Spotlight: Bushranging! Robbery! Murder! (1840)

Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857), Tuesday 15 December 1840, page 6


Bushranging! Robbery ! Murder !

Three desperate Bushrangers, Fisher, Beard, and another, have been prowling about during the last month in the district of Bothwell. A sort of languid search was made after them by two constables, who returned home unsuccessful about the 25th Nov. On the 28th the villains robbed the station of Mr. Geo. Nicholas, at Weasel Plains, and after ordering his servant to make tea for them, they took what they thought useful, and compelled him to accompany them to the house of Mr. Ware, at Ben’s Bottom; when they had secured Mr. Ware, they roused his three assigned servants out of bed, about 11 o’clock p.m., and detained them nearly naked, before the muzzle of a doublebarrelled percussion gun, while the house was plundered of what they wanted, to carry which they still compelled Mr. Nicholas’s servant to accompany them to the Shannon, where they dismissed him. On the poor man’s arrival at his master’s in a state of terror and fatigue, he told his woful tale, and proceeded as fast as he could to Bothwell Police-office, where he reported nil the circumstances, but the Police Magistrate had gone to Hobart Town to see the Regatta.

Mr. Richard Pitt brought information from the Great Lake, that two of Mr. Brodribb’s shepherds were missing, and it was suspected they were murdered. After diligent search, they were discovered under a log of wood, which it would appear, from the position and writhing appearance of the bodies, must have been placed upon them before their last agonies were terminated. This was reported to the Police Magistrate on the 7th Dec, at mid-day, but up to the 9th, neither himself, being Coroner, nor his District Constable, had stirred from the town to visit the spot, neither had the District Surgeon been called to inspect the bodies. Instead of which, two petty constables, who can neither read nor write, were sent to bring the bodies, with such evidence as these intelligent individuals could obtain, to Bothwell, a distance of above 40 miles, in a wild country, and without any certainty of being able to obtain the means of transport.

The unfortunate men were missing ten days previous to the 9th instant, and the great delay which occurred, allowing decomposition to make rapid progress, prevented the possibility of any satisfactory examination being made by the Surgeon as to the nature of the wounds which occasioned death, thereby defeating the ends of justice. The alarmed feelings of the shepherds cannot but be attended with disastrous consequences to the flock-masters of the district, in reference to which, we here insert a note sent to Capt, Clurk, by one of his shepherds :

Skittle Balls, 9th Dec. 1840.

Sir, I beg leave to address you, and at the same time to inform you, I arrived safe with the sheep – likewise respecting the dreadful murder of Mr. Brodribb’s two men. It is now ten days since the men were missing, and not a constable sent to apprehend the murderers till yesterday. The murdered bodies are laying in a dreadful state, and no coroner been up, although the circumstances has been reported in Bothwell several days. The fact of the matter is, that if the magistrate do not send the police out to endeavour to apprehend these murderers, the stock keepers will leave their flocks, for they say their lives is as precious to them as any one else. The blame seems to be attached to the chief district constable that the other constables was not out before now. When it was reported about the two armed men being seen on Mount Pleasant and Patrick’s Plains, he said that if they were to listen to every story that is reported, they would have nothing else to do ; and I have no doubt had he attended to the report, the men would have been taken, and the murder prevented.

To John Clark, Esq.

We have not room this week to enter into further detail, of the horrid affair and concomitant circumstances, of which we have not given one half, but from what we have stated, let us ask. What opinion the community of the Bothwell district, can now have of their Police establishment under the present management? What opinion will not the Colony have of such conduct. Here we see a paid servant leave his station, without taking the trouble of obtaining any person to do his duly while absent, although aware, that these villains were abroad in the district? Such indifference to his duty, and the interests of the district cannot be easily understood ; we therefore feel confident, His Excellency’s very utmost generosity has been exhausted in that quarter, and that an impartial and searching enquiry will be (if not already) ordered to take place. The extreme imprudence of his leaving his station at the time, is too obvious to require any further remark ; but we are anxious to know, whether the District Constable wrote to Major Schaw by Monday’s post on the state of affairs. If so, he would have it at Hobart Town on Tuesday, at 9 o’clock, A. M., and could easily have been home that evening, whereas he attended the Regatta, and afterwards a Ball, at New Norfolk that night, and only arrived in Bothwell on Wednesday.

If the constable did not write Major Schaw, he is unfit for his situation – and if he did, it makes the matter worse and worse. We cannot but think, upon the whole, if proper exertion had been made to secure these infatuated men, the murder of Mr. Brodribb’s shepherds might have been prevented.

This murder and robbery affair will, we have no doubt, save us the disagreeable task of bringing forward our promised budget, in reference to the police system of Bothwell, touching a gentleman, who, in all the relations of private life, is highly estimable, and whom we know in no other than his public capacity.

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