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Grave gift for girls

Grave concern: Leongatha Cemetery secretary/manager Shirleyanne Wright, with trust members Robert Atkin and Jessie Spencer at the gravesite of June Rushmer.

TWO victims of Leongatha serial killer Arnold Sodeman now have plaques on their graves, after a bequest by the Australian Funeral Directors Association (AFDA).
June Rushmer, who is buried at the Leongatha Cemetery, and Ethel Belshaw, who is buried at the Tarwin Lower Cemetery, both previously had unmarked graves.
They were strangled by Sodeman in 1935.
June was killed at Leongatha, a short distance from home. Ethel Belshaw was killed near the beach at Inverloch. It would later emerge that Sodeman had also killed two girls in Melbourne.
“Where we came in was as an AFDA member. Russell Robinson (Herald Sun reporter) asked us if we’d pay for the plaque, which we agreed to,” AFDA’s Tom Dooley said.
“From time to time you get contacted to do things of this nature. One of our members in Warrnambool was instrumental in repatriating the ashes of an Indian worker who had come out to Australia in the 1920s. Kapil Dev (former Indian cricketer) came out and helped with a ceremony.
“We do things from time to time, like that. But most of our work goes unpublicised. It’s about helping people where we can.”
Sodeman finished his life at the end of a rope in 1936, hanged at Pentridge Prison.
The game was up when one of his workmates – a man known as “Mr Money” – jokingly asked him where he was when June Rushmer was murdered. Sodeman exploded, denying any wrongdoing. The now suspicious Mr Money called police, who swooped and arrested the killer.
Throughout Sodeman’s trial, his lawyer argued that his client was insane and should not die for his actions. Doctors and psychiatrists said he was affected by a “disorder of the mind aggravated by the toxic effects of alcohol”.
The condition was known as leptomeningitis, and as Sodeman was intoxicated during all four murders, the doctors concluded that he was insane at the times of the murders.
The jury rejected the claim.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=3229

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