Spotlight: The Capture of Dunn

[The following account of the capture of the notorious John Dunn, former member of the Gilbert-Hall Gang and proclaimed outlaw, was taken from The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 11 January 1866. Dunn was the last member of the gang to be at large and had been identified as a member of Thunderbolt’s gang following the death of Gilbert, though the descriptions of Dunn from those encounters do not match the real Dunn.]
THE CAPTURE OF DUNN.
A correspondent of the Bathurst Times gives the following graphic account of the capture of the outlaw Dunn. It differs in some important respects from the accounts hitherto published.
Dating from Dubbo, 2nd January, the writer says :
Your readers will no doubt be curious to know the full particulars of the desperate engagement between Dunn and the police, in which I may say all engaged were wounded. Constable Hawthorne had a bullet put through his hat, senior constable Elliott received a wound from a blow of the pistol Dunn carried, whilst Dunn himself and McHale were badly wounded, and both are in a very low state, neither of them being out of danger. Sub-inspector Hogg, of this place, set off this morning for the scene of the affray.
From a comparison of Elliott’s statement with that of a gentleman just arrived at Dubbo, and who went expressly some twenty miles out of his way to Coonamble to hear the facts of the case, I can vouch for the perfect accuracy of the following information.
Dunn, Thunderbolt, and Co, were in November last sticking-up on the Birres River, in the Northern country. They afterwards visited the Bemo, Gulgoa, and all the country circumscribed by the Bogan, the Macquarie, the Castlereagh, the Darling and the large creeks tributary to these Inspector Zouch and sergeant Flynn let the party slip through their hands, and only for the pluck and activity of constable McHale, this trebly-dyed murderer would be at large still. McHale, who had been but a few months in charge of the Coonamble station on Duck Creek, together with one of his men, named Hawthorne, and Elliott, of the Coonamble station, came early on the morning of the 24th December, before daylight, to the hut of a man named Walton, in the employ of Mr. Perry, on the Marthaguy. This Walton was suspected of harbouring a most notorious scoundrel, a half-caste, that went by the name of George Smith, alias Yellow George. Elliott had a warrant for him. About dawn of day the three policemen proceeded to the hut, and early and cautions as was the approach, the party “wanted” was astir. Without returning the civilities of the morning to the strangers, Yellow George bolted off in the direction of the bush. Elliott and Hawthorne immediately gave chase straight after him, whilst McHale, unconscious of the nobler game he was to light on, doubled quickly round the corner of the hut to intercept the fugitive. Having got to the back of the house, he saw a young man running at tip-top speed across the paddock, and he perceived firearms in his hand. He at once said, “There goes Dunn.” He jumped the fence, and after him he went, and as McHale was very active and complete master of the use of his limbs (of which, poor fellow, he no longer is) he soon overhauled Dunn considerably. McHale three different times challenged the pursued to stand, as he believed him to be Dunn, and each time Dunn turned his head round, shewed his revolver, and still kept on with all his might. McHale then fired a random shot. Dunn turned round to fire, but did not, as he was evidently husbanding the few shots he had (having only one revolver with him). McHale again called on him to stand as “John Dunn,” and then put forth all his speed of running, and when he came within forty or fifty yards of Dunn be stood, took deliberate aim, fired, and forthwith Dunn fell flat on his face to the earth, dangerously wounded in the loins. The blood soon covered his person, and be was hors de combat. And now it was that Dunn’s ferocity, like that of a furious bull at bay, displayed itself. McHale had reached within fifteen or twenty yards of Dunn. When the latter saw him so near at hand, and found the officers of justice were about to clutch him for the misdeeds of his life, he made a desperate effort, rolled himself round on his back, and by the exercise of the energy which the dreadful nature of his case afforded, he managed to get into a sitting posture. He took deadly aim at McHale, fired twice; the second bullet wounded him in the thigh. From that moment, McHale was powerless. The ball hit him above the knee, glanced along, and finally lodged itself in the groin. There they were, the constable and the outlaw, within a few yards of each other, each dangerously and desperately wounded by the other. All this time McMale’s mates were firing after Yellow George. When McHale found himself unable to apprehend the man be had so gamely crippled and brought to earth, he called out in a loud voice to his mates, some 200 or 300 yards off, “I am shot.” They at once desisted from pursuit of the half-caste, and by McHale’s directions took positions behind some trees near at hand. Dunn by this time had drawn breath, and seeing that his only hope was to get the police near him and from behind the trees, he made a desperate effort and got on his feet. Of course, wounded as he was he did not go far before the police were beside him, but he certainly partly succeeded in his intention, for as Hawthorn was about to apprehend him, he turned round and fired, driving the bullet through the rim of Hawthorn’s hat. Elliott then laid hands upon him, upon which Dunn desperately clutched his revolver (it being now unloaded), and wounded him with it on the head. McHale had fainted from loss of blood. During the fracas Mr. Hogg was distant from the spot only about fifteen miles, after young Murphy.
It was evidently intended to form the nucleus of another band of bushrangers, that should reproduce, during the year 1866, under the command of Dunn and company, the lawless dramas hitherto enacted by Gilbert and Co., but fortunately for the country, the career of the future banditti has been cut short. The Clerk of Petty Sessions at Coonamble, who happens to be a doctor, paid every attention, and did all that skill and kindness could effect, till the arrival of Cr. Ramsay. He has been a surgeon in the army, and will, it is hoped, succeed in extracting the bullets from the bodies of McHale and Dunn.

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Source: “DUNN THE BUSHRANGER.” Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 – 1872) 16 February 1866: 4.
Source: “THE CAPTURE OF DUNN.” The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893) 11 January 1866: 3.

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