Safe as Houses: 59 Douglas Street, Redfern

Adam Smith 30 March 2017 NEWS

Safe as houses 56 douglas st Redfern

A spurned suitor takes out his murderous aggression on his intended’s mother.

  • WARNING: The following article contains descriptions of violent crimes that some may find disturbing.

Persistence can be a very noble trait. It’s said, for instance, that it took Thomas Edison more than 1,000 failed attempts to invent the incandescent light bulb. But there are times when persistence is a vice. For one Redfern family in the mid-1920s, persistence ended in murder.

Cecil Aves was nothing if not persistent. In 1924 he’d taken up lodging with a woman named Florence Quirk in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. He became enmeshed in the family unit to the point that, when the Quirks relocated to 59 Douglas Street in Redfern, Aves came along.

59 douglas st redfern

Douglas St, Redfern. Source: Google Maps 2016.

Somewhere along the way, Cecil fell hard for Florence’s daughter, Alice. Alice got along with Cecil well enough, but her feelings didn’t run nearly so deep as his. The two would go out together from time to time, but when Alice envisioned her future, it was clear Cecil wasn’t part of it.

Cecil developed the rather bad habit of proposing to Alice ad nauseam. She rebuffed his matrimonial intentions, but Cecil remained persistent. On five separate occasions, he asked Alice to marry him. Each time, she very clearly declined, but each time Cecil’s resolve was strengthened.

Somehow, Cecil became convinced that the only thing standing in the way of Alice returning his affections was her mother. He had gone so far as to ask Florence for Alice’s hand, in Alice’s presence. Florence didn’t have to turn the young man down. Alice did that herself.

Nevertheless, in Cecil’s mind it was Florence who proved the sole barrier to their union. He told Alice as much when she rejected his proposal for the fifth time.

“Your mother is putting you up to say this, and only for her you would marry me.”

Cecil’s persistence - or rather his monomaniacal obsession - must have driven him to believe that removing Florence as an obstacle would lead to some sort of happy ending for he and Alice. And so on the night of 10 March 1925, as Florence and Alice lay sleeping in the same double bed in the upstairs room, Cecil crept up the stairs holding a tomahawk.

Alice would later testify that she pulled the covers over her head in horror as Cecil viciously attacked her mother with his hatchet. An errant blow struck Alice in the head, and she awoke later in the hospital, learning only then that her mother was dead.

Cecil tried to cover his tracks by immediately running from the house and screaming for help, begging neighbours to call the police. He claimed to have seen two men fleeing the house, and blamed them for the murder. The evidence against him was overwhelming, however, and it took little time for police to dismiss the idea of mystery assailants.

Redfern murder clippings

Source: Trove.

Cecil Aves would go on to be convicted of Florence Quirk’s murder, with help from damning testimony from Alice. The house at 59 Douglas Street has changed little since that day. The only sales data available says the house was sold in 1990 for a mere $1, which seems unlikely. CoreLogic currently estimates the house’s value at between $1,375,000 and $1,724,999. A word of advice for the current tenants: don’t take in boarders.

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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