Gatton Murders - 1st Class Inspector Percy Galbraith

Gatton Murders

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1st Class Inspector Percy Dumas Fead Galbraith,


County Cork, 17 May 1854


Cadet 16/01/1884


2nd Class Sub Inspector, 1884 (QGG, Vol 34: 1316)


2nd Class Inspector, 1900 (QGG, Vol 74: 1672)


1st Class Inspector, 1909 (QGG, Vol 74: 957)


1910 (A/40283)


Townsville, 27 January 1926

Staff file

AF/2183 (A/40283)


Formerly in New Zealand Police; witness at RC into CIB 1899.

In command of detachment searching for “the Breelong Blacks” (the Governors) in NSW, 1900.

Served at Normanton from 1901 to 1904, and was appointed Aboriginal Protector there, 1901.

Family History

Percy Dumas Fead Galbraith was born on 17 May 1854 at County Cork, Ireland.

He was the son of Benjamin Baker Galbraith and Anne Charlotte Dealy Fead.

He married Rose Phillips, daughter of Jacob Aaron Phillips and Sarah Newton, on 2 September 1891 at Grand Hotel, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

He died on 27 January 1926 at age 71 at Townsville, Queensland, Australia. He was buried in January 1926 at Townsville, Queensland, Australia.


Very few additional facts have been ascertained with reference to the tragedy at Gatton on Monday night.

A number of police have been despatched from Brisbane to investigate the affair. Sub-inspector Galbraith, Sergeant King, and several others proceeded to the scene of the murder early this morning, and made a thorough search.

Nothing was found save a small handkerchief, supposed to have belonged to one of the murdered girls.


Mr. Parry-Okeden, Commissioner of Police, has arrived here, and is now consulting with Inspector Urquhart and Sub-inspector Galbraith.

Chief Inspector Stuart was here during part of last week, but Inspector Urquhart Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, has really charge of the case, and has with him Sub-inspector Galbraith, Detective Toomey, and two other officers of the Criminal Investigation branch of the force.

Inspector Urquhart is a splendid bushman, as good a tracker, possibly, as any of the aboriginals employed, and an officer of indomitable energy. But to my mind it requires more than a bushman or a tracker, or even the most complete human bundle of energy in the universe to handle this case. It requires a judge of human nature, a man of strong reasoning power, and generally high mental attainments. Those qualities Inspector Urquhart possesses, and with them an intense though quiet earnestness and tenacity of purpose.

Sub-inspector Galbraith, too, is an officer who can use his head, a deep thinker, and of large experience.

To-day Mr. Commissioner Parry-Okeden, head of the police force, arrived in Gatton, and he has been closely engaged all day with Inspector Urquhart and Sub inspector Galbraith. Mr. Parry-Okeden's keen analytical mind and wide experience must no doubt prove a great assistance to his officers in this terrible case.

The Commissioner in the administration of the Peace Preservation Act in 1894 showed his capacity for taking, weighing, and utilising evidence.

In Winton and other parts of the colony he took circumstance after circumstance, pieced them together with infinite tact and patience, and the result was a mosaic which became well known throughout Australia as the Ayrshire Downs case. It brought to justice a number of men whose crimes it was for months thought would go unpunished.

These are the men who hold in trust for the whole of Australia the task of bringing the Gatton murderers to an account.


Sub-inspector Galbraith, and Detective Adam Johnson were out to-day, and I understand visited the home of the Murphy family.

Other members of the force were out, but the greater number were in barracks most of the day.

The object of Sub-inspector Galbraith's visit has not transpired.


The police authorities have formed subdistricts here, Sub-inspector Galbraith taking Tent Hill, and Inspector White Laidley.

Inspector Durham, when he returns, will go to Helidon.

Each has been supplied with squads of police and trackers for working in a systematic way.

Sergeant Tom King takes a constable and tracker, with a roving commission.


Inspector Galbraith arrived in town late this afternoon from Tent Hill.


Sub-Inspector Galbraith, with several of his men, came in to Gatton to-day.


I have interviewed Mr Herbert, solicitor, respecting the report that Burgess had made a statement to him about the Gatton tragedy.

Mr. Herbert says there is no foundation whatever for the report.
He merely appeared, he says, for Burgess in connection with the charge of stealing a saddle, and is at present is no way instructed respecting any possible charge which may be brought against Burgess in connection with the Gatton tragedy.

GATTON, Friday, 6 pm.
A regular police caucus has been held here by the Commissioner, Mr. Parry-Okeden Inspector Urquhart, Sub-inspector Galbraith, and Sub- inspector White, and Mr. Charles Morris (of Morris and Fletcher, Brisbane solicitors), was present also.

The object, so far as I can learn, was to go thoroughly into the matter of the evidence regarding the tragedy at present, in the hands of the police.
Several prolonged interviews were held, and to-day Mr Parry-Okeden and Mr. Morris and Sub-inspector White returned to Brisbane, while Sub-inspector Galbraith went out to his camp at Tent Hill.

Of course, the result of the proceedings has been kept secret, but the Commissioner, on being interviewed to-day, said that next week the course of action decided upon would probably be made known.


Mr. Parry-Okeden, Chief Commissioner of police, has been here for some days. Detective - Inspector Urquhart, of the Criminal Investigation Department, has charge of operations, and working in conjunction with him are Sub inspectors Durham, White, Galbraith, Detective Toomey, and Sergeant King, the famous tracker.


The Commissioner (Mr. Parry-Okeden), Sub-Inspector White, and Mr. Morris left for Brisbane this morning, and Sub-inspector Galbraith for Tent Hill and Inspector Durham for Helidon last night.


The police are continuing their inquiries locally, but their drift is by no means plain. Sub-inspector Galbraith is working in the Tent Hill district with a staff of mounted men.


Inspector Urquhart is still here, and I understand Sub-Inspector Galbraith left for Brisbane by the afternoon train. The police are still actively engaged in the investigation, and further developments are anxiously awaited.


Sub-inspector Galbraith said he was in Rosewood about 3.30 on 27th December, when a police officer said, he had heard that a murder had been committed at Gatton, and said the telegraph master had informed him.

He went to the office and questioned the man.

He said he had seen wires going through to him (Galbraith) and the Commissioner; and that he judged two girls and a man had been murdered.

He asked about the train, but was told that it had just gone. It left at 02:37pm.

He asked for a railway bicycle, but the officer said the Liverpool Range was steep.

Witness then got a horse and rode to Gatton, about thirty miles.

He went to the police station and met Arrell, and was informed that Dr. Von Lossberg had made an examination.

He had a conversation with the doctor, who informed him that the girls had undoubtedly been ravished, as the elder girl must have resisted fiercely.

The doctor informed him that he made a post-mortem examination; but before further talk could take place the doctor stepped into the train and it moved off at 08:05pm.
Witness thought that the post-mortem, examination included opening the bodies.
He went to the hotel and saw the bodies had been undressed and washed.

He asked for the clothes and the water in which they had been washed: but he found the latter had been thrown out.

He made arrangements to protect the place where the water had been thrown out.

He then found the bodies had not been opened, and asked Arrell about the matter.

Arrell said he had asked for a post-mortem examination.

Witness wired for officers and trackers from different places.

Looking back now, he did not think if he had to act again in the same matter he would have done differently.

The commission adjourned till the following morning.


The police commission continued its inquiry to-day in connection with the Gatton tragedy.

Inspector Galbraith detailed the course of action pursued until the arrival of Inspector Urquhart, to whom practically he handed over the control of the whole affair.


The Police Commission resumed the inquiry yesterday into the action of the police in connection with the Gatton murders.

The examination of Sub-inspector Galbraith was continued. He stated that he questioned a man on the night of the discovery who was suspected by some persons of having had a hand in the murders.

Two trackers arrived early on the morning of 28th December, and he set these to work about 6 o'clock.

He made an examination in various parts of the paddock, including the sliprails, but he found signs of hundreds of persons having passed over the spot.

One thing that struck him particularly, however, was that the actual scene of the murder was not disturbed. He returned to Gatton and met young Murphy, and put some questions to him. He also sent Constable Colville out to Tent Hill to make inquiries at the hotel as to the persons who had followed deceased.

He sent away a long wire to the Chief Inspector, and at the time Inspector Urquhart arrived. At once he informed the inspector of what he had done and seen. He felt relieved to a certain extent of actual responsibility, though Urquhart did not altogether take over the whole charge. They worked together, sent men out to get statements, &c.

By Mr Garvin: The man who was questioned by him on the night of the discovery had never, to witness's mind, properly accounted for his movements on the night of the murders. Witness had not very strong suspicion of him at the time; but later he felt somewhat convinced that he had committed the murders.

Still, he now thought he did not have a hand in the murders. He did not think any one who knew this man would take him for another certain man once suspected.

By Mr. Dickson: The trackers who were sent up were not able to do much tracking.

They were not police trackers. Senior-sergeant Johnson obtained the first he could get, and sent them on.


Regarding the autopsies, it would seem that Dr. Von Lossberg is mistaken in stating that he informed Sub-inspector Galbraith that he suspected there was a bullet in Michael Murphy's head, one would expect the sub-inspector would not, if in receipt of such information, have consented to the burial of the body.

It would seem that sufficiently exhaustive investigation and inquiry were not made in every instance as regards suspects.