Spotlight: Brady, Jeffries and McCabe reports (07/01/1826)

Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1827; 1830), Saturday 7 January 1826, page 2

On Saturday evening Brady and his party, appeared at Mr. Haywood’s, and robbed him of a large quantity of tea, sugar, tobacco, rum, and flour, besides all the bedding and wearing apparel in the house. Brady alone was mounted on horseback. On coming up, he said, “Mr. Haywood, I am Brady.” He desired him to be under no apprehension of being hurt on account of the late execution of Broadhead, who, he said, was not a bushranger. He wanted provisions only and after remaining about 3 hours, they departed, taking with them 2 horses, besides the one Brady had mounted, to carry their plunder. They said Jeffries, the runaway from Launceston watch-house, had tendered them his services, and had been rejected. While they, were in the house the Messenger arrived with the letters, which they took from him, saying, they wanted only the Government despatches, but carried the whole away with them. They are believed to have crossed the Derwent within these last few days, and to be not many miles distant from Town. We pray and trust most fervently that their iniquitous career may be drawing to its conclusion.

McCabe, Brady and Bryant

The reward offered in another column, by the Government, for the apprehension of that monster in human shape, the murderer Jeffries and the others, though large, will, we are informed, be materially increased by a public subscription. A feeling of horror, and an ardent desire for justice, is roused throughout the Colony, and a public and private effort is making which will give a speedy and decided blow to robbery and bushranging for ever in Van Diemen’s Land. As far as pecuniary means can assist, and it can do much, the Government, we are sure, will be both prompt and liberal. Were these circum-stances known in London to-night, what thousands would be subscribed to-morrow!

Extract of a Letter, dated Launceston, January 1, 1826

“We have three or four fellows out on this side, and yesterday morning they went to the house of a Native Youth named Tibbs, about a mile from this Town and in sight of it. They robbed him, and it is supposed murdered and disposed of the body of his stock keeper. They shot Mr. Tibbs in the neck, and what is more than all they took his wife away with them, with an infant, her first child, sucking at her breast, and she has not been heard of since. Since writing the above, I have heard that Mrs. Tibbs has arrived in Town, but without her child, the villains having murdered it.”

EXECUTION.—Yesterday morning Jas. McCabe, William Priest, John Johnson, Samuel Longworth, Charles Wigley, Jas. Major, W. Pollock and George Harding, underwent the dreadful sentence of the law. All the eight unhappy men died truly penitent, praying most fervently; McCabe in particular offered up an earnest ejaculation, which we trust will be heard, that his associates who are now at large may see the error of their ways and give up their wretched and destructive course.

Richard Brown, James Brown, John Green, Thomas Bosworth, Richard Miller, and William Craven, will likewise undergo the awful sentence of the Law this morning.

James McCabe, post mortem.

Spotlight: Inquest on William Drew and other news (18/10/1817)

Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter (Tas. : 1816 – 1821), Saturday 18 October 1817, page 1


Sitting Magistrate – Reverend R. KNOPWOOD, A. M.

SHIP NEWS – On Tuesday arrived the ship Frederick, Capt. WILLIAMS, from Calcutta, via Bencoolen and Batavia, with a valuable cargo of merchandize, – Passengers, Mr. WINDER and Lieut. STEWART, who removed to the Pilot, and sailed the following day for Sydney. In this vessel arrives 7 male and 3 female prisoners, destined for Port Jackson.

On Wednesday sailed the ship Pilot, Captain PEXTON, for Port Jackson, having on board Colonel DAVEY, late Lieutenant Governor of the Colony, Mr. O’CONNOR, Lieut. STEWART, and Mr. WINDER. The following prisoners, lately committed to take their trial before the Criminal Court at Sydney, were sent up in this Vessel:- Collier, Hillier and Watts, the bushrangers; Clarke, Scott and two Crahans, for sheep stealing. A number of evidences on behalf of the Crown also went up in this vessel, amongst whom is Black Mary, a native of this Colony, who some time back was an active guide to the military parties in quest of the bush-rangers.

Remain in the harbour the ship Frederick, and the brigs Spring, Jupiter and Sophia.

On Tuesday Colonel DAVEY, our late Lieutenant Governor, embarked on board the ship Pilot, under a Salute of 13 guns from the Battery. He was accompanied to the Government Wharf by His Honor the Liuetenant Governor, and most of the Principal Officers and inhabitants of the Colony; and on leaving the shore, was greeted by the cheers of a numerous assemblage of spectators.

CORONER’S INQUEST.—An inquest was taken on Monday last at the County Gaol in this town, before A. W. H. HUMPHREY, Esq. Coroner, upon the body of William Drew, whose death we mentioned in our last.

The first evidence was Mr. Assistant Surgeon Hood, of the 46th regt., who deposed that the death of the deceased, William Drew, seemed to have been occasioned by a musket ball passing through the thorax, by entering the back a little below the right shoulder, and shattering the breast bone in its passage; he did not perceive any other injury about the body.

The next witness was Mr. W. Williams, who stated that the deceased was his servant, and employed in looking after his sheep in the vicinity of New Norfolk. It appeared by the testimony of this witness, that he left Hobart Town on the Wednesday prior to the death of the deceased on a visit to his flock; and that when he got to the First River, he found Drew in the hut there. The next morning, Mr. W. went to his grazing ground for some sheep, which he brought back and sheared himself; and on the following morning, soon after daylight, he sent Drew for some more to the same place. Drew being absent for upwards of 4 hours, witness became alarmed, and went to look for Drew; and when he arrived at the place where he had sent him, he walked about for nearly an hour before he found him, who was then running towards witness with a gun, and a dog; upon his coming up, Mr. W. asked him what was the matter, to which he replied, “George Watts was stopping with Howe, whilst he came to acquaint him of it,” and delivered his musket to Mr. W. saying “he did not want it as they had got Mich. Howe’s gun, and that Watts had one of his own.” During their conversation Drew shewed Mr. W. two knives, which he said he had taken from Howe; and upon Mr. W. asking him if he could be of any assistance, he replied “no, as Howe was secured;” he then ran away; Witness and the deceased had previously agreed to take Howe the first opportunity.

George Watts deposed, that after Mich. Howe had been to Drew, at William’s hut, with a letter for the Lieutenant Governor, about six weeks ago, he (Watts) went to Drew, and enquired of him whether he had seen Howe; he replied he had a or 3 times successively, and was again to see him on the Friday following at sunrise; he said should he come on Thursday or Friday, they could take him.

On the Thursday night Watts went to New Norfolk, took Triffit’s boat and proceeded across the river, and concealed himself along-side of a path, near the place Drew appointed to meet him, till daylight. About sunrise Drew came, and told him he was to meet Howe at a place called the Long Bottom, where William’s sheep were. Watts told Drew to leave his gun, as he thought Howe would not come up to them if he perceived it; Drew left it hidden; they then both proceeded to the place where they expected to meet Howe; upon arriving there, Drew called two or three times, which Howe answered, from the opposite side of the creek. When Watts came within ninety yards of Howe, he told him to knock the priming out of his gun, and he would do the same, which both parties did; they then went about 50 or 40 yards and began to light a fire. The first opportunity, Watts caught Howe by the collar and threw him down; Drew tied his hands, and took two knives from his pocket; Watts and Drew got breakfast, but Howe refused to eat; they then were about proceeding to town, when Drew proposed to take his master’s musket and dog back, which Watts agreed to, desiring him not to inform his master of any thing, which he promised. Upon Drew’s return, they all proceeded towards Hobart Town, Watts with his gun loaded walked before Howe and Drewe behind. When about about 8 miles on the road, Watts heard Drew scream and on turning round received a wound in his stomach from Howe; but how he got loose, he did not know, excepting by cutting the cord. Howe said, that “he would settle Drew’s business,” as he had by this time got possession of Watt’s musket; he immediately fired at Drew; Watts being amongst some wattles did not hear him speak or see him fall; he enquired if Drew was dead? Howe replied “yes,” and “he would shoot him as soon as he could load his piece.” Drew carried Howe’s musket previous to being shot, but it was not primed. Watts dreading being shot, ran about 200 yards, and lay down a few minutes from cold and loss of blood. Upon being able to walk, he made all haste to a hut belonging to James Burne, and on being put to bed he told Mrs. Burne that he was stabbed by Howe, and requested her husband to get Waddle the constable to take him to town; by the time Waddle arrived he was hardly able to speak; he only informed him of his name, and, when able to talk next morning, he told him Drew was shot. The testimony of the other witnesses merely relates to searching after, and finding the body of Drew, and conveying it to town.

The Jury, after a short deliberation, returned a verdict that the deceased, William Drew, was murdered by Michael Howe.

Thomas Jeffries: an overview

Con-artist sailor turned cannibal convict murderer.

He was referred to as “the monster”, accused of a string of horrific crimes including murder, infanticide and cannibalism. His reputation was so repulsive that the gentleman bushranger Brady threatened to break him out of prison so he could have the privilege of hanging the villain himself. But was Thomas Jeffries (aka Jeffrey) as bad as he was claimed to be?

Jeffries (or “Jeffrey” as he would write it) was a native of Bristol, born in 1791. His father was a butcher, and as a young man Thomas pursued a career in the British Navy. After three years, the harsh discipline of the Navy pushed him to abscond, which was not altogether uncommon. He then did a stint in the army before absconding again, and after discovering that he no longer fit in with his old mates back in Bristol he attempted to give the Navy another shot. This ended with him robbing the ship.

After an elaborate scheme to rob his well-to-do uncle, Jeffries found himself burning through money. To combat this he joined a gang of highwaymen. After one of their victims was murdered they were captured but released due to lack of evidence.

Jeffries was eventually transported in 1817 for robbery. Sailing on the ship Marquis of Huntley, his experience as a sailor allegedly saw the captain order his irons be struck off so he could work as one of the crew.

The “H.C.S. Marquis of Huntley” coming out of Penang by William John Higgins [Source]

Some sources suggest that he had a wife and children that were left behind when he was transported, though this is unlikely and doesn’t seem to tally with the records of him as a convict. It must also be pointed out that some sources claim Jeffries was a hangman from Scotland, which is certainly not the case. Misinformation about Jeffries goes back to at least the mid-1800s when James Bonwick cobbled together a very inaccurate depiction of Jeffries (among other bushrangers) in a book about the bushrangers of Van Diemen’s Land.

Jeffries landed at Sydney and was quickly assigned, but his misbehaving saw him handballed back to the authorities. He was allocated to a work party at Coal River, where he absconded with a party of four others. They took to the bush, but after a time their supplies ran out and two of their number were, according to Jeffries, killed and cannibalised by the others.

Jeffries was recaptured and sent on a ship to Van Diemen’s Land. He arrived in George Town, where he was sent to the prisoners’ barracks. Soon he climbed up the food chain and become an overseer. He would later brag that in his time as constable the incidence of misbehaving steeply decreased, though there is no evidenceto back him. It was here that his troubles with alcohol began to become evident.

He was stripped of his position after drunkenly attempting to stab the chief constable who had busted him breaking through the wall of the barracks with a pickaxe. Attempts to put him in irons failed but he was subdued and locked up in the George Town Gaol. He was to be transported to Macquarie Harbour but instead was considered more useful in the work party at George Town. In February 1825 he absconded from his work gang and was at large for a time, but was soon recaptured, given 50 lashes and sentenced to hard labour.

In April that year Jeffries was transferred to Launceston, where he became the watch house keeper. In addition, Jeffries was made the flagellator. In the convict world the flagellator was the most despised man. This job was usually given to inmates whose cruel streak was considered useful to the governor for keeping others in check by inflicting as much severe pain and injury on others as they could muster. Many convicts viewed the flagellator as a traitor to the convict class, as they had essentially fallen in with the oppressors to break and brutalise their peers.

Old Launceston Gaol from Wellington Square [Courtesy: Tasmanian Archives, LPIC147/4/62]

Here, even by his own admission, his alcoholism spiralled out of control, leading to reprimands. He was also fined in August for allegedly falsely imprisoning and assaulting Elizabeth Jessop. Although the witness accounts differ greatly and tend to support the idea that Jessop was heavily drunk at the time of the alleged offences and lied about what happened, she was believed over Jeffries. Later writers have tried to construe this event as evidence of Jeffries’ sexual deviancy by claiming he raped the women in his custody, which is not supported by the evidence.

Joined by John Perry, William Russell and James Hopkins, Jeffries escaped from Launceston watch house. The prison authorities had suspected this and lay in wait as the gang headed out. When they were fired upon by a guard, Jeffries dumped his kit and the gang bolted into the bush.

Jeffries was now on the run, and he and his gang were about to seal their infamy with a string of horrendous crimes ranging from robbery to murder and cannibalism.

A description of Jeffries from 1 April 1825 describes him thus:

Thomas Jeffreys, 210, 5 ft. 9¼ in. brown hair, brown eyes, 35 years of age, painter, tried at Notts, July 1817, sentence life, arrived at Sydney per Prince Regent, and to this Colony per Haweis, native place Bristol, castle, hearts, and darts, flower pots, and several other marks on left arm, absconded from the Public Works at George Town, Feb. 1, 1825.—£2 Reward.

“RUNAWAY NOTICE.” Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser (Tas. : 1821 – 1825) 1 April 1825: 1

The gang first robbed a hut at Springs, taking flour, a musket and ammunition. They continued towards the South Esk River, robbing huts as they went. They are said to have expressed at this time a desire to join Matthew Brady’s gang. Brady would later express that Jeffries had offered his services to him but refused. Whether or not this occurred at the same time is impossible to say.

In mid December 1825, the gang stayed for ten days at James Sutherland’s farm, Rothbury, near Campbell Town. On Christmas Day there was a shoot out and one of Sutherland’s men was killed. The gang raided a hut then continued into the bush.

Thomas Jeffrey (illustrated by Aidan Phelan)

On 31 December they raided John Tibbs’ farm near Launceston. Several people were bailed up including Mrs. Tibbs and her infant, as the bushrangers robbed the house. The bushrangers then took their prisoners into the bush, carrying the plunder. The group was split up with Perry and Russell taking one group, Jeffries with the remainder.

Tensions grew as the groups were matched through the bush, resulting in Russell shooting Beechy, a bullocky, and Perry shooting Tibbs in the neck. Despite being badly wounded, Tibbs managed to escape and raise an alarm in Launceston. Beechy would later die from his wound.

The two groups rejoined and continued to head north. During the trek, Jeffries and Russell took Mrs. Tibbs’ child from her and went into the bush where he was killed by one of the bushrangers who dashed his brains out on a tree. Jeffries told the distraught mother they had sent the child to a man named Barnard. After camping for the night the prisoners were released in the morning.

Soon after, a reward of $200 or a free pardon was issued for Jeffries and company.

Thomas Jeffries: on Trial for the Murder of Mr Tibbs’ Infant, by Thomas Bock (1826) [Courtesy: The collections of the State Library of New South Wales, DL PX 5; IE1076928; FL1077014]

The gang’s next robbery was committed near George Town, followed by several days of walking in the bush with captives. On 11 January 1826, the gang encountered Constable Magnus Bakie who was robbed and ordered to guide them through the bush. When Jeffries became convicted the Constable was trying to steer them into the path of a search party he executed Bakie by shooting him.

They set their captives free and continued into the bush, where they ran out of food and became lost. Perry murdered Russell in his sleep and he and Jeffries ate their comrade’s flesh to sustain themselves. Several days had passed between Bakie’s murder and when Jeffries and Perry re-emerged near Launceston at a farm where they found provisions and slaughtered two sheep for their meat. Nor wanting to waste anything, Jeffries and Perry ate the remaining “steaks” made from Edward Russell with fried mutton.

The bushrangers camped overnight but were separated where Perry supposedly became lost while looking for water in the bush while caring their only cooking pot. Around this time the gang’s departed fourth member, Hopkins, was captured.

On 22 January, search parties went out looking for Perry and Jeffries. While one party was at breakfast at a farm near Evandale, an Aboriginal boy who had been recruited as a tracker pointed out Jeffries approaching. The party overwhelmed Jeffries and he surrendered. The creek where “The Monster” was taken was later renamed Jeffries Creek and ran under what is now known as Logan Road. The creek has long since dried up.

The successful posse took Jeffries and back to Launceston where crowds tried to attack the wagon. He was then lodged in the old Launceston Gaol. Shortly afterwards Matthew Brady would write to the Lieutenant Governor, declaring his intention to break into the gaol and murder Jeffries. Perry remained on the run until the end of the month and was captured near Launceston.

When Brady was also captured in March, he and his associates were sent by ship to Hobart to stand trial with Jeffries and Perry. Brady vociferously refused to share a cell with Jeffries, threatening to decapitate him if he was not moved to a different cell.

Thomas Jeffries on Trial for the Robbery at Mr Railton’s and John Perry, by Thomas Bock (1826) [Courtesy: The collections of the State Library of New South Wales, DL PX 5; IE1076928; FL1077004]

Jeffries was tried and found guilty of murder, then sentenced to hang. He was executed alongside Matthew Brady, having confessed to his life of crimes in a self-penned memoir, but laid the blame for his criminal behaviour on his alcoholism. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Hobart Town.

Selected sources:

The following is an incomplete list of some of the sources and references used in the research for this biography. — AP


The Bushrangers, Illustrating the Early Days of Van Diemen’s Land by James Bonwick

Bushrangers Bold! by Bob Minchin

A Compulsion to Kill: The Surprising Story of Australia’s Earliest Serial Killers by Robert Cox

Newspapers and Gazettes:

Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1833), Saturday 17 December 1825, page 2

Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser (Hobart, Tas. : 1825 – 1827), Friday 20 January 1826, page 3

Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1827; 1830), Saturday 29 April 1826, page 2

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Wednesday 17 May 1826, page 3

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Wednesday 24 May 1826, page 2

Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser (Hobart, Tas. : 1825 – 1827), Friday 5 January 1827, page 4

Spotlight: An Interior Settlement of White People (19/09/1828)

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Friday 19 September 1828, page 2

With the following article, an intelligent Correspondent, who was himself one of the victorious party, as well as among the sufferers by the late robberies in the New Country, has obligingly favored us. The same Correspondent most solemnly assures us, that he is quite convinced of the existence of an interior settlement of white people!!! The blacks speak of it with certainty. We shall now give the account in his own words:—

During the last month, a desperate party of bushrangers has been committing a series of depredations in the neighbourhood of Bathurst, and among the out-stations of the settlers. The establishments of Messrs. Arkell, West, Armstrong, James Hassall, Dr. Harris, H. O’Brien, and T. Mein, have been respectively plundered. The party, at the robbery of Mr. Hassall’s station, were five in number, and all well armed. Before the stores were surrendered, three men inside the hut defended themselves to the last shot, and were at last obliged to surrender, on account of the bushrangers placing the other men belonging to the station opposite the door, and daring the offenders to fire on their own men.

Stores to a very considerable amount were then taken, consisting of sugar, tea, tobacco, soap, clothing, fire-arms, &c. &c. The men were obliged to wait upon the banditti, making tea, cooking mutton chops, and bringing up the horses, three of which, together with a servant, they took away. The next morning the servant and one horse returned; and a stockman of Mr. S. Hassall was pressed to assist in driving the two horses, and two of Mr. West’s bullocks. Information was immediately sent to Bathurst, distant 70 miles from the station, to inform the Police. Serjeant Wilcocks, Corporal Prosser, and four privates, were immediately dispatched by Lieut. Brown, to pursue the robbers. Mr. H.’s robbery took place on the 22d of August.

On the 27th the soldiers were on the spot; and were joined the same evening by Messrs. Hassall and Walker, who had returned from a sheep station, about 80 miles farther in the interior. The next day the Police, Messrs. H. and W. with two servants, began the pursuit. At the same moment Mr. S. Hassal’s men, with the two horses returned. The bushrangers had now got six days start; but from the returned man the Serjeant learnt the spot on which the robbers encamped two nights after the robbery. An aboriginal was now wanted to track them; and on the second day’s march one was found. On the 30th the track of the bushrangers was frequently met with; and in the afternoon of the 31st five additional aborigines joined the party to track “the croppies.” The tracking now proceeded at the rate of four miles in the hour, till sun-down. Being near Mr. Hassal’s outermost station, fresh supplies were taken in, and the number of guides reduced, in order to furnish the means of longer pursuit. The Police gained only a few miles this day, on account of the difficulty of tracking over Dr. Harris’s cattle run. After ten hours incessant work the party encamped.

Early on the 2d Sept. the march commenced, and in proceeding over Cunningham’s Plains to the sheep station of Dr. Harris, all hopes of finding the tracks were nearly lost. Success, however, at length crowned the assiduous labours of the natives, who followed the tracks to the hut of Dr. Harris’ men. From this station three men joined the bushrangers, who took the liberty of tasting a sheep of the Doctor’s flock. The Police party recruited their stock of flour; and after gaining all the information the men were willing to give, continued the march to Mr. H. O’Brien’s station. Here the bushrangers had made free with three sheep, three men, one pack bullock, and some sundries, and made a promise to be considerably more free with some fat oxen and dairy cattle. Night prevented a more continued march.

On the 3d, breakfast was over, fresh supplies taken in, and all ready to march at the first dawn. Mr. Gregson, Mr. O’Brien’s overseer, here joined the party. An aboriginal belonging to this part of the country happened to meet with “the croppies,” and took the Police, and their black guides, to the place where he saw them; and by this opportunity a day’s march was gained. About noon a recent encampment of the bushrangers was discovered; the ashes were warm; a kangaroo dog, stolen from Mr. O’B. was also found lying beside it. The tracking operations were continued in the greatest possible silence; not a word spoken but in a whisper. About three in the afternoon, the blacks passed the word – “smoke” – “bullo bullock” – “make a light, croppy sit down.” Serjeant Wilcocks gave them the orders for the attack, expecting to meet with eleven, but only two were at the fire, playing at cards, and cooking a pot of mutton, upon whom a charge was made. They ran; and before they surrendered were both slightly wounded with balls and sword cuts in several places. The prisoners informed the Serjeant that the party was reduced to nine, and that the other men were then on a robbing expedition to Mr. Mein’s station. Serjeant Wilcocks then divided the party; him-self, two privates, and Mr. Hassal, took a station where they could at the same time keep an eye on the property that had been retaken, and on a passage that led to Mr. Mein’s. Corporal Prosser, two privates, Mr. Gregson, and Mr. Hassal’s servant, were stationed convenient to the route the bush-rangers had taken in the morning. Mr. Walker and servant had the custody of the two prisoners. About an hour elapsed when Mr. Hassall discovered the captain of the banditti, six others, a small pack of kangaroo dogs, and a bullock laden with the spoils of the expedition. The captain, soon perceived the Serjeant’s party, called his men together, threw up his hat, and called to the Police that they were ready. “Surrender” was out of the question. Hard firing commenced. The Police were soon together; but could not prevent the bushrangers ascending a very steep rocky precipice. Shelter was at once secured to the bushrangers behind the rocks, where the horses could not reach. Beaten from one fortress, another presented itself immediately; and retreat and fight was the order of the evening, till the want of day-light, and perhaps of ammunition, produced a cessation of hostilities. All the bushrangers escaped; none of the Police were hurt.

Soon as the party had boiled some tea, the fire was put out, some refreshment was hastily taken, the property and horses secured, the sentinels placed at a convenient distance, and “all hands on the look-out” for morning, or an attack from the bushrangers. At midnight it began to rain which was the first wet lodgings for the party. Early the next morning a party of the Police and a black ascended the hills, in order to secure the tracks, but the rain had effaced all traces of them. It was then agreed to find Mr. Mein’s station; and in search for it the party met the captain; a ball had passed through both thighs in the previous engagement. The trowsers, waistcoat, coat, and hat he wore, belonged to Mr. Hassall, a silk handkerchief to Mr. H’s servant, and shirt to Mr. Walker.

“The most notorious “Donohoe” is one of this party. During the engagement one of the bushrangers was seen to fall by three of the party that went with the Police, who, at that time, was wearing the hat and coat taken upon the captain. It is thought, from this fact, that one was killed, and removed by his companions. These mistaken and dangerous men were going to make an establishment of their own, about 300 miles in the interior, where, they maintain, exists a settlement of white people.”

Spotlight: Suicide of this notorious Captain Melville (29/08/1857)

Note: The following article discusses suicide in a frank and forensic manner. Some readers may wish to avoid reading further if they are sensitive to such topics. – AP

Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 – 1861), Saturday 29 August 1857, page 4


This notorious criminal committed suicide on Wednesday morning last by strangling himself in his cell with a handkerchief. We quote from the Herald of the following day :—

“There can be very little doubt that Melville was Francis McCullum, though he always disputed the identity, who was transported to Van Dieman’s Land by the Minerva, in 1838, having been convicted at Perth on 3rd October, 1836, of house breaking, and sentenced to seven years’ transportation. He had been previously convicted. On the 3rd February, 1853, Melville was found guilty at Geelong before Mr. Justice Barry of highway robbery, and sentenced to twelve years’ hard labor upon the roads, the first three in irons. At the same time he was found guilty of a second and third offence of a similar character, and for the second was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor on the roads, to take effect from the expiration of the former sentence; for the 3rd offence he was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labour on the roads, the first two in irons to date from the expiration of the previous sentence. Upon entering the cell in which Melville had been confined, we discovered some writing in pencil upon the white-washed wall, and there is every reason to believe this was written by the unhappy man shortly prior to committing suicide. It was as follows :—

“I am to suffer nothing. My name is not T. Smith, but McCullum. I intend to defeat their purpose and to die in my bed with a smile by my own hand, and thus by my keeneys to defeat their most secret intentions, and these steps were taken to give me an opportunity of doing so, as it is in my power to prove that I am not the man I am taken for.—F. MELVILLE.”

Nothing extraordinary was observable in Melville’s manner on Tuesday night when he was locked up. Dr. Youl, coroner of the city, held an inquest upon the body. We abridge the evidence :—

Dr. Maund stated: I have made a post-mortem examination of the body of the man known as Captain Melville. There are externally some slight scratches in the shape of a cross upon the left arm, apparently made with some blunt instrument. Frothy blood was oozing from the mouth. There was a handkerchief about two yards in length twisted very tightly round his neck, the first turn being made as a slipknot. It was afterwards turned round very tightly, and the end tucked in under the folds. The cause of death was suffocation caused by the handkerchief round the neck. There is very little doubt that the handkerchief was applied by the deceased himself.

By a Juror: Strangulation would not cause greater distortion of the features than was perceptible. There is no indication of insanity, but it would be difficult to detect.

Mr. George Wintle, governor of the gaol, stated :— I held the deceased under a warrant, dated 5th May, 1857. His name was Captain Melville, alias Thomas Smith. He was convicted as Captain Melville. I should think he was about 35 years of age. He has not suffered any punishment since he has been in gaol. He was confined in a cell by himself after he made an attack upon me on the 28th of last month. About a quarter past seven this morning, I was called by a turnkey who said he wanted to speak to me. I found the deceased lying on his left side. I though he was asleep. The handkerchief was round his neck. I touched his forehead and found he was dead. I should think he had been dead 3 or 3½ hours. I desired that the body should be left as it was. The key of the deceased’s cell was in my possession last night, and remained so till about half-past six this morning.

By a Juror: He was put under medical observation to ascertain whether he was insane or not. There was no extra punishment for his attack upon me.

Dr. McCrae, the medical officer of the gaol, stated: I have had the deceased under my charge since 28th July. He was kept in a cell by himself by my directions. He was not ill, and nothing was the matter with him. I think he was feigning excitement peculiar to madness. On the occasion after he had refused to eat his food for three days, I had a long conversation with him. I pointed out to him forcibly that he had been all his life fighting against the world, with little success on his part, and that it was nearly time for him to bear his punishment quietly, as all his violent ebullitions had only increased the extent of it. At first he was very sulky and would not speak, but after a little, he conversed with me, and seemed impressed with the truth of what I stated. He said he would eat whatever food was given to him, and bear his punishment like a man. The next time I saw him, two or three days afterwards, I found he had been eating his food, and he said he had been guilty of every crime that could be named; that he had brought his punishment on himself, and would in future bear it quietly. He said he was convinced what I told him was true, and that it was for his good. On Tuesday last, 11th instant, I was entirely convinced of his entire sanity. I have no doubt the handkerchief round his neck was put on by himself. He was cold and had been dead some hours when I saw him.

By a juror: I have not seen the brain since death. I could not get the point of my finger between the handkerchief and his neck. I saw him about a quarter past eight this morning.

James Rowley, chief turnkey at the gaol, stated: I locked the deceased up last night, between eight and nine o’clock. He had his supper at five o’clock, and answered his name as usual at mustering. That was the last time I heard him speak. The turnkey on duty during the night did not report any noise in his cell. I was called this morning to his cell by one of the turnkeys. The deceased’s head was a little to the left side. He was lying calmly with his arms across his chest. There was no appearance of a struggle, and the clothes were over him.

One of the jurors asked if it was not singular that the hands of the deceased should have been placed across his breast after strangulation?

Dr. Youl said it was not singular, as the process of strangulation would be slow. It was, in fact, a portion of the vanity of his life. There was no doubt upon his mind that the deceased was perfectly sane. His whole life had been devoted to crime; he envied notoriety: whilst amongst prisoners he was regarded as their captain, but when confined to his cell his vanity was ungratified.

The jury, after a short consultation, expressed an opinion that the deceased strangled himself, being perfectly sane at the time; in other words, the verdict was felo de se.

Spotlight: Jackey Jackey at Glenorchy (09/08/1845)

Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 – 1880), Saturday 9 August 1845, page 57


The inhabitants of Glenorchy have been kept in a state of doubt and anxiety for the last few days and nights by the absconding of the notorious Sydney bushranger, known by the epithet of “Jackey Jackey” from the “station” situated between the 6th and 7th milestone from Hobart Town. This notorious ruffian had only been recently drafted, in a company of about 40 other prisoners, from Port Arthur, where for nearly three years he had contrived to conform himself to the rules of the place, with only three attempts to escape! and had upon one occasion distinguished himself it is said, by saving the lives of two officers from drowning. He took the bush with two other prisoners on Thursday last, from the Glenorchy “station.” On Friday evening he robbed a shepherd in the employ of Mr T. Y. Lowes, taking his gun from him, which, however he politely promised to return after he had robbed some party who could better afford to lose.

“Jackey” then proceeded with his comrades to another hut, occupied by a man named “Jones,” also in the employ of Mr. Lowes; here “Jackey” pointed the gun in at the door, while the other two, armed with long knives (which had doubtless been made at the station,) ransacked the cottage. They obtained a small quantity of powder and shot, a leg of mutton, and 10s. in money. The alarm spread like wildfire through the settlement — all were on the alert anticipating a visit, divested however, of the usual forms of introduction, and prepared to give their distinguished visitors a becoming reception. Meanwhile, it appears, that “Jackey Jackey,” with his comrades, was proceeding nearer to Hobart Town. They attacked the residence of Mr. White, near the Franklin Museum, on Sunday. Here they succeeded in carrying away a single and double-barrelled gun, a brace of duelling, and a brace of short pistols, a silver watch, gold guard and seal, a suit of wearing apparel, a bag of flour, meat, tobacco, a pair of blankets, shot-belts and shot. The police who are after them in strong numbers, have been once or twice close upon them, but they have hitherto escaped. The Government have offered the reward of a conditional pardon for their apprehension. — Courier, August 6.

Spotlight: The Convict Melville (31/07/1857)

Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), Friday 31 July 1857, page 2


The notorious Melville, who since his trial for the murder of Owen Owens, has been confined in the Melbourne Central Gaol, has again distinguished himself by the commission of another cowardly and brutal outrage, his victims in this instance being Mr. Wintle, governor of the gaol, and James Rowley, senior turnkey. Since the execution of the seven murderers of Mr. Price, Captain Melville, as he is always styled in the gaol, has on several occasions feigned madness, apparently with the object of again exciting popular sympathy on his behalf. For this reason, the greatest care was taken by those prison officers who came in contact with him not to irritate him in any manner. On Tuesday morning, however, Melville refused to permit the removal of the nighttub from his cell, and threatened to take the life of any one who should attempt to do so. On hearing of the circumstance, Mr. Wintle proceeded to Melville’s cell, and after endeavoring, but in vain, to persuade him to allow the tub to be removed, he ordered James Rowley, senior turnkey, and two wardsmen to go into his cell and bring it out. No sooner was the order given, than Melville seized the lid of the tub, and holding it on his left arm as a shield, he brandished an iron spoon in his right hand, and swore to make a corpse of the first man who dared to enter. Seeing that the spoon which he held in his hand was sharpened at the end of the handle like a knife, Rowley, a stout, powerful man, took up a short stepladder, which was standing near, and, accompanied by the two wardsmen, he rushed into the cell. The wretch, on recovering from the shock, made a stab at Rowley’s belly, but the turnkey, in endeavoring to ward off the blow, received the thrust in his hand. Mr. Wintle then went in to the assistance of his men, and Melville was overpowered and secured with handcuffs, but not before Mr. Wintle had received a severe cut behind the right ear, blood flowing profusely from the wound. The Chief Medical Officer was immediately apprised of the occurrence, and on seeing Melville, he ordered the handcuffs to be kept on, the convict to be kept on low diet; and if he exhibited any further violence to be put in a straight jacket. The cut on Rowley’s hand is very slight; and we are glad to announce that Mr. Wintle will soon recover from the effects of the attack. That Melville’s intention was to murder the officers of the gaol there can be little doubt, and the authorities may deem it advisable to place the man again on trial. Melville is already under accumulative sentences amounting to 35 years. His ultimate object in feigning insanity is obvious — his removal to the Yarra Bend Asylum, where his stay would probably be extremely brief — Herald.

Spotlight: The Late Mrs. Taylor (20/07/1917)

Dungog Chronicle : Durham and Gloucester Advertiser (NSW : 1894 – 1954), Friday 20 July 1917, page 7


Mrs Jane Taylor, who recently died at Cox’s Creek, at the advanced age of 94 years, and whose memory never failed her, was an interesting conversationalist of the days gone by. She was born in Bedford, county Devonshire, England in 1823, and came to New South Wales in ’39 with her parents in the sailing vessel, Kinnear, and the voyage took six months. Nowadays six weeks steam is considered a long trip. Her father, Mr Boyce, was a lawyer in England and practised his profession, but the spirit of Westward Ho was in his soul, and the enticing reports of the glorious country across the sea, Australia, lured him from the law courts, and he landed in Newcastle in 1839. On arrival he was offered a high government position in the legal sphere, but his determination was to take up land and as that was what he came out for, he obtained a stretch of country at Cockle Creek. There the family resided for many years and enjoyed the new life under sunny skies. It was whilst at Cockle Creek that the homestead was visited by the bushrangers Ruggy, Marshall and Shea, who terrorised the country at that time. Those outlaws bailed the family up in the big fire place and ransacked the home. Mr Boyce had a beautiful watch and it was seen on him by one of the marauders, but he slipped it down the leg of his trousers, the knee breeches of those days, and despite all the searching it could not be found. This same watch is now in the possession of Mrs Albert Taylor of Cox’s Creek. The only other article in the whole house that was of value, and was saved from the robbers, was a silver spoon, one of a handsome set brought from the Old Country. The late Mrs Taylor was ordered to get the unwelcome visitors afternoon tea, and they carried off the complete tea set, except the spoon she hid in her clothes, and the spoon and watch still remain with the memories of those days clinging to them. Cockle Creek did not appeal to the Boyce family and they moved to Paterson. The daughter, Jane, prior to leaving, married Timothy Taylor and went to Cox’s Creek with him, where he selected, occupying the place now the home of Mrs Albert Taylor. These pioneers resided at Cox’s Creek for a considerable time, after which they moved to the property of their son-in-law, Mr George Osmond, at Sugarloaf. Mr Taylor pre-deceased his wife by 25 years. Mr and Mrs Taylor were pioneers of the right kind. They saw the district grow and played no mean part in its progress. The descendants of the old family are found throughout the whole of the coast. The children numbered five sons and three daughters, and of these there are living Mrs Thos. Richardson (Binglebrah), Mrs Wm. Osmond (Cox’s Creek), J. and C. Taylor (Barrington). There are also 39 grand-children, 68 great grand-children, and one great-great grand child. The deceased lady was of a kind hearted and happy disposition, ever ready for a laugh, ever willing to do a kindness. She was a boon to her neighbors, always helping them in their cares and worries, her death removes one of the finest type of pioneers that the country can boast of. At the graveside a high tribute was paid to the deceased by Ven. Archdeacon Luscombe, who performed the last sad rites.

Spotlight: Brady’s Threat (17 May 1826)

Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Wednesday 17 May 1826, page 4


(From the Colonial Times. April 28.)

Brady, on Tuesday night, told Mr. Dodding, one of the turn-keys at the gaol, that if Jeffries was not taken out of the cell ” he would be found in the morning without his head.” Jeffries was consequently removed to another cell. He voluntarily gave up two knives, which he had concealed about his person, either to carry his former threats into execution, or to cut his irons, in attempting to escape. McKenny, whose leg was trodden upon by a horse, and who goes with a crutch, and Bryant, are in the same cell with Brady, who we understand has received many little comforts while in the gaol, from a very respectable gentle-man, whose humanity is proverbial. On Tuesday, when the seven bushrangers were tried, they were escorted from the gaol to the Court by the military. They were all fettered, and chained together — Brady was dressed in a new suit of clothes, of decent appearance. He was quite cheerful, and laughing the whole of the morning before the trial. He has, recovered from his wounds and is able to walk. The other bush-ranger, McKenny, who was so severely wounded still uses a crutch. Brady is a good looking man, with a penetrating eye. McKenny and Brown also appeared cheerful, and are both good looking young men. The others, particularly Tilly, seemed very miserable. Jeffries has at last taken to the Bible. He has sent for the Rev Mr. Bedford, and has been crying like a child Yesterday Jeffries and Perry were found guilty of the murder of Constable Baker. — We understand that the whole of the pri-soners who have been found guilty will be brought up for sentencing to-morrow. Several are expected to undergo the awful sentence of the law on Monday. Supreme Court. — On Saturday last, Jeffries and Perry were found guilty of the wilful murder of Mr. Tibb’s child. On Tuesday, Brady and the other bushrangers were tried, for a highway robbery, and for setting fire to Mr. Lawrence’s stacks. Brady pleaded guilty, and the rest were found so. Arrived on Monday, the Australian Company’s ship Greenock, Captain Miller, with a cargo from Scotland for that Company.— The Greenock left Leith the 22d November, and the Cape of Good Hope the 4th March.— Passengers (for Hobart Town) Mr. Gracie, Mr. W. Crawford Davidson, Mr. Burn, Mrs. Robertson and family, Mr. John Davidson, Mr. John Dalzell, Mr. and Mrs. John Scott, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Mailer, Messrs. William and John Elliot, Mr. John Fitzpatrick and family, Mr. James Dow, Mr. John McRae and family.— For Sydney, Mr. Andrew Newton and family, Mr. William Reid, Mr. Shairp, Mr. Gavon Ralston, the Rev. Mr. McGarvie, (Presbyterian Cler-gyman), Mr. Rankin, Mr. James Sloan, Mr. William Jobson, Mr. Edward Middleton, Mr. Thomas Elliot, and Mr. Robert Smith. Sailed on Tuesday, the brig John Dunn, Captain McBeath for London, chartered by Mr. Petchey, and laden with bark and extract of ditto, on his account.— Passengers, Dr. Carter, R.N. Mr. Wilmot and family, and Major Loane’s three daughters.

Spotlight: Westwood writes to his parents (29 April 1847)

Britannia and Trades’ Advocate (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1846 – 1851), Thursday 29 April 1847, page 4


Recent arrivals from the Ocean Hell have put us in possession of most astounding information on many points connected with that depôt of crime, injustice, and misery. It appears that, much credit was given to its present Civil Commandant for the manner in which he, it was said, had put down the spirit of insubordination, whereas the following facts will prove that to circumstances alone may be attributed the change. Mr. Price arrived when one great source of discontent had expired. The Indian corn meal had all been used, and within a day after his arrival, wheaten flour was necessarily again issued. An extra company of soldiers had arrived from Sydney, thus placing the power of the military beyond all dispute. The great body, of the mutineers were in close and safe confinement, and the sentences passed upon many of them, relieved the mass from the fatal consequences of their example. The resident police magistrate was removed, and human blood no longer flowed in streams from the triangles. In a former number we gave the copy of a letter written by William Westwood, better known as Jackey Jackey, and at the time of its appearance an attempt was made to shew that he had died breathing a spirit of bitterness very unsuited to any man at the last hour of his existence. What the motives for doing Westwood such an injustice, it is not our present purpose to inquire; certain however it is, that such was not the fact, as the following copy of another letter will show. “Justice to free and bond” is our maxim in such matters, and we see no reason why the last dying thoughts of the malefactor should not be as fairly represented as those of him whose life has not been forfeited to the offended laws of his country.

Westwood, although an illiterate person, was a man of strong natural abilities; those enabled him to dictate every word of the following address, to a fellow prisoner, who wrote them down for him, as his (Westwood’s) thoughts flowed; but the signature, and what may be considered the postscript, were written by himself. At an early opportunity we will return to the present state of affairs at Norfolk Island; in the meantime, we have quite enough before us to show, that Mr. Gilbert Robertson, Lieut. Butler, R.N., and others, have been victimized in a manner which will assuredly bring with it, its ultimate reward.

The Lord gave, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Norfolk Island, South Pacific Ocean, 12th October, 1846.

My dear Father and Mother, — Heaven knows I have neglected you, to whom I owe so many kindnesses, and have in my youth acted contrary to your wishes, and parental instructions; thus it follows, that it is now my lot to address you whom I love dearly, under such distressing and to you as well as myself, such painful circumstances. You have, I am sure, had many unhuppy moments respecting me; but I now must endeavour to prepare you for a shock, which I am afraid will be almost more than you can or will be able to endure. But, my dear parents, brothers, and sisters, mourn not for me, I who long before you can possibly receive his will have been ushered into the awful presence of his Maker, and will have appeared before that great Tribunal of Justice, where all must render an account for their actions, where all hearts are open, and where all secrets are known: — therefore I say, my dear relations, mourn not for me, but let my unfortunate lot be a lesson to the living, let the younger branches of our family, and the offspring of them, learn to honour their fathers, and mothers in their youth; for neglecting those precepts, these holy and heavenly laws, has brought me to the situation I now am placed in; but it is, it must be the work of that great God who made heaven and earth, and all that therein is, and who knows all things; for it is now, and only now, that I see my error; it is now only I can see and know the multitude of God’s mercies towards me, it is now I am brought to a right sense of my duty towards Him, and it is now I can repeat, as applicable to my own case, these beautiful words of the Psalmist—

The wonders he for me has wrought shall fill my mouth with songs of praise and others to his worship brought, To hopes of like deliverance raise. 40th Psalm, 3rd verse.

No sooner I my wound disclosed; The guilt that tortur’d me within, But thy forgiveness interposed, And mercy’s healing balm poured in. 32nd Psalm, 5th verse.

I can now, my dear and beloved parents, withhold the truth of my fate no longer from you; for an outbreak took place at this ill-fated settlement on the 1st day of July last, when some lives were lost, for which I have been tried and condemned to die, — which sentence will be carried into effect before the setting of tomorrow’s sun. Bear this with humble fortitude, for I at first made up my mind not to write at all, but then I thought you might perchance see the account in the public press, and I know it would be a great satisfaction to you, even under such trying and truly heart-rending circumstances, to hear, and that from myself, that I died as a Christian, embracing the same faith as I was taught when a child, putting my whole trust and confidence in Christ Jesus, who shed his blood in ignominy for me and all repenting sinners; through his blood alone I can and must be saved: he heard the prayers of the dying thief upon the cross, and through his faith forgave his sins even at the eleventh hour. During this time or trial and affliction, I have been attended by the Rev. Thomas Rogers, of the Church of England, to which gentleman I owe everything; his attention to me has been unceasing; night and day has he laboured to bring me to a right sense of my duty towards an offended Maker. May that God whom he has taught me to fear and love, reward him ten thousand fold!

Dearly beloved parents, give my kind love and affection to my dear brothers and sisters; tell them, I trust and earnestly hope my disgraceful and unfortunate untimely end will be an everlasting barrier against their ever doing evil; tell them, with you to bear up against this unhappy occurrence, and endeavour to spend their lives in such a way as will ensure a peaceful death.

I again entreat you all not to mourn for me, for through Christ Jesus, and a hearty and sincere repentence; I hope to meet you all in the realms of everlasting bliss. May God bless you; may He be with you, may He guide your steps; direct your hearts, and in the end may he receive your never-dying souls into his mansion of everlasting happiness and peace, is the earnest and sincere prayers of your unfortunate and dying son.

William Westwood.

Dear pearants, I send you a piece of my hear in remberance of me, your son, Wm. Westwood. Good Bye, and God Bless you all.