Safe As Houses: 108 Anzac Terrace, Bassendean
The illusion of a happy family is shattered as a patriarch’s legacy unravels.
- WARNING: The following article contains descriptions of violent crimes that some may find disturbing.
To all appearances, the Bowens were a happy family and upstanding members of their community. The family patriarch, William George Bowen, was well respected in Bassendean, WA. The Bowens had lived in the community, in the same home, for nearly 20 years.
William and his wife had five sons, all of them sporting heroes and the two eldest renowned for their heroism in World War II. One of his sons, 19-year-old Harold, had used his skills as a carpenter to do extensive renovations on the family home at 108 Anzac Terrace. It was, by all accounts, a beautiful home shared by a loving family.
108 Anzac Terrace Bassendean. Source: Google Maps 2015.
At the risk of sounding cliched, appearances in this case were most deceiving.
On June 3 of 1947, Harold returned home from having called upon his girlfriend, Nada Batty. He spoke to his mother briefly, went to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich and then entered his parents' room where he stabbed his father William to death.
The community of Bassendean was stunned. For such a loving, well-respected family to become embroiled in such a grisly scandal seemed impossible. Newspaper accounts tell of more than 200 people attending William’s funeral, tearfully mourning him. Sympathy poured out for the entire family, including Harold, whose legal fees were subsidised by his football club.
It was at Harold’s trial that the community’s perception of the happy, perfect family residing at 108 Anzac Terrace was shattered.
Harold would tell about how his father would drink to excess and become abusive toward his mother. Mrs. Bowen, a former tennis champion, suffered her husband’s bouts of drunken rage, during which he would accuse her of infidelity.
As he got older, Harold said he began to fight back against his father’s treatment of his mother. He said that in spite of living in the same house and Harold’s extensive renovation work on his family’s behalf, the two had barely spoken in the six months leading up to the murder.
While William’s treatment of Mrs. Bowen undoubtedly set Harold simmering, it was his father’s stunning hypocrisy and impropriety that seemed to have finally set him off.
Harold had been seeing Nada for several years, and in the days leading up to the murder, she confided in him about some troubling behaviour from William. While William perpetually accused his wife of infidelity, it was he who had acted inappropriately. On several occasions, Nada said he had propositioned her, even going so far as to grab her and pull at her clothes.
Harold was understandably incensed. He told Nada he would confront his father and that the behaviour wouldn’t recur. According to his testimony, he did just that on 2 June. William claimed not to have remembered the encounters, and said if Nada’s story was true he must have been drunk at the time. Regardless, he vowed to his son that it wouldn’t happen again. Harold seemed satisfied. He relayed the message to Nada, and the matter appeared to be settled.
It was the very next night, though, that Harold said he blacked out while holding a bread knife after making a sandwich and came to with his mother shaking him by the shoulders and shouting, “You’ve killed him!” He testified that he had no memory of stabbing his father to death.
As William’s reputation posthumously crumbled, the community of Bassendean seems to have rallied around Harold. He would eventually be acquitted of his father’s murder. Even his family seems to have remained by his side. Newspaper accounts tell of his brothers and mother regularly visiting him in jail as he awaited trial, and his eldest brother described Harold’s acquittal as a relief second only to escaping a German POW camp in World War II.
The house at 108 Anzac Terrace in Bassendean still stands. It last sold in September of 2009 for $511,000, and its value has changed little since then. CoreLogic estimates its current value between $440,000 and $549,999.
While appearances of happy families can be deceiving, Harold Bowen’s trial seems to indicate that the Bowens were indeed a happy, loving family. They remained close throughout the ordeal. It appears the one thing keeping the Bowens from happiness was their patriarch.
Each week, Safe as Houses looks at some of Australia's most notorious murders and the effect those killings have had on real estate values.