Spotlight: PATRICK AND JAMES KENNIFF ON TRIAL for the MURDER OF CONSTABLE DOYLE (Part One)

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The benefit of the Kenniff trial taking place in post-Federation Australia is that the modernity of the case allows for a very different approach to the reporting of events. Here we see a wonderfully illustrated report of the trial of the notorious Queensland bushrangers. Dotted with caricatures of the main players, we gain a very interesting insight into the event from the perspective of the artist. Among the exaggerated features and ludicrous moustaches is a detailed account of one of the most important trials in bushranging history. Below is part of the transcript of the feature that featured in that famous issue of the Brisbane edition of Truth, the second part will be in next week’s Spotlight.

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PATRICK AND JAMES KENNIFF ON TRIAL for the MURDER OF CONSTABLE DOYLE

A Cloud of Witnesses for the Crown. The Prisoners Give Evidence from the Dock. Defence Sets Up An Alibi.

Early on Monday morning last, George street, in the vicinity of the Supreme Court, might have seemed to a stranger one of the busiest streets in Brisbane. There was an animated scene just outside the Supreme Court gates where an ever growing crowd was waiting for admission. The attraction was a free show, not a theatrical entertainment, nor an athletic contest, but a human drama of life and death. For Patrick and James Kenniff were to be tried for their lives on a charge of murder. Long before 10 o’clock the gallery of the Criminal Court was crowded and the floor of the court was also packed, so that it was difficult to force a way through. Apart from the public announcements it was easily apparent from the unwonted animation and excitement in the precincts of the Supreme Court that something of grave import was a-foot.

There were policemen everywhere, of every rank, some in uniform, others in mufti ; barristers in wig and gown having business in one court or the other ; and many ordinary mortals bearing an unmistakable air of business and importance— these were either witnesses or jurymen. It wanted a few minutes of 10 when a noise was heard of men coming up the stairs from the cells beneath the court and presently the Kenniffs tramped up the steps guarded by about half-a-dozen policemen. James Kenniff led the way and STEPPED INTO THE DOCK just in front of his brother Patrick. Both men looked thinner and paler than when last seen at the police court. Confinement has evidently told on them, and though apparently strong and healthy they do not seem as fresh and virile as they did in July last.

They bowed to their solicitor and then sat down, thus disappointing the ghouls in the gallery who were already craning their necks in an effort to get a good look at the prisoners.

Punctually at 10 o’clock the tipstaff called on all who had any business to transact before that honorable court to step forward, etc. This announcement heralded the Chief Justice, who then took his seat, accompanied by Mr. Gilson Foxton, the sheriff.

The associate then read over the list of the 72 special jurors, and a number of these begged for exemption on the ground of being over the age limit. While excusing these gentlemen, His Honor gravely rebuked those responsible for this extraordinary list of jurors. Then a jury of 12 was empannelled, but not without much challenging, and the list had to be twice read through. In the first round the Crown ordered 33 to stand by and five in the second, a total of 38, or more than half the panel. The challenges of the defence totalled 21.

The special jurors sworn to “well and truly try ” were :—Francis Pearson Latrobe, Herbert Edgar Littler, James McMillan, John Tait, Frederick McDonnell Hart, Charles Tait, Joseph Arthur Overell, Fred Hiley, Herbert Sheard, James Thomas Isles, Duncan Munro, William Siemon. The jury elected Mr. Hiley as their foreman. Mr. Edwyn Lilley, with him Mr. Stumm (instructed by Messrs. Morris and Fletcher), prosecuted for the Crown; and Mr. McGrath (Messrs. McGrath and O’Neill), defended the prisoners, while Chief Inspector Douglas watched the case for the police. When the jurymen had taken their places in the jury-box the Chief Justice created some consternation in their ranks by intimating that virtually they WOULD BE PRISONERS until the conclusion of the trial. They would not be allowed to separate or to return to their homes, but would be made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. The jury then requested that they be allowed time to arrange business and private affairs, and an adjournment till noon was therefore granted.

On resuming, Mr. Lilley began his address to the jury. He recounted the circumstances that led to Doyle and Dahlke going in search of the Kenniffs, and recited the movements of the two men till they reached Lethbridge’s Pocket. He then gave a description of the topography of the Pocket. It was a pear-shaped place, enclosed by the surrounding hills, which were very steep. A witness would describe the place as the most rugged country he had ever seen. Through this pocket ran a creek, known as Lethbridge’s Creek. A little above the scene of the alleged murder was a spring of water, and a stony hill stood out in the middle of the pocket. The pocket contained two square miles of flat land. About two miles from the scene the father of the Kenniffs resided, and there was the home of the family. On the right-hand side as the pocket was approached from the south there was a considerable extent of DOGWOOD SCRUB.

From this counsel went on to explain the movements of the men and what was happening when Tracker Sam last saw the two missing men alive. He told of Sam’s retreat from the Kenniffs, of the search in the pocket by Burke, and described the result of the police searches as already given in the lower court. Mr. Lilley gave shortly particulars of the police chase after the Kenniffs and their arrest. Then he gave the jury the benefit of the Crown’s theory as to the end of Doyle and Dahlke. It was for the jury to say, said counsel, whether, when James Kenniff was arresled by Constable Doyle, Patrick Kenniff rode round a little hill, and Dahlke, thinking Doyle equal to James Kenniff, had ridden to meet Pat Kenniff who shot him; Doyle then seeing Dahlke in distress, had run up to his help, and as he did was fired at by Pat Kenniff, and missed, and was again fired at and done to death by one of the men. What the first fires were lighted for he did not know. They had then taken the murdered men in the fly of a tent— which Doyle and Dahlke had brought with them— and left the packhorse in the creek. Taking their burden to a rock, they must have CUT THEIR VICTIMS to piecemeal ; otherwise they could not have been so consumed by fire. Next they had scraped up and swept the charred remains into the packbags; and started off with their ghastly burden. The police horse bearing the packbags had broken loose and they had been too frightened to go after him. If the prisoners on 30th March, 1902, were engaged in common design to resist arrest, and either of them was armed, to the knowledge of the other, for the purpose of carrying out a common design of resisting arrest, and one of them— it was immaterial for the jury to say which— to resist his own arrest, or to enable the other to escape from, or resist arrest, shot either Doyle or Dahlke, they were both guilty of murder. It was scarcely an impressive address. Mr. Lilley was halting and labored and not over sanguine in tone. For the most part, what he told the jury of the Crown’s case was already known to the public, but he added one little touch, significant of many things. This was the narration of an incident in the cells at Mitchell, where a policeman ACTED AS “EAVESDROPPER” outside the cells occupied by the prisoners.

The evidence for the Crown was commenced after lunch. Fitzgerald and Graham, both inspectors of police, told of warrants which had been issued for the arrest of Patrick and James Kenniff on a charge of horsestealing. Graham had posted these warrants to Constable Doyle on March 21. Then Constable Stephen Millard took the oath. Millard was stationed with Doyle at the Upper Warrego, and .saw him set out after the Kenniffs with Dahlke and Tracker Sam. He described the party’s appearance and outfit. He also identified most of the articles found by the police in Lethbridge’s Pocket, as belonging either to Doyle or Dahlke. Millard was one of the police party that prospected the pocket for traces of the missing men. He gave the result of this search : the discovery of “a charry sort of stuff ” on a flat rock, the shirt buttons and teeth found therein, the tracks, and the burnt and charrcd logs and stone. Under cross-examination Millard was confident that the spurs found were Doyle’s. James Kenniff was a good horseman, he said, but Pat was not. Doyle’s revolver was loaded when he left the police station. When found there was one empty cartridge in it, the others had been extracted. There was blood on the metal part as if it had been held in A BLOODY LEFT HAND.

At the conclusion of Millard’s evidence the court adjourned till Tuesday. If possible, there was more excitement and a larger attendance on Tuesday for it had been rumored that Sam Johnson, the blacktracker, now famous as the last man who saw Doyle and Dahlke alive, was to give his evidence. And soon after 10 a.m. Tracker Sam Johnson radiant in a blue tracker’s jumper with red braid, walked up to the witness-box and smiled affably on the court. As some doubt existed as to the exact brand of Sam’s religious beliefs the Chief Justice took his promise to tell the truth under pain of awful punishment if he told a lie. Sam then settled down to answer Mr. Lilley’s questions with a look of serious concentration on his face. He was in the box all the morning and his evidence was in the main similar to what he had given at the lower court. Sam accompanied Doyle and Dahlke when they RODE OVER THE RANGE into Lethbridge’s Pocket. They were following horse tracks. Once in the pocket he saw Pat, Jim and Tom Kenniff on horseback with two packhorses. The Kenniffs left their pack-horses and raced away across the gully. Pat and Tom went to the right and Jim followed the creek. Doyle and Dahlke raced after Jim while Sam tied his pack-horse to a log, then he followed. He saw that Doyle and Dahlke had caught Jim Kenniff. Doyle was trying to pull Jim off while Dahlke held the reins of Jim’s horse. Sam helped Doyle to pull Jim on to the ground. Then Doyle told him to bring up the pack-horse George, which was feeding about 200 yards away. He went back as quickly as he could. Before he reached the horse he heard a shot fired. Four other shots followed quickly. When he got to the horse he looked back but he could not see either Doyle, Dahlke or Jim Kenniff. He could see the place where he had left them, but no men. Failing to get the handcuffs out of the pack, he led the horse forward. He had not gone far when he saw Patrick and James Kenniff riding fast towards him. He let the pack-horse go and turned and raced into the scrub. He went as hard as he could to the Pumphole where he saw Burke and told him what had happened. That was about ll o’clock in the morning. Burke went back with him to the pocket. Sam stayed in the scrub as he was frightened, but Burke went on and caught Dahlke’s mare Boadicea. Sam said he saw blood on Boadicea’s saddle. Mr. McGrath here objected and Sam then said there were WET, RED STAINS on the saddle that looked like blood. After leaving the pocket he rode to Mount Moffatt and told Mr. Tom. Then he went on to Forest Vale and Mitchell, taking Dahlke’s saddle with him, which he handed to Constable Cleary. Sam then described how he had afterwards accompanied various search parties to the pocket. He had seen Pat Kenniff under Doyle’s arrest at Merivale. In answer to Mr. McGrath, Sam said when he saw the Kenniffs coming at him they were about 100 yards away. He walked his horse about 10 yards, then let the pack horse George go and raced away up the mountain. He could not say how far the Kenniffs followed him because he never looked back. That was the first time he had seen James Kenniff. Some questions followed as to what Sam had said at Rockhampton about the number of shots he had heard, but Sam said what he said now was right. The depositions taken at Rockhampton at the death inquiry were put in and Sam’s evidence was read, but his Honor pointed out that he would tell the jury that depositions of this sort were of no practical value, and quoted from Cochrane a statement discounting reliance being placed on depositions taken before a trial.

Mr. McGrath then continued his cross-examination. He wanted Sam to explain how he knew it was Jim Kenniff in the pocket, as he had never seen him before. Sam said Doyle had told him they were going after Jim Kenniff. Later on the Chief Justice asked Johnson :

“Who were the two men who raced after you?” and Sam POINTED TO THE Prisoners in the dock. Further questions followed concerning the identification of articles worn by Doyle, and a chain belonging to the Warrego Police Station. Sam said he knew the spurs were Doyle’s, but could give no reasons for recognising them. He knew the stirrup-leathers, because he had often cleaned them. He did not know how many days were in a week, or weeks in a month. He could neither read nor write. He did not know how old he was.

Mr. McGrath: What time of day was it when the bullets were flying about—sun go up, go down, or him on other side?

Witness (quietly): About 8 o’clock.

(Laughter.)

Are you a pretty good tracker ?— Pretty good.

After luncheon, Dr. J. E. Dods deposed that on April 21, in conjunction with Dr. Marks, he had examined stains on a saddle (Dahlke’s). They were blood stains — mammalian blood, he thought. Charles Pearson Tom, of’ Mount Moffatt Station, said that he rode part of the way with Doyle, Dahlke and Sam Johnson to the pocket. That was the last time he had seen Doyle and Dahlke. Mr. Tom then told of Sam’s statements to him on the Sunday evening. Sam showed him Dahlke’s saddle, which was stained with blood, so profusely that it might have been poured through the rose of a watering-can. He knew that Doyle had arrested Pat. Kenniff early in February last at Merivale. Doyle told him Pat DREW A REVOLVER, but had lowered it when Doyle ordered him to ” pack it up.” The next witness was James Ernest Burke, laborer of Carnarvon Station.’ He first gave an account of the altercation botwuen the-Konniffs and Ryan at Carnarvon on Good Friday night, concluding with Pat’s threat, “Whatever Dahlke gets ‘you’ get.” Then he described his meeting with Tracker Johnson, and his subsequent visit to the pocket. Mr. McGrath asked if he had mentioned in the police court that from Kenniff was present at Carnarvon on the Friday night, and the witness said he had. Mr. McGrath said it was not in the depositions and suggested that Tom was there in the afternoon, but his Honor said this was not inadmissible, and in the interests of the prisoners it should not go in. R. C. Lethbridge said he had gone into Mitchell with Sam Johnsou, and on April 1 handed over Dahlke’s saddle to Constable Cleary. Cleary deposed to receiving this saddle, and Constable Judd related how he had delivered it to Dr. Marks. Another constable (Dawes) identified a revolver as the one Doyle said Pat Kenniff had drawn on him in February. He knew it by the missing screw and a piece broken off.

WEDNESDAY’S PROCEEDINGS.

On Wednesday there was such a rush for admission that an orderly was stationed at the main entrance to the court to keep out all except these who had a right to admission. One of the spectators this day was the father of Constable George Doyle, whose conduct was rather eccentric, and he had to be restrained several times by friendly admonitions to “Kape quiet”.

The first witness was Constable William James Nash, of Mitchell who knew Pat Kenniff and Doyle. In February of last year Doyle had Pat in custody, and handed him over to witness. A revolver was also given to witness. It was a Colt’s revolver. Joseph Ryan, head stockman of Carnarvon station, said that in March last Dahlke was manager of that station. He last saw him alive on March 25 last. He had not received any message or letter from him since. Ryan then told his tale of the Kenniffs calling on him on March 28, and making certain threats. Ryan’s cross-examinination by Mr. McGrath was interesting. After questioning him as to the relative positions of all parties on the night in question, the following occurred :—

How long have you been in the district? — Since ’95.

Have you got any nickname ? — No.

Haven’t you got the reputation of being a liar?— No.

Haven’t you a nickname of DEADWOOD DICK? —No.

Or Joe the liar? — No.

Haven’t people frequently said that you are a man who could not be relied upon ? — No. Only Jim Kenniff.

Were you not in the habit of carrying yarns backwards and forwards ?— No James Kenniff accused me of it.

You have no friendly feeling towards the Kenniffs? — No.

You assisted the police to capture them? — Yes.

You didn’t make any reference to the revolver in the police court on the first day? — No.

What is your explanation for that?— I forgot it I suppose.

To catch the Kenniffs; was your whole object? — Yes.

With the police? — Yes.

The witness further stated that he was with the police from April till the end of May.

Richard Tapp, Sub-inspector Dillon, Constables Simpson and Tenane gave evidence as to the searches in Lethbridge’s Pocket. Francis Henry Vivian Voss, legally qualified medical practitioner, was then called, and made an affirmation. He said he was Government medical officer at Rockhampton. He knew Constable Millard, and on April 8 he received two saddle-pack bags, one pouch, revolver and pouch, one packet, one button, and one metal ring. He opened the bags, and found them to contain charcoal, fragments of bones, pins, buttons, a metal ring, and fragments of clothing. He examined the packet mentioned, and found it to contain earth and leaves covered with a glistening tarry covering. He examined some parts of it, and it gave the reaction of blood. He tested the matter chemically. There was also organic matter there.

His Honor : Leaves are organic matter.

Witness : I was referring more to THE CHARRED MATTER.

A box was then produced containing a number of articles. The doctor said he made a careful examination of the pack-bags. He separated all the bones he could find. Some bones he could not identify as particular bones. Of those he could identify he found portions of a human skull. One part showed plainly the socket of the eye.

His Honor: More than one skull?

Witness: I could not say.

Continuing, he said he found portion of the human vertebrae. On one fragment of vertebrae he found flesh, which was quite fresh. The body could not have been long dead; he thought about three weeks. He also found portions of the human pelvis, pieces of the human thigh and leg. Also bones of a human hand — finger and wrist. There were also some toe bones. Portions of human teeth, some buttons, and a part of a stud were also found. Two pins were found in the pack bag, a piece of material like that of a coat or trousers, and canvas padding used for a coat. They appeared to have passed through fire.

Mr. Stumm: Can you say, looking at, those bones that they are that of more than one person ?— No.

Are they the bones of a male adult or child?— From the size of the teeth and the size of the bones they belonged to an adult male or males.

Continuing the doctor gave evidence relative to the ti-tree brush, piece of rock and round stone found by Sub-inspector Dillon. Dr. Voss, in answer to Mr. McGrath, said he could not tell whether the remains were those of a WHITE OR BLACK PERSON, or whether the blood was that of a human being or not.

Snapper, a half-caste stockman on Meteor Downs Station, said he had found handcuffs and a chain about three-quarters of a mile from old Kenniffs camp.

Senior-sergeant Power identified the handcuffs, revolver, etc., which had been issued to Constable Doyle. Purvis Lannigan, head stockman at Meteor Downs, said he knew Snapper, and received the articles mentioned from that witness. In answer to Mr. McGrath witness said there were scalpers’ 40 miles away from Lethbridge’s Pocket. He had not seen any scalpers in Lethbridge’s Pocket.

David C. O’Brien, deposition clerk at Rockhampton, gave evidence relative to the death inquiry held at Rockhampton and the various exhibits produced at the time and Acting-sergeant Patrick Mallon, of Woollaston, testified as to the receipt of various articles received from Lanningham in August last.

Senior-sergeant Rody Byrne, stationed at Toowoomba, said the witness O’Brien had given him a number of exhibits which he brought to Brisbane. In answer to Mr. McGrath, he said that he arrested James Kenniff, senr., and his sons Thomas and John on April 5 at Uriway Springs, nearly 12 miles from Meteor Downs and about 55 miles from Lethbridge’s Pocket. There was a man working at the springs, but he did not know his name. He had heard Tom Kenniff call him Jim. He had since made inquiries for him. He had heard that the defence had got a subpoema for this man.

In answer to Mr. Stumm, witness said he followed up the tracks from old Kenniff’s camp in Lethbridge’s Pocket. Mr. McGrath objected, but it was pointed out by his Honor that it was desirable that Tom Kenniff’s movements should be known.

Where is Kenniff’s camp?— About two miles from THE SCENE OF THE MURDER.

His Honor: You know nothing about the scene of the murder yet!

Continuing, Byrne said there was signs of habitation about the Kenniffs camp, which was half-a-mile lower down from the flat rock.

His Honor: It is rather vague calling a tent the Kenniff’s camp.

Snapper, recalled, produced a stick on which he had made certain marks indicative of distances.

Amelia Dahlke, mother of Albert Christian Dahlke, said that she had not seen or heard from her son since March 29 last. He was 26 on December 10 last. She had heard no reason why he should not write to her if he was alive and let her know where he was.

She last saw him alive at the end of August, 1901. When he left for Carnarvon she put some flowers in his coat and fastened them in with a bouquet pin. The pins produced were exactly like them.

Wm. Collins, member of the firm John Collins and Sons, graziers, said his firm owned Carnarvon and Babiloora stations in the Warrego district. Albert Christian Dahlke was manager of Carnarvon. Dahlke made fortnightly reports. His last report was dated March 19, and his last cheque was dated March 10. IF DAHLKE WERE ALIVE he would expect to hear from him.

Catherine Doyle, sister of Constable Geo. Doyle, said that she had not seen or heard from him since March 29 last. She replied to that letter and it was returned by the Post Office. No message or communication had been received from him since that date as far as she knew. She knew of no reason if he was alive why he should not communicate with her or other members of the family. He used to send money home, but no money had been received since March 29 last.

Sam Johnson, recalled, said he knew old Kenniff’s camp, and was there with Doyle four weeks before he went to Lethbridge’s Pocket. Old Kenniff and Jack Kenniff were there. The camp was a tent. There were leaves under blankets for beds. There was a fire there with stones around it. The camp was on the gorge in the pocket, near the creek. It was from the camp that he ran the tracks with Rody Byrnes afterwards.

Evidence of the Kenniffs’ arrest was then given by Constables Scanlan and Cramb. The latter stated that when James Kenniff was arrested he had two loaded rifles in his possession, and after calling on him three times in the King’s name to surrender Jim raised his rifle, and witness fired his rifle and missed. Jim then laid down his rifle and said, ” Don’t fire. I want to talk to you.” Witness replied, ” Throw up your hands and surrender in the King’s name.” He replied, “I WON’T SURRENDER.”

He then said, “Where is Paddy? I want to know if he is dead. If he is I won’t surrender, or if he is wounded.” I said, ” You had better surrender : you are surrounded by police.” He said ” I don’t care if I am surrounded by 60 police; I want to see Paddy alive, as I am tired of the life I am now leading.” He then came up and stood on a log about 15 yards from said, ” Don’t fire.”

[Consable Meston said he spoke to] James Kenniff on the way to Mitchell, ” Whose horses were they that Cramb shot?” and Jim Kenniff replied, ” They were our horses.” The court then adjourned for the day.

On Thursday Cramb was cross-examined at some length. He was followed by Constable Tasker, who gave further evidence as to the arrest. Then Sub-inspector Hugh Malone was called. He said he was in charge of a body of police in June last searching for the prisoners. On June 23 the two men were brought into Mitchell. He took charge of everything that was found in the camp. Prisoners were placed in adjoining cells separated by a thin wooden partition.
Mr. Lilley : Do you remember standing near those cells and hearing a conversation between the two prisoners ?— Yes, about 8 o’clock that night in the open air.
What did James Kenniff say ?— He said ” I heard someone say THEY WILL HAVE TO PROVE IT. I think it will only be for the ‘gee-gees’— they are mine.” Patrick Kenniff replied, “No, no!” James Kennif then said, ” They have got you set,” and added, ” The
ranges were the best.”
Did you hear anything said about business?— I heard James Kenniff say, ” What
kept you so long! If I had got to business they would have shot you.”

Mr. McGrath briefly cross-examined with regard to the Government proclamations which were hung up on trees in the district.
In answer to Mr. Lilley Malone stated that he said to Jim Kenniff, ” I suppose while travelling about you had a good laugh at your photos being in the bush ?”— Jim replied he saw a notice signed by the Chief Inspector. One of the jury having asked for the surveyor’s sketch of Lethbridge’s Pocket with various spots marked on it, H. G. Blakeney,
the surveyor, was called. Mr. McGrath objected to this plan going in and his Honor said that perhaps it would be safer not to put the plan in as evidence.

[To be continued…]


“PATRICK AND JAMES KENNIFF ON TRIAL for the MURDER OF CONSTABLE DOYLE” Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 – 1954) 9 November 1902: 1.

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