Spotlight: Examination of “Blue Cap”, the Bushranger

Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), Saturday 30 November 1867, page 15





At the Police court, Young, on the 11th and 14th instant, the following examinations took place :—

Robert Cotterell, alias Blue Cap, was charged with robbery with firearms. William Marshall said. — I am an inn keeper, and reside at the Rock Station, on the Levels. I know the prisoner. I have seen him several times. My place was robbed in the middle of July last by three men. The prisoner is one of them. They took about £11 in money, a saddle and bridle, a gun, a revolver, Crimean shirts, a coat, grog, and several other articles. They were all armed. On the evening of the robbery, about half past six o’clock, and while sitting at tea, a knock came to the door. I sent the girl to see who it was. As soon as the door was opened the prisoner and another named Scott rushed in and told us all to bail up. Scott went through the passage, while the prisoner kept sentry over us with a gun. It being a cold night I told him to come to the fire. He said he did not want fire, but “tin.” I told him he had come to a wrong place for it. He searched my coat pockets, and when attempting to rifle my trousers pockets, I took out what money I had in the pockets and laid it on the table; there was about £2. There was a third person with the bushrangers, whose name, I believe, is Duce. Scott and Duce went to the store and helped themselves, while the prisoner kept sentry over us in the house. They had tea. The prisoner kept guard while his mates had their repast, and they relieved him until he had his. They stayed about an hour.

The same prisoner was further charged with a like offence. Jeremiah Lehane said. — I am a grazier, and reside at Reedy Creek. On the 24th July last my place was robbed. I was close by the house, at a well which some men I had employed were cleaning out. The prisoner came up to us and asked for Mr. Lehane. I told him I was Mr. Lehane. The prisoner then ordered all of us to go up to the house. I asked him if he belonged to the police force. He said, “No, I am a bushranger.” The prisoner was armed. He marched us up to the verandah of the house, where we saw an accomplice of the prisoner’s. He was also armed, and called himself the “White Chief,” I believe his name is Jerry Duce. The prisoner gave the men in charge of Duce, and then ordered me to accompany him to my private office. Prisoner then said he wanted a revolver I had. I gave it to him. He then ordered me to open a certain drawer in my desk, in which were several papers and a pocketbook, the latter containing six one-pound notes. He opened the book and abstracted the money. He searched about for more money, but found none. He took a double-barrelled gun, which he returned as he was leaving. He ordered me to proceed with him to the stable; he took a saddle, but, being told it belonged to one of the labourers, he put it back, and took another belonging to my stockman. The whole of the articles stolen, including the money, I value at about £20 10s. I identify the saddle (produced) as the one prisoner stole from out of my stable.

The same prisoner was charged with robbing Philip Saunders’s Sydney Hotel, in June last. Philip Saunders said. — I am a publican, and reside at the Halfway-house, Lachlan-road. Some time in June last my place was robbed. I was then residing at Spring Creek, Young. I cannot swear that prisoner was one of the two men who robbed me. Two men came to my place on the evening of the day, referred to about four o’clock- They asked for some drinks and departed. One was riding a chestnut mare, and the other a bay mare. They returned after dark about seven o’clock. Mrs. Saunders went to the bar and asked them what they wished to drink. They said, they did not want drink, but money. Mrs. Saunders said they would not get much money from her. She produced a box containing some silver. One of the men said, ” You’ve got more money than that.” Mrs. Saunders said, “Not much.” She brought another box, in which there were some half-sovereigns and other money. I don’t know how much it amounted to. There was also a revolver taken and a bottle of grog. I can swear that the man who demanded the money is not the prisoner. If the second man is the prisoner he is much altered. I cannot swear he is one of the men who robbed me. — The same prisoner was charged with having robbed Mr. Lehmann at Stony Creek, on the 28th June last.

H. Lehmann deposed. — I am a publican, and reside at Stony Creek. On the 28th June last, about ten o’clock at night, I was in my store. Two men came into the store ; one was a stout man, with a revolver, the other a sparer man with a gun. The first man said, “Hand me over the ‘tin.'” I thought he was joking. He said, “Be quick.” I gave him the cashbox saying, “Here, take it.” There were notes, half-sovereigns, and silver in the cashbox, amounting to about £8 or £9. He then asked for a revolver, which I gave him.He then wanted some clothing and took some Crimean shirts, socks, two ponchos, three silk handkerchiefs, and other articles. He then asked me to go into the bar to have a drink. On going to the bar his companion was there. The prisoner is the second man. They then locked the doors and remained inside until the police arrived. I heard a knock at the door, and called out, “Who’s there?” The reply was, “Police.” The prisoner, or his companion, then said “We’re too long here, it’s time to be off.” They went out, at the back, secured their horses, and escaped. It was very dark.

Spotlight: Prison Record of William Brookman


William Brookman was not a prolific bushranger, nor was he particularly noted in most history books. He was a member of the gang of Jerry Duce, real name Williams, former lieutenant of Robert Cottrell aka Bluecap. Duce had formed his own gang after Bluecap was captured and they were high end bushrangers worthy of being counted alongside the Ben Hall Gang – at least for a while.

Teenage Brookman was with the gang when they struck at Mossgiel and robbed locals at a racing meet. They then moved on to a store where they encountered Constable McNamara. The policeman wrestled with Brookman whose pistol went off, injuring the officer. In the scuffle Brookman and Duce were overpowered and arrested but their confederates Kelly and Payne bolted at the first sign of trouble.

Duce and Brookman were sentenced to death for wounding with intent to kill but the sentence was commuted to 15 years each. Brookman was released from prison on 8 March 1875 and what he did next was not recorded.

Spotlight: Bushranging on the Lower Murrumbidgee

The Bluecap Gang was one of the many gangs of bushrangers that developed a reputation as infamous brigands of the bush while committing very little in the way of high-end robberies. The gang was prone to stealing merely what they needed – usually clothing and horses – and then moving along. Their apparent ineptitude was only rivaled by that of the police in pursuit of them who were ill-equipped for bush work. An excellent illustration of the gang’s modus operandi is shown in this article from 27 August 1867.


The bushrangers “Blue Cap” and his two companions have within the last week committed several additional robberies on the Lower Murrumbidgee, but in none of them have they, we rejoice to say, acquired much booty. On Saturday last, they made their appearance at Mr. Gordon’s, Barrellan Station, and as only one man happened to be about the place at the time, and they were all well armed, one of their number carrying no loss than four revolvers, resistance was out of the question. Though they did not know any of the station horses by sight, they were very accurately informed of the condition, stamp, and even names of many of the best of them, and had evidently obtained their information from someone possessing some knowledge of the place. One valuable horse, belonging to Mr. Gordon himself, and another to one of the men, they selected and appropriated, and they then went into the store and helped themselves to some tea, sugar, and a pair of boots, the pair worn by one of their number being in rather a dilapidated condition. On Monday they stuck up the station of Messrs. Waller and Gorton, and robbed the former gentleman of his watch.

On Tuesday, near Benerembah, about fifty-two miles on the Hay side of Narandera, they stopped the mail, which was driven by David Roach, then coming up on his last trip. The only other person in the cart was a man named Kerr, who succeeds Roach as driver. The bushrangers ordered Roach to drive off the road into the bush, and when they thought themselves sufficiently removed to be secure from the observation of chance passengers, they made him pull up, and then proceeded to rifle the bags. They opened all the letters, but fortunately did not find money in any of them, with the exception, of one cheque for £10, which had been sent in payment for some postage stamps, and which, as it was worthless to them, they did not take. After searching all the letters they left everything with the mailman but one Victorian Police Gazette, which one of them carried off. They did not search or attempt to rob Roach or his companions, and as they were riding away, the former remarked to one of them that the road they were taking was a very wet one. He replied that it would not much matter, as they soon expected to have some hot work. After sticking up the mail they fell in with a Chinaman, and ordered him to unstrap his swag. This John refused to do, and for some time clung to his property, but on the production of a revolver gave it up. The swag was then cut open, but nothing of value was found therein, and the Chinaman was then allowed to proceed. Those scoundrels are all now splendidly mounted, and as they know the country well, it is to be feared that the police will experience great difficulty in hunting them down. Both the Cootamundry and Narandera police are now understood to be upon their track. According to the Hay correspondent of the Deniliquin Chronicle, the same men, on the 7th instant, stuck-up Mr. Pigot, a hawker, travelling with goods in teams, who gave information to the police at Hay that he had been stuck-up by three armed bushrangers on Groongal. They helped themselves to what clothing and other articles they desired, and obligingly informed the robbed man that they were doing remarkably well, and intended shortly to visit the township of Hay and stick-up the Joint Stock Bank. The same men stuck-up Bringagee and Groongal (Messrs. Learmonth’s), and Howlong (Mr. Rudd’s) stations.

Whilst engaged at Groongal, the steamer Providence was close by, and the vessel is said to have had about it no less than thirty persons.


“NEW SOUTH WALES.” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 27 August 1867: 3.