Gatton Murders - An Expert Bushman's Opinion

Gatton Murders

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

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An Expert Bushman's Opinion

31/01/1899
Mr Harry Stockdale is one of the most capable of living Australian explorers. It therefore goes without saying that he is a, thoroughly expert bushman, who in his outside experiences has probably had occasion more than once to speculate upon, if not trace, the causes of murder, and the causes of sudden death. His speculations upon the Gatton crimes have had prominence in the Bulletin, and the latest of these we reproduce:— "Two of my surmises have now been proved correct— firstly, that Murphy was shot; secondly, that the murderers left the paddock by the sliprails.

I am, therefore emboldened to offer these further suggestions:— The man or men seen near the sliprails must have been aware of the intended ball, and that the Murphy’s were likely to attend it. They inspected the passers-by to be sure the Murphy’s had gone, and so as to know them on their return trip. Or possibly, they intended to dispose of them as they went, had not Mrs Carroll driven up so close behind. Mrs Carroll states that she saw a man, when near the rails, run after the Murphy’s and peer into their cart, but that hearing her trap coming he turned off into the bush. Had they cut the party off going to the ball they would have had possession of the girls the whole night without anyone troubling as to their not being at the ball; and, consequently, there would have been more time to effect their purpose and escape.

Looked at every way the deed seems to have been the work of some who bore malice to the family, know that they would probably attend the ball, and made deliberate arrangements accordingly. - "Again, the heads of the victims are reported to have been smashed with a billet of wood.” If this means a bludgeon, recently cut for the purpose, the manner of cutting might be a clue, as most men cut wood in a style as distinctly their own as they write or talk. No description seems to have been given of this "billet” that played so prominent a part in the murders. And here are two other circumstances tending to strengthen the opinion that the deed was the work of those who, if not actually resident, knew the place well.

“1st Despite the number of police and others now in this locality, the resident's are still so terrified that they leave their homes as night comes on for those of their neighbours: this points to a suspicion”— perhaps even to the knowledge— that the murderers are still at hand and likely to attack others to whom they may owe a grudge.

The other point is that the bereaved mother, over the bodies, of her murdered and outraged children should have prayed for the souls at the guilty ones. Either Mrs. Murphy is an absolute earthly saint, or she had in her mind, as the criminals, certain persons known to her. The natural first feeling in the circumstances especially with the emotional Irish blood— would be an intense desire for revenge upon the culprits.

Finally, the absence of any attempt to conceal the bodies was probably due either to the danger of acquiring tell-tale stains, or to lack of time, or to a feeling of vindictive contempt.

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