Spotlight: Death of Thunderbolt (4 June 1870)

Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1919), Saturday 4 June 1870, page 24


Death of “Thunderbolt,” the Bushranger.

TELEGRAMS in the daily papers of the 27th ult. apprised the public that the bushranger, Frederick Ward, alias Captain Thunderbolt, had been shot dead, after a desperate fight, by constable Walker, near Blanche’s Inn, Kentucky, on the road from Uralla to Bendemeer, and about four miles from the former station. We are now in a position to supply more extended particulars.

The offender who has thus paid the forfeit of his many crimes had been for several years the terror of travellers and settlers in the Northern districts of the colony, though latterly very little had transpired to bring his name prominently before the public, and excepting for occasional robberies with which it was difficult to credit anybody else, the presumption that he had succeeded in making his exit from the colony would have generally prevailed. Ward was sentenced to ten years’ hard labour on the roads or other public works of the colony, at Maitland assizes in the year 1856, and after obtaining a ticket-of-leave, he was again convicted at Mudgee in 1861, and was serving in 1863 a sentence on Cockatoo Island, whence he escaped in that year, in company with another offender, named Britton. He has thus been about seven years at large. After his escape from Cockatoo he betook himself at once to the Northern districts, and commenced his lengthened career of outrages in the neighbourhood of Singleton. It is believed he was one of two bushrangers who stuck up a hut at Gostwyck station, near Armidale, on the 24th October in that year, and one of whom fired at sergeant Grainger. On that occasion shots were exchanged between the bushrangers and the police; and ultimately, all the parties getting bogged, the offenders escaped through the scrub, leaving their horses and saddles and a gun behind them. From that time to the present, Ward has committed almost numberless robberies, and has had many conflicts with the police, but has always evaded capture, and has remained at large notwithstanding the numerous charges of felony hanging over his head.

It appears that on the day of the final encounter which terminated in his death — viz., on Wednesday last, information had been received by the Uralla police that several persons had been stuck-up by an armed man a few miles south of the township.

Senior-constable Mulhall and constable Walker were promptly at the spot, and seeing the bushranger on horseback, called upon him to surrender. He refused to do so. Shots were exchanged, and the man endeavoured to escape. Constable Walker pursued Ward (who fired on him), single-handed, for seven miles, through a rough country, and across a number of creeks. Ward dismounted at one of the latter, and took to the water. Walker going up, shot Ward’s horse, and then encountered the bushranger in person. Ward presented his revolver at the constable, saying, “Keep off.” Walker replied, “Will you surrender?” Thunderbolt said, “No! I will die first.” Walker then said, “Then it is you or I for it,” and fired the last charge in his revolver. He shot Ward in the left breast dead. This happened about four o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, 25th ult.

The body was taken to Mr. Blanche’s Inn, and a magisterial inquiry was held upon the remains by J. Buchanan, Esq., the police magistrate of the district.

The inquiry, at which the above particulars were elicited, lasted for six hours. It appeared that before the police came up to Thunderbolt he had stuck up three persons, and was riding a grey horse taken from one of them.

The evidence of identification was complete; the personal description tallying exactly with the particulars published, in the New South Wales Police Gazette of the 21st October, 1863. The deceased stood 5 feet 8¼ inches high, and two warts and a mole, described in the Police Gazette notice as being on the right wrist, were plainly visible.

The police magistrate arrived at the following conclusion:— “I am of opinion that the deceased Frederick Ward, alias Thunderbolt, met his death from a gun-shot wound inflicted by a member of the police while in the execution of his duty.”

Constable Walker, who has so signally distinguished himself by his determination and bravery on this occasion, is a native of the colony, his parents being residents of the district of Berrima. He was appointed as a constable on the reccommendation [sic] of the Berrima bench about three years ago. The public of Armidale and Uralla speak highly of his conduct.

Constable Walker has been promoted by the inspector-general of police, and has been placed in charge of a station, as a mark of approval of the Government of his zeal and bravery.

In addition to the benefits he may derive from this mark of official approbation, constable Walker becomes entitled to a very heavy money reward, and it may readily be predicted (as his conduct previous to the late encounter is most favourably reported upon by his superiors) that it will not be long before he will receive further advancement in the force.



Uralla, May 28th, 1870.

The identity of Thunderbolt has this morning been thoroughly established by the boy (Monckton), formerly Ward’s accomplice. This lad had been discharged on Monday last from prison, and arrived last night from Sydney, by the mail. The body of Ward was lying in a coffin at the Uralla Courthouse, and at the moment of the boys entrance, the face was uncovered; the lad instantly said, without the slightest hesitation, “Oh, yes, that is him, right enough.” Subsequently the body was placed in a partially erect position to enable a photographist (Mr. Cunningham, of Armidale) to make photographs of the deceased bushranger, and the boy was again brought in, and in the presence of the police, Dr. Spasshatt, of Armidale (who had made a postmortem examination), and several other gentlemen, reiterated his former statement as to the identity of Ward. He also pointed out where Ward had been shot in the leg about six and a half-years since. At the “Rocks,” distant about a mile from the spot where he received the fatal shot at the hand of the brave constable Walker. The body is not yet interred, and hundreds of persons have been permitted to view it. The greatest excitement prevails, and the only topic is Thunderbolt’s death and Walker’s bravery. A subscription list has been opened for presenting Walker with a substantial testimonial, and is headed by Mr. G. Weston, J.P., with £20.

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