DEATH OF BEN HALL.
(From the Forbes correspondent of the Western Examiner.)
On Saturday, the 6th May, at about 4 o’clock in the morning, a body of police, under the direction of sub-inspector James Henry Davidson, arrived in Forbes with the corpse of Ben Hall, the bushranger. He had been killed the night before near the north Billabong about twelve miles from Forbes, and the body was pierced with eight or nine bullets.
Either one of four of the wounds must have proved fatal. It is said that the spot where he was killed is not far from Mr. Pierce Strickland’s station. It is also said that Hall had been in and about the town of Forbes two or three days previous to being shot. Gilbert and Dunn were not with him, and it is rumoured that they were off after some horses, while Hall visited Forbes andhellourhood, and that it was while Hall was on his way to join Gilbert and Dunn that he was killed. From 10 o’clock in the morning of Friday, the room where the body lay was filled with persons curious to have a look at the corpse of the man who has contributed so much to bring New South Wales into disrepute by his wanton outrages. I suppose that four or five hundred persons visited the barracks, and I saw several females among the crowd. After the enquiry several parties availed themselves of an opportunity to get a lock of the bushranger’s hair.
His body was lying upon a stretcher in the south-east corner room of the building appropriated to the foot police. There was nothing forbidding in the countenance of Ben Hall, as he lay there still in death. In fact, I heard the remark made several times, during the moment I was in the room, “What a handsome face.” He appeared to be a young man about twenty-eight, finely made, excellent features, lofty forehead, and fine brown hair. His whiskers and moustache were cut quite close and of a much lighter colour than the hair on his head. I heard many make the remark, “I have often seen that face somewhere, but cannot tell where.” I have myself seen the face, but have no idea when or where. The most remarkable feature in the countenance was a peculiar curl in the right side of the upper lip, indicating ordinarily a feeling of contemptuous scorn, produced by the action of the mind upon the muscles. In this case I am told that it is a constitutional feature, and may therefore indicate nothing. Ben Hall’s career is too well known to require notice, and the opinion is now almost universally entertained in Forbes that the Lachlan district will soon be rid of the bushranging desperadoes.
The magisterial enquiry was held at noon, in the large dining hall of the police barracks, before Mr. William Farrand, P.M. It was filled by the most respectable gentlemen in Forbes. All appeared to feel a lively interest in the proceedings.
James Henry Davidson, sworn : I am a sub-inspector of police, stationed at Forbes, I started from Forbes on Saturday, tho 29th April, in pursuit of the bushrangers, Hall, Gilbert, and Dunn ; my party consisted of myself, sergeant Condell, four constables, and two black trackers. On Thursday evening, the 4th of May, at about 10 o’clock, we came upon two horses hobbled in the scrub, near the Little Billibong [sic] on the Currajong side, and about twelve miles from Forbes. We were watching the horses about half an hour when a man came out and caught them ; he passed very close to where we were standing, and led the horses about one hundred yards ; I did not recognise him as Ben Hall at that time ; he then hobbled the horses again, and returned to a thick scrub ; Billy Dargan, the tracker, said he thought he heard some one scratching in the scrub, as though preparing a place to sleep ; I placed five men where we were standing ; and myself, sergeant Condell, and Billy Dargan [sic], went below with the intention of attacking him in his camp ; at this time we only thought it to be Ben Hall.
We could not get within one hundred yards of his sleeping place, on account of the snorting of the horses ; we waited there until morning ; at about half past 6 a.m. I saw a man at a distance of about one hundred and fifty yards, with a bridle in his hand, walking towards the horses ; when he got about half way between the scrub and the horses—myself, sergeant Condell, and Billy Dargan, started to run towards him ; he was not aware of our presence until we ran about fifty yards ; we now knew it to be Hall ; upon seeing us he ran towards the scrub and in the direction of where the four constables and Charley the tracker were stationed ; I then called several times, and ordered him to stand. To the Police Magistrate : At this time I was not aware that he had been outlawed, having left Forbes before that occurrence ; after running about one hundred yards I was within about forty yards of him when I levelled a double-barrelled gun and fired one shot ; I believe I hit him, for he halted and looked back ; sergeant Condell and Billy then fired ; I think they both hit him ; we fired pretty close together ; Condell and Billy were running a little in my rear, about fifteen yards to my left ; Hall ran about sixty yards to a few saplings, and caught hold of one ; I think he was then mortally wounded ; the four constables and tracker then came across ; I think Hall saw them coming, for he changed his course ; they fired ; I was then within thirty yards, when Hipkiss fired his revolving rifle ; I noticed Hall’s revolver belt fall to the ground ; Hall, still holding to the sapling, gradually fell back ; altogether, thirty shots were fired ; several were fired after Hipkiss fired ; I fancy he was shot in the head after that ; he spoke afterwards ; he said, “I’m wounded, shoot me dead.” I then went up and noticed that the bullet shot by Hipkiss had passed through his side ; he died almost immediately ; I searched him and found seventy-four pounds in notes, in two chamois leather bags, one in his breast coat, and the other in his trousers pocket ; three gold chains and a gold watch ; a portrait of a woman, three revolvers, some bullets, and articles of wearing apparel ; his poncho and blankets were with his saddle ; there was a gold keeper on his finger ; I knew Hall personally ; his clothes were perforated with bullets, through and through. We then caught his two horses and packed his body upon the saddle, and in this manner took it to our camping ground, and from thence into Forbes.
James Condell, sworn : I am a sergeant of police stationed at Forbes ; on Saturday, the 29th of April, in company with sub-inspector Davidson, four constables, and two black trackers, I started from Forbes in pursuit of the bushrangers, Hall, Gilbert, and Dunn ; on the Tuesday night following I observed two horses hobbled, and watched them about half an hour, when we saw a man emerging from the scrub and walking towards where the horses were feeding ; he took the hobbles off and led them about one hundred and fifty yards, and then hobbled them again, and let them go ; we heard him walk away through the bush into a low scrub ; Billy Dargan said afterwards that he heard him scratching among the leaves as though making a place to sleep ; sub-inspector Davidson and myself posted five men in a half circle where we then were, and then passed to the opposite side ; we crept through the bush for some time in search of his sleeping place, but were unable to find it ; we then resolved to wait until morning and watch the horses in the meantime ; at about 6 o’clock in the morning I saw a man emerge from the scrub and walk towards the two horses ; when he had got about mid way between his camp and the horses we started in pursuit ; we ran about fifty yards before he observed us ; he then looked up, and seeing us, ran ; inspector Davidson called upon him to stand—he looked round but kept on running ; inspector Davidson then fired upon him ; I saw Hall jump, but he kept on running ; I then covered him fully in the back with my rifle and fired ; I then saw it was Ben Hall ; I believe my first shot took effect between his shoulders ; he kept running, but appeared weak ; Billy then fired with a double barrelled gun, and I think he hit him too ; we then called to the men on the opposite side and they came up ; when Hall saw the men emerge from the scrub he turned and ran in another direction ; the men then all fired ; I believe every one hit him ; Hall ran to a cluster of timber and laid hold of a sapling, and said, “I’m wounded, I’m dying”. The men then fired again, and he rolled over ; he made two or three convulsive movements with his feet and said, “I’m dying—I’m dying”. We all approached to the spot, and he was dead ; his death was almost instantaneous ; inspector Davidson then searched and found upon him £74 in notes ; gold watch and three gold chains ; a gold keeper on his finger, three revolvers, capped and loaded, a bag of bullets ; three boxes caps ; flask of powder and wearing apparel ; where he was camped we found a saddle, poncho, and two single blankets ; we then packed his body on a saddle and took it to our camp, and afterwards brought it into Forbes ; I have known Hall four years ; about three years ago I conveyed him as a prisoner to Orange, and saw him frequently afterwards ; I identify the body of the deceased as that of Ben Hall.
William Jones sworn : I am a storekeeper and reside in Forbes ; I have seen the body of deceased now lying in the adjoining room, and identify it as that of Ben Hall. I have known him seventeen years, and have seen him frequently during that period, except the past three years ; I have not the slightest doubt about its being the body of Ben Hall.
John Newell sworn : I am a publican residing in Forbes : I have known Ben Hall nine years, and have seen him frequently until the last two and a-half years ; the body now lying in the adjoining room is that of Ben Hall.
Charles Ashenheim sworn : I am a qualified medical man ; I have examined the body of the deceased, and find it perforated by several bullets ; the shot between the shoulders the two shots through the brain, and the one through the body were severally sufficient to cause death.
Source: “THE DEATH OF BEN HALL.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 13 May 1865: 7.