Spotlight: Capture of “Thunderbolt’s” Wife (10 April 1866)

Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Tuesday 10 April 1866, page 3


We have Sydney papers to the 4th inst. The following are extracts :–

CAPTURE of “Thunderbolt’s” Wife. — A short time since, a police party, consisting of senior-sergeant Kerrigan, constable Scully, a black tracker, and a volunteer – Norman Baton, went through the New England and Stroud district in search of Ward, alias Thunderbolt, and on Tuesday last, at a place called Pignabarney Creek, about thirty miles from Nundle, they sighted a half-caste woman with horse, saddle, bridle, and swag, and believing her to be Ward’s wife, they asked her where Ward was; she said she was “the captain’s lady,” and Ward had been chased two days previously by the police; that she had since been in search of him with provisions and was unable to find him in the mountains. Her swag contained a suit of man’s clothes and some provisions, and on the grass lay a child about nine months old, and by its side a shear blade, fastened to a long stick, with which she used to ride up to cattle and kill them when short of provisions. She was taken to Stroud (a journey, of three days) on horseback, and was there charged with vagrancy, having no fixed place of abode nor visible means of support. On this charge she was convicted, and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in Maitland gaol. She stated that Thunderbolt had some time ago been wounded by the police with a bullet in the leg, and that his horse, since falling on him, had hurt the same leg so much that she did not think he could long survive; and further, that they had gone to where she was taken as a sort of refuge to be out of danger of capture, whilst he rested to receive the use of his leg. On the day she last saw him she had to lift him on his horse just as the police came in sight. The camp at Pignabarney was in a wild unfrequented part of the New England district, and fully twenty-five miles from any house, hut, or homestead. Two parties of police were still in pursuit of Thunderbolt when our informant left Stroud.

Robbery of the Up and Down Mails between Campbelltown and Wollongong.— We learn from a gentleman who arrived in town yesterday, from Wollongong, and who left that place by the Monday evening mail, that on reaching London Creek, some twelve miles from Wollongong, about one o’clock on Tuesday morning, they stopped to change horses. It was then discovered that the down mail from Campbelltown, with one passenger, had been stopped there by two armed men, with masked faces, at about ten o’clock the previous night. The fellows immediately seized the coachman, whom they bound securely hand and foot to a tree; the solitary gentleman passenger was served in the same way; and as if determined not to be baulked in their design of overhauling the mail bags, the ruffians also secured the groom in charge of the horses, and his wife, the latter being strapped tightly into a chair. This done all four were gagged, some rags and pieces of cloth being rolled up tightly in hard balls, and forced into the mouths of their helpless victims. The ruffians then lay in wait for the up mail, which, as already stated, reached the customary place for changing horses close upon 1 o’clock, there being eleven passengers by her, bound to Sydney. The night being beautifully fine and clear, one of their number alighted, and walked towards a man whom he saw standing in the direction of the stables. Without looking at the party addressed, he asked in a jocular tone if they had got any grog? The fellow spoken to immediately replied, “Go up into that corner and you will find grog there.” He hesitated, however, and looking up at his newlymade acquaintance, remarked “you’re surely joking,” which observation was followed in a commanding tone by an order to “get into the corner immediately, or he would blow his head off if he disobeyed.” Having by this time found out that he was in the hands of a bushranger, and that resistance was useless, the wayfarer yielded to his fate. The fellow then proceeded to make the passengers fast, as they had done the others, whilst his mate covered them with a loaded pistol. Subsequently, however, on the suggestion of one of the passengers, the highwaymen agreed to dispense with the bailing-up and gagging part of the proceedings, on condition that they would quietly hand over what money they had upon them, which they gladly consented to. The robbers thus got about £20 from the passengers, besides which they rifled the down mail, opening every letter and scattering them about the road. The up passengers – amongst whom were several Sydney gentlemen, the Rev. W. Curnow, Wesleyan minister, being of the number – were detained rather better than an hour. Before allowing the coachman to drive on, the robbers took a couple of his horses, which they mounted and rode off. Shortly after one of the stolen animals was recovered, some distance ahead on the road to Campbelltown. The animal being rather refractory, and ill to ride, it is conjectured his new masters were glad to get rid of him, lest his pranks might draw attention to them, and possibly lead to their detection. One of the highwaymen is described as being a tall, strapping young fellow, evidently a native, the other a short, thick-set elderly man, rather round-shouldered. Besides the pistols, the men were each armed with formidable looking carving or bowie knives, which they seemed quite disposed to use if necessary. Information, we understand, was given to the police at Appin, and also at Campbelltown, and the troopers, somewhat tardily, turned out and went in pursuit, with what success we have yet to learn.

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