The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

Brecht One-Name Study

Attempted Murder by George Brett (born Brecht)

If ever there was a black sheep in the family it was George Brett. Two newspaper articles give an account of his criminal past and his greatest (convicted) crime:

The Brisbane Courier Thursday 18 February 1926

"TITCH" BRETT CASE
ALLEGED ATTEMPTED KILLING
HEARING IN CRIMINAL COURT

Yesterday in the Supreme Court, in Criminal Juristdiction, George ("Tich") Brett was charged with having unlawfully attempted to kill, or allternatively, with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

The case was heard before his Honour Mr Acting Justice Dickson and a jury.

Mr Neil Macgroarty (instructed by Mt T. McLaughlin) appeared for the defence. It was stated that when Brett did not appear at the December sitting his bail was estreated. Later he was appehended in Sydney.

The charge arose out of happenings on the night of Novemeber 18. Gustav Reinhold Langenfeldt was found lying in a pool of blood outside a house in Wharf-street. At the Brisbane Hospital it was found that he had been struck a heavy blow on the head. Brett was later arrested. Langenfeldt had been found near Brett's house.

Mr J. A. Sheehy, Acting Crown Prosecutor descibed the alleged assault as one of "unparalled ferocity". Langenfeldt and another man had visited Brett's house, where beer was consumed. An altercation arose, and it was stated that Langenfeldt was struck on the head with a hammer.

Sergeant A. A. Bock, who brought Brett back from Sydney, stated that Brett informed him on the journey up that he would plead provocation. After he had stated previously that he had thought Langenfeldt would never walk again, Brett said to witness that he blamed Amy Germaine for the trouble. He had never had any luck since his association with her, he declared ,"It was through her that I shot "Skeeter", witness declared that Brett said to him. Brett also said ,"She wanted the two squareheads in. She thought they were cashed up." Brett went on to say that after Langenfeldt and his friend had left the premises they returned and wanted admittance. Langenfeldt tried to force his way in, and a lock became detached from a lattice work door. It was with this lock that Langenfeldt had been struck. "I was going to call the ambulance." he continued, "but I thought it would put the show away. The blood was pouring from him. It was the knob of the lock that had smashed his skull in. I went on the veranda and watched through the lattice. I saw the "coppers" come up and the ambulance take him way. The police came to the door and I slipped down the yard and waited till they had gone. I saw in the paper next day that this bloke had been shot, and this set me thinking." Later he said,"I expect about three years out of this. How much do you think I'll get?" Then he said,"A man never knows his luck. I might get out of this.My luck might stick to me. It is a strange thing that when a man has something like this on his mind he has to tell some one about it, as it relieves him. I have not lost a wink of sleep over it. Even if I had killed the.....it would not have worried me. All the samne, I had to tell some one about it."

Dr H. A. Sundstrop of the General Hospital Staff, in answer to his Honour, said he did not think a door knob could have been wielded with sufficient force to cause the injury that Langenfeldt had sustained.

Constable L. T. Parmeter, of Redfern, New South Wales, said that with other police on January 14 he saw Brett in Allison-road, Randwick. Brett said to him, "You don't blame me for trying to get away. It has cost me a lot of money. I came all the way from Brisbane in a motor car. I intended to go to the Islands tomorrow." In answer to a question as to what had happened, Brett said, "The bloke stole my plunder, and I bowled him over. I put a hole in his head you could put a salt cellar in."

Mr Macgroarty: You did not warn him that anything he said might be used in evidence against him? - No.

"HEARD THE PIANO"

Gustav Langenfeldt, who described himself as a farm manager, detailing his movements on the evening on which he sustained his injury, said it was because of having heard a piano playing in a house in Wharf-street he and a companion Ziethen knocked at the door and were admitted. There were three women and two men in a room. Brett was playing a piano. When witness and his friend were leaving, Brett walked away and returned with a hammer. In the front of the house Brett jumped from the steps and hit witness with the hammer. Witness had given Brett no provocation.. Witness was sure the prisoner was the man who had struck him.. Witness had never worn glasses before he was struck, nor had he been deaf. Witness now suffered from deafness.

To Mr Macgroarty, witness said he could not remember if he had fallen in the hall befiore leaving Brett's house. He was sober.

Paul von Ziethen, labourer, who had been in Langenfeldt's company on the evening of the affray, said that Langenfeldt had remarked to Brett that he had been robbed of £5. Brett had replied that the robbery must have taken place elsewhere. It was then that Brett had said that if any one wanted fight he could have it.

To Mr Macgroarty, witness said Langenfeldt had fallen down in the passage. Witness would not admit that he and Langenfeldt were "on a bit of a bender" around Spring Hill.

Mr Macgroarty: You were drinking from a bottle in the street. Why did you not drink decently from a glass at an hotel?

Witness, who spoke in a guttural tone replied: "The hotels were closed. It was after 8 o'clock. You can only get beer in these places then."

Mr Macgroarty: "Oh, yes. I forgot."

Witness said that when he and Langenfeldt returned to Brett's house and the latter knocked at the door he heard Langenfeldt and the man who opened the door talking fight. Later he saw something like a hammer in Brett's hand. When Lagenfeldt came out on the footpath Brett followed him, but did not jump from the steps.

The further hearing was adjourned until 10 a.m. to-day.

* * * * *

The Telegraph, Brisbane Saturday 20 February 1926

"Dangerous Criminal"
Sentence on "Tich" Brett
"Much Obliged to You"

Convicted of an attempt to kill and of having done grievous bodily harm with intent, George Brett, otherwise known as "Tich" Brett, was sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years with hard labour, by Acting Justice Dickson, in the Crminnal Court Friday morning.

"Iam much obliged to you", said Brett, as he heard the sentence.

The Crown Prosecutor, Mr J. A. Sheehy, described Brett as "a desperate and dangeous crminal of the worst type." "Brett", he said, "whose real name is Gorge Brecht, was born in Holland. He is 56 years of age. he went to England very early in his lfe. He is a married man, living apart from his wife.

LIVED BY NEFARIOUS MEANS

He first came under the notice of the police in 1914, having arrived in Australia some little time before that. He was convicted in Brisbane in 1914 for stealing, for which he was fined £2 10s or two months's imprisonment . Since his arrival in Brisbane he has occasionally worked on coastal steamers, and has on a few occasions been engaged in fruit hawking. But for the graeter part of his life he has lived by nefarious means. During the past two years he has done no work.

CHARGED WITH KILLING

On November 15 1924 he stood his trial on a charge of killing. The principal witness for the Crown was a woman with whom Brett was living at the time. At the trial in the Supreme Court that witness gave evidence different from what she gave in the lower court. Since his acquittal on that charge he has openly boasted that he shot the man. Apparently the reason why the principal witness refused to report her evidence was that she had been intimidated by the prisoner's associates at the point of a revolver.

"ATTEMPTING TO KILL"

On October 28 1925, Brett was charged with attempting unlawfully to kill. When the case came before the court the man who was shot failed to put in an appearnace and the prisoner was discharged on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Brett lives at Brisbane with a woman and lives on her earnings. The house has been occupied for the last two years has been conducted as a house of ill fame.

"A DANGEROUS MAN"

Brett is a dangerous man. He is in the habit of carrying firearms which he does not hesitate to use. He is known by the police to be a receiver of stolen property. He is the leader of a gang of ruffians operating in Spring Hill. As a matter of fact, he stated after committing this crime that he would shoot the man Langenfeldt if ever he got the chance.

After giving Brett's record in detail, Mr Sheehy described him as a "desperate and dangerous criminal of the worst type."

"A HARD- WORKING MAN"

Mr N. Macgroarty, who appeared for Brett, questioned the accuracy of some of the statements made by Mr Sheehy. Perusing Brett's pocket-book, which recorded his services on coastal steamers Mr Macgroarty said that it had been marked "very good" on many occasions. It showed that from 1905 till 1911 Brett had been a hard-working man. (This was before he emigrated to Australia)

Acting Justice Dickson: What about the last two years?

Macgroarty said that Brett was working on coastal boats up until 1923. In that year he offered his services to the Douglas Mawson Relief Committee. In mMay 1923, he was elected a member of the relief fund executive. At a meeting later, which was held in the Cremone Theatre, he was publicly thanked for his services. On several occasions he was authorised to collect money for the relief fund. These facts, Mr Macgroarty submitted, showed that Brett for a great number of years had been a hard-working man and a useful citizen in the community. The last offence for which he had been convicted was some years ago.

"NOT A BAD MAN"

"The polce", continued Mr Macgroarty, "give this man a very bad name. His record, however, shows that he is not the bad man the police want to make him out to be. If your honour considers his good work and his record, you will find that Brett is not deserving of the sentences sought by the Crown."

"SMASHED A MAN'S SKULL"

Addressing the prisoner, Mr Acting Justice Dickson said: "The Crown gave me a long list of convictions against you and I have to consider the Crown Prosecutor's statements regarding your general character. You have been found guilty without hesitation, by the jury, and to my mind on very strong evidence, coupled with your own admission of a dastardly, savage, cruel and callous crime, of one of the most serious crimes known known to our law - namely, attempting to murder and intending to do grievous bodily harm. The extreme punishment for either of these crimes is imprisonment with hard labour for life. You deliberately smashed a man's skull in with a carpenter's claw hammer or some equally dangerous with intent to kill him. In this case he is seriously injured for life.

"A TERROR TO THE COMMUNITY"

"You have been convicted of a very serious offence, you have escaped the consequences of much more serious crimes by the terrorising and spiriting away of witnesses, thereby being the subject of very grave suspicion. There are good grounds for suspecting you of having taken the life of one man and nearly that of two others. From these charges you have escaped. You have endeavoured to escape the consequences of this crime but your endeavours were frustrated by the vigilance of the police. You appear to be a man of violent temper, brutal human shape, utterly reckless and regardless of the lives of others, a terror to the community in which you live, and a dangerous criminal. I consider a just and adequate sentence to meet your case, in the performance of my duty, to be 10 years imprisonment with hard labour."

The prisoner: I am much obliged to you.

Colin Bower
7 February 2018

Index to Articles on the Brecht Family

 
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