New Theory in death puzzle.
Grazier "hit in sleep".
By Bob Johnson.
Willow Tree, batchelor grazier Frank Avard, found shot on his Willow Tree property last month, is believed to have been attacked as he lay in bed.
detectives will not at this stage go beyond saying that Mr Avard might have been the victim of foul play.
But the new theory comes from his closest family and friends, and the men from this little town who rushed
to his aid on the day of the shooting, whom I talked to in Willow Tree this week.
They say bruising and graze marks found on the right side of his head, there was only one bullet wound, this in the centre of his
forehead, back up their theory.
They believe the grazier was asleep in his little flat adjoining the garage on his property when an intruder crept in and hit him on the head.
The blow, or blows only stunned the powerfully built victim, who staggered out of bed and made for the saddling shed a few steps away to get the rifle he kept there.
He had the rifle and a box of bullets-later
found scattered beside him, in his hands, when the attacker turned on him with another rifle and shot the grazier as he stood in the door way of his shed.
The people of Willow Tree, [population 150] which is clustered
around a tree lined bend of the New England highway, 235 miles north of Sydney, believe to a man that he was murdered.
The men say that even if their attack theory is wrong, the absence of powder burns around the
bullet wounds in Mr Avards forehead must prove he could not have fired the fatal bullet.
Tests on bullet.
Besides, Frank Avard, owner of the rich pastoral
property “Runnymeade” a mile from Willow Tree, loved life and horses too much to have taken his own life they say.
He was “A happy bloke” who had lived in the district all his life and didn’t
have an enemy they say.
Mr Avard was found unconscious and bleeding from a bullet wound in his head, in the doorway of his saddling shed about midday, January 12 by Gunnedah well borer, Mr J Dignam.
Only a few days before, Mr Dignam had told a jubilant Mr Avard that he had found water on Runnymeade, the first underground supply found on the property.
The well borer had returned to pick
up his tools when he saw the grazier lying on his back with legs protruding from the sheds doorway.
He was wearing only pajama shorts and blood was oozing from his head. An ambulance took him 10 miles to Quirindi
hospital, but he died there without regaining consciousness, despite the skilled surgery of a Sydney brain specialist.
Mr Avard was buried
two days later, on January 16, in St Oswalds, the tiny chamfer-board church next to the police station in Willow Tree. The whole of the town turned out for the funeral. Willow Tree mourned his death, but life went on in it’s normal unhurried vein until
police announced this week that the bullet that killed the grazier apparently did not come from the rifle that lay beside him. Ballistics tests were made, and detective sergeant Ray Kelly led a team of Sydney detectives to Willow Tree immediately the ballistics
report was ready.