Spotlight: Johnny Gilbert’s Late Exploit (10 June 1863)

Yass Courier (NSW : 1857 – 1929), Wednesday 10 June 1863, page 2


[From our Marengo correspondent.]

June 4. — My hasty communication of yesterday respecting the sticking-up near Young, on the day of the races, was, I afterwards ascertained, too true; in fact, worse than at first reported; for two stores were gutted by Gilbert and his gang, viz., Mr. Chard’s, of Spring Creek, and the Red Shirt Store (Mr. Herbert’s). It seems the robbers were quite convinced that they would receive no interruption from the police, as they (the police) were well known to be all enjoying themselves at the races; consequently they proceeded to work in the most leisurely manner, selecting and packing up carefully all the most valuable part of the stock of the above stores. This party of highwaymen consisted of four well mounted, and armed men, each leading a pack-horse, and headed by Lieutenant Gilbert in person, who was mounted on the stolen Burrowa race-horse, Jacky Morgan. The only resistance they met with was from a person at Chard’s store, when Gilbert, without a moment’s hesitation, drew a revolver and fired point blank at him, the ball passing in such very close proximity to the party’s skull as to cause him to rush away, his retreat being still further increased by another shot from the same desperado. I regret to state that this affair, like nearly all others of the same class, appears to have been a complete success; for neither the robbers nor their plunder have since been seen or heard of. I think the public ought to solicit the authorities to publish a statistical account, of the amount of property lately taken from stores only by those ransacking rascals, Gilbert and Co. Within the last six mouths the gross value of the plunder could not amount to less than a thousand or eleven hundred pounds sterling. Now the major part of this did not consist of “handy availables,” but it was real cumbersome property, such as fifty pairs of bedford cord trousers, a score or so of pilot coats, dozens of vests, bolts of calico, hales of linen, &c., &c. What are our detectives about that none of this properly has ever been traced? Undoubtedly, the whole of it has been, and is now being, disposed of to the public, at low cash prices, through the medium of dishonest storekeepers in league with the robbers. The city of London contains more than six times as many inhabitants as the whole of New South Wales, in fact, more than the whole of the Australian colonies, and Tasmania included; yet there the non-tracing of property, after a large store or shop robbery, is the exception — here it is the rule. Either the home detective system must be very different to ours, or the right men cannot be in the right place; for, taking a retrospective view of the great amount of weighty plunder lately disposed of by Gilbert’s gang, and the minute amount of successful result in the tracing thereof, proves the term detective at the present time to be a great, misnomer; and, as far as this and the two adjoining districts are concerned, it can only continue to be used either in sarcasm or irony.

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