7.5.1 Ritchie, Agnes

Agnes Ritchie, a married woman (as she was described in The Press) gave the following testimony at the July 16 Hearing:

Agnes Ritchie identified herself as the Proprietress of the tearooms at Victoria Park. There were several customers on Tuesday, June 22. A woman and two girls (the accused) came in around 2:35 or 2:40 pm. The woman ordered afternoon tea, one girl asked for a flat soft drink and one chose orange, the other lemon. Mrs Ritchie held general conversation with the three and with the woman in particular. They were a quiet group, but appeared perfectly at ease and quite normal. She did not see them leave, but found them gone when she returned to the tearoom soon after 3 pm.

Almost 1/2 hour later, Mrs Ritchie was serving ice creams to someone when the girls rushed to the bottom of the steps. The girls were very agitated, breathless and gasping, both speaking together, and it was difficult to make out what they were saying.

"As near as I can remember the first thing said was" 'Please can somebody help us? Mummy has been hurt.' The girl Parker said: 'It is mummy. She's been terribly hurt. I think she's dead.' The girl Hulme said: 'It's her mother. She's hurt. She's covered with blood. Can somebody help?' I think something was said at that stage that the woman had slipped, but I'm not certain.

The girl Hulme was almost hysterical; the girl Parker was quieter and very white. They both had blood on their clothes, but particularly on their hands. The girl Parker had blood splashed on her face."

The girls were wearing coats similar to the ones produced in evidence, but Mrs Ritchie couldn't remember which girl wore which coat. She sent for her husband. She tried to find out where it had happened but both girls were upset. The girls said it happened in the bushes down the track and they pointed, and Mrs Ritchie went over to try to see something, knowing there was a dangerous spot in that direction. Seeing nothing, she went back and questioned the girls. They said: "Don't make us go down there again." She said: "Never mind. You needn't go back."

Mrs Ritchie's husband, KN Ritchie, arrived. He told his wife to send for an ambulance then he went down the track. The blood on the girls and their clothes worried her a good deal [note: = greatly. HD Rieper uses the same phrase. jp]. The girls wanted to wash the blood off straight away. Mrs Ritchie got hot water for them and both washed. Both wanted to go home, but particularly Juliet Hulme. Both asked her to telephone their fathers. She phoned H Rieper first, but the line was engaged. She then phoned Dr Hulme, and then made a cup of tea for the girls and sat with them as they drank their tea.

"I asked them how it happened and the girl Hulme said: 'Oh, don't talk about it.' The girl Parker said they had been down the track and were returning when somehow her mother had slipped on a plank. She said her mother hit her head on a brick and her head kept bumping and banging as she fell. The girl Hulme kept saying 'Don't talk about it. I'll always remember hearing her head banging.' Both girls remarked that it seemed like a dream and they would wake up soon, and odd remarks like that.

The girl Parker remarked during the conversation: "Mummy, mummy she's dead.' I said she might not be so badly hurt, and the girl Parker just looked at me. They said that after she fell they tried to pick her up and carry her, but she was too heavy, and they dropped her. The girl Parker said: 'Perhaps we didn't do the right thing. Perhaps we shouldn't have tried to carry her.'

They both remarked several times that they wanted to go home. The girl Hulme said several times 'Will my daddy be long? I wish he would hurry.'

The girl Parker was quiet and calm and I thought she appeared to be dazed. The girl Hulme was still almost hysterical and appeared to be holding herself back.

Dr Hulme arrived and took the girls away in his car. The police arrived shortly after that. About 4 pm I telephoned Mr Rieper and he telephoned me about 4:30 pm. I told him what I knew and he arrived at Victoria Park later."

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