Spotlight: Portrait of James Sutherland

James Saunders was born at Big River, (Ouse). At 18 months old, James was left by his father with a woman at Perth. This woman raised him until he was 5 years old and he was given the name Sutherland. He was then fobbed off on a woman at Evandale, who looked after him until he was 11. James was then kicked out and left to his own devices. He tried to make his way back to Perth, but was arrested and tried under the vagrancy act. He was sentenced to 3 months in gaol.

When he got out of gaol he travelled to Hobart and worked as a dogsbody for Webb’s Hotel. He then found employment for Mr. Pedder at his farm at Kangaroo Point. He remained here for 3 years, then decided to become a miner. Despite being seen in Launceston from time to time, nothing else is known of his life from this period.

[National Library of Australia]

In 1883, James Saunders, now known as Sutherland, was joined by his friend James Ogden in bushranging in Epping Forest. According to news reports they only emerged from the bush to visit brothels and drink. This was followed by a brief crime spree that resulted in Sutherland murdering two men: William Wilson and Alfred Holman. The former was shot after leaving his house, which was also burnt down. The latter was shot while driving a wagon through the forest. Both crimes were as shocking in their violence as they were tragic in their aftermath.

Sutherland and Ogden were soon captured, not far from where Holman’s body was found, and tried for murder. Sutherland accepted the charges laid on him, and seemed to express little or no remorse. He suggested that because the world had been so cruel to him he saw no difference in giving a little cruelty back. The pair were found guilty and executed in Hobart. At the time of their executions, Ogden was twenty years old, while Sutherland, was only eighteen.

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