Gatton Murders - William Murphy Evidence

Gatton Murders

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William Murphy Evidence

9/03/1899

William Murphy was then called.

The Police Magistrate remarked that it was not nice for the family to treat the inquiry in this way, as they should do all they could do to assist the police.

The witness deposed to Norah and Helen going to the races on Boxing Day. Men named Will Connolly, John Tracey, and Robert Smith spoke to them there, but no mention in his hearing was made by any of them of a dance at Gatton the same night. Michael informed him he was going home early to go to the dance, but witness could not say where M'Neill was at that time.

Witness rode home with Helen, and asked her if she was going to the dance. She replied she did not know. They got home at half past 6 o'clock, and turned the horses in the yard. M'Neill was in the house after the girls and Michael went to the dance at Gatton.

A little before 9 o'clock witness went to the yard and turned all the horses out into a grass paddock containing about 100 acres. None of the horses were shod.

Coming in afterwards he saw his father and mother and M'Neill in the sitting-room. M'Neill went to his bedroom at 9 o'clock, and witness went to the kitchen to assist Katie.

From where he was he could see any one leaving the front door. He certainly heard no one. Witness went to bed about ten minutes to 10 o'clock.

His bed lay along a 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 he thought it was M'Neill. He could not swear positively.

Witness rose about 5.30.

He came out by the back door, but did not notice any boots lying about. The saddles were kept in the harness-room. None were around the place.

After the witness had been questioned about what MíNeill 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.

Inspector Urquhart: Have you ever been in court before? - This is the first time in my life.

Inspector Urquhart: I thought so. It is quite possible, your worship, that the witness does not clearly understand what is required of him. Although I do not exactly hit the mark in my questions, he is bound to keep nothing back, but to give all the information he possesses.

The Police Magistrate: Yes; tell all you can. Witness: I will tell you whatever comes into my mind. Continuing, after repeated questioning, he said 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.

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

The Police Magistrate: You said before that you went over to cut chaff in the morning, and that your father had then gone.

Inspector Urquhart: You said M'Neill arranged with your mother to go after your father had gone. I want you to get your mind clear, and not say things that contradict each other. 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.

Inspector Urquhart: When you are on your oath you should say nothing unless you are certain.
Do you know whether he knew or not? -I would not be certain.

Inspector Urquhart: Then you don't know? Try to make us clear. -I could not be certain. Witness, continuing, said neither he nor his father on the way home spoke of the probable culprit. He (William) 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.

The bodies were removed to Gilbert's Hotel about half-past 2. After visiting several places witness went home, and saw Mrs. M'Neill sitting with several women. She appeared to be calm. Since then she had been living with the Murphy family until the previous day. Her health had been "middling." She always commenced to weep when the tragedy was mentioned to her.

Inspector Urquhart: I don't want you to say you don't remember. If you ever heard, anything of the kind you must remember. I don't want you to mention any names. I want a straightforward answer yes or no-if you ever, at any time, heard any member of your family say they suspected anyone of committing this crime?-No.

You never heard? -No.

Do you, yourself, suspect anyone? -No.

Have you ever suspected anybody? -No.

Has Pat, your brother, ever told you he suspected anybody? -No.

Have you ever had any conversation with Pat about the murder? -Yes, on several occasions.
Did he ever tell you he went anywhere to look at anything in reference to the crime? No.

Did you ever see him do so? -No.

Have you any opinion whatever as to who is the guilty party? -No.

Has Pat? -No.

Not that you have heard him say? -No.

Did Pat ever tell you that at one time he suspected somebody and that afterwards he didnít? -No.

Did your- mother ever suspect anyone?-No.
Or your father? -No.

Has your father ever said anything about who murdered his innocent children? -No.

Have you ever heard of it? -No. Witness, continuing, said he never heard of Norah, Helen, or Michael having any sweethearts. The girls never, to his knowledge, went to the paddock to catch their own horses.

The Police Magistrate: Have you always worked on your father's farm? -No; I was for two years at the Agricultural College. Witness, continuing, said he knew a man known as "Stuttering Billy Ryan," and also his daughter, Kate. Michael also knew her.

Inspector Urquhart: Do you remember when that girl was at Hyde's, at Dungar?-Yes.

Did Michael ever go to see her? - I could not say.

Did you ever go up there yourself? -No.

Were there any other girls there besides Kate Ryan? -I could not say.

Did you ever hear Michael was Kate Ryan's boy? - I don't think I did.

Did you ever see her and Michael together? -Yes, once; at our place.

Only on that occasion? -Yes.

Did he see her home? -I am not sure. Witness, continuing, said, he heard from Jerry about M'Neill's house being burnt down, but that he (Jerry) did not know whether it was insured or not.

Inspector Urquhart: Did Michael and M'Neill ever have any disagreement, as far as you know? -No.

Was M'Neill on good terms with all of you? -Yes.

Was your mother afraid of anyone in Gatton? -No.

Did she ever ask for protection against anyone? -I believe she did on one occasion. You need not answer names. You -believe she asked for protection against one man.

How long ago? -Four or five years.

Was that on account of one of the girls? -Yes.

Do you know of any quarrel or dispute that any member of your family ever had with anybody? -Yes; the eldest sister (Mrs. M'Neill) had with her father before she married M'Neill. There was bitter feeling on the father's side.

Do you know whether that feeling on his part continues? -I don't know.

Was M'Neill aware of it? -No; but he knows since, because he asked me when the ill-feeling occurred.

Have you Murphy's 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 twenty horses, of which seven are draught. Witness, continuing, deposed that a few weeks before Christmas Helen came in to a dance, being driven in the little trap by M'Neill. Jerry came in to the same dance and drove her home. He could not say when M'Neill came back, and he did not know what time Helen got home.

He did not know if any of the victims had ever been in Moran's paddock before.

He did not know of any fencing being done for the Moran's.

Once, six years ago, witness, his brother Michael, his father, and Bill Marsh had a road contract on the Tent Hill road, opposite the sliprails. Several of them went into a hut in Moran's paddock to seek shelter from a storm.

This concluded William Murphy's examination, and the court was adjourned till 10 o'clock the following morning, when the evidence of John Murphy, another son, will be taken. Up to the present 300 pages of foolscap have been used in taking depositions. Of these, seventy-three were written to-day.
There was an almost entire absence of local interest in the inquiry, as there were only a few stragglers at odd times who put in an appearance at the court-house. William Murphy, whose examination took the whole day, makes the sixth witness finished with.

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