Safe As Houses: 366 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Adam Smith 10 August 2017 NEWS

Police  tape in front of house

An argument over a radio sees years of animosity boil over.

They say familiarity breeds contempt. That was certainly true for Charles Barclay and Herbert Hodgson.

The two men shared a house at 366 Brunswick Street in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. Obviously, the living situation was too close for comfort. Even worse, the two shared relatives. Charles and Herbert were brothers-in-law, and neither was apparently very pleased about the arrangement.

When the situation finally hit a boiling point, it was all because of a radio.

Charles came willingly when police came to arrest him, Herbert’s battered body lying on the floor.

“I was expecting it, and the sooner it was over the better,” he told detectives about the murder. “He has persecuted me all my life.”

According to Charles, he had spent years trying to be friendly to Herbert, to no avail. His brother-in-law took every opportunity to antagonise him.

On the evening of 30 November 1946, it finally became more than Charles could take.

The address where Charles Barclay murdered Herbert Hodgson

Source: Google Maps

The men were heading out to meet their wives when Charles decided to turn on the radio in the dining room to listen to the rugby test results. Apparently this rankled Herbert, who turned the radio back off the moment Charles was out of the room.

For Charles, it was another in a long series of slights. He went back to the dining room and switched the radio on again.

“I know it’s your wireless, but if you want to play it, take it up to your room,” Herbert had said.

Newspaper clipping of the accused murderer, Charles Barclay

Source: Trove

What happened next was the crux of Charles’s defence. He fully admitted to hitting Herbert. He admitted to caving in Herbert’s skull with an iron bar. He even admitted to striking Herbert’s friend Clarence White, who tried to intervene.

In spite of all of this, when the time came to enter a plea, Charles Barclay pled not guilty.

According to Charles, when he had turned the radio on again, his brother-in-law had tried to punch him.

This attempted punch, Charles said, had made him fear for his life.

It does seem somewhat strange that a man in fear for his life managed to knock Herbert to the floor and sit astride him, raining down punches, as Clarence would testify. It also seems strange that in the midst of his fear, Charles managed to procure an iron bar and bash Herbert nine times in the skull.

The jury didn’t think it too strange, however. They acquitted Charles of murder. He also faced a second, lesser charge of manslaughter. The jury acquitted him of this as well and he walked out of court a free man.

The house at 366 Brunswick Street is a commercial property these days. It’s played host to a variety of restaurants and cafes over the years as part of Fitzroy’s vibrant nightlife. It’s valued at $1,353,333 and leases for $185,000 a year. Might we suggest that it would be the perfect home for a radio station?

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.

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