This week on 2SER Breakfast with Nic Healey, Nicole shared author John Edwards‘s Dictionary entry on Henry Louis Bertrand, the dentist of Wynyard Square whose murderous & amorous activities scandalised Sydney in the 1860s.
Henry Bertrand was born in 1840 in Mayfair, London, into a Jewish family which had a long tradition of practicing dentisty on both sides of the Channel. His father, Henry Lipschutz, had adopted the surname Bertrand at some point, and died when the boy was about four. His mother, Marian Bertrand, left London in the early 1850s with her three daughters and set off for Melbourne, the gold rush and potential husbands. Young Henry stayed behind, training and working as a dentist in London and Belgium and possibly Paris. At some point, Henry added ‘Louis’ to his name as well, becoming Henry Louis Bertrand.
Marian, Henry’s mother, married another dentist in Australia in 1852, and moved with him from Melbourne to Sydney. His sisters had also found respectable husbands by the time Henry arrived to join them all in 1860.
On arrival in Sydney at 19 years of age, Henry placed an advertisement, in French and English, in the Sydney Morning Herald with some rather grand (and unsubstantiated) claims:
Established as a successful society dentist in Wynyard Square, Henry married Jane King. In 1865, when the younger of their two children was about 5 months old, he began an affair with a married patient, Ellen Kinder. Ellen and her husband (also named Henry) had come to Sydney from New Zealand in 1864, and they lived in Namaka Cottage in St Leonards.
A few months into the affair, Henry Bertrand began to hatch plots to kill the unfortunate Henry Kinder.
Late in the evening on 2 October 1865, a doctor was called to the Kinders’ cottage at St Leonards where, according to accounts from both Henry and Jane Bertrand, Kinder in a drunken stupor had shot himself in front of them. Kinder took 4 days to die of his wounds.
Two months later, after a blackmail attempt by another of Ellen’s former lovers from New Zealand, police exhumed Kinder’s body and found poison, leading to the investigation that enthralled, horrified and titillated Sydney-siders.
Henry and Jane Bertrand were both charged with murder, and Ellen Kinder charged with being an accessory.
Newspapers avidly reporting the trial printed every salacious detail, including allegations that Henry Bertrand had intimidated his wife Jane into sharing their marital bed with Ellen, and that he had attempted to disguise himself while purchasing a pistol by wearing his wife’s clothing. The discover of the secret diary in which he had documented everything, and evidence given by his sister to whom he had boasted about getting away with murder, ensured he was found guilty.
The cases against both women collapsed due to lack of evidence.
Henry Bertrand’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison. He spent his time in several gaols including Parramatta Lunatic Asylum, but most of his 29 years of imprisonment was spent at Darlinghurst Gaol, where he developed a fair talent for painting watercolours and bone carving.. Examples of these are held in the State Library of NSW.
He was released in 1894, still only 53 years old. After spending his first night of freedom at the Metropole Hotel in the city, he was deported on the first available ship to England, where he again practiced dentistry in London and Portsmouth.
Henry Louis Bertrand died in Portsmouth in 1924 at the ripe old age of 83, having outlived everybody else involved.
For more details, pictures and links, hop over to John Edwards’ entry on Henry Louis Bertrand on the Dictionary of Sydney: http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/henry_louis_bertrand. You can also purchase a copy of his book Henry Louis Bertrand: Dentist Artist Murderer (details here).