Gatton Murders - Daniel Murphy Senior Evidence

Gatton Murders

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Daniel Murphy Senior Evidence


The inquiry into the deaths of Michael, Norah, and Helen Murphy on the night of 26th December last, which had been adjourned from 24th January, was continued this morning, before Mr. A. H. Warner-Shand, Acting Police Magistrate at Ipswich.

The examination of witnesses was conducted by Inspector Urquhart, who had been in charge of the case all along.

There was very little local interest in the inquiry, only a few persons being present at the court-house. Included in the number, however, was M'Neill, who, with others, occupied a position up to lunch time on a raised platform outside the court-house door. To this, however, the Police Magistrate objected on the court resuming after lunch, and M'Neill and the others then came inside the room.

The former sat on the floor, near the door.

The commencement of the inquiry was delayed through the failure of Mr. and Mrs. Murphy to attend. They were to have been the first witnesses; but as they had not appeared up to 11 o'clock it was decided to begin with Thomas Wilson, a blacksmith, who, in addition, is a justice of the peace.

Daniel Murphy, Sen. a farmer, living at Tent Hill, and the father of the victims, deposed that on Boxing Night he saw M'Neill's sulky, harnessed to which was witness's horse Tom, standing at the door.

There were in the house at the time his wife, Willie, and Kate Murphy, M'Neill and his wife, and the latter's two children. Norah, Ellen, Michael, and Pat Murphy all had tea together. Before then the girls had said they were going to a dance at Gatton, and Michael was going to take them. He heard nothing of any one else taking them.

Michael left with the girls in the sulky, and Pat departed soon afterwards on horseback.

Witness went to bed between 10 and 11 o'clock, up to which time no one else arrived at or left the house. Not true John came home about 10:30pm.

The only one he left sitting up was his wife.

Three rooms of the house had windows looking out on to the front veranda-witness's, M'Neill's, and the sitting room-the last named being in between.

About an hour after retiring he heard M'Neill's child cry, and the father speaking 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.

Mr. Shand: 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 till a long time after I say my prayers.

Inspector Urquhart: Was there any one else in the house? Witness: Yes, my son Will.

Inspector Urquhart: How do you know it was not his footsteps? Witness: I know it was M'Neill.

Inspector Urquhart: You heard footsteps, but you don't know whose they were? Witness: I know they were M'Neill's. Continuing, he said that next morning he was the first to rise, and all the others followed.

He could not say whether there were any horses in the house paddock.

There were no horses in the yard when he went to bed.

He did not know who brought up the horse that was put in the sulky.

It was usual, when a horse was wanted from the out paddock, to ride after it.

After the vehicle left he went to his room, and said his prayers, and, as usual, smoked on the veranda.

He saw no one but his wife, who was seated in the sitting-room.

He remained on the veranda about an hour, and when he came in his wife was still there.

His prayers took him about an hour.

While on the veranda he neither saw nor heard anything.

The last time he remembered seeing M'Neill that night was when the cart left; but he heard him walking about. He would swear this was M'Neill.

The next up in the morning after Will 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 in the girls' room, and found they were not there.

While he was having his 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. Witness thought they might have remained at Chadwick's, or that the trap had broken down.

It was at breakfast that it was first suggested that some one should look for them. M'Neill said he would go and get a horse to go and meet them, to 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. M'Neill was at the house. She was at the time ill, but she could be taken about.

She was at Mount Sylvia Races on Boxing Day.

Prior to that she had been staying at witness's place about four months, during about two months of which Michael was at the College.

He was at home for a while, and then went to the experimental farm at Westbrook, where he remained about five weeks. He arrived home on Christmas Eve.

M'Neill came the same day from his own place, near, Westbrook, and brought some presents-a bridle and a whip, he thought. M'Neill was very good friends with the girls, and also especially with Michael. They had always been on good terms.

Inspector Urquhart: Then is there any reason for people to say he was on bad terms with any of them-that you know of? -Once the mother was angry with the daughter because she and M'Neill went and got married in one church and not the other; but that was between her and the daughter.

Inspector Urquhart: Was there any person who had any ill-feeling against those three children of yours? -I don't know of anyone. I could not pick out one more than another.

Inspector Urquhart: Did you know a man named MacKenzie in this district? - No.

Inspector Urquhart: Look back over your past life, and see if you can remember any enemy that you had. - I know of none.

Inspector Urquhart: If you knew who did the deed, would you have any hesitation in giving him up? Witness (emphatically): It doesn't matter if he was the highest man in the land, I would bring him up just the same as a poor man-it doesn't matter if it was the King of England. They broke my heart, they did.

Continuing, witness said he knew Mrs. Cook, postmistress at Lower Tent Hill. She had two girls named Georgina and May, both of whom died. They were friendly with his girls. About twelve months before Christmas, soon after the Cook girls died, he remembered some one reading to him something about the Cook girls. It was said by Katie that it was a newspaper clipping; it was placed upon the dresser; but he did not know what became of it.

He presumed his (witness's) whip was taken in the sulky when Michael and the girls left in the sulky, for he had never seen it since.

No one in the house had a revolver.

The girls had never complained of having been threatened.

His son Michael was out West as a special constable for about ten months during the strike. He never spoke of the men out there having a "down" on him. Had he met with any trouble he would have told him.

Michael was a strong active man, but he had never learnt boxing or wrestling.

Inspector Urquhart: At the present time you have no suspicion of anyone, Mr. Murphy? -No.

Inspector Urquhart: You have told us everything you know? -Yes.

Inspector Urquhart: And you have concealed nothing? -I only wish to God I knew the parties that did it.

Continuing, he said he believed that Michael's horse had shoes on when he came down; but the shoes were pulled off by his sons and M'Neill before the murder was committed.

He didn't know if M'Neill's horse was shod.

None of his (witness's) horses were ever shod. Witness and some of his sons smoked; Michael and M'Neill did not.

Witness never used a piece of paper to stop his pipe up.

Witness had a contract with the Agricultural College, and he had received letters from the college.

When M'Neill went to look for the young people that morning he rode Norah's horse; but witness could not say if it was shod; he did not think so.


Daniel Murphy, father of the victims, was recalled. He 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, sen.) 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 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 all the more reason why you should sleep when you get the chance?