While searching for timber about two miles north of the Darlot Road and opposite the 19-mile well, Edward ‘Old Ned’ Ashbury and his mate, Mr Scott, stumbled across the skeletal remains of a man. They returned to Lawlers and, on 5 May 1901, Edward reported what they had found to Sergeant George Pilkington.
Not much had changed in two years. The investigation into the Mount Magnet murder had ground to a halt. The police had not been able to identify the victim and they had not been able to identify the perpetrator. North of the town the Rose Pearl continued to sit abandoned save for a few old prospectors. It held fast to the truth surrounding the crime but still had one last secret to share.
At 5pm on 17 November 1902, Reuben Brooker and Charles Pollock were trying their luck prospecting in one of the old shafts known as the Black Swan. Reuben went down into the mine shaft and at the bottom (60 feet) began the task of removing earth which was blocking a drive. While doing so he came across a rotting chaff bag tied with a piece of lace. The ominous odour arising from the bag was enough to convince him to send it up to Charles.
This blog post follows on from Part I – Murder at Mount Magnet
While we are not privy to the inner workings of John Ward’s mind, it appears he had been doing a lot of thinking. He saw and heard something in early November 1898 and had been mulling on it ever since the dismembered body parts were found in the Rose Pearl. He probably always intended to keep what he knew to himself however during a visit to Pierce’s Miners Club at 10pm on 9 January 1899 (and likely after a few drinks) he soon loosened his tongue. In the presence of Mr Pierce, Mrs Pierce, Miss Pierce, a boy named Pierce, Donald Hay and Henry Baldwin, John Ward commenced talking about the Mount Magnet murder.
At 1am on Saturday, 5 November 1898 John Ward was in Mount Magnet and was at his camp near the Railway Station when he heard a noise. He went to his door and looked across the road to see two men fighting in front of a French brothel. One was going through the fence while the other was leaning against it. John then heard three groans and all was quiet.
His mate, Louis Maddalena, was sharing his camp. Louis became curious as to what was going on however John told him not to bother getting up as “it was usual to hear rows at that place.” They both went back to sleep and John stated that during the day he went across the road to the spot where the fight had taken place and saw blood both inside and outside the fence.
A report reached here by last night’s mail that the skeleton of a man has been found on the coast near the Donnelly River by Mr. G. Giblett. The body is supposed to have been there some time.
20 October 1892
While no doubt shocking, finding a skeleton was not an altogether unusual occurrence in Australia. People often headed out into the bush or the outback and, if they did not have adequate experience in such environments, soon found themselves lost and often succumbed to the elements. What makes this case interesting is the age of the bones, the sheer amount and variety of objects found nearby and the mystery of who exactly the individual was.
This blog post is a follow up to Death at Lake Austin. You may wish to read Death at Lake Austin first before reading the story of Credgington and Bradbury.
Old Mate! In the gusty old weather,
When our hopes and our troubles were new,
In the years spent in wearing out leather,
I found you unselfish and true –
I have gathered these verses together
For the sake of our friendship and you.
To An Old Mate – Henry Lawson
Having a mate on the goldfields may not have been preferred or necessary for some but for others it certainly helped. It meant there was someone there to talk to; to share in the ups and downs and discuss the next move over a cup of billy tea. It meant the jobs of prospecting and transporting equipment as well as the burden of costs were shared. Most importantly, it meant there was someone there to look out for you should anything untoward happen.
Alfred Credgington and Ernest Bradbury’s stories were separate for most of their lives. Both were chasing the golden dream and it was this dream, on the goldfields of Western Australia, that led the pair to meet; their stories converging and remaining joined indefinitely.