The tragic death and funeral of Dr Arthur Vincent Meehan

On 1 December 1955, Brisbane was rocked by one of its most violent and public murders. An angry and disgruntled former patient shot and killed two doctors and seriously injured a third in their chambers on Wickham Terrace. He also detonated a number of pipe bombs, injuring a member of the public, before turning his gun on himself.

The perpetrator, Karl Kast, had injured his back at work in North Queensland and received two weeks compensation. However claims for further compensation were not supported by medical professionals including Dr Meehan. The process eventually led to a deterioration in Kast’s mental state and on the morning of 1 December he set out with the intention of seeking revenge on four doctors who he believed had ignored his claim. A letter sent by Kast to the police that day outlined his plan.

Two of the doctors on that list were Dr Arthur Vincent Meehan and Dr Andrew Russell Murray. Both were killed. Dr Meehan was a highly respected orthopaedic surgeon. Born in Sydney, he moved permanently to Brisbane after serving in the Australian Army Medical Corps in World War One. In Brisbane he had significant associations with Brisbane Children’s Hospital, Brisbane General Hospital and the Mater Misercordiae and became widely regarded as the most prominent orthopaedic surgeon in Queensland.

Dr Meehan’s funeral took place on 8 December, a week after the shooting. More than 2000 people turned out to pay their respects. The packed service took place at St Agatha’s Church in Clayfield. More than 200 doctors were present, many from interstate, alongside politicians, church leaders and many ex-patients. He was buried at Nudgee cemetery.

The State Library of Queensland has recently digitised footage of the funeral which respectfully documents this somber occasion. Likely to have been filmed by Harry Poulsen, the short film contains footage filmed outside St Agatha’s as well as footage from Nudgee cemetery. The silent, colour footage gives a good impression of the magnitude of the occasion.

The following images are stills from 29984/2 Arthur Vincent Meehan funeral motion picture, 1956. The footage is part of the Mater Health Services Motion Pictures 1948-1980 collection held by SLQ.

Stills from 29984/2 Arthur Vincent Meehan funeral motion picture, 1956. From Accession 29984 Mater Health Services Motion Pictures 1948-1980. John Oxley Library. State Library of Queensland.

Still from 29984/2 Arthur Vincent Meehan funeral motion picture, 1956. From Accession 29984 Mater Health Services Motion Pictures 1948-1980. John Oxley Library. State Library of Queensland.

The film can be viewed in full via our One Search catalogue.

R. Hillier – Librarian, State Library of Queensland