The life of Albert Augustus Smith

Albert Augustus Smith owned the Gloucester Majestic Theatre in the 1930s.
Albert Augustus Smith owned the Gloucester Majestic Theatre in the 1930s.

The question of 'did the baker kill his wife?' will never be answered in Gloucester's history.

Prominent identity, Albert Augustus Smith, the proprietor of Gloucester Majestic Theatre and a baker, was thrust into the limelight when his wife, Edith went missing in 1930. Janine Roberts from MidCoast Stories explained how Edith went missing with her jewellery, her clothes, 250 pounds and her Pomeranian dog and was never seen again.

"Edith was a beautiful woman. She was also a talented jazz musician and would travel around the state playing drums," Ms Roberts aid.

In the year before she went missing, Edith had left her husband, Albert twice during which time she went to stay with her mother in Sydney.

"One day her mother and her discovered that their house had nearly been blown up," Ms Roberts explained. "There were sticks of gelignite under her house and a fuse and the only reason it hadn't blow up was the fuse had burnt out before reaching the sticks of gelignite."

Nobody was found to have been behind this crime and it was forgotten. When Edith went missing, it wasn't Albert that reported her missing, it was her mother and when Albert was questioned about it he brushed it off and said she'd be back after she'd spent all the money.

Being a baker, Albert had ovens in the back of the Majestic Theatre and as he was a suspect in her missing case, with police searched his ovens for her remains but couldn't find anything. Police did find a fuse but they couldn't to link it to anything.

This wasn't Albert's first brush with the arson, having been suspected of setting fire to the bakery he formerly owned in Comboyne. It's believed he went back to set the fire after having sold the business and relocating to Gloucester, although he was never convicted.

Back in Gloucester, when the Star Theatre decided to set up shop close to the Majestic Theatre, it ended up catching fire one evening.

"Luckily passers by were able to stop the fire before it destroyed the whole theatre," Ms Roberts said. "When police went to investigate their suspicion turned to Albert. They went to investigate the Majestic Theatre and under the front stage they found all the equipment that had been used in starting the fire in the Star Theatre."

Albert was arrested and went to face court in Taree. The first jury was unable to convict him, so another court case was held which resulted in his release due to the evidence being circumstantial.

In 1935, Albert sold the Majestic Theatre at the same time the Star Theatre was sold. Both businesses went to the same man leaving Albert feeling as though he'd been ripped off.

But when gelignite was found under the Wallsend home of the new proprietor of the theatres, police were able to pin it on Albert and make it stick. He was given 12 years in jail while his accomplice (a well-known businessman) was given a seven year term.

Once released, Smith retired in Crescent Head and in 1946 there were a series of house fires; one involving the death of an elderly man. Albert was arrested but lack of evidence saw him released.