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Murders & other shifty things

Murder and shift things

Murders & other shifty things by Rodney King.

Life in the New England North-West is usually peaceful and generally speaking, we get on quite well. However, the past is littered with some gruesome events and mysterious occurrences that would have shocked the communities, as it does in modern times. 

The following is a collection of some events that made headlines across the state and they remind us to be ever watchful.


 Please note that the reporting was quite stark and some of the following may be offensive and distasteful. 

An Inverell Mystery 

The body of a man named Birch was found in Market – Square, Inverell, yesterday in circumstances pointing to murder and robbery. Deceased was the step–father of Mrs. Thomas, of the brewery, Inverell, with whom he was staying, being on a holiday from Victoria.

On Monday night he left Gordon’s Royal Hotel to walk to the brewery. Before leaving he exhibited his purse containing £30 in notes, which was missing when the body was found. 

The body was in an advanced stage of decomposition, having lain since Monday night, during three hot days. Dr Lane the government medical officer held a post-mortem examination today, and an enquiry will be held tomorrow. The place where the body was found is in the centre of the town, and only about fifty yards from a dwelling house, but the spot is not much frequented by the public. Deceased’s tongue was protruding, and he appeared to have been choked or smothered, but it is difficult to be sure, owing to decomposition.

The affair has caused a sensation in town.

Source – Maitland Daily Mercury (NSW: 1894 – 1939), Saturday 29 December 1900, page 3

Murder near Bingara

The Tamworth Daily Observer on 4 October 1913 reported a murder which would have brought shock, despair and almost certainly, a total lack of understanding of why some people are so depraved. 

The article said: 

‘A gentleman down from Bingara this week informs us that a diabolical outrage was committed at Mr. Eddy’s station, some 14 miles down the river from Bingara. It seems that a young girl 13 or 14 years of age, a settler’s daughter was left in charge of her younger brothers and sisters at the hut during a temporary absence of her mother. The girl went away to a water hole to get a bucket of water but did not return at night. Next day a search was commenced for her and at the water hole she had first gone to, the bucket was found. Further down the river at another water hole the poor girl’s body, quite dead with strangulation marks about her throat, and other signs she had been brutally violated. Not far from the body was found a man’s waterproof coat.’

As no other references were found regarding the death, it seems that the murderer got away.

Bush mystery at Ashford

A mysterious occurrence is reported from Ashford. David Brown, who has a selection twelve miles from the centre, was visited during the holidays by his brother–in–law, W. Townsend, of Garah, Moree. 

The men, who apparently were on friendly terms on Sunday, left with the intention of going for a drive, and shortly afterwards Brown’s wife noticed Townsend running towards the river. When accosted he did not reply, but kept on running, and her suspicions were aroused. She went in search of her husband, whom she found unconscious, with a gash in his head. 

The police were communicated with, and Brown was brought into Inverell, where he still lies in hospital, unconscious. Townsend in the meantime had disappeared, and though a number of police, with a tracker have been scouring the country, no trace on him has yet been found. The country is very mountainous.

Source – Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW: 1915 – 1954), Thursday 4 May 1916, page 3

Bad characters at Bingara 

The Daily Telegraph of 22 April 1894 reported under the heading, ‘Bad characters at Bingara’: 

‘Early on Saturday morning a horse owner, Mr. C.F. Turner, attending the Bingara Races, was robbed of a watch and chain and all his clothes, which contained nearly thirty one pounds. The town is full of spielers and suspicious characters, and the police are short-handed owing to the search after the Barraba murderers. 

They will have great difficulty in tracing the thieves. One of the visiting vagabonds was sentenced to four months imprisonment for stealing an overcoat and umbrella.’

Barraba murder – was Cummings innocent?

In 1894 the bank manager at Barraba was shot during a bungled attempt to rob the Commercial Banking Co of Sydney; he was only 38 years old and left a wife and four children, one was only a baby. 

Alec Lee and John Cummings were found guilty of the murder and were hanged; however, Cummings always expressed his innocence.

Lee, in his final words before the hanging said: 

‘Gentlemen, to you who are present here, I declare that John Cummings is innocent of the crime for which he this day suffers. He is not the man who went to the bank that day.’

Reading the reports over one hundred years later, one can argue that Lee’s defence of Cummings may have been correct, as much of the evidence was circumstantial regarding his involvement. And, the judge appeared to “lead” the jury to their decision.

A bush mystery

This mystery involved the nightly throwing of rocks onto the roof of a dwelling and the newspapers reported:

‘The stone throwing ghostly business has been intently practised on the roof of a boundary rider’s hut on the boundary of Gurley and Terry–Hie–Hie holdings. 

There are seven family members living in the hut, which is three miles distance from the next habitation. The affair is considerably scaring the neighbouring rustic population, and the hut was surrounded at a distance by watchers, police, and a tracker, but after a shower no tracks were discovered in the black soil.

One individual supposed to be implicated narrowly escaped being shot by those watching. He was acting in a suspicious manner and was bailed up at the point of a revolver. The watchers were inclined to inflict summary punishment. The stone – throwing has now ceased.’

Source – Maitland Daily Mercury (NSW: 1984 – 1939), Friday 4 January 1901

Second horse dies suddenly

Holhu Ra, the second of the two racehorses that had to be withdrawn from their races because of their mysterious condition, has died. Result of an analysis is anxiously awaited by police.

While it is believed that in the case of Blunt Edge – the horse that died on Friday – the immediate cause of death was the bursting of a blood vessel in the heart, the police view is that Holhu Ra was affected in the absence of the stable hands and others connected with the horse, which was the pre–post favourite for the Moree Gold Cup.

It was assumed that Holhu Ra was suffering from the effects of the drug atropine. He appeared to be recovering over the weekend, but he died suddenly at 1pm yesterday. After a post–mortem examination had been made by a veterinary surgeon it was decided to seek the assistance of an analyst.

Officials of the Department of Agriculture have begun the analysis of the specimens removed from Blunt Edge and the result is expected to be known on Thursday.

In the meantime, Sergeant Canning officer in charge of Moree police is conducting inquiries. Detective Sergeant Nye, of the Sydney C.I.B, is in the district in connection with another matter and it is likely that on the completion of his inquiries he will assist local police. 

Detective – Sergeant Nye is an expert in cases involving animals, and his services would be invaluable in an inquiry of this kind.

Source – Newcastle Sun (NSW: 1918 – 1954), Tuesday 3 December 1935, page 7

Moree may solve mystery of slain explorers

It is possible that the remains of two members of Major Mitchell’s survey party, killed during an expedition in 1831/32, will be located near Moree.

‘The deputy mayor, Ald. F. C. Deakins, hopes to organise a search party to investigate the statement of a pioneer resident of the district, who says he knows where the men are buried. The resident, who has been employed for many years on Gurley station, 50 miles south of Moree, declares that his late father indicated to him the spot near the Gurley Lagoon were the men were buried. 

The report has created much interest in Moree and district as for many years there has been much controversy as to the route taken by Major General Mitchell to his famous exploring trip to the Barwon and Balonne Rivers.

Various trees marked by the surveyor general have been found on Canada station and in other parts of the district. 

If the burial spot of the man is discovered, Ald. Deakins will suggest that a monument be erected on the site.’

Source – Daily News (Sydney, NSW: 1938 – 1940), Wednesday 8 February 1939, page 5

Another bush mystery

‘Mr. C. H. Davis, while mustering on his property 15 miles below Ashford, last week found the skeleton of a man about a quarter of a mile from the river. 

The body had evidently been fully dressed, but wild dogs had torn the clothing to ribbons and scattered the bones. A swag, several billies and a cap were found close by, but there was nothing to lead to the identification of the remains. The police have gone out to investigate.’

Source – Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842 – 1954), Monday 1 June 1908, page 6

Bag of sovereigns

‘Frederick Michell, the owner of the bag containing 650 sovereigns, picked up at Gore hill some two weeks ago by a tram conductor, was found to be insane and sent to Callan Park. 

Michell, who had been mining for gold around Bingara for 30 years, had amassed £1300, and had taken no less than eight trips to England in that time. Portions of his money were in two New South Wales Banks, one which was suspended payment in the financial crisis 1893. 

As a result, his money was locked up in that bank, and although eventually recoverable, could not be withdrawn for some time. This seems to have preyed upon his mind, and he recently sold his interest in the locked up deposits for a sum of £92 less than their nominal value. 

He also withdrew his money from the other bank and during his recent stay at Park Street Coffee Palace. He guarded his wealth with jealous care. A few days before the bag of sovereigns was found at Gore Hill, he was noticed in Hyde Park counting his money, sovereign by sovereign.’

Source – Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer (NSW: 1898 – 1954) Saturday 30 September 1905, page 1

Emmaville mystery

A camp of road contractors working on the Inverell road a couple of miles from Emmaville have been hunted from their camp (says the Glen Innes ‘Guardian’). Their story is a remarkable one. 

‘The camp is on the opposite side of the road to a house. Eight days prior to the 15th inst., the four or five men – all strong, able bodied men – were all astonished at stones hitting their tent. They charged out, but although the night was a clear moonlight one and there were few trees about no one could be seen. 

Night after night this occurred from dark until about 11pm. The stones would gradually each night increase in size until big boulders would come. While several were hit no serious hurt was done. They would keep charging out, firing guns all around and into trees and bushes but without avail.

One night a blanket was pulled off two boys in a tent, and a prompt search revealed nought. 

One of the male residents of the house and some drovers assisted several nights to find the stone – throwers. Finally, worn out from lack of sleep the men have shifted camp and have to now to walk four miles a day to work. So far there has been no answer of the mystery. 

Source – Bundarra and Tingha Advocate (NSW: 1900 – 1906) Saturday 6 December 1902, page 2 

Gruesome tragedy

One murder that attracted nationwide publicity, was that of Mrs. Louisa Ball by her husband William and the Barrier Miner (Broken Hill) Tuesday 23 January 1912, described the murder. 

‘What appears to have been a gruesome tragedy yesterday occurred at “The Hill”, about nine miles from Bingara. William Ball and his wife had only been there for a short while when Mrs Ball had a bad attack of rheumatics. She was an inmate of the local hospital for about a week and Ball had seemed to be impatient with his wife owing to her continued illness. The couple then disappeared.

When Mr Mack, the property owner, reported their disappearance the police had become suspicious as they felt that it was impossible for Mrs. Ball to walk over the mountains to reach Bingara. 

During their search found evidence of a fire, and in the ashes, they found human bones, parts of a silk dress and a few other things. The skull was separate to the body. Ball, who had no relatives in Bingara was arrested and hanged at Armidale in June 1912.

Four years later the Sydney Sun on Thursday 30 November 1916 carried an interesting article about the frequency of hangings at that time. It said: 

‘William Frederick Hall, the only man who has been hanged since the Labour Government came into power six years ago, murdered his wife, Louisa Hall, at The Hill Station, Bingara on January 16, 1912. He shot his wife and burnt her body. He was arrested on the steamer ‘Star of Scotland’ the night before the vessel was to sail for London. He confessed to the murder and was executed in Armidale.’

Edward Tillings – was he mad?

Was Tillings insane? This was the question raised by the Coroner at the enquiry in November 1921, into a murder suicide at Bingara.

The mother of Edward Ernest Tillings in a letter to the enquiry said that her son was born at Molong in September 1879, and he had left the town when eighteen years old and, the last she had heard of him was twelve years ago. He was at Toowoomba at the time. 

Regarding his possible insanity, Mrs. Tillings said her other son, John Sydney Tillings, was admitted to a mental hospital when he was 25 and, ‘he is a hopeless case’. 

The Coroner was conducting an enquiry to try and make sense of the murder of a shire engineer called Kirkcaldy along a road at Bingara and the suicide of Tillings, by gun shot. 

The police had presented evidence that Tillings had said while at Bingara he was, ‘determined to kill somebody’. However, the Coroner remarked that he thought that no man was normal when he committed suicide, but he thought that Tillings was, ‘not sufficiently un-normal that he was not responsible for his action’. 

The police had not found any link between Tillings and the victim, and it was also admitted they could not find any evidence that, ‘their paths had crossed’. On the other hand, it was reported the murder had been planned and based on all the evidence, the Coroner found that Tillings had, ‘feloniously murdered Kirkcaldy’, however, the evidence did not enable him to say what the motive was or what were the circumstances just prior to the murder. 

As for Tillings, it was found he died of a gunshot wound, wilfully inflicted by himself.

VIARodney King
Next articleTrish Kerrigan


    • Thank you Leonie for your comment. Much appreciated and we are glad you enjoy the adventure back in time. We will do our best to keep them coming. Marlene


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