A blue Chevrolet, found seemingly abandoned in the bush off the main road four miles north-east of Merredin, was a problem for the police to solve on 2 December 1953. Their first step was to investigate the number plate ‘71-724’. The car was registered to 44-year-old Arthur Smith, whose registered address was Hay Street in Perth.
Arthur was known to be a keen kangaroo hunter, so it was assumed he was in the bush shooting. Evidence of his work was apparent. There was ammunition in the vehicle, and on the back seat were dried rabbit and fox skins. Pegged outside on the ground was a kangaroo skin drying in the sun. Also in the car were loose items of clothing as well as several suitcases containing his papers and belongings. Ordinarily, police might have assumed that the owner had not gone far. The issue in this instance was that the car appeared to have been sitting in the same spot for months.
For six months, William McCracken worked hard as a labourer on Richard Jones’s farm near Yelbeni. He had left his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children, William (3), Robert (20 months), and Elizabeth (four weeks), behind in Perth. In early November, he returned to reunite the family, and on 10 November 1911, they left by train for the farm.
The journey to Yelbeni was long and slow. They arrived at the railway siding at 10 pm and then travelled by cart for nine miles. After a two-hour stopover at a neighbour’s place, they finally arrived at 2 am. In the morning, William went to the siding to pick up some goods. Robert was likewise up early and was outside playing at about 8 am.
Not quite two years old, Robert was chubby, had grey-blue eyes, light blonde hair and a birthmark on the left side of his mouth. He was wearing a brown velvet coat and boots and socks. He was not wearing pants, nor was he wearing a hat. Elizabeth called out to him. Concerned that he was not dressed appropriately for the hot sun, she ducked inside to fetch his hat. When she returned, he was gone.
Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are advised that the following story contains names of deceased persons.
On Christmas Eve in 1933, Bert Snell, who was caretaker of the Yarraquin woolshed, over six kilometres east of Cue, left to visit his mate’s camp. He borrowed some tobacco, and they both walked back towards the shed. Bert’s mate eventually left him, and Bert continued on his own.
On Christmas Day, the manager of the station, Fred Boddington, phoned the shed. No one answered. He continued phoning, but Bert did not pick up. Puzzled as to why Bert wasn’t answering, he made his way to the shed to see what the matter was. When he got there, he found it deserted.
Knowing of Bert’s mate’s camp, he went to see if he had any more information. He told Fred that he walked with Bert a short way, and then Bert continued on his own. He had not seen him since. Fred immediately raised the alarm. Bert Snell was lost in the bush.
Mollie Tipping was smart, kind and well loved by those who knew her. She was born on 30 July 1901 in Brunswick, Victoria however she spent most of her youth growing up in Milton, Queensland. She attended Craigard School for Girls and studied music, spoke French, was a gymnast and actively participated in community activities.
At the age of 14 she competed in the beginners’ swimming race at her school’s annual swimming competition and came second. She continued with swimming lessons and performed well in the sport, often being listed as placing first or second for breaststroke.
Graduating from school, in 1919 she sat an Arts Matriculation exam for Queensland University and passed. She began studying a Bachelor of Arts and when her father obtained a new position with The West Australian in 1920, she transferred to the University of Western Australia.
Mollie continued in much the same way in Western Australia as she did in Queensland. She studied, made friends and participated in various social activities. She officially completed her degree on 15 May 1925 at age 23 and began working as a teacher.
She lived with her parents, Ivon and Ada Tipping, in Leederville and in 1928 she advertised her services as a University coach at Hartill’s Commercial College. By 1929 she obtained a position at the Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Ballarat and taught at the school until about 1932. She returned to Western Australia and in 1933 she holidayed for 10 months in England, Scotland and Southern India. The following year Mollie was appointed Mathematics Mistress at the Church of England Girls’ Grammar School in Moss Vale, New South Wales.
In 1935, at the age of 33, Mollie returned to Western Australia and began working as the Science Mistress at the Presbyterian Ladies College. She was still working at the school and was living with her parents at 104 Broome Street in Cottesloe when, early in the morning on 21 January 1937, she walked out of her home wearing cream silk pyjamas and disappeared.
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.