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SUNDOWN MURDER INVESTIGATION 1959.

 




Back L>R: 1.Charlie Hopkins, 2.Kev Moran, 3.Mohr (Def.Counsel),4.Gil Gully, 5.Bill McKinnon (NT), 6.Alf Horsnell, 7.Pat Grant (NT), 8.Ron Hughes (NT).

Seated L>R: 1.Jim Conmee (NT), 2.?, 3.Les Maddaford, 4.Eb Scarfe.

On Floor L>R: 1.Keith Lockwood, 2. Frank O'Neill.

STORY COMMENCES PAGE 4 

 





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   President Geoff Rawson.
   

September has proved to be another month of activities for our volunteers which include a display at the Victor Harbour Rock and Roll at Warland Reserve with Kevin Johnson and Ernie Mcleod, the Bay to Birdwood on the 27th and Remembrance day on the 29th at the Academy and Banrock     Station. 


Our thanks goes to Holger Kruse and his wife Ros, who now live in Mildura, for their assistance in representing the Society at Banrock Station.  Holger  dressed in a mounted uniform from the 1800s, participated in the wreath laying ceremony  and was invited back again next year.  Photos of these events are included in this issue.

 On the 28th I drove to Whyalla to talk to the Whyalla History Group in the VN Commodore.  I was amused by the number of well behaved motorists who sat behind me not daring to pass.  62 people  attended the meeting in Whyalla  including 2 Women Police Officers and members of the local Council who funded the event. My subject was the  History of the Women Police and I managed to sell 8 books to the  locals who were very  interested.   A group are currently planning to come to  Adelaide next year to visit our  museum.

The Asbestos removal project planning has started,  providing us with a golden opportunity to replace the existing shelving with a compactus.  This project will cause considerable disruption to our services as all our documents will have to be stored whilst the asbestos removal takes place.
 Congratulations to Tony Kaukas who has won us another grant of $12,100.00 from the Federal  Library which is to be used for shelving and storage, plus four recording devices to record temperature and  humidity in each of the museum galleries.
 
All of our Lottery prizes have now been distributed, with a couple of surprises in store when Sheila Lane asked that her prize been redrawn and was won by S. Kahl of Nurioopta Police Station Also Heather Everingham, in light of  Val Harvey’s recent ill health, generously donated her prize of Black Bottle Brandy to Val, strictly for medicinal purposes of course!!

On Friday the 2nd October about 35 members attended our monthly meeting and I gave my talk on the Sundown  Murders.  The Raffle raised $69.00.  Our next meeting is on the 6th of November and will feature a Presentation by the RAA Public Affairs Department called "Years Ahead". I will be unable to attend as I have to cruise around New Zealand.  Oh the sacrifices I make.
 
Look forward to seeing you at our Christmas Celebration in December. A Booking slip is included with this edition and I urge you to return them as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.  



   Geoff Rawson.

            President.


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The Sundown Murders &
Essential Witnesses.

by Reuben Goldsworthy.



The Sundown Murder investigation was the longest, most arduous and most testing of all that I experienced during my time in the homicide squad.  There was often little time for sleep, the weather was extremely hot, living   conditions at the murder site were primitive to say the least, and it was necessary to be absolutely thorough in gathering every possible scrap of evidence.  At one stage, the prospect of success seemed slim indeed, but with persistence and a bit of luck we were able to find two essential witnesses, and this gave us the break that we needed.
 










On 4th December, 1957, a party comprising Thyra Bowman, her daughter Wendy and a friend of the Bowman Family, Thomas Whelan, set out from the Glen Helen Station to travel to Adelaide.  The station homestead was at the western end of the McDonnell Ranges, approximately 130 miles (200 km) west of Alice Springs.   
They were in the family car, a Standard Vanguard sedan, and were on their way to meet Thyra’s husband Peter, who had taken another daughter by plane from Alice Springs to Adelaide, where he had gone for specialist medical treatment for a back injury.  There were two pet dogs in the party.
From the station, the party travelled to Alice Springs on the first day, and stayed at the hotel overnight.  On the following day they set out for Adelaide via the Stuart Highway, which was then little more than a track, occasionally graded in some sections.  It was expected that the journey would take two days.  In those days the highway went from one station homestead to the next, and these were about fifty to a hundred miles apart.
  When the travellers had not arrived in Adelaide after three days and had made no contact, Thyra’s husband Peter, became alarmed and made numerous phone calls without success.  He, therefore, reported his concern to the Police.  The Royal Flying Doctor Service at Port   Augusta contacted the pastoral properties en route, again without success.











A road block was set up at Port Augusta, so that police could seek information from travellers who had come from Alice Springs.  No information was forthcoming.
A Lincoln bomber was sent from Woomera to fly along the route, but the search was unsuccessful.
On 13th December, after having been on night patrol until 7.30 am, instead of going home immediately, I spent some time in the city with a friend who was visiting from the country. I returned to my car, which was parked adjacent to Police Headquarters, and was about to go home for some much needed sleep.    

Inspector Gully, who was in charge of the Homicide Squad, spotted me.  He came out and asked me to take charge of the investigation and go to Port Augusta immediately.  After making the necessary preparations, I set out at about 3.30 pm with an associate, Detective Kevin Moran, and a police photographer.  At that time no police officer involved in the investigation of a serious crime was permitted to travel to the scene of the crime by plane, which was considered to be risky. 


We, therefore, had to use a motor vehicle, and on this occasion were provided with an early model  Holden.
It was not until the rape and murder at Ceduna of a young girl, Mary Hattam, that this was changed. At that time I recommended to the Commissioner that two detectives go to Ceduna by plane  immediately, and this was approved.  After that, in such circumstances police officers normally went by plane.

On the way we received a phone call reporting that the Lincoln bomber had carried out another reconnaissance, and that the vehicle had been sighted on the Sundown Station property.
We arrived at Port Augusta early that evening.  The local detectives were surprised to see that we were   wearing our customary dress, namely suit, hat, collar and tie, and that we had no camping equipment.  We were equally surprised because we had presumed that “Sundown” was not far from Port Augusta, only to learn that it was near the Northern Territory border and some 600 miles (960 km) away.  We were informed too that the bodies of the missing persons had been found approximately a mile away from the car and that they had obviously been murdered.

  The local police lent me sturdy blue overalls to wear instead of my suit, and after about two hours in Port Augusta, we left in the Holden.  By that time, I had had no sleep for 24 hours, but with what was to come there was often little sleep.  Three of us were in the Holden, and two Port Augusta detectives accompanied us, driving their normal patrol vehicle, a heavy strong one ton Ford Utility.  The utility carried a large vessel containing twenty gallons of water, more than enough to see us through

After about two hours in Port Augusta, we   proceeded to Woomera, arriving at about midnight.  The local   police, as we had requested, had  procured three lead lined coffins from the administration of the Rocket Range Establishment.  After some two hours with them, were on our way again.  With their permission we travelled via the bituminised Range Road, thereby reducing the  distanced to be travelled by some 100 miles.  There was no time for delay, because it is always  necessary to be at the scene of a crime as soon as possible.  If too much time elapses, a criminal may well be far from the crime scene and, therefore, hard to locate, and the same applies to potential witnesses.

After leaving the bitumen, we found that the track north was for the most part very tough, particularly through the Sturt Stony Desert, where the car was bouncing because of potholes and gibbers of all sizes.  We discovered, however, that it was easier to handle the light duty Holden than the ute, and that the Holden also coped much better when the road was sandy.  It was indeed true that Holdens were built for Australian conditions.
Temperatures exceeded 40°C each day.

Naturally, we took turns at driving, which required constant vigilance, due to dust, and to the intense heat and light, with consequent glare and mirages.  We saw that the trees did not appear to be green; they were   covered in brown dust.  Dust, stirred up from the road, covered the car and slid down the windscreen, which reduced visibility to some extent, adding to the difficulty of driving.

The lurching of the car on the rough track continually disturbed us when we attempted to sleep; we could only doze on and off.  Although detectives at that time sometimes had to be on the job for up to about eighteen hours, I had already had no sleep for much longer than that.
After stopping briefly at Coober Pedy next day, we  continued on to Marla Bore, arriving at about 5.00 pm and had two or three hours sleep there. 
It was interesting to see there that, instead of a horse, a camel was being used to operate the mill used to pump up underground water.  We pressed on again, eventually reaching the scene of the  murders at about midnight.  This was more than thirty hours after leaving Adelaide.  We were met by four police officers from Oodnadatta and Finke.  There were also a number of residents from the region, and six aboriginal trackers, who were  station workers brought in by their employers.

Mr. Jim Wilkinson from the Kulgera Roadhouses,   informed us that the victims had called at Kulgera,     refuelled the car, purchased some cool drinks, and filled their water bags before proceeding on their way.
From the beginning, valuable assistance was given by many of the local and Alice Springs resident, which was, and remains, typical of the readiness of most country people to help others.  Two such were Mr. Eddie Connellan, the well-known owner of  Connellan Airlines in Alice Springs, and by Mr. Roy Coulthard of Kulgera Station.  Connellan and Coulthard were flying along the highway in search of the Bowman’s car at the same time as the air force plane was searching.

They also spotted the car, and returned to Kulgera to organise a party to attend the scene, despite the fact that the weather was so hot that even the local residents were affected.  Mr. Coulthard’s son Noel came on his motorbike and he was the one who found tyre marks leading to where the bodies were located. 

It was due to Mr. Coulthard’s boundless energy, bush craft, organizing ability and hospitality that the whole investigation at the scene proceeded smoothly and efficiently.
A rough campsite had been prepared, and we were able to snatch a few hours sleep, lying on a stretch of sand adjacent to the road.  Art about 4.00 am we were awakened to find the place alive with activity.  It was explained to us that the sand would heat up very quickly, and that we would suffer badly if we overslept.   Everyone was eager to get on with the job.  We were treated top a “real bush breakfast”. Comprising a thick slice of fritz and a cup of tea, which, given the circumstances, we greatly appreciated. 

NEXT ISSUE: A HUB CAP, ALARM CLOCK & DOG CHAINS.









VALE
     

Verity Elizabeth McKinna.  

      Passed away peacefully at home on 3rd October, 2009

Dearly loved daughter of  Brigadier John and Mrs Betty McKinna 

   Esteemed member of the S.A. Police Historical Society

Will be sadly missed.

 












                 

THE DEATH OF POLICE TROOPER

HARRY PEARCE.



BY ALLAN L. PETERS

Twenty-four year old Mounted Constable Harry Edmonds Pearce had been a member of the South Australian Police Force for less than eighteen months when he was brutally and savagely attacked and killed by a prisoner whom he had taken into   custody. During his short service with the police force he had proven himself to be loyal and enthusiastic and he was greatly respected by both his colleagues, and by those under whose command he served.
At five a.m. on Monday, May 16, 1881, Harry Pearce called at a property about seven miles from Kingston, owned by William Smith and his family, where travellers often sought overnight accommodation for themselves, and stabling for their horses. Here he awoke and arrested a man named William Nugent alias Robert Johnston who matched the description of a man he sought for allegedly having supplied liquor to aboriginals near the township of Wellington.
The trooper accompanied Nugent to the stables while he watered the three horses he had brought with him. And while Nugent saddle his riding horse he asked the trooper if he might leave the other two horses in Mrs. Smith’s paddock until his return. Pearce refused to allow him to do so, saying that the horses must accompany them to Kingston. This    refusal was to ultimately lead to the death of the trooper for as it later transpired the horses had been stolen from Victoria. The certain discovery of this fact once he was delivered to the police lockup in Kingston would of course have led to other more serious charges being laid against the prisoner.

Despite the refusal however Nugent showed no obvious signs of agitation and no harsh words were exchange between the policeman and his prisoner.
The two men left the Smith property at about seven a.m. to make the short journey to Kingston. They had travelling only about three miles when the prisoner requested a stop. On dismounting and   lighting pipe, Nugent said, “I will go no further”. Hearing this, Harry Pearce, also dismounted and  producing his handcuffs said, “If you will not come with me voluntarily, then I shall have to handcuff you”.

Having thus achieved his objective of getting the policeman to dismount, the prisoner then said, “There is no need for that, I’ll go quietly”.  Satisfied at having the prisoner agree to accompany him without further fuss Pearce turned to unhitch his horse from a fallen log, as he did so Nugent struck without warning.
It has never been established where or how Nugent had secreted the long bladed knife. Perhaps the trooper, having arrested him for only a rather miner offence, had not bothered to   thoroughly search him for weapons, or perhaps the prisoner had so carefully   hidden it either on his body or within his saddle that the search had failed to reveal it. But as the trooper’s back was momentarily turned, the prisoner produced the knife and thrust it deeply into the young trooper’s back.

Pearce spun around and automatically made a grab for the knife with his right hand cutting his fingers deeply on the razor sharp edge of the blade and almost severing his thumb completely. This injury   prevented him from drawing and using his revolver. Disabled as he was the gallant young police trooper struggled desperately with Nugent during which time he was stabbed repeatedly about the body. While locked in the deadly struggle for life, Trooper Pearce suddenly realized that the outlaw had managed to   manoeuvre him into a position where he could cut his throat with one single violent slash. With his strength ebbing fast the policeman managed to out manoeuvre his opponent and regain his feet but once more the deadly knife sunk deep into his abdomen.
Harry Pearce felt faint from the loss of blood and as he reeled and collapsed to the ground, Nugent, now wishing to extend the trooper’s agony to the utmost, strode over to the trooper’s horse unsaddled and unbridled it and set it free. He next recovered the policeman’s revolver from where it had fallen, and unloaded it. Then mounting his own horse turned to the disabled trooper with a sneer on his face and said, “I am bloody well off. You can die there”.     
 As the trooper lay helpless in tall grass some  distance from the roadway he realized that it might be weeks of even months before anyone stumbled across him. Yet try as he might, he could not summon sufficient energy to move from the spot where he lay. Luck however, had not abandoned him completely. It was less than two hours later that William Dungey who was driving a two horse cart chanced to meet the driver of a dray belonging to a Mr Redman at the spot in the road nearest the scene of the horrendous attack.

As the two drivers stopped to exchange the time of day, William Dungey imagined that he heard the old bushmen’s cry “cooee”, calling weakly from somewhere among the tall grass to the eastern side of the road. Moving in the direction from which he thought the cry had come, he saw something white fluttering above the grass. As he  cautiously approached he saw a hand feebly waving a white handkerchief an obvious attempt to attract attention.
On taking a few more steps forward William Dungey was able to see the injured policeman. He was lying on his back among the grass, which was heavily stained, with his blood. The grass had been trodden down for some distance around and the saddle and bridal that had been discarded by Nugent were on the ground a short distance away.

Trooper Pearce managed to tell Dungey that he had been stabbed by his prisoner, but though he knew his injuries were grave he refused to  allow Dungey open his shirt to examine the wounds.
Dungey called on the driver of Mr Redman’s dray to remain with Trooper Pearce while he himself sped off towards the township of Kingston to report the finding of the wounded trooper.

William Dungey made his report direct to Sergeant Robert Morris. Realising the urgency of the situation the Sergeant did not pause to make out a written report. Instead he sent an urgent telegram to Dr. Gunning at Naracoorte requesting his urgent attendance. He also asked John Martin, the local traffic-manager for the South Australian Railways and the town’s leading    paramedic, to remain nearby and to render whatever assistance may be required. The sergeant then rounded up men upon whom he knew he could rely, he had two of them head out to the scene of the tragedy in a buggy to bring in the injured policeman. Sergeant Morris and Peter Anderson, a resident of the town, then also started out for the spot where the injured man lay.
On their arrival at the scene the sergeant quickly surveyed the blood-drenched scene of the horrific attack. He spoke briefly with the mutilated, though still conscious, victim and after gathering details of the offender and assuring him of the care and attention that awaited him on his arrival at Kingston, the sergeant took off with  Peter Anderson following the tracks left by Nugent. 
Sergeant Morris and Peter Anderson followed the tracks at a gruelling pace, they could tell by the direction in which they led that the would be murderer, thinking himself to be safe and his crime free from detection, was heading for Mt. Gambier. At around two-thirty in the afternoon whilst about two and a half miles beyond Bowoka, Morris spotted the fugitive some distance ahead. Putting his spurs to his mount Sergeant Morris soon overtook and arrested the suspect at gunpoint.

On searching his prisoner, Morris found a near new sheath knife in his right hand pocket, the sheath of which was found in the lining of the coat. Though the knife appeared to have been wiped clean a small trace of blood was evident on the blade. Traces of what may have been bloodstains were also noted on the prisoner’s trousers.
Sergeant Morris then formerly cautioned his prisoner and charged him with the attempted murder of Police Trooper Harry Pearce.
While the pursuit and capture of Nugent was being carried out by Sergeant Morris, others transported the injured constable to Kingston where Mr. John Knox   Martin the South Australian Railways’ local traffic-manager and the area’s leading first-aid attendant awaited his arrival.
Examining Pearce, on his arrival at the Kingston police station, at about noon, John Martin found a frightful gash about five and a half inches long in the wounded man’s abdomen through which part of the small intestine and a portion of the colon protruded. The fingers of the right hand were cut to the bone and the left hand also had severe lacerations. There was a wound on the right wrist, and the outside of his left thigh had been received an extremely large gash which had penetrated to the bone. Several deep stab wounds were also evident in the victim’s back a five inch gash to the left side of the head, and a deep scratch to the throat.

John Martin immediately conveyed the hopelessness of the situation to Mr. Charles Gell J. P. and advised that a dying deposition should be taken. He then set about dressing the wounds to the best of his ability.
Dr. Gunning arrived at Kingston at four p.m. aboard the afternoon train and hurried immediately to the police station where he commenced his examination of Harry Pearce.
He found Pearce to be extremely weak and  exhausted, and though he was fully conscious and his mind was perfectly clear his pulse was barely perceptible. The doctor, with assistance from John Martin, returned the protruding bowels into the patient’s body and closed the gaping wound. Though he gave the policeman no chance of  recovery he closed and redressed the numerous wounds on the patient’s body and made him as comfortable as was possible under the circumstances.
Police Trooper Harry Edmonds Pearce valiantly clung to life for more than sixty-one hours, finally succumbing to his horrific injuries at 9.20 on Wednesday evening.

An inquest was held the following morning at which time the deposition made by the dying policeman was read out. This deposition, which complied with all the legal  requirements for such documents, left no doubt in the minds of the jury as to who inflicted the fatal wounds or as to the malicious intent of the perpetrator.
After a very brief retirement, the jury returned the following verdict, “The deceased, Harry Edmond Pearce, Died from the effects of wounds, wilfully and maliciously inflicted by William Nugent alias Robert Johnston”.   Nugent was then committed to stand trial at the next sitting of the Naracoorte Circuit Court on a charge of wilful murder.

Police Trooper Hayes transported Nugent to the Robe Gaol the following morning.    
Despite Nugent’s plea of  “not guilty,” at his trial on October 21, he presented no defence. He was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to death, the execution was set to take place in the Mt. Gambier Gaol at 8 a.m. on November 18, 1881. 

Prior to the date of execution, Nugent had his lawyer (Mr. J. R. Moore) draw up a letter to the Governor, which he signed. In it he pleaded for commutation of his sentence of death, chiefly on the grounds that he had received great provocation for his attack on Harry Pearce. He claimed that Pearce had insisted on handcuffing him without reason, and that when he objected, Pearce drew his revolver and was going to shoot him. He (Nugent) seized the weapon and pushed it aside, and a struggle ensued.

Nugent admitted that he drew the concealed sheath knife during the struggle and must have inflicted the wounds to Pearce’s body, though he did not know how. The dreadful cut across Pearce’s
abdomen, he said, was done unintentionally whilst trying to draw the knife from under Pearce as he lay on the ground.
This statement was, according to all who knew the murdered  policeman or were connected in some way with the case, totally unbelievable, and nothing more than a desperate attempt on   behalf of the murderer to thwart the course of justice and save his own miserable life.
The Executive Council, under the leadership of the Governor also rejected Nugent’s plea and his execution took place at the time and place as announced by the court.

William Nugent’s body was buried within the confines of the Mt. Gambier Gaol in accordance with south Australian Government regulations.
Police Trooper Harry Pearce’s remains were transported back to Adelaide. There, on May 22, 1881, after one of the largest funeral procession ever previously seen he was laid to rest at the Walkerville Cemetery.

A tall marble column topped by a shrouded urn was later erected on the gravesite bearing the inscription: “In memory of Harry Edmonds Pearce, Aged 24 years, a member of the South Australian Mounted Police who was cruelly murdered while escorting a prisoner near Kingston on 16th of May, 1881. Erected by the officers and his late comrades of the S. A. Police Force.” 
















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National Police Remembrance Day.





On Tuesday 29th October a large contingent of Society members  attended the very moving remembrance ceremony at the Fort Largs  Academy.  A Vintage vehicle display including  the Black Maria,   Chrysler Royal & BSA motor cycle was provided by   members Kevin  Johnson, Ernie McLeod & Bob Boscence.
Kevin Beare laid the wreath on behalf of the Society.
Holger & Ros. Kruse attended  the memorial service at Banrock Station, Kingston on Murray. Holger Kruse donned an 1850’s   uniform and laid a wreath on behalf of the Society.   The uniform created a great deal of interest, particularly as it covered the period of the drowning of police Officers Wickham & Carter, the first two officers to die in the execution of their duty.  















                  


                   




Kevin Beare with Inspector Glen Woolley, from Tasmania
who, like Kevin, was an umpire at the Carna National Netball
Championships, recently held in Adelaide.

                

Geraldine White, Protocol Officer. Adelaide & Beryl O’Brien of Murray Mallee Local Service Area are both to be congratulated  for organising these memorable events.

 

                                          



                   


                          

Photos: Ros Kruse & Elees Pick

 






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                  We Welcome you …….


FRIDAY 6th NOVEMBER, 2009 AT 8.00 pm

The November meeting guest speaker component will be a Presentation by the
RAA Public Affairs Department called "Years Ahead".

    It is a Road Safety program developed in 2009 and designed particularly to help people drive safely and to make well informed decisions about how to manage their driving in their advancing years.  It includes driving and safety tips, the importance of choosing the right vehicle, the impact of health and medications on driving, and very importantly, how to assess your own driving ability and how to plan for future mobility.
   It should be an excellent evening.

PLEASE REMEMBER TO BRING YOUR DONATION TOWARD PRIZES FOR THE MONTHLY RAFFLE




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                    With no large museum visits this month, once again volunteers have had an  opportunity to catch up on some housekeeping within the barracks.  There has, however, been a great demand for outside displays & visits




On Sunday 20th September, Kevin Johnson & Ernie mounted a static display,  featuring the Chrysler Royal, at Warland Reserve, Victor Harbor, as part of the Victor Harbor Rock & Roll Festival.  Ernie & Kevin report that could have made a tidy sum had they charged just $1.00 for every photo they had taken.






On Sunday 27th September, Dennis and Dot Irrgang, Kevin and Kay Johnson, Ernie McLeod and Mark Dollman, braved the elements to take part in the run from Bay to Birdwood, with the Chrysler Royal and two BSA Solo Motorcycles.
Unfortunately Kevin Johnson did not even make the first hill.  His motor  cycle decided it was all too much and stalled unexpectedly, only  just avoiding being run over by Dennis Irrgang in the Chrysler. Kevin has since been able to repair the BSA which is now running perfectly. 

    




On Monday 28th September, President Geoff Rawson drove to Whyalla, in response to  an invitation from the Whyalla History Group to speak on the History of the Women  Police in South Australia.  More than 60 people  attended & have now indicated their interest in visiting the Museum in 2010.


                





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The “HUE & CRY” is  Published by the
South Australian
  Police Historical Society Inc.,
Thebarton Police Barracks
C/- G.P.O. Box 1539 
Adelaide 5001
S.A. 5083

.




Editor
Editor Elees Pick                          

Elees Pick

e-mail : historical@police.sa.gov.au

 



Web site


www.sapolicehistory.org/

webmaster@
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