GIRL MURDERED IN BRISBANE
BY US SOLDIER
ON 19 JUNE 1944
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII
Doris Roberts, a 34 year old part-aboriginal of Adelaide House, was savagely murdered in Brisbane by American Serviceman Private Avelino Fernandez, a 30 year old paratrooper. Her badly battered body was found in an alleyway in Elizabeth Street, Brisbane on 19 June 1944.
Fernandez had been involved in a pub crawl with Private Leland Porter and two others. At about 5pm they arrived at Nick's Cafe and placed two quart bottles of whisky under the table. A woman unknown to them came and sat at their table. It was Doris May Roberts. The waitress in the cafe brought another women (Doris Clive) over to their table, and later that women obtained six glasses and the group started to drink whisky. After the whisky was finished a sailor came over to the table and the woman went away with him.
About five minutes later Doris Roberts walked towards the stairs and Fernandez followed her. Private Leland Porter who was on crutches also left the table in time to see Doris and Fernandez tumble down the stairs. Porter helped Doris to her feet at the bottom of the stairs. Fernandez then got up with his face and head badly cut. Fernandez had his injuries treated in a cafe and rejoined Porter and Doris on the steps of McLeod's Bookshop in Elizabeth Street. Fernandez had his hand on Doris's leg and Porter asked Fernandez to the leave the area with him.
Fernandez did not appear to be in his right mind and refused requests from Porter and another solider (Private Ressie M. Goff) to leave the area. Porter and the other solider walked away and when they returned a short time later they could not see Fenandez or Doris. They heard a noise like someone kicking gravel in the nearby laneway. The soldier peered through a gate, and jumped back in surprise and told Porter what he had seen. They left the area again and returned about 15 minutes later and saw Fernandez standing near the laneway.
They saw a handkerchief wrapped around his bleeding hand. Fernandez told them that Doris had left him. Porter asked him where she had gone and Fernandez said that she had passed out. Porter took Fernandez to the Red Cross and later to the hospital for some medical treatment.
Dr. E. H. Derrick, Director of the Laboratory of the State Health Department, told the Judge Advocate that a post mortem on Doris Roberts' body on 19 June 1944 showed three small lacerations near her mouth, one which extended more than two inches into the mouth. There were also many bruises and abrasions on her face, head and the upper part of her chest. Her lower jaw was broken in two places. Thirteen ounces of blood was found in a cavity surrounding her left lung. The Post Mortem found that death was due to injuries received, causing shock, haemorrhage and asphyxiation. A blood test indicated there was 0.29 percent alcohol in her blood.
Private Ressie M. Goff, a patient at the 42nd General Hospital said that Porter had stopped him at about 7:30pm on 19 June 1944 in Elizabeth Street and asked him to help get Fernandez away from a woman. Private Goff said he saw Fernandez and Doris, both intoxicated, sitting on the steps of McLeod's Bookshop in Elizabeth Street. Goff walked down the street with Porter and they passed the laneway when they returned. Goff said he heard a noise as if someone was choking. Goff went down the laneway and pushed open the gates and saw a man and women in a compromising position. Goff then went away leaving Porter alone.
William Vincent McEncroe, of Prospect Terrace, Kelvin Grove, said that he was in a lane at the rear of the Carlton Hotel in Elizabeth Street and he could hear a man and a woman on the other side of the street arguing. He saw a man push a woman down the laneway. The man pushed open a gate and the pair walked in and the gate was closed. He heard a slight scream and then he left the area. He thought it was just a drunken argument and do not want to get involved.
Stanley James Smith, of Dickson Street, Wooloowin and Neville Hansen arrived at the laneway at about 8:05pm on 19 June 1944. Stanley pushed open the gate and said he saw the body of a woman laying just inside the gate. She was naked from the waist down. Neville Hansen went to find the Police while Stanley Smith waited outside the gate.
Doris Clive, of Camden Street, Clayfield, said that she sat at the table with Fernandez and the others but was only there for a few minutes. Doris Clive said she knew Doris Roberts by sight. She claimed that none of the group were drunk when she left the area.
Detective Senior-Sergeant C.E. Risch told the Court that Fernandez told him the next morning at the C.I. Office:-
"I beat the hell out of her. I kicked her all over. I was real mad. If she is dead that's where she ought to be. I knocked her down and struck her again when she got up. I kicked her in the stomach and would do it again."
When asked by Risch why he had hit her, Fernandez replied:-
"She made me look cheap. She asked me for money."
Fernandez admitted that he would not have done it had she been a white girl. Risch told the Court that Fernandez said he had walked down to the alleyway with Doris Roberts and asked her if she would go in with him. She said she would rather go to a room. She eventually agreed to go with him and he had consensual intercourse with her. After they left each other, Fernandez saw her go into the laneway with another man. He claimed that the bruises on his face were due to the fall down the stairs at the cafe.
Detective Senior-Sergeant Risch said that when he visited the scene he saw Roberts' body lying on her back, with legs outstretched, a few feet inside the gate. A pair of scanties were stretched across her shoulders and he found a paratrooper's cap near her body.
In an effort to avoid any negative public opinion, following his Court Martial and guilty verdict, Private Fernandez was taken to New Guinea where he was hanged at Oro Bay on 15 November 1944.
Fernandez was apparently a boxer before he joined the Army and had supposedly won some matches in Mexico. He had 17 parachute jumps to his credit before this incident.
"Worker (Brisbane)", Monday 24 July 1944
"Smith's Weekly (Sydney)", Saturday 12 October 1946
I'd like to thank Barry Ralph (since deceased) for the above information. Barry is the author of an excellent book on World War 2 in Australia called "They Passed This Way".
Can anyone help me with more information?
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 1 December 2000
This page last updated 11 January 2019