman in ball dress seated

Audrey Jacobs (SLWA)

Cyril Gidley (Trove)

New clues

Audrey was found ‘not guilty’ of Cyril’s murder, despite the crime plain to see on the dance floor and her utterance of ‘I did it’ to a police constable on duty that night.

In an inquest that gripped Perth, Cyril was characterised to be vicious and deserving of his fate, while Audrey was the ‘wronged person’ and the victim.

But now, thanks to recent re-investigation by academics and historians, we know that media spin, a cunning defence lawyer and ‘unwritten law’ had an unfair hand in Audrey’s acquittal.

According to Caroline Ingram, a PhD candidate in history at the University of of Western Australia, unwritten law was, “…basically a popular understanding that respectable women who had been seduced and abandoned, or jilted by their fiancé or lover, had the right to take their revenge,”

Damien Hassan, senior archivist at the State Records Office of WA, spoke to ABC Perth in July 2020 about the new clues to this infamous murder which deliver a slither of justice for the late Cyril Gidley. Listen to the full interview here: ab.co/3jiEP9l

Image of an old party invitation

The St John of God Ball invitation (SLWA)

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