Safe As Houses: 6 Broadway Street, Red Hill

Adam Smith 25 May 2017

Safe as huses 6 Broadway St Red hill

A purloined machine gun and a possible affair cement one house’s place in criminal history.

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

In the back of an ambulance on his way to hospital, bullets lodged in his chest and shoulder, Edward James Bradshaw apparently had time to think through what he’d just done.

“How is the other man?” he asked the ambulance driver.

“He is all right,” came the reply.

“Thank God! Oh, why did I use the gun?” Bradshaw wailed.

The other man, railway worker Dick Thornton, was 100% not all right.

Edward Bradshaw was a soldier, stationed at a camp in Petrie, Queensland. It must have been a lonely life for Bradshaw, who had a wife and children back in Ipswich. Somehow Bradshaw, known to his friends as Brad, made the acquaintance of Dick Thornton and his wife Eileen.

Over the coming seven or eight years, Brad was a frequent guest at the Thorntons’, and would often stay at their home for up to a fortnight.

He would have been a most unwelcome guest, though, on the afternoon of 24 August 1944. Brad appeared on the doorstep at the Thornton home at 6 Broadway Street in the Brisbane suburb of Red Hill. After a brief exchange with his former friend, Dick, he produced an Owen submachine gun from underneath his coat, fired several shots into Thornton and then turned the gun on himself.

6 Broadway st murder

Eileen Thornton, Edward Bradshaw and victim Richard Thornton. Image: Trove

Before he sprayed Dick Thornton with bullets, Brad told police he yelled, “You aren’t fit to live!” His story behind those words became increasingly convoluted as time went on.

After convalescing in hospital and miraculously pulling through his self-inflicted machine gun wound, Brad began to lay out his story for police. He and Thornton had had a serious falling out, and it all had to do with Eileen.

At first, Brad was only willing to say that Dick had been “spreading tales” about him and “acted suspicious” when he saw Brad speaking to women, despite knowing that he was a married man. As time wore on, the truth behind the motive became clearer.

6 broadway st red hill

Source: Google Earth 2013

“Some weeks prior to the shooting, Mrs. Thornton told me her husband had accused her of carrying on with me,” Brad testified at his trial. He added that Eileen had warned him Dick “was looking for me with a bar of iron”.

Brad said he had snuck a submachine gun away from his military encampment and taken it with him on the tram to Red Hill simply to frighten Dick Thornton.

“There was definitely nothing in the suggestion I had been carrying on with his wife.”

According to Eileen, though, there might have been some reason to suspect Brad’s motives. She told the court that Brad had made advances toward her while staying at the Thorntons’ home some time prior to the shooting. But she quickly rebuffed him, and the matter was over. On one thing, at least, Eileen and Brad could agree. There was nothing to the suggestion that the two had been carrying on.

Except that pesky train ticket.

At his trial, the Crown produced a rail ticket that had been in Brad’s possession. On the back of the ticket, in Brad’s handwriting, was a note.

“Darling,
I told you I would not leave you until I could make things right and that you would be safe from Dick. I love you and am keeping my promise. The old ‘no-hoper’ loves you more than anything, Darling.
Brad.”

Brad admitted that he had been in possession of the rail ticket. He admitted that the writing on the ticket was his. More than that he could not - or would not - explain.

If Eileen Thornton and Edward Bradshaw had been carrying on an affair, an affair that ended in the death of Dick Thornton, it’s a secret they managed to keep. Though Brad would change his testimony to claim that his gun had gone off accidentally, a jury was unconvinced and he was sentenced to a life of hard labour.

The home where Dick Thornton was gunned down was last sold in June 2008 for $755,000. CoreLogic puts its current value between $690,000 and $869,999. Hopefully, the current owners don’t have to put up with any guests quite as unwelcome as Edward Bradshaw.

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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