Safe as Houses: 5 Hopetoun Street, Dubbo
A young girl allegedly seeks help at a former nurse’s home, and something goes terribly awry.
- WARNING: The following articles contain descriptions of violent crimes some may find disturbing
“Here am I within the walls of the Dubbo Gaol awaiting my trial, haunted by the thoughts of a poor girl, lying cold in her grave, and believed to have been sent there by my hand. Oh, God! How cruel and unkind are Thy creatures, ever quick to throw the first stone at the innocent. I say to the whole world and to my God, that I was in no way connected with this awful crime. Only the cold stone walls of this gaol are about me, but I have found solace in their solitude. They have protected me from the icy blasts of people's wicked tongues.”’
Those were the words of Inez Evelyn Clarke, as reported by Truth, Australia’s top muckraking tabloid of the first half of the twentieth century. The crime for which Clarke sat in Dubbo Gaol, lamenting her fate in melodramatic blank verse, was the death of 22-year-old Ruby Green.
If the testimony at her trial is to be believed, Inez Clarke’s home at 5 Hopetoun Street in Dubbo was well known to many of the town’s residents. It’s unlikely that the building currently residing at that address is the same Clarke lived and allegedly worked in, but in 1936 hers was the kind of house that would have been talked about in hushed tones; a house of cautionary tales.
It was near this house that Ruby Green was last seen alive, her boyfriend Michael Clement Ryan would tell an inquest. He and Ruby had been an item for many months. Newspapers from the time are almost humorously discrete in their reporting of the case, saying only that the pair’s romance led to Ruby being “in a certain condition”.
According to Ryan, and other townspeople who would testify at the inquest, Inez Clarke’s home at 5 Hopetoun Street was known as one where women “in a certain condition” could go, and Inez, a former nurse, was known as someone who could remedy this condition.
Inez herself had lived a life beset by one calamity after another. She married in 1915, and only weeks later her husband would be whisked off to war. Before he left, Inez found herself “in a certain condition”. A baby boy born to her lived only two days, and her grief was compounded when her husband was killed in action.
5 Hopetoun Street, Dubbo in May 2015. Source: Google Maps.
She took up residence in Dubbo, where she remarried. It’s here that Inez was alleged to have come in contact with Ruby Green.
Ryan would testify that in her “condition”, Ruby visited Inez seeking help. She was turned away at first, told that a procedure would be ineffective at that early stage. In August, she went back, £5 in hand. Days later, her body, “quite bloodless”, would be extracted from the Macquarie River.
“Evidence would be given of marks found on the river bank, which indicated that the body had been thrown into the river like an animal,” a contemporary newspaper report reads. “The post-mortem showed that a certain event had taken place, and that the girl had bled to death.”
Notes were found in Ruby’s bedroom, outlining appointments made with Inez Clarke. Some were found in Clarke’s handwriting. This, along with the testimony of Michael Ryan, led police to Clarke’s door.
Clarke would vehemently deny having met Ruby Green, and just as vehemently deny the swirling rumours about her role as the town abortionist. A judge agreed. The case against her on both points was entirely circumstantial. Inez Clarke was acquitted, but the damage to her reputation was done.
When later Truth interviewed a heartbroken and sobbing Inez Clarke, the tabloid’s reporter described seeing a litter of kittens in her home.
“Do you see those?” Clarke asked him. “I could not drown a kitten and I let them live. Yet they say I am indifferent with children? How could I harm a young unborn life? Once upon a time I had a baby too.”
Once upon a time, services like Inez Clarke was rumoured to have carried out brought with them the shame and scorn of the community. Once upon a time, women seeking out these services had to do so in secret and at great risk. Once upon a time, these circumstances led to the still-unsolved death of 22-year-old Ruby Green.
The house that currently sits at 5 Hopetoun Street in Dubbo last sold in 1999 for $110,000, and CoreLogic lists its current value at $303,831. It may not be the one where Inez Clarke lived, and where Ruby Green may have died. But once upon a time, its address would have been spoken in whispers, the women who allegedly visited there forced to hide in shadows.
Each week, Safe as Houses looks at some of Australia's most notorious murders, and the effect those killings had on real estate values.