Completed Search : Irene COFFEE nee BRANN

We are searching for the whereabouts of the family of Irene COFFEE nee BRANN
born in Dresden, Germany, 02 November 1911 .


Irene BRANN about 1938

Irene_1942.jpg  Irene_1942_2.jpg

Irene BRANN in 1942

We know of a letter which arrived in Israel from Australia in the 1970's, but has been destroyed.
This letter announced the death of Irene to her sister in Haifa, Israel (who had also died by the time the letter arrived).
We found the death certificate of the mother which had the comment "murder, sentence of death" noted on it - but we have lost track of Irene in Australia.

Irene escaped Dresden to London in 1937. She married an Englishman Aron COFFEE and used her new British passport she thus gained to collect her mother in 1938.

By 1941 the Germans were sweeping through Russia, and people in London were terrified that the Germans would turn and take England as well. They made a suicide pact. The mother Margarete BRANN nee Salomon succeeded, and died. We have found her death registration

and Irene was found just in time and revived.

In 1941 Britain suicide was a criminal offence, and a suicide pact was murder. Irene was hauled before the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey in London, found guilty, and sentenced to death by hanging.
In his summing up, the Judge commented that no one who read the notes of the trial would feel anything but the deepest compassion for the two women. On the other hand, he had no choice but to pronounce a sentence of death according to Law.
He recommended that the death sentence be commuted to a life sentence. King George VI did this and within three months Irene was released from prison. (Ironic, isn't it? A person commits suicide, is sentenced to die, and then permitted to live a life in prison.)

Irene lived for a while in the Lake District, and then emigrated to Australia

Here is what we have learned in recently:-

Irene COFFEE, born Dresden, Germany in 1911, arrived in Australia from England some time in or after 1951

The house at 52 MacArthur Parade, Dulwich-Hill NSW Australia, where Irene boarded in the fifties before her marriage . Her room was on the left, behind the verandah.

She married [Adolf] Eduard SCHLEISS - a Swiss national born 15 August 1908  in 1955 - on 24 Sep 1955.      There are TWO Family names [Schleiss and TELL] with the IDENTICAL Registration number, to be found [ click here ] and it turned out that the couple changed their name from SCHLEISS to TELL in order to distance themselves from the German sounding name and to convey the fact that Eduard was a Swiss.

wedding day


Irene and Edward are in the centre of the front row.
Suzanne Verunica, who signed as a wittness of the marriage, is in the second row, first on the left.

Who are the others??

So we learned that the SCHLEISS couple went by the name of TELL in West Ryde - and lived in Ryde, NSW.

Eduard had arrived in Australia from Switzerland in 1949 - at first we thought that he did so with his much younger brother Nikolaus, born 4th July 1922.
From him we have the 1955 pictures of the couple

Nikolaus wrote:
I send here the only Picture I could find,Brother Edy was was a loner,He left Home even before I was born. I met Him in Geneva around 1945 or 1946 even then we had very little contact, except that time we did apply for Visa to Australia. He left then in 1949. I myself changed my mind and left in 1951 for the U.S.A.
I am sorry I couldend be of more Help.
Yours sincerely
N . Schleiss


Irene died 30. September 1968




Eduard remarried Mavis Florence Emma [SURNAME??] who also died before him, on 25 September 1992


We have found the Death notice for Mavis TELL in the Sydney Morning Herald of 28 Sep 1992 which reads:

"Mavis Florence Emma TELL ‎

Died 25 September 1992

At Hospital

Late of West Ryde

Beloved wife of Edward

Dearly loved mother and mother-in-law of David and Ann

Grandmother of Paul and Jarrid

Loving sister of Nean (?) and Josie

Loving aunt of their families

At peace. Privately cremated"

What was her former name - can we locate her children and grandchildren?

Eduard died 01. May 1993.

We are keen to learn anything that may still be remembered about them.

1. Where are they buried?
2. Where there any further obituaries
3. Is there anything known about their work and life activities / biographies? Eduard is described as a "
Railways Worker"
4. Do they appear on the Postal records  - and when where does it cease?
5. Do they appear on the Voters records - and when where does it cease?
6. Would any professionals  or personal friends and acquaintances in the town still know something about them - Doctors, Accountants, Lawyers, Real Estate Companies, Funeral Directors - anyone at all?
7. What was the former name of Mavis Florence Emma - can we locate her children and grandchildren?
8.  Would there have been any wills and/or Probate proceedings?
Is there any significance in the location of Parramatta ?  is that anywhere near Ryde?
10. Can we locate F.G. Kyte - Anglican Minister and A. Silver ?


In order to obtain answers to these questions we applied for the death certificates and probate information of both Mavis TELL and Edward TELL

Australia has some very strict Data Protection [ or Privacy ] Laws. Whether or not you can obtain a death certificate depends on the date on which the person has died, and both Mavis and Edward died too recently. Having been refused the certificates, we then applied to

The Hon. John Hatzistergos, The NSW Attorney General and Minister for Justice with the request that he

1.  Offer us a specific exemption from the privacy act so that the death certificates can be issued thereby allowing us to identify the maiden or former family name of the above Mavis Florence Emma TELL; or,


2.  Identify a surviving child of the above Mavis Florence Emma Tell and inform them of our efforts in order that they could then make contact with our organisation, if they so choose to do so.


Both requests have been refused. They wrote:


" I appreciate the reasons which promoted you to write however the criteria required to obtain a death certificate apply to applicants from both Australia and overseas and the Registry cannot release a death certificate unless the criteria are met.

The Registrar has a duty of care under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995 to protect the privacy of any person whose details appears in the registers.  Birth, death and marriage certificates can only be provided to the person named on the certificate or another person authorised by the Act.

Accordingly, if you are unable to provide the necessary authorisation documents, you may apply in writing to the Registrar for a full refund of any fees paid.


However - with the diligent work of a friend in Sydney, we were able to examine publically available information which led us directly to the family.

We quote it here as an illustration of superb detective work on behalf of this researcher, but have REMOVED the surname and addresses in order to protect the family.


How we found Mavis and her children

15   August   2007
From the death notice of the 2nd wife of Eduard TELL we knew the first names of this wife, and of her children – but we did NOT know any of the family names.  Without those family names we could not find the individuals still living – and we needed to find them in order to see what is still known, and what may still survive, about  Irene and Eduard
This is what we knew from the SMH 28 Sept 1992:
Died 25 September 1992
At Hospital
Late of West Ryde
Beloved wife of Edward
Dearly loved mother and mother-in-law of David and Ann
Grandmother of Paul and Jarrid
Loving sister of Nean (?) and Josie
Loving aunt of their families
At peace. Privately cremated

Here is how it was done:
I   started  my   search  for   the  former  married name  of   Mavis  Florence  Emma  TELL by  searching the NSW marriage   index, keying  in  her  first   names  only. That initially led to a totally WRONG individual.
I then went to the Probate Division of the Supreme Court of NSW to check for Mavis TELL. She was not on the index, but Edward TELL was:
Edward TELL, File No. 108948/93, Probate granted 23 July 1993.
This turned out to be the vital clue. I went back to the State Library and checked the current roll for Ann, and found her living at [Address removed ] . I checked for a David at the same address, but did not find one. I then checked for a Jarrid and found him!  You can imagine how delighted I was!  There was no Paul at the same address.
I then checked electoral rolls for earlier years.
In 1997 I found at [Address removed ]:
Ann, David Alan, Jarrid Alan and Paul Harold [ 2nd names removed ]
With the second names I was able to search for David and Paul.
David Alan did not appear on the 1999 NSW roll and is not on the current roll, He is not on the probate index, nor on The Ryerson Index, a website index to newspaper death notices (which is where we had found Mavis TELL's death notice in the first place). If he is still alive he may be living outside NSW.
Paul Harold is living at [Address removed ].
With the second names of the two grandsons (and of David) I then thought that either Alan or Harold might have been the name of Mavis's first husband. I checked the NSW death index and found:
Harold (parents Fred/Mary) died Balmain 1967/9223.
I found him on the Probate Index:
Series 4, No. 633566, Harold, Balmain, d. 5. 2. 1967 (P).
(The NSW Probate Index up to 1985 is available on microfiche in libraries and at the Society of Australian Genealogists - from 1986 to the present it is only available at the Supreme Court, on a computer printout 1987-89 and from 1990 on computer. ) ,
I then went to the 1965 electoral roll for the electorate of Dalley, subdivision of Balmain East, and found:
[Name removed ],  David Alan,                              [ address removed ],  process worker
       "        ,             Harold,         "                                    "                    ,  carpenter
      "         ,             Mavis Florence Emma,                       "                    ,  laundress.

On the 1970 Electoral roll for electorate of Lowe, sub—division of Ryde, I found
Edward and Mavis Florence Emma TELL; at 15 Melville St., West Ryde, so they had married by then.

On the 1965 roll for the electorate of Bennelong, sub-division of Ryde I found a William Shelley [Name removed ], jeweller, living at 11 Melville St., Jest Hyde, (only two doors from Edward TELL, and yet having the same surname as that of Mavid!!). It may just be a coincidence, but I wonder if he might have been related to Harold or William, and that is how Edward and Mavis met?

With Harold's  date  of  death  from the  probate   index, I was  able to  check for  a newspaper  death  notice:
The   Sydney  Morning, Herald, [Date removed ]  -  Deaths:
[Name removed ], Harold, beloved husband  of   Mavis, loving  father   and   father-in-law  of David  and Ann.
(He  was  cremated  at   the  Northern  Suburbs  Crematorium. )

As  Ann was not  on the 1965)  roll. with  David, they  must   have been  married between then and the date of  Harold's  death.
On  the   1975   electoral  roll  for  electorate  of   Sidney, sub-division  of Balmain  East, David   Alan, storeman, and   Ann  Lydia, machinist, were   listed  at  [Address removed ].

I could not find the marriage of Harold RAMSAY and Mavis Florence Emma — on the NSW index, nor was Harold on the Australian World War 2 roll (ww2roll website), so they may have been immigrants, or have been married in another part of Australia.

And that is how we terminate the Search. It has taken nearly 10 years, started on 21-Apr-98, we have terminated it on 10-Sep-2007

Irene Married, had a good, loving marriage, but did so too late to bear children. The survivors of Eduard's 2nd marriage sadly cannot tell us any more, as the lives of Eduard and Irene TELL will continue to be an enigma. We hope that with the power of the Internet someone will come across this narrative, and may yet lead us to any photos or details of their lives. Who knows?


In March of 2011 a book by the Dresden author Heidrun Hannusch appeared under the title "Todesstrafe für die Selbstmörderin" ( Death Sentence for the Suicide Victim ) in which she presents a great deal of further research about the tragic life of Irene. The first critique appeared in the London Independent newspaper on 13 March 2011

The Description by the publisher - is here


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