Several hundred metres from Sydney's Circular Quay is one of Australia's most macabre and compelling attractions. The Justice and Police Museum has been the venue for countless fascinating exhibitions, which have told stories ranging from those of some of Australia's most notorious criminals to Federal Government attempts to spy on supposed communists sympathisers.

A few years ago I took my son, who has an interest in the unexplained, to the museum for an exhibition on bizarre Sydney poisoning episodes. This included New South Wales Rugby League star Bobby Lulham, who almost died after his jilted mother-in-law tipped a spoonful of thallium into his night-time cup of Milo. In the museum's book section was a copy of Peter Doyle's City of Shadows, which focused on a previous exhibition at the museum - of Sydney police photographs discovered between 1912 and 1948.

In the book was a large photograph of the Claude Tozer murder scene. It was confronting, compelling and unforgettable. And it jolted my memory: the tragic life of Tozer had been a long-time fascination.

Thankfully murdered cricketers aren't common - especially those on the fringe of Test selection. Adding to the allure was that so little had been written about Tozer. An exceptional sportsman, doctor and soldier, he was involved in one of the most notorious episodes in Australian sport, which had the Sydney tabloid newspapers in a tizzy for weeks on end.

But it was never the main story, always an aside, an anecdote of odd proportions. Most cricket fanatics wouldn't have a clue who Claude John Tozer was.

The first time I heard of him was around 25 years ago, when researching Australian cricket's oddball, Les "Chuck" Fleetwood-Smith, who knew all about living life on the edge. A spin bowler of extraordinary talent - his Australian Test cricket team-mate Bill O'Reilly once said: "If I had Chuck's talent, I would never have been scared of bowling against a team that had 11 Bradmans" - he had ended up living on skid row.

In A Wayward Genius, several of Chuck's team-mates would talk of how he had no opposition to the title of being Australian cricket's greatest "pants man". This was a fair feat considering that numerous well-known Australian Test cricketers were renowned for their off-field conquests, which even included bedding royalty.

"At least Chuck fared better than that Tozer fellow. Chuck got away with blue murder, found himself tangled up in numerous divorce cases, but he never got blasted away by his lover," said one of Fleetwood-Smith's old Melbourne cricketing colleagues.

That remark lured me back onto the Tozer trail. Details were scanty but intriguing. A research file was started. But other projects gradually took priority, until that trip to the Justice and Police Museum put me back on the chase.

The Tozer story is a vast one, going in all directions at breakneck speed. In essence it revolves around a "chosen one" who had everything and enjoyed everything, except fulfilment. In pursuit of happiness and a need for sanity in his life, he made one fatal error. He fell in love with the wrong person.

Tozer, the nephew of Australian Test cricketer Percie Charlton and cousin of Australian Olympic swimmer Andrew "Boy" Charlton, was a celebrated schoolboy cricketer in Sydney, and a star student at the prestigious Shore school. He captained the Shore 1st XI for several years.

After school, Tozer flourished at Sydney University, where he achieved a medical degree just before the outbreak of World War I. By that time, after a succession of substantial scores for Sydney University, he was elevated to NSW status, playing several matches as a top-order batsman - including against the 1910-11 South African tourists - where he earned a reputation for being a safe, solid craftsman.

Several sportswriters lobbied for Tozer to be picked in the Australian team, while cricket supporters wrote letters to newspapers calling on him to take Warren Bardsley's spot

In May 1915, Tozer, who had just announced his engagement, put his wedding plans on hold and enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corp, where he was assigned to join the First Field Ambulance in Gallipoli.

Tozer soon immersed himself in battle, and within weeks the rumour had hit Sydney that he had been killed during the Battle of Lone Pine, venturing too close to the opposition front line while treating a wounded colleague.

Some Sydney newspapers reported that Tozer was dead, prompting the flags at Sydney University to be flown at half-mast. Sydney grade cricketers, one weekend in October 1915, wore "mourning armlets" in honour of one of their most prominent players.

Some weeks later, the army reported back to a distressed Tozer family that their only son was actually alive. The family's relief was relatively brief as Tozer, having been transferred to the Western Front, was soon back in hospital, close to death, after being bombarded by the German artillery at Pozières. A shell had exploded near him, leading to widespread injuries, including a fragment lodging in his leg. Far more serious was that his head had been cut apart by shrapnel; a substantial piece had passed into the right temporal lobe of his brain, lodging under the skull.

For more than two days Tozer was unconscious, and the medical staff was uncertain how to treat him. The doctors opted against operating, believing that as the shrapnel was so close to the brain, it was too dangerous a procedure. They were convinced that one mistake during the operation and he would die on the table.

He eventually recovered, and after another bout of trench fever was promoted to Major. His leadership abilities earned Tozer a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) when at Hooge, near Ypres, he ignored his own safety in favour of the welfare of other soldiers.

At the end of the war, he was in line to be part of the Australian AIF cricket team. But after playing one match with his mate Eric Barbour against Indian Gymkhana at Lord's, he opted against the AIF offer. More pressing was starting up a medical practice on Sydney's North Shore.

His return home involved further sadness. Just a few weeks before he was to marry his devoted fiancée, who had waited four years for his return from the front, she suddenly took ill and died of septic pneumonia.

To overcome his grief, which also included mourning for his father, who had died in Sydney during the war, Tozer immersed himself in his sporting pursuits. His first-class cricketing career rose to another level. Spectacular grade cricket form with his new club, Gordon, which included three successive centuries, saw him back in the NSW team, and opening for an Australian XI, led by Warwick Armstrong, against England in a three-day game at the Gabba in December 1920. His half-centuries in both innings improved his chances of Test elevation sometime that summer or for the 1921 tour of England.

At the time, several sportswriters were lobbying for Tozer to be picked in the Australian team, while cricket supporters wrote letters to newspapers calling on him to take Warren Bardsley's spot.

Tozer was certainly in demand, and not just as a sportsman. As a medic, Dr Tozer had built up a large list of clients, many of whom preferred house calls. This included a deeply troubled woman who had links to Sydney high society, having married into one of New South Wales' most important established families.

Dorothy Mort had been referred to Tozer by her husband, who for some time had been deeply worried by his wife's erratic and often hysterical behaviour. The mother of two constantly complained of "nervous problems" following the horrific suicide of her deranged father.

Tozer agreed to visit her at the family home. She was immediately besotted. "I loved him immediately," Mort said. "He was so handsome and big and splendid that I thought how wonderful a son would be of his."

Tozer for his part was wary, and when he returned home from the first visit, he told his mother: "I don't know why God made these neurotic women."

But after several more house visits, he became infatuated, writing a succession of love letters to Mort that showed theirs was far more than the customary doctor-patient relationship. In one letter Tozer wrote: "You have stirred me to such an extent, little lady, that you are now sitting metaphorically on a sleeping volcano. I am pretty restrained, I know, because I have tried to be for years, but for you that restraint is very nearly gone. I can't explain why."

The love affair continued for six months, until Tozer was told he would captain the NSW team to play Queensland at the Sydney Cricket Ground, starting on New Year's Day 1921. He had also being assured by the Australian selectors that he was in their sights.

Concerned that Mrs Mort had become over-possessive and irrational, and worried about the scandal if her husband and the Sydney press found out, Tozer decided it was time to end it. It would not help an Australian Test aspirant to be exposed in the tabloids as a cad.

On December 15, 1920, he and his lover met. He told her he had just become engaged to another woman. He tried to explain that it was not proper for a doctor to be unmarried, and that he would be struck off if it was discovered what he had been up to with a patient.

Mrs Mort appeared relatively calm. So Tozer agreed to meet her again the following morning to say their final farewells. But that had to be delayed for several days due to his heavy workload. There was also a Test match to attend.

On the first day's play in the Australia-England Sydney Test, Tozer was sighted sitting alongside Alan Kippax's father, Percy, near the sightscreen at the northern end of the SCG. He told numerous friends at the cricket that day to keep a spot for him the following day.

After making a few "observation calls", he said he would attend a cricket luncheon and then watch the afternoon's play, before going to the theatre that evening with a lady friend.

The "observation call" included a visit to the Mort household.

Tozer was unaware that the previous meeting had devastated his lover, prompting her to make a drastic trip to the city, where she bought poison and a firearm.

He arrived at the house around 11.30am and was led in by Mort's maid. Directed to the drawing room, he was told to wait on the Chesterfield couch. As he sat, Tozer failed to notice a Colt automatic pistol, poking out from behind a flower vase on a ledge to his left.

Then everything went awry.

Bowled by a Bullet - The Tragic Life of Claude Tozer by Greg Growden can be obtained via The Cricket Publishing Company (www.cricketpublish.com)

Greg Growden wrote on cricket and rugby at the Sydney Morning Herald for more than 30 years, and has written biographies of Chuck Fleetwood-Smith and Jack Fingleton