Ten Bushrangers Who Deserve Their Own Movie

With multiple film productions about Ned Kelly underway, it’s clear that bushrangers are becoming a popular topic once more. However, there are many bushrangers who deserve their own films as well and here are some of the great stories waiting to be brought to life. Some have been brought to the screen before in silent films that have since vanished, some were slated to be filmed but the projects never got off the ground and some just had bad outings in the past.

10. William Westwood: Few stories in bushranging are equal parts adventurous and tragic. William Westwood fills this to a tee. Westwood arrived in Australia as a teenage convict and soon became a highwayman, many oral traditions painted him as a gallant bandit who was courteous to women and more prone to larking about than committing robberies, his horsemanship considered second to none. However, the brutality of the penal system saw him lead a riot on Norfolk Island during which he murdered three men in cold blood. A film exploring just what causes a man not known to be violent to snap and commit a triple homicide would be gripping viewing and a tale that to date has never graced the screen.
Potential Casting: Tom Hughes (Victoria)


9. Teddy the Jewboy: Edward Davis aka Teddy the Jewboy was Australia’s only known Jewish bushranger. Starting out as a street kid in London, he was transported for a failed shoplifting and absconded from Hyde Park Barracks to become a bushranger. Thanks to his father’s connections he soon joined a gang of bushrangers and rapidly climbed the ranks to become their leader. This diminutive, heavily tattooed Jew with a penchant for pink ribbons began a campaign to punish the cruel superintendents who brutalised the convicts assigned to them – but never on a Saturday, according to the legends, as that was the Sabbath. No doubt a colourful character such as this would make for exciting viewing as well as highlight the cultural diversity present in Australia in the 1800s, even if it is within the criminal fraternity.
Potential Casting: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter)


8. Dan Morgan: Morgan has been brought to life on screen twice already, the first time in a silent film that has since disappeared and the second in 1975’s Mad Dog Morgan starring Dennis Hopper. Why, then, does Morgan deserve his own film when so many bushrangers haven’t had even one film? In short the true story of Morgan is yet to be shown on screen. Mad Dog Morgan took frequent and somewhat bizarre liberties with the facts despite using Margaret Carnegie’s Morgan the Bold Bushranger as a source. Examples of the weird liberties taken in the ’75 film include: Dennis Hopper’s Irish accent; making John Wendlan and Sergeant Smyth recurring villains; turning Success from a prison hulk into a fortress prison; the inclusion of Billy, an Aboriginal bushranger; removing Morgan’s moustache to make him look more like Abraham Lincoln and references to the Tasmanian Tiger as an “extinct animal” despite the last Tasmanian Tiger dying in captivity in 71 years later. The true story of Morgan would make for an incredible Gothic Western or psychological drama with the gaps in the history making room for some artistic license to explain what made Morgan the man he was.
Potential Casting: Sam Parsonson (Gallipoli, Coffin Rock)

7. Jessie Hickman: Elizabeth McIntyre aka Jessie Hickman was commonly known as the “Lady Bushranger” in the Blue Mountains district. A former circus trick rider and champion rough rider, Hickman found herself in a life of crime, stealing cattle from the neighbouring farmers and hiding out with her gang of young men in her headquarters in the Nullo Mountain. Hickman was an amazing rider and master of disguise, she was a wild child who would rather give up her family than leave the bush. Hickman’s story is the subject of an in-development film entitled Lady Bushranger, so here’s hoping that production grows some legs so it can get up and running.
Potential Casting: Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge)


6. Matthew Brady: He may not be a household name now but at one time Matthew Brady was the bushranger’s bushranger. Transported to Van Diemans Land in the early days of the colony, he and nine other convicts stole a boat and rowed from Sarah Island to Hobart where they took to the bush and set the bar for all bushrangers that came after. They robbed travellers and farms but Brady also enjoyed grander gestures such as breaking into the prison at Sorell and releasing the inmates then locking up the redcoats who had been hunting him. His chivalry towards women was famous and in his condemned cell he received letters and gifts from dozens of female admirers. Brady’s life was full of adventure and drama – perfect for a big screen experience.
Potential Casting: Thomas Cocquerel (In Like Flynn, Red Dog: True Blue)

5. Martin Cash: Perhaps the best candidate for Tasmania’s patron bushranger is Martin Cash who is most famous for his memoirs, which were published in the 1870s. An Irish convict, he started fresh in New South Wales before a stock theft charge saw him flee to Van Diemans Land with his lover. After escaping from Port Arthur twice, he led the band of bushrangers known as Cash and Co. Cash is another character whose doomed romance forms a vital part of the narrative, his passion leading him to a long stint at Norfolk Island. Cash was handsome, cheeky, passionate and wild and with a good supporting cast to pad out the story it could very well be one for the ages.
Potential Casting: Paul Mescal (God’s Creatures, Carmen)

4. Harry Power: Harry Power was Victoria’s greatest highwayman, gaining a price on his head of £500 at the peak of his career. Best remembered as Ned Kelly’s tutor in crime, to date he has only been seen on screen as a bit part in The Last Outlaw played by Gerard Kennedy and will be seen again in the adaptation of True History of the Kelly Gang portrayed by Russell Crowe. Power, however, was an intriguing character in his own right with robberies, chases, romance and prison escapes all part and parcel of the highwayman’s tale. While his association with Ned Kelly is what most people know him for, that association only lasted a couple of months leaving so much more of the story untouched and ripe or the picking.
Potential Casting: Philip Quast (Hacksaw Ridge, The Brides of Christ, Picnic at Hanging Rock)

3. The Clarke Gang: Of all the bushranging gangs that held Australia in a state of tension and fear, few can truly compare to the Clarke Gang who roamed New South Wales in the mid 1860s. Stock theft, robbery, raids and murder are plentiful in the story of their brief and violent reign of terror that concluded on the gallows of Darlinghurst Gaol. To date this incredible story has never been brought to screen and perhaps is far too epic to contain in one standalone film, lending itself better to a mini-series given how numerous the depredations of the gang were. The Clarke story is one of family, lawlessness and the dark side of human nature.
Potential Casting: Hugh Sheridan (Packed to the Rafters, Boar)

2. Frank Gardiner: Few bushrangers earned their place in the pantheon of bushranging like Francis Christie aka Frank Gardiner. Gardiner introduced many of the greatest bushrangers to the game including Johnny Gilbert, John O’Meally and Ben Hall. Gardiner’s greatest claim to fame was the robbery of the gold escort at Eugowra Rocks which was one of the largest gold heists in history. Gardiner’s ill-fated romance with Kitty Brown (Ben Hall’s sister in law) makes for brilliant drama and no doubt the mix of romance, action and sexy outlaws on horses would be a great combination. A film version of Gardiner’s career titled The Legend of Frank Gardiner by Matthew Holmes, the man behind The Legend of Ben Hall, has been in development for a time and would be a fantastic opportunity to bring this fascinating story to life.
Potential Casting: Luke Arnold (Black Sails, INXS: Never Year Us Apart)


1. Captain Moonlite: Few bushranger stories have the potential to tug the heart-strings like that of Andrew George Scott aka Captain Moonlite. The tale of a well-educated pastor’s fall from grace into infamy is gripping, full of drama, humour and the highest profile LGBTI+ romance in bushranger history. From his romances in Bacchus Marsh and his alleged robbery of the bank in Mount Egerton with subsequent playboy lifestyle in Sydney to his grueling prison sentence in Pentridge full of misadventure and the desperation that led him to Wantabadgery Station, Scott’s story would captivate audiences. Throw in his love affair with fellow bushranger James Nesbitt and you have a scandalous and topical tale of forbidden love to boot. A Moonlite film by Rohan Spong went into production several years ago but was never publicly released, so as we reach the 140th anniversary of his hanging it would be nice to see him get some love.
Ideal cast: Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, Legion, Downton Abbey)


Honourable mentions:

There are far too many bushranger stories to bring to life as standalone films, which makes a list of ten extremely difficult to choose. Here are some of the bushrangers who almost made the cut.

* Captain Thunderbolt and Mary Ann Bugg: The story of Frederick Wordsworth Ward and his family is perfect for a film. A loveable rogue with his tough and resourceful wife who frequently sacrificed her own freedom for his. It’s a love story and a tragedy.

* Captain Melville: The gentleman bushranger Captain Melville is one of Victoria’s most Infamous. From being a convict to a notorious brigand to getting busted in a brothel and beyond Melville is a colourful character who will keep audiences entertained.

* The Kenniff brothers: The tragic tale of Queensland’s most infamous bushranging family would make for a brilliant and gripping film. A movie that portrays the intense legal drama that unfolded at the turn of the century to prove that Paddy and Jim Kenniff murdered Albert Dahlke and Constable Doyle then incinerated the remains while trying to recreate what really happened would be incredibly moving and memorable.

* The Ribbon Gang: The uprising known as the Bathurst Rebellion led by Ralph Entwistle is epic and dramatic. Kicked off after Entwistle was unfairly punished for skinny dipping, it became one of the most incredible outbreaks of bushranging in history with Entwistle’s gang rumoured to have exceeded 100 men all raiding, pillaging and murdering in the district before a series of battles with the military saw the bushrangers vanquished, ten bushrangers meeting their end on the scaffold.

* The Gilbert-Hall Gang: The last days of the Hall gang were portrayed in the award-winning The Legend of Ben Hall, but aside from a long forgotten TV series from 1975 and several missing silent films, the glory days of the gang have not been committed to film – and none ever portrayed accurately. Hall and Gilbert with John O’Meally, John Vane and Mickey Burke were once the most formidable bandits in Australia, bailing up Canowindra and Bathurst multiple times and committing countless highway robberies. Few bushranging tales can compete with this one for sheer adventure, drama and tragedy.

* Henry Maple: The story of Henry Maple, the boy bushranger, would make for a tragic and spellbinding story. A taut and suspenseful film could track the brief, wild period that Maple struck terror into rural Victoria in the 1920s with his sidekick Rob Banks, culminating his fatal standoff against an armed posse in the bush. Unlike other bushranger stories it would have the unique aspect of modern technology such as automobiles and the startling youth of the lead character to make for a bushranger film unlike any other.

Lawless: The Real Bushrangers (Review)

One of the most exciting things for bushranger enthusiasts in 2017 was Foxtel’s original documentary series Lawless: the Real Bushrangers, the first time in years that a documentary about the bushrangers had been attempted. Several documentaries about Ned Kelly were made in the early 2000s riding on the success of Peter Carey’s book True History of the Kelly Gang but the last time any attempts had been made to do anything about the other bushrangers was the abandoned docu-drama mini-series Bushranger Country in the early 1990s (read about that here). Lawless had a clear mission statement too – to extract the truth from the myths and solve some of the most enduring mysteries in bushranging history – no mean feat. The series focused on four mysteries: did Ned Kelly kill in cold blood at Stringybark Creek? ; who shot Constable Webb-Bowen during the Wantabadgery siege? ; Was Ben Hall murdered in his sleep? ; and did Paddy and Jim Kenniff really commit the murders they were convicted for?

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Bail Up!: The Kelly Gang attack the police camp at Stringybark Creek.

Episode one was very controversial upon its release for its anti-Kelly leanings as much as for the revelations pertaining to the actual location of the shootings at Stringybark Creek. The re-enactments are visually glorious but woefully inaccurate – a trend that is consistent throughout the series. The effort made to utilise modern technology to ascertain the correct location of the shootings is impressive but definitely ruffles feathers if you prescribe to any of the alternative site theories. The inclusion of descendants to drive home the point that these were real people who were involved in the incident, not abstract ideas of good and evil, is potent. We also see well known bushranger historian and general enthusiast Steve Jager getting a brilliant Ned Kelly tattoo to raise the issue of men with Ned Kelly tattoos having a statistically higher chance of dying young from violent means, a study that Lawless team member Roger Byard entered the public spotlight over a few years back. Overall the conclusions of this episode are compelling but will not be enough to persuade Kelly buffs. The star of this installment is Adam Ford whose archaeological approach is the most significant element in terms of its findings.

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Who Killed Constable Bowen?: Gus Wernicke watches as Constable Webb-Bowen reloads.

The Captain Moonlite episode is more of the same, using a mix of high tech and forensics to work out the layout of McGlede’s farm and the nature of Gus Wernicke’s wounds, however this episode hinges more on the work of historian Kiera Lindsey. Lindsey creates a profile of Andrew Scott based on available documents and highlights the questionable approach to his trial. This profile of Scott makes him more accessible to the viewer and begins to make sense of his decisions. Lindsey also refers to Scott’s letters, written in his last days, to confirm the relationship between him and James Nesbitt. Adam Ford does brilliant work on the site of the McGlede’s farm, but the conclusion doesn’t quite gel with existing information. Once more there are descendants, though the people selected are a little on the tenuous side.

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You’ll never hang Ben Hall: Was Ben Hall’s death an illegal execution?

Episode three is all about Ben Hall and it is Byard’s chance to shine. Using forensic testing he establishes a greater understanding of how Hall died and in conjunction with the research from Kiera Lindsey reveals a chilling fact about the conduct of the police on the day Hall was killed. Adam Ford meanwhile goes on a wild goose chase in a field of lupin because he didn’t do his research correctly and is determined to find what he considers to be the true location of Hall’s death based on a deliberately incorrect map. Unfortunately this episode is probably the weakest of the bunch based solely on the fact that there’s considerably less of it to work with.

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In the name of the father: The gruesome scene in Lethbridge’s Pocket as the Kenniffs dispose of evidence.

The final episode is Mike Munro’s crowning moment, putting the spotlight on his ancestors – the Kenniff brothers. This is the episode that really makes the series as Munro’s passion for the story helps to draw out more detail than in the previous three installments. Munro has clearly spent a considerable amount of time researching the story and for many this is their introduction to it. Munro demonstrates the wild Carnarvon Ranges and some of the spots utilised by the Kenniffs – secrets handed down through his family. Kiera Lindsey’s research complements Munro’s brilliantly and we see Adam Ford and Roger Byard in top form too, uncovering archaeological evidence of the incident as well as solving a big unknown about the manner in which the victims were disposed of. The revelations about who may have been the real culprits is a huge bombshell unveiled by a local indigenous elder. As the episode concludes it drives home the importance of this history on Munro’s family as the effects are echoing into a sixth generation of the family.

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The Lawless team use a variety of new technologies to piece together clues.

Overall the series is a slick, stylish and engaging foray into the world of bushrangers. The episodes are somewhat frustrating in their limited scope, focused on one aspect of a single story each, yet this will appeal to the casual viewer or people who know very little about bushrangers. The revelations in each episode are definitely worth further scrutiny and open up possibilities for future investigations. The relationships between the team members is one of the keys to the success of the series, especially the blossoming bromance between Adam Ford and Mike Munro. This is clearly a well chosen group of experts who are both very good at what they do and are also engaging to watch, regardless of whether you agree with their opinions. The DVD itself is light on features, only offering the four episodes and subtitles as well as scene selection, which is somewhat disappointing as there was a wealth of supplementary material featured on the website and social media for the show including interviews and interactive scenes that could have been added as special features. Hopefully if sales are strong Umbrella will be able to produce a Blu-Ray edition with the extras down the line (as long as demand for it exists). There are also rumoured plans for a second series that would be absolutely fantastic as there are a great many more mysteries to uncover. It would be amazing to see the team tackle mysteries such as the murder of the Special Constables at Jinden to establish if the Clarke Gang were responsible; where and when Frank Gardiner died; what happened to the skulls of Ned Kelly and Dan Morgan; or whether Captain Thunderbolt really did cheat death and so many more. There’s definitely plenty of material to mine for future installments but until then we have this wonderful quartet to keep our tastes satiated.

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3D graphics help to illustrate the crime scenes.

Lawless: The Real Bushrangers is available on DVD from most retailers of fine audio-visual produce or online through Umbrella Entertainment.

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The drama in the courthouse continues to rumble on as the jury is given one last round of the evidence in the case of the murder of Constable Doyle and Albert Dahlke. The trial rumbles to its dramatic conclusion, the judge recapitulates the evidence to the jury and the brothers are given their fate.

Part One

Part Two


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Addresses to the Jury

Early on Saturday morning the court was filled and before proceedings commenced there was riot standing room inside. Among those present during the day were the Premier and the Minister for Railways, who sat at the barristers’ table, while many prominent citizens were to be seen standing in the crowd in the court room. With the punctuality that has marked him throughout the trial his Honor took his seat on the bench shortly before ten o’clock, and a few minutes later Mr. McGrath resumed his address to the jury. The prisoner’s advocate spoke altogether for three hours and a half.
On the previous evening he had pointed out the weak links in the chain of circumstantial evidence, and laid particular stress on the fact that the only direct testimony connecting the prisoners with Doyle or Dahlke on March 30 was that of the aboriginal tracker, Sam Johnson. Many discrepancies in Sam’s story were alluded to. Sam had said that he saw Tom Kenniff there, but a Crown witness had proved that Tom Kenniff was many miles away. Then Sam recognised James Kenniff though he had never seen him before, and he said he WORE A RED TIE.
With the aboriginal’s fondness for bright colors Sam had fixed on red, while as a matter of fact it was not probable that a bushman like James Kenniff would be wearing a tie at all. He urged that the Crown had yet to prove that Doyle was dead there was no conclusive proof that he was dead. He referred to the evidence of Dr. Voss regarding the burnt remains. The doctor would not say positively whether they were the remains of a black or a white man — in fact he could say nothing except that they were human remains. That the Kenniffs went about armed was nothing against them. Also it was not apparent that they had any animus against Constable Doyle. He dwelt at length on the evidence of Thornton and Mulholland proving that the prisoners had been at Hutton Creek on March 30, over 90 miles away from Lethbridge’s Pocket, and also referred in detail to Sam Johnson’s evidence concerning the shots he had heard fired. On Saturday morning Mr. McGrath again referred to the tracker’s evidence, whose mind, he said, was so disordered by fright that he was prepared to see Kenniffs in every person he met that day. If the Kenniffs had been there they would have had no difficulty in catching the blackfellow. They were weil mourned, while Johnson was riding an old cast-off police horse. Were they going to hang two white men on the uncorroborated evidence of a blackfellow — a blackfollow who DID NOT TAKE THE OATH and had no idea of religion? Against his evidence they had the unshaken testimony of Thornton. He then dwelt at length, on the fallacy of trusting to circumstantial evidence, and concluded his address by an appeal to the jury to give the men fair play and the benefit of any doubts that existed, and “may God direct you to do what is right.”
Sam Johnson

Mr. Lilley said that after Mr. McGrath’s lengthy speech it would be inconsistent with his duty if he did not also address the jury and thereupon spoke for about an hour in a very passionate strain. It was not the calm, clear, dispassionate, analytical address usually expected from a Crown Prosecutor, but rather a vehement appeal to the jury to find the prisoners guilty. He characterised the alibi set up by the defence as a vile conspiracy supported by deliberate lying. In his usual overbearing style he brusquely called the witness Thornton a perjured liar, and was equally hard on the other witnesses for the defence. He then gave the jury the Crown’s theory of the murder, as outlined in his opening address. When James Kenniff was arrested, he said, Patrick Kenniff came suddenly round the hill and shot Dahlke. After Dahlke was killed, Doyle had to die too. “And there,” exclaimed Barrister Lilley, pointing to the prisoners with dramatic gesture, “there are, the murderers. He was butchered to death by those fiends.” As Mr. Lilley is sfond of epithetepithe s he will perhaps pardon us if we term his speech fiendish and vindictive. Yes, Mr. Lilley certainly EARNED HIS BLOOD MONEY.

Jim Kenniff

It was about 12.45pm when His Honor, the Chief Justice, commenced his summing-up to the jury. He said that the prisoners were, as the Jury were aware, charged with the wilful murder of Constable George Doyle at Lethbridge’s Pocket on March 30 last. The facts of the case were very simple. He explained to the jury what was the law on murder and manslaughter. On the evidence in this case it was murder. He could not see anything to suggest manlslaughter, nor could he see from the evidence that the prisoners had taken the life of Doyle unintentionally. It meant that the prisoners were guilty of murder or nothing. If two or more persons formed a common purpose to prosecute an unlawful act in conjunction, and in the prosecution of that act a murder was committed, they were both deemed guilty. If the jury came to the conclusion upon the evidence that the prisoners formed a common purpose to evade arrest by Constable Doyle on that day, and for that purpose they used firearms and killed Constable Doyle, each would be GUILTY OF MURDER.

Paddy Kenniff

No doubt the jury had paid careful attention to the evidence. There were various opinions held about circumstantial evidence. Some people thought that circumstantial evidence was better than direct evidence. In some cases it was better than direct evidence because there was a probability of some people who gave direct evidence tellig untruths. The advantage of circumstantial evidence was that if the facts were established there was no object gained by falsehood. Circumstantial facts, if established and put together, were more satisfactory than the direct evidence of one or two persons. It was like a puzzle they had seen in their childhood, where a lot of blocks had to be put together before they had the picture. They could not forget that illustration as applied to this case. There was evidence that four persons met at Hutton Creek on that Sunday morning. What was material was that there was direct evidence that four people met there on that Sunday. That depended entirely on the assertion of those people. They supplied a description of the camp of the things in that camp, and said it could not be possible for the prisoners to be at Lethbridge’s Pocket on that date. In the case of murder — life or death, and even in ‘any other case — the jury should weigh the evidence very carefully to ascertain the true facts and to draw inferences. It would be AN AWFUL THING to convict men of murder or, indeed, any crime on conjectures. But he supposed no jury would do such a thing in these days.


His Honor then referred to a case quoted by Mr. McGrath which happened in the reign of Elizabeth. It was not for the jury, because that case had been a miscarriage of justice, to do anything of the kind now. His Honor next referred to another point raised, that the jury could not convict because no body had been found. There had been a case of murder tried in that court where the body had not been found. It was shown that a few miles out at sea the man had been shot through the chest, the blood spouted out, and he fell overboard into the sea. The jury were satisfied that he was dead. It was necessary to show that the prisoners or accused persons committed the deed by direct or circumstantial evidence. It was the duty of the jury in capital cases to give their attention to the evidence. If they had any doubt it was their duty to give the prisoner the benefit of that doubt. If they were satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt, they should not hesitate to do their duty. It was a lamentable thing for young men to be tried for murder. It was a painful duty for himself and the jury to perform and it was a painful thing that men should be murdered, but crime could not be allowed to go unpunished. The jury would have to weigh the evidence dispassionately and see what conclusion they should arrive at. His Honor at some length referred to the evidence of Doyle, Dahlke, and Sam Johnson leaving the Upper Warrego Police Station on the morning of March 23. He described the situation of Lethbridge’s Pocket, and referred to the fact that Doyle was OUT WITH WARRANTS for the prisoners for horse-stealing. The witness Charles Pearson Tom had seen tracks on his run. That was a coincidence. When Sam Johnson espied three men in Lethhridge’s Pocket they were riding horses and had two pack-horses. Sam Johnson knew Pat and Tom Kenniff, but had never seen James Kenniff before, though he knew he was out looking for him. His Honor then referred to what happened in the Pocket that morning, as given in evidence, and to Sam Johnson escaping through the range to a place rolled the Pump-hole where he came upon Burke, who went back to the pocket, which was a courageous thing for him to do. In referring to the blood-stained saddle on Dahlke’s mare, His Honor said “The man was gone from the saddle, which was covered with blood. Blood was on the withers and mane of the horse, which indicated that whoever sat in that saddle had received a wound of some kind to cause such a quantity of blood to come. The jury would probably come to the conclusion that he was shot. From that they would infer that Dahlke was the last man riding in that saddle and had been shot, which. caused him to bleed so copiously. His Honor referred to the next visit paid to the pocket, where little heaps apparently made by leaves and not logs were found, under which was found to be what Millard said was blood. There were THREE POOLS OF BLOOD from which, it might be inferred, that Dahlke was killed there, and if they assumed Doyle was dead, the blood might have come from him. His Honor next referred to the apple tree and the log on which bullet wounds were found. This showed that the man fired at moved to the right in a line with the log. He had been missed again and again and had moved to the right where something had occurred, which was probably the cause of the pools of blood. There were the pack-bags which Burke had seen on the Sunday which were gone on the Tuesday when he returned to the pocket. Therefore somebody must have been at the pocket between the Sunday and Tuesday and taken them away. The bodies had been burned and the bones pounded down, before they were put into the pack-bags.

Constable Doyle

At this stage the court adjourned for lunch. On resuming, His Honor continued:

Dr. Voss’ evidence had proved that the bags contained human remains. These bags had been proved to contain the remains of a man or men. They might assume, so far, that they were not the remains of Doyle or Dahlke. In the pocket on the Sunday morning Dahlke’s horse was found with blood sprinkled over the saddle and mane. Doyle’s horse was found two days later with the pack-bags across the saddle. Other things had been found in the Pocket belonging to the missing men. Neither Doyle nor Dahlke had been heard of since that time. There was the evidence then to justify, them in coming to the conclusion that the pack-bags contained the REMAINS OF DOYLE AND DAHLKE: that they had been murdered in that pocket. By whom was another matter. Evidence had been given that Doyle and Dahlke had gone out to arrest the prisoners, and had come upon them in that pocket and remains were afterwards found in the pack-bags.

Under those circumstances he thought that there was not sufficient evidence before the jury to enable them to draw an inference that they had been murdered by the prisoners, if the evidence stopped there. But it did not stop there. He would call their attention to a singular fact. The two prisoners disappeared. Nobody saw them excepting the two witnesses who said they saw them on Hutton Vale on the Sunday. With the exception of these two persons they appeared to have disappeared from civilisation for a week less than three months, when they were arrested near a camp at or near Mitchell, armed with two rifles, while two revolvers were found at the camp.

Those facts were the outline, or skeleton of the case. Some facts were not disputed, excepting the evidence of Sam Johnson. He would ask the jury whether they believed Doyle was dead. Though the prisoners were not charged with killing Dahlke the deeds took place at the same time, it was one transaction. They were hale, hearty men. Doyle was a policeman going out with a warrant. It did not appear whether Dahlke was interested in that warrant. There was evidence that James Kenniff and Dahlke had met before, and were not the best of friends. If they believed Burke’s story James Kenniff had said that he was a better man than when he was on Babilboora, and Pat Kenniff had said “Whatever Dahlke gets you’ll get.” Dahlke had thought it necessary to go with Doyle to arrest the two prisoners. He need not describe in detail how the two men were equipped. Doyle had not been seen since, and there was no reason suggested why he SHOULD SUDDENLY VANISH off the face of the earth. His father is still alive. It was proved and sworn that on the occasion they left Doyle wore on his arm two little red armlets made up with two rings which had been given to him by Millard. He had here an exhibit similar to the armlets Doyle wore. Doyle also had with him five spare bullets, which he carried in his belt. Dahlke wore in the lapel of his coat some bouquet pins. His Honor described how those pins had been found at the flat rock. Dahlke’s mother had given them to him. He then referred to the flat rock which bore signs of having carried a fierce fire, and of the fatty substance found on it and in the crevices. Also the two sticks which had been used as pokers, with charred ends covered with fat and grease. A piece of vertebrae was found, fat still remaining between the bones, showing that the man could not be long dead. His Honor further dwelt on the fact of the two rings and the pins found. After referring to the chances of one man in a hundred wearing those pins, the learned Judge said that there was a reasonable probability of the remains being Doyle and Dahlke’s. That was for the jury to say and if they had any reasonable doubt they knew how to give effect to it if they had no reason to doubt that it was Doyle and Dahlke who were burned on that rock, and that they were dead, the next thing to consider was WHO DID IT? They would probably come to the conclusion that they were murdered that day. They would come to the conclusion that the same men that killed those men covered the blood on the ground, and that the same men burned the bodies on the rock. The first thing the murderers would do would be to hide all traces of their crime. Three men were seen in the Pocket, and they did not know what time the tracker would come back again. He then referred to the time Burke was at the Pocket, and what happened when he left till the next Tuesday. The murderer or murderers had come back and had lit fires to hide the marks of the blood on the ground, and had lit a fire on the other side of the creek. Mr. Lilley had suggested that they might have had an idea of burning the bodies there. By Tuesday they had done what they proposed to do for the purpose of hiding the traces of their crime ; they had burned the bodies, packed the contents in the pack-bags, which they threw across the police horse George. Whoever they were they were trying to conceal their crime. This was attempted but was frustrated by the horse George getting loose and coming back to Lethbridge’s Pocket. Two men met their death, and the murderers endeavored to remove all traces of their crime. That was what the circumstantial evidence lead to.

Albert Dahlke and Boudicea

Various people had various ideas concerning the credibility of ABORIGINAL EVIDENCE. Some maintained that aboriginals were not truthful at all, that they would say anything that was told to them. They must judge Sam Johnson by his evidence, by his demeanor in the witness-box and the probability of his story ; it was a most consistent story. His Honor then read over Sam Johnson’s evidence. That was all the evidence of what took place, and supposing it to be true, was it not a likely story? He also read Burke and Tom’s evidence. If the blood Millard saw was Dahlke’s he must have bled profusely. Millard’s description of what he had seen in the Pocket was next read, as was also portion of Sub-inspector Dillon’s evidence. That was all the evidence relating to the pocket. If the prisoners were there, and Johnson’s story was correct that he lifted the prisoner James Kenniff out of the saddle and then, went to the pack-horse and heard five shots fired, one first and then four, it was very improbable that Jim Kenniff fired the first shot. Where Doyle was standing it was not at all likely that Jim Kenniff fired the shot at all. It must have been Pat or Tom. Tom is only a young boy, and they knew that in the evening he was at the new yards with his father and brother at 11 o’clock that night, whereas the prisoners had not been seen till their arrest. The two prisoners carried revolvers, and there was nothing to show that Tom did. It was not necessary to come to the conclusion that the prisoner James or Tom fired the shot. Th probability was that Patrick Kenniff fired the first shot at Dahlke who was sitting on the horse and the blood spurted over the horse and reins. That evidence was connected by other bullet marks to the right, and the pools of blood indicated that they WERE FIRING AT a moving object. The evidence of the surveyor was that he saw bullet marks on a log six yards from the apple tree. Two shots were certninly fired at a moving object to the right, then to the logs, where pools of blood were found, and that was where Doyle was shot or probably killed.

Supposing that that was what happened there who was responsible for it? It was not likely that both prisoners fired at Doyle, though they might have. His Honor then quoted the Law of two persons acting in concert, aiding one another, counselling and-procuring a crime. If they were acting in concert, both were guilty. If both formed the purpose before Dahlke was shot, and determined to resist apprehension and for that purpose fired at Doyle, they were guilty. The evidence was circumstantial in some particulars, though it was not as far as Johnson seeing James Kenniff held by Doyle, and Dahlke holding the bridle of his horse. Murders were not generally done while anybody was looking on. The answer to this charge, which was a serious one, was, “We were not there; we were 300 miles away, and could not be there.” That was the answer. What was set up might be called A DOUBLE ALIBI.

The two prisoners say they were at Hutton Vale on that Sunday morning, and secondly that Tom Kenniff wasn’t at the pocket at all on that Sunday morning. These two matters should be considered separately. Regarding, the allegation that the two prisoners were at Hutton Vale on the Sunday morning, his Honor referred to the story told by the two prisoners of their forming an idea to go to the Roma races. Hutton Creek was 95 miles from Carnarvon, and Roma was another 84 miles distant. They were to ride 80 miles on Saturday and Sunday to reach Roma on Monday. He described the camp at Hutton Creek, and the meeting of Mulholland and Thornton with the prisoners. He had before said that this direct evidence contradicted the circumstantial evidence. Both sides had directed the jury’s attention to the state of the country in March last. The prisoners picked up Darramundi and were going to travel him day and night till they got to Roma. The evidence of both James and Patrick was that their rifles were planted and that they did not get them until April 5 or 6, and that on their way to Hutton Vale they picked up some rations and put them in a bag across a riding saddle and that they had nothing else. The witnesses Mulholland and Thornton that on the occasion they saw the prisoners in camp at Hutton Vale, the Kenniffs had a pack-saddle and one rifle, or two. The suggestion was that the alibi was not true. His Honor dwelt at some length upon the nature of the evidence given in proving the alibis. It was extremely difficult to go into the witness-box and tell an untrue story relying solely on the memory. There must be a foundation for the facts related. He had heard circumstantial STORIES TOLD BY WOMEN which were simply impossible to have been invented. A witness might say that at time related certain things happened by substituting another date, and could then stand any amount of cross-examination. They had only to stick to the date, and relate things seen on another day. The evidence of the two witnesses, and Mulholland could not be accused of being unfriendly to the prisoners, should be considered. They said they saw a pack-saddle there and rifles. If that was true it was not on March 30. It must have been earlier or later. Of course the story was to be taken into consideration that they had ridden 95 miles on the road to Roma races and had still 84 miles to ride and had only a day to do it in. There was the evidence given by Tom Kenniff that on the evening of Good Friday his brothers said they were going straight on to Mitchell. That was the evidence, and it was for the jury to believe whether they were at Hutton Vale on March 30. It was for them to say whether they were satisfied with Mulholland’s and Thornton’s evidence. The former said he HAD LIED FREELY to the police, and considered himself at liberty to do so. Was it probable that the four men met at Hutton Vale on March 30?

The father and the sons had been traced from Lethbridge’s Pocket, and the evidence showed that the tracks were fresh, though they said they had left the pocket two or three weeks before. All circumstances should be taken into consideration. The prisoners started to go to the races on Good Friday night and changed their minds because a horse went lame. They rode about the bush with rations they had got long before, and when arrested they were armed. They knew for about a month that £1000 had been offered for their arrests. It was for the jury to WEIGH ALL THE EVIDENCE in their minds ; to consider what facts reliance could be placed on and if the truth of the truth of the actual facts established to their satisfaction was consistent with the guilt of the prisoners, or if it was with their innocence, it was their duty to say so. They should- reconcile all the facts of the case with the innocence of the prisoners, if they could not then they should say they were guilty. As to the men who fired the shot, if they were acting in concert to resist arrest then they should find both guilty. He did not think he could assist them any further. He would ask them to consider their verdict.

The Flat Rock where the bodies were burned


FOUND GUILTY! Patrick and James Kenniff Sentenced to be Hanged

At 3.15p.m. the jury retired to consider their verdict, and the prisoners were removed to the cells. Ten minutes later the jury sent in a request to be allowed to have the saddle, pins, and rings. These exhibits were sent to them.

Mr. McGrath then asked to have the following points reserved for the Full Court.
(1) That there was no evidence before the jury of Constable Doyle’s death ; (2) That there was no evidence that the prisoners, James and Patrick Kenniff, had acted in concert in committing the murder.

At 3.45p.m. the jury were again brought into court and his Honor directed them further. He said that the evidence given by Burke about James Kenniff saying he would meet Ryan, Doyle, and Dahlke together and would belt the lot of them, was not evidence of any intention to kill Doyle, it was evidence only of ill-will. If they believed the statement that Patrick drew a revolver and said. “Whatever Dahlke gets you will get the very same,” it would indicate that he had some idea of shooting Dahlke.

The jury again retired. At 4.10 p.m. the prisoners returned to the dock, and at 4.15 the jury filed into court and stood in front of the jury box while they answered individually to their names.

Then the associate asked: Gentlemen, have you agreed upon your verdict ?
The Foreman: We have.
Associate: Do you find the prisoner Patrick Kenniff guilty? — Yes.
Do you find the prisoner James Kenniff guilty? — Yes.
So say your foreman, so say you all?
Jurors (in low voice): Yes.
Mr. Lilley (in a subdued tone): I pray the sentence of the court.

While the jury were answering their names, the prisoners had shown some slight symptoms of nervousness. James Kenniff moved uneasily from foot to foot, while Patrick clasped and unclasped his hands. After the verdict “guilty ” had been pronounced both men resumed their accustomed attitudes. They leaned lazily against the front of the dock with their hands hanging over the front, and were apparently calm and composed. They had heard the worst, the tension was over, and they were now prepared for the fate that inevitably awaited them.

The Associate then turned to Patrick Kenniff and said: “Patrick Kenniff, you have been found guilty of wilful murder ; have you anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon you?”
Patrick Kenniff thus addressed, straightened himself up and, looking the judge squarely in the face, replied in a husky voice: ” Yes, your Honor, I know the sentence you are going to pass and before you do I say I AM AN INNOCENT MAN! I hope before I part from this world you will find I am an innocent man.”
James Kenniff was then similarly addressed. He hesitated, and then in a loud voice full of passion emphatically said: “Yes, I have! Your Honor I wish to mention, if you will allow me to comment on your summing up in our case to-day, that I think you never gave us one item of justice. I have no other witness to call, except Almighty God,  that I am an innocent man! He is the only one I can call, and I call upon Him. . . . Before your Honor SHUFFLES OFF THIS MORTAL COIL, you will find that . . . . is near the murderer, and that is all I have to say I am an innocent man!”
His Honor (calmly to Mr. McGrath): I reserve those points for the consideration of the Full Court, Mr. McGrath.
Then his Honor turned to the press box, and said: I hope the press will not mention the scandalous statements made. The press will not be justified in giving publicity to them.

[These remarks referred to something James Kenniff had said about one of the Crown witnesses, which we suppress out of deference to his Honor’s expressed wish, though we feel it our duty, equally with his Honor’s, to say that we see no reason why the statement of a condemned man should not have the fullest publicity. — Ed. Truth.]

After a pause his Honor said: — The Law, provides that where points are reserved, a Judge may pronounce or defer judgment. I think it is my duty to pronounce judgment.

In a voice that betrayed some emotion, the Chief Justice went on: — Patrick Kenniff, James Kenniff: You have been convicted of wilful murder, after a prolonged and patient trial, by a jury of great intelligence, who have given their fullest attention to the whole case. I invited them upon the facts as found established by evidence, if they could say the truth was consistent with your innocence, to find you not guilty. They Have not been able to say that the facts established here were consistent with your innocence. Nor can I (decisively). I think it is my duty to say that I entirely agree with the verdict of the jury, and I fail to see how they could give any other verdict. By a SERIES OF SINGULAR COINCIDENCES you have been brought to justice. The means adopted of concealing the evidence of your crime would certainly have been successful had it not been for an extraordinary accident. I find on reference that you have never been arraigned upon so serious a charge before, but that you are both familiar, for long periods, with the interior of gaol, and according to the evidence you had practically resorted to a fresh career of crime. I do not want to say anything to hurt your feelings. The points reserved for the Full Court I have already expressed my opinion. I told the jury, there was ample evidence to justify your conviction.

His Honor then removed his wig and donned the black cap, and continued in a low, solemn voice: I have only to pass on you the sentence of the law upon each of you and that is that you be returned to your former custody and at a place and time to be appointed by the Executive you and each of you be hanged by the neck till you are dead, and may God have mercy on your souls.”

His Honor then announcod that under the Criminal Code he respited the execution till after the points raised were argued before the Full Court. Turning to the jury he said that they were now discharged, after a painful trial with the thanks of the country for their services.

returning to gaol

[The remainder of the article is damaged, a chunk missing from the page in the archival copy. I have filled in what I can from inference and by referring to other contemporary articles. – AP]

The two prisoners smilingly shook hands with their solicitor, Mr. McGrath, [and] thanked him for his services. [They also shook hands with Mr. O’Neill, Mr. McGrath’s partner, and] were removed to the cells to await [transportation to the] waggonette which was [outside.] Meanwhile, a crowd of onlookers…had collected outside the [George Street entrance to the courthouse to await the coming of the police van. The] prisoners marched through [the concourse to the police van. The blinds were closely drawn and all that could be seen was the driver and two policemen on the front seat, at the back the hands of two policemen. A trooper rode behind. As the waggonette emerged] the crowd hooted [their support for the condemned men. The policemen] cocked their revolvers. [A feeble voice] called out. ” Good-bye Jim [Good-bye Pat.”] and the condemned men [were taken to] their last earthly habits [at Boggo Road] Gaol.


“The Crown says Doyle Was “Butchered to Death by these Two Fiends.”” Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 – 1954) 9 November 1902: 5.

“TERMINATION OF THE KENNIFF TRIAL.” The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933) 10 November 1902: 6.

“The Kenniffs.” The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947) 10 November 1902: 4.

“THE KENNIFFS.” Worker (Brisbane, Qld. : 1890 – 1955) 15 November 1902: 9.



Last week we began looking at the report on the trial of the Kenniffs featured in the Brisbane edition of Truth. This week we continue the feature as the Kenniffs give their own evidence. Jim and Paddy maintain that they were travelling around Roma for the races while their old man and brothers Tom and John maintained that they were gathering horses around Skeleton Creek. Two additional witnesses, Thornton and Mulholland, do their best to back up Jim and Pat’s story.



On Wednesday his Honor had raised the point as to whether the two prisoners could be conjointly charged with the two murders. Mr. Lilley promised to deal with the matter at the close of the case for the Crown. This he now did by announcing that he elected to prosecute the two prisoners for the murder of Constable George Doyle. This closed the case for the Crown. Mr. McGrath then submitted that there was no case to go to the jury. He quoted a number of cases and raised these points : (l.) It is necessary for the Crown to fully establish the death of Constable Doyle. (2). To identity the supposed remains produced with Constable Doyle. (3). Proof of violence having taken place must be given. (4). The Crown must bring criminal agency home to the persons accused. Mr McGrath argued at some length in favor of his objection, but his Honor interposed that there was a case to go to the jury.
The prisoners’ advocate in his address to the jury briefly outlined what the defence would be. He would call both prisoners and two other witnesses to prove that on March 30 Pat and Jim Kenniff were at a spot 90 miles from Lethbridge’s Pocket.
After hearing this evidence the jury would have no doubt that the police had GOT THE WRONG MEN. He then called James Kenniff. His Honor, directed that the prisoner should be sworn in the dock, and from that place James Kenniff, in a clear, distinct voice, gave the following evidence:—


He said he was a horse-dealer, and was 28 years old on August 23 last. Patrick Kenniff was his brother. His father’s name was James, and he had two brothers named Thomas and John. On March 28 last he arrived at Carnarvon station with his brother about 7 pm. They rode there. He knocked at the kitchen door with his whip. Mrs. McClann answered. He asked, “Is Ryan at home?” Mrs. McClann said, “Yes, he’s having tea.” Ryan came to the door, aud witness asked him had he seen a chestnut horse of his. He said ” Yes, he’s running on Daloogarah Plains.” He asked Ryan what yarns he had been telling in Mitchell, and he replied, “I’ve been TELLING NO YARNS ; you are mistaken.” Witness then asked for Dahlke, and Ryan said he was not at home, and he did not know when he would be home. Witness said, “Very well, I’ll get you and Dahlke together, and then I’ll see what lies have been told about me and Dahlke fighting at Babiloora, and pulling me off Greytail, and giving me a hiding. You said that after Dahlke gave me a hiding you
yourself gave me one.” Witness then said, “If you were worth a punch I’d give you one, but you’ro not. You’re such an infernal liar, no one can believe you.” With that witness delivered a blow at Ryan, but missed him. That was about all that passed. He and Pat returned to their horses and rode away. Neither he nor Pat had revolvers. They were at the camp whero they left the rations, going to Carnarvon. Pat made no reference to the “pet policeman, Doyle” After they left the station they went up the creek about half-a-mile, lit a fire and had some tea. While there his brother Tom arrived, remained about half-an-hour, and then went on to Skeleton Creek, about 24 miles away.

WHEN THE MOON ROSE he (James) and Patrick started off to go to Roma Races. They arrived at the Maranoa River below the Warrong Station, which was about 30 miles away from Carnarvon, at about 3 on Saturday morning. They had a couple of hours sleep, got up and had their breakfast. They had a couple of horses with them. After getting in two horses which they had hobbled they pursued their way to Roma. They ended this stage at Merivale bullock paddock, another 35 miles away. There they picked up a racehorse named Darramundi, which belonged to James Kenniff. Then they started to Hatton Creek about 2 o’clock, and got there about 10 or 11 o’clock on Saturday night. The distance from the bullock paddock at Merivale to Hatton Creek was over 30 miles. Patrick rode Darramundi. They thought the horse had staked himself on the road as he went lame. They examined the horse, and found he had sustained a sprain. They turned Darramundi out and WENT INTO CAMP.
About 8 o’clock on Sunday morning they got up, and Patrick went out to get the horses in. While he was away two men named Mulholland and Thornton came riding down the creek. They dismounted, had a drink of tea, and remained for some time.
Patrick soon afterwards arrived with the horses Darramundi, Tommy Atkins, Faithful and White Foot. The two men remained for about two hours. (Mulholland at this stage was brought up from the cells below and identified). Mulholland and Thornton rode away together about 11 o’clock. After they had gone Jim and Pat left for Myall Downs, taking Darramundi with them. On the Monday following they put in the day looking for some horses that Patrick had lost there about three years before. They stayed in that vicinity for about two days. From there they went to Merivale Paddock, about 40 miles from Myall Downs. They spent two or three days at Merivale and then turned back to Myall Downs. That would bring them to about April 4 or 5.

About that day they met two brothers named Weir. James said they had no pack-horses with them on March 30. At the Merivale Paddock they MUSTERED SOME HORSES and started for Mitchell.
They went through Mitchell along the Maranoa road. They had five or six horses with them, and camped for 12 days some six or seven miles beyond Mitchell. They stayed to give the horses a spell and a bit of a feed. They then went to Bonus Downs Run, taking the horses with them, and camped there some 10 or 12 days. This was about 40 miles from Mitchell. They then went to Armadilla, 20 miles farther on, taking ‘the horses with them, and stayed there some seven or eight days. They then commenced to return to Mitchell when they saw a piece of paper on a tree between Morven and Mitchell. It was on a mulga tree, with the bark taken off. There was no photograph on it. They next picked up a newspaper dated May 23.
When did you first hear of the murder of Doyle and Dahlke? — That was the first I knew of it when I saw it on the tree.
Continuing James Kenniff said they then considered as to what they should do. They
went back to Armadilla Creek and stayed there for 10 days. After that they went on
to another creek. Then they went to Bonus Downs brigalow waterhole. They camped
there for some time and noticed some shod horse tracks. They then arrived at a decision to go into Mitchell. They started forMitchell, and got to within about six miles of that place and camped near THE BRIGALOW SCRUB which the police, described. On the morning of their arrest they got up about 6 o’clock. After getting up James Kenniff went away for two rifles.

On resuming after lunch, Robert James Thornton was called and identified by James Kenniff, who, continuing his evidence, said he got the two rifles which were 200 yards away from the camp. Both were loaded as he had left them against a tree early in April last, with a bit of dry bark covering the barrels and triggers. Besides the rifles he looked for a bandolier. While away from the camp his attention was directed by the report of rifle shots. He went to within 100 yards of the camp when he saw a man there. He was carrying the rifles at the time and he thought one constable FIRED AT HIM.

What did you do then ?— I ran away towards where some horses were tied up. I was looking at the horses when I was fired at again.

Continuing, he said he walked back to camp and then in the direction of Mitchell. He had walked about two miles when he saw some men in plain clothes — horsemen — coming along thr road. They wore a quarter of a mile off and were coming in his direction. Constable Tanker and Cramb with two trackers came to within 80 or 100 yards of him and he called out “Were is my brother Pat?” They said he was further down the road. He said “Fetch him up and let me have a look at him.” They said he was all right. He then walked out and asked them who they were. He laid his rifles down. They said they were constables. He never heard them call on him to surrender.

Did you point a rifle at Cramb? — No.
Or at anybody else? — No.

James Kenniff said he walked up to them and they handcuffed him. They had gone some distance on the road when Cramb said, “I forgot to charge you. I charge you with the murder of Doyle and James Dahlke.” Witness emphatically stated that he replied. “What, me?” Cramb said “Yes.” He was then conveyed to Mitchell in the manner described.
Here a programme of the Roma races held on March 31 was produced as evidence.
Mr. McGrath: It gives the names of those horses entered. What horse had you entered? — Darramundi.
Had he been nominated for any race? — “No. After the races there is usually an off-lay and matches. We didn’t go because THE HORSE WENT LAME.

Were you at Lethbridge’s Pocket on March 30? — James Kenniff (passionately) No, I was not.
Nor anywhere near it? — No.
Witness said that Pat was out of his sight for only an hour, when he went to bring in the horses at Hutton’s Creek. He had spoken to his brothers Tom and John and his father at Boggo Road Gaol in the presence of the officials. He identified the revolver (said to be Pat’s) as being his own property. The other revolver belonged to Patrick. He denied saying to Constable Cramb that he was tired of the life he was leading. He had seen Mulholland from a distance in Boggo Road Gaol, but he had not seen Thornton since Sunday March 30 last. He did not remember the conversation in the cells at Mitchell as narrated by-Sub-inspector Malone.

Mr. Lilley now began his cross-examination of the prisoner James Kenniff, in answer to Mr. Lilley said he knew Doyle but not well ; knew he was a police officer ; did not know the police horse George. He knew Dahlke’s mare Boadicea. He did not know Tracker Johnson and saw him for the first time in the police court.
Mr- Lilley: Weren’t you in Mitchell in February last, and didn’t you see the tracker there? — No, I did not.
Was Doyle in Mitchell? — No, I was only there in the night.
Now you sometimes wear a red tie? — I never wore A RED TIE in my life, I do not like the color.
You had a tie with red on it? — Yes.
Witness said he wore a brown felt hat, a gray coat and beaver moleskin trousers, but had not worn them together. He was at Carnarvon on the 28th of March. He had some from Warrong. He did not pass Marlong and Western Branch yard. They took a direct line from Sunday Creek. They left Warrong fairly early. It was about 33 miles from there to Carnarvon and they got there about 7 or 7.30 p.m. Pat was with him. They had only two horses. They were looking- for some horses, a chestnut horse particularly, which was a favorite of Pat’s. They went to the kitchen because they saw a fight there.
Where did you come from before you came from Warrong? — Merivale Downs.
When did you come from there ?— On the 28th, the day before.
You were told the chestnut was on the Deloogerah Plain?— Yes.
Were you going to got him ? — Yes.
When? — As we went across that night.

In the nighttime?— Yes.
What did you want to see Dahlke for? — To see if Ryan was telling lies and to fetch him before him.
What did you want to bring Ryan before Dahlke for?— Because he was his boss ; to prove that he didn’t give me a hiding — Ryan didn’t.
You went for a double purpose — to kill two birds with one stone ?— I thought I would ask when I saw Ryan.
How long has the chestnut horse been lost? — It was lost since about January.
Then you had your time cut out to get to Roma?— Yes.
How many miles is it from Carnarvon to Roma by the route you proposed to go? — I could not tell you the distance.
Tell me how many miles — you had your work cut out? — I KNEW I COULD DO IT. I don’t know the exact distance to tell the truth.
You’re too old a bushman for that you know?— I knew it was about three days by day and night to get there for the off-day races as we wanted to do.
Why did you not go straight from Warrong?—Because we went to Carnarvon to get that chestnut horse and any others we could pick up.
If you were going to Roma, why did you want horses?— To put them to grass. There is no grass about there.
And the houses were in bad trim?— Grass was failing ; it had been good about there.
You picked up Darramundi?— Yes, at Merivale on the morning of March 29.
You were going to travel him day and night and race him at Roma? — Yes.
You expect us to believe that?— I don’t know what I expect you to believe but I was going to do it.

Continuing James Kenniff said the camp where he boiled the billy was half or three quarters of a mile from Carnarvon. The reason he did not take Darramundi to the Roma races was because he went lame. They were going to have a try to get to Roma for the off day. Pat rode a mare called Faithful, and he rode Whitefoot, both very fair horses. It was a matter of chance whether they picked up horses on the way. He did not say that they had ridden 123 miles in 24 hours. He did not know whether they had ridden 95 miles.

You bet as a bookmaker? — No; I am A BIT OF AN AMATEUR.
Did you pass through Joyce’s selection? — No.

He said he did not know Boyce though he had heard of his selection; He passed it on the morning of April 4. It was some time in June when he saw the notice on the tree.
You saw a notice offering a reward of £1000 for you and your brother ? — Yes ; we were going across the line to Mitchell.
As soon as you saw the notice you turned back? — No, not exactly turned back ; we
turned to our right.
Were you surprised to hear of the reward for your arrest? — I was.
Why did you turn back? We were considering. We did not know what to do.
I dare say — I quite agree with you ?— We were thinking about that notice — of the position we were placed in.
Why did you not come into the police court and give yourselves up— you were not frightened? — We were a bit surprised.
Yon had nothing to fear? — That notice didn’t look too good.
Why didn’t you give yourselves up? — We came to that conclusion afterwards.
Witness said that they came in near Mitchell the day before they were arrested. He could not remember how many days they camped after seeing that notice. He mostly carried a revolver with him. He carried one to shoot birds and wallabies and for practice. He also liked shooting with a revolver. They carried Winchester rifles because they occasionally did a bit of scalping.
What was your reason for being out on June 23 armed to the teeth? — We mostly carried rifles. We hadn’t revolvers.
The rations they had belonged to his brother Pat. He had had his rifle since ’89. Pat had his from about the same time. Pat got his from a man named Hanran. He saw Mulholland about 9 o’clock on March 30.
He was further questioned regarding the conversation he had with Mulholland, and as to how Mulholland was dressed on that occasion. He was also questioned closely as to his knowledge of Lethbridge’s Pocket. While out for the two months they had flour and occasionally SHOT BIRDS AND WALLABIES, and stewed them. They had no beef or vegetables, nor did they go into Mitchell for a drink. Why they did not go into Mitchell was because they had no business there and their silver was short.
Were you not keeping out of the haunts of civilisation?— No, we were not.
What were you doing? — We were taking horses and looking for a piece of country — looking for grass for eight horses.
Looking for grass for eight horses for three months?
Mr. McGrath: It is not three months.
James Kenniff: We had nothing else to do.
Mr. Lilley: That is what you want us to believe?— I don’t know what you believe, Mr. Lilley, but that is what we did.
They arrived in the Mitchell district in April.
Mr. McGrath: You were asked about being armed to the teeth. Is that extraordinary in those parts? — No.
It is a common occurrence amongst blacks and whites? — Yes.
Robert James Thornton, a station-hand, deposed that he was at Boyce’s selection on the evening of March 29. Next morning he went down Hutton Creek with Mulholland looking for horses. About 9 o’clock they saw a man in a camp. Witness here pointed out James Kenniff as this man. Presently Patrick Kenniff came out of the scrub leading three horses. Mulholland was yarning to these two men for about an hour. He did not pay much attention to what was said. They were talking about racing chiefly. Getting on for 11 o’clock he and Mulholland left. Mulholland said, “Those are the two Kenniffs.” On the following Wednesday witness left Boyce’s for Westgrove Station, where he was scalping for some time. He had been about three days at Westgrove when he heard of the murders of Doyle and Dahlke.
In answer to Mr. Lilley the witness retailed his own movements both before and after March 30. He also described how the Kenniffs were dressed when he saw them and the general appearance of their camp.
He knew about a week after Easter Sunday that the police were after the Kenniffs. The police had never asked him about the men.
Mr. Lilley: Why didn’t you tell the police what you are telling us now?— Witness (after a pause): BECAUSE I DIDN’T.
He had never gone under the name of Harper, nor ridden as a jockey in races. It was not his business to tell the police anything. He had said to some people that he knew the Kenniffs were innocent. To Mr. McGrath he said that he had written to his sister in Brisbane.
His Honor: That is not evidence.
Mr. McGrath: I will call the sister.
His Honor (to witness): How do you fix the Sunday as Easter Sunday? I suppose you don’t celebrate Easter regularly in the West? — I thought of the date afterwards and fixed it in my mind.
John Edward Mulholland, a fencer, deposed that he was under remand on a charge of being accessory after the fact of murder. He then retailed his meeting with James and Patrick Kenniff at Hutton’s Creek on March 30 about 9 a.m. Hutton’s Creek was 94 miles from Lethbridge’s Pocket. This witness said that Jim Kenniff was the most brilliant horseman he had ever seen, while Pat was a first-class stockman.
To Mr. Lilley the witness said he knew it was Easter .Sunday when he saw the Kenniffs from an almanac. As A GOOD CHRISTIAN, he always observed Easter. Before his arrest, he did not tell the police, anything about the Kenniffs. Afterwards he said that he had not seen, either of them for many months. He was justified in telling that lie, he said, because he had to defend himself. Mr. Lilley heckled the witness on this point, but failed to obtain any satisfaction. Mulholland stuck to it that what he told the police after his arrest was said in self-defence, but now he was speaking the truth. Whoa his evidence was concluded the court rose for the-day.
On Friday morning James Kenniff, re-called by Mr. McGrath, stated that he saw his father in Lethbridge’s Pocket when a man named Brown was there. Pat was with him. It was after Patrick had been released from Mitchell in February last. It was a mistake when he said January.
In answer to Mr. Lilley James Kenniff said Brown, who was in charge of Meteor Downs, gave his father notice to leave. Why, he could not say. He did not know whether there were any horses, or cattle stolen. He was not in Mitchell the time Pat was fined £20 for travelling without a way-bill. He did not know nor had he heard that Cleary’s horse was stolen the night Pat was released. He had not heard that Sunnyvale had been burned down after Pat was released.
Patrick Kenniff then gave his evidence from the dock in a very low voice. His evidence was similar to that given by his brother James. He denied drawing a revolver in Ryan’s presence, or making any threats to him. He had only once seen Dahlke. He was not at Lethbridge’s Pocket on March 30 last.
In answer to Mr. Lilley Pat said he knew Doyle and Sam Johnson, but did not know Dahlke. He had ridden the mare Boadicea. He had seen Dahlke once at the station, and had spoken to him for half an hour. Before the night of March 28 he had not seen Tom since February. Tom struck their camp by accident, and he was watching to flee if his father came back from Babiloora. Tom told him he had come from Skeleton Creek, and was going back. Patrick said he went to the station to see if there were any of his horses running on Deloogerah, because they had been bred there. He wanted the chestnut horse in particular. Deeloogerah was, seven or eight miles from Carnarvon. They had to come through Deeloogerah to Carnarvon from Warrong. They were afterwards going to the ROMA RACES.
They made up their minds to go to Roma races on the way to Carnarvon Station.
Roma. was about 140 or 150 miles away. It might be 180 miles from Warrong to Carnarvon and back to Roma was not over 200 miles. James had never been through that country before. To Hutton Creek from Merivale run was 40 miles. From Hutton Creek to Roma was about 60 miles. They proposed to go 170 miles from the Friday morning till Monday morning to get to Roma. It was quite easy. He once rode from Mitchell to Merivale.
His Honor: How far is that? — 100 miles I suppose.
Mr. Lilley: On a grass-fed horse ? — Yes.
Continuing, Pat said he did not ride Darramundi hard. They camped on the Friday at Warrong and had breakfast there. They had dinner at the junction of Sunday Creek and Deloogerah. They had Johnny-cake and meat; no pumpkin. They had a rug but NO RIFLES OR REVOLVERS when they left Carnarvon. The revolvers were where he left his rations on Merivale 30 miles from Hutton Creek. They called nowhere between Carnarvon and Hutton Creek camp. They got their rifles and revolvers about Thursday the 2nd or 3rd of April. He went to gaol about three and half years ago.
What were you in gaol for? — For receiving a stolen cheque.
How long were you under arrest before your trial? — About six weeks.
Patrick said they did not find the horses he had lost. The eight horses they had with them were their own property. They did not wait till it was dark to go through Mitchell. He did not think that they had kept out of civilisation. He saw a notice on a tree, which Jim read out to him. They didn’t exactly turn back then, but considered what they would do. It gave them A BIT OF A SCARE when they saw the notice.
Why didn’t you go in and give yourselves up? — We decided afterwards to do that.
Why should you be frightened if you were innocent? — I wasn’t a bit frightened.
Mr. Lilley: But you said just a moment ago that you were.
Pat: So would you get scared if you saw that notice.
Mr. Lilley: Not if I was innocent.
Continuing, he said he did not know what to think of the horse-tracks about the waterhole. He did not think tho police were after them. He was not armed to the teeth when arrested he generally carried a rifle with him. His father had money with him
and kept the sons. Patrick further said he was looking for a place more than anything.
He was a stockman. He had no fixed place of abode. James bought, and broke in horses and he had no fixed place of abode. He understood that his father was going to Euraway. He was arrested for stealing Merivale horses. Mr. Snelling was the manager. He did not know Boyce. When released, the police handed over 28 horses and kept eight. Some wore knocked up and some died. He did not pass through Sunnyvale after his release, he was about 15 miles distant.
Did you hear after you were released from gaol that the station house was burned down? — I heard that in Mitchell. I had heard that it was unoccupied. It was near Merivale Station.
On their way to Hutton Creek from Carnarvon they took rations, FLOUR, TEA AND SUGAR. They carried it on the horse in a slip-bag.
To Mr. McGrath: He had not received those eight horses from the police. A man named Ferrier paid the fine and he gave him six horses as security. The horses were sold and Ferrier got paid.
One of the jury then handed up a question to his Honor that he would like to ask Patrick Kenniff, but the judge said the information required had better be obtained from another witness.
Thomas Kenniff, aged 19 brother of the two prisoners, was next called. He narrated his movements on March 28. After he left Patrick and James he went to Skeleton Creek, passing, within 25 miles of Lethbridge’s Pocket. On Easter Sunday he was not at or near the Pocket. From the time he left Euraway Springs he was in his father’s company.
To Mr. Stumm: He left Skeleton Creek in the afternoon to go to Carnarvon Station.
He expected his father and brother would be coming that way. He went to Carnarvon to see if anybody had seen his father. He intended to stay at Carnarvon TILL THE MOON ROSE. His horses at this time were 19 or 20miles from the junction of Meteor and Skeleton Creeks. He left at daybreak the next day. He was camped at the head of Skeleton Creek. He was going to take seven horses for feed. He was in no hurry at all. The other 14 horses were on the road. Pat and Jim said they were going straight away to Mitchell. He did not know the large flat rock is in the pocket. They had hidden some saddles in a cave. There was a racing saddle amongst them. It belonged to any of them and had been last used by Jim. Pat and Jim did not tell him where they had come from. He was not at the station kitchen with them. He remembered having a conversation with Senior-sergeant Rody Byrne. He did not say that , they got to the camp on Monday. He said to Senior-sergeant Byrne, “I saw my brothers Pat and Jim about a fortnight ago on the Thursday or Friday at Carnarvon Station before my father came from Babiloora”. He was last at the pocket on March 7 or 8 last. His father put the gear in the cave.
John Kenniff, another brother aged 17, gave evidence relative to he and his father going to Babiloora.
James Kenniff, senr., said he was a stock-keeper. He deposed that he was ordered from Lethbridge’s Pocket by a man named Brown in February last. Jim and Pat left that day. He and his two sons, John and Tom then went to Skeleton Creek and John and he went on to Babiloora for some horses leaving Tom behind. At Warrego Police Station he saw Doyle and Millard. They had a look at the horses. He went back to Skeleton Creek. Tom was not there, but he arrived later during the night of Friday, March 28. Witness had 18 horses with him, and he left 11 of them at the creek where there was PLENTY OF WATER.
He took the other seven down to Bull’s run, at the new yards, and from there he went to Euraway Springs. There he saw a man named Dempsey or Macintosh. Stopped there from Monday till the Saturday, when he and Tom and John were arrested. He was 65 years of age. He could not read or write. He had not seen Pat or Jim since February till he saw them in the police court.
To Mr. Lilley: He could not say what month it was he got to Lethbridge’s Pocket.
The court then adjourned for lunch.
After the luncheon adjournment James Kenniff sen., was further cross-examined by Mr. Lilley and said that he took the camp away from the pocket, though he hid some
things there. He camped at Skeleton Creek one night. Next day he went to Carnarvon and then to Babiloora, where he got two horses. It was a rough road from Skeleton Creek to Carnarvon, but it was easy going back. From Skeleton Creek to Carnarvon was about 25 miles. He saw George Smith (who was called in and identified) at Skeleton Creek. He did not ask him the way to the rails. At the pocket he left some flour and a JOCKEY’S S SADDLE AND BRIDLE. He took over a fortnight’s rations with him Brown hunted him out. He was not afraid of the police.
James Telford, a station hand of Mitchell, said he knew both the prisoners and Doyle. He also knew Dahlke’s mare Boadicea ; he was in Mitchell in February last, when Pat Kenniff was discharged, and helped to carry some saddles, etc., from the court to the hotel. He saw Pat’s revolver. It was different to the one in court. Darramundi and Faithful were faster than Boadicea. Both prisoners were first-class horsemen and bushmen. Dahlke riding Boadicea would have no chance of catching either Darramundi or Faithful, especially in the scrub. It was a common thing for bushmen to carry revolvers. Witness had carried one for four and a half years. There were PLENTY OF SCALPERS about the district both black and white, particularly black, who were armed. He would not believe Jos. Ryan on his oath. In answer to Mr. Lilley witness said he had not heard of Cleary’s horse being stolen. He had heard of Sunnyvale Station being burned down some time after Pat Kenniff’s release. He would be surprised to hear that James Kenniff had said that he was not in Mitchell.
Edward Brown a blacksmith, identified a short-barrelled revolver as being one he saw
in James KennifTs possession. He know Joseph Ryan, and had experience of him. He would hardly believe Ryan on his oath. It was a very common thing for men to go about armed in those districts.
Charles Wm. Maconochie, a drover, gave evidence of giving a revolver to Patrick Kenniff. He gave him the revolver in January last. This witness gave an instance of the docility of the police horse George, which he di not consider to be a touchy horse.
To Mr. Lilley: He knew Jim Kenniff well. He saw him at Springsure, but had no conversation with him about Doyle and Dahlke.
Mr. McGrath then announced the close of his case.
In rebuttal, Mr. Lilley called Charles P. Tom who said that the distance from Carnarvon to Lethbridge’s Pocket was 18 or 20 miles. The Springsure road runs down towards Skeleton Creek, from a turn-off it would be six miles to the pocket, and one would have to cross a range. From Lethbridge’s Pocket to Skeleton Creek as the crow flies is about 6 miles ; to ride it would be 9 miles. From Carnarvon House to Skeleton Creek is about 15 miles. That
would be to the head. The best way to Skeleton Creek would be along the Springsure road. From the pocket to the junction of the Meteor and Skeleton Creeks would be 18 miles. From there to the New Yards it would be 13 miles. He did not know how far the distance was to Euraway Spring, as he had never been to that country.
George Smith, a laborer, residing at Springsure said that on Easter Sunday night he was camped at Meteor Creok at what was called Brown’s Yard. He saw James Kenniff senr., and two boys that night. They arrived somewhere about 11 o’clock. He was asleep when they came and their talking awakened him.
To Mr. McGrath: He was served with a summons last Sunday week. He had no particular reason to keep these facts in his mind.
To his Honor: He kept the fire alight. He LIT A FIRE to guide them through he gate.
To Mr. Lilley: He gave a statement to the police some months ago at Rockhampton v Michael Dillon (recalled) gave evidence relating to certain statements made by Mulholland, who stated that he had known the boys and the old man but had seen very little of them for the last twelve months.
Senior-Sergeant Rody Byrne was next called and stated that he recollected arresting the three Kenniffs, the father and Tom and John at Euraway Springs. They said they arrived there on Sunday, March 30, at 12 o’clock. He had a conversation with Thos. Kenniff.
This closed the evidence called in rebuttal.
Mr. McGrath then made application to have the case adjourned till the following
morning but His Honor could not see fit to grant any adjournment.
Mr. McGrath then commenced his address to the jury, and had not finished when the
court rose for the day at 6 p.m.
returning to gaol.png
[To be concluded…]
“The Crown says Doyle Was “Butchered to Death by these Two Fiends.”” Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 – 1954) 9 November 1902: 5.



The benefit of the Kenniff trial taking place in post-Federation Australia is that the modernity of the case allows for a very different approach to the reporting of events. Here we see a wonderfully illustrated report of the trial of the notorious Queensland bushrangers. Dotted with caricatures of the main players, we gain a very interesting insight into the event from the perspective of the artist. Among the exaggerated features and ludicrous moustaches is a detailed account of one of the most important trials in bushranging history. Below is part of the transcript of the feature that featured in that famous issue of the Brisbane edition of Truth, the second part will be in next week’s Spotlight.



A Cloud of Witnesses for the Crown. The Prisoners Give Evidence from the Dock. Defence Sets Up An Alibi.

Early on Monday morning last, George street, in the vicinity of the Supreme Court, might have seemed to a stranger one of the busiest streets in Brisbane. There was an animated scene just outside the Supreme Court gates where an ever growing crowd was waiting for admission. The attraction was a free show, not a theatrical entertainment, nor an athletic contest, but a human drama of life and death. For Patrick and James Kenniff were to be tried for their lives on a charge of murder. Long before 10 o’clock the gallery of the Criminal Court was crowded and the floor of the court was also packed, so that it was difficult to force a way through. Apart from the public announcements it was easily apparent from the unwonted animation and excitement in the precincts of the Supreme Court that something of grave import was a-foot.

There were policemen everywhere, of every rank, some in uniform, others in mufti ; barristers in wig and gown having business in one court or the other ; and many ordinary mortals bearing an unmistakable air of business and importance— these were either witnesses or jurymen. It wanted a few minutes of 10 when a noise was heard of men coming up the stairs from the cells beneath the court and presently the Kenniffs tramped up the steps guarded by about half-a-dozen policemen. James Kenniff led the way and STEPPED INTO THE DOCK just in front of his brother Patrick. Both men looked thinner and paler than when last seen at the police court. Confinement has evidently told on them, and though apparently strong and healthy they do not seem as fresh and virile as they did in July last.

They bowed to their solicitor and then sat down, thus disappointing the ghouls in the gallery who were already craning their necks in an effort to get a good look at the prisoners.

Punctually at 10 o’clock the tipstaff called on all who had any business to transact before that honorable court to step forward, etc. This announcement heralded the Chief Justice, who then took his seat, accompanied by Mr. Gilson Foxton, the sheriff.

The associate then read over the list of the 72 special jurors, and a number of these begged for exemption on the ground of being over the age limit. While excusing these gentlemen, His Honor gravely rebuked those responsible for this extraordinary list of jurors. Then a jury of 12 was empannelled, but not without much challenging, and the list had to be twice read through. In the first round the Crown ordered 33 to stand by and five in the second, a total of 38, or more than half the panel. The challenges of the defence totalled 21.

The special jurors sworn to “well and truly try ” were :—Francis Pearson Latrobe, Herbert Edgar Littler, James McMillan, John Tait, Frederick McDonnell Hart, Charles Tait, Joseph Arthur Overell, Fred Hiley, Herbert Sheard, James Thomas Isles, Duncan Munro, William Siemon. The jury elected Mr. Hiley as their foreman. Mr. Edwyn Lilley, with him Mr. Stumm (instructed by Messrs. Morris and Fletcher), prosecuted for the Crown; and Mr. McGrath (Messrs. McGrath and O’Neill), defended the prisoners, while Chief Inspector Douglas watched the case for the police. When the jurymen had taken their places in the jury-box the Chief Justice created some consternation in their ranks by intimating that virtually they WOULD BE PRISONERS until the conclusion of the trial. They would not be allowed to separate or to return to their homes, but would be made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. The jury then requested that they be allowed time to arrange business and private affairs, and an adjournment till noon was therefore granted.

On resuming, Mr. Lilley began his address to the jury. He recounted the circumstances that led to Doyle and Dahlke going in search of the Kenniffs, and recited the movements of the two men till they reached Lethbridge’s Pocket. He then gave a description of the topography of the Pocket. It was a pear-shaped place, enclosed by the surrounding hills, which were very steep. A witness would describe the place as the most rugged country he had ever seen. Through this pocket ran a creek, known as Lethbridge’s Creek. A little above the scene of the alleged murder was a spring of water, and a stony hill stood out in the middle of the pocket. The pocket contained two square miles of flat land. About two miles from the scene the father of the Kenniffs resided, and there was the home of the family. On the right-hand side as the pocket was approached from the south there was a considerable extent of DOGWOOD SCRUB.

From this counsel went on to explain the movements of the men and what was happening when Tracker Sam last saw the two missing men alive. He told of Sam’s retreat from the Kenniffs, of the search in the pocket by Burke, and described the result of the police searches as already given in the lower court. Mr. Lilley gave shortly particulars of the police chase after the Kenniffs and their arrest. Then he gave the jury the benefit of the Crown’s theory as to the end of Doyle and Dahlke. It was for the jury to say, said counsel, whether, when James Kenniff was arresled by Constable Doyle, Patrick Kenniff rode round a little hill, and Dahlke, thinking Doyle equal to James Kenniff, had ridden to meet Pat Kenniff who shot him; Doyle then seeing Dahlke in distress, had run up to his help, and as he did was fired at by Pat Kenniff, and missed, and was again fired at and done to death by one of the men. What the first fires were lighted for he did not know. They had then taken the murdered men in the fly of a tent— which Doyle and Dahlke had brought with them— and left the packhorse in the creek. Taking their burden to a rock, they must have CUT THEIR VICTIMS to piecemeal ; otherwise they could not have been so consumed by fire. Next they had scraped up and swept the charred remains into the packbags; and started off with their ghastly burden. The police horse bearing the packbags had broken loose and they had been too frightened to go after him. If the prisoners on 30th March, 1902, were engaged in common design to resist arrest, and either of them was armed, to the knowledge of the other, for the purpose of carrying out a common design of resisting arrest, and one of them— it was immaterial for the jury to say which— to resist his own arrest, or to enable the other to escape from, or resist arrest, shot either Doyle or Dahlke, they were both guilty of murder. It was scarcely an impressive address. Mr. Lilley was halting and labored and not over sanguine in tone. For the most part, what he told the jury of the Crown’s case was already known to the public, but he added one little touch, significant of many things. This was the narration of an incident in the cells at Mitchell, where a policeman ACTED AS “EAVESDROPPER” outside the cells occupied by the prisoners.

The evidence for the Crown was commenced after lunch. Fitzgerald and Graham, both inspectors of police, told of warrants which had been issued for the arrest of Patrick and James Kenniff on a charge of horsestealing. Graham had posted these warrants to Constable Doyle on March 21. Then Constable Stephen Millard took the oath. Millard was stationed with Doyle at the Upper Warrego, and .saw him set out after the Kenniffs with Dahlke and Tracker Sam. He described the party’s appearance and outfit. He also identified most of the articles found by the police in Lethbridge’s Pocket, as belonging either to Doyle or Dahlke. Millard was one of the police party that prospected the pocket for traces of the missing men. He gave the result of this search : the discovery of “a charry sort of stuff ” on a flat rock, the shirt buttons and teeth found therein, the tracks, and the burnt and charrcd logs and stone. Under cross-examination Millard was confident that the spurs found were Doyle’s. James Kenniff was a good horseman, he said, but Pat was not. Doyle’s revolver was loaded when he left the police station. When found there was one empty cartridge in it, the others had been extracted. There was blood on the metal part as if it had been held in A BLOODY LEFT HAND.

At the conclusion of Millard’s evidence the court adjourned till Tuesday. If possible, there was more excitement and a larger attendance on Tuesday for it had been rumored that Sam Johnson, the blacktracker, now famous as the last man who saw Doyle and Dahlke alive, was to give his evidence. And soon after 10 a.m. Tracker Sam Johnson radiant in a blue tracker’s jumper with red braid, walked up to the witness-box and smiled affably on the court. As some doubt existed as to the exact brand of Sam’s religious beliefs the Chief Justice took his promise to tell the truth under pain of awful punishment if he told a lie. Sam then settled down to answer Mr. Lilley’s questions with a look of serious concentration on his face. He was in the box all the morning and his evidence was in the main similar to what he had given at the lower court. Sam accompanied Doyle and Dahlke when they RODE OVER THE RANGE into Lethbridge’s Pocket. They were following horse tracks. Once in the pocket he saw Pat, Jim and Tom Kenniff on horseback with two packhorses. The Kenniffs left their pack-horses and raced away across the gully. Pat and Tom went to the right and Jim followed the creek. Doyle and Dahlke raced after Jim while Sam tied his pack-horse to a log, then he followed. He saw that Doyle and Dahlke had caught Jim Kenniff. Doyle was trying to pull Jim off while Dahlke held the reins of Jim’s horse. Sam helped Doyle to pull Jim on to the ground. Then Doyle told him to bring up the pack-horse George, which was feeding about 200 yards away. He went back as quickly as he could. Before he reached the horse he heard a shot fired. Four other shots followed quickly. When he got to the horse he looked back but he could not see either Doyle, Dahlke or Jim Kenniff. He could see the place where he had left them, but no men. Failing to get the handcuffs out of the pack, he led the horse forward. He had not gone far when he saw Patrick and James Kenniff riding fast towards him. He let the pack-horse go and turned and raced into the scrub. He went as hard as he could to the Pumphole where he saw Burke and told him what had happened. That was about ll o’clock in the morning. Burke went back with him to the pocket. Sam stayed in the scrub as he was frightened, but Burke went on and caught Dahlke’s mare Boadicea. Sam said he saw blood on Boadicea’s saddle. Mr. McGrath here objected and Sam then said there were WET, RED STAINS on the saddle that looked like blood. After leaving the pocket he rode to Mount Moffatt and told Mr. Tom. Then he went on to Forest Vale and Mitchell, taking Dahlke’s saddle with him, which he handed to Constable Cleary. Sam then described how he had afterwards accompanied various search parties to the pocket. He had seen Pat Kenniff under Doyle’s arrest at Merivale. In answer to Mr. McGrath, Sam said when he saw the Kenniffs coming at him they were about 100 yards away. He walked his horse about 10 yards, then let the pack horse George go and raced away up the mountain. He could not say how far the Kenniffs followed him because he never looked back. That was the first time he had seen James Kenniff. Some questions followed as to what Sam had said at Rockhampton about the number of shots he had heard, but Sam said what he said now was right. The depositions taken at Rockhampton at the death inquiry were put in and Sam’s evidence was read, but his Honor pointed out that he would tell the jury that depositions of this sort were of no practical value, and quoted from Cochrane a statement discounting reliance being placed on depositions taken before a trial.

Mr. McGrath then continued his cross-examination. He wanted Sam to explain how he knew it was Jim Kenniff in the pocket, as he had never seen him before. Sam said Doyle had told him they were going after Jim Kenniff. Later on the Chief Justice asked Johnson :

“Who were the two men who raced after you?” and Sam POINTED TO THE Prisoners in the dock. Further questions followed concerning the identification of articles worn by Doyle, and a chain belonging to the Warrego Police Station. Sam said he knew the spurs were Doyle’s, but could give no reasons for recognising them. He knew the stirrup-leathers, because he had often cleaned them. He did not know how many days were in a week, or weeks in a month. He could neither read nor write. He did not know how old he was.

Mr. McGrath: What time of day was it when the bullets were flying about—sun go up, go down, or him on other side?

Witness (quietly): About 8 o’clock.


Are you a pretty good tracker ?— Pretty good.

After luncheon, Dr. J. E. Dods deposed that on April 21, in conjunction with Dr. Marks, he had examined stains on a saddle (Dahlke’s). They were blood stains — mammalian blood, he thought. Charles Pearson Tom, of’ Mount Moffatt Station, said that he rode part of the way with Doyle, Dahlke and Sam Johnson to the pocket. That was the last time he had seen Doyle and Dahlke. Mr. Tom then told of Sam’s statements to him on the Sunday evening. Sam showed him Dahlke’s saddle, which was stained with blood, so profusely that it might have been poured through the rose of a watering-can. He knew that Doyle had arrested Pat. Kenniff early in February last at Merivale. Doyle told him Pat DREW A REVOLVER, but had lowered it when Doyle ordered him to ” pack it up.” The next witness was James Ernest Burke, laborer of Carnarvon Station.’ He first gave an account of the altercation botwuen the-Konniffs and Ryan at Carnarvon on Good Friday night, concluding with Pat’s threat, “Whatever Dahlke gets ‘you’ get.” Then he described his meeting with Tracker Johnson, and his subsequent visit to the pocket. Mr. McGrath asked if he had mentioned in the police court that from Kenniff was present at Carnarvon on the Friday night, and the witness said he had. Mr. McGrath said it was not in the depositions and suggested that Tom was there in the afternoon, but his Honor said this was not inadmissible, and in the interests of the prisoners it should not go in. R. C. Lethbridge said he had gone into Mitchell with Sam Johnsou, and on April 1 handed over Dahlke’s saddle to Constable Cleary. Cleary deposed to receiving this saddle, and Constable Judd related how he had delivered it to Dr. Marks. Another constable (Dawes) identified a revolver as the one Doyle said Pat Kenniff had drawn on him in February. He knew it by the missing screw and a piece broken off.


On Wednesday there was such a rush for admission that an orderly was stationed at the main entrance to the court to keep out all except these who had a right to admission. One of the spectators this day was the father of Constable George Doyle, whose conduct was rather eccentric, and he had to be restrained several times by friendly admonitions to “Kape quiet”.

The first witness was Constable William James Nash, of Mitchell who knew Pat Kenniff and Doyle. In February of last year Doyle had Pat in custody, and handed him over to witness. A revolver was also given to witness. It was a Colt’s revolver. Joseph Ryan, head stockman of Carnarvon station, said that in March last Dahlke was manager of that station. He last saw him alive on March 25 last. He had not received any message or letter from him since. Ryan then told his tale of the Kenniffs calling on him on March 28, and making certain threats. Ryan’s cross-examinination by Mr. McGrath was interesting. After questioning him as to the relative positions of all parties on the night in question, the following occurred :—

How long have you been in the district? — Since ’95.

Have you got any nickname ? — No.

Haven’t you got the reputation of being a liar?— No.

Haven’t you a nickname of DEADWOOD DICK? —No.

Or Joe the liar? — No.

Haven’t people frequently said that you are a man who could not be relied upon ? — No. Only Jim Kenniff.

Were you not in the habit of carrying yarns backwards and forwards ?— No James Kenniff accused me of it.

You have no friendly feeling towards the Kenniffs? — No.

You assisted the police to capture them? — Yes.

You didn’t make any reference to the revolver in the police court on the first day? — No.

What is your explanation for that?— I forgot it I suppose.

To catch the Kenniffs; was your whole object? — Yes.

With the police? — Yes.

The witness further stated that he was with the police from April till the end of May.

Richard Tapp, Sub-inspector Dillon, Constables Simpson and Tenane gave evidence as to the searches in Lethbridge’s Pocket. Francis Henry Vivian Voss, legally qualified medical practitioner, was then called, and made an affirmation. He said he was Government medical officer at Rockhampton. He knew Constable Millard, and on April 8 he received two saddle-pack bags, one pouch, revolver and pouch, one packet, one button, and one metal ring. He opened the bags, and found them to contain charcoal, fragments of bones, pins, buttons, a metal ring, and fragments of clothing. He examined the packet mentioned, and found it to contain earth and leaves covered with a glistening tarry covering. He examined some parts of it, and it gave the reaction of blood. He tested the matter chemically. There was also organic matter there.

His Honor : Leaves are organic matter.

Witness : I was referring more to THE CHARRED MATTER.

A box was then produced containing a number of articles. The doctor said he made a careful examination of the pack-bags. He separated all the bones he could find. Some bones he could not identify as particular bones. Of those he could identify he found portions of a human skull. One part showed plainly the socket of the eye.

His Honor: More than one skull?

Witness: I could not say.

Continuing, he said he found portion of the human vertebrae. On one fragment of vertebrae he found flesh, which was quite fresh. The body could not have been long dead; he thought about three weeks. He also found portions of the human pelvis, pieces of the human thigh and leg. Also bones of a human hand — finger and wrist. There were also some toe bones. Portions of human teeth, some buttons, and a part of a stud were also found. Two pins were found in the pack bag, a piece of material like that of a coat or trousers, and canvas padding used for a coat. They appeared to have passed through fire.

Mr. Stumm: Can you say, looking at, those bones that they are that of more than one person ?— No.

Are they the bones of a male adult or child?— From the size of the teeth and the size of the bones they belonged to an adult male or males.

Continuing the doctor gave evidence relative to the ti-tree brush, piece of rock and round stone found by Sub-inspector Dillon. Dr. Voss, in answer to Mr. McGrath, said he could not tell whether the remains were those of a WHITE OR BLACK PERSON, or whether the blood was that of a human being or not.

Snapper, a half-caste stockman on Meteor Downs Station, said he had found handcuffs and a chain about three-quarters of a mile from old Kenniffs camp.

Senior-sergeant Power identified the handcuffs, revolver, etc., which had been issued to Constable Doyle. Purvis Lannigan, head stockman at Meteor Downs, said he knew Snapper, and received the articles mentioned from that witness. In answer to Mr. McGrath witness said there were scalpers’ 40 miles away from Lethbridge’s Pocket. He had not seen any scalpers in Lethbridge’s Pocket.

David C. O’Brien, deposition clerk at Rockhampton, gave evidence relative to the death inquiry held at Rockhampton and the various exhibits produced at the time and Acting-sergeant Patrick Mallon, of Woollaston, testified as to the receipt of various articles received from Lanningham in August last.

Senior-sergeant Rody Byrne, stationed at Toowoomba, said the witness O’Brien had given him a number of exhibits which he brought to Brisbane. In answer to Mr. McGrath, he said that he arrested James Kenniff, senr., and his sons Thomas and John on April 5 at Uriway Springs, nearly 12 miles from Meteor Downs and about 55 miles from Lethbridge’s Pocket. There was a man working at the springs, but he did not know his name. He had heard Tom Kenniff call him Jim. He had since made inquiries for him. He had heard that the defence had got a subpoema for this man.

In answer to Mr. Stumm, witness said he followed up the tracks from old Kenniff’s camp in Lethbridge’s Pocket. Mr. McGrath objected, but it was pointed out by his Honor that it was desirable that Tom Kenniff’s movements should be known.

Where is Kenniff’s camp?— About two miles from THE SCENE OF THE MURDER.

His Honor: You know nothing about the scene of the murder yet!

Continuing, Byrne said there was signs of habitation about the Kenniffs camp, which was half-a-mile lower down from the flat rock.

His Honor: It is rather vague calling a tent the Kenniff’s camp.

Snapper, recalled, produced a stick on which he had made certain marks indicative of distances.

Amelia Dahlke, mother of Albert Christian Dahlke, said that she had not seen or heard from her son since March 29 last. He was 26 on December 10 last. She had heard no reason why he should not write to her if he was alive and let her know where he was.

She last saw him alive at the end of August, 1901. When he left for Carnarvon she put some flowers in his coat and fastened them in with a bouquet pin. The pins produced were exactly like them.

Wm. Collins, member of the firm John Collins and Sons, graziers, said his firm owned Carnarvon and Babiloora stations in the Warrego district. Albert Christian Dahlke was manager of Carnarvon. Dahlke made fortnightly reports. His last report was dated March 19, and his last cheque was dated March 10. IF DAHLKE WERE ALIVE he would expect to hear from him.

Catherine Doyle, sister of Constable Geo. Doyle, said that she had not seen or heard from him since March 29 last. She replied to that letter and it was returned by the Post Office. No message or communication had been received from him since that date as far as she knew. She knew of no reason if he was alive why he should not communicate with her or other members of the family. He used to send money home, but no money had been received since March 29 last.

Sam Johnson, recalled, said he knew old Kenniff’s camp, and was there with Doyle four weeks before he went to Lethbridge’s Pocket. Old Kenniff and Jack Kenniff were there. The camp was a tent. There were leaves under blankets for beds. There was a fire there with stones around it. The camp was on the gorge in the pocket, near the creek. It was from the camp that he ran the tracks with Rody Byrnes afterwards.

Evidence of the Kenniffs’ arrest was then given by Constables Scanlan and Cramb. The latter stated that when James Kenniff was arrested he had two loaded rifles in his possession, and after calling on him three times in the King’s name to surrender Jim raised his rifle, and witness fired his rifle and missed. Jim then laid down his rifle and said, ” Don’t fire. I want to talk to you.” Witness replied, ” Throw up your hands and surrender in the King’s name.” He replied, “I WON’T SURRENDER.”

He then said, “Where is Paddy? I want to know if he is dead. If he is I won’t surrender, or if he is wounded.” I said, ” You had better surrender : you are surrounded by police.” He said ” I don’t care if I am surrounded by 60 police; I want to see Paddy alive, as I am tired of the life I am now leading.” He then came up and stood on a log about 15 yards from said, ” Don’t fire.”

[Consable Meston said he spoke to] James Kenniff on the way to Mitchell, ” Whose horses were they that Cramb shot?” and Jim Kenniff replied, ” They were our horses.” The court then adjourned for the day.

On Thursday Cramb was cross-examined at some length. He was followed by Constable Tasker, who gave further evidence as to the arrest. Then Sub-inspector Hugh Malone was called. He said he was in charge of a body of police in June last searching for the prisoners. On June 23 the two men were brought into Mitchell. He took charge of everything that was found in the camp. Prisoners were placed in adjoining cells separated by a thin wooden partition.
Mr. Lilley : Do you remember standing near those cells and hearing a conversation between the two prisoners ?— Yes, about 8 o’clock that night in the open air.
What did James Kenniff say ?— He said ” I heard someone say THEY WILL HAVE TO PROVE IT. I think it will only be for the ‘gee-gees’— they are mine.” Patrick Kenniff replied, “No, no!” James Kennif then said, ” They have got you set,” and added, ” The
ranges were the best.”
Did you hear anything said about business?— I heard James Kenniff say, ” What
kept you so long! If I had got to business they would have shot you.”

Mr. McGrath briefly cross-examined with regard to the Government proclamations which were hung up on trees in the district.
In answer to Mr. Lilley Malone stated that he said to Jim Kenniff, ” I suppose while travelling about you had a good laugh at your photos being in the bush ?”— Jim replied he saw a notice signed by the Chief Inspector. One of the jury having asked for the surveyor’s sketch of Lethbridge’s Pocket with various spots marked on it, H. G. Blakeney,
the surveyor, was called. Mr. McGrath objected to this plan going in and his Honor said that perhaps it would be safer not to put the plan in as evidence.

[To be continued…]

“PATRICK AND JAMES KENNIFF ON TRIAL for the MURDER OF CONSTABLE DOYLE” Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 – 1954) 9 November 1902: 1.

The Kenniff Brothers: An Overview


Queensland can’t lay claim to a great many bushrangers when compared to its southern kin, but at the top of the hill stand the Kenniff brothers, Patrick and James. With their roots in Tipperary during the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, the Kenniffs were seemingly born to rebel. Like many bushrangers they began as cattle rustlers but their crimes soon escalated into grisly territory.

Patrick Kenniff was born in 1863 to James and Mary Kenniff in Dungog, New South Wales. Paddy’s little brother James was born in 1869 but his birth was not registered. Later there would be Thomas and John to add to the ranks. In 1891 the family made the move to Springsure, Queensland where the boys worked as labourers, jockeys and bookmakers at the race meetings. In 1893 Paddy and Jimmy headed to the Upper Warrego where they fell in with the gang of stock thief Thomas Stapleton taking them down a slippery slope they would never return from. Throughout their early life, the Kenniffs rode with their cousins and Aboriginal boys from the Bidjara people, stealing cattle and horses with impunity.

If there was one thing that defined the Kenniffs it was their relationship to all things equine. Paddy in particular was considered one of the best horsemen around and is reported to have on one occasion robbed a Casino hotel and escaped through a flooded stream, cutting off his saddlebags mid-stream so that when the police caught up to him he could cooly inquire what they wanted. Jim was also an expert horseman too, training a racehorse called Darramundi in Roma in 1901 winning a number of races in Springsure and Tambo.

Mug shot of James Kenniff

In December 1894 the brothers first appeared on the radar of the authorities after a race meeting in Charleville. Having had a bad day at the races the Kenniffs discovered they were short on funds to repay their debts so they pinched three of the race horses and bolted. After stealing a mob of cattle at Meteor Downs, James Kenniff senior took the mob into Roma for sale while the brothers Paddy, Jim and Tom would traverse the surrounding areas into New South Wales avoiding police attention as well as they could. Paddy knew the stock theft charges against him were flimsy and planned to use the proceeds from the sale to pay a lawyer to get him off once he’d turned himself in. But, as these stories usually go, the Kenniffs could not evade the forces of law and order for long. In February 1895 the brothers were caught by Tambo police but succeeded in escaping custody and heading back into the bush leaving the troopers with egg on their faces. It wasn’t until March that they were caught proper, police sneaking up on them at their camp. Paddy mounted one of the horses and took off but was stopped by one of the officers who fired at his mount causing the rider to be thrown off. Jim mounted and took off but was knocked out of the saddle by a low branch. Tried in Roma Paddy got five years and Jim three. While the brothers did their time in gaol neighbours, spearheaded by one Albert Dahlke who was a prominent squatter from Carnarvon Station, protested about the impact such lawless people would have on the community and had the family’s land lease at Ralph Block terminated.

Mug shot of Patrick Kenniff

The Kenniffs were hardened by their time in prison and having their land taken away making the family homeless and forcing their father and the brothers to live in tents. Paddy and Jim took to riding at all times with weapons and their bitter resentment for Albert Dahlke festered away. An altercation between Jim Kenniff and Dahlke soon occurred wherein Dahlke gave the younger Kenniff an absolute belting, the Dahlkes being renowned in the region for their tough fists and indomitable resolve in a fight. Jim would later challenge Dahkle to a second fight and boasted that he would not thrash a Kenniff a second time around. From that day forward the brothers had sworn to take revenge on the squatter. The brothers roamed the Carnarvon region stealing horses from the squatters and sleeping beneath the stars dreaming of revenge.

Dahlke and his favourite horse Boudicea

In 1902 things quickly ramped up as the Kenniff brothers were once more wanted for stock theft. On 21 March a warrant was issued for the arrest of the brothers. On 28 March the Kenniff brothers had made an appearance at Carnarvon Station and threatened some of the staff so Constable George Doyle teamed up with Albert Dahlke and a black tracker named Sam Johnson to find the bandits. What happened next is the source of a great deal of controversy that has yet to be definitively resolved.

Johnson the tracker

Sam Johnson claimed that after a chase on horseback Doyle and Dahlke succeeded in catching Jim Kenniff in Lethbridge’s Pocket two miles from where James senior lived in his tent, but as they had left the pack horses behind they did not have any tools of restraint and sent Johnson to fetch handcuffs. Johnson retrieved the pack horses, which were only 200 yards away, and as he rode back he could hear gunfire. It was surmised that Paddy and Tom Kenniff had come to rescue their brother and in the process a fight had broken out between the bushrangers and their pursuers. Johnson considered it folly to attempt to intervene and rode away believing he was being chased by the brothers. He found a man named Burke from a nearby station and induced him to ride back to the scene of the crime. They found Boudicea, Dahlke’s mount, wandering with her shoulders and saddle covered in blood.

Constable Doyle

When troopers set out at Easter time, led by Johnson they discovered Doyle and Dahlke’s pack horses in a cluster of trees at Lethbridge’s Pocket saddled and equipped with bulging saddlebags. They also found three small bonfires, long since extinguished, with telltale blood drippings in the soil surrounding. They found spurs and a pistol belonging to Dahlke and Doyle and investigated the horses. When they looked in the saddlebags they discovered they were filled with ashes, further investigation revealed shards of bone, hair and charred cloth fragments. The grisly find was identified as the earthly remains of Albert Dahlke and Constable George Doyle. Dr Voss the medical examiner confirmed that the remains were human in origin and the charge leveled against the Kenniffs was now murder and a reward of £1000 was offered for their capture.

Scene of the crime: It was on these rocks that the corpses of Doyle and Dahlke were incinerated, as indicated by the white scorching in the centre of the image.

Knowing that they were wanted on a hanging offence Paddy and Jim took to the bush and were soon joined by Tom. The Kenniffs were expert bushmen thanks to their previous occupations and managed to keep ahead of the police until 23 June ranging some of the toughest, most rugged country in a 200 mile radius. Police believed there was a good chance the brothers would make an attempt to take a ship to South Africa and kept tabs on all goings on at the docks. On 23 June 1902 the Kenniff brothers were caught at last in a dawn raid on their camp. Two sub-inspectors, fifty constables and sixteen black trackers arrived at the Kenniff camp barefooted for stealth and shot the horses. Paddy and Jim bolted in separate directions with Jim being nabbed first, Paddy keeping the police at bay with rifles from the scrub before handing himself in.

Sir Samuel Griffith

Sir Samuel Griffith presided over the trial of the Kenniff brothers in Brisbane on 3 November, 1902. The pair were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death on the evidence provided by Sam Johnson. The sentence was deferred, as per custom, to await an appeal. Public sentiment at the time seemed to be largely in favour of the lads due to them accidentally becoming figureheads for the struggles in Queensland at the turn of the century. Queensland at this time was in the clutches of drought and unemployment was rife. In these circumstances people are wont to become desperate and many saw this as an explanation or justification for the Kenniffs’ foray into stock theft. As with the Kelly gang only a little over twenty years prior in Victoria, the outlaws were seen by many to also illustrate the war between the squatters and the “cockatoo” farmers. Thus supporters collected funds and lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court who dismissed the appeal out of hand, though Justice Patrick Real questioned James Kenniff’s guilt in the matter and the validity of the evidence against the brothers provided by Johnson, much to the chagrin of the Chief Justice. The appeal phase over, James Kenniff’s sentence was reduced to life imprisonment his big brother Paddy, however, would still take to the gallows. When the brothers were taken from the courthouse to Boggo Road Gaol the prison van had to pass through a crowd of 500 spectators who cheered for the brothers.

Source: Truth, Brisbane, 09/11/1902

On 12 January 1903 Patrick Kenniff went to the scaffold and hanged for the gruesome crime of murdering Dahlke and Doyle and incinerating their bodies. His last words were

“I have told you twice before that I am an innocent man, I am as innocent as the judge who sentenced me. Good-bye. May God have mercy on my soul.”

James Kenniff was released from prison in 1914 and would live long enough to see the coming and going of WWI, dying in 1940. To his dying day he protested the innocence of he and his brother.

Selected Sources:

“The Kenniff Brothers.” The Bundaberg Mail and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1892 – 1917) 9 April 1902: 2.

“THE KENNIFF BROTHERS.” Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 – 1904) 2 August 1902: 37.

“THE KENNIFF BROTHERS” The Charleville Times (Brisbane, Qld. : 1896 – 1954) 5 December 1947: 16.

“Bushmen Murderers.” The Western Champion (Barcaldine, Qld. : 1922 – 1937) 30 August 1930: 12.








Spotlight: The Trial of the Kenniff Brothers -Tracker Johnson’s Evidence


One of the main controversies of the Kenniff story is that Paddy and Jim were convicted solely on the evidence given by Sam Johnson, the tracker that accompanied the victims, Doyle and Dahlke. What was it that was so compelling about Johnson’s account that no corroboration was required? Certainly there were other testimonies that stated that the Kenniffs had a motive for the crime and had even made threats, but only three people in that court room could testify as to what may have occurred in Lethbridge’s Pocket. The Kenniffs maintained that they weren’t even present and their subsequent disappearance was not to escape capture for the crime, but merely a part of the transient lifestyle they had adopted since Dahlke had rendered the family homeless by having their lease terminated.

The Sydney Morning Herald stated:

[Johnson] said that Constable Doyle and Mr. Dahlke had been known to him. He described the party leaving the police station on the Upper Warrego, and how they were equipped. Saddlery, spurs, &c. , were produced and identified. Witness described how on entering Lethbridge’s pocket he saw Pat, Jim, and Tom Kenniff, who rode to the top of the gully and pulled up. They had two packhorses. The Kenniffs left the packhorses, turned round, and raced away across the gully. Witness secured his packhorse by fixing the halter to a log, and galloped after Tom and Pat, who rode together. Tom and Pat went right up the gully. Jim raced up the creek, and Constable Doyle and Mr. Dhalke followed. Jim on looking back saw they had caught him. Witness pulled up and went back when he got up too close. He (witness) pulled Jim off the saddle. Mr. Dahlke was on his horse holding the reins of Jim Kenniff’s mount. Mr. Doyle had been trying to pull Jim Kenniff off. When he got up witness was on the off side, and caught him by the foot, shoving him off on the near side. Constable Doyle ordered witness back to get the packhorse. When witness rode away Constable Doyle was holding Jim Kenniff by the right arm. He (witness) rode for the packhorse. The horse George was then feeding and the packhorse was away 200 yards. Before he reached the packhorse he heard a shot fired. Four other shots followed quickly. He went up to the packhorse, looked back, to where he left Constable Doyle and Mr. Dhalke. He could not see them but could see the place. He tried to get the handcuffs out of the pack, but could not, so trotted forward, leading the horse. On going back he saw Pat and Jim Kenniff riding at him hard. He let the packhorse go and raced away towards the pumphole and gained the scrub. The shots he heard fired were louder than those of a police revolver. The pumphole to which he went was about 12 miles away. On getting there he found James Burke. Burke went back to the pocket with him. There he saw the packhorse and Boadicæ. Witness was frightened to stay in the scrub. Burke caught the horses.There were no packbags on Dandy Pat, who carried only a saddle. He saw blood on the flap of the saddle on Boadicea.

Sam Johnson
It all seems pretty clear cut and in keeping with the known facts, but when Johnson was cross-examined a different picture began to emerge, as reported in The Daily Telegraph:
The tracker, Sam Johnson, was cross-examined by Mr. McGrath, who quoted from the depositions taken at Rockhampton to show that the tracker’s statements varied with regard to what happened in Lethbridge’s Pocket after he went back for the pack-horse. The depositions went to show that the tracker had stated that he had caught the pack-horse before the last shot, whilst to-day he stated that he had just got up to the horse when he heard the last shot. Otherwise the evidence given to-day was practically the same as was given previously.
Not exactly a complete game changer, but it does raise a bit of a flag. Did Johnson simply make a mistake or did he deliberately change his story? It may seem a minor detail, but the location of the tracker when the last shot was fired could change the timeline and thus the reliability of the testimony. If the deposition is correct, Johnson was already heading back when the last shot was fired, yet his testimony in court suggests that it had either taken longer for him to get to the horses or he had delayed in leaving the others, or even returning to them, rather narrowing the window of opportunity for the Kenniffs to fight against the constable and the squatter. Moreover, it does seem strange that the only survivor of the search party to survive was the one that was conveniently absent when the shots were fired.

James Kenniff on trial for murder
Jim Kenniff
Of course there are always multiple sides to any story and Mr. McGrath, who represented the defence, tried valiantly to draw attention to the lack of identification of the remains. He also indicated that the possibility that Tom Kenniff may have done the deed could potentially prove the innocence of Paddy and Jim. He also raised the scorched rocks as evidence, as they were found over a mile away from the place where the Kenniffs were reported as being, thus there was no proof tying them to the site of the fires. It seems that McGrath knew the deck was stacked but would try anything that might dent the prosecution case.
The Inverell Argus reported:

Mr. McGrath continuing, said the jury would have evidence of the father and brother John to prove that Tom was in their company on Sunday at some distance from the spot, so that it would have been impossible for him to have been at Lethbridge’s Pocket without either the father or the brother knowing about it.

The article furthermore records Jim Kenniff’s account of the activities of he and his brother during that period:

[James Kenniff] deposed that he and Pat were at Carnarvon station on the night of the 28th March. They had words with a man named Ryan, and then went off and camped near the station. Their brother Tom joined them at the camp, and remained about half an hour. He then went towards Skeleton Creek and [Jim] and Pat started off for Roma on Easter Sunday morning. They camped about thirty miles from Merivale paddock on that morning. Mulholland and Thornton went to the camp and remained a couple of hours. Pat and [Jim] mustered eight head of horses, which they drove o Armadalla, passing through Mitchell. The journey including stoppages, occupied them from 20 to 40 days. On the return journey they saw a notice on a tree, and that was the first they heard of the murder of Doyle and Dahlke.

If Jim’s testimony was true, none of the Kenniff boys were guilty as they weren’t even there at the time and therefore could not have committed a crime. With both Johnson and Jim Kenniff putting forward plausible depositions, the act of determining the truth became more complicated.
In the end, the jury found the men guilty of murdering Doyle and Dahlke and incinerating the bodies in a failed attempt to hide the evidence. Fearing reprisals from the Kenniffs’ sympathisers, Johnson relocated with his wife to Longreach. Questions still linger about how Johnson could have been engaged in a chase on horseback, given the Kenniffs were on thoroughbreds and the tracker had an old nag to ride. There is also some doubts about his ability to identify the sound of gunfire.


“TRIAL OF THE KENNIFFS.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 5 November 1902: 5.
“QUEENSLAND BUSHRANGERS” The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1923) 5 November 1902: 7.
“Trial of the Kenniffs.” Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908) 5 August 1902: 10.
“Trial of the Kenniffs.” The Inverell Argus (NSW : 1899 – 1904) 14 November 1902: 3.

Spotlight: “Bushranger Country”

While looking for information for my opinion piece on Dan Morgan’s grave, I discovered this gem of an article from The Canberra Times:

good times 050588

How fantastic does that cast sound? Can you imagine it?

John Hargreaves as Frank Gardiner


Jon English as Dan Morgan


Mark Lee as Johnny Gilbert


The mini-series by Robert Macklin, arts editor for The Canberra Times, was set to be a corker, with big names potentially attached in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Inspired by a trip to Binalong where he discovered the fascinating character of Johnny Gilbert, Macklin set out to explore the stories of other bushrangers in the Canberra region and discovered that the majority of bushrangers crossed through what is the Australian Capital Territory now as a matter of course. In “Traveling along with life’s little stop signs” published in The Canberra Times, 10 December 1989, Robert Macklin discusses one of the hurdles his mini-series faced when a potential American investor spoke to him about the US angle – “Young Guns Down Under” – needless to say that investor was not brought on board. In a later article “The life and crimes of Robert Macklin” in The Canberra Times, 14 January 1990, we find out that Bryan Brown had agreed to play Frank Gardiner in Bushranger Country. In “Our extraordinary bushrangers on parade” in The Canberra Times, 10 January 1993, Macklin goes into a bit more detail on the project stating that each episode was written by a different author (each paid the princely sum of $5000). Blanche d’Alpuget wrote the Ben Hall episode, with Peter Corris writing for Frank Gardiner, Jean Bedford for Captain Moonlite, Ian Moffitt for Johnny Gilbert, Gabrielle Lord for Dan Morgan, and Nicholas Hasluck for the Clarke brothers. In “ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT ‘Carmina Burana’ comes at a price” in The Canberra Times, 4 February 1995, Macklin reveals that Blanche d’Alpuget had an opinion of Hall that was nothing but complimentary. Unfortunately it seems that a number of factors scuppered Macklin’s magnum opus including corporate restructuring, investors having to pull out at the last minute and the bane of bushranger historians everywhere – the self-empowered and self-proclaimed moral absolutists and arbiters of good taste of our society – the Bunyip Aristocracy. Yes, it seems the enthusiasm for tales from the colonial era of Australian history bolstered by bicentennial fever in the late 1980s was dealt a decisive blow to the kneecaps by 1995 by a revisionist attitude that frowned upon the suggestion that larrikins and rogues could be considered worthy subjects for an enlightened and refined society. Thus Macklin’s project was shelved and the world was denied a potentially well-crafted, researched and enlightening document that would preserve many of the greatest bushranger stories on film for the first time in almost a century (or in the case of the Clarkes – ever).

All this gets me wondering who else they might have gotten on board. Could you imagine Ben Hall played by Brett Climo, Captain Moonlite played by Andrew McFarlane or perhaps the Clarke brothers played by John Orcsik and Steven Tandy? (Being someone who grew up mainly in the 90s I admittedly had to Google a lot of those chaps to see how they looked back in the 70s and 80)s.

With LAWLESS: The Real Bushrangers due out on Foxtel later this month, Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of True History of the Kelly Gang prepping after a ridiculously long gestation period, and director Matthew Holmes pitching for investors to help get his acclaimed script for The Legend of Frank Gardiner onto the screen, could we be seeing a new era of bushranging charging back into the public consciousness? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see the outlaws of Australia’s past galloping on the silver screen again to packed audiences just like they did in the early 1900s? The Legend of Ben Hall has gathered a devoted Australian audience and been widely acclaimed overseas, oddly receiving, it seems, more support in America and Europe from critics, distributors and festivals than it did here. Surely this highlights an untapped market for Australian film-makers to get into with appropriate backing from the relevant funding bodies (Australia’s film industry is mostly funded by Screen Australia and its state and territory based counterparts rather than corporate money as in America).
We could, in the near future, be seeing more outlaws and the colourful forces of law and order that pursued them across screens big and small. Picture Dan Stevens as Captain Moonlite blasting away at gallant troopers at Wantabadgery Station; thick, oily smoke from a bonfire parting to reveal Jai Courtney as Patrick Kenniff; the villainous Morgan portrayed by Joel Edgerton; Luke Bracey as Frank Gardiner leading the explosive gold heist in the Eugowra Rocks; or perhaps Teresa Palmer rustling cattle as Jessie Hickman!

For your consideration, here is a trailer for LAWLESS and Matthew Holmes’ investors pitch: