Safe as Houses: 131 Branyan Street, Svensson Heights
While the murder at 131 Branyan Street was easily solved, the house remains masked in mystery.
Phillip Mountney was surprisingly forthcoming when police asked him if he knew anything about the disappearance of Arthur Price from 131 Branyan Street, in what’s now the Bundaberg suburb of Svensson Heights.
“Yes. I done him up and threw his body away,” Mountney told them matter-of-factly.
Mountney was a travelling salesman, as was Price. Price, though, had been in the game longer. At 60, he was a veteran compared to the 30-year-old Mountney. Perhaps it was his age and experience that led Mountney, seemingly on a whim, to decide Price would be a good person to go to for a loan.
Mountney later told police he had “had a blue with the missus”, and had spent most of 6 May 1953, drinking. He’d wandered in and out of a pub at Childers during the day, begging £1 off an old friend and downing whiskies before hitching a ride to Bundaberg with a pair of passing businessmen.
It’s unclear what made Mountney decide to head to 131 Branyan Street, the home of his associate Price. His travelling companions said he was quiet on the trip from Childers to Bundaberg, suddenly asking them to let him off seemingly at random, saying “this will do me” as they passed Walker Street, which intersected with Branyan.
Branyan Street. Source: Google Maps
It was the next day that Price was reported missing. His wife had been holidaying in Townsville and was unable to reach him. Police attended his home and found blood, as well as a claw hammer that appeared to be caked in dried blood and hair.
A search was launched, and roadblocks set up. Price’s battered body was eventually found about 60km from Bundaberg in bushland a few metres from the Bruce Highway.
131 Branyan Street, Svensson Heights. Source: Google Maps
Two days later, the car Mountney was driving, the interior covered in blood and what appeared to be hair, caught the eye of a Brisbane detective. He questioned Mountney, who immediately confessed to what he’d done, though he admitted the haze of alcohol had made the details fuzzy. It came down to this: Mountney had made his way to Price’s home on Branyan Street and asked the older man for a loan.
“He refused and I clocked him over the head with a breadboard,” Mountney told the detective. “I then done him up with a piece of iron piping or something. I dumped the body off the road in some bushes about halfway between Childers and Howard.”
Mountney’s remarkably straightforward confession led to a quick conviction, though he tried to claim police had questioned him improperly and that his level of inebriation absolved him of responsibility for his actions. The court disagreed, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Whoever now owns the home at 131 Branyan Street prizes their privacy. The front of the house is obscured by thick shrubbery and full trees, and CoreLogic is uncharacteristically devoid of information on the property. Its value is estimated at $298,545, though there’s no record of the last time it sold or hit the rental market. While its sales history may be murky, its history in Australian crime is cemented.
Each week, Safe as Houses looks at some of Australia's most notorious murders, and the effect those killings had on real estate values.