Spotlight: THE ESCAPE AND RECAPTURE OF DUNN, THE BUSHRANGER (1866)

Australian News for Home Readers (Vic. : 1864 – 1867), Friday 23 February 1866, page 12


THE ESCAPE AND RECAPTURE OF DUNN, THE BUSHRANGER.

This notorious bushranger, the last of Ben Hall’s gang, after a series of robberies in the northern district of New South Wales, was apprehended about the end of December last and lodged in the lock-up of Dubbo. The police effected his capture entirely by their own exertions; not having received any information of his whereabouts. They took him by surprise, but he did not surrender, until after a most desperate resistance, and until he was unable from his wounds to continue the contest. McHale, the policeman whose bullet disabled Dunn, was, also wounded. When Dunn was secured he treated the affair with the greatest jocularity, remarking that he was tired of bushranging, and had thrown away his gun. On the 14th January he effected his escape in the manner described in the following communication addressed to the Bathurst Times:— “Dunn had been getting so strong that it was deemed advisable to put him in irons. He got sulky at this, and refused to take food, and expressed his determination to die rather than be hanged; and when he was informed by Dr. Ramsay that if even he did escape the rope he would be paralysed, he became firmer than ever in his determination. His groans during the time the irons were on him prevented McHale, whose case is most dangerous from the fact that the wound has closed prematurely — his groans, I say, prevented McHale from getting any sleep. Instead of being removed into another room, McHale was left in the same apartment with Dunn, and this prevented his getting the sleep so required. The van had arrived from Bathurst for his removal. He heard of this, and shammed dying. On Saturday evening Mr. Hogg had prepared a stretcher for him at the gaol, in order to allow McHale to sleep but Dunn was considered too bad to be able to be removed, and he was suffered to remain where he was, as he was thought to be dying, and the irons were knocked off by Dr. Ramsay’s order. Between one and three on Sunday morning he made his exit through the window while five or six troopers lay in the next room, some of them having kept watch until twelve o’clock. I may here mention that Walton, the harborer of Dunn on the Marthaguy Creek, had been brought into town by Hawthorn and another policeman. He was brought before the bench on Saturday, and as McHale, who had most material evidence to give in consequence of ferreting out information from a sly-grog seller he had apprehended provious to his gallant capture of Dunn, was required to be present at the examination, he had to be brought from the barracks to the court house, where he was detained the greater part of the day. This exertion so fatigued McHale that he was scarcely able to get back. The consequence was that he slept much better than he had done since his arrival in Dubbo; and this accounts for Dunn escaping unheard and unobserved by McHale. Why one of the troopers in the next room did not keep watch, especially as one hour from each would have prevented the escape, is a mystery. Towards early dawn McHale awoke, and on looking towards Dunn’s bed he called the outlaw by name, and, on receiving no reply, concluded he was dead. He crawled over to his bed and found Dunn gone; his handkerchief was spread cunningly out where his head ought to be, as if he had spread it over his face to keep off the flies, and the pillow was placed in the centre of the bed, to induce McHale, should he accidentally awake, to fancy that his man was there. McHale kicked and knocked at the door of the men’s room, and shouted out that Dunn was gone, but they thought he was hoaxing and only playing them a joke. McHale limped out as well as he could, to inform Mr. Hogg, who lived next door, but was prevented from his design and persuaded to go into his room. He again crawled out in a pitiable state of mind, and tracked Dunn from the window for some yards, where he found the poultices which had dropped off. All the police were out in an instant, but it was of no avail, although there were black and white trackers, and volunteers. Various were the rumors and surmises as to how he effected his escape. Some said Thunderbolt had been seen that day in the neighborhood of the town, and some four or five young men (strangers) had been in town, whose movements were suspicions; that a stranger, who represented himself as a photographer, had been seeking an interview with Dunn about twelve o’clock. A horse had been seen close to where the tracks were lost. That night (Sunday) a meeting was held in the streets, and several enrolled themselves as volunteers for that night and the next day. On Monday morning most of the troopers returned, but could find no traces of the fugitive. About six o’clock in the evening, a young man who had been in the scrub about a mile and a half at the back of the river and town, saw emerging from under a log the wasted and emaciated form of Dunn, who supplicated him for a drink of water. This he gave him; and after chatting for a quarter of an hour, he asked the young man if he would take him in his cart to the river, for the wound McHale gave him disabled him from riding for ever. The young man fortunately rejected the proposal, and drove into Dubbo and informed constable McKeown of his meeting with Dunn and the attending circumstances, and went back with McKeown, who at once took him into custody. Meanwhile an immense crowd had congregated, some bringing water, others brandy, and other stimulants, an the unfortunate misguided creature was in the last stage of exhaustion from exposure, hunger, thirst, and the effects of his almost fatal wound. He was brought into town on a vehicle and placed this time where he should have been first — in the gaol — and this morning he was sent off under escort to Wellington to join McHale, who had started in the Bathurst police van on the day previous for your good “city of the plains.” A telegram had been received, on Monday, from the Government, authorising a reward of £50 for information and £100 for the capture of Dunn. This, no doubt because the Government should give the original reward to the captors who handed their man over to the higher powers. There is no small amount of dissatisfaction at the manner in which McHale’s paramount claims to the major part of the £750 have been grossly ignored, his bullet— and his alone — having disabled Dunn, and rendered his apprehension by the other two a matter of certainty. Besides, to his fortunate shot we may attribute the recapture, as Dunn himself admits he could have escaped only for its disabling effects.. Besides, it is probable McHale will be a cripple for life, if, indeed, his life is secure at all.

Saturday’s Times thus records Dunn’s arrival at Bathurst:— “At four o’clock yesterday, Dunn was brought into Bathurst by Mr. Superintendent Lydiard and a strong escort. He was conveyed in the police van, a bed being placed on the floor of the vehicle for his accommodation. With him were Murphy, the boy bushranger, and the old shepherd belonging to the hut in which Dana was hiding when surprised by the police, both having been committed for trial — the first for bushranging, and the latter for harboring Dunn. As soon as the van was espied going towards the gaol, there was a rush from all directions of persons anxious to catch a glimpse of the outlaw; but they were doomed to disappointment, for the gaol gates swung open to admit the vehicle and then closed, shutting out all but the escort. In appearance Dunn is a small spare-built man, about twenty two years, old, anything but ferocious in aspect. The wound which disabled him is in the loins, about two inches to the right of the spine, the sinews connected with which appear to be injured and to have caused a loss of power in the right leg. He complains of a tingling sensation along the entire limb at the back, but does not appear to suffer much from the wounds itself. The injury caused by the shot which struck him on the toes of the right foot is of a very trifling nature. We are informed that over since his disappearance from the Southern districts he has been engaged on the Macquarie breaking in horses. He kept very quiet and was unknown, and but for his own fears, which led him to take to his heels when he saw the police, he might still have been at large, for the constables had no idea that he was in the neighborhood. No danger is expected to result from his wound, and it is considered that he will recover. He has been brought down to Sydney that he may be tried by a more impartial jury than would most likely be obtainable in that part of the colony where he has made himself so notorious. He was taken to Darlinghurst gaol, and will be tried at the next criminal sessions, which will commence on the 12th inst.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s