At around 7.30 am on 18th February 1957 Constable John Strickfuss was preparing to depart for work from his house in Narella Street, Cannon Hill, a suburb of Brisbane. Suddenly he heard the sound of shots erupt from a house further down Narella Street followed by a plume of smoke emerging from the windows.
He ran to investigate and discovered that a nearby house was also on fire. At that moment several shots rang out, narrowly missing Strickfuss who then doubled in the back door, forcing it open and gaining entry. Two neighbours stepped up to help – James Ainsworth and Frederick Ganter.
A shocking sight confronted Strickfuss – a man’s body lay on the floor, partially covering a rifle. Four more bodies were in the kitchen, three of which were on fire, and then he discovered a baby girl, wounded and burnt but still alive.
Across the road at the other house, another 4 victims were discovered, with the house similarly set on fire.
The man with the rifle was Marian Majka and in a shocking eruption of violence he had killed his wife Gisella and 5 year-old daughter Shirley with a knife and hammer. He had then conducted a further murderous assault on his neighbour’s house across the road. The death toll was 7, including Majka himself, who had shot himself in the head after Strickfuss had stormed his house.
Majka was a Polish migrant who had come to Australia after the war, and had spent time in Nazi Concentration camps – perhaps some type of reason behind his violent rampage.
Constable Strickfuss was awarded the George medal for bravery on the day. It is believed that if not for his intervention Majka had intended to fire on passers by with further deaths highly likely.
The neighbours who had assisted Strickfuss, James Ainsworth and Frederick Ganter, were awarded Queens Commendations for Bravery.
Image: The Immigration Certificate issued to Marian Majka in 1950.