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The Gatton Tragedy Exposed At Last. An Examination Of The Secrets And Lies.
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Detective Michael Toomey of the C.I. Branch
The branch of the Police Department concerned in this matter actually seemed to know less about the murder and its details on Tuesday night than the Press, and only yesterday morning did Inspector Urquhart and Detective Toomey proceed to the scene of the murder.
Valuable time has thus been lost, and the hours of daylight immediately following the commission of the crime have been practically thrown away. Are the two branches of the department working together as they should be?
In view of what has happened, an answer to this question should be forthcoming.
DETECTIVES AT WORK.
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.
Another report has been received that a lad states that he heard men plotting the tragedy on the previous Saturday night, and Detective Toomey has gone out to investigate the matter.
The man referred to, who is named Murray, has been arrested and lodged in the lockup on a charge of vagrancy. The impression is that his statements were mere boasting. Detective Toomey has not yet returned.
The man Murray was brought up this morning, charged with vagrancy. The police offered no evidence, and the accused was discharged.
Two men have returned from investigating the statement of a man named Howard, who, it was reported, said he heard a plot to meet the Murphy's’ arranged. Howard, on being questioned, said he had no remembrance of the statement, but that he had been drinking. These illustrate the difficulties of the work of the police. Each report, no matter how trivial the matter appears, is, however, run out.
Detective Toomey had a fourteen mile ride at night to find the whole affair denied by the person to whom the statements were attributed. So ended our two mild sensations of yesterday.
Mr. Key and Mr. Lindsay, who are associated with Inspector Urquhart in the office work, feel the strain acutely, and Detective Toomey-one of the most energetic and earnest workers in connection with the case-leaves for Brisbane to-day for a couple of days' rest, and for medical advice. Mr. Toomey, like his chief, gets only a few hours sleep, and is going all the rest of the twenty-four.
Detectives Head and Carew seem to stand the work admirably, and are to all appearances as keen and well as when they came here. The outside public have but little idea of the vast amount of work done in connection with the case. It is a matter of going hard night and day. There is a fine esprit in all ranks, and as one who closely watches the work; I cannot help an expression of admiration at the untiring zeal of every one, from
Inspector Urquhart down.
The police are making searching inquiries in Toowoomba respecting the Gatton tragedy.
Detective Carew is there at present, and Detective Toomey goes up to-day.
This may lead to important results. There is an impression that during the last couple of days the police have received some further reports, but nothing is likely to be made public. As to the present position, the police are hopeful, and work will be continued vigorously. That they have good evidence, not yet made public, I have no doubt.
However, to-morrow will see fresh light on the case. Detective Toomey left here again to-night for Gatton.
Nothing definite can be gathered from the police as to the result of Detective Toomey's investigations at Clifton. The matter is, however, very eagerly discussed, and whether founded or not on facts-the prevailing impression is that Burgess's statements about his movements at Christmas time in the vicinity of Allora, Clifton, and Greenmount are largely corroborated, and it is further persistently stated that Mr. Seibenhausen and
wife are positive they gave Burgess a drink of water on the evening of the 26th December about 8 o'clock.
The Inquiry was adjourned till 10 o'clock the following morning.
GATTON, March 23.
Inspector Urquhart: Mrs. Murphy came in an unwilling humour this morning, your worship. Witness was here seized with a fit of trembling, as with blanched features she rose to sign the depositions.
Inspector Urquhart, however, requested her to sit down and rest a while. Witness cried for her son, Dan, and, upon his entering the court, said, "Sign for me, Dan." Detective Toomey informed her that her son could not sign for her, to which the witness replied, "I can't do it, sure." The difficulty was subsequently overcome by the witness making a cross. She was then assisted out trembling by her son.
A few days after the murder witness was speaking to John Carroll, and the latter said that he took the man at the slip rails to be Day, Clarke's butcher.
The witness gave this information to Detectives Toomey and Head and Sergeant Arrell, and he supposed that they took action upon it.
This closed the proceedings, and the Commission returned to Brisbane by train.
He questioned the man, who said he did not go out that night after tea; but read in bed for a time. He did not hear anything.
He told him he came from Brisbane, and got hard up, and Clark gave him work. Witness went through Day's clothes, and found a jumper with small bloodstains on one of the sleeves. Questioned, he said he got wet one day, and, as he only had two, he had to wear the new one. Clark confirmed the statement, and said that Day was wearing the jumper in the killing-yard, and afterwards took meat into Gatton. Witness did not take charge of
the jumper, because he did not think there was any need, and he did not now. He questioned Clark very closely about Day, about firearms. &c, and Clark said the man was a quiet man. Day was calm and collected.
Witness made no inquiries into his antecedents. Witness had gone to Clark's place in consequence of inquiries he made of young Carroll.
When the latter was closely questioned he said he had told his mother he thought the man was "Clark's man." The boy had said the man was wearing a dark shirt, or something like that. Day also wore a hat like that described by the boy.
Witness did not hear that Carroll said on the ground that the man he saw was "Clark's man." The lad was one who would tell a yarn with any other boy. He would tell a person a thing in the street, but when the police questioned him he would not say anything positively. Witness did not think Day had anything to do with the murder. On, one occasion several of them watched his hut for four or five days, and then-about 2
o'clock in the morning-went up to him and said they wanted him to come into the police station. He was quite willing, and was not flurried or excited. They took him in, stripped him, and examined him, but could find no marks upon him. When witness had the previous time examined his hut he looked at his arms, but found only one small scratch. The boy Carroll knew Day pretty well. He would never say positively it was Day he saw. He (witness) would only have
been too glad if he had said he was sure. He asked why the lad thought it was Day, and Carroll said it struck him at the time. Carroll would not say it was M'Neill.
Witness put the question to him point blank, and the lad said no. There was a revolver at Clark's, and witness asked him to count his cartridges. None were missing. They were 3.40 cartridges. Another man who was suspected at an early stage he did not think had anything to do with the murder. He asked Carroll if the man was like the one he saw; but he said no. In fact, he had never placed any reliance upon the boy's story.
And he did not hold with the suspicion that was said to be placed upon Day.
There had been certain evidence given by Mrs. Murphy before the commission, and he considered some explanation should be given. Witness had pretty well all the dealings with Day under his superior officer, and he thought the witnesses should give some evidence why they suspected Day.
He referred to the police also, because she said "some of the police thought it was Day."
Mr. Garvin: Do you know if Day was known to the Murphy’s? - I could never ascertain that he was.
You made inquiries? -Yes, Witness (continuing) said he did not search M'Neill.
The Chairman: Why? -Well, I was in the confidence of a member of the Murphy family, and he said that as soon as he heard of the murder he suspected M'Neill, and he examined his clothing, and all that belonged to him. And he said there was no blood or anything else. Witness (continuing,) said he questioned M’Neill; but heard nothing to arouse his suspicion. He searched round the Murphy’s house. They inquired whether M'Neill had
any firearms, but he had none, except a rifle, which was burnt when his house at Westbrook was destroyed by fire.
Detective Toomey stated, in confidence, that the members of the Murphy family as soon as they heard of the murders suspected M’Neill, but they got no evidence to justify their suspicion.
The Police Commission resumed its sittings to-day, when Inspector Urquhart was examined as to the reasons why he suspected Burgess, and why he did not suspect a certain butcher's assistant. He said he was satisfied that the latter had nothing to do with the murders as there were no suspicious circumstances against him, except that he had a blood stain on his sleeve. It never struck him that he should get the stain examined by an
analyst. He had no reason to suspect that any of the members of the Murphy family were concerned in the murders.
Detective Toomey stated, in confidence, that the members of the Murphy family as soon as they heard of the murders suspected M’Neill, but they got no evidence to justify their suspicion.
He never knew of any of them having sweethearts. He went out with the first batch of persons to the scene of the murder. Witness walked from the sliprails. M'Neill, who was a little in front when they were about four or five yards off, said the first body was that of Norah. Witness recognised it as her body. There was no sign of a struggle round any of the bodies. Their first idea was to keep the place clear, and not disturb the
ground. Witness and a man named Devitt were left to protect the scene. Two persons arrived first, and then M'Neill and the mother came. He told the people to keep back; but he had a difficulty about it. Witness came to the conclusion that they received the injuries on the head where they were lying, because of the position of the heads. There was not the crowd on the ground that had been represented.
When he left at 1 o'clock there were not more than twenty persons on the ground.
Mr. Devitt, bootmaker, of Gatton, gave corroborative evidence.
He said, "The three Murphy’s are lying dead in a paddock." Witness said, "What paddock?" He said, "About a mile and a-half or two miles out on the left-hand side." As M'Neill was getting on his horse witness understood him to say that it must have been an accident, as the horse was dead also. When witness went near the bodies he had no doubt a murder had been committed, and he also easily recognised
the body of Norah. It was not true that when the doctor arrived there was a crowd of people in the room where the bodies were lying. The room had been locked, and the key given to Arrell. The scene of the murder was covered with leaves, and was not easy tracking ground.
Robert King, butcher, in the employ of Mr. Clarke, at Gatton, stated that on 15th December a man named Day was engaged by Clarke, and on the next day he commenced to work. Witness told Clarke he did not like the man, and Clarke said he would only keep him till he got another. Witness did not like the look of him at all. Day was present about 9 o'clock when Wilson informed witness of the murder.
Day did not say anything.
On the morning after the murder Day wore dark pants, a singlet, and white handkerchief.
Day possessed a blue jumper and a big slouch hat. There were blood-stains on the sleeve and breast of one of these jumpers. The police came out and took Day in, and the next day (30th December) witness asked him what the police said about the stains.
He made some reply, which witness did not hear, and that he would wash the thing. Witness advised him not to do so; but he persisted.
Day was a very strong man.
His was the first man's name who entered his head after the murder, especially when the boy Carroll and another mentioned him. The stains on the jumper were fairly fresh; but he did not examine them so closely as to allow him to say positively.
Mr. Garvin: Did these stains look like splashes? -Splashes or spots.
When did you speak to him? -On the 30th, the day he came back from the courthouse.
What did he say? -That was the time, he made some reply, which I did not catch, and he said he would wash the- thing out.
You are quite certain you are not mistaken about the splashes? –Yes.
How many were there? -About fifty or sixty.
Did you see Toomey examine the coat? No. Another thing he (Day) said when he came back was that he could hear them (meaning the police) walking, about his room before they took him.
The Chairman: Did you give this information to the police? -Yes.
How long afterwards? A short time.
Who to? -Toomey.
Did you tell him about the blood? -Yes.
He told me to shut up. He said, "Poor- Day is innocent."
He told you to "shut up"? -Yes, practically.
Acting Sergeant Toomey: With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask this witness some questions when you are finished.
The Chairman: Very well. (To witness): When was it you were speaking to Toomey? -When Day went away.
Acting Sergeant Toomey (to witness): Are you a good judge of character? -Yes, fairly.
Don't you think, looking at Day, that he was a quiet and inoffensive man? -Yes; but he was a bad looking man.
Where was he bad-looking? -About the eyes.
Do you remember I came to you at the shop at Gatton, and do you remember
I asked you if Day had worn a new blue jumper? -Yes; I told you he wore it once.
On which evening did you say? -One evening you and another man came.
Was that the first time I interviewed you? Yes.
Do you know what Day was doing when he was wearing this blue jumper?
He was doing nothing. He came into my shop and took out some bones.
Did be bring meat into your shop that day? -He brought some in the evening.
On the day he had the jumper on, do you mean? Yes? -No. There was no killing done that day.
Do you remember telling me you were not sure-you did not know what time he wore the jumper? Now, tell the truth as a man. No, I don't remember telling you that.
Do you think it would ever escape your memory if you had said that? -No. I think I would have remembered.
What were Day's duties? -He did different kinds of work. He used to get the wood and so on.
Did he ever have any experience in killing? -No.
And do you mean to say a man handling meat, as this man used to would not get bloodstains on him? -He never handled meat.
Did he never handle the meat? -No. If Mr. Clarke said he did he would not be telling the truth? -I know who takes the meat out.
Do you remember I told you what kind of bloodstains were on the jumper? -No.
Did I refer to any bloodstains on the jumper? -No; I don't think you did.
What did I ask you? -You asked me about the jumper.
What did I say? -You asked me if I had ever seen him wearing a blue jumper, and I said yes.
Did I never refer to blood being on the jumper? -No.
Are you quite sure? -(No answer.)
Do you ever remember me asking you about bloodstains? -No.
What would be my object in going to you if it was not to ask you this? -You only asked when he wore the jumper.
You are one of the men in and around Gatton blowing this thing up about Day? Yes.
You have been very successful in doing so? -Yes.
Did you ever suspect any other man but Day? -No.
Did you never suspect any other man? No.
Where was the jumper hanging when you examined it? -On the wall.
There was no attempt to hide it? -No.
How many stains were on it?
Mr. Garvin: About forty he said.
Acting Sergeant Toomey (to witness) you must have seen double.
Mr. Garvin: You suspected this man from the first? -Yes.
What motive would he have in committing the murders? -That is a question I cannot answer.
Mr. Dickson: You heard he had been seen on the road? -Yes.
When did you hear that? -Some time afterwards.
How long? -He worked for us a fortnight.
Who told you? -Carroll.
The Chairman: Did you ever give the police any information about Day? -Yes, I told several of them.
To whom? -To Toomey.
When? -Soon after the murder.
What did you tell him? -I told him I met him one night- between Clarke's and the sliprails.
What was he doing? -Walking down towards the sliprails.
Was he smoking? -No.
What sort of a man was he? -A. man between 12st. and 14st.
You really gave the police no information about Day other than that you saw him near the sliprails one night? -No.
Before the murder? -Yes.
REQUEST FROM THE MURPHY FAMILY.
The Chairman: You gave evidence before that you were in the confidence of one of the Murphy’s, who expressed to you a belief in the guilt of M'Neill.
The Murphy family have communicated with us, and desire you to give the name. -The man was working at the College, and I think his name was Pat.
Sergeant Arrell was with me, and we met him on the street at the time.
Inspector Urquhart: One of the Murphy’s searched M'Neill's clothing.
Acting Sergeant Toomey: Arrell and I were present on the street, and this man came in from the College. I had a conversation with him. I told Arrell about being in his confidence. I told Sergeant Arrell about him telling me of searching M'Neill's clothing. Arrell may not have heard him; but Arrell knew about it.
Mr. Sadleir: How long did this suspicion of the Murphy’s last? -He told me he was quite convinced after speaking to the family at home that M'Neill had nothing to do with the murder.
Mr. Garvin: What reason did he give? He gave none, except that one M'Neill and his mother had a difference.
The Chairman: About the sister-his wife? -Yes.
You did not think it necessary to go any further in the matter? -No. I asked him if any of the clothing was missing, and he said no.
Mr Garvin: You said you asked him why he suspected M'Neill, and he said he had a row with the mother? -He said he had a difference with the mother.
Did you ask him why, if that was so, he should murder the sisters and brother? Yes. He could give me no explanation as to why.
Acting Sergeant Toomey then said: There is a matter I believe that was referred to here on the day before yesterday, when Constable Christie gave evidence that has reflected upon my ability in regard to certain inquiries I made.
Mr. Sadleir: I don't think you need trouble.
Acting Sergeant Toomey; the matter has gone forth in the Press, and I think a man of my standing should say something to make the people at least think something.
Mr. Dickson: Well, I should like to hear it.
Acting Sergeant Toomey: Well, any one who comes in contact with Christie must form the opinion that he is an eccentric, excited man, and he suspected almost every man in Gatton of this murder.
Constable Christie: That is not right.
The Chairman: We cannot have any dispute here.
Acting Sergeant Toomey: He suspected one man one day and another the next.
Constable Christie: I did not. I will bring a man to prove differently.
The Chairman: We cannot have any discussion here.
The commission then adjourned till next day.
The Chairman: You can give us a report, and we will send it to Dr. Von Lossberg; but we do not consider it necessary to call you again.
TOOMEY'S EVIDENCE CONTRADICTED.
The Chairman: Were you present when the evidence was given by Toomey yesterday? -No.
You know he stated that you, shortly after the murder, expressed the opinion of the guilt of M'Neill, and informed him you had searched his clothing, and that you had found nothing. Do you wish to contradict that evidence? -Yes.
What did you say? -I didn't say I suspected M'Neill. I didn't tell Toomey I suspected M'Neill.
Did you at any time say you suspected him? -No.
You never mentioned M'Neill at all to Toomey? -We were talking about M'Neill.
Well, what do you wish us to believe? That I did not suspect him at all.
Did you examine his clothing? -No.
Did Toomey ask you about the clothing? He asked me if I saw blood on the clothes.
Toomey says the reason he did not ask you if there was blood on his clothes was because you said there was none at first, and allayed his fears? -He asked me if there was blood on his clothes, and I said no.
Mr. Dickson: Well, when you were at home you were discussing the murder? -Yes.
Did you form any opinion? -No.
Had you any idea? -No.
Did you tell Toomey you had an idea? No, not then.
When did you? -About two months afterwards.
Do you object to tell who? -The man Day.
The Chairman: Do you know whether any examination was ever made by the detective police, or any police, of M'Neill's clothing? -No, not that I know of.
Or his room? -No.
Were you about your father and mother's premises for any time? -Yes, for about a fortnight after the murder.
And during that time so far as you know no examination was made? -No.
Well, you say you never examined his clothing? -No.
When you were talking to Toomey who was there? -Sergeant Quilter.
Acting Sergeant Toomey: I should like to ask some questions.
Do you remember when I first spoke to you? -Yes.
How long after the murders? -About three weeks.
Did I not see you at your own house? -Oh, yes. You saw me a few days afterwards.
Did I not speak to you a day afterwards in Gatton? -I don't remember.
Did I not arrange several private interviews with you in passing through Gatton? -Yes.
What were they about? -One about a man named ____________; another about the Ryan's, and another about M'Neill.
Mr. Dickson: When was this? -About a month afterwards.
Acting Sergeant Toomey: Tell us what occurred about M'Neill? -You asked me if I suspected M'Neill, and I said no. Others told me they suspected him. I then made inquiries about M'Neill to see if there were any grounds of suspecting him, and found none. Yes. -You also asked me if I saw any blood on his clothes, and I said no.
Do you remember I asked you if any of his clothes were missing? -Yes.
What did you say? -I didn't think so.
Who was present when this conversation took place? -Sergeant Quilter.
Did you never have any conversation about M'Neill when Arrell was present? -No. I may be making a mistake as to the sergeant. It may have been Quilter.
Do you remember me meeting you one night when you were going home from the college and giving you certain information, and asking you to make inquiries at home? -Yes.
Did I not ask you to make inquiries whether M'Neill was at home that night? -Yes.
What was the result? -The reply was that he was at home.
Did you not tell me you enquired from M'Neill's wife? -I believe I did.
She was sleeping in the same room as M'Neill? -Yes.
Assuming you told me that you had examined M'Neill's clothing, and did suspect him, have you ever heard of me having said that to any one before I gave evidence here? -No.
Had you any reason to think I did say so? No.
Of course you deny that you did examine M'Neill's clothing on the morning of the discovery of the murder? -I do.
And of course it is only reasonable that you should.
Mr. Sadleir: What clothing had M'Neill? -He had an extra pair of trousers besides the clothing he had on.
Is that all? -That is all I knew he had.
Where were the trousers? -Hanging in a room.
Mr. Dickson: Whom did you ask about M'Neill? - His wife, my father, and brothers.
You didn't suspect him at the time you made these inquiries? -No.
Mr. Garvin: Who did you suspect? -A man named Day.
When did you first suspect him? -About two months afterwards.
What brought you to suspect him? -Some statements I heard made.
What were they? -The boy Carroll said he was the man on the road when he passed.
Is that all? -That was all.
Do you suspect any one now? -Only him.
And only for the same reasons given us here already? -That is all.
Acting Sergeant Toomey: There is another question I should like. He stated I had three interviews with him. (To witness): How many times did I interview you at the college? -Once.
How many times did I see you in Gatton? Three times.
That would be four times then? -Yes.
INQUIRY WORK BY THE POLICE.
No names were mentioned in connection with the matter; but it had reference to a statement that had been made about Michael Murphy having served with the police in the West during the shearers' strike. It appeared that in the only case in which a conviction was secured-the Ayrshire Downs woolshed burning-Michael Murphy did not give evidence. Inspector Urquhart pointed out that the police had made inquiries in connection with the
Inspector Urquhart mentioned another case. In which Mr. Herbert, solicitor of Toowoomba, received a letter from a Victorian lady stating that before God she could prove a certain man in Gatton was the murderer. The letter was sent to the Chief Inspector, who had the papers sent on to the police in Melbourne.
There was a report from the Criminal Investigation Branch, Melbourne, in which it was shown the woman was waited upon. She stated that, after reading in the Melbourne papers of the murder, she prayed to God to reveal to her the name of the murderer, and about 3 o'clock one morning she woke up and heard her name being called.
The Chairman: Never mind going on with that.
Inspector Urquhart: There were a number of letters like that, and I simply wish to show that I did not neglect any trivial things in the investigation.
Mr. Garvin: When was that? -I would have to look at my diary. The jumper he was wearing had a smear of blood on the sleeve. I looked it carefully all over, and that was the only mark of blood I saw.
The Chairman: He had two jumpers? This was one that looked quite fresh and new. There was blood on the sleeve. It was smeared. It was thin at the edge and thick in the centre.
Mr. Garvin: You heard the evidence of King? -Yes.
If that jumper had been taken possession of it would have prevented this difficulty? Neither Clarke nor King mentioned these matters to us.
King says there were sixty spots on the jumper. -Clarke says twelve.
The Chairman: Why do you think they are telling lies? -I don't say they are telling lies.
They have simply talked themselves into a delusion. I don't say they tell lies. They simply talk themselves into it. There is no reason either for us to be telling lies.
I may say, in regard to some of the evidence about Toomey that Toomey worked so hard he knocked himself up.
I never saw a man work harder.
Galbraith was examined by Detective Toomey as to Patrick Murphy’s denial of a statement that he had told Toomey he (Murphy) had suspected M’Neill of the murder, and searched his clothes. Galbraith said he was told by Toomey at the time that Murphy had given this information.
He had seen that Toomey and Murphy became very “chummy,” and he did not interfere.
Tuesday 15 January 1901
During the Commonwealth celebrations in Sydney the interests of the visitors and the general public were guarded by a large number of detectives and police.
Every State, and also New Zealand, was represented by detectives. Six went from Victoria, three from Queensland, two from South Australia and West Australia, and one each from Tasmania and New Zealand, whilst Sub-inspector, Hindes represented Newcastle.
The object of the visit of the detectives was to keep an eye on criminals from their respective States.
South Australia was represented by Detectives Fraser and Priest, two of our best investigators of crime. They returned to Adelaide on Sunday morning. Detective Fraser stated that the celebrations were carried out without any extraordinary increase of crime. In fact, criminals and other gentry bordering on that class were kept well within bounds.
The Adelaide men had plenty to occupy their attention, being continually on the watch. On Thursday, January 10, the Government of New South Wales entertained the police at a smoke social and concert in the Sydney Town Hall.
Over 1,000 detectives and police were present, and a number of prominent citizens also attended.
Whilst in Sydney, Detective Fraser apprehended a man named E. C. Clarke, who was "wanted" in Adelaide on a charge of false pretences.
He appeared at the Police Court on Monday.
Detective Michael Toomey, of Brisbane, who was stabbed by a Queensland criminal, was well known to the Adelaide men, who visited him in the hospital just before they left for Adelaide.