At the Albury Quarter Sessions on 6 July 1914, Otto Fietz was charged with having, at Moorwatha on 23 April, broken into the house of William George Doubleday and stolen a watch, two brushes, a pea rifle, two strops, a razor and a razor strop.
He pleaded guilty to the charge but asked to be let off as a first offender. He presented Judge Rogers with four character references, three from recent employers (all farmers) and the fourth from his old school teacher, Mr Scrimes of Gerogery.
Senior Constable Wilkinson, stationed at Howlong, made a report, stating that in 1910 Otto had been working for Mr O. Heppner of Gerogery. During his employment, Otto had taken himself into Albury and received a cheque from the manager of the Butter Factory, representing himself as Heppner’s son, but Heppner chose not to prosecute Otto at the time.
A couple of years later, in July 1913, Otto took a double-barrelled gun from Richard Brown of Burrumbuttock but Brown also did not prosecute Otto because the gun was returned to him. Senior Constable Wilkinson claimed, “The farmers around Jindera would not employ Fietz if they could help it, as they said he could not help stealing.”
Otto’s lawyer, Mr FW Tietyens, told the court Otto admitted that all those statements were actually true. He also said that Otto was now working for his brother-in-law at Burrumbuttock and asked again for him to be let off as a first offender.
Tietyens argued, “Can he be cured by being sent to gaol?”
Judge Rogers replied, “I don’t know. Sometimes it has that effect.”
Tietyens said, “I still ask. His brother-in-law is here. He may be his reformation.”
In the end, Judge Rogers decided against treating Otto as a first offender and sentenced him to six months hard labour at Goulburn Gaol. In summing up his decision, he told the court:
“Stealing from a dwelling is serious. People in the country, in lonely places, have to go away, and their homes are left to depredations. I look upon it as a very serious matter; more serious than when a man takes a sporting chance.“
In 1916, Otto married Ernestine Greschke of Burrumbuttock. They had four children, two boys and two girls.
By 1949, Otto was employed as a wheelwright at Walla Walla. The family was living in a five-roomed weatherboard cottage which burned down on 23 October, a Sunday afternoon. The bushfire brigade, assisted by the townsfolk, was only able to save the kitchen. The newspaper reported that close to 500 people arrived to help! The building was apparently valued at about £1000 and was partly insured, though the furniture was not.
In later years, Otto and Ernestine moved to the Sunshine Coast and are buried together in Nambour Garden Cemetery. Otto died in June 1970 and Ernestine followed him nearly ten years later in September 1979.
The Border Morning Mail, 2 May 1914 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/109816073
The Border Morning Mail, 7 July 1914 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/109821748
Albury Banner and Wodonga Express, 10 July 1914 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/101420297
Henty Observer and Culcairn Shire Register, 28 October 1949 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/175487143