Henry Louis Bertrand – the mad dentist
“…a case more atrocious, more unreal, and more disgusting in its horrible details than any before recorded in the annals of crime”.
(Illustrated Sydney News, December 16, 1865)
Sydney dentist Henry Bertrand was married with two children, but started having an affair with one of his patients, Maria Ellen Kinder, a married woman from St Leonards. The Kinders and Bertrands were social acquaintances and it wasn’t long before Maria Ellen’s husband, Henry Kinder, a bank official, started to get suspicious of Bertrand’s intentions towards his wife.
The dentist decided the best thing to do was to get rid of Mr Kinder.
There were several botched murder attempts, starting with a tomahawk. Bertrand then persuaded his young assistant, Mr Burne, to buy a pair of pistols. As recorded in a newspaper report of the trial, ‘He did so subject to approval, and the same night Bertrand, disguised in woman’s apparel, accompanied him to where the pistols were, approved of them, and gave the price of them to Burne’.
The next day he sent his assistant off to the butcher to buy a sheep’s head, which Bertrand then used as target practice.
Soon after, during a social evening at the Kinders, Henry Kinder was shot in the head. Bertrand was the only one to witness it, and claimed it was a suicide attempt. Kinder lingered for a few days and, Bertrand, desperate to finish the job, persuaded Maria Ellen Kinder to poison her husband with a mixture of belladonna and milk. The coroner ruled the death, on 2 October 1865, to be suicide.
“Bertrand is a young man, apparently of five or six and twenty years of age, about five feet five inches in height, and rather effeminate in appearance. Mrs Kinder appears to be about the same age; in height she is rather above the average, and in personal appearance decidedly inferior to Mrs Bertrand; towards whom the public feeling is one of pity.” (Illustrated Sydney News, December 16, 1865).
Bertrand then unsuccessfully tried to murder his wife, in the hope of marrying Maria Ellen Kinder. Eventually, however, the case was reopened – Bertrand had confessed shooting Kinder to his sister and she became one of the prime witnesses during the trial.
He and Maria Ellen Kinder were both charged with murder. She was discharged due to lack of evidence, but Bertrand was sentenced to 28 years imprisonment, most of which was spent at Darlinghurst Gaol.