Spotlight: Shooting of Pat Connell

Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser (NSW : 1864 – 1867), Thursday 26 July 1866, page 2


From the Braidwood Dispatch.

INFORMATION was brought into town on Wednesday morning last of the police having, the day previous, pursued the bushrangers whose depredations at Mudmelong on Monday last were recorded in our last issue, and of the death of one of their number, Pat Connell, during the encounter which ensued. The news was brought into town at an early hour in the morning, between one and two o’clock the same day the body of the dead outlaw was brought in by Sergeant Creagh and his party from Ballalaba, where it had been conveyed and detained the previous night. It appears that the bushrangers, after their outrageous proceedings at Mudmelong on Monday afternoon, camped in the Araluen mountains somewhere about Betowynd, only a few miles from Mudmelong, that night Sergeant Creagh, in charge of the station at Ballalaba, having received instructions the previous night from the superintendent at Braidwood, proceeded, early on Tuesday morning with a party of police consisting of Senior Constable Byrne, constables Kelly and Gracy, and a black tracker, to intercept them or pick up their tracks and follow them on the route they had taken from Mudmelong through the mountains to their haunts at Jingera.

As will be seen by the narrative of that officer and of constable Kelly given below they proceeded about fifteen miles on a track leading to Araluen, and when they had arrived at a position the most likely to pick up the bushrangers’ tracks or to intercept them, on the side of a mountain contiguous to the valley, their efforts after waiting some short time were rewarded with success, the black tracker pointing out to them Pat Connell and another of the gang driving a mob of horses along a path leading through the mountains to a point of the table land higher up than the path along which the police party had come. The police then followed their tracks for about fifteen miles and came upon the robbers encamped in the Krawarre ranges, at about three o’clock in the afternoon. The police were made aware of their near approach to the robbers by the signs of several horses having been feeding. The black tracker having been ordered to reconnoitre in advance, while the remainder of the party having dismounted, cautiously proceeded behind him on foot, was not long in scenting them out. In about ten minutes from the time the party dismounted, the tracker put up his hands to caution his companions to be silent, and pointing down the side of the hill upon which they were proceeding they obtained a full view of the robbers’ camp down in the creek, and observed one man moving about. Leaving the horses in charge of the tracker the police stole cautiously and unobserved to within sixty yards of the camp. They then saw four men, one of them (Pat Connell) being at that moment about to jump upon a horse. The other three were engaged round the fire and were evidently preparing for supper, a pot being on the fire and a quantity of provisions strewn about. They had a tent and appeared to be quite at their ease without the most distant apprehension of being disturbed. Pat Connell it was supposed was about to ride round the camp to see that all was safe for the night and to look after the horses which he and one of his companions had been observed driving in the morning.

The police under the direction of Sergeant Creagh, gave one volley into the camp when they had approached within the distance stated and then rushed upon the robbers, each of the attacking party drawing his revolver in readiness for the fight in close quarters. The robbers fled however before their assailants, the three on foot making direct for the creek, and Pat Connell, who was on horseback, making off up the creek. The three who made for the creek returned the fire before retreating, but neither volley had any effect. The police then fired upon them again, but the robbers who had run across the creek were protected by a dense scrub at the other side, a feature of the position admirably chosen for affording an escape in the event of a surprise of this kind. Sergeant Creagh and senior-constable Byrne followed the fugitives across the creek. When retiring into the shelter of this scrub, one of the robbers (John Clarke we believe) knelt down on one knee and presenting what appeared to be a revolving rifle, took deliberate aim at Byrne, and fired, the shot fortunately missing him, but not being very far wide of the mark. As soon as the robbers got into the scrub they commenced blazing away at their two assailants, after which their firing ceased for some time, when Sergeant Creagh and Byrne called out to them to come out and face them, and make good their braggadocio at Mudmelong, and other places about themselves and the police, but the birds were not to be caught with chaff, they merely emerged from their cover for a moment to take aim, and then retreated again into the scrub.

While this was going on here, constables Kelly and Gracy had pursued Pat Connell in an opposite direction, and the luck which has hitherto attended this robber, who is said to be the real captain of the gang, he being the most powerful and active as well as the most experienced man amongst them, on this occasion deserted him. He appears to have been caught in a fix, and to have been placed at a great disadvantage in the saddle, a position in which he has hitherto been unassailable, and in which his splendid daring feats have so often carried him triumphant out of the most hair breadth difficulties. As a bush rider he, perhaps, has never been surpassed by any man in Australia, and it is quite possible he may have placed more faith in his powers in the saddle than on his legs, and mounted his horse from choice and not for another purpose unconnected with his escape. If so, however, his disappointment must have been fearful when he found that he was unable to rush his horse up the hill which he was trying to get over speedily enough to get out of reach of constable Kelly’s revolver. Kelly says that when he got within sixty yards of him he fired upon him. Just before doing so Connell all intent, apparently, upon urging his horse over the hill, looked round and said, “Stand back you —– .” These were the last words the robber uttered for immediately the words were out of his mouth Kelly’s bullet had accomplished its fatal mission, and passed through his back between the left shoulder-blade at the bottom of the shoulder and the spine. The outlaw threw up his arms, groaned, and fell backwards from his horse, with his head foremost to the ground.

Kelly remained with him a few minutes, and believing he was mortally wounded, left him to rejoin the remainder of the party. The firing with the remainder of the bushrangers continued for about an hour and a half after this, and the police party then resolved upon returning to the station, and having placed the body of the dead bushranger upon the horse he had been riding, and secured the things left in the camp, which will be found enumerated below in Sergeant Creagh’s statement, they started at about five o’clock for Ballalaba, which they reached about midnight. We may mention that it is rumoured that the names of the other bushrangers are John Clarke, Thomas Connell, and Thomas Lawler, a young man, a resident of Collector, who has for some time been suspected as connected with this gang. Thomas Clarke, the principal outlaw, was not seen amongst them at all, and it is impossible to say whether he had been with them or not. There was some talk of a fifth man being seen at Mudmelong, but whether there was or not it is hard to say. If there was it is probable that Thomas Clarke was the other man, and was absent at the time the police came upon the camp, tailing the horses. The expedition after the robbers appears to have been conceived and executed with a promptitude and decision which reflects the greatest credit on all parties. The robbers will have been now taught a lesson which they have long been in need of, viz., that an equal body of police meeting them on equal terms, doubly armed, as they are in the justice of their cause, can make them flee before them, with all their of boasting, like so many demons before their avenging angels. It will teach them that they can be hunted down in their mountainous strongholds as successful as across the stretching plains, as it is apparent that they can be taken at a great advantage by a pursuing party, who can espy their position from the surrounding hills and pounce down upon them unawares as in this instance. It is a matter of surprise indeed, that the assailants’ first volley did not do some execution amongst them, and the manner in which they escaped unharmed was a piece of luck which it is very improbable they would meet with in any attack under similar circumstances again.

The dead body of the outlaw, Pat Connell, underwent a post mortem examination at the hands of Dr. Pattison, on Wednesday, in the Braidwood lockup, when the ball was taken out from the right breast, having passed through from where it entered in his back. The body was afterwards given over to Mr. Thomas Farrell, the undertaker, by whom it was placed in a coffin and removed, at the request of the deceased’s family, to Jerrabatgully, to be interred with others of the family there buried. We learn from those who saw the body that the deceased appeared to be in a better state of physical health at the time of his death than he ever had been known to be during his life. He was about 36 years of age, and presented as fine a form as ever nature endowed mortal man with. When living he stood about five feet ten inches, and was a most compact and firmly knit, athletic, active man, and one of the best riders in the colony.

A magisterial inquiry touching the death of Connell was held at the Braidwood police-office by J. H. Griffin, Esq., on Wednesday afternoon, when Sergeant Creagh, in addition to what is stated above, said as follows :– At the camp we took possession of the following articles which the bushrangers had left; four saddles and bridles, three revolvers, one calico tent, one cloak, and a pair of saddle bags, besides a quantity of provisions, clothing, blacksmith’s tools, one bottle of old tom, and also some mail bags. The camp had not been long made. They were getting ready for supper when we came up to them; we sewed the body up in some blankets, and while we were doing this I saw two of the bushrangers returning and we fired upon them, when they went back to the scrub, and as it was getting dark we could see no more of them. When we got to the police station found a silver watch (Flaville Brothers,) two gold rings, (one horse shoe pattern and the other a Chinese ring), and four £1 notes and £1 11s. in silver, in a leather clasp purse, and a meerschaum pipe. I brought the body this morning to Braidwood.