Henry Louis Bertrand, c. 1865, by the Milligan Brothers. Carte de visite P2/468

Despite the frequent portrayal of dentists in popular culture as sinister characters who enjoy using drills, most dentists are compassionate people with a genuine interest in and enthusiasm for helping others enjoy the benefits of a healthy smile.

There are, however, some dark corners in dentistry’s past. One of Sydney’s most famous, and infamous, crimes was committed in 1865 by an otherwise successful and well-liked dentist.

Before the Madness

The story of Henry Louis Bertrand — aka The Mad Dentist of Wynyard Square — was recently recounted on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s enjoyable “Self Improvement” series. It is a twisting tale that at times defies belief.

On the ABC report, Belvoir Artistic Associate Tom Wright describes Bertrand as “a very active dental surgeon,” who ran a popular practice in the ground level of his home along Wynyard Park (then known as Wynyard Square). His wife and two children lived upstairs, and according to Wright, Bertrand was generally considered an upstanding citizen.

One day in late 1864 or early 1865, Bertrand saw a patient named Maria Ellen Kinder, who was widely known by her middle name. Bertrand and Kinder grew infatuated with one another and began an affair.

The Mad Dentist of Wynyard Square

Kinder was also married, she to a Henry Kinder who, according to a Dictionary of Sydney page on the incident, relocated his family to the city to escape creditors and had a reputation as a hard drinker. Bertrand and Kinder hatched a scheme to kill Henry Kinder.

Bertrand made several unsuccessful attempts to murder Henry Kinder, including an incident in which he shot Mr. Kinder in the head. Bertrand initially convinced authorities it was a suicide attempt.

Bertrand also convinced Ellen Kinder to poison her husband before he could recover, which she did. Henry Kinder’s death was ruled a suicide.

The Downfall of the Mad Dentist

As a dentist, Bertrand should have known that one of the most important things people do with their mouths is talk. His affair with Ellen Kinder was not closely guarded (he even employed an assistant to acquire a tomahawk and pair of pistols with which to murder Henry Kinder, though, supposedly, Bertrand had used his mesmeric powers to influence this assistant).

Another person who knew about the relationship between Bertrand and Ellen Kinder was an ex-lover of Kinder who followed her to Sydney. The man attempted to blackmail Bertrand, whose own behavior became increasingly bizarre and erratic.

Police developed a renewed interest in the case, and by the time they prepared formal charges, the sordid details were widely circulated in the press. Bertrand was dubbed The Mad Dentist of Wynyard Square.

The Aftermath

“The case had mesmerism, sex, poison and guns. It had everything you could want in a story,” said a curator for the Justice and Police Museum in a 2014 Sydney Morning Herald article. The museum houses a permanent exhibit on the crime, which includes Bertrand’s pistols and carvings he made with animal bones while imprisoned.

Bertrand eventually served 28 years for the crime. Ellen Kinder went free. Upon his release, The Mad Dentist of Wynyard Square boarded a steamer, his destination lost to history.

If you’re seeking a friendly, experienced dentist in Sydney, please call My Hills Dentist at (02) 9686 7375 to schedule your appointment. We offer a variety of highly individualised general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry treatments in our comfortable Baulkham Hills office. And no mesmerism, we promise.