Brother ultimately killed by his own brother

The photo that accompanied the article in the Truth on 25 January 1931. The original caption reads: 'On his bed of pain, Albert McKenna, the Gympie jeweller, who, three years ago, was shot by his brother, Edward, spent weary months waiting for health to return. But the bullet has claimed its victim, and a few weeks ago Albert died.'

If you are lover of language, you will enjoy the content of early newspapers now freely available using Trove.

The story recounted here indicates how an entire event can be recorded in print with graphic detail.

These early journalists would compete favourably with the so called “gossip reporters” of today.

As a prelude to this story, Patrick McKenna ran a successful jewellery business in Mary Street, Gympie.

Trading firstly as P McKenna and later as McKenna and Sons he advertised his skills widely including in Sydney newspapers.

He could never have foreseen the tragedy that was to come.

An excerpt from the Truth newspaper from Brisbane on Sunday, 25 January 1931 reads as follows:


Strange Drama Of Unbrotherly Bitterness Recalled By Recent Passing Of Albert McKenna


Three years ago, Edward McKenna shot his brother, Albert in the back— the culmination of a violent hatred between them.

They were partners with another brother in a jewellery establishment, one of the best known in Queensland, which had been bequeathed to them when their father died.

For years Edward and Albert quarrelled.

Sharp differences brought their sensitive temperaments clashing together, and the bitterness between them magnified into mountains of hatred the tiniest molehills of dissension; so that the feud, simmering for many months, finally burst the barriers of reason one day in January 1928, and Edward, picking up a pistol, fired at his brother.

The shooting created a stir in Gympie, leaving eddies of interest which will remain for many years; for not only was the McKenna family amongst the best known in the district, but the barrier of strife existing between Edward and Albert was common knowledge.


There were four brothers— Edward, Albert, Henry and George.

Today there are two.

Albert is dead; so is George, and the shop in Gympie’s main street is controlled by Edward and Henry.

Edward returned to the business one day in July of last year, the day the law decided that he had paid for his crime.

Unhesitatingly he came back to the town.

Ignoring with the strange silence that characterised his demeanour during his trial, the gossip of the town people.

As though nothing had happened, he resumed his old place in the shop.

He is there now.

The shooting of Albert occurred about two o’clock on the afternoon of January 3, 1928.

Albert returned to the shop from lunch at one o’clock and was sitting at his bench working when Edward walked in.

Albert said nothing.

The brothers had not spoken for a long time.

Suddenly a sharp retort burst behind him.

Something stung his back like a hot knife-thrust, and reeling into unconsciousness, he collapsed to the floor.

Two employees rushed forward, and Albert was picked up and carried out to a bed at the rear of the shop.

Soon Dr. Cuppaidge was attending him.

One glance was sufficient to tell the doctor that the man’s injury was grave.

There was a wound in his back under the left shoulder blade, six inches from the spine, which had paralysed him from the waist downwards.

For many hours Albert hovered on the borderline of life and death.

Doctors did not think he could live. Yet he did.


But he lived a living death.

Paralysed, the bullet in his back in such a position that it could not be removed, Albert knew long weary days of hell… while Edward, silent morose, waited for the day when he would face a judge and jury on a charge of attempted fratricide.

The trial of Edward was sensational.

He appeared before Mr Justice McNaughton and a jury in the Brisbane Criminal Court; and, standing there in the dock, he watched with enigmatic eyes his brother Albert, whom he had shot, being carried carefully into court on a stretcher; heard him later tell, in a voice so weak that it was barely audible, how his own brother had shot at him.

It was a strange story that Albert unfolded from his stretcher bed of pain.

In the tensely-listening court room — a story of unbrotherly bitterness which, he alleged, had led his brother to attacking him on three occasions previous to the shooting.

“One Sunday when I went down to the car as usual,” he said, in his thin, weak voice, “I found the key was missing.

“I went to the shop, and rang up George, another brother.

“He told me that perhaps Edward had the key.

“Went to Eddie’s house and when I asked him for the key he told me I wasn’t going to get it.

“I asked him to hand it over, pointing out that it was my Sunday to have the use of the car.

“He pulled out a pocketknife, opened it and tried to put it into me.

“I went and got a brass rod in the shop and came and demanded the key again.

“He came at me with the knife, I tried to ward him off with the bar.

“The bar bent up.

“He put the knife into me before I could get away.

“I lost a terrible lot of blood.

“I went to the shop and told George what had happened.

“The knife went into my groin, and as a result I spent 10 weeks in hospital.

“Another time a traveller came to Gympie.

“We had an appointment with him to open up some samples.

“Eddie didn’t turn up.

“Later, when I saw him, I asked him why he hadn’t kept the appointment – I abused him – I admit it was a thorough abusing.

“I considered I was justified.

“Next morning Eddie got to the shop before me.

“He hid behind a partition and hit me across the head with an iron bar.

“It knocked me out.

“I was not seriously hurt although my head was split.

“Father picked me up and helped me.

“Then, just before Christmas three years ago, I was dressing one of the windows and missed my cloth for polishing silver.

“I happened to walk round the jewellery counter to see if it was there.

“My back was turned to Eddie at the time.

“He picked up a piece of silky oak and hit me on the side of the head with it.

“My head and ear were split.

“George came down and put me in a chair and waited till I came round.”


Edward had little to say in his defence.

Throughout the trial he maintained a strange calm and silence; and he heard the jury’s verdict of “guilty of unlawful wounding” a verdict returned because the jury did not consider Albert entirely blameless.

Without a tremor, without a stir, he also heard Mr Justice McNaughton sentence him to three years’ imprisonment with hard labour.

So, while Edward went to suffer remorse for his crime behind the walls of a prison, Albert went home to the little house upon the hill at Gympie, to spend the rest of his life upon a bed of pain.

He could not sit up.

He required constant attention.

He was in pain all the time.

Day after day he wasted, as the bullet’s terrible wound ate away at his strength and health.

Doctors attending him were surprised that he had lived at all and they were fully convinced that it would be only a matter of months before the bullet accomplished its grim work.

Yet, though in dreadful agony, the spark of life glimmered feebly.

Through the long months of suffering, his wife never faltered in her service of loving care to the sick man.

At times, when, looking into the future and seeing it as a void, fits of black despair descended upon him, she cheered him; brought him back to optimism. Nothing was spared him that might ease the cruelty of his helplessness.


His wife bought him a wireless set, a gramophone, books and birds— he loved them, and on the veranda there stands a huge cage— empty now — which housed the many beautiful specimens he spent hours watching and talking to.

Then, slowly, the half-paralysed man got better.

He could move from his bed and when they bought him a wheel chair he could make slow, painful journeys about the house.

His doctors were astonished; not only that he should have lived so long, but that now he should show signs of improvement.

Albert himself became a changed man.

He felt that it would not be long before he would be able to start work again; and one night he talked with his wife for hours, planning to open a little shop in the town, where he could be taken down each morning in his wheel chair, and brought back again at night.

With eyes brighter with hope than they had been since that bitter day in January, 1928, he planned and planned.

He even had the shop selected.


“It will be wonderful to be able to start work again!” he used to say to his wife; and she, too, learned to smile again.

Then tragedy, swift and sudden, quenching everything as abruptly as a snuffer quenches the candle-flame.

He awakened, feeling very queer.

Later in the day his wife became alarmed at his condition and a doctor was called.

“Double pneumonia,” was the verdict and the man was rushed to hospital and there he died.

Death, the doctors decided, was due to the pneumonia, aggravated by the paralysis which the bullet had caused.

Today, Mrs McKenna has in her possession 3000 pieces of paper — shares in the jewellery business which were her husband’s.

They are worthless.

Depression, and the general trend of unfavourableness in the business world, has affected the jewellery establishment, now run by Edward, who was released from gaol last July, and another brother, Henry; and Mrs. McKenna’s shares return no dividends.

Now, in the little house upon the hill, a young widow remembers a man who was, in her own words, “a good husband and a loving father”; remembers, too, with bitterness, the ghost of strife which took him from her.

And three young children remember a father; a father who was never able to play and romp with them like other children’s fathers.

In the shop in Mary Street, Edward, who shot his brother in the back, mends watches and sells gems.

The bullet has finished its work.