A morning porter knocked, then entered the silent room of two guests of Melbourne's premier hotel, The Windsor, at 11am on January 10, 1945.
Concerned at a maid's earlier report of a brief glimpse into the suite, which had been occupied for three weeks by a respectable couple from 'Bendigo', there had also been the matter of a police visit in late December.
This would not do at Melbourne's prestige hostelry.
Understandably, the porter was unprepared for the bloody scene which confronted him.
Naked, sitting slumped in the suite's blood-filled bathtub, the body of nurse Clarice Maud Suttie bore a gruesome eight to twelve-inch (20-30cm) slash across her inner right thigh, and other cuts to her inner elbows, wrists and ankles, a hypodermic puncture wound in her shoulder. Respected Ballarat surgeon Norman Anderson Longden was dead on the room's bed, clad only in pyjama bottoms.
That the pair were not married to each other was scandal enough in conservative Melbourne (despite the heightened atmosphere of the Second World War, its stresses and pain, fostering of all kinds of extramarital and intersexual relationships) but that it took place in what was then the leading hotel in the country, the veritable 'Duchess of Spring Street', host already to politicians, film stars and sports people.
Indeed, the hotel itself had been renamed from 'The Grand' to The Windsor after the Prince of Wales stayed there on his Royal tour in 1920. The Duke and Duchess of York, later George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, were also guests.
Little wonder then newspaper reports of the day somehow failed to mention the name of the hotel until the salacious, scandal-littered tabloid daily the Brisbane Truth delivered its readers the full, tragic story.
Norman Longden was destined to be a doctor. The child of Dr Francis 'Frank' Reginald Longden and his wife, Josephine Mary nee Robertson, he was born in Buninyong in 1895. As befitted the wealthy scion of a long-established family, he was sent to The Geelong College where he excelled in his studies and sport, playing in the First VXIII and First XI, rowing in the First VIII, and winning prizes for athletics and shooting. He graduated to Ormond College, University of Melbourne, where he studied medicine before enlisting in the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) in 1915, sailing to Egypt.
I call her my wife. I wish she were. I met Sister Suttie in the army and nursed her back to health. I want to marry her, but my wife won't give me a divorce.Dr Norman Longden to police detective H Parker, December 1945
Invalided out of the army in 1916, he resumed studies at Melbourne University and purchased a practice in Ballarat, where his father was based. Marrying Amie Taylor, he settled into his work in the city and was a regular surgeon at the Ballarat Base Hospital, accepted into the Royal Australian College of Surgeons in 1932.
With two small children, Dr Longden was a popular and respected Ballarat citizen. He lived at 5 Errard St North, still in existence, a substantial two-storey red brick home. However, he re-enlisted as a major in the AAMC in 1942, and was eventually posted to the 2/1st Australian General Hospital (Port Moresby), where he met Nurse Suttie.
Of Sister Clarice Suttie we know less, so often the case. Described by a hospital colleague as "tall, slight, with long dark hair... her most noticeable feature was her very large brown eyes. She was extremely vivacious, full of life, a most delightful companion off-duty."
The couple met on active service in New Guinea, and after demobilisation in 1944 continued an intense, hectic relationship in Melbourne. Dr Longden was expected to return to his family in Ballarat for hospital work in early December of that year, but failed to arrive. It was reported friends and colleagues in Melbourne knew of the relationship, and had counselled the couple to end their time together.
The end, when it did finally arrive, was tragic. After two weeks at The Windsor, a police detective attended on Christmas Eve. Dr Longden was concerned over missing morphia, he reported. He had purchased the drug, and the anaesthetic novocaine, from a local pharmacist, in the company of Ms Suttie. It was revealed Ms Suttie had injected some of the morphia, hiding the rest.
Dr Longden admitted Sister Suttie was not his wife. The pair were aggrieved, Dr Longden said, that his wife would not grant him a divorce and allow them to be together. Dr Longden said Sister Suttie had previously overdosed on morphia and he was concerned at the missing drugs.
"I call her my wife," Dr Longden told the detective
"I wish she were. I met Sister Suttie in the army and nursed her back to health. I want to marry her, but my wife won't give me a divorce."
Just over a week later both were dead. The coroner's inquest returned an open finding: it was impossible to say if there was a double suicide or murder-suicide.
A report into the inquest ran as follows:
"Each victim could have committed suicide or one of them could have caused both deaths and there might be other explanations, said the Coroner, Mr Tingate, in returning his finding. He added that a letter written by Longden indicated an intention to commit suicide, but there was nothing to indicate the circumstances in which it was written and he was not prepared to act on it.
"The evidence, he said was not strong enough for him to make a definite finding. Professor C. H. Mollison, Government pathologist, said that Miss Suttie had died from a haemorrhage from incised wounds in the thigh and arms. A small amount of morphia was found in an analysis of the stomach contents.
"Longden had died from asphyxia induced by morphine poisoning, the drug having apparently been taken by the mouth. Dr Mollison said that a puncture wound on Longden's shoulder, apparently made with a hypodermic needle, was in a place where if it had been self-inflicted, it would be very unusual."
Dr Longden had indeed written and partly destroyed a letter. A fragment allowed by the coroner to be read out in court said: "It is with a desire to avoid unnecessary trouble to other people that this is written.
"Circumstances are such that it is no longer possible for me to exist in this world. The blame, if any, is entirely my own."
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