Morawa Explosion

Anticipating the arrival of a farmer to pay them for their clearing job, a group of Italian men camped in the shelter shed adjoining the Morawa Railway Station. Just after dark, on 26 October 1927, they went out into the bush to cook their dinner. They returned to the shed at 8:30 pm, unrolled their blankets on the floor, and got ready for bed.

Fifteen minutes later, an explosion ripped through the town. Shocked residents ran out of their homes to see smoke billowing from the destroyed shelter shed and other parts of the railway buildings. Led by Dr. John Hough, Morawa residents sprang into action. They rushed across to the station, prevented a fire from taking hold, and cleared the debris to rescue the trapped men.

While they were doing this, they could hear groans and shrieks of pain from under the wreckage and, working strenuously, they were, in a short time, able to drag from underneath a number of dazed and semi-conscious Italians.

The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954); 27 October 1927; Page 17; Explosion at Morawa
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Haunting of the Chitibin

Thomas Dent was born in approximately 1826 in Baston, Lincolnshire, in England. The early years of his life are unknown, but as he grew older, he worked as a farm labourer. His troubles with the law began in his early 20s. On 20 December 1848, he was convicted of trespass and poaching. On 3 August 1849, he was convicted of assault. For both crimes, he served time at the House of Correction in Folkingham.

On 30 December 1850, Thomas, along with James Webber and John Dent, stole two gallons of rum and other articles from John Cole’s house in Baston. He was convicted of housebreaking and stealing and, due to his previous convictions, was sentenced to seven years’ transportation.

The order for transportation. Courtesy of the National Archives (UK).
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Caught by His Prints

At 7:30 pm on 12 August 1906, the Bradbury family left their home on Thomas Street in West Perth and attended the Congregational Church service. Frank Bradbury (aged 12) was last to leave and shut the door behind him without locking it. At 9 pm the family returned to find the door wide open and the rooms and furniture ransacked. Missing from the premises was a silver chain and locket, a silver watch, a silver matchbox and one shilling and five pence.

Henry Plant in 1901. Courtesy of Prisoners of the Past and the State Records Office of Western Australia.

On the following afternoon Siegfried Bremer, a pawnbroker on Barrack Street in Perth, was working in his shop when he was approached by Henry Plant. Henry (giving a false name) had a silver chain and locket he wanted to sell. Siegfried asked the relevant questions and, finding the answers suspicious, decided to call the police.

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A Puzzling Case

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.

Grand Central Coffee Palace circa 1906

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.

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The Elvira Mystery

Two years before the murder at Mount Magnet, the Elvira mine, located north east of Coolgardie and near the Red Bluff, had been sitting abandoned for over a year. On 9 June 1896, Joseph Sorensen lodged an application and was granted a lease over the site.

Red Bluff at Coolgardie circa 1901. Courtesy of State Library of Western Australia.

Work began immediately. Joseph started clearing the mine out and on 11 August he was working on the north shaft. Having sent up dozens of buckets during the course of the work, he moved a slab of wood and came across earth mixed with stones. He began picking it away and as he did so, a skull rolled out.

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Frank Fogarty Escapes

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.

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Murder of Ah Yet

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following blog post may contain images and names of deceased persons.

A well-known face in Donnybrook, 25 year old Ah Yet regularly loaded up his cart with vegetables from his garden and on Fridays and Saturdays he travelled from house to house offering them for sale. On 21 and 22 March 1902, he did not show up.

Knowing that his absence was out of the ordinary, John Vennell went to look for him at 3 pm on the 22nd. He first peered through the open door of Ah Yet’s hut but found it deserted. He then walked through the garden, passing cabbages, radishes and other vegetables growing profusely. As he came to the well on the property, he found him. Ah Yet was dead.

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The Oriental Bank Robbery

Caution

The discovery of a robbery at the Oriental Bank in Melbourne spurred the Acting Manager, George Hamilton Traill, into action. A public notice was immediately placed with three Melbourne newspapers and went to print on 30 January 1867. They cautioned the public against transacting with any of the bills, which were specially endorsed to the Oriental Bank.

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Robbery at Day Dawn

Finally, after a busy day on Monday, 19 November 1906, the afternoon was quiet at the Day Dawn branch of the Western Australian Bank. The manager, Charles Jago, was the only person on the premises and was starting to close up when a man walked through the door at about 3 pm. He handed over a £10 note and asked for change. Charles turned away to get the change from the safe and when he turned back he found himself looking down the barrel of a revolver.

If you speak or move a step I’ll blow your —– light out.

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The Yalgoo Bomber

Meleng
William Meleng

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‘.

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