December 21, 1920
Lindfield, New South Wales, Australia
Dorothy Mort (32, pictured) shoots her paramour and doctor Claude Tozer (30) after he informs her he intends to marry another
Tozer had been treating Mort for years for hysteria and nerves, and the pair eventually began an affair. Mort was married with two children while Tozer was single. After some time he decided he should marry and, as Mort was already wed, regretfully informed her of his proposal to another woman.
On December 21, Mort’s husband called Tozer to report his wife had been bedridden for four days. Tozer paid the Mort home a visit and within 10 minutes of his arrival a servant in the Mort house, Florence Fizelle, heard a gunshot. Mort assured Fizelle everything was fine through the closed drawing room door, though two more shots were heard. Mort lingered in the drawing room for some time before she retired to her room. In the evening, when Mort’s children arrived home, Fizelle forced her way into Mort’s bedroom to find her covered in blood and intoxicated by laudanum. She had shot herself in the left breast.
Tozer’s body as it was found in Mort’s drawing room
After the discovery of Mort’s attempted suicide, Tozer’s body was found. He had been shot in the back of the head, in the temple, and in the chest. It was also revealed during trial that, after Tozer was killed, Mort had laid in her dead lover’s arms for approximately two hours before withdrawing to her room to attempt suicide. During the murder investigation, letters were found from Tozer addressed to Mort whom he called Dearest Lady and Lady Diana amongst other terms of endearment.
Mort hides her face in this 1923 mugshot
Mort was tried and acquitted on grounds of insanity with the help of her family history; her father, William Mackay Woodruff, had attacked her mother and brother in 1913 by splitting their skulls with an axe before attempting suicide. Woodruff was found “quite nude” on the front yard “raving wildly about trains” after cutting his own throat. All involved survived. Woodruff killed himself in prison on December 9, 1919, and Mort was markedly depressed on the anniversary of her father’s suicide.
Mort’s mugshot following her acquittal
Despite the acquittal, Mort remained in prison until she was deemed sane in 1929. She returned to live with her husband until his death in 1950. Mort died in 1966 at the age of 81.
- Sutton, Candace. “The secret behind the Christmas society murder scene frozen in time.” News.com.au. July 1, 2018. Accessed: December 21, 2018. https://www.news.com.au/national/crime/the-secret-behind-the-christmas-society-murder-scene-frozen-in-time/news-story/979f8fc0b749b36d9816bf827b9a8640
- “Mrs. Mort. Release From Prison Likely. Declared Sane.” The Sydney Morning Herald. October 7, 1929
- “Mrs. Mort. Found Insane.” The Sydney Morning Herald. April 9, 1921
- “Death of Dr. Tozer.” The Age [Melbourne, Australia]. March 15, 1921