7 p.m. Friday 11th November 1938 Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Marjorie Norval, a thirty-year-old unattached female public servant, and personal assistant to the then State Premier’s wife goes missing.
The press had a field day and conspiracy theories abounded. As a result a large otherwise undisturbed Establishment pillar was reluctantly lifted, albeit partially, uncovering some inconvenient truths and driving the public rumour mill culminating in a public Coroner's inquiry five years later.
A monetary reward (a sum thought to be unprecendented for the day in such a case) was posted by the Government.
This story hopes to provide an unbiased, apolitical, and as factual as possible log of the series of events leading up to Marjorie Norval’s disappearance in 1938 (the year before the official start of the Second World War 1939-1945).
Also featuring in this story was the sad loss of a search party involved in an air search for Ms Norval. For on November 28, 1938, an R.A.A.F. Seagull amphibian plane engaged by the police, crashed at Alberton ferry, near Beenleigh. Air crew members — Flying Officer Max J. Wiber, A/C. Eric A. Everett, and A/C. Albert E. Milner— with Water Police Constable George Robert Young, were killed.
A subsequent and separate Coronial Inquiry was held, and it was determined that the aircraft had accidentally collided with some overhead power lines, causing it to crash with the subsequent death of all on board.
The subsequent investigation into Marjorie's disappearance culminated in a coronial inquest in 1943 in Brisbane, the first of its kind in Queensland to be conducted under amendments to the Coroner’s legislation which thereafter included such cases to be heard.
Many of the political figures of the day, prominent citizens, high profile police, doctors (some of dubious practice), and back street abortionists became very uncomfortable with the attention.
Inferences of political and legal interference, a cover up, a doctor alleged to be a spy for the Japanese, the subsequent suicide of the Speaker of the Queensland parliament all came under the press microscope.
Whether it be a missing person or a murder investigation, locating the last person to have seen the victim alive, and the first person to find the victim (often sadly at that stage a dead one), is crucial to any investigation.
Indeed, it is a fact that was highlighted in a comment made by the Brisbane City Coroner Mr. J. J. Leahy SM at Marjorie Norval’s subsequent coronial hearing in 1943. During his summing up at the end of the inquiry he stated inter alia: -
“The story is an improbable one (referring to aspects of alleged final moments of Marjorie being seen alive) but still it is the only evidence obtainable as to where she was last seen alive. She did not leave for Bundaberg that night. An important link in the chain of evidence which would have revealed her real destination that night is missing”.
Missing persons often become so for numerous reasons. Sadly, some of these otherwise physically healthy law abiding citizens are located post suicide.
Some may fake their own disappearance. Some are felons who disappear within the criminal world who become “missing” as an occupational hazard.
Some just don’t want to be found. Some don’t realise through mental health issues for example that they are considered missing.
Many families have a skeleton in the cupboard. The Norval family were no different except Marjorie’s physical skeleton needed to be found and to this date never has.
About the author.
Served as a police officer in the UK and Australia in uniform and plain clothes. Resides in Brisbane Queensland Australia.
Copyright R Burton 2016
All rights reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the author. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this document may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.