Having worked hard as a teamster in the Government boring party near Mingenew, William Ernest Ellison was due for a holiday. Intending to return after the New Year, he left his portmanteau containing his work clothes and other possessions with Coorow storekeeper, Mr Todd, and on 15 September 1912, he travelled on the Midland railway line to Perth.
He arrived on the same day and took a room at the Grand Central Coffee Palace on Wellington Street. He was designated room 19 and a workmate named Charles Henry Spargo occupied the room across the hallway. Throughout his time in Perth, William was seen on the streets, at the Coffee Palace and around the racecourse, often in company with Spargo. He withdrew various amounts from his bank account on the 21st and 28th September and on the 1st, 5th, 19th and 22nd October. There was nothing unusual about these withdrawals and it was thought a large amount of the money was spent betting at the races.
William was originally from South Australia and kept in regular contact with his parents who remained there. He also had three brothers in Western Australia. On 24 October, a man named Cameron Arthur delivered him a message from his brother, Frank. In the message Frank asked him to go to Gunyidi and then to Nugadong for work. At the time William was seeking employment and was pleased to hear from him. He planned to leave on Saturday, 26 October 1912.
Despite agreeing to meet his brother, William never arrived. On 28 October his accommodation (paid a week in advance) ceased and the proprietor of the Coffee Palace simply assumed that he had left. Correspondence to his family stopped and 18 months passed by. During that time Spargo was tried, convicted and hanged for the murder of Gilbert Jones in Broome. The mangrove murder was the talk of the town and speculation was rife as to whether Spargo had killed other men. On 14 January 1914, George O’Hern of Watheroo contacted the Criminal Investigation Branch (C.I.B.) on the brothers’ behalf. William had vanished and they suspected foul play.
Frank Fogarty’s rap sheet read like an ode to burglary. He was first convicted of breaking and entering and stealing and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in 1897. In subsequent years he was found in possession of skeleton keys and housebreaking implements; was unlawfully on premises; and gave a false name. By 1903 he was the known leader of a group of “crib-crackers, safe dynamiters and bold bad burglars” known to the police as the Fogarty gang.
He was considered to be one of the “cleverest safe openers in Australia” and had no qualms about regularly putting that skill to use.
Having already escaped from Coolgardie Gaol in January, police kept a close watch on George Thompson when they loaded him onto a train on 17 March 1897. He was to serve three sentences at Fremantle Prison; 12 months for stealing, four months for breaking out of gaol and three months for giving a false name to the police. Thompson was one of 14 prisoners being transported from Coolgardie to Fremantle on the midday train.
A hearing relating to a charge of assault came before the Criminal Court in Perth on 15 March 1906. No details were provided in the newspaper report but it nevertheless highlighted how a method of identification could be deemed inappropriate if carried out incorrectly.
A crime was committed, the victim made a complaint and an accusation was made against two men. When it became known, one of the men voluntarily reported to Fremantle Prison and agreed to participate in a police lineup. Dressed in ordinary clothes, he stood with a group of about 10 or 12 other men, all of whom were wearing prison uniforms.
As he was acting as the Clerk of Courts and Mining Registrar in addition to his normal workload as Postmaster for the town of Yalgoo, William Meleng decided that he had better start the day early. At 5:30 am on Friday, 13 February 1903, he arrived at the post office and began the task of sorting through the mail.
A package wrapped untidily in a piece of Sunday newspaper caught his attention. He removed the newspaper and found within it a cylindrical parcel which was neatly wrapped and sealed thickly with gum at both ends. The elegant handwriting (thought to be a woman’s) indicated that the intended recipient was ‘Mr S. W. Lowndes, storekeeper, Yalgoo‘.