Safe As Houses: Tingha Road, Inverell

Adam Smith 19 October 2017

Blue police tape over a house

A tragic accident changes a young man's personality and leads to violence.

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

When police arrived at the McIlwain home at Tingha Road in Inverell on the day of 15 July 1950, it was clear that 18-year-old Kenneth wasn’t going to go quietly.

“I’m Detective Escott,” one of the attending officers called out as Kenneth levelled a gun at them. “Put that rifle down and don’t be foolish! I want to have a talk to you.”

Kenneth wasn’t in the mood for a talk.

“Get away and take that Crown sergeant with you!” he demanded. “I have 17 bullets in the gun, and know how to shoot!”

If there were any lingering doubts about Kenneth’s resolve, they were quickly put to rest when he began to fire on the officers. Escott and the other police found cover, and an errant shot struck a passerby in the thigh.

Moments later, Kenneth McIlwain appeared on the verandah of the house at Tingha Road without the rifle, and was quickly arrested. When they entered the home, they found Kenneth’s father, Aubry Allen McIlwain, dead on the kitchen floor.

The road where the crime took place

The road where the crime took place. Source: Google Maps

Kenneth’s troubles seemed to stem from a bicycle accident he’d had in Newcastle some years prior. He’d injured his head, and his mother would testify that “he would at times go mad”.

July 15 was one of these times. Kenneth’s mother said her son had been behaving “like a lunatic. He appeared to be right off his head”.

Kenneth’s rage had been stoked by his father’s stern rebuke. Aubry was concerned about his son’s growing drinking problem. When he confronted his son about it, things got physical. The two grappled and Kenneth came away with a bloodied face.

Police were called to the home after the altercation, and found an uncooperative Kenneth sulking on the back verandah. In a shed set a ways from the house, they found Aubry who said he didn’t want to bring charges against his son.

“I am keeping out of his way as I don’t want anything to do with him,” Aubry said.

Twice more police would be called to the house as Kenneth became increasingly violent and erratic. When he appeared out front with a rifle, Aubry decided to try to talk some sense into his son. Ignoring his wife’s protestations, he went into the house.

“Put the gun down. I want to talk to you,” he pleaded with Kenneth.

Moments later, a shot was fired and Aubry McIlwain was dead.

Contemporary report of the crime

Source: Trove

At his trial, Kenneth would claim he could remember nothing after the fight. Due to his head injury, he said he suffered from blackouts and fits of rage. A jury found this plausible, and Kenneth was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison.

While it’s difficult to ascertain the exact property where Kenneth and Aubry McIlwain’s father-son relationship ended so violently, houses on Tingha Road have recently sold for between $120,000 and $220,000. Following her husband’s death, Kenneth’s mother relocated to 51 Lang Street in Inverell, which is currently for sale for $180,000.

We’ll never know how much Kenneth’s injury contributed to the rage he felt toward his father, or if it directly led to Aubry’s death. One thing is certain, though. The bouts of anger that followed the accident consumed the young man and tore his family apart.

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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