A. L. (Arthur Lincoln) Haydon.

The trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time online

. (page 26 of 32)
Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 26 of 32)
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this element. Nevertheless some daring robberies were
attempted, a few of which proved successful. There was,
for instance, the " bailing up " of two employes of a gold-
mining company at Kalgoorlie, in 1899. The two men
were driving in a buggy along the Boulder Road, about a
mile and a half outside the town, with the fortnightly wages
of the miners and other sums of money which they had
drawn from the bank. The total value was nearly 5,000.
For convenience this money was placed in three separate
bags, one containing gold and notes, one silver, and the
third copper. No police guard had been provided, as the
possibility of attack on the open highway in broad daylight
never entered any one's head.

But attack there was. At a point in the road near
which were no diggers' shanties a masked man suddenly
stopped the vehicle with a command to " Bail up ! " To
prevent any escape he promptly shot the horse dead, then
levelling a Winchester rifle at the clerks' heads he bade
them " Throw out the bag." It was evident that he expected



the money to be all in one receptacle, for as one of the
men stooped and lifted out a bag he contented himself
with this, not stopping to examine it. He then edged
away from the buggy, keeping the others well under cover,
until he reached his horse, when he mounted and rode off.

A couple of troopers who answered the alarm proceeded
to the spot, but with unpardonable negligence did not
immediately take up the pursuit. The robber thus obtained
a good start and was never captured. In a disused shaft,
on search being made, was found his black coat, some cart-
ridges, and a blue handkerchief which he had converted
into a mask. Of the money bag there was no trace, but
there was some consolation in knowing that the loss was
a trifling one. In his trepidation the clerk who had obeyed
the highwayman's summons had thrown him the bag con-
taining the silver, which amounted to little over a hundred
pounds. The gold and notes were intact.

Somewhat similar in method was the outrage at Cool-
gardie, when an unarmed gold escort was stuck up by three
masked men. On this occasion 800 was the value of the
haul. The police troopers got on the trail of the robbers
after the latter's victims had released themselves from
their bonds and laid information, but though black trackers
were employed the men were never caught. There are
those who believe that these embryo bushrangers doubled
back to the town, and further, that they belonged to the
mining camp. However, the whole affair has remained a
mystery to this day.

A goldfields sensation of an earlier date was the murder
of Anthony Johnson, a Norwegian prospector. This
occurred hi the Kimberley district in October 1886. The
unfortunate victim had chummed up with a German,



Frank Hornig by name, who determined to get rid of him for
the sake of the other's horses and few belongings. Hornig
at first lured Johnson down to the Mary River, alleging
that gold was to be found there, but the presence of some
other prospectors deterred him from this plan. He next
selected a remote spot known as Hall's Gully, and here
they pitched their camp under a big tree. The Norwegian
was set to digging and presently had a deep hole in the
ground to show his mate. It proved to be his grave. As
he leaned over it, resting upon his spade, Hornig beat out
his brains with a rifle stock. The German then buried
the body in the hole and, to cover all traces of his dread-
ful crime, placed a mat of grass over the spot. Then he
possessed himself of the dead man's horses and outfit, and
took to the road.

One or other of the horses had bells on its bridle, and
the jingling of these in the night time told a neighbouring
fossicker, Jock McAlister, that a party in the Gully was
breaking camp. Curious to see who had been there, he
went round in the morning to investigate. While so doing
he found his foot sink into some soft ground, which made
the boot muddy. He washed off the dirt in the little creek
near at hand and then returned to further examine the
hole. In all probability, he thought, it was a cache of
provisions or miners' tools. Taking a thick stick he probed
into the cavity and, to his amazement, brought to view
first a sack, then an opossum rug, and lastly a man's foot !

McAlister hastily filled up the hole again and went off
to inform the police. Sub-Inspector Troy, the officer in
charge at the diggings, accompanied him to the Gully, and
there poor Johnson's body was uncovered. The camp of
the two men on inspection showed that several articles



had been burnt, while the Norwegian's boots were discovered
in a bush a little distance off. A description of Hornig,
whom many knew to have been Johnson's mate, gave the
police the clue they needed. With the assistance of a
black tracker they speedily got upon his trail, the Sub-
Inspector taking with him Trooper Mallard.

A few days later Hornig was overtaken on the road
westward, whither he was riding with another prospector
named Doyle. This man had quarrelled with his mate and
had readily accepted the German's offer of his company.
When the two troopers hailed them with a summons to
" Stand ! " Doyle for the moment thought they were held
up by bushrangers. With his big black beard and rough
clothes the Sub-Inspector quite looked the part. The
digger was more scared, however, when he learned the
true nature of his companion.

Hornig submitted quietly to his capture, but stoutly
protested his innocence. " That's all right," said Troy,
" we'll go into that when we get to Derby." The town
was over 200 miles away, which meant a long and
tedious journey. At the first Hornig believed that the
police had arrested him simply on suspicion. Neither of
the troopers had dropped a hint as to the discovery of the
body. Johnson had gone away alone, he declared ; they
had had a difference of opinion and parted company, that
was all. The Sub-Inspector looked at the packhorse
which he and Mallard had brought along and smiled grimly.

Then the bolt fell. On the second day after the capture
the packhorse suffered from some prickly blossom which
the wind blew on to it from a wayside shrub. Irritated
beyond endurance, it bucked and reared, and the straps
of its pack becoming loosened, one of the articles therein



slipped to the ground. It was the opossum rug. As his
eye lighted on it Hornig's face whitened. He knew now
that the secret was out, and from that moment his attitude
of defiance dropped like a mask. For precaution the
prisoner was chained to a tree at night, the policemen taking
it in turns to stand watch. But with all their vigilance
the German found an opportunity to open a vein on his
arm, with the intention of committing suicide. Trooper
Mallard discovered the attempt just in time. Hornig,
who had swooned from loss of blood, was revived with
brandy, and without further mishap was brought into
Derby. Thence he was transferred to Perth, to be tried
and condemned to death. He was hung at Perth gaol on
April 4, 1887, six months after committing his dastardly

In the north-west, besides gold-mining, there is another
important industry that touches the police very nearly.
Along the coast from Geraldton to Wyndham are the largest
and richest pearling grounds in the world, and at various
towns at Broome particularly there are numbers of
alien immigrants of Asiatic nationality engaged in the
business. Broome 's settled population may be put at 400
whites and 1,500 Asiatics and natives. The diving for
pearls and pearl shell is done mostly by Japanese and Malays,
but Chinese, Javanese, Manilamen, and Koepangs from the
island of Timor, among others, represent the brown and
yellow races. Australia as a whole does not look with a
kindly eye upon these Easterns, but it would be difficult
for the Government to deny their right to work upon these
grounds. From time immemorial Malay beche-de-mer
fishers have pottered about the north-west coast, while the
Japanese have established themselves as pearlers for a very



long period. It is difficult to see, too, how the industry
would survive but for the little brown men who go down
into the deeps to reap the yearly pearl shell harvest. White
divers have not proved as successful so far.

Broome is the centre of the pearling industry. It is
here that the main squadron of the fleet is equipped, for
in the waters off this point of the coast " the Ninety
Mile Beach " the shell is found in the largest quantities.
That the supply is practically inexhaustible is proved by
the fact that certain spots on the ocean bed, after having
been cleared by divers, have been covered in the course
of time with a new layer of shell. Pearling is undoubtedly
one of Australia's most lucrative industries, for the output
is enormous and the cost of production is reasonably low.
The shell fetches on an average 200 a ton (it has reached
the fancy price of 400) ; estimating the expenses of divers,
crews and upkeep of boats, at 120 a ton, there is a good
margin of profit. One diver is calculated to bring to the
surface from four to six tons in a year's operations. In
a fleet of twenty luggers, each of which carries one diver, a
favourable twelve months' return will show a handsome
balance sheet. And this is irrespective of what pearls may
be found, the value of these being placed to a special profit
account. 1

The dark side of pearling is the bad season of the year
when the storms burst upon that portion of the coast. These
hurricanes, locally styled " cock-eyed bobs," make their
appearance during the " lay-up " period at Christmas,

1 For a twelve months' return at Broome the following is given :
" Boats engaged, 378 ; value of boats and equipment, 136,181 ; number
of men employed, 2,470 ; quantity of pearl-shell obtained, 1,534 J} tons ;
value of pearl-shell obtained, 190,741 ; value of pearls obtained (approxi-
mate), 73,370.




but they are sometimes before their due time. Then woe
to the lugger which is caught out in the open ! In 1908
there were two such calamities, one in April and the other
in the following December. In the first of these the loss
of life was over 200, while some forty boats went down.
That of December was almost as disastrous. As an
illustration of the terrific force of these cyclonic storms, it
may be stated that some of the luggers were hurled ashore
high above the mangroves and deposited high and dry
several hundreds of yards beyond the beach. It is the
risk of this peril that the owner of a fleet must face. One
such disaster may deal him a crushing blow from which it
will be difficult to recover.

Like the diamond industry of South Africa, pearling has
its illicit gem buyer. The majority of this gentry are
Orientals, some ostensibly engaged in legitimate businesses
on shore, others working on the coastal and Singapore
steamers. The masters of pearling luggers are still obliged
to watch their coloured crews very closely, although the
traffic in stolen pearls is not so great as it once was. A
lugger's crew, it should be noted, in addition to white
" hands," consists of seven coloured men, two of whom
are the diver and his tender. The latter supervises the
diver's movements under water, supplying him with air
and watching for any signal on the life-line. Only seven
permits for coloured labour are allowed to a boat by the
Government. The Immigration Restriction Act provides
heavy penalties for infringement of this and other regula-
tions. Every alien thus engaged is indentured for three
years, after which, if he does not renew his contract, he
must be sent back to Singapore. It is from this port that
the recruits are annually brought over.

345 ~


Not often does a very serious case arise calling for police
interference. In Broome itself each nationality has its
particular quarter, and usually keeps to it. At times, of
course, there are racial quarrels and free fights, but these
troubles are easily handled. The illicit pearl buyer may
give a trooper a long and difficult chase, and he is likely
to prove an ugly customer to tackle when cornered. These,
however, are small affairs compared to what happened
some seven years ago, when some enterprising spirits made
an effort to revive the old trade of piracy for which the
north-west coast once enjoyed an evil reputation. This
is the story of it.

In Broome at the time were two pearling owners, Captain
Biddies and Captain Riddell. Each of them had a fleet
of luggers out on the grounds off Cape Bossutt, and each
was on the point of making his monthly visit of inspection
in his schooner. As they sat together on the evening
before their departure a wager was laid as to who should
be the first to reach the grounds. The next day, a Sunday,
the two vessels started on their race. The wind was light
and they made fair running. At sundown, however, Captain
Biddies noticed that his rival's schooner, the Ethel, was
standing farther out to sea. He thought this proceeding
strange, and when, in the morning, the schooner was not
to be seen, he thought it stranger still. On his return to
Broome the Captain reported the non-arrival of the Ethel
to the police.

From Broome the news was flashed along the wires to
Derby, where Inspector W. C. Brophy l was in charge.
This officer suspected foul play on the part of the mixed

1 Now Superintendent of Police at Kalgoorlie.


crew, and promptly communicated with Perth. He urged
the authorities to advise the Malay islands, Borneo, Singa-
pore and Penang, of the missing vessel, thinking it probable
that it might make for one of these points. His surmise
was a shrewd one. After the lapse of several days there came
a message from the Straits Settlements police to the effect
that they had arrested the crew of the Ethel. It only
remained for West Australian police officers to proceed to
Singapore to identify and secure the prisoners.

At the subsequent trial at Perth the chief witness was
the Chinese cook of the schooner. He related how, on
the night when the Ethel had changed her course, to Captain
Biddies' astonishment, a Malay named Pedro had headed
a meeting of the crew and proposed to them to seize the
vessel. Having won them over to his plan Pedro had
then tomahawked the man at the wheel and the other white
man on deck, and then gone down into the Captain's cabin.
Unconscious of any danger threatening him, Riddell was
looking at the chart outspread on the little table. He
glanced up quickly at the sound of footsteps behind him,
but the Malay drove his knife into the other's back and
the owner of the Ethel died within a few minutes.

The bodies of the three murdered men were chained
together and dropped overboard to the sharks. Pedro, as
the leader of the conspiracy, then took command of the
ship. In true freebooter fashion he had liquor served all
round, put on a short sword with a coloured sash, and
tramped about the deck like a " first chop " pirate. After
being four days at sea, during which time the schooner
was cleaned of any traces of the crime, Pedro killed the
aboriginal native who formed one of the crew (the rest
were nearly all Malays), and was about to treat the China-



man similarly when the crew intervened and saved his

The vessel was now put over to the Malay islands, at
one of which in the dusk of evening it dropped anchor. All
the pearls, shell and money on board were lowered into
a small boat. The party then rowed ashore, while the
Ethel, scuttled, sank at her moorings. But the pirates'
enjoyment of their booty was short. They were arrested
the same day, to be handed over to justice as has been
described. In the end Pedro was hanged, the rest of the
band being otherwise dealt with.

Another pearling tragedy of the north-west was the
murder of John P. Jones at Yampi Sound, in January 1909.
This particular locality, which is a hundred miles north
of Derby, has acquired a bad name through the treachery
of the natives found there. Many pearlers do not care
about sending their luggers thither. It was certainly an
evil day for skipper Jones when he cast anchor in those
waters. The blacks surprised him and his small crew and
killed them forthwith. After which they held a big cor-
robboree and made for the bush.

Jones' mysterious disappearance and an ugly rumour
that found its way to Broome led to Mounted Constable
Fletcher being sent up to the Sound to investigate matters.
Fletcher, who, if we are not mistaken, had only two native
trackers with him, discovered how the murder had been
perpetrated, and proceeded to arrest four blacks who were
using the dead man's dinghy. Two of these were directly
implicated hi the crime. He returned to Derby with the
prisoners, saw them committed for trial, and then returned
to complete his work. There were other murderers and
several witnesses to be secured.



Fletcher carried out his difficult task with remarkable
ability. Five more blacks who had helped to do the killing
were captured and conveyed aboard the lugger on which
he had sailed to Yampi Sound. One of the new prisoners,
however, a big native known as Lowadda, was disposed
to make a fight for it. The trooper closed with him and
a violent struggle took place, which resulted in both falling
overboard. There was a strong sea running at the time.
In a few moments both men were carried some distance
away from the boat, but Fletcher pluckily stuck to his
prize. Eventually they were swept on to an island near
the coast, where two other natives thought they were quite
equal to rescuing their comrade. In this, however, they
were mistaken. The trooper laid them out with his fists
in true style, and when a boat pulled off from the lugger
to his aid the discomfited blacks accompanied Lowadda
as fellow prisoners.

Of the seven criminals thus arrested one cheated the
hangman by dying in Broome hospital. The others were
duly sentenced to death and executed. Trooper Fletcher,
meanwhile, received handsome commendation for his notable
achievement one of which the West Australian police
force may well be proud and was further rewarded with
a grant of 50.




Notorious examples Methods of work Brand " faking " The Kellys

" Plucking a brand " Police patrols Old Mrs. B A lost

Hereford Where was the hide ? Jack Burrell " Tom Tit " Work-
ing a stampede A trick cow An opal robbery Bowling out a
thief Mounted Constable Freeman An arduous trip Benjamin
Bridges, horse-thief Wonderful tracking.

NO class of criminal, except the bushranger, has been
such a constant source of trouble to the Australian
mounted police as the " cattle-duffer." By this term is
meant the professional thief who preys upon other people's
stock. He is an expert at cutting out " mickies " (un-
branded steers) from a herd and running them to some
secluded spot where they lie hidden until ready for dis-
posal ; and he shows remarkable ingenuity in the " faking "
of brands. It is not likely that he will confine himself to
cattle only. " Horse-planting," which is horse-stealing in a
similar manner, comes just as readily to his hand.

Many of the bushrangers of the later era graduated in
this school. Several of the Gardiner gang were horse-
thieves before they flew at higher game ; so, too, were the
Clarkes and the Kellys. The last-named were taught by a
past master in the art of " duffing," viz., Harry Power. This
notorious character was regarded by the police as quite the
smartest of his class. It was, perhaps, only natural that the
criminal instinct should have found its outlet in this form.



The temptations and opportunities for " lifting " stock were
numerous, and the chances of detection apparently slight.
Very little of the country over which the cattle or horses
ran free was fenced in, and a great portion of it in the
south-eastern states was well-wooded, offering numerous
safe hiding-places. The stock-owners, by their careless
system of grazing, contributed not a little to their own

The simplest plan adopted was to muster a bunch of
cattle raided from various quarters and drive the beasts by
devious mountain tracks to some distant market. A Vic-
torian " duffer " would sell his lot in New South Wales or
Queensland, and vice versa. Or, again, on the border, cattle
and horses belonging to one State would be placed in the
pounds of the other, whereupon the thief would pur-
chase them for the small sum usually demanded for such
stock and resell his prizes to unsuspecting buyers. In this
way they were able to produce a sufficiently good title.

As a safeguard against identification it was necessary,
of course, to remove or alter any brand upon an animal's
skin. The early methods of " faking " were rough and
ready, the marks being merely added to or branded over
with a new design. Thus a brand B would be easily con-
verted into BD or into |BJ. Where an owner with more
originality devised a monogram such as "E, comprising his
initials T and E, a little skilful manipulation might change
this into a B by clipping off the left side of the first letter
and rounding the arms of the second. Sometimes a design
was too intricate to be thus transformed. In this event it
was generally burnt over so as to obliterate it, and a new
brand was affixed elsewhere.

Power and his followers, the Kelly s, went " one better "


in the " faking " process. Not troubling themselves with
branding instruments, they resorted to iodine, with which
marks could be more satisfactorily burnt into the skin. After
a mob of stolen horses or cattle had been gathered and
driven to the gully or ravine in the mountains where the
" duffers " had their haunt, they were thus branded with
the desired mark. The animals were then kept until the
sores had healed and the brands looked old. This scientific
treatment had advantages over the earlier simpler methods.
It was more difficult to detect the obliteration of a brand
removed by iodine than that of one where an iron had been

At the present time cattle-duffers are as wily as ever they
were, although their depredations have been much restricted
through the vigilance of the police. The elaboration of
brands still proceeds : 055 becomes Q55, QBE becomes 08B,
and so on. The variations are many. One popular form
of " faking " that has been introduced with success is that
of " plucking a brand." This is done by pulling out
hairs from a colt, say, in such a manner as to form the letters
of a brand on the skin. Of course, such a mark only lasts a
comparatively short time, as the hairs grow again and
obscure it.

A great check has been placed upon stock-stealing by the
regular patrolling of the main roads along which sheep,
cattle and horses are driven. The mounted police stop the
droves when it is considered advisable, and examine the
permits to see that all is in order. By telephone or telegraph
they are able to notify the police of another district should
there be any occasion to suspect malpractices. In this way
a new drover, or one who is known to have been engaged in
" duffing " at some time or other, is carefully watched. It



is, therefore, in the outlying parts that the thieves of to-day
must work, and even there their chances of success have
been much reduced.

The difficulties against which the mounted police have
to contend in the suppression of stock-stealing are many.
Even when a hide is produced, as is insisted upon by law
when fresh meat has been killed, there are ways of evading
detection. It may be a hide of another animal, kept for
use as a " blind," or it may have been skilfully doctored.
A trooper needs to have a sharp eye and an intimate know-
ledge of the cattle in his own district. And even when
he is morally sure that he has located a thief and has seen
through the subterfuge, some chance event will often help
the guilty one out of the hole and baffle the law.

In north-eastern New South Wales there was an old

woman, Mrs. B , who with her three daughters was long

suspected of " lifting " her neighbour's stock. One day
a fine young Hereford steer was missing from a station near
by. There were only a few animals of that breed then in the

Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 26 of 32)