Juett sisters – The tragic life of Lily Juett

Juett sisters – The tragic life of Lily Juett

Young women of poor origins quite frequently found themselves falling afoul of the law.  Her Majesty’s Prison for Women Brisbane at Boggo Road was where most of these women ended up. 

The Juett sisters were no exception.   Minnie and Lily Juett were natives of Bundaberg, North Queensland.  Their parents had nine children and were of simple farming stock.  The children were sent out to work as soon as it was suitable.  Minnie and Lily were sent to work as servants in some of the finer homes and their brothers as labourers on farms around the Rockhampton and Bundaberg region.

Minnie and Lily were not long in their new profession, both having been discharged for theft and improper conduct.  Both could not return home and turned to the streets to make their living.  After some time had passed, the sisters had saved enough money that they made their way by ship to Brisbane; hoping to change their futures for the better.

Today, we are going to turn our attention to the youngest of the two sisters, Lily Juett.

Lily Juett

Native Place:  Bundaberg, Queensland.

Age:  20 years 11 Months

Height:  4 feet 8 ½ inches (143cm)

Weight:  6 stone 10 lbs (42.6kg)

Make:  Slight

Complexion:  Pale

Hair:  Fair

Eyes:  Blue

Marks:  Three vaccination marks on left arm and scar on left temple.


Before the court

Lily was only just sixteen years old when she first ran afoul of the law. Being charged with the common offence of Vagrancy.  The police magistrate took pity on her, her situation could only be described as terrible, and he sent Lily to the Salvation Army Home for wayward ladies. It mustn’t have had much effect; for just six months later Lily was again before the court, charged with having no lawful means of support.  Again, she was sent to the Salvation Army Home.

Salvation Army Home, Yeronga 1897

This was the beginning of a downward spiral for Lily.  She was found in one of the more notorious brothels in town, George Antoni’s Oyster Saloon on Albert Street.  She with other young girls were attracted to Antoni’s by the offer of free food and lodging.  Little did these young girls know, they had to work for their keep in the most degrading way.

Antoni’s was regularly in the press and often raided by the police and the health department as a house of ill fame. Lily would continue to reside at Antoni’s often over the next two years.

In 1906, Lily was charged with quitting the lock hospital and breach of the communicable diseases act.   Two laws that prostitutes were regularly charged with having broken.  Lily spent most of 1906 in gaol after numerous small offences.

We next hear from Lily in June of 1908 when she is charged with having created a public disturbance in Albert street and for damaging a policeman’s trousers while engaged in a scuffle.  She was given a fine or 7 days in gaol.  Lily chose gaol.

Again, in September of 1908 Lily was in court.  This time having been charged for being armed in public with no lawful reason.  She had allegedly fired several shots into the air in Albert Street.  Luckily for Lily, not enough evidence was available to proceed, and the case was dismissed. It wouldn’t be long however until Lily’s luck would run out.



Mary Street Tragedy

10:30pm , Monday 31st May 1909,  O’Brien’s cottage, 82 Mary street, Brisbane.

From the headlines of The Truth.

Shortly after 10:30pm in a dingy cottage adjoining the Oriental Hotel on the corner of Mary and Albert Streets, Brisbane.   Shots rang out.   

A witness screamed… “Someone is shooting Lily” The ladies of the cottage ran to her aid.  Only to find the door barricaded from the inside.   Thelma Woods, a single woman, who lived in the room next to Lily poked her head through an open window seeing Lily on the floor and turning to see a man blocking the door before he turned the gun on himself and fired.  She screamed and ran to meet Constable Roche who having heard the shots was making his way toward her.  

Earlier that evening, Lily and the unknown man had been sharing drinks at the Oriental Hotel.  They seemed very friendly and at closing time were very drunk.   It would later be known that Lily had previously been in a relationship with the seafaring, powerfully built man.  She had received word that he was arriving at Pinkenba. He was an engineer on a ship called Strathspey.  

That evening after their day together, Lily announced that she had been keeping company with another man and that his case was hopeless.  She intended to marry her lover.    This is said to have thrown the man into a rage and quite possibly have caused the crime.

Just before entering her room that night, she had told another of the ladies of the cottage that should anything happen to her that night, to tell her lover that she loved him to the last.

It was not long until a crowd had formed surrounding the cottage and news had reached another lady of the evening, Minnie Juett.   Minnie came rushing forward, eventually being allowed into the room by the police.  When she saw her little sister lying on the floor covered in blood, Minnie cried out and was carried from the room by the kindly officers.  She communicated with her mother who at once made for the scene from Bundaberg.


The subsequent magisterial inquiry and post mortem would show that poor Lily had been shot twice in the head and once in the chest at extremely close range. Her death was instant.

It would also prove that the man identified as Karl or Carl Eberhardt (alias August Hesse) was in possession of a five chambered revolver and a pocket watch when spoken to by police in Newcastle New South Wales some months previously.    These items were found in the room along with other personal effects with the name Carl Eberhardt.  It was conclusive, it was he that fired the fatal shots and murdered Lily before turning the gun on himself.

The Truth newspaper published the most complete coverage of this story. The editor summed up this tragic tale of woe with the inventory of Lily’s worldly possessions.

“For any young ladies having any doubts on the Fairy Tales of the earnings of vice, the inventory of her possessions will round out this tale of vice, debauchery, degradation and death.  In hard cash, £1 and 13 shillings, of which 3 shillings and 6 pence were from her last transaction on earth.  Lily Juett was young just on the verge of 21.  Her only other possessions included: one umbrella, three blouses, one petticoat, one chemise, one singlet, one pair of stockings, one pair of slippers, one chain purse (empty), one steel belt, one string of beads and a pawn ticket for a ring in the name of Miss Wilson.

That inventory is a better homily on the folly and degradation of vice than all the sermons that were ever preached and comment of any sort would lesson not increase its effect.”

Lily was laid to rest at Toowong Cemetery on the afternoon of Tuesday the 1st of June. Sadly, their mother never made the service, arriving that night. Lily was loved by all those who knew her; So much so her friends all contributed to pay for her burial.  A year later, an expensive monument was placed on her grave, with one special note at the bottom. “Erected by her sister Minnie”.


For many ladies that have at one time seen the inside of the walls at Boggo Road Gaol, this life would be all too familiar.   Not all ended so tragically.  Some would say though that living numerous years longer in the same daily cycle of degradation and despair would be much worse.


Of all the charges passed on the women in the earliest days of the female division, the vast majority had a charge for Prostitution.  Often listed in the registers as vagrancy, without visible means of support, offensive language and public disturbance.   It was very common, and a sad commentary on society of the time.



Want something cool to do this Sunday? Learn more about the women at Boggo Road Gaol by taking an 11am History Tour and watching our Prison Players perform!  You can book your tickets here

This article was contributed by Research Coordinator Sue Olsen as part of the ongoing research program for Boggo Road Gaol Pty Ltd. The aim of the program is to bring to light and share articles relating to Boggo Road for the purposes of review and study. Do you have a story to share or something you would like us to know about? You can contact the research team here

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