Spotlight: Portrait of Mick Coneley

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It would be easy to reference the Biblical figure of Judas turning Jesus over to the Romans for a bag of silver when examining Mick Coneley – in fact there is a book about his actions that directly makes that parallel in its title, The Judas Covenant. History will remember Coneley as the man who sold Ben Hall.

Coneley was a farmer with a property on Goobang Creek where he resided with his wife Mary Ann and their children. Like many farmers in the district he was on friendly terms with the bushrangers, especially Ben Hall who was a childhood friend of his wife. This friendliness wasn’t permanent however and as Ben Hall’s gang became more dangerous, adding murder to their list of crimes and bringing about the Felons Apprehension Act, Coneley was determined to put an end to the outlaw’s career and make a pretty penny out of it for himself.

In late April of 1865 Hall, Gilbert and Dunn were making plans to flee the colony but had loose ends to tie up first. They camped at Coneley’s run and ‘Goobang’ Mick was only too ready to oblige. What they didn’t know as they split up to attend to their last bits of business before taking leave of New South Wales was that Coneley had taken the opportunity to notify Sub-Inspector Davidson of the gang’s movements and the date they were expected to return to Goobang Creek. In response, Davidson took a party of police with him to camp out near Coneley’s hut in the bush and await the return of the bushrangers.

When Gilbert and Dunn were spooked by a party of stockmen from the Strickland’s property (Coneley’s in-laws) they took off and decided Coneley was not trustworthy. Unfortunately they weren’t able to give this information to Ben Hall. When Hall returned to Goobang Creek and camped Coneley notified the police and directed them to Hall’s camp. On the morning of 5 May the police party gunned Hall down.

When Davidson drew up a map of the scene of the shooting he deliberately left the Coneley farm off the map to conceal the informant’s identity. Coneley received £500 for his trouble that was deposited into his bank accounts in installments to avoid suspicion. Soon Coneley’s marriage fell apart and he disappeared into the mists of time.

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