Gatton Murders - Journalists' Summing Up

Gatton Murders

!!! Finally After Years Of Research, Albeit Still Only A Theory.

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The Gatton Tragedy Exposed At Last. An Examination Of The Secrets And Lies.

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Journalists' Summing Up


The Gatton (Queensland) horror is still a mystery, for the official enquiry just closed has failed to penetrate it; but there are signs that the police have now, if they have not had from the beginning, a theory as to the commission of the crimes.

That theory points at the least to members of the Murphy family as being material witnesses could they be induced to give evidence without reserve, but so far the official enquiry not only discloses that they cannot remember anything material that occurred at the time, but by their own admission have not from the first made the slightest effort to assist the police to track the murderers.

It is not reasonable to suppose that these people were indifferent and there is nothing in what has been disclosed to warrant such an assumption. What then?

Do they believe they know the murderers and are they afraid they may do further murder if the family of the victims are not silent, or is it that behind the first horror there is an inner tragedy that is too terrible to bring to light?

To us it has seemed from the beginning, knowing the quality of the men engaged upon the enquiry, that the police authorities, while directing public attention to Burgess, as the possible perpetrator of these crimes, have been making their real investigation in quite a different direction.

Anyway it is clear from the course of the enquiry, so far as the reports have come to hand, that the police desired to have account of all the sayings and doings of the members of the Murphy family on the night of the murders and immediately thereafter, particularly in relation to what they said or did in the direction of discovery of the murderers.

How curiously little the Murphy family said or did upon such dreadful occasion will be gathered from the evidence we shall publish later.

Apart from the mystery of the attitude of the Murphy's, the most notable evidence adduced at the enquiry concerned the past relations of a local resident named Ryan with that family. Ryan, according to his own statement, had been "keeping company" with or "courting" Polly Murphy (now Mrs. M'Neill) for some years prior to her marriage.

Mrs. Murphy, however, objected to these attentions and quarrelled with Ryan, who is said to have harboured a bitter feeling of hostility to the mother because of the rejection of his suit.

One of the most curious aspects of the case is that the police seemed to have devoted an immense amount of pains to prove precisely the whereabouts of these two men on the night of the murders, one being the rejected lover of a sister of the murdered young women and the other being the successful suitor and husband.

Nothing transpired apparently to show that these men had anything in common, though it would seem that Ryan, notwithstanding his quarrel with Mrs. Murphy, still maintained friendly, though not intimate, relations with the younger members of the family.

What then is the hypothesis of the police?

The trend of their enquiry seems to involve suspicion of both men, yet there has apparently been no evidence to warrant arrest of either of them.

On the contrary, the testimony that they were both at their homes on the night of the murder so far remains unshaken.

That M'Neill was an object of suspicion to many persons in the district immediately after the commission of the crimes was made known to the general public by his complaint made to the police and published by the special correspondent of the Brisbane Courier, that in a place of public entertainment he was treated with disfavour and the women servants of the establishment would not speak to him.

M'Neill who at that time, unlike the Murphy family, was busy apparently in assisting the police to run down the murderers, concluded by declaring that if the police had anything against him he was there to be arrested.

The police, however, knew nothing then to justify any such proceeding and it would seem they knew nothing now to bring M'Neill or Ryan or anyone else within reach of the long arm of the law for one of the most atrocious crimes known to Australians of the present generation.

Now, without imputing any knowledge of these crimes to either or both of these men, other than is contained in their evidence, it is of interest to speculate upon the attitude of the police toward them.

There seems no reason to suppose that they would be likely to act in concert in anything.

Did, then, the police suspect they might have acted independently, or rather that one only was concerned, while the conduct of both at the time and on the occasion was fair subject for enquiry?

And at this point we are confronted with another extraordinary aspect of this remarkable tragedy.

Was it possible for one man to have successfully and without discovery, decoyed from a well frequented bush road at an early hour of the night and murdered three young adults, who, from the very nature of their upbringing and environment, were strong, alert, self-reliant persons, thoroughly familiar with their surroundings?

And apart from the murders, there were the preceding atrocities.

To the ordinary mind the "one man" theory seems incredible and yet no less an authority than the Commissioner of Police is reported to have said that in his opinion it is quite possible that the crimes were the act of one man.

Upon this hypothesis it is reasonable to suppose that the murderer must have been actuated by an over mustering passion of revenge, the offspring of repulsed desire, personal indignity, or private wrong, or a criminal lunatic seized with an uncontrollable desire for outrage and murder.

Was there any person liable to such a passion of murderous hate among the immediate friends or acquaintances of these young Murphy's?

The evidence fails to disclose any such motive.

And yet there is strong presumption, it would seem, that if one man compassed these crimes, he not only knew the Murphy's, but had their confidence.

Only such a one could have induced them to drive off the road, while on their way home, into a bush paddock that led to nowhere.

Now on this point there is fairly conclusive evidence that Michael Murphy purposed driving into Moran's paddock before he got there.

There is no question of the party being "bailed up" at the sliprails and compelled to leave the road, for the evidence made it clear that the track of the vehicle was continuous from along the road through the "slip panel" into the paddock.

This seems to show that the slip-rails, that should have been up, had been taken down in expectancy of their coming.

Further, the attentive reader of the evidence we will later append will note that the buggy track as it passed in over the rails had not on the following day, according to one witness, been disturbed, which meant, if true, that the rails had never been replaced and yet another and more material witness had said that when he entered the paddock at an earlier hour in the morning the rails were up.

But who induced the party to enter the paddock?

Various witnesses deposed to seeing a single man, whom in the dark or semi-darkness of the night they did not recognise, near to the slip panels of Moran's paddock.

The Sergeant of Police, returning later from a district race meeting to his station at Gatton, saw the Murphy's at some distance on the Gatton side of the entrance to Moran's paddock pulled up and talking to presumably this same man.

Presently they parted and it would seem that conversation resulted in Michael Murphy driving with his sisters to sudden and awful death at the hands, wholly or in part, of the man whom they met on the road and who it is fair to suppose knew them well enough to be able to lure them to the spot where a little later they were done to death.

Who, then, was that man on the road?

That is what the best police officers of Queensland without regard to expense have for many weeks been vainly trying to determine and now they have closed a protracted enquiry, the evidence in which will probably cover a thousand foolscap pages and in all of it there is not apparently discovery enough to warrant a single arrest.

For our part we cannot find sufficient warrant for the supposition that these murders were the act of one man, even though we can conceive of such a man adopting means to induce a medical opinion that two men were concerned in the outrage.

It may be that the police, as sometimes happens, have built up an elaborate theory on the "one man" basis and now are at a loss to find the "one man" to fit.

Later, when we come to publish certain of the evidence, the reader may be able to discern the impression of the official mind.

Meanwhile the exigencies of space will not permit of completion of our review of this appallingly tragic story in the present issue.


At the conclusion of the enquiry into the Gatton Murders, the presiding Magistrate felt it his duty to say that he was greatly astonished at the extreme apathy of the blood relations of the victims during the enquiry.

Although there were four brothers of mature age, with the exception of Dan, who appears to have helped his brother inlaw, they did not assist the police.

Their evidence was most unsatisfactory. It had to be dragged out of them and had been very contradictory, especially in regard to the horses in the vicinity of the house at the time of the murders.

The relations appeared to have treated the business as "kismet," and acted as if they wished it buried in oblivion.

It was on this, the closing day of the enquiry, that Dan Murphy, on being recalled, admitted that while at Roma street Police Station (Brisbane) he remarked that "some one at home must have gone out of their minds and done it. He did not remember ever saying that it must have been one of the family who had done it, though he might have said it."

This sensational evidence was confirmed by Joseph Murphy, a Brisbane constable, but not related to the Murphy family of Tent Hill, who deposed that he travelled, from Brisbane in company with Daniel Murphy, of Tent Hill, on the 27th December. Daniel Murphy said to witness: "It must have been some member of the family; no one else would have done it and we shall be the talk of Blackfellow's Creek and everybody will look down on us." Witness asked him if there was any member of the family who had gone wrong in the head at any time, or drank heavily. He said there was not.

This witness had served Mrs. Murphy, the mother of the family, with a subpoena on the previous day to attend the Court then sitting and in doing so had apparently got a taste of that old lady's quality. She said; "What do you want me there for? I have been there often enough before. They nearly killed me last time I was there. The damned wretches want me to say something to bring it home to M'Neill, who worked hard to help them. They are a damned lot of traitors. May God grant they may have some trouble themselves before they die. (She had prayed for God's mercy on the murderers when she first heard of the death of her children and their father at the same time expressed satisfaction that they had gone to church on the previous Sunday) They think I am keeping something back: I believe they want me to tell a lie, they are a lot of damned wretches all through."

The above evidence transpired on the 23rd ult. and we will now go back to the beginning of the testimony of the Murphy family and as briefly as possible with reasonable regard to continuity review it.

First, however, it is important that the reader should bear in mind that Michael Murphy and his sisters Norah and Ellen, left home apparently about 7.30 p.m., arrived at Gatton at ten minutes past 9, started back immediately on the homeward journey and were last seen near Moran's sliprails, where they immediately after, no doubt, turned off into the paddock before 10 o'clock. These times are of the highest importance in relation to the possible movements of M'Neill, who, according to the testimony of the Murphy family, could not have been the man seen at the "rails," or the man whom Sergt. Arrell saw speaking to the Murphy party before their arrival at the fatal "turn off."

If then, the Murphys are not all conspiring to mislead the police, M'Neill and the man at the rails are not identical and, therefore, if it is to be contended that M'Neill was concerned in the tragedy it would seem that it was carefully planned and that at least two men were engaged in it.

But there is no evidence against M'Neill and there would have been less suspicion had not the attitude of his wife's family been so remarkable throughout.

According to the statement of Murphy, senr., he went to bed between 10 and 11 o'clock on the night of Boxing Day.

Up to that time and after the departure of the party for Gatton, no one else had arrived at or left the house. The only one he left sitting up was his wife. About an hour after retiring he heard M'Neill's child cry and the father speak to it. He did not see M'Neill going to his bedroom that night.
Questioned closely, the witness said that he heard footsteps when saying his prayers, which he maintained were those of M'Neill.

The Magistrate: "You tell us the only person up when you went to bed was your wife and you say you heard M'Neill going to his room when you were saying your prayers." Witness: "I don't go to bed until a long time after I have said my prayers."

Was there any one else in the house? Yes, my son Will.

How do you know they were not his footsteps? I know it was M'Neill! You heard footsteps, but you don't know whose they were? I know they were M'Neill's! Continuing the witness said the last time he saw M'Neill that night was when the dog cart left (which took the party into Gatton), but he heard him walking about. He would swear this was M'Neill.

Now, as the police were so obviously intent upon determining whether M'Neill was, or was not, during the night of the murders, absent from the house of his father inlaw, where, with his invalid wife, he was a guest, we will for the present continue along that line of evidence, taking other salient points later.

Mrs. Murphy deposed that after the party left home for the dance, M'Neill returned to the house and went to his own room between 9 and half-past 9. M'Neill had previously taken his boots off. She went to her room about a quarter of an hour before she heard the clock strike 10. No one came out of any of the rooms. She did not go to sleep until after 12 o'clock. She heard Mrs. M'Neill ask the little girl to kiss her, but she said, "No; kiss dada," and Mrs. M'Neill laughed.

Katie Murphy, the youngest of the family, stated that Norah did not wish to go to the dance, as one of the children of her sister (Mrs. M'Neill) would cry after her (Mrs. Murphy had previously asked the girls to stay at home that night), but M'Neill told her to go and that he would look after the little girl. Towards 9 o'clock witness saw M'Neill go to his room and heard him moving about afterwards. She could not say if M'Neill was in the house the whole of that night.

William Murphy, the youngest brother of the family and he was at home on the night of the murders, said that M'Neill was in the house after the party went to Gatton. A little after 9 o'clock, witness went to the yard and turned all the horses into a grass paddock, containing about 100 acres. None of the horses were shod. Coming in after wards he saw his father and mother and M'Neill in the sitting room. M'Neill went to his bedroom at 9 o'clock and the witness went to the kitchen to assist Katie., From where he was he could see anyone leaving the front door. He certainly heard no one. Witness went to bed about ten minutes to 10 o'clock. His bed lay along the partition on the opposite side of which was a bed occupied by M'Neill. During the night he heard nothing but M'Neill's snores before he (witness) went to sleep. He did not see who it was snoring, but hi thought it was M'Neill. He could not swear positively.

John Murphy, another of the brothers who was at home at the time, did not see the party depart for the dance. He went away to Tent Hill, ant returned about 10.30. He did not notice that the dogs barked. He went to bed.

Inspector Urquhart, Where was M'Neill? Witness, In his room. I would not be sure he was there. He was supposed to be.

Who supposed him to be there? I did.

Did you think about him on that occasion? No I Continuing, witness said he went to sleep almost immediately and did not hear a snore, a laugh, or any one speaking.

The remaining evidence as to M'Neill's whereabouts on the night of the murders is that of his wife and it is the most important. Assuming it to be credible, it would seem that M'Neill was in his bed on the night of the murders and if the testimony reproduced in this article is to be relied upon, it is clear that M'Neill could not have been in the vicinity of Moran's paddock at the time the mysterious man at the "slip-rails " was seen.

Moreover, it should be noted that, though it was a moonlight night, this man was not recognised by any of the local residents who passed him.

Mrs. M'Neill's evidence is lengthy and important and is to the effect that her husband shared her room during the night in question and that he could not have absented himself without her being aware of it. After dealing with Mrs. M'Neill's examination, we propose to group the evidence that points to the possibility of some member of the Murphy household having been absent during the night with out the knowledge of the others at the time of such absence.

It is of a very slender kind and, as we have said, would appear less but for the curiously unknowing attitude of the whole of the Murphy family, as to which there is yet more of interest to be written. And even behind all this mystery there is no clue to motive worthy of the name and this it is that most of all makes rational speculation of the causes of these dreadful crimes seemingly impossible.


Still more mystery.

Mrs M'Neill, the wife of the brother inlaw, has been examined at Toowoomba. She declared she was too ill to go to Gatton, but the magistrate, after an examination of her, which lasted two hours and a half, was compelled to say that he could see no sign of the woman being unfit to travel.

Her evidence was decidedly unsatisfactory to her husband.

The report reads: Mrs M'Neill, who is a weak, delicate woman, gave her answers in a low voice, with averted face, which she seldom raised to answer the questions. The principal point of her evidence was that on Boxing Night (the night of the murder) her husband came to bed with his clothes on but his boots off. She went to sleep about half an hour after he came into the room and slept soundly all night. She was not disturbed by anyone going from or coming into her room. She could swear that her husband did not leave the room, that night.

Inspector Urquhart: Can you really swear that your husband did not go out? An oath, you know, is not taken for nothing. You must be sure. Consider your position and give me your answer. Witness remained silent for several minutes and looked around the court.

Inspector Urquhart: Did you hear my question, Mrs M'Neill? Witness: Yes.

Inspector Urquhart: Have you no answer? Witness: No.

Inspector Urquhart: What is your reason for not answering? Have you been told not to answer?  Witness said she had not been told not to answer the question. She felt that she could not answer it.

Inspector Urquhart: Anyone could answer "Yes" or "No." If anyone asked you a couple of months hence it you had been in court, you could answer. If you are in a position to swear that your husband did not leave the room do so and if you cannot swear that, then say so? Witness remained silent.

Inspector Urquhart informed the bench that he could press witness no further on the point. Witness said that she had told all she knew of the happenings of the night in question. The morning after Boxing Day M'Neill said, "The girls have not returned yet." He soon after went in search of them and returned a little after 10 a.m. She asked if they were coming and he, speaking in his ordinary way, said, "No; they are dead in the paddock near the cemetery, on Tent Hill road." She thought she asked him how it happened, but she had forgotten whether she did or not. M'Neill first told her that they had been murdered. Neither witness nor her mother asked M'Neill who had done it and she never had a suspicion of any person. She had never said she knew whose doings it was. She and her husband talked about her coming to give evidence. He told her to answer what she was asked and not be frightened or excited.

Inspector Urquhart: Well, if he told you to answer what you were asked, why did you not answer that question I just asked you? Witness remained silent, with averted head.

Mr Shand, P.M.: I would not press her any more. Inspector Urquhart: Very well, your Worship.


It will be remembered that in our last preceding article dealing with the evidence adduced at the enquiry into the Gatton murders, we gave all the points of evidence upon the side of M'Neill's presence in the house of the Murphy's during the night of the murders, except that of his wife, which we now propose to review.

Before doing so it should be mentioned that when M'Neill found that his wife had been summoned to attend the Court at Gatton, he immediately removed her to Toowoomba, some distance inland, at the time stating that she was too ill to attend the Court.

After a threat to issue a warrant to compel her attendance, the Court went to Toowoomba to procure her evidence, in order that the enquiry might be closed. We give a summary of what transpired: "Inspector Urquhart said he had but one witness to call. The Government, medical officer had examined that witness, Mrs. M'Neill and he considered her strong enough to undergo an examination. Mrs. M'Neill was then carried in by her husband, who was requested to leave the Court by the presiding Magistrate. M'Neill asked to be allowed to stay with his wife, but permission was refused.

Mrs. M'Neill is described, as she then appeared, as a very frail looking woman.

Her small thin body was attired in a black dress, loose and fastened at the waist. Witness was evidently ill at ease by the manner in which she glanced round the Court.

She gave her answers in a low weak voice, her eyes being rarely raised to the face of her questioner and frequently turning to the door through which her husband had disappeared.

Witness was in no way hysterical, nor did she at any time give evidence of tears. After detailing the departure for the dance and stating that it was nearly 8 o'clock when the party left, witness stated that she remained up about half an hour later and then was helped to bed by her mother. The room she occupied in her father's house was off the sitting room, with a door opening into the sitting room. There were two windows, one at the side opening on the front verandah and one at the end of the house. They were both sash windows. She did not notice if the windows of the room were shut, she slept with them open generally. (We may here say that it would be a remarkable thing if on a still midsummer's night in that region the windows were not wide open.) Her sister Ellen usually occupied the room with her. On the night in question her husband slept in the same bed with her. Her eldest child, 2 years and 5 months, slept in the bed also. The other child slept with witness's mother. The eldest child usually slept well and was sleeping well at Christmas time.

Witness sometimes burned a light at night, but did not remember if she did so on that occasion.

She could not say what time her husband brought the child in, but she remembered him doing so. The child was awake at the time and undressed.

Witness slept on the outside and her husband put the child on the wall side.

At this point Mrs. M'Neill was closely questioned as to whether her husband had his boots on when he entered the room and admitted he had not.

(The significance of the points as to the boots and the windows appears to be that M'Neill might, after leaving his boots, say, on the verandah, have left the house by his bedroom window without the knowledge of any of the household, except, perhaps, his wife.)

Continuing, witness said her husband entered the room from the sitting room; but she could not remember if he shut the door. There was, she said, a light in the sitting room (Mrs. Murphy said in her evidence that she was sitting reading there at that time), but later was not certain and finally did not know.

"She had not been told to say she did not know. She had not taken any medicine or anything to drink before going to bed, nor did she have any injection with a needle. She could not remember if he or the child had spoken. She did not remember if she herself spoke."

Her husband got into bed with his clothes on after putting the child to bed. (This was singular, because in that climate a man is only too glad to get out of his clothes and into a suit of cool pyjamas at bedtime.) Half an hour, she thought, after her husband lay down, she went to sleep and slept all night, the child was asleep at this time. During this half hour she did not notice if the dining-room door was open or shut. (If the reader will bear in mind what about this time was occurring near the scene of the murder miles away the bearing of this examination will be the more clearly understood.) "She slept all that night and until morning nothing disturbed her she was sure. She had a good night. . . It was long after daylight when witness woke. She heard others in the house moving about, but did not know the time. Her husband was not up when she awoke."

Inspector Urquhart. Was he awake? Who woke first? Witness: I don't know.

Inspector: Try and think of that morning. Witness, after a pause, again said she could not remember.

Inspector Urquhart: Are you sure he was there? Witness: Yes, because I saw him get up and he came back and told me the others had not come home." Continuing, witness said her husband still had his clothes on when he got up the same as he had worn at the Mount Sylvia races. It was, not usual for him to do so, but when he did it was because of the little girl, because she was troublesome. The child was not troublesome that night. Witness was sure that nothing of any kind disturbed her during the night. . . . She did not know if her husband put his boots on before going out in the morning. He was only away a few minutes and when he returned she saw his boots on his feet. . . . She had never told anyone that her husband had been angry all night on the night of the murders and she did not think any one had asked her. ... On the night in question she did not think her husband could have gone out of the room without her knowledge. She could swear he did not go out that night. Witness was covered with the bedclothes, but her husband slept on the outside.

Inspector Urquhart. Can you really swear that your husband did not go out? An oath you know is not taken for nothing. You must be sure. Consider your position and give your answer. Witness remained silent for several minutes and looked round the Court.

The Inspector. Did you hear my question, Mrs. M'Neill? Yes.

Have you no answer? No.

What is your reason for not answering? Have you been told not to answer? Witness said that she had not been told not to answer the question. She felt that she could not answer it.

The Inspector. Anyone could answer Yes or No.

If anyone asked you a couple of months hence if you had been in this Court you could answer.

If you are in a position to swear that your husband did not leave the room, do so; and if you cannot swear that, then say so.
Witness remained silent and the Inspector informed the Bench that he could press the witness no further on the point.

Witness said that she had told all she knew of the happenings of the night in question. She and her husband had talked about her coming to give evidence.

He had told her to answer what she was asked and not to be frightened or excited.

The Inspector. Well, if he told you to answer what you were asked, why did you not answer that question I just asked you? Witness remained silent with averted head.

The presiding Magistrate. I would not press, her any more.

The Inspector. Very well, your Worship.

This closed the examination. It will be thus seen that the evidence of the Murphy family goes to show that M'Neill was in their house throughout the night of the murder, though none can swear that he was in fact there, while the reader will perceive that the line of examination by the Crown was meant to show that M'Neill might have absented himself from the house on the night of the murders the evidence of the Murphy's to the contrary notwithstanding.

M'Neill's story of the finding of the bodies, the remarkable apathy of the family, according to their own showing, after learning of the tragedy and some kindred points will be described in our next article.


The murders of Norah, Ellen and Michael Murphy took place on the night of the 26th December last (Boxing Day) and probably shortly after 10 p.m.

Judging from the time that the local sergeant of Police, on his way to Gatton from the Mount Sylvia races, saw the Murphy's speaking to a man on horseback a short distance, on the Gatton side from the "sliprails," where they turned off into Moran's paddock to meet with sudden death. We have described, according to the evidence, what passed in the house of the Murphys on that night, which, as to M'Neill, goes to show that he was in the house all night according to the belief of the witnesses, but does not conclusively prove that he could not have been absent without their knowledge after he had gone to his own room and after his wife had gone to sleep.

But supposing he did leave the house before the Murphys a little after 9 o'clock started on the homeward journey from Gatton, how could he (M'Neill) suppose that he could meet them at such an hour? He could not know that the dance had fallen through, but would know that the party might be expected home sometime about daylight.

However, we will now follow the proceedings of the Murphy family on the day following the murders.

The father of the family deposed that on the morning of the 27th he was the first up in the house. "The next up in the morning after Will (the youngest son) was M'Neill; that was after 6 o'clock. He noticed that the trap was not in the yard and informed his wife, who looked into the girls' room and found they were not there. While he was having breakfast M'Neill asked him if it was the usual thing for them to stop out like that. He said no. There was no talk of anything serious happening to them."

(It may be here recalled that the mother did not want them to go out that night, that Norah expressed a wish to remain at home and that M'Neill urged her to go to the dance. Still, all these things may have fallen out in a perfectly natural way.)

Witness thought they might have remained at Chadwick's, or the trap might have broken down.

It was at breakfast that it was first suggested that someone should look for them.

M'Neill said he would go and get a horse to go and meet them and see if the trap had broken down.

He did not hear Mrs. Murphy urge M'Neill to go. After breakfast witness went to work and M'Neill passed him on the way.

About 10 o'clock his son Will came and informed him that the three children had been murdered.

Witness asked if they were shot and he said he did not know. His son further said M'Neill came out and told him.

Witness and his son went home. Mrs. Murphy, in the course of her evidence, said "her husband came in about half-past 6 in the morning and informed her that Michael and the girls were not then home.

When she came out to the kitchen she said the cart might have broken down. M'Neill said: It might not be too safe.

After about an hour M'Neill said: If one of them had walked from Gatton they could be here by this time.

Various surmises were made and then M'Neill said it was time some one went to look for them.

She agreed and M'Neill got a horse and rode away. The reason he went was that he was the only one not at work.

Inspector Urquhart. Are you sure you did not ask M'Neill to go? Did you ever say, "For God's sake M'Neill, go and look for my children?" No, I am sure I didn't say it! Continuing, witness said, "M'Neill left about 8 o'clock and returned a little after 10 o'clock. She met him at the door and asked him if he had seen the children and if they were coming. He said no. She asked him why and he said, "They are dead and murdered in a paddock up at Gatton, with their hands tied behind their backs and their beads bashed in."

William Murphy, one of the brothers, "did not remember," or was "not certain," or "could not be sure," all through his testimony and whether it arose from apathy, stupidity, fear, or predetermined reticence, the whole family proved unsatisfactory witnesses.

After this witness had been questioned about what M'Neill said when he returned from Gatton, Inspector Urquhart addressed him, saying, "Don't treat this in such a casual way; be careful to tell exactly what was said."

The Police Magistrate. I cannot understand why you people don't recognise the gravity, of the matter. You give answers in a haphazard way and sometimes give, the answers before the questions are put. Witness, continuing, said, when M'Neill came up after discovering the bodies he was much excited. "Witness asked if all were dead and he replied) 'Yes; it is something terrible.' Witness went in to his mother; but he could not remember what she said when she was told." Continuing, after repeated questioning, "he remembered his mother saying, 'Oh my God, my poor children!'

Arrangements were made to proceed to the scene of the tragedy. He (witness) went in the meantime to fetch his father, who was at the farm and who asked what was the matter.

Witness replied that Norah, Helen and Mike had been murdered. Murphy senior then asked if they had, been shot and when told the facts he said he was glad they had attended their Church on the Sunday. He also asked if Bill (meaning M'Neill) had brought the news.

Did your father know that M'Neill had gone to look for the children? Yes.

You said M'Neill arranged with your mother to go after your father had gone.

As a matter of fact, you really don't know whether your father knew M'Neill had gone to look for them or not? I could not be certain.

Do you know whether he knew or not? I could not be certain.

Then you don't know? Try to make us clear. I could not be certain. Witness, continuing, said that "neither he nor his father on the way home spoke of the probable culprit. He (witness) tried to pacify Mrs. M'Neill. She was calling out the names of the three deceased, but no other. He and others proceeded to the scene of the tragedy. M'Neill was there, but witness could not remember anything he said."

At this point we may digress to give examples from the evidence of this witness of the apathy or panic of the Murphy family in regard to these crimes: Have you Murphys gone about the country and made any attempt by yourselves to find out who committed these murders? No.

M'Neill did, didn't he? Yes.

Did he ever ask any of you to join him? No.

Did your father ever try to urge you to see what you, could do? No.

At the first did you ever offer to lend the police any horses or help them? No.

Did you ever hear we were hiring horses? I believe I did on one occasion.

How many horses had you on the place? About 20 horses, of which seven are draughts.

The next witness was John Murphy, brother of the deceased and he evinced the same curious lack of memory as the previous witness. Early in the examination the Inspector was impelled to say, "It is absurd the way in which we have to get things out of you," to which the witness made answer, "I cannot remember things so long ago."

[This was on 9th March and the murders occurred on the night of Boxing Day. It might be fairly supposed, that the most trivial incidents of that eventful day would have been recalled by the family immediately after the tragedy by persistent and continuous effort of memory and yet for value in tracking the murderers these people could remember nothing that was of the slightest aid to the police.]


Jeremiah Murphy, another brother, was the- next witness.
He had gone to a dance at Mount Sylvia in the opposite direction to Gatton on Boxing Night and reached home as day was breaking. "When he reached home he did not see the pony that was usually running about the premises. This beast was not easy to catch when it had been out for some time. The horse could have been there without witness having seen it."

On getting up shortly after six o'clock this witness and his brother William started their milking and before they were finished M'Neill came to them and said "it was strange the party had not returned; they might have had a smash and someone should go and look for them."

After breakfast the brothers did not see M'Neill about, but about 9 o'clock he rode in past where they were chaff cutting "looking bad".

Bob Smith came and said the three had been murdered in a paddock near Gatton.

Witness knew M'Neill had gone into town, but could not say who had told him.

Smith also said Bill (meaning M'Neill) had found them.

M'Neill said to William, "My God, Bill, such a mess you never saw in all your life."

He also said their hands were tied behind their backs and their heads bashed in in a paddock at Gatton.

He could not remember what was also said.

Inspector Urquhart. Try and remember, Murphy, because this is of great consequence to everybody? I don't remember who he said found them.

Did he tell you he heard the news in Gatton? I don't remember him saying anything.

Did you ask him for any details? I didn't ask him.

Did your brothers? l didn't hear them if they did.

The Police Magistrate. Did you get any information afterwards when you came down, in two or three days? I don't remember.

The Inspector. Did you ask him whether anybody was with the bodies? No.

Did your brothers? I didn't hear them.

Didn't ask any question whatever? No.

Did your mother say anything before she left to go to the scene of the murder? She said, "Whoever did it didn't mean it for my children."

Did you see Mrs. M'Neill that day? Yes.

Do you remember anything she said? No.

Have you always a blank memory like this? It is not bad, but I cannot remember at a time like this.

It is just the time you ought to remember. Did you and your brothers remain at home all that day? Yes.

You didn't get your horses and go about looking? No.

You know the country well and so do your brothers? Yes.

Nothing wrong with you that morning was there? No.

Well, don't you know that the men who did that crime could not be very far away by that time? No answer.

Didn't somebody suggest you should make a push in some direction? No.

Did you think of it yourself? No, I didn't.

Did you know how many policemen there were at Gatton at the time? Yes.

How may? Two. You know there were no more? Yes.

The Police Magistrate. Are you not in the Mounted Infantry? Yes.

Didn't it strike you to go to your comrades and ask them to help you? No.

That is what you should have done. They could think of it themselves. I had enough to think of.

You heard of it first; they probably didn't hear of it till next day.

Inspector Urquhart. It is simply a fact that you stayed at home that day and did nothing at all? I stayed at home with my sister, Mrs. M'Neill.

But there were others there? They are strangers.

Surely some of you could have got away? There was myself, Jack and Pat there.

And Katie? Yes. When you heard of the thing did it strike you that any particular person might have done it? No.

Had you any suspicion? No.

Have you since? Yes.

The Police Magistrate. Don't give any names.

The Inspector. When your mother said it was not meant for her children, did she say who it was meant for? No.

Have you told anyone your suspicions? I have told a couple.

The Police Magistrate. Outside your own family? Yes.

The Inspector. Did you tell the police? No; but they have been told.

How did you know? My brother, Dan, told them.

To which police? I don't know. You didn't tell me.

Do you know he told somebody? I know he told somebody.

The Police Magistrate. Did he tell you he told somebody? Yes.

Do your father and mother know Dan's suspicions? Yes.

How long have they known? Three or four weeks.

Before they gave evidence here? I don't know. I have known that length of time.

Do you know they knew he suspected somebody? I don't know.

Do you know Dan suspects somebody? I don't know.

What I want to know is whether your father and mother know of your suspicions? I don't know.

How long have you had these suspicions. About three weeks.

And have you taken any action in consequence of these suspicions? Have you tried to do anything? Dan told the police and I don't know.

You don't know whether he told the police? Have you done anything yourself? No.

From these examples of the evidence of the Murphy family some idea may be gathered of the extraordinary difficulties the police have had to fight in pursuing the enquiry.

That the Murphys' have kept careful guard upon their speech is manifest throughout and that this reticence is dictated either by fear for their own safety or of some other person or persons who may have been associated with the crimes seems in the highest degree probable.

As for Dan Murphy having told the police of his suspicions, the only evidence of this is his own admission that when he learned the news he said to a companion "Someone at home must have gone mad and done it."

Who the "someone" was that Dan Murphy had in mind when he gave utterance to these ominous words is one of the many riddles of the tragedy.

Our next article will deal with the finding of the bodies and the further part played by M'Neill therein.


Inspector Urquhart. Are you quite sure you recollect the circumstances of this matter? Yes.

Are you sure? Yes.

Do you recollect them better than a month ago? Yes.

Why? Because I have been thinking over them.

Then if you said in your statement that you saw an unbroken continuation of wheel tracks through the rails that is wrong? Yes.

Continuing, witness said that he followed the wheel tracks back towards Gatton to see if he could find traces of a struggle or fight, but the trap appeared to have been driven without stoppage to the rails. He had no conversation with M'Neill all this time, nor with any of those who had arrived in the buggy. They followed the tracks through the paddock and noticed that the trap had grazed trees in several places.

He only saw the tracks of one horse.

They followed the tracks to the scene of the murder.

When they came up to the first body M'Neill said, "This is Norah."

Inspector Urquhart. Was the face plainly visible at the time? Yes.

How much of the face? The left side and one eye.

Do you think anyone who knew her could recognise her at a glance? Yes, I do.

Continuing, witness said that M'Neill pointed out the other two.

Witness then described the positions and condition of the bodies.

There were evidences of assault upon Norah.

Helen's clothes were pulled up to her knees and there were blood and other stains on her underclothing.

He took no notes at the time, but he did afterwards. He could not now find them.

The Bench said he could not understand witness losing them. He should have religiously kept them.
Continuing, witness said that Helen also had finger-nail scratches.

He did not compare those on the two bodies to see if, they were done by different persons, as he did not think it necessary at the time.

M'Neill was present at the examination of Norah, but made no observation.

M'Neill only stayed for a portion of the time.

Witness went to Michael's body, round which others were walking.

Inspector Urquhart. Did you not take any precaution to keep people away from the body? Witness, There were only four persons there, Wilson, Gilbert, Devitt and James.

Inspector Urquhart. How did you know the murderer was not there?

The Bench. Did you not know that those persons would obliterate any tracks of the murderers? Witness, continuing, stated that a strap was lying a short distance away from Michael's feet.

He did not know that Gilbert said that a strap was lying across Michael's right thigh.

He did not notice tracks, but the ground was slightly disturbed.

The mark could have been made by something trailing on the ground.

The mark might also be made by a kick from a heel on the ground.

There was some loose earth on Norah's shoulder and he formed the opinion that she was killed where she lay.

He held the same opinion of the, others.

He believed that, because when the bodies were lifted up there was an indentation in the ground under each and thus that the heads were on the ground when the blows were received.

Witness thought the bodies had been dead for about; twelve hours.

He next examined the trap, which was about six yards away. He found no blood on it.

He searched for tracks or weapons and between the bodies and the trap he found a blue cloak, on which there was no blood.

After looking for some time witness said, "As far as I can see, there is no trace left here; but if there is a real good black tracker he may be able to pick up some trace or track that we have been unable to find.

I will ride into Gatton and wire to the Commissioner of the occurrence and ask him to send a black tracker."

He asked the others to remain and protect the bodies. Gilbert and James said they could not, as they had to return to town. Wilson and Devitt agreed to remain.

Witness, before leaving, instructed Wilson and Devitt to stay until he returned and to allow no one near the bodies or the spot. Wilson was a magistrate.

Inspector Urquhart. Did you act before you left in the same manner that you told Wilson to act? There were only four there.

Did you tell them to keep away? No.

Why not? Because I did not think of it at the time.

What were they doing while you were examining the place? Walking round.

That was to give the black trackers a chance? Witness, continuing, said M'Neill only remained about five minutes after they first came to the scene.

He did not ask him where he was when he first saw the bodies, or to point out which way he had come. It did not at the time strike him as peculiar that there was no appearance of M'Neill's tracks along between the wheel tracks.

If the tracks were there between the wheel tracks he would have seen them; but there were none except those of the horse that drew the trap.

Inspector Urquhart. lf you noticed that it is peculiar you did not question M'Neill. Did you see any footprints about the bodies as if a man had walked up and looked at them? No.

Are you in a position to say there was no track? Was your examination sufficient to enable you to say so? I believe it was.

Have you ever had any experience of tracking? Yes; I was three or four months after a black bushranger with four black trackers.

Do you swear there were no tracks? All I can say is I carefully examined and. I believe there were no tracks. I saw none.

Didn't it strike you as peculiar, knowing M'Neill had been there before, according to his own statement? Well; yes, it did.

Did you take any steps to test the accuracy of M'Neill's statements? No.

Did you question him to see if he was telling the truth? No.

It is difficult to believe you rode from this station to the scene with M'Neill without saying something to him.

Didn't you ask him for any particulars? No. Continuing, witness said he got back to the scene of the murder about a quarter to 12. He had no police constable in Gatton and no assistance whatever.

Did the Murphy family offer any assistance? No.

Did they at any time? No.

Did any one else? No; except when the bodies were being removed.

Did any -magistrate in Gatton come to offer any help? No. Continuing, witness said there were about 30 or 40 people close up to the bodies on his arrival. These he requested to go out of the paddock. They retired a little, but came back again repeatedly, though he remonstrated with them. No one then offered, to help him.

Mrs. Murphy asked him to have the bodies' removed. Witness replied that he would like to allow the bodies to remain where they were until a doctor, for whom, he had wired, had arrived. Father Walsh, who was standing near, said it would be as well to leave the bodies until the doctor arrived.

Later, Mrs. Murphy again asked for the removal of the bodies. Mr. James (chemist), who was there then, said the bodies should be removed on account of the sun and the ants. Messrs. Ballantine and Wiggins urged the same course. The latter said, "Have you not taken a description of the position of the bodies when you found them?" He said he had. He could not find that description. He put it in his drawer and could not imagine where it had gone. He then had the bodies removed.

Inspector, Urquhart. Did you consider you were instructed by these two magistrates, Mr. Wiggins and Mr. Ballantine, to remove the bodies? No; I did not. Continuing, witness said a number of men, including M'Neill, helped to remove the bodies. Just as Michael's body was to be taken up, Mrs. Murphy, who was at the head, lifted the mackintosh that had been placed over the face and said, "Who does this belong to?" M'Neill said, "It belongs to Bob Smith; it was thrown into the trap up at the races yesterday afternoon." Witness lifted up portion of the rug under Norah and noticed dark stains on the underneath part, with dirt about the spot. The bodies were taken to the Brian Boru Hotel, placed in a room and the door locked.

Dr. Von Lossberg arrived and made an examination of the bodies. It was at this time that he found the hames strap had been put round Norah's neck, drawn tightly and fastened with a half-hitch.

The clothes were taken off the bodies and handed over to witness.

At the scene of the murder in the afternoon, a man named Andrew Smith handed him a piece of the dead limb of a tree, about 4ft long and 4in through. One end was smaller than the other. At the larger end it was knotty and at that place there were stains of blood. He fitted it into an indentation discovered in the ground, near Norah's head, which it fitted exactly. He concluded it had previously been lying in that hole and on account of blood and some hair upon it, that it was the weapon- with which the wounds were inflicted.

[A further installment of evidence and review will appear in our issue of Saturday next.]



In order to disentangle the voluminous evidence taken at the official enquiry into the possible causes and perpetrators of these terrifying crimes, we have adopted the course of following his movements and evidence of the principal figures associated with the tragedy, in order to present a connected story, with one individual for the time being as the central personage.

The police have throughout been so persistent in their efforts to make certain the whereabouts of M'Neill on the night of the murder; and have made it so clear that the Murphy family were unwilling witnesses, that in the mist of dreadful mystery enveloping the crimes the figure of this man has naturally loomed largely into view.

We shall now give the material points of his evidence, which we may here say was given with plain directness throughout and such testimony as was advanced by other witnesses calculated to weaken it.

The reader has been made familiar with the events leading up to the departure of M'Neill from the Murphy's' house in quest of the persons who had gone to the Gatton dance on the previous evening.

We will follow M'Neill's statement of what followed.

Four miles from the Murphys' home he reached the "sliprail," at Moran's paddock.

There he noticed wheel-tracks turning into the paddock like those of his cart. One of the wheels of his trap wobbled.

Examination of the track satisfied him that it was that of the trap driven by -Michael Murphy.

The sliprails were up and witness dismounted and "took them down." (Here it may be mentioned that M'Neill, as an experienced bushman, could hardly fail to notice on an unmetaled bush road the, deviation of these wheel tracks into an unfrequented paddock.

Also, it is to be noticed that while he said the rails were up another witness who a little later examined them lying on the ground declared that the wheels of the trap must have passed over them, as the ground spaces between the rails where they lay in the track of the vehicle that had passed into the paddock on the previous night did not show any marks or imprint of the wheel. (A remarkable contradiction here.)

Continuing his evidence, M'Neill said he went into the paddock and got on his horse again and followed the direction of the tracks, but did not actually follow them.

He left the tracks, as he expected to see a house, he had never been in the paddock before.

There was no sign of a road to make him think of going up to a house.

He went up the paddock about a quarter of a mile, up the ridge and down the other side.

He bore then to the right and struck the fence between Moran's and the next paddock and returned to the rails, as he could not see any signs of a house.

He examined the wheel marks again on the road outside the paddock and felt confident that they were made by his trap.

He undertook to follow the wheel tracks on foot, having dismounted for that purpose and leading his horse.

He saw tracks of the wheels and the horse drawing the trap, he did not see any human foot tracks.

He had been many years in the bush and had frequently followed stock by tracks.

He could not form any opinion from horse's tracks as to the pace it was going.

They were bearing to the right all the way after going fifteen yards from the sliprails.

He could show the tracks on a plan.

After following the track for three-quarters of a mile he saw three heaps of clothes on the ground and the cart and the horse; the latter was lying down.

Witness was about 50 yards away when he first saw them.

He went to the spot, right up to the heaps of clothes or within two yards of them and he then saw Norah was there and that she was dead.

Some ants were on her face.

Her jacket was pulled up to her shoulders and her stays were exposed.

Her skirts were on her, but they were undone at the back and pulled slightly up at the back.

He did not touch her, but knew she was dead by the ants on her face.

She was lying on her right cheek.

Witness came up on the left side of her.

She was lying with her feet westerly.

He did not walk round her body.

He did not then notice the position of Norah's limbs.

He saw the other two bodies eight or ten yards further on.

He did not go up to them.

He was within two yards of Norah, but did not notice anything but what he had mentioned.

In further evidence, M'Neill stated that he had always been on excellent terms with the Murphy family, excepting as to a difference with the mother as to his marriage, which had been amicably settled.

He did not know of any young fellows paying particular attention to the girls, nor was he aware that Michael Murphy had any enemies or any complications with young women.

Asked why he did not examine the tracks more closely when he first saw them, the witness replied, "I cannot give you any reason specially and did not stop, but got on my horse and galloped in.

I really cannot state my reason for not stopping."

In the township of Gatton on the morning following Boxing Day there was but one policeman, Sergeant Arrell, a man with a good record of bush, service and with experience of working black trackers.

Yet this officer from first to last, apparently by lack of judgment, decision and insight, made detection of the murderers as latter events proved an almost hopeless task; but we are anticipating.

We will now take note of the Sergeant's evidence, which largely relates to M'Neill's conduct after he arrived at Gatton to give information to the police.

Wm. Arrell, stationed at Gatton, deposed that on Boxing Night he came home from the Mount Sylvia races along the Tent Hill-road, accompanied by Michael Connolly.

He passed Moran's slip-rails about 9 o'clock, but noticed no one there.

A man was riding about a chain in front.

When they reached O'Leary's this man had stopped and was speaking to three persons in a trap.

On passing, Connolly said "Good night."

Witness asked who they were. Connolly replied, "They are the Murphys'."

They had previously passed Florrie Lowe on Clark's Hill.

Witnessed noticed there were two females and one male in the trap.

 The spot where he saw the sulky would be about a mile from Moran's sliprails.

Witness came on to Gatton and in Railway-street Patrick Murphy passed them.

Witness reached home at 9.30.

On the following morning a man came to the barracks and said, "My name is William M'Neill. I have come to tell you that the three Murphys are lying dead in a paddock out there." Witness said, "What paddock?" He said, "I don't know the name of the paddock. It is about two miles out on Tent Hill-rd."

Witness said, "What Murphys?" He replied "Michael, Norah and Helen."

He said further "They left their home at Tent Hill last night about 8 o'clock to go to a dance at Gatton. They did not return last night, nor had they returned this morning. We got uneasy about them and I started off on horseback for Gatton to make enquiries about them.

I came on towards Gatton and when about a mile and a-half or two miles along the Tent Hill-road I noticed wheel tracks on the road and these tracks I recognised as those of my trap that I had lent to the Murphys.

The tracks were turning off the road through the sliprails into the paddock.

The sliprails were up and I could see where the tracks had gone through.

I went into the paddock a short distance over a ridge, expecting to see a house that they had gone to, but saw none.

I then came back to the rails, followed the wheel tracks through the paddock some distance and came upon the trap, with the horse lying dead and the three Murphys lying dead a short distance from the trap.

I did not go close up to them, nor did I stop to look at them, but rode straight away to report the matter to you." M'Neill appeared excited and was pale-looking.

Witness I asked, "What do you, think has happened? Do you think the horse bolted and smashed them up?" He replied, "I don't think so, because the horse was a quiet old horse.''

Witness then saddled his horse and rode away with him.

When witness and M'Neill got to O'Leary's the latter said, "Do you see these wheel tracks here?" Witness said, "Yes." M'Neill then said, "These tracks were made by my trap. Do you see that one of those tracks does not run straight?"

Witness saw that in every 10ft or 12ft the track of the left wheel made a slight turn and a wobbly track was made.

Witness and M'Neill got off their horses at the rails and plainly noticed the wheel tracks on the ground, also the horse track in the centre of the wheel tracks.

They also saw other horse tracks inside and outside the wheel tracks made by an unshod horse going in and out of the sliprails.

The bottom rail was up and the other two rails were lying across the entrance.

Witness put the third down.

The wheel tracks where the rails were lying were disconnected, as if, the trap wheels had passed over the rails on the ground.


It seemed beyond all the bounds of belief that one man could have induced three strong, healthy, young persons to have accompanied him into a secluded part of the bush and there have murdered them without their making any struggle for their lives, but a closer acquaintance with the facts shows that this is not only possible, but is the only probable theory of the crime.

The theory most generally accepted now is that the murderer, whose motive was undoubtedly lust, stopped the dogcart as the old horse was toiling up a stony rise a few hundred yards from the slip panel; that he stood on the axle and with the revolver pointed at Michael's head ordered him to drive through the sliprails in the direction he indicated.

On arrival at the spot selected, it is surmised that the murderer ordered the three to dismount and instructed Murphy to unharness the horse and tie it to the tree and after that to tie his sister's hands behind their backs.

All these commands were, of course, enforced at the point of the revolver.

Then the spreading of the rug shows with what deliberation the murderer pursued his plans.

In the struggle with Norah, whose body was found on the rug, it is supposed that the murderer's disguise was disarranged and that when he knew his identity had been discovered and that his neck was in jeopardy, he resorted to the desperate remedy of murdering the three persons, robbing Michael and bruising and scratching the body of the younger girl to divert suspicion from the one man theory and make the crime appear the work of a gang.

In still further support of this theory is the evidence given by Dr. Wray, the Government Medical Officer.

His statement is that each of the three skulls were fractured by a similar blow administered by the same person, who must have been able to use his right and left hand equally well.

All the blows were inflicted while the victims were lying down and there were no traces of struggle. Had there been a gang, it is unlikely that only one of their number would be selected to commit the murders and though the actual culprit seems to have disappeared in almost a miraculous way, two or three men could scarcely have vanished so successfully.


Why don't the police arrest me? bitterly exclaimed M'Neill, when, the waitresses at Toowoomba refused to serve him with food and the customers in his business left him one by one till he was forced to close his butcher's shop.

But the police have no reason to arrest him and he has no one to blame for the unfortunate position in which he finds himself but the Murphy family.

From the first the family, instead of assisting the police as they might have been expected to do, have taken only a listless interest in the proceedings and their indifference has culminated in almost open hostility.

The son Daniel Murphy, who was a member of the police force, obtained leave of absence as soon as the bodies were discovered and that leave was extended to two months without his making a single effort to assist in the discovery of the miscreants.

When further leave was refused he sent in his kit.

A brother constable made a statement that when Murphy heard of the murders in Brisbane he exclaimed, somebody must have gone mad at home, but this Murphy denied on oath at the inquiry. M'Neill, on the other hand, has shown remarkable activity. So remarkable, indeed, that to be perfectly frank, it has led to his unpopularity.

When he noticed the wheel-marks on the Tent Hill-road and followed them to the scene of the murders, many claimed that he had been too smart and argued that when a man went out to look for a vehicle which he had good reason to believe had met with an accident, he did not keep his eyes on the ground in the hope of picking up wheel-tracks, but looked well ahead. Such people argued in ignorance.

M'Neill is an old bushman and tracks mean more to a bushman than finger posts to the townsman.

Besides the tracks made by M'Neill's dogcart were of such a remarkable nature, that no one having once seen them could mistake them.
The wobbly wheel was not like those seen on suburban hawkers' carts. It was a unique wobbler and had defied the efforts of all the local wheelwrights to remedy it. For five, six, seven, eight, nine or ten revolutions variously, it would run as straight as its fellow, then for no apparent reason whatever it would wobble badly for one or two revolutions before it rammed its straight career. That made a track no bushman could miss. In numerous other points where M'Neill's actions have looked suspicious, there is an easy and satisfactory explanation; but in the feverish anxiety which he displayed to keep his wife out of the witness box he showed an indiscretion for which he is now paying the penalty of unpopularity.

When Mrs. M'Neill was first subpoenaed, the excuse was forwarded that she was suffering too severely from dysentery to attend. Yet she was able to drive from her father's house to Helidon not to Gatton, mark you, which was much the nearer station-and take the train to Toowoomba, under conditions that must have been terribly trying to any one suffering from her complaint.

Other excuses were forthcoming and when at last the patience of the presiding magistrate, Mr. Shand, was exhausted and he threatened to have her arrested for disobedience of the summonses, a medical certificate was received that she was suffering from embolism and that any excitement might prove fatal.

There then remained nothing to be done but to adjourn the Court to Toowoomba to take her evidence. For two hours and a half she stood the trying ordeal and, though she had to be carried into court, she was, at the conclusion of her evidence, able to stand without assistance and sign her depositions. A little more frankness on her part would have done much to clear her husband from the unpleasant position in which he has been placed by the public. In her evidence she admitted that though it was the middle of summer and so hot that she was obliged to keep the windows open, M'Neill, on Boxing night, slept in his clothes, in case he might have to get up to get something for the child, which was sleeping with them.

As for M'Neill himself, he gave his evidence in the most straightforward and unhesitating manner; and after his severe cross-examination by Inspector Urquhart, through which he came triumphantly, he might well have exclaimed, with the old philosopher, The man who speaks the truth is generally under a cloud, for truth is the last thing the world will accept.

There are really only two very suspicious points of evidence against M'Neill and both are supplied by his wife. The first is that he slept in his clothes on the night of the murder and that she would not absolutely swear that he might not have gone out; and the second is that in the pursuit of his calling she had seen him using his right and left hand when cutting up sheep. In consequence of the strong public feeling against him he has been forced to close his shop and is now on a selection of land near Toowoomba. Apart altogether from the question whether their efforts have been skillfully directed or not, the police have done an enormous amount of work, which has resulted in nothing.

It would be uninteresting and useless to follow them through all the false tracks into which they have been led by evidence, which seemed in the first instance of the most valuable character, but one instance may be given.

A shirt was discovered hidden in the neighbourhood. It was so marked and stained that if its ownership had bean established, as the police were led to believe it might be, it would have provided them with a splendid foundation upon which to build their evidence of guilt.

Long and exhaustive enquiries showed that the owner was a person who could not possibly have had any connection with the crime and the stains were accounted for in an equally satisfactory manner.

For the present the police appear baffled and the only thing that can be suggested is that the Government should increase the amount of the reward from 1,000 to five times that amount.

It may be that only one person in the world knows who the perpetrator of this crime is.

If it be so no harm can be done by offering the reward.

On the other hand, if others are aware of it, their capacity may be tempted with 5,000; and, if they turn informers and the murders are avenged, no one will surely cavil at the expense.

There is another hopeful side to the case and that is that the Chief Commissioner of Police is not the man to admit himself beaten. During the shearing troubles, when he was principally Under-Secretary, he was specially empowered to inquire into the outrages perpetrated by the men on strike and amongst other cases submitted to his care was the burning of the Ayrshire Downs woolshed.

It seemed a hopeless task to clear up that crime, but Mr. Okeden was undaunted and after years of patient work he had the satisfaction of bringing the criminals to justice and seeing them sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.

Now that he is in charge of the police and the reputation of his department is at stake, he may be trusted never to relax his efforts till the perpetrator of this most horrible piece of villainy has paid the extreme penalty of the law. The Argus


(By a Melbourne Visitor.)
"Yes," said Mr. Parry Okeden, the Chief Commissioner of Police in Queensland, as he met me with a smile more serious than cynical, I really believe that when I die 'Gatton' will be found written on my heart. Not that the crime should have been difficult to solve, but mistakes were made at the outset and the stars in their courses seem to have fought against us ever since.

In most crimes of this description the early discovery of the body or bodies is regarded as of the first importance in aiding the police to hunt down the perpetrators, but if the murderer had arranged matters himself he could not have more effectually destroyed his tracks than the lack of decision and intelligence of Sergeant Arrell, the officer in charge of the district, did for him.

M'Neill, after discovering the bodies, rode at once into Gatton and reported the matter to Sergeant Arrell and the news soon spread through the township. The Sergeant accompanied M'Neill to the scene of the murders and when they arrived they found four of the residents, including an honorary magistrate, already there. The importance of leaving the bodies undisturbed until they had been seen by an expert and the necessity of preventing any obliteration of the tracks which the murderer must have left behind him would have struck 999 policeman out of every thousand, but Sergeant Arrell happened to be the thousandth. He allowed the visitors to tramp all over the place and then when he had satisfied himself that a fearful crime had been committed he left the strangers to look after the bodies and rode into Gatton and telegraphed to the Chief Commissioner of Police-a telegram, by the way, which never reached its destination.

On his return to the scene the paddock was overran with scores of curious sightseers and every track had gone. Having committed this blunder he was weak enough to be rushed into another. His own intelligence told him that it would be advisable not to disturb the bodies until a medical man had had an opportunity of seeing them and their surroundings; but Mrs. Murphy asked that she might be allowed to have the bodies removed into the township. The local chemist urged the same step, because of the ants and the sun and the honorary magistrate added his opinion that if the sergeant had carefully noticed the disposition of the bodies there could be no harm in removing them. So the sergeant allowed his own judgment to be overruled and the bodies were taken into Gatton.

An examination of them was made by Dr. Von Lossberg, of Ipswich, who apparently took a great deal for granted, for he did not discover that Michael Murphy had been shot and he assumed that both the girls had been outraged.

He certified that death was due in each instance to fracture of the skull, from a blow by a heavy blunt instrument and the bodies were handed over to two irresponsible women, who undressed them without paying much attention to the position and condition of the clothing and laid the bodies out for the wake, which was duly celebrated at the hotel.

At this stage the Chief Commissioner of Police and his right-hand man, Inspector Urquhart, appeared on the scene and commenced their inquiries.

On January 4, nine days after the murder, in consequence of persistent rumours that Michael Murphy had been shot, the police obtained an order to exhume the bodies and a second post-mortem examination was made by Dr. Von Lossberg and Dr. Wray, the Government Medical Officer. As a result it was discovered that Michael Murphy had been shot and the bullet was found in his head. Doubts were also cast on the statement that both the girls had been outraged, but, incredible as it may seem, no attempt was made even then to ascertain whether either of the girls had been shot.

Early in their inquiries the suspicions of the police fell upon a man named Richard Burgess, who has a most unenviable criminal record, including no fewer than 13 convictions for assaults on women.

The police, however, for reasons known only to themselves, had doubts about Burgess's complicity in the crime and though they have been severely censured for what has been described as their "French" method of treating him, they really took the steps they did to enable him, if possible, to prove his innocence.

He was culled as a witness at the inquest and still hesitated a little about his doings during Christmas week; but at last they obtained from him a statement of his movements, which showed that he was not within miles of Gatton when the murders were committed. They tested his story in every way, even taking him out under escort and making him show the exact route he followed and after he had done so the police were satisfied that he could have had no hand in the crime and they had to look elsewhere for the murderer.

When the news of the crime was first received there was a general impression that it must have been the work of some desperate gang.

It seemed beyond all the bounds of belief that one man could have induced three strong, healthy, young persons to have accompanied him into a secluded part of the bush and there have murdered them without their making any struggle for their lives, but a closer acquaintance with the facts shows that this is not only possible, but is the only probable theory of the crime.

The theory most generally accepted now is that the murderer, whose motive was undoubtedly lust, stopped the dogcart as the old horse was toiling up a stony rise a few hundred yards from the slip panel; that he stood on the axle and with the revolver pointed at Michael's head ordered him to drive through the sliprails in the direction he indicated. On arrival at the spot selected, it is surmised that the murderer ordered the three to dismount and instructed Murphy to unharness the horse and tie it to the tree and after that to tie his sister's hands behind their backs.

All these commands were, of course, enforced at the point of the revolver. Then the spreading of the rug shows with what deliberation the murderer pursued his plans.

In the struggle with Norah, whose body was found on the rug, it is supposed that the murderer's disguise was disarranged and that when he knew his identity had been discovered and that his neck was in jeopardy, he resorted to the desperate remedy of murdering the three persons, robbing Michael and bruising and scratching the body of the younger girl to divert suspicion from the one man theory and make the crime appear the work of a gang.

In still further support of this theory is the evidence given by Dr. Wray, the Government Medical Officer.

His statement is that each of the three skulls were fractured by a similar blow administered by the same person, who must have been able to use his right and left hand equally well.

All the blows were inflicted while the victims were lying down and there were no traces of struggle.

Had there been a gang, it is unlikely that only one of their number would be selected to commit the murders and though the actual culprit seems to have disappeared in almost a miraculous way, two or three men could scarcely have vanished so successfully.


Daniel Murphy, father of the victims, being recalled, said he recollected saying, when previously giving evidence, that there were no horses in the house paddock on the night of the murder. There was a stable at the place and in this Lucas, an old blood stallion, very infirm in the legs, was kept.

Inspector Urquhart. Was he in the stable on the night of the murder? Yes.

Why did you not tell us that before? He is always in the stable.

But why did you not tell us? You were sworn to tell the truth. I did not think of it.

Can he be ridden? Yes.

You did not tell us that before. Why did you conceal it? I am not concealing anything. I did not think of it. Witness, continuing, said a small pony was kept in the paddock near the house for running up the cows in the morning. He did not know if it was in the paddock that night, but his son John had told him since he (Daniel, senr.) last gave evidence that the pony was there that night. He had not previously concealed these things, but had not thought of them when last examined. His son had recalled to his mind a conversation he had with M'Neill on Boxing Night. That night at about 9.30 o'clock witness was in the kitchen and when returning to the sitting room he asked M'Neill to have a glass of wine, but the latter refused, saying he had a headache. He did not see M'Neill again that night, but witness believed he went to bed. He did not believe he went out afterwards.

Inspector Urquhart. What reason have you for thinking that he did not go out afterwards? I never saw him go out afterwards.

How do you know he never went out? He usually goes to bed before me.

Could M'Neill not have left the house afterwards without your knowledge? I don't believe he could.

Why? I could hear him go out, I believe.

The Police Magistrate. Why cannot you answer these questions straight out instead of saying, "I don't believe this and I don't believe that"?

Surely you can answer a straight question. Inspector Urquhart. Don't you sleep at night? Not until after 12 o'clock.

Questioned as to why this was so witness said he had previously been engaged in work, which afforded him only a limited time for sleep.

Inspector Urquhart. Is that not al he more reason why you should sleep when you get the chance? Witness, closely questioned, said he heard M'Neill and his wife talking about 12 o'clock, but he could not fix the time, except through having been a good while in bed.
He heard the child cry. It usually cried in the early part of the night she would cry if disturbed by anyone in the night. He did not hear any person moving in the house or any noise whatever. Pat had two ponies other than the one at the house, but on Boxing Day they were at Spring Creek, 16 miles away. He did not know of any other pony being about the place that night. The pony mentioned was somewhat hard to catch.

William M'Neill, recalled, said that it was about 8 o'clock when he left Murphy's: farm to search for the three Murphys. He cantered past Moran's sliprails, when he went into the paddock. He went within two yards of Norah's body. He was satisfied that Norah was dead before he left. He had an idea that the others were also dead, though they might have been alive. He could not say why he did not go up to them. He thought that the sooner the police got to know the better. He was then under the impression that they had been murdered because of the rug underneath Norah.

Inspector Urquhart. It is strange that you should think that they had been murdered. Witness could not say why he came to that conclusion. When, following the wheel tracks he sometimes walked between the tracks, sometimes on them. He had not shown the tracks made by him when entering or leaving the paddock to any one, nor had anyone asked him to do so.

When returning from Mount Sylvia races on Boxing Day he stopped at a store near the Murphys'. A strange man was leaving the store when he arrived. He (witness) could not say which way the man went after leaving the store Michael and Pat Murphy passed the store on the way home from the races while witness was at the store. He did not notice if anyone followed him from Mount Sylvia.

He could not say whether he assisted Michael to harness the horse for the purpose of taking his sisters to the dance or not.

He did not know who brought the horse from the paddock.

His whip was in the trap at the time, but was taken out because it was too short.

He remembered Murphy asking him to have a drink, but could not say if it was on Boxing Night. He went to bed that night between 9 and 10 o'clock. He could not say if he shut the door of the bedroom when he went in. The reason he slept in his clothes that night was that he feared the child would be troublesome and he might have to get out with it, because Norah was up the previous night; but the child slept well and did not move or cry out the whole night. He did not know if his wife woke up that night. He slept next the wall that night and to leave the bed must have stepped over his wife. He could not have done so without waking her, he came to Gatton on Wednesday for the purpose of getting the clothes that he wore on Boxing Day. Because of the way things had been going on lately he thought that they would be more satisfied by seeing them. The reason he took his wife away from Gatton to see the doctor was because one of the Murphys told him that a warrant had been issued for the arrest of his wife. Witness had a conversation with Mrs. Murphy on Wednesday, but could not remember what had passed. He had a rifle burnt in the fire at Westbrook.

Inspector Urquhart. What did you kill with after the rifle was burnt? Witness, in reply, said that he had not carried on business since the fire.

While at Westbrook Crossing he asked Michael Murphy for change of a pound. Michael could not manage it. Witness asked him for a loan of ten shillings, which Michael lent him.

He did not know if Murphy had any notes. He had since learnt that Michael was paid 5 just before he left Westbrook. When Michael lent him the money he took it from a purse.

He did not know if that was the purse afterwards found in Michael's hand.

Witness repaid Murphy 10s at Field's store, Toowoomba.

Witness there bought a pair of patent leather slippers. He wore them to the races on Boxing Day, also on Boxing Night and took them off before going to bed.

He usually went about barefooted shortly before retiring.

He did so for an hour on the night of the 26th.

He did not know where he left his slippers.

He put them on again next morning.

He could not remember where he found them.

He wore them when riding to Gatton.

They had round toes, not pointed ones.

He did not think that he rode Ellen's pony to round up the horse to go in search for Michael, Norah and Ellen. His wife's illness began on 17th June 1898, after the birth of the youngest child.

Witness paid the funeral expenses of the three Murphys with his own cheques. The reason he did so was because he thought that the members of the Murphy family were too upset to attend to such matters. The money had since been refunded to him. He and Dan Murphy consulted on the matter and he (witness) said that he would do it all.

Dr. Wray deposed he was Government Medical Officer. He was at Gatton Cemetery on 4th January last, where he was shown three bodies two females and one male. On Helen he found two wounds in the scalp on the left side, 2
 in and 3 in long respectively. The skull was fractured. There were marks on the thighs. He could not detect any on the wrists of the girl, who had been healthy.

Decomposition had well advanced.

The second body examined was that of Norah.

There was a scalp wound on the left side 3in in length and a wound an inch long over the right eye.

He found a mark three-quarters of an inch in width extending round the neck, with the exception of about 4in, or the width of a hand, on the right side.

Then there were well-defined marks or contusions on the thighs, particularly on the inside. The skin of both knees was abraded.

The skull was fractured. She also was healthy. The wrists were contused.

Inspector Urquhart. Was it possible in the then state of the bodies to decide whether there had been sexual violation? Dr. Wray. The bodies were too far gone. Continuing, the doctor said he made an examination of Michael's body.

He found a bullet wound behind the right ear and a scalp wound fully 4 in length on the right side.

The bullet wound and the lacerated wound on the scalp were joined. The skull at this part was fractured. He recovered the bullet in the brain substance (bullet produced, but the doctor retained it).

He found no marks of violence on the body.

Michael's body was not mutilated in the slightest degree.

The occipital and frontal bones were fractured, in each case the wounds being sufficient to cause death. The bullet wound in Michael's head was inflicted before the wounds on the head. Had the bullet been discharged into his head after the skull was fractured there would have been no resistance to the bullet and it would have passed right through. The bullet wound would have caused death, but it was possible for a man suffering from a similar wound to live some considerable time. There would not be much external haemorrhage from the bullet wound, but this would depend upon which side the victim fell.

Inspector Urquhart. Would it be a bullet that there would be any difficulty in discovering before the hair was off the head? Dr. Wray, I should think there would be no difficulty in the first instance. It would have been possible to say whether the shot was fired at close quarters or otherwise. Continuing, he said that unless Helen's hands were tied very tightly the marks would not have been visible at the time he saw them. In Norah's case they were.

Inspector Urquhart. And yet they were both tied with the same material? Witness, continuing, said the state of the marks on Norah's neck was due to the insertion of something between the strap and the neck, which might have been a hand for the purpose of strangling or dragging her along the ground. The wound over Norah's eye was due to a blunt instrument as a blow from a stick or a fist with a ring on. He found no marks as of a grip with the fingers. He had been shown a stick, at the police station, but did not think it possible that the wounds could have been caused by it. They were inflicted by a heavy blunt instrument by one person and with about the same amount of force in the use of the same instrument.

Inspector Urquhart. Can you say in each case if there was a series of blows or only one? In Helen's case there were more than one blow. That I am positive of and also in Michael's case.

In the case of Norah I cannot say if there were more than one. The marks on both the girls were almost identical. One side of Norah's head was almost pulverised.

Inspector Urquhart. Would that blow be caused by a strong person, one with great strength? Not necessarily great strength. It was brutal force and a vicious blow.

Inspector Urquhart. The amount of strength was correlative with the weapon? Yes. Continuing, witness said that Michael was wounded on the right side and the others on the left, as if the person could use both left and right hands.

Michael was either in a position to be struck on the right side, or the murderer tried to hide the bullet by blows on the head.