Spotlight: THE DEATH OF O’MEALLY, MAGISTERIAL ENQUIRY. (1863)

Sydney Mail (NSW : 1860 – 1871), Saturday 28 November 1863, page 4


THE DEATH OF O’MEALLY

MAGISTERIAL ENQUIRY.

(From the Bathurst Times own correspondent.)

A Magisterial enquiry was held by Mr. William Farrand, Police Magistrate, Forbes, on view of the body of John O’Meally, at the residence of Mr. David Henry Campbell. J.P., Goimbla, New South Wales, on Friday, the 20th instant.

Michael Fagan, on oath, states: I am a senior-constable of mounted police, stationed at Eugowra. At two o’clock this morning a messenger arrived at the Eugowra police station, and informed me that Mr. Campbell’s station was in possession of the bushrangers, who were burning it down. I immediately proceeded to Mr. Campbell’s station, accompanied by two constables. I arrived about half past three o’clock. I met one of Mr. Campbell’s men, who told me that he believed the bushrangers were in the house. When I reached tho house, I saw Mr. Campbell, who told me that the bushrangers had left, and he showed me a place in the direction of which he fired, and where also he had found a carbine and a cabbage-tree hat. I found the spot to be in front of the dwelling, beyond a paling fence about forty yards from the house, near to which Mr. Campbell informed me he had found a carbine and a cabbage-tree hat. On this ground was a crop of oats six feet in height. On examining the ground, I discovered a fresh track, which I followed up into the oats and I found the body of the deceased about ten yards from the fence. I searched the body and found two silk handkerchiefs thereon, which I produce. I found a bullet wound on the right side of the neck. The carbine produced I identify as a police carbine, and it is the same carbine which was pointed out to me by Mr. Campbell as the one found by him near to the spot where I found the deceased. I produce the cabbage-tree hat, aforesaid which was handed to me by Mr. Campbell. I also produce a Colt’s revolver, which was handed to me by constable Hogan who stated that he found it near the body. The revolver has six chambers, five of which were loaded.

Frederick William Pottinger, on oath, stated: I am officer in charge of police in the Lachlan district. On my way from Cowra to Forbes I met Mr. Hanbury Clements, at about twelve o’clock this day at Waugan who having informed me that Mr. David Cambell had shot one of three or four bushrangers who had attempted to stick up his premises on the previous night, I proceeded with Mr. Clements and my party of police to Mr. Campbell’s. On my arrival the body of the deceased was pointed out to me, and I at once identified it as the body of John O’Meally. I have known John O’Meally off and on, for about three years, and I have frequently come into contact with him. I have apprehended him, and on one occasion he was in the Forbes lock-up for seven or eight weeks or more, and when in the course of prosecution of a case against him, I have had opportunities of watching him closely for hours together. I cannot, therefore, be mistaken as to his identity. The John O’Meally to whom I allude is the one who is known as the notorious bushranger, and for whom a reward of one thousand pounds is offered. On seeing the body I saw a bullet wound in the neck, after receiving which I feel sure that the deceased could not have lived many seconds.

William Hollister deposed: I am a senior-constable of mounted police. I have just seen the body of the deceased — the man said to have been shot by Mr. Campbell; I identify it as the body of John O’Meally, the notorious bushranger. I have known John O’Meally off and on since last July twelve months. I have seen him often, and have spoken to him frequently, and I feel that I cannot be mistaken as to his identity.

David Henry Campbell deposed: I am a squatter, residing at Goimbla, on the Eugowra Creek. I am a magistrate of the territory of New South Wales. About a quarter to nine last evening while seated in my dining room, I was startled by the sound of footsteps in the front verandah. I immediately grasped a double-barrelled gun, and proceeded to the door of my dressing-room, which adjoins my bedroom at the side of the house, when I was intercepted by a man at the doorway. He instantly fired the contents of two barrels at my face, which I replied to by discharging one of the barrels of my gun. The man immediately fled round the corner of the building and joined one or two others at the front door. I followed a short distance and seeing their strength, retired to my bedroom. The dining-room before mentioned was lighted up with a strong kerosene lamp, and the window blinds were raised. A spare gun was leaning in the chimney corner. My powder-flask, containing some powder and some bullets, together with a box of caps, were lying on the mantel-piece. Mrs. Campbell, whilst I was in the bedroom, rushed into the dining-room, and under the fire of the bushrangers from the front verandah, succeeded in securing the gun and ammunition before-mentioned, which she brought to me, I immediately loaded the barrel which I had just discharged, and with the spare gun and ammunition rapidly passed through the dining room, and passing out at the back door took up my position between two slab walls which formed a passage from the back of the main buildings to the kitchen. I had not been there more than a quarter of an hour when a number of shots were discharged almost simultaneously from several directions, and one of the men called out, “If you don’t immediately surrender, we will burn your place down.” I replied “Come on — I’m ready for you,” whereupon one of the bushrangers called out — “Is that it?” and a few minutes afterwards I saw flames arising from the barn, distant from the house about thirty yards. Mrs. Campbell had in the meantime, without my sanction, rushed across a paddock at the back of the house to the men’s hut, distant from the house about 150 yards, for assistance, and was returning without success, and took up her position near to me with a servant girl. On the light increasing, consequent upon the progress of the flames, the bushrangers retired behind a paling fence, about forty yards from the front of the house. Shortly after, Mrs. Campbell called my attention to a man with a cabbage-tree hat, looking over the said fence in the direction of the burning premises. I immediately ran round the end of the house, and from the front corner, took a deliberate aim at the man’s throat. I fired, retreated, and reloaded my gun. I should mention that, previous to firing this shot a number of shots were fired at the front door, with repeated calls to surrender, which I did not reply to. While occupied in reloading my gun, one or two shots were fired, and the bushrangers appeared to be retreating. About half an hour after — namely about half past eleven o’clock, I cautiously approached the spot at which I had fired, and discovered in the standing oats a single-barrelled carbine, and a cabbage-tree hat. I took possession of the same, until the arrival of the police, into whose charge I have delivered them. I identify the carbine and cabbage tree hat produced as the same I found in the oats. I kept watch until daylight, and then accompanied Constable Fagan to the spot where we had previously found the carbine and hat. We followed a track in the oats about ten yards from the fence, when we discovered the body of the deceased. When I proceeded with Constable Fagan on to the oats, I found a pool of blood within a yard of the fence, as also a small pool near to where the body was lying. Immediately on my firing the man appeared to fall, but no sound was uttered. The back part of the cabbage-tree hat was dusty, as if the man had fallen backwards when hit, there was a small spot of blood inside the crown of the hat. I have no doubt but that the body of the deceased is that of the man at whom I fired. About a quarter of an hour after I obtained the hat and carbine, a Chinaman, whom I had set to watch the front of the building, reported to me that he had heard a rustling, as of a person approaching the spot where the body was found. After the discovery of the body, I observed an indentation on the little finger of the right hand, as if a ring had been recently removed. Also, deceased’s pockets had been turned inside out as if recently rifled I had never to my knowledge seen the deceased before. The bushrangers burned to the ground a range of stables containing eight stalls, and a large barn; the walls of the stable and the barn being of “Vise” remain partially standing, but are rendered useless owing to the flames. The whole of the roofs were shingled and quite new. I estimate the cost of erecting the barn and stable at £400 sterling. The barn contained fifteen tons of hay, which I value at £50 ; and about five pounds worth of wool ready for the market. There was a new chaff-cutter in the barn, worth £20 sterling. In the stable was a favourite horse which I value at £20. The whole of the property above mentioned was entirely confirmed.

William Campbell, on oath, states: I am a squatter, residing with my brother, the last witness. While in my bedroom about nine o’clock last evening, I heard three shots fired in quick succession, and immediately rushed into the dining-room, where several shots were then fired through one of the front windows. The room was lighted, and the blinds were up. I therefore, immediately rushed out of the back door into the verandah. I there saw a man at my bedroom window (distant about five or six yards from where I stood), who fired two shots at me in quick succession, The first shot struck me in the chest, and I consequently stumbled and fell near to the step. So soon as I recovered I escaped through the back gate, and made my way through the standing oats at the back of the barn intending to make my way back to the house as soon as an opportunity presented itself. Very shortly afterwards a volley of a dozen shots were fired, accompanied by shouts from the bushrangers, which to me were unintelligible. While still in the oats I saw the barn on fire, and saw two men passing the back wall of the barn rapidly, in the direction of the house. After the fire was lighted there was another volley fired towards the house from the direction of the barn. This is the last firing that I heard, and I saw nothing more of the bushrangers ; and finding that all was quiet, I proceeded to the Eugowra police station on foot to give information to the police.

William Browne, on oath, states: I am a Commissioner, in charge of the Lachlan Goldfield ; I examined the body of the deceased, which I believe to be that of the well-known bushranger, O’Meally; I believe it to be his body from the countenance and the peculiar colour of his hair; he is however, much grown since I last saw him alive; I found a wound on the right side of the neck, which appears to have been caused by a bullet entering his neck under his ear, passing out behind the neck behind the vertebræ ; his death must have been instantaneous ; from the size of the wound I should think it was caused by an ounce ball ; in my opinion the cause of death is so obvious that medical evidence is unnecessary. A verdict of “Justifiable homicide” was returned, in accordance with the evidence.

John O’Meally by Aidan Phelan

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