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: Extracts from the Launceston Advertiser regarding Donohoe, 04/10/1830

Launceston Advertiser (Tas. : 1829 – 1846), Monday 4 October 1830, page 2



On Monday an Inquest was convened by Major SMEATHAM, Coroner, at the FOX AND HOUNDS, kept by Henry Ball, Castlereagh Street, on the body of John Donohoe.

HENRY GORMAN. — I am a constable at Bargo ; on the 1st of September I and several of the Mounted Police were encamped in the evening, about five o’clock, on Mr. Wentworth’s farm, Bringelly, when onen who was on the look-out, said “here comes two constables whom we expected?” they were then about a mile and a half distant ; one the Police said, “no they are bushrangers!” Three men were leading a pack-horse ; I and two of the Police-men took one side of a creek, and the serjeant and another man the other side ; we made towards, and came up with them on some forest land ; a man on the horse, who I thought was a bushranger named WALMSLEY, saw us first, and immediately jumped off; deceased took off his hat, and waving it over his head, threw it in the air, saying. “come on! I am ready for a dozen of you!” The other two took off their coats and hats and went behind trees; we held a parley with them about two minutes, before a shot was fired, all parties being behind trees, when one of the Police-men fired, and nearly took down one of the men, who I thought was WEBBER; after this they appeared shy. Two of them fired their pieces at me, and I fired at them, but witout effect on either side. One of the Police men named Mugglestone then fired and Donohoe fell. We chased the other two, but could not come up with them. On returning deceased was quite dead; the other two Police men did not fall in with us till the deceased fell ; Mugglestone shot the deceased.

John Mugglestone, a private of the 30th regt, now in the employ of the Mounted Police, stated to the same effect, with the addition, that this carbine was loaded with two balls; and that they found on the horse’s back some flour, sugar, and women’s wearing apparel, and that deceased had a watch in his pocket. Serjeant W. Hodson deposed to the same effect but with the addition, that he knew the other two bushrangers to be Walmsley and Webber, and that he thought deceased was Donohue as Dr. Gibson was robbed by him, and the Doctor knew him well, having been Juror when deceased was tried some time ago. Deceased was in the agonies of death when he came up to him ; he found on his person a small pistol and a watch, (watch produced) no money was in his person ; on the horse was found a great many papers. among the rest grants of land, transfers, and receipts. The deeds are made out in the name of “Denis Begly, Prospect” and the transfers in the name of Edward Wright (deed and papers produced); Gorman loaded his piece with a carbine ball and pistol ball, which it appeared by Mr. Jilks had been lost only a week. The pack-horse or rather mare was aged, and marked E. S.

The Jury returned a verdict of Justifiable Homicide, without reference to identity. But from a wound in the cheek, and another under the cheek arising from scrophula, there is little doubt but the deceased is the notorious outlaw Donohoe.

Donohoe’s life as no doubt been harassing. But at the same time, it must be allowed that in comparison of the lives of the wretches at Moreton Bay, it was a happy life, and his death much less painful than those of scores who have deceased at that horrid settlement. And so long as such settlements exist, we doubt not we shall never want in this Colony either Donohoe’s and Dalton’s. It is fit and proper, that cruelty should be visited on the nation which practices it with retribution. God is just.

On Monday, as Mr. Scott and the Rev. Mr. Erskine were proceeding to Parramatta in a chaise, they were stopped by two armed bushrangers, who were on the point of robbing them, when one of the marauders recognised Mr. Scott as his former master at Emu Plains, on which he shook hands with him in a friendly manner, declaring he would never hurt a hair of his head; they then took to the bush.

A cast of the head of the notorious Donahoe is to be taken.


The soldier named Morley, mentioned in our last as having taken to the bush, has been captured and now awaits his trial before a Court Martial.



A Short time ago, Donohoe, Walmsley, and Webber, met a messenger belonging to a road or iron gang, at the Lower Branch of the Hawkesbury, as he was proceeding from one gang to another, on duty, carrying a new blanket and a cake with him from place to place, for safety. Walmsley accosted him ‘Ah, Tom Taylor! is that you? We must have your cake at any rate, but as you are my shipmate, we wont take your blanket, as they might send you to a penal settlement for selling it.’ Tom Taylor is not only a ship-mate, but comes from the same part of England as John Walmsley. This took place beyond Wiseman’s, on the Great North Road to Maitland, about the twelve mile hollow. They have crossed twice recently at Singleton’s Mill, on the Hawkesbury, and there is good reason to suspect they are the men who robbed Mr. Chandler. They confess they have been very much harrassed lately; they do not remain long in one place. They have committed two robberies in the Seven Hills district; and it has been told to a certain publican on a turnpike road, that one of these men purchased some spirit at his house lately, and carried it to his companions lying in ambush, not very far away at the time. Six constables and two black natives proceeded in search of these men a few mornings since, and are expected to remain some days away. The black natives are rewarded out of the police contigencies, and it is said that the constables on this special duty are allowed one shilling per diem in addition to their pay. If they fall in with Donohoe’s party, they will be apt to earn the extra allowance in an intrepid encounter with people who would rather be shot than hanged.


Sydney Monitor (NSW : 1828 – 1838), Saturday 11 September 1830, page 4



On Monday an Inquest was convened by MAJOR SMEATHMAN, Coroner, at the Fox and Hounds, kept by Henry Ball, Castlereagh Street, on the body of John Donohoe.

Henry Gorman. — I am a constable at Bargo; on the 1st of September I and several of the Mounted Police were encamped in the evening, about five o’clock, on Mr. Wentworth’s farm, Bringelly, when one who was on the look-out, said “here come two constables whom we expected?” they were then about a mile and a half distance; one of the Police said, “no they are bushrangers!” Three men were leading a packhorse; I and two of the Police-men took one side of a creek, and the serjeant and another man the other side; we made towards, and came up with them on some forest land; a man on the horse, who I thought was a bushranger named Walmsley, saw us first, and immediately jumped off; deceased took off his hat, and waiving it over his head, threw it in the air, saying, “come on! I am ready for a dozen of you!” The other two took off their coats and hats and went behind trees; we held a parley with them about twenty minutes, before a shot was fired, all parties being behind trees, when one of the Police-men fired, and nearly took down one of the men, who I thought was Webber; after this they appeared shy. Two of them fired their pieces at me, and I fired at them, but without effect on either side. One of the Police men named Mugglestone then fired and Donohoe fell. We chased the other two, but could not come up with them. On returning deceased was quite dead; the other two Police-men did not fall in with us till the Deceased fell; Mugglestone shot the deceased.

John Mugglestone, a private of the 39th regt, now in the employ of the Mounted Police, stated to the same effect, with the addition, that his carbine was loaded with two balls, and that they found on the horse’s back some flour, sugar, and women’s wearing apparel, and that deceased had a watch in his pocket.

Serjeant W. Hodson deposed to the same effect, but with the addition, that he knew the other two bushrangers to be Walmsley and Webber, and that he thought deceased was Donohoe as Dr. Gibson was robbed by him, and the Doctor knew him well, having been Juror when deceased was tried some ago. Deceased was in the agonies of death when he came up to him; he found on his person a small pistol and a watch, (watch produced) no money was on his person; on the horse was found a great many papers among the rest grants of land, transfers, and receipts. The deeds are made out in the name of “Denis Begly, Prospect” and the transfers in the name of Edward Wright (deeds and papers produced); Gorman loaded his piece with a carbine ball and pistol ball, which it appeared by Mr. Jilks had been lost only a week. The pack-horse or rather mare was aged, and marked E.S.

The Jury returned a verdict of Justifiable Homicide, without reference to identity. But from a wound in the cheek, and another under the cheek arising from scrophula, there is little doubt but the deceased is the notorious outlaw Donohoe. Donohoe’s life has no doubt been harrassing. But at the same time, it must be allowed that in comparison of the lives of the wretches at Moreton Bay, it was a happy life, and his death much less painful than those of scores who have deceased in that horrid settlement. And so long as such settlements exist, we doubt not we shall never want in this Colony either Donohoe’s and Dalton’s. It is fit and proper, that cruelty should be visited on the nation which practises it with retribution. God is just.

‘On Monday, as Mr. Scott and the Rev. Mr. Erskine were proceeding to Parramatta in a chaise, they were stopped by two armed bushrangers, who were on the point of robbing them, when one of the marauders recognised Mr. Scott as his former master at Emu Plains, on which he shook hands with him in a friendly manner, declaring he would never hurt a hair of his head; they then took to the bush.

A cast of the head of the notorious Donohoe is to be taken.

On Monday a prisoner named Joseph Smith was sentenced to receive one hundred lashes for knocking down Mr. Medley, Superintendent to Mr. George Allan, and nearly choking him.


Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 – 1880), Wednesday 24 May 1865, page 2



(From the S. M. Herald, May 16.)

Yass, Monday Evening.

On Thursday night a horse was stolen out of a paddock at Murrumburrah, of which no particulars could be ascertained till about eleven o’clock on Friday morning, when a man named Furlonge, who was travelling with sheep, stated that he had been visited by Gilbert and Dunn, who rounded up his horses and took a favorite animal, leaving in its stead the one taken from Murrumburrah. On Friday night the bushrangers camped at Rieley’s-hill, two miles from Binalong, some one having seen them there apparently fast asleep. When the police received their information they went to a farmer’s hut, in which a man named Kelly resided, who is the grandfather of Dunn. The police watched all night, but they saw no indication of the bushrangers, and left in the morning, being hopeless of success. Fresh news, however, reached them between eight and nine o’clock on Saturday morning which induced a fresh start to Kelly’s. When the party arrived there, they watched for about an hour, when Kelly came out of the hut and walked up and down in front of the door; and afterwards his wife came out. A little while after Kelly’s youngest son, Thomas, made his appearance, and was beckoned by Constable Hales, who inquired whether there was any one besides his parents in the hut, to which the boy replied that no strangers had been in the house during the night. Hales, however, proceeded to the house, and burst open the door, when he was saluted by a volley from the two bushrangers. The fire was returned, and the police withdrew for a short distance, when almost immediately after Gilbert and Dunn were observed running through a paddock adjoining the hut. Constable Bright started in pursuit, and was followed by the three other troopers. Several shots were then exchanged on both sides, when the bushrangers again retreated, and Hales and Bright fired together, and Gilbert fell. The pursuit after Dunn was continued, but although several shots were fired at him none took effect; and he has since been heard of at Bogolong, ten miles from Binalong, having stuck up Mr Jullian’s station yesterday, and whence he took a horse, saddle, and bridle. The inquest on Gilbert’s body was held yesterday at Binalong. The evidence of Constables Hales, Bright, and King was taken as to the shooting of Gilbert; the body was identified by Messrs Hewitt and Barnes and Constable Bright — the latter knew him for five years, and Hewitt knew him when a storekeeper at the Wombat. Barnes, who was stuck-up by Hall and Gilbert and kept two days in camp, had a good knowledge of Gilbert, and was able immediately to identify him. Dr Campbell, from Yass, made a post-mortem examination of the body, and found that a single bullet had entered the left part of the back, gone through the centre of the heart, and passed out through the left side, fracturing one rib. Dr Campbell stated that death must have been immediate. After Gilbert was shot, constable King received a bullet in the ankle from Dunn’s revolver. The revolver rifle taken from Mr Davis has been recovered. Gilbert had possession of it, and he made several attempts to use it, but the rifle missed fire three times; three chambers were loaded, and one had been discharged. The following is the verdict :— “That the said John Gilbert came to his death by a gunshot wound inflicted on Saturday, 13th May, 1865, near Binalong, in the said colony, by one of the constables in the police force of New South Wales, in the execution of their duty; and that they were justified in inflicting said wound which caused his death. The jury desire further to express their approval of the conduct of the constables, and in their opinion they are deserving of great credit for the gallant manner in which they effected the capture of Gilbert.”


The inquest on Ben Hall was held at the police barracks, Forbes, on the 6th inst. We take the following report of the evidence from the Yass Courier :—

James Henry Davidson, on oath, states: I am sub-inspector of police stationed at Forbes. On last Saturday morning, 29th April, I left the police camp with five men and two trackers, and started in pursuit of the bushrangers — Hall, Gilbert, and Dunn. On the evening of the fifth day from leaving Forbes, we came upon two horses hobbled in the scrub, about twelve miles from Forbes, near Billabong Creek. We watched the horses for about half an hour, when we saw a man approach who caught the horses. He parssed close by where we were standing. He caught the horses, and led them away about 100 yards. This was about ten o’clock in the evening. We did not recognise the man. He took the horses about 100 yards, and hobbled them again. Shortly after, a tracker, Billy Dargan, informed me that he heard the mean he saw lead away and hobble the horses making a noise among the dead leaves, as though he was preparing a bed for himself. I then placed five of the men in my charge where we were standing, and went with Sergeant Condell, and Billy Dargan on the other side of the man, with the intention of attacking him in his camp should we discover that he was Ben Hall. We could not get within 100 yards of the man, in consequence of his horse snorting at our approach. I then determined to wait until daybreak. About half-past six in the morning I saw a man with a bridle in his hand, about 150 yards from where I was, approaching the horses. By this time the horses were feeding on a plain bordering the scrub, and when the man was about half the way from the border of the scrub to the horses, myself, Sergeant Condell, and Billy Dargan ran after him. After running about fifty yards the man became aware of our presence, and ran in the direction where the five men were posted. By this time I identified the man as Ben Hall. I several times called on him to stand. After running about one-hundred yards, I got within forty yards of Hall and fired at him. I shot with a double-barrelled gun. Hall after my firing jumped a little, and looked back, and from his movements I have reason to believe that I hit him. Sergeant Condell and Dargan ( the tracker) fired immediately afterwards. They were running a little to the left of me and not far away. From the manner of Hall, I have reason to believe that Condell and Dargan’s shots took effect. From that time he ran more slowly towards a few saplings. The five police who were stationed beyond him, immediately ran towards him and fired. I noticed Trooper Hipkiss firing at Hall with a rifle, and immediately afterwards the belt holding his revolvers fell off him. At this time he field himself up by a sapling; and upon receiving Hipkiss’s fire he gradually fell backwards. There were about thirty shots fired in all. Hall then cried out, “I am wounded; shoot me dead.” I then went up to the body, and noticed that life was extinct. I also observed that the bullet fired by Hipkiss passed through his body. I searched the body, there was £74 in notes in two chamois leather bags, one in his trousers pocket, the other in his coat breast pocket, three gold chains, and a gold watch, a portrait of a female, three revolvers, and a number of bullets in his pocket, and a gold ring keeper on his finger. Along with his saddle was a quantity of wearing apparel. There were also two single blankets. I knew the body to be that of Ben Hall. His clothing I observed to be perforated with bullets. We caught the horses and fixed the body of deceased on the saddle, and in this manner brought him to Forbes.

James Condell, on oath, states :— I am sergeant of police stationed at Forbes. On Saturday night last, in company with Sub-inspector Davidson, four constables, and two trackers, in pursuit of the bushrangers — Hall, Gilbert, and Dunn. On the Thursday night following, we observed two horses hobbled in the bush. We watched the horses for about an hour. We then saw a man approach the horses and take the hobbles off, and lead them through the bush for about one hundred and fifty yards. He then hobbled the horses, and let them go. He afterwards proceeded into the scrub, and immediately afterwards we were informed by the black tracker, Billy Dargan, that he heard him scraping on the ground as if to make a place for a bed. Sub-inspector Davidson and myself then posted the men in a half-circle on one side, and Sub-inspector Davidson and myself proceeded to the opposite side. Myself, Mr Davidson and the tracker crept about through the bush in search of his camp. Finding that we could not succeed in discovering the camp, we resolved to watch the horses all night, and about six o’clock next morning I saw a man emerge from the scrub into a piece of open country, and walk in the direction of the two horses, we started in pursuit, and ran about fifty yards before he observed us. He then looked up and saw us, he turned and ran from us. Sub-inspector Davidson then called on him to stand; he looked round and still kept running. Sub-inspector Davidson then fired at him. Immediately afterwards I saw Hall jump; he still kept running. I then levelled my rifle at him, covered him full in the back, and fired. I believe the shot took effect between the shoulders. After this he rolled about, and when running appeared very weak. The tracker then fired with a double barrelled gun, and I believe hit the deceased. We called out for the men stationed on the opposite side. When he saw them emerge from the scrub, he turned and ran in another direction. The men all fired, and I believe most of the bullets hit him. Deceased then ran to a cluster of timber, laid hold of a sapling, and said, “I am wounded; I am dying.” The men then fired again, and he immediately rolled over. He threw out his feet convulsively once or twice, and said, “I am dying, I am dying.” We all then approached him, and found he was dead. Sub-Inspector Davidson searched the body, and found £74 in notes, a gold watch, three revolvers capped and loaded, a powder, two boxes of percussion caps, a bag of bullets, and a quantity of wearing apparel. At his camp we found a saddle and bridle and a pair of blankets. We then packed his body on a saddle, and removed it to our camp, and then to Forbes. I have known the deceased for four years. About three years ago I escorted him a prisoner to Orange, and saw him frequently afterwards. I identity the body of deceased as that of Ben Hall.

William Jones, on oath, states: I am a storekeeper, residing at Forbes. I have seen the body of deceased, and identify it as the remains of Ben Hall. I have known the deceased seventeen years, and have seen him continually during that period, except during the last three years. I am perfectly certain as to his identity.

John Newall, on oath, states: I am a licensed publican, residing at Forbes. I knew Ben Hall nine years ago, and have frequently seen him since until within the last two years and a half. I have seen the body now lying in the adjoining room and identify it as that of Ben Hall.

Charles Assenheim, on oath, being duly sworn, saith: I am a qualified medical man. I have examined the body of deceased, and find it perforated by several bullets. The shot between the shoulders, the two shots into the brain, and the one through the body were severally sufficient to cause death.


The following account of the inquest of Daniel Morgan lays out what occurred at Peechelba Station in April 1865. One of the curious aspects of this recounting the end of Morgan’s life is the spelling of the name of the man who fired the fatal shot. Herein spelt “Windlaw”, he is more commonly known as John Wendlan or Quinlan. The lack of conformity in the spelling of the name in the press has produced much confusion as to what the correct spelling is. Overall, the inquest provides a fairly clear narrative of what transpired on that fateful day in April, and the subsequent letter paints a more vivid picture of how things played out. Reports such as this continue to prove invaluable to historians, both professional (academic) and amateur. ~AP

Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), Friday 14 April 1865, page 6



The inquest on the body of Morgan was commenced on Monday, by Dr. Dobbyn, the coroner, at the woolshed, Pechelba [sic].

Mr. Superintendent Winch examined the witnesses.

After viewing the body, the jury were taken to the spot where Morgan fell, and were shown as near as possible where Windlaw stood when he fired the fatal shot. They then adjourned to the parlour in Mr. McPherson’s house, where Morgan the previous evening had bailed up the family. On the previous morning, Morgan’s body was sewn up in a woolpack and brought into Wangaratta; and the head was cut off and a cast taken of it.

The following evidence was taken:-

Edmond M. Bond, Bunganwo station, King River, squatter. — Have seen the deceased. Recognise him as a man that I knew three or four years ago as “Down the River Jack,” alias ” Bill the Native.” Saw him at that time about a mile and a half from my paddock fence. I pursued him at that time, and fired at him, with a charge of shot, at his left arm ; he dropped a coat, which I afterwards picked up riddled with shot, and supposed from that I had wounded him. I identify the deceased by his general appearance.

Thomas Kidston, settler, Walbundra sta-tion, Billabong, said, — I have viewed the body of the deceased. Recognise him as a man that has stuck me up twice, and told me his name was Morgan. It was in October or November, 1863. He took a horse from the station. The second time was two months afterwards. I heard a shot near the house. Met the deceased, and saw a pistol, my property, in his belt,which he must have taken from my house. He admitted he had been in my house, looking for a revolving rifle. I have no doubt that the deceased lying outside is the man Morgan, who stuck me up twice. I have not seen him since. I know that a reward has been offered for the capture of the deceased man, Morgan, by the newspapers.

Ellen Turner, wife of Thomas Turner, labourer, Mulwala. — I have seen the deceased outside. I have seen that man alive at Dr. Mackay’s, Wahgunyah station, New South Wales. I think it was on the 1st February, 1865, that he was there. He came overnight, and remained there till morning, when I saw Mr. John Mackay’s rifle in the deceased’s swag. Mr. Mackay’s horse bolted, with the swag on him. The deceased carried away with him the rifle, a saddle, and a horse, and about £4 in money. I was in bed when he came, and did not hear him say much. Have no doubt that the deceased is the same man.

William Ariel, of Corowa, New South Wales, storekeeper. — I have seen the deceased man outside. I recognise him as the man that stuck me up at Wallandual, New South Wales, fifty miles from Corowa, on the 28th December, 1863. He called me out of the hut, and told me he wanted my cash. Told me to put it on the ground. Presented his revolver at me, and I put the cash on the ground. He said, “Now I want your watch.” I put that on the ground. He then said, “Now your ring.” He took that. I was hawking at that time, and the property he took amounted in value to £35. Have no doubt whatever that the deceased is the same man that I have referred to as having robbed me. I do not know his name.

Morris Brash, hawker, Beechworth. — Have seen the body of deceased lying in the shed. Recognise him as a man that stuck me up and robbed me about four miles from Wallan Wallan station, New South Wales. He took £4 10s. in money, and about £30 worth of property. This was in June, 1863. On the second occasion he stuck me up twenty-five miles from Wagga Wagga; then took £12 cash, and £50 or £60 worth of property. Am sure that the two robberies were committed by the same man, and by the deceased. Saw him next, at a distance, in February, 1864 ; and have not seen him since.

John Pickering Jackson, carrier, residing in Melbourne, stated. — On Friday night last I was about four miles on the Benalla side of Winton. I was walking alongside the horses when a man galloped up to the leaders, waved one revolver about, and presented it at me. He said, “Stop the waggon.” I stopped it. He said, “Cash, cash; I want your cash; quick, quick.” I said “All right.” He uttered no verbal threat. I gave him £7 under coercion. I have seen the deceased, and I swear he is the same man that committed the offence. Have no doubt about his identify. I noticed him carefully, and am certain he is the same man. He was riding a black cob — a sort of Arab breed. After leaving me he galloped forward, and stuck-up the next waggon.

Thomas Tuckett, carrier, stated, — On Friday night last I saw the deceased, about half past three. He stuck me up about four miles the Benalla side of Winton. He rode up on the near side of the waggon, pointed a revolver at me, and ordered me to stand. I pulled up the horses, and by his direction got off the waggon. He presented his pistol at me and demanded my cash, and all my jewellery, and told me to throw them on the ground. I threw down one pocketbook containing £7. He then asked me if I had any more. I said I had another pocketbook, containing three halfcrowns and a sixpence, and at his request I threw that down. He told me to get on the waggon, and as I turned round he demanded my watch, and at his request I threw the watch on the ground. I recognise the silver watch produced as my property, by a piece of string tied round the guard, and by the thinness of the case, and by the maker’s name, “Harrison, Liverpool.” l am confident that the man lying dead is the same that robbed me.

Ewen McPherson, of Peechelba station, squatter, stated, — About a quarter past six on Saturday evening I noticed the man now lying dead. I was sitting on the sofa in the room I am now in, with my family. I saw the figure of a man passing along the verandah. I called out to know what he wanted, and he walked into the lobby to the room door, and ordered me back, as I approached within three inches of him. As soon as he came in he said, ” I am Mr. Morgan. I suppose you have heard of me?” I said “It is all right : step in.” Immediately afterwards Mr. Telford and two men came in, and he ordered them up to the end of the room. He let me sit on the sofa. He ordered the girls in, and asked me if there was a man cook. I said “No.” He put no more questions. He stood against the check of the door. He had a revolver in his hand at this time. He remained in the room all night. He conversed with me about Round-hill. He said it was said he was drunk when he was at the Round-hill station, but he was the only sober man there. He said positively that it was he that stuck-up the Round-hill station. With reference to the shooting of persons at Round-hill, he said it was reported in the newspapers that his own revolver went off when he was mounting his horse, but it was not so. That Watson, the super, or some one in the shed, fired at him. He said he found the old pistol in the shed afterwards. He said Watson was catching at his bridle when he fired, shot Watson through the hand, and with the same ball broke young Heriott’s leg. He said he was sorry for that, and did not mean to shoot him. About shooting McLean, he said McLean asked his (deceased’s) leave to go for Dr. Stitt. He said he gave him positive instructions not to go to the police camp, saying, “I saw you there yesterday ; don’t go there.” He said McLean, after getting out of the paddock, made straight for the police camp. He called to him to stop and take the other road : but McLean did not do so, and he (Morgan) mounted his horse, followed him, and after calling several times to him to stop, put spurs to his horse, and shot McLean. He said he was not going the straight road to Dr. Stitt’s He said “To show you I was not drunk, after I had shot McLean I put him on a horse and carried him back to the station, and found young Heriott lying in mud, where he had left him,” and that he took him in and attended to him also. Deceased told me it was Sergeant McGinnerty’s revolver he had in his hand while in my house. He made no allusion to having shot McGinnerty. The revolver produced is the one deceased said he took from Sergeant McGinnerty, of the New South Wales police, and is the one he covered us with in the room. Deceased told me he was on the Upper Murray a few days before. He told me that two days before he was riding a fine racing mare worth 200 guineas. Deceased told me he was convicted in 1854, and sentenced to twelve years. He said he had been at Warby’s, and spoke of a mare in Warby’s stable, which he did not take, because her hoof was cracked. I understood from deceased’s conversation that he had lost his way coming from Warby’s, and that meeting the two men he brought them in with him. He (deceased) remained in my house till a quarter or twenty minutes past eight on Sunday morning. He then went out. I went out with him, and Mr. Robert Telford, my son Gideon McPherson, and two other men also, went with deceased. As we were starting deceased said he would have to press a horse from me, but that the horse would cast up tomorrow or next day. We all then walked down towards the stockyard. I asked Morgan how the horses were to be got in, and he agreed to let my son go for them, but when we got outside we saw the horses at the stack. The stack-yard is about 250 yards from the house, and we were within twenty or thirty yards of the stack-yard when, looking round, I noticed a number of men running down behind us. I was then close to Morgan’s side, and my son was on the other side of him. I stepped aside three or four yards when I noticed the men behind, and immediately after that I heard a shot fired, and deceased fell within three or four yards of me. A number of people came up. I saw Percy the trooper. He was about the first man up, and took Morgan’s pistols from him. John Windlaw told me that he fired at and shot Morgan. Windlaw has been a servant of mine for years. Deceased was then carried down to the woolshed. I heard deceased say nothing after he was shot. I was confined to the house by deceased from his arrival until we all went out together, except that he allowed me to go on the verandah once. I have seen the body lying in the woolshed, and identify it as that of the man who stuck me up.


George Rutherford, of Peechelba Station, squatter, stated, — On Saturday night last, about seven or eight p.m, Mr. McPherson’s nurse informed me Morgan had stuck them all up. I came up to the back of Mr. McPherson’s house, and found all the girls, with the exception of the nurse, in this room, I knew, as a matter of fact, that the place and inmates were stuck up, but did not know for certain by whom. I started a man with a note to Sergeant Montford, at Wangaratta, requesting police assistance. A party of volunteers arrived, with Constable Evans, and we concerted measures for capturing the man who had stuck up the house. I saw one person come out of the house in the morning, about eight a.m. I saw Mr. McPherson, his son, two other men, and Mr. Telford come out of the house. One of the two men was a labourer on the station, and the other was a man whom I supposed to be Morgan, and who is identical with the man now lying dead in the woolshed. I was at that time at my house, about 400 or 500 yards from here. I saw the five persons walk down to the gate, the now deceased walking behind the others. After passing through the gate, deceased came up between Mr. McPherson and his son. I saw a number of armed men running up from different directions towards deceased, and I saw John Windlaw fire at deceased from a distance of about forty yards. I saw the deceased drop simultaneously with the firing of the shot. It was arranged by Windlaw, myself, and Evans that Windlaw was to shoot the man that had stuck up the house, and whom we believed to be Morgan. It was not particularly arranged that Windlaw was to shoot the deceased, but that any of the men who had arms and got a chance was to shoot him. The directions given by Mounted-constable Evans in my hearing to the armed men were given under the belief that the man who was sticking up the house was Morgan, and that warrants had been issued for his arrest. I have read descriptions of Morgan in Government advertisements in the newspapers. I identify a portrait purporting to represent Morgan to be a likeness of the now deceased. I conversed with deceased soon after he was shot. He said he did not know me ; did not know Mr. Connolly. I asked him if he knew Mr. Warby. He said, “Yes.” I asked him if his real name was Morgan or Moran. He said, “No.” He then said, “Why did they not give me a chance? Why did they not challenge me?” I asked him which was his real name, Morgan or Moran? Deceased said, “No.” I have seen deceased, and he is the same man that I saw shot. Windlaw has been an old servant of mine. I saw five men, whom I took to be, and believed to be, police, coming towards the house before Morgan came out of the house. Constable Evans and another Wangaratta policeman arrived before the Beechworth police.

William Mainwaring, first-class detective, stationed at Beechworth, stated, — I was, with others, in pursuit of the deceased, supposed to be Morgan. I departed from Mr. Connolly’s on Saturday evening, my destination being this station (Peechelba). Was in company with Constables Percy, Hall, and Chilly. Before that I was with Superintendent Winch and Constables Nicholson and Ryan. First obtained information of this man about five miles on the Melbourne side of Wangaratta, and we tracked him on to Peechelba. We were bushed on the road, and arrived about seven a.m. on Sunday. About an hour and twenty minutes after we arrived I saw deceased come out at the slip-panel. I saw deceased shot by John Windlaw. He was the only person that fired at the time. I went up after deceased fell. I searched deceased, and Mounted-constable Percy found seven £5 notes and thirty-two £1 notes. I took from his left-hand trousers pocket a purse containing three £1 Sydney notes, a draft on the Australian Joint-Stock Bank at Wagga Wagga in favour of Charles Barton Pearson for £7, marked “A.” five sovereigns, and one half-sovereign. In his swag I found £6 12s. 9d., in silver. Percy handed me the watch produced. I saw Percy, when he ran up, draw one revolver from deceased’s belt and throw it over his shoulder. I had been out after the supposed Morgan since early on Friday morning, with Superintendent Winch, Constable Shoobridge, and the other constables before mentioned.

James Percy, mounted constable, stationed at Beechworth, stated, — I was one of a party of police who started in pursuit of the sup-posed Morgan. I went as far as Glenrowan when a man brought information to us that Morgan had just stuck up Warby’s station. We went to Warby’s, and found that the bushranger had started three-quarters of an hour before towards Connolly’s. We went to Connolly’s, and Superintendent Winch arrived shortly after, and ordered us to go to Peechelba. This was about four p.m. on Saturday. I reached this place (Peechelba) between six and seven a.m. on Sunday. We ascertained that Morgan was in Mr. McPherson’s house. We were going to the house, when a man ran out and told us to keep back. Mainwaring’s party, of which I was one, was here while Morgan was in the house. The first time I saw the deceased was when he was walking towards the stack-yard. Windlaw and I were close together, and as I turned to see where the others were I saw Windlaw take aim and fire at the deceased, and I saw deceased fall. Windlaw fired with a single-barrelled gun, at a distance of sixty paces. As soon as deceased fell I rushed on him, drew a revolver from his belt, and threw it away. The revolver produced is the one I took from deceased. Deceased’s left thumb was in his pocket, and some notes were sticking out. I saw the butt of the pistol sticking up at his left side, as he lay on his back. I took the two watches produced from deceased’s waistcoat. I handed the notes and property that I took from deceased to Detective Mainwaring. The pistols were loaded.

George Evans, foot constable at Wangaratta, stated, — I arrived at this place (Peechelba) about one or two a.m. on Sunday with two volunteers and another constable named Leverton. One of the volunteers was armed. We had received information that the station was stuck up. We made our way to Mr. Rutherford’s house with the help of a guide along the river bank. I stationed the men round the house. I, Windlaw, and Donald Clarke were stationed twenty or thirty yards from the verandah. We were there from 2.30 a.m. till near daybreak. I saw deceased shot, and I identify deceased as the man I saw shot. When day broke I shifted the men to the back of the house, and I afterwards saw deceased come out of the house. Deceased was shot by Windlaw.

John James Hallett, M.D. — I have made a post-mortem examination of the body of the man now lying dead in the woolshed at the Peechelba Station. I found the lowest of the cervical vertebras to be shattered, and the spinal marrow within, as a consequence, destroyed. I found that whatever may have caused his death must have entered just above the left shoulder blade. It was apparently a bullet wound. The edges of the wound were inverted. I traced the exit of the ball to a portion of the neck high up and under the chin to the right side of the windpipe. The wound of exit was a little more dilated than the wound of entrance, and was a little ragged. I consider the cause of death was the destruction of the spinal marrow, caused, I should suppose, by a gunshot wound. A man wounded like that, I should consider, would fall immediately, and might linger and live a few hours. No blood-vessels were destroyed.
By the Jury. — I noticed a fatty tumour a little to the right of the centre of the back of his head.

Joseph Henry, duly-qualified medical practitioner, stated, — I assisted to make a post-mortem examination of the body outside with Dr. Hallett. I found the cause of death to be the fracture of two of the cervical vertebrae by a gunshot wound. Such a wound would cause a man to drop immediately, and he could not live very long.


Dr. Dobbyn, the coroner, was examined by Mr. R. W. Shadforth, police magistrate of Wangaratta. — Yesterday, shortly after twelve noon I arrived at Peechelba. I saw the deceased, who was then alive. I examined him, and found two bullet wounds — the entrance wound on the left scapula, and the wound of exit on the right side of the lungs. When I saw him first he was in a dying state, but quite sensible. I asked him if he was in much pain. He said, after some time, that he was choking. He died very shortly after. I examined deceased for peculiarities immediately after death. I had the body stripped. I observed that deceased was about five feet ten inches in height, of very spare build, had very long darkish brown hair; a fibrous tumour, rather larger than a pigeon’s egg, on the back of his head ; his eyes were greyish-blue ; he had lost the top joint of the third finger on the right hand ; and there were shot marks, or what appeared to be such, on the back of one of his hands. The most peculiar look of his face was his nose. He had several very small moles on his back, and a vaccination mark low down on one arm, six inches above the elbow. There was a small piece of nail growing over the top of the mutilated finger. The description of Morgan exactly tallies with that of deceased.


“That the deceased, whom we believe to be Daniel Morgan, met his death from a gunshot wound, inflicted by John Windlaw on the morning of the 9th April, 1865, at Peechelba station, on the Ovens River; and we further consider that the homicide was justifiable. We further consider that great praise is due to all concerned in the capture of the deceased.”


WANGARATTA, April 11. As a spectator at Morgan’s death, I have thought fit to send you my impression of the scene.

Peechelba station is twenty-one miles from Wangaratta. Being a friend of the families there, the messenger sent by Mr. Rutherford for the police aroused me near midnight on Saturday with the news—”Morgan is at Peechelba.” Mounted on a fast horse, I soon over-took the party of police, with two other men and the guide ; but we had not gone half-way when another party of four joined us. The messenger guiding, we were brought to a re-tired spot within a few hundred yards of Mr. Rutherford’s house, and here we dismounted ; while the guide on foot went to reconnoitre, and find whether Morgan had come down, and taken possession of it also. In the deepest anxiety we waited in the thick river-side scrub.

At last we heard persons approaching. We found these to be Mr. Rutherford and the guide, with the glad news—”Morgan is still at McPherson’s, and likely to remain there till morning.” We all left our horses, and went on foot to Rutherford’s house, and there, after much consultation, the armed men were distributed, and sent off to their respective stations round McPherson’s house.

It was about half-past two when the armed men took their places, while the unarmed remained at Rutherford’s. Three of these, I being one of them, sat in a room looking towards McPherson’s. It was an anxious time. We knew not when we might hear the report of firearms, for we feared that Morgan might attempt to drive his captives down to our quarter. We knew that he could not well go away, as his horse, and indeed all the horses, were in the paddock. We saw the lamp burning hour after hour in that distant house ; and there we pictured — as, indeed, had been described by the bold nurse-girl — the revolvers on the table, the sleepless, but sleepy murderer, and the innocent in-mates huddled together in the room. A brave Scot, D. Clarke, who had been the guide to the placing of the armed men, brought us tidings of the inmates twice through that strange night-tidings that all as yet was well, and that the ladies were in their bedrooms.

As morning broke we extinguished our lamp, to avoid suspicion, threw open the shutters, and then sat down to watch with anxious hearts. While it was yet scarce broad day, we saw a new lamp light, it was that of the hall ; and then a figure on the verandah, whom we judged to be Morgan. Soon the door closed. Then ever and again we saw the women servants going backwards and forwards from the house to the main building. After a while down came a man with pails in his hand, and a message from Mrs. McPherson from her bedroom to allow everything to go on as usual. So the hours flew speedily; and as the house was being lit up by the rays of the sun, one man went to milk cows, another to drive the horses to water, other two with a cart to bring in some mutton killed the night before — and all this in sight of McPherson’s house.

And how we watched that house so eagerly, for that door to open. “O God!” cries one of our party, “there moves these armed men at the fence” (it was a far better shelter, we afterwards learned). About eight, the door again opens. A man comes in his shirt sleeves ; walks in the garden; looks over the fence. It is Morgan! But again the door is shut.

But who is this coming down on horse-back, past McPherson’s house ; and who are these men in the distance, with glancing arms ? The man we find is from Wangaratta, and these are police just arrived, who take their station behind the house (McPherson’s). Well it was that a man had been stationed on the road from Wangaratta to stop any who might come that way, or there would have been a different tale to tell ; however, they were warned in time. Still the door remains closed. A scout brings in news that Morgan is at breakfast, chatting freely with his captives. Mr. Rutherford and his men go about as usual ; while we strangers, to avoid suspicion, stay within doors. It was nearing nine. On that lovely Sunday morning there must be death ere long, were our thoughts-of how many, who could tell? There must be blood spilt – whose we knew not. One thought of one, and another of another – of friends they loved. What was to be the end? Some dozen men, armed, were round that house – a cool, well-trained shot and cruel murderer within. The suspense grew terrible. The clock was about to strike nine, when the door opened, and one, two, three, four, five persons came out into the verandah. In Indian file they passed, Morgan last, through the gate, and evidently through the horses, now eating hay at the haystack. When they were half-way down we saw the three armed men moving at last, running stealthily-running from tree to tree — behind that man driving down his captives before him — little he knew who was behind.

We four now stood in the verandah. One of our party could not restrain the shout of cheer “Well done.” Nearer, nearer. Two are behind a tree. That string of men separate a little. A sharp ringing sound — some smoke — a shout. I ran, fleetest of our party, and I stood at the head of that man — his long black hair, his long dark beard, his keen, half-closed grey eyes, his arms lying still by his side, his mouth with warm blood frothing on his compressed lips — these are the lines of a picture which Time’s weird hand can never blot out.

A warm pressure from the hand of him whom I call my friend — the man whose life was in peril from the murderer’s — and from the avenger’s hand, this was all ; and I fled on speedy horse to the distant township, to hear the bells calling worshippers to prayer.

The Death of Captain Melville

Many bushrangers met grisly ends over the course of history, and a considerable portion of them met their end within prison walls. Yet very few can lay claim to such a gruesome end as Francis MacNeish McCallum, alias Captain Melville.

Extract from Captain Melville’s prison record [Source: PROV]

Melville was incarcerated at Melbourne Gaol after receiving multiple sentences for highway robbery, totalling thirty-five years to be served; the first three of which were to be in irons. Questions had been raised about Melville’s sanity not long after his imprisonment due to his erratic behaviour. On 28 July, 1857, things came to a head when Melville refused to allow the night tub (the bucket used as a toilet) to be removed from his cell, threatening to kill anyone that tried to take it. His lack of cooperation soon saw the gaol governor, George Wintle, order James Rowley, the chief turnkey, to take two warders into the cell and forcibly remove the night tub. As the men entered, Melville brandished in one hand an iron spoon that he had made into a makeshift knife by sharpening the handle, and in the other he held the lid of the night tub as a shield. As he stared down the gaolers, he declared “I’ll make a corpse of any man that tries to take that tub!”

Rowley carried a stepladder into the cell in order to put some distance between himself and the former bushranger, keeping Melville distracted with it while a warder rushed in and tried to pin the offender down. A scuffle broke out with the gaolers attempting to disarm Melville who fought like a tiger. Seeing things getting out of hand, the governor intervened. 48 year-old Wintle had experience dealing with the worst the penal system had to offer, having worked in Sydney on the prison hulks before being appointed governor of Melbourne Gaol, so was unfazed by the prospect of dealing with this renegade inmate. At that moment, Melville broke free of his captors and lunged at Wintle, slashing him behind the right ear with the sharpened spoon. The wound was severe and bled freely. Rowley leapt upon Melville to wrench the spoon away, to which Melville replied by trying to drive the sharpened end through Rowley’s hand. The move was a failure though as it merely cut across the hand and glanced off Rowley’s ring. In the scuffle, the spoon was broken, disarming Melville. The night tub was then successfully removed and Melville handcuffed. Dr. McCrea, the prison medical officer, was sent for. He treated the injured men as well as recommending that Melville be kept in handcuffs and put in a straightjacket if he played up again. McCrea then directed the gaolers to keep Melville isolated in a solitary cell, where he was to be kept on a restricted diet and monitored.

Dr. McCrea, visited with Melville over the next few days to make an assessment of him. It had been supposed that Melville was feigning madness in an attempt to be relocated to the Yarra Bend Asylum, which was low security, and from thence effect his escape from incarceration. Initially, Melville presented as insolent and sulky, refusing to take food, but as time went on he began to accept his situation. On one occasion, Melville expressed to McCrea that he had been fighting a losing battle against the world all his life and the time had come to take his punishment quietly. McCrae determined that the apparent mental instability was an act intended to gain sympathy and render him unaccountable for the attack on Wintle and Rowley. It was expected, based on this assessment, that Melville would be tried for the attack on Wintle. During the assessment period, Wintle himself would visit Melville two or three times a day in order to check on the prisoner’s mental state, also concluding he was sane.

Melbourne Gaol, circa 1859 [Source: Libraries Tasmania, Launceston]

On August 11, 1857, Melville met with McCrae and was discharged from medical treatment. He passed the day away without incident. He ate his dinner at around 6:00pm and went quietly to bed. On the following day at 7:15am, James Rowley checked in on Melville and discovered his lifeless body on the bed. He was on his left side, the bedclothes were over him and his hands were clasped over his breast. The bushranger had rolled a large handkerchief that he usually wore as a neckerchief into a rope and created a slipknot that he tightened around his neck. The handkerchief was around two yards long and he coiled the end around his throat three more times to compound the effects of the noose, before inclining his head down to the left until the ligature slowly choked him to death. The makeshift noose was so tight that it was impossible to get a finger between it and the throat.

Dr. Maund performed the post mortem examination immediately after the body was found. He noted a bloody froth at Melville’s mouth and ears, as well as several scratches in his arm in the shape of a cross that were apparently made with a nail. There were various signs in the body that correlated with the strangulation, including the presence of blood in the lungs and the scalp being engorged with blood. There were no signs of struggle, the body and organs appeared perfectly healthy apart from the effects of the strangulation, and there were no visible signs of disease of the brain. It was estimated that he had committed suicide at around midnight.

At midday, the city coroner, Dr. Youl, performed an inquest before a jury. Dr. Maund, Governor Wintle, Dr. McCrea, and James Rowley testified at the inquest. Wintle explained that from 8:00pm to 6:00am the only key to Melville’s cell was in his possession, meaning that only Wintle had the ability to enter the cell during the night, ruling out foul play by others in the prison.

The jury came to the verdict that Melville met his end by felo de se, which was the legal term for a felonious suicide. He was deemed to have been perfectly sane when he undertook the action. Under British law, suicide was illegal and those who died by their own hand were to be buried in unconsecrated ground.

Curiously, in Melville’s cell, the deceased had seemingly scrawled a message onto the wall in lead pencil before his death, which read:

I am to suffer nothing. My name is not T. Smith but — Macullum. I intend to defeat their purpose and to die in my bed with a smile by my own hand ; and thus by my keenneys to defeat their most secret intentions and these steps are 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.

Supreme Court & gaol, Melbourne, lithographed by Stringer, Mason & Co, 1859 [Source: NLA]

According to contemporary reports, a death mask was made by Professor Schier. There has been some confusion as to whether the death mask labelled “Melville” on display in Melbourne Gaol is that of Captain Melville or of George Melville, one of the McIvor Escort robbers who was executed in the gaol, though it is generally accepted to be the latter.

It has been insinuated that there was foul play involved in Melville’s death. None of the information provided during the inquest raises questions about whether Melville took his own life, and the message found on his cell wall not only corroborates this, but gives motive. It is very unlikely that Wintle would have used the downtime during the night, when he was the only one with keys to Melville’s cell, to go into the cell and choke Melville to death, even as revenge for the attack in July. Rather, it seems that Melville was determined to end his life rather than endure incarceration for decades or even face execution for his attack on Wintle, and waited until he was no longer on medical watch to do so. In the end, it seems that Melville got the last laugh by ending things on his own terms, but it seems unlikely that there were many tears shed at his passing.

Spotlight: Inquest on the Bodies of Nesbitt and Wernicke

What follows is a report on the inquest conducted into the deaths of the bushrangers James Nesbitt and Gus Wernicke along with a brief account of the condition of Constable Webb-Bowen following his wounding at McGlede’s farm. While some details, especially in the latter report, are incorrect, it must be remembered that many of the articles of the time were published as the news was still unfolding, resulting in errors due to the sluggish rate of verification compared to what is possible now.

Both bushrangers were shot during the gunfight the day after the Moonlite Gang had successfully fought off the police from Wagga Wagga at Wantabadgery Station. The particulars of the gunfights are addressed in the evidence presented by witnesses. The deaths of the pair affected Andrew Scott (Captain Moonlite) deeply, especially as Nesbitt, who he had befriended in Pentridge prison, was most likely his lover. In fact, in the 1990s Scott’s body was disinterred to be relocated to Gundagai in keeping with his last request to be buried with Nesbitt.

Constable Edwin Mostyn Webb-Bowen died from his wound shortly after this article was first published. For his conspicuous bravery in the line of duty he was posthumously promoted to Senior Constable. He is buried in Gundagai next to Sergeant Edmund Parry, who was murdered by Johnny Gilbert. ~ AP


The inquest on the remains of the bushrangers shot in the late encounter was commenced this morning before C. W. Weekes and a jury of tvelve. The jury having viewed the bodies an adjournment was made until two o’clock, when the following evidence was adduced :—

Constable Rowe, stationed at Wagga, recognised the bodies as those of two men shot at McGlede’s farm on Monday last, near Wantabadgery ; he did not know who fired the shot. which killed them ; on Sunday last the Wagga police received information that the Wantabadgry station was stuck-up by seven armed men ; witness and three other constables started for the place and arrived at the station at five o’clock on Monday morning just at daybreak ; went to the back of the house, as the front was dangerous, and explored for an attack; left the horses tied to a fence about four hundred yards from the place and walked up; when about twenty yards from the house a dog barked ; at the same time a man came from the door into the garden with a double-barelled gun ; Constable Headley called on him to stand in the Queen’s name ; the man fired in the direction of Constable Williamson and witness and started to run back to the house ; Williamson, Headley, and John fired after him ; the man went inside and called to the others to fire ; witness and the other constables went back a little distance and waited some time ; they could see several armed men moving about the garden and outhouses ; there were six or seven men and they went to the stable and made a fire there ; they then crawled or walked off in different directions through the thistles ; as it was evidently their intention to surround them, the constables drew back to open ground, and the men opened fire which the police returned ; no shots however took effect on either side ; some of the men then got on horseback and tried to surround the police who retreated through water up to their middles, the bushrangers firing all the time ; the bushrangers then got the police horses which they took to the station ; witness and another constable went to a Mr. Beveridge’s, four miles from the station, to get fresh horses and wait for reinforcements which had been sent for by the man who gave the Wagga police information ; Constable Headley had gone up a hill and disappeared ; about eleven on Monday morning Sergeant Carroll and the Gundagai police arrived at Beveridge’s ; the eight police then started under the charge of Sergeant Carroll at six a.m., and at Wantabadgery were joined by Constable Headley, when they went to McGlede’s ; on the way they heard that the Wantabadgery Hotel was stuck-up ; at McGlede’s they saw a large number of men, who were bushrangers and people bailed up by them ; Sergeant Carroll and the others called on the desperadoes to surrender ; one of them said, “surrender be —, come on and fight ; the bushrangers opened fire, and the police took up positions and returned it ; there was sharp firing for twenty minutes ; the two men on whose bodies the inquest was being held were seen by witness after firing ceased ; they were dying, one in the kitchen and one inside the house ; another bushranger was shot through the arm and two were taken unhurt ; the sixth was missing, but was arrested on Tuesday morning under a bed in the house ; after the fight witness saw Constable Bowen lying in a paddock twenty-five yards from the house, shot in the neck ; the four prisoners arrested were brought to Gundagai on Tuesday morning, and two dead bodies at nine o’clock last night ; witness did not see the men fall, but whilst the firing was going on he saw the younger of the two lying on his back near Constable Bowen; I had previously seen both the men who died firing on the police, the older at Wantabadgery, the younger at McGlede’s ; one of the prisoners ran out of the house and surrendered to Constable Wiles and witness at the back of McGlede’s kitchen ; did not see the other surrender ; no shots were fired after the surrender.

Captain Moonlite

Sergeant Cassin, stationed at Adelong, deposed that on Monday morning, being off duty at the Gundagai quarter-sessions, he heard of the Wantabadgery station being stuck up by seven bushrangers ; witness, accompanied by Sergeant Carroll and the Gundagai police, left town at half-past nine and arrived at Beveridge’s about twelve and met the Wagga police and proceeded as described by the previous witness; under Sergeant Carroll’s instructions the police advanced on McGlede’s on horseback, about twenty paces apart, all in uniform; the bushrangers opened fire on the police; witness and another constable moved towards the bushrangers, firing on the house and shouting until they startled the horses; when the horses were startled, witness dismounted and joined in the general attack ; the police, at witness’s suggestion, charged on the house, jumping over the fence witness called to the police, “come on, we’ll pepper them,” when witness was within a few yards of the house he saw one bushranger running away ; witness followed him; he fell on his back, as witness thought on purpose to get a good shot at him, so he struck him with his rifle on the arm to disable him, and left him lying on the ground; witness then turned to the house and saw another bushranger, who fired three shots at him ; that was the man who afterwards gave the name of Moonlight; witness snapped his rifle, but it would not go off, having injured it when he struck the man lying on the ground ; Moonlight then ran into the kitchen, followed by witness; two shots were fired from the kitchen through the window, and Sergeant Carroll, who was near the witness, was returning fire; witness pushed the kitchen door open and fired a shot, when Moonlight cried, “I surrender,” and ran out of the back door, followed by witness, who handcuffed him, and then turning round found that the firing had ceased and Constable Bowen was wounded ; recognised the bodies of the dead bushrangers as two of those fighting at McGlede’s; one of them was he whom witness had hit; the elder died about five in the afternoon, the younger about three ; witness saw no one absolutely fire except Scott alias Moonlight ; one bushranger was missing at the close of the fight; Sergeant Carroll went after him, placing witness in charge of the prisoner and arms.

James Nesbitt

Constable Gorman, stationed at Gundagai, corroborated the previous evidence as to the bushrangers opening fire on the police while in uniform. Witness had fired at the older of the two dead bushrangers (whom he identified as Nesbitt alias Lyons) through the kitchen-window, and shot him through the right temple. The rest of the bushrangers then called out, “surrender—we surrender.”

Joseph Brown, detective in the Victorian police force, identified the body of the eldest dead bushranger as that of James Lyons alias Nesbitt; though he believed Nesbitt to be his proper name, he had served a sentence of four and a half years in Pentridge as James Lyons, for assault and robbery, and was discharged about March this year; he was a mate of Scott alias Moonlight since his discharge, and had been under close surveillance; about two months ago, at the time of the Lancefield bank robbery, witness had a conversation with Lyons, who said he and Scott were about to leave the colony; witness believed the younger of the two men to be Augustus Wrenckie, son of a hotelkeeper in Swanston street, Melbourne.

James Nesbitt (alias Lyons) [Source: State Library of Victoria]

Hannah McGlede recognized the dead bodies as those of two men who with four others called at her house on Monday morning and got some bread and milk ; they got on their horses when the police came in sight, and when the police came up the bushrangers got off their horses and went into the house ; witness wanted to run out of the kitchen, but Nesbitt prevented her, pointing his revolver at her; a bullet came through the window, passing so close to witness that she fancied she was shot, and fell into the fireplace ; the bullets then came flying into the kitchen, and Nesbitt begged of Scott to surrender; Scott said no, he would not, that he was not frightened of twenty of the b— traps ; Scott used to load in the kitchen, go out and fire, and return to load; on returning one time he said one of the traps was shot ; Nesbitt had been very frightened before this, running about and dodging at the bullets, but now he took courage and began to fire ; witness got an opportunity then and escaped from the house ; two of the bushrangers had called at her house five days before and asked for milk, and on getting it wanted to pay for it, but witness’s husband refused, and gave them good advice.

Gus Wernicke

Robert McKillop, a duly qualified medical man, deposed as to the cause of death in each case, from numerous gunshot wounds ; Nesbitt had two bullets at the back of the brain, yet lived till five in the afternoon. The jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide.

Constable Webb-Bowen


LATER PARTICULARS.— Dr. Roberts, of Sydney, visited the wounded man, Constable Bowen — who, by the way, is said to be a relative of the late Governor of Victoria — to-day. His opinion was given in evidence at the magisterial inquiry. He does not think it safe to look for, or operate for the extraction of the ball for some days, when he will return to do so. The bushrangers, when committed for trial, will be removed to Darlinghurst gaol. The Gundagai people are enthusiastic over the conduct of the local police. A public meeting will be held on the subject. The police court proceedings will probably last until Saturday. Moonlight was heavily ironed last night, but the irons were taken off him before the sitting of the court to-day, and had not been replaced when I saw him ; but as efforts at escape were expected a constant watch was kept outside his cell.

The following is by the special reporter of the Cootamundra Herald :—

Having spent Tuesday and a good part of Wednesday night in gathering information concerning the whole affair from the police, the McGledes, and others, I am able to give a very full account of the great fight at Wantabadgery. Can also write from a personal meeting and conversation with the members of the gang who survived the fight. Following are the details I gathered :— When the gang made their first surprise at Wantabadgery, twenty seven miles from Gundagai, they came on foot, carrying swags; and are said to have thus previously passed through the township evidently for the purpose of taking stock ; for they have not concealed the fact that it was their intention to attract the police out, capture them, and make a raid upon the banks. They however had formed rash estimates of our brave troopers. They remained at the station; and having gathered all the hands and made sure of them, went and stuck up Shaw’s public-house, a mile and a half distant; gathered all from there (except the hostess), taking them also to the station. Whilst away on this fatal errand, a shearer who happened to be passing the public-house, where he was intending to take up his quarters for the night, saw the woman crying, and got from her his first knowledge of the state of affairs. Having £40 in his own pockets, he made tracks at anything but a trot to Gundagai. He rode furiously into town, reaching there at 10.30 o’clock p.m. At once reported. By a happy coincidence, a fleet messenger carried the news to Wagga. From Wagga the police immediately started for the scene ; but those from Gundagai didn’t leave till ten a.m. Monday. Consequently, the former reached Wantabadgery before daylight on Monday. The gang were evidently expecting them, as on their dismounting and approaching the house, which was a substantial fortress, the whole gang, six in number, rushed out and opened fire upon the police. The gang succeeded in cutting them off from their horses and in driving them into a lagoon where they were up to their waists in water.

At this juncture one of the troopers showed the white feather, a luxuriant patch of thistles (despite the pricks) affording him an ignominious hiding-place. He was subsequently discovered at the station. The gang having secured the horses left the police, who found their way to Tenaudra Park, four miles off. Returning to the station the former took two station horses, four police horses, and a pack-horse, and started for Eurongilly, intimating that they expected four more police from Gundagai whom they would tie up, and cut the man to mincemeat who dared to betray them. On the way to Eurongilly they met Mr. John A. Beveridge with two men, armed, coming to assist the police. These were bailed up, Mr. Beveridge’s horse shot under him, and he was ordered to collect and burn the arms. These orders being carried out, they all started for a settler’s named McGlede. On the way they met with Trooper Wiles of Bethugra alone on the way to join the Gundagai force at the station. The leader thus coolly accosted him, “O, we’ve been looking for you. Bail up!” They disarmed him. Wiles undoubtedly acted properly under the circum stances in surrendering against such formidable odds ; for besides the gang themselves, they were flanked by about a dozen civilians previously pressed into service. They took Wiles, Beveridge, and party to McGlede’s. Here Moonlight (the leader) and his men held a court-martial on Beveridge as to whether they would shoot him, and they decided to carry out the sentence of death, Moonlight levelling his rifle at him said, “I give you three minutes to live.” But here poor old McGlede, whose hoary head seemed to command respect, went on his knees to Moonlight and prayed for Beveridge’s life. Moonlight lowered his rifle and drawing a large bowie-knife flourished it across his face, sayling, “I’ve a b—y good mind to cut off the tip of your nose and ears and make you chew them, you b—r.” Mr. Beveridge, in describing this little bit of playfulness, says he first felt very frightened, but afterwards felt as if he could let the determined wretch do as he chose, whose glaring countenance seemed to paralyse him.

Sergeant Cassin

Moonlight’s attention was here fortunately attracted by an alarm of the approach of troopers; and true enough the house was being approached by the Gundagai police, those from Wagga (who had received fresh supplies of horses from Mr. James Beveridge), and Sergeant Cassin of Adelong—nine in all. The gang turned out to meet them, one of them covering Constable Wiles and threatning to shoot him if he dared to move away. He was on horse back. Senior-sergeant Carroll (Gundagai), who had command of the whole force by seniority of rank, ordered his men to defile so as to present as scattered a front to the enemy as possible, and form a half-circle. In this style they advanced upon the house to a distance of two hundred and fifty yards. The gang secured their horses in a small paddock, except one which they hitched to the corner of the house. The officer commanding called out “surrender” when all the force took it up; but Moonlight savagely replied, “surrender be d—d come on and fight it out!” and fired the first shot at Constable Gorman, who was on the extreme left, then one at Carroll, and a third at Cassin in quick succession. The troopers then opened fire. At the very commencement of the conflict the prisoner Constable Wiles made a daring and successful attempt to join his comrades, risking his life. The man who, as stated above, had him covered, was obliged to turn and fire at the police, when Wiles made a clean bolt of it. “One, two, three,” went the shot-guns, and the bullets whizzed past his ears. Several shots were fired at him; but he fortunately escaped. He managed afterwards to get possession of a musket and revolver, and took up his position in the ranks.


The police were kept at bay for about half-an-hour during a continuous shower of bullets—four of the gang leading inside the house for Moonlight and one of the youngest of them, who appeared to be a capital marksman. The troopers made the best use of fences, stumps, and trees to protect themselves. Sergeant Carroll, becoming impatient, advanced to within one hundred yards under cover of a brush fence. They were attacking the front of the house at this time; and Moonlight and his comrades retreated into a detached kitchen. The sergeant made a rush for the house and managed to put a bullet under the front window into the building.
The civilians now finding it becoming rather sultry in the house made their escape across the paddocks in the direction opposite to the police. The gang remained in the kitchen, keeping McGlede’s wife with them, flattering themselves that she would be the means of protection for them from the troopers’ bullets. They thought the police knew she was in the kitchen with them and that they would not fire in for fear of hitting her. The sergeant took up a position at the right corner of the house ; and here he had a marvellous escape.


Moonlight, observing Gorman approaching on the left in a wheat-paddock, boldly stepped outside to fire at him. Gorman was only fifty yards off. “Here’s a b—y trap,” said Moonlight, “coming through the wheat-paddock,” and, sighting him, fired. Gorman allowed him a second or two for aim and suddenly ducked, the ball passing over his head; and then replied by firing three shots, but missing his target. He made for a small stump, about a foot thick, very low, and put himself in a lying position behind it. Here he was fired at by Moonlight three times, each bullet going into the stump. Gorman fired again, ripping up the ground in front of Moonlight’s feet, which caused the latter to retreat to the back of the kitchen. It was during this interchange of courtesies that Carroll had his narrow escape. He was not observed by Moonlight, though only ten yards from him, hidden by the corner of the building ; he took aim at the daring captain, whose fall appeared certain. But the sergeant’s rifle snapped. He coolly tried the same cartridge a second time—but with the same result, when he drew his revolver. Too late however. The doomed bird had flown! Gorman made a rush for the house and fired a shot through the kitchen window.

Constable Williamson here took up the position vacated by Gorman, and the latter went inside the house. Constable Bowen, just as Williamson was leaving him, was at this time making for the kitchen when to the horror of his comrades he was shot by Moonlight. The ball entered the left side of his neck, making a decline towards the spinal cord; and exclaiming “my God, I’m shot!” the brave young hero fell. He had, in the heat of the contest, exposed himself too much to the fire of the enemy. He treated cover with contempt, but paid the penalty of his courage. The struggle now waxed so fierce that no one had time to look after the fallen man. But the fight was nearly at an end. Bowen and Constable Barry had been together at the former’s fall and Moonlight and another of the gang, a youngster, were outside the kitchen at the back, so that they were not seen by Carroll, Gorman, or Williamson. Moonlight’s mate here wanted him to cave in ; but he refused, and was about to fight again when the young man threw his arms round him to prevent him shooting. Whilst in this act Constable Barry fired and shot the young man in the side, and he dropped from his daring captain and afterwards died from the wound.

The captain was here driven back to the kitchen, where the whole party had a warm time of it from the front. Gorman, who was in the house, here got into one of the skillion rooms, and pulled the curtain off the window to enable him to see into the kitchen. One of the gang (whose name is given as Rogan) fired at him, the bullet whizzing past his elbow. Gorman placed his revolver in the broken pane, and, taking deadly aim, shot Rogan in the temple. He never spoke after being hit. Senior-sergeant Carroll then ran to the back of the kitchen on the right side ; Gorman and Williamson on the left; Cassin, Wiles, and Barry on the right. The gang, from the inside, then called out “we’ll surrender!” Carroll told them to come outside and throw up their arms. One ran out and rolled over. Cassin, thinking he was wanting to have a shot in a lying position, the better for his aim and self-protection, rushed forward and struck him with the rifle across the arms to disable him. Gorman rushed into the kitchen, revolver in hand, and secured a second man, knocking him down with his revolver. Moonlight made a rush as if to escape, when Cassin struck him on the shoulder with the butt of the rifle, knocked him down, and secured him. The fight—a most desperate one, that proved the gallantry of our brave troopers—was now virtually over, having lasted nearly an hour. It was then found that the sixth man was missing, and it was concluded that he got away with the civilians at the time they escaped from the house. After these men were secured, to the surprise of the police they found Mrs. McGlede crouched in the fireplace, her husband and children being concealed in a cellar. They also discovered that Mrs. McGlede had had a very narrow escape, a ball having passed close by her and perforated a funnel. Here also took place a most affecting scene. Moonlight was deeply moved at the sight of one of his comrades lying dead upon the floor. He tenderly raised the dead man’s head upon his knee, saying he had been the best friend he ever had. He caressed him, and bathed his own hands in his comrade’s blood. It was also found that one of the young members of the gang had received a ball through the muscle of his left arm; but it was only a flesh wound.

Directly the struggle was over attention was directed to Constable Bowen, the wounded police man. Dr. McKillop, who was in the vicinity, having been requested to be near by senior-sergeant Carroll, was sent for. When he came he found Bowen in a very critical state. After consultation over his state, a messenger was dispatched to Wagga for a second medical man, and he arrived during the night. At the request of poor Bowen himself, the Rev. Mr. Holt was brought from Gundagai. But though the ball was not extracted he seemed to keep himself up in good spirits and was able to go to sleep, everything possible being done to give him relief.

The prisoners were guarded in McGlede’s all that night, and brought to Gundagai on Tuesday afternoon. But before starting into town with their precious dead and living charges, the police made a happy discovery—one which had led to some comical surmises. From a hint dropped casually by Mrs. McGlede to the police that they should make a further search of the house and kitchen, “for fear that any of the marauders might be left behind,” they did make the search. They were handsomely rewarded. In one of the skillion rooms of the house they found the man who had escaped, whose flight had caused the senior-sergeant, with several other troopers and two volunteers (the latter having rendered assistance to the police during the battle) to set out on a wild-goose chase towards Junee. The escaper was found snugly sandwiched, to coin an appropriate word, between two mattresses on the bed, having two loaded revolvers with him. Some egg shells found also in this ludicrous nest have led to the jocular suspicions before referred to. Old people, you know, are very often superstitious ; and the only way in which the heads of the McGlede house hold could account for the remarkable circumstance about the shells was that Providence had directed the hen to go and lay there especially for the poor hungry and affrighted man—a repetition of the scriptural incident of Elijah and the ravens. But most people don’t believe in miracles in these modern times, and try to account for it differently. Your reporter doesn’t profess to be able to unravel the mystery.

The wife of Constable Bowen was away on a holiday trip to Sydney; and on receipt of the sad news of the fall of her husband received a fearful shock. She came up by the mail train on Wednesday morning, reaching Gundagai by coach from Cootamundra at noon. I met her on the way and was the bearer of a kindly message to her from her husband, whom I had seen that morning at daybreak. She was in a frightful state of anxiety. “He’s dead!” she screamed; but I hastened to assure her that he was alive and showing signs of recovering, and she burst into tears of joy. It was a most affecting scene and tried the nerves of your poor scribe. It was with difficulty she was held in the coach by Sergeant Parker, who did all he could with others to soothe her. Seeing she had a suspicion that I was not telling the sacred truth I briefly related my interview with him. He had requested me to tell her that he was anxious to see her ; that he felt he was safe, and was being kindly nursed. She warmly shook me by the hand on parting, and seemed relieved. Her husband is a tall and very handsome young man, of whom she might well feel proud. He appears to be about twenty-seven, is well educated, and of very gentlemanly address. When I saw him on Wednesday morning he had just awoke from a serene sleep—somewhat refreshed, but sobbing with pain. His arms were paralysed, and he said his pains were of a sharp shooting nature.

Towards morning a messenger had brought him the news that the gang were the Kellies, and he almost rose from his bed with delight. He said he had been longing for an encounter with this notorious band. He will, however, by this time have learned that this joy is yet to come if ever. If it ever does happen that the police have a conflict with the Kellies, if the brave young Bowen should be against them he will either fight a manly and glorious victory or die in the struggle.

Mr. Edward Horder writes in very complimentary terms of the courage and determination of the New South Wales police, as lately displayed in the speedy capture of the Wantabadgery bushrangers. His object in writing to us (Echo) is to suggest that some thing should be done to assist the family of Constable Bowen, and he concludes his letter, as follows:— “We all know that in times of ordinary sickness it is expensive to provide the necessary comforts, ,&c. I therefore enclose herewith my cheque for £5 towards that object. I trust a good sum will be collected and forwarded to Mrs. Bowen without delay. I do not for one moment doubt that all our men engaged in this encounter deserve the fullest and most liberal recognition it is in the power of the government to bestow.”

[Source: “INQUEST ON THE BODIES.” The Goulburn Herald and Chronicle (NSW : 1864 – 1881) 22 November 1879: 4.]