Death – Stewart Island’s only murder: The island, the accountant and the death of André Jose

Death – Obituary

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The old fisherman was a familiar sight hauling in nets. He had called Stewart Island home for five decades since being shipwrecked there. He was a small, mild-mannered man, who lived alone.

But that tranquillity was shattered when 82-year-old André Jose was bludgeoned to death in his boarding house room in the early hours of December 14, 1927. His killing is believed to be Stewart Island’s only murder.

His landlady, Catherine Walschleger, heard Jose fight for his life: “Help! Help! Me die,” came the cries from his room, along with sounds of a scuffle.

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She ran to the door. It was locked. Jose had only rented it a few days earlier. “Arthur has robbed me of all my money,” she heard him say. “I’ll die, I’ll die.”

Walschleger told Jose she would go next door for help. Her screams of murder roused her neighbour, John Edwards a retired fisherman, into action.

The pair returned and found the door still locked. Whoever was inside the room had barricaded themselves in. Eventually, Walschleger and Edwards were let in by a man wearing pyjamas and a blood-spattered oilskin coat.

“Do you see any blood on me?” he asked them. The room was a mess and there was no sign of Jose. They told the man to leave. Walschleger lit a candle for Jose and left it at the door, in case Jose was able to leave his room later that night. By morning, the candle was gone.

A picture of André Jose, who was murdered on Stewart Island.

Rakiura Museum/Stewart Island/Supplied

A picture of André Jose, who was murdered on Stewart Island.

The life and death of André Jose

Stewart Island is visible from Bluff Hill. It’s there that André Jose was buried in an unmarked grave on Sunday, December 18, 1927.

His name, like many official documents obtained by Stuff, is recorded as Andrew.

Jose often told Stewart Island locals that he was a Malayman and had arrived in New Zealand on the vessel England’s Glory, which was shipwrecked off Bluff in 1881.

Jose is buried in an unmarked grave in Bluff.

Kavinda Herath/Stuff

Jose is buried in an unmarked grave in Bluff.

Jose and another crew member were taken in by Barney Buller, of Stewart Island. They lived at The Neck, a narrow peninsula that separates Paterson Inlet/Whaka ā Te Wera from Foveaux Strait. Jose worked as a fisherman and ship’s cook.

In her book The Stewart Islanders, Olga Sansom writes that Jose once spent three nights marooned on rocks, which were covered at high tide, after the boat he was working on sank.

Jose survived on limpets and, “barely alive”, was rescued by the skipper of a passing boat. After a remarkable recovery, he invited his nurse and rescuer for kai at his house.

“No limpets though,” he reportedly told the nurse.

The Glory as it sat in Bluff in 1881.

BLUFF MARITIME MUSEUM/Supplied

The Glory as it sat in Bluff in 1881.

Eventually, New Zealand became home. One naturalisation document from 1900 noted Jose was born in the Philippines.

On one page, an official scribbled a note by hand: “Is he to be described as of Spanish nationality?” Another document, pledging an oath of allegiance, includes Jose’s signature, a single “X”.

Jose, who had no children, lived in The Flying Scud, a 20-tonne cutter beached at Papatiki Bay on The Neck. His home extended onto the beach, where he kept hens and ducks, and a vegetable garden.

According to The Stewart Islanders, a seaweed fertiliser helped his cabbages and rhubarb thrive. At the time of his death, he was working on a new home. That was why he was staying at Walschleger’s boarding house.

“The whole island was utterly saddened,” The Stewart Islanders mourned, “When Andrew Jose, the mildest of men and utterly friendly to everyone, met his death by violence at the hands of his murderer in Horse Shoe Bay.”

Documents show Jose signed his name with his mark, an ‘X’.

Archives NZ/Supplied

Documents show Jose signed his name with his mark, an ‘X’.

The murder

‘Shocking Crime – Old Man Done to Death,’ read the headline in The Press.

The motive for killing Andre Jose wasn’t immediately clear, but the likely culprit was: Arthur Victor Valentine, an accountant with the Bluff Harbour Board, who had been staying in another room at the boarding house.

He was the pyjama-clad man Walschleger and Edwards found in Jose’s room and ordered out. Walschleger asked Valentine what he had done. “I am in great pain,” he replied. “My back! My back!”

The savagery of the crime was only uncovered the next morning. Constable Arthur Woodley was one of the first to enter Jose’s room and was confronted with the same mess Walschleger and Edwards found the night before.

The small bed was broken and the mattress and sheets lay in a heap. Woodley peeled back the mattress to find Jose, lying in a pool of blood. “Quite dead”, as he later told an inquest.

Lieutenant Arthur Victor Valentine, of Bluff.

Supplied/Auckland War Museum

Lieutenant Arthur Victor Valentine, of Bluff.

Woodley sought out Valentine. The lodger, a World War I veteran injured and found unfit for service, appeared nervous and excitable. “The Germans came up early this morning,” he said. “I heard Andrew call out ‘help, help’ … I went upstairs, and he turned on me.”

“I had a sort of delusion,” Valentine told another officer. “Andrew hit at me with a board. I hit him with something.”

Woodley asked him why Jose would turn on him. Valentine did not reply. As the policemen detained Valentine, he noted a small blood-stained manuka log, the charred remains of wood and a pillow by the door, and kerosene in the room.

Valentine was transported by tugboat to Bluff, where a large crowd had gathered. He was taken to jail and, according to one newspaper, served a meal: “He sat down and ate it quite calmly and with apparent indifference.”

Foveaux Strait, pictured from Bluff.

Robyn Edie/Stuff

Foveaux Strait, pictured from Bluff.

Possible motive

Jose died in a frenzied attack. His autopsy revealed injuries including a broken jaw, a dozen blows to his head, and abrasions to his arms. The likely cause of death was shock and blood loss.

Motive was still a mystery. But after Valentine appeared in the Invercargill District Court on December 22 – “In a distressed condition, panting for breath”, according to the Evening Star – answers started to emerge.

On December 1, three weeks before the murder, Valentine had been found inside the office of the Bluff Harbour Board, unconscious with a wound to his head.

A weight taken from the nearby draughting office – the apparent assault weapon – was found near his feet. Some £240, wages earmarked for the dredge employees, were missing.

An archival file concerning André Jose’s estate.

Supplied

An archival file concerning André Jose’s estate.

Valentine went to Stewart Island to recuperate from the attack. He was well-known on the island, visiting weekly aboard the SS Theresa Ward, where he worked as a purser. There he met Jose. The two men had history. Valentine looked after Jose’s financial affairs and had gone to the island with the stated intention of buying property from the fisherman.

A later inquest held on Stewart Island heard that Jose had acquired £350 from the sale of a property in Bluff. He had engaged Valentine to invest £200 in Bluff Harbour Board debentures and loaned Valentine the remaining £150.

It further heard that Valentine was not holding any Bluff Harbour Board debentures for Jose. In fact, he had disposed of them more than a year earlier. The loan, made to Valentine on behalf of his brother, was set to mature in 1928.

Jose became worried about his money, particularly after hearing about Valentine and the robbery. Friends advised him to go to Bluff. He was about to depart when Valentine arrived on the island.

Catherine Walschleger told the inquest Jose and Valentine arrived at her house on December 10. Valentine asked her to put them up, telling her that Jose would pay the board. On December 13, the men played cards together and went to bed at midnight. Valentine was in a room at the front of the house and Jose in a room upstairs.

The inquest jury found Jose “met his death at about 4am on December 14 through shock and loss of blood by injuries received by the hand of Arthur Victor Valentine”.

Invercargill Prison, which was previously known as the Invercargill Borstal Institute.

John Hawkins/Stuff

Invercargill Prison, which was previously known as the Invercargill Borstal Institute.

Valentine never knew of the verdict. On December 23, the day after his sickly court appearance, while in the exercise yard at the Invercargill Borstal Institute, he collapsed and died. He was 43 years old.

The attending doctor believed Valentine died of a heart attack due to the pressure of the impending trial. An examination of his body revealed enlarged kidneys and heart. “While realising the seriousness of the circumstances he was quiet enough,” one report into the death read. “And to all intents showed no trace of insanity.”

Valentine’s body was interred less than two weeks after that of the man he murdered. He was laid to rest in Invercargill’s Eastern Cemetery on December 26, 1927. His grave is marked with his name.

Valentine was buried at Invercargill Eastern Cemetery on December 26, 1927.

Robyn Edie/Stuff

Valentine was buried at Invercargill Eastern Cemetery on December 26, 1927.

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What Is An Obituary

In national newspapers an obituary (obit for short) is a news article that reports the recent death of a prominent person. Although it tends to focus on positive aspects of the subject’s life this is not always the case. According to Nigel Farndale, the Obituaries Editor of The Times: “Obits should be life affirming rather than gloomy, but they should also be opinionated, leaving the reader with a strong sense of whether the subject lived a good life or bad; whether they were right or wrong in the handling of their public affairs.”

In local newspapers, an obituary may be published for any local resident upon death. A necrology is a register or list of records of the deaths of people related to a particular organization, group or field, which may only contain the sparsest details, or small obituaries. Historical necrologies can be important sources of information.