One of the main controversies of the Kenniff story is that Paddy and Jim were convicted solely on the evidence given by Sam Johnson, the tracker that accompanied the victims, Doyle and Dahlke. What was it that was so compelling about Johnson’s account that no corroboration was required? Certainly there were other testimonies that stated that the Kenniffs had a motive for the crime and had even made threats, but only three people in that court room could testify as to what may have occurred in Lethbridge’s Pocket. The Kenniffs maintained that they weren’t even present and their subsequent disappearance was not to escape capture for the crime, but merely a part of the transient lifestyle they had adopted since Dahlke had rendered the family homeless by having their lease terminated.
The Sydney Morning Herald stated:
[Johnson] said that Constable Doyle and Mr. Dahlke had been known to him. He described the party leaving the police station on the Upper Warrego, and how they were equipped. Saddlery, spurs, &c. , were produced and identified. Witness described how on entering Lethbridge’s pocket he saw Pat, Jim, and Tom Kenniff, who rode to the top of the gully and pulled up. They had two packhorses. The Kenniffs left the packhorses, turned round, and raced away across the gully. Witness secured his packhorse by fixing the halter to a log, and galloped after Tom and Pat, who rode together. Tom and Pat went right up the gully. Jim raced up the creek, and Constable Doyle and Mr. Dhalke followed. Jim on looking back saw they had caught him. Witness pulled up and went back when he got up too close. He (witness) pulled Jim off the saddle. Mr. Dahlke was on his horse holding the reins of Jim Kenniff’s mount. Mr. Doyle had been trying to pull Jim Kenniff off. When he got up witness was on the off side, and caught him by the foot, shoving him off on the near side. Constable Doyle ordered witness back to get the packhorse. When witness rode away Constable Doyle was holding Jim Kenniff by the right arm. He (witness) rode for the packhorse. The horse George was then feeding and the packhorse was away 200 yards. Before he reached the packhorse he heard a shot fired. Four other shots followed quickly. He went up to the packhorse, looked back, to where he left Constable Doyle and Mr. Dhalke. He could not see them but could see the place. He tried to get the handcuffs out of the pack, but could not, so trotted forward, leading the horse. On going back he saw Pat and Jim Kenniff riding at him hard. He let the packhorse go and raced away towards the pumphole and gained the scrub. The shots he heard fired were louder than those of a police revolver. The pumphole to which he went was about 12 miles away. On getting there he found James Burke. Burke went back to the pocket with him. There he saw the packhorse and Boadicæ. Witness was frightened to stay in the scrub. Burke caught the horses.There were no packbags on Dandy Pat, who carried only a saddle. He saw blood on the flap of the saddle on Boadicea.
The tracker, Sam Johnson, was cross-examined by Mr. McGrath, who quoted from the depositions taken at Rockhampton to show that the tracker’s statements varied with regard to what happened in Lethbridge’s Pocket after he went back for the pack-horse. The depositions went to show that the tracker had stated that he had caught the pack-horse before the last shot, whilst to-day he stated that he had just got up to the horse when he heard the last shot. Otherwise the evidence given to-day was practically the same as was given previously.
Mr. McGrath continuing, said the jury would have evidence of the father and brother John to prove that Tom was in their company on Sunday at some distance from the spot, so that it would have been impossible for him to have been at Lethbridge’s Pocket without either the father or the brother knowing about it.
[James Kenniff] deposed that he and Pat were at Carnarvon station on the night of the 28th March. They had words with a man named Ryan, and then went off and camped near the station. Their brother Tom joined them at the camp, and remained about half an hour. He then went towards Skeleton Creek and [Jim] and Pat started off for Roma on Easter Sunday morning. They camped about thirty miles from Merivale paddock on that morning. Mulholland and Thornton went to the camp and remained a couple of hours. Pat and [Jim] mustered eight head of horses, which they drove o Armadalla, passing through Mitchell. The journey including stoppages, occupied them from 20 to 40 days. On the return journey they saw a notice on a tree, and that was the first they heard of the murder of Doyle and Dahlke.