Ottolangui-Langley OZ & NZ

The Death of a Pawnbroker


MAURICE and his younger brother HENRY/HARRY were the first and sixth children respectively of JACOB OTTOLANGUI and FANNY SIMMONS and grandsons of MOSES & EMMA OTTOLANGUI who are considered to be the founders of the Australia and New Zealand Ottolangui/Langley dynasties

MAURICE was born in 1859 in Melbourne and died in October 1933 the victim of an armed robbery at his Elizabeth Street pawnbroker’s shop, in Melbourne. Maurice was never married and had no children. He was buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton, North Melbourne, in plot MGC-JEW-Comp-H, No. 13

HENRY/HARRY was born 11th July 1869 in Melbourne and married MABEL MAY LYNCH in 1924 in Victoria, Australia. Harry captured one of the two men later charged with his brother’s murder on 18th November 1933 in the Melbourne City Court. Harry and Mabel had no children and he died on 18th February 1956 in Melbourne.

Elizabeth Street, Melbourne circa 1933
captured in a crime scene photo after the murder of pawnbroker Maurice Langley

 Article from The Melbourne Argus newspaper 26th October 1933

Shooting in city shop.
Brother detains Suspect.
Search for a second man.

Shot at close range by one of two men who entered his pawnshop in Elizabeth Street, near Latrobe Street, shortly before 2pm yesterday. Mr Maurice Langley aged 75 years, fell near the doorway, and died within a few minutes. One of the men was chased by Mr Harry Langley, Mr Maurice Langley’s brother aged 65 years, and captured. The second man was not seen by passers-by. Apparently, he mingled with the crowd and escaped. The police are searching for him.
Discussing the shooting, Mr Harry Langley, who has been in ill health for some time, said last night:- “We were having lunch in the dinning-room behind the shop- my brother, my wife, Mrs Carter who is a sister-in-law and I, when we heard someone in the shop. Maurice went to see who it was and was in the shop for about 4 minutes. We heard no conversation. Then there was a noise of a scuffle and a faint report of a shot. I ran into the shop and saw my brother tottering. As he fell, he pointed to one of two men and said I am shot. There were two men in the doorway of the shop- one a short man, the other a little taller. I sprang at the short man and he fell in the doorway, but before I could seize him, he scrambled to his feet and ran along the street toward Latrobe Street. I overtook him a few doors along and took him back to the shop, where he was held until a constable arrived. In the meantime, the taller man had slipped away in the crowd. I think the two men came into the shop with the intention of holding my brother up and stealing money or jewellery. There was a considerable amount of money on the premises.”
The chase and capture of the fugitive was witnessed by Mr Edward F Walker, of Compton Street, Reservon, a driver for E A Walker, wholesale confectioner of Victoria St, City, as he was alighting from his motor-van to have lunch, at a cafe’. ” I saw a short, shabbily dressed man being chased by an elderly thin man,” Mr Walker said. “They had run only about 20 yards, when a man who was coming out of Cassell’s stood full in the short man’s path. The man staggered from the impact, bumped against Cassell’s window and fell in the doorway of the shop. His pursuer fell on top of him and almost without struggle seized him by the shoulders. As the short man rose, Mr Langley seized him and took him back to the pawnshop.”
Mr Maurice Langley and his brother had occupied the pawnshop, which is owned by John Zevenboom and Co. Brush Manufacturers, for more than 40 years. He was a bachelor, and frequently visited his weekend home at Selby, where his hobby was gardening.

The Argus Newspaper, Melbourne 18th November 1933 page 21.

Two Men Remanded

Robert Ernest von Geyer aged 50 years a painter of Argyle Square, Carlton and Albert Lewis aged 49 years of North Melbourne, were charged at the City Court yesterday with having murdered Maurice Langley aged 75 years pawnbroker of Elizabeth street on October 25th.
Sergeant de la Rue in asking for a remand said that he understood that an inquest into the shooting of Langley would be held in about seven days.
Both von Geyer and Lewis who offered jo objection, were remanded until November 28th.
No application was made for bail.

From the headline summary of “THE NORTHERN MINER” Newspaper MELBOURNE, Thursday 26th October 1933
A Melbourne pawnbroker was shot dead in his shop yesterday afternoon by one of two men.
The dead man’s brother closed on one of the men the men and eventually held him until the police arrived. The other man escaped.

From “THE NORTHERN MINER” Newspaper 25th October 1933




Maurice Langley (75) single, a pawnbroker, was shot through the heart by one of two men who entered his shop in Elizabeth Street, City, shortly before 2 p.m. to-day. Following a brief city chase one suspect was caught by the murdered man’s brother.
Maurice Langley was having lunch with his brother Harry and’ other relatives at the rear of the shop when two men entered. He went to attend to them.
When he had been gone a few minutes, a revolver shot was heard. Rushing into the shop Harry Langley found his brother slowly collapsing to the floor.
He was shot in the left side. He muttered “I am shot, Harry,” and pointed to the shorter of the two men standing in the shop. Maurice then died.
The two men ran out of the shop, but Harry Langley followed one and caught him a few doors away. He was subsequently handed to the detectives for questioning.
Less than three-quarters of an hour before Maurice Langley was murdered, two men entered the jeweller’s shop of H. Whitfield a few doors further up the street. One asked if the clock he left had been repaired. At the same time the man’s companion tried to edge towards the safe in the corner of the shop, but Whitfield told him that they had left no clock and that they had better clear off. The men were -last seen walking in the direction of Langley’s shop.
The revolver from which the bullet |was discharged was found lying on the floor of Langley’s shop. So far, the second suspect has not been found. The police are not sure yet whether the men who visited Langley were concerned in the robbery from the Carlton pawnshop of Mrs. Napthali earlier in the day.


ON THIS DAY – October 28, 1933;

Albert Lewis (59), labourer, of Peel street, North Melbourne, was charged in the City Court to-day with having, on 25th October 1933, murdered Maurice Langley (75), pawnbroker, of Elizabeth-street. Lewis had been detained on a vagrancy charge, as he was suspected of having been one of two men alleged to have been in the pawnshop when the pawnbroker was shot. Detective J. E. M’Keogh said that at 1.35 pm. on 28th October[sic], Langley was shot in his shop in Elizabeth street. Two men were seen in the shop at the time, and after a struggle a brother of the dead man captured a man named von Geyer, who was charged with murder. The second man escaped. Late that night, Lewis was arrested at West Melbourne and charged with vagrancy. He since had been identified as one of the men who were in the shop, and later was charged with murder. Lewis was remanded to appear at the City Court on 5th November 1933.

From the archives of Twisted History:

 ON THIS DAY – October 25, 1933

 Text: On the application of Sergeant de la Rue at the City Court yesterday, Robert Ernest von Geyer painter aged 50 years of Argyle Square Carlton and Albert Lewis; labourer aged 49 years of Peel street North Melbourne who were charged with having murdered Maurice Langley pawnbroker of Elizabeth street city on October 25 were remanded to appear before the City Court on November 17.  Sergeant de la Rue explained to Mr Bond P M that no date had been fixed for the hearing of the inquest.


One of the cases they unravelled was the murder of pawnbroker Maurice Langley in 1933. A shot of Elizabeth Street, identifiable by the General Post Office clock tower, led to finding another photo of the inside of the shop.

Robert Ernest von Geyer’s mugshot. CREDIT:VICTORIA POLICE

Then, the story unravels. Langley was shot through the heart while his brothers and friends lunched in the next room. His brother rushed in and heard his dying declaration. Pointing his finger at two men standing in the shop, Langley whispered: “He shot me”.

Robert Ernest von Geyer was captured at the scene, with von Geyer later trying to bribe a young constable to set him free by saying Harry Stokes – a ‘two up king’ connected to gangster Squizzy Taylor – would give him 50 pounds.

All the photographs were from a time when crime scene photography was not professionalised and indeed, before the value of forensics was known.

The Argus Newspaper Wednesday, 24th February 1934




Jury Acquits Lewis
In the Criminal Court last night, before Mr. Justice Macfarlan, a jury found Robert Ernest von Geyer, aged 50 years, painter, of Argyle Square, Carlton, guilty of manslaughter in connection with the death of Maurice Langley, pawnbroker, who was shot dead in his shop at 320 Elizabeth street on 25th October 1933.
Albert Lewis, aged 45 years, labourer, of Peel street, West Melbourne, was charged jointly with Von Geyer with having murdered Langley, was found not guilty and was discharged.
The Jury, in finding Von Geyer guilty of manslaughter but not guilty of murder, recommended him to mercy. Von Geyer, who admitted a number of previous convictions, was remanded for sentence.
Mr. Book (Crown prosecutor) prosecuted, and Mr. Maurice Goldberg appeared for Von Geyer and Lewis.
Constable Wilson said that when he was guarding Von Geyer at the criminal investigation branch, Russell street, after the shooting, Von Geyer tried to bribe him by offering him £50 to let him go for a few minutes so that he could see a man named Henry Stokes. Von Geyer at one stage made as if to leave his chair, whereupon witness said, “Sit down, or you will be stopping a lump of lead.”
Von Geyer, on oath, sold that some days before the shooting he met a man who wanted him to buy two pairs of field glasses. Witness did not have the money but said that he would see what Langley would give for them. Witness took the glasses to Langley on the Monday morning, and accepted an offer of £7 for the two pairs. Langley gave him £2 and told him to call back on the Wednesday for the other ,£5. About 1.30 p.m. on the Wednesday he went into the shop with Lewis and asked Langley few the balance of the money. Langley said that he had no money for him, and told him to call another day. “That’s no good to mc,” witness said. “What are you trying to put over me?” Langley said, “I have no money for you.”
Von Geyer continued that he (Von Geyer) then became abusive and used bad language. Langley went behind the counter and presented a revolver like the automatic pistol produced. “He pointed it at me,” said Von Geyer. I said, “Don’t point that at me,” At the same time I caught his arm and twisted it so that the revolver would not be pointed at me.
The pistol went off, and Langley said, “I’m shot.”
Demonstration of Shooting: Von Geyer then left the box and went on the floor of the court to give a demonstration of the shooting. Lewis was brought from the dock, and the court crier took up a position where Von Geyer said that Maurice Langley had stood. Von Geyer then showed how, he said, he had grasped Langley’s arm and how the revolver was brushed aside. Von Geyer, when he returned to the witness-box, said that he told the detectives a lot of lies. At the coroner’s court he had not given his present account of how the shooting had occurred. He had been advised to plead not guilty and reserve his defence. He did not tell Langley’s brother the true version of the shooting because he thought that the brother would not have believed him.
Mr. Book.-Why did you not tell the detectives?
Witness.-I was not thinking only of myself. I was thinking of Langley and of Lewis, and I did not want to drag him into something he should not be in.
When did Langley drop the pistol?
Just as the shot was fired.
Von Geyer denied that he tried to bribe Constable Wilson to let him go. He did not mention the name of Stokes to the constable.
Lewis, who gave corroborative evidence, said that he was sure that the shooting was an accident, and he had told Detective McGuffle so. After the shot he left the shop and walked home.
Mr. Book.-You admit that you told lies to the detectives?-Yes.
The jury retired at 4.40 p.m., and returned with Its verdict at 9.10 p.m.
Shortly after 8 p.m. the foreman asked Mr. Justice Macfarlan to explain the meaning of manslaughter.
Mr. Justice Macfarlan had previously told the Jury that if they decided that the men went to the pawnshop on legitimate business, and that Von Geyer lost his temper and on the spur of the moment fired the shot that killed Langley, that would be manslaughter. If Von Geyer fired, not with the Intention of killing but with the object of frightening, that would be manslaughter.
The foreman also wanted to know whether. If Von Geyer had swung Langley’s arm round in self-defence and the revolver had been discharged, it would be manslaughter.
Mr. Justice Macfarlan said that in that event Von Geyer would not be guilty either of murder or of manslaughter.

Shot dead in his shop
From the Victoria Police Museum

In late October 1933 pawnbroker Maurice Langley was shot dead in his Elizabeth Street shop by two armed assailants, while his brother, sister-in-law and friend lunched in the other room.
Langley had been enjoying a meal in a room adjacent to his Elizabeth Street shopfront when he heard someone enter the shop and went to investigate. Moments later, shots were fired. Langley’s brother rushed in and witnessed him staggering backwards. Before dying he gasped ‘He shot me’, pointing to two men standing before him. A struggle erupted and one man was captured but the other fled. He was later identified as Albert Lewis. 
Captured man
The captured man was 50-year-old Robert Ernest von Geyer. He claimed he had simply entered the shop to claim a £5 debt from Langley, who had drawn a gun on him and shot himself accidentally. The truth was a little less simple. Witnesses said the men also threatened Langley’s brother, saying ‘We will get you yet!’
Was it a gangster-style assassination, or a fight gone wrong?

By bryanell2020

Occasional genealogist and full-time Ottolangui family historian. 8th generation descendant of the 17th century Ottolenghi family of Livorno, born in London, graduated in Birmingham, lived around the United Kingdom, Israel, and in Rome, Italy. For a short while in Buenos Aires, and currently residing in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where I have been since 2005.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s