THE IN­VES­TI­GA­TION

lo­cal bobby blun­ders were “a rot­ten sys­tem of polic­ing”

Real Crime - - Unsolved Case -

In a move that would later be crit­i­cised, Wil­liam rushed to a nearby ho­tel in Gat­ton to seek out the lo­cal bobby as op­posed to go­ing to the sta­tion it­self. Ac­cord­ing to Wil­liam, as he was not fa­mil­iar with Gat­ton he fled there in or­der to ask where he could find the town’s po­lice sergeant. This ac­tion re­sulted in a stam­pede of up to 40 peo­ple, who over­heard the ter­ri­ble news of the mur­der and flocked to the scene, po­ten­tially de­stroy­ing cru­cial ev­i­dence. Af­ter the sergeant, a man named Wil­liam Ar­rell, ar­rived at the scene, he promptly made his way up to the Mur­phy house­hold to de­liver the tragic news, and then went on into the town to send a tele­gram to the com­mis­sioner of the po­lice in­form­ing him of the in­ci­dent. The tele­gram took two days to ar­rive on the com­mis­sioner’s desk be­cause it wasn’t marked as ‘ ur­gent’ – Ar­rell had been wrongly in­formed that the po­lice didn’t have the au­thor­ity to send ‘ ur­gent’ tele­grams. Back at the scene of the crime, the com­mand­ing sergeant’s at­tempts to move mor­bid on­look­ers on were largely ig­nored.

By the early morn­ing on 28 Jan­uary, Queens­land Po­lice In­spec­tor Fred­eric Urquhart came to Gat­ton and took over the case. His ar­rival was de­layed by ru­mours that the mur­ders were a hoax. Af­ter his ar­rival, ap­peals for wit­nesses were made. Mul­ti­ple re­ports came in of a mys­te­ri­ous man seen loi­ter­ing by the sliprails in the hours lead­ing up to the mur­ders. He was re­garded as strongly built, had a dark coat on and a hat pulled down to ob­scure his face, al­though it was noted by some that he had a mous­tache. The gen­eral con­sen­sus of the Gat­ton com­mu­nity was that more than one per­son had been re­spon­si­ble for the mur­ders – a view shared by top de­tec­tives.

The three sus­pects iden­ti­fied were Wil­liam, who had found the bod­ies, Richard Burgess, who was an itin­er­ant and vi­o­lent con­vict, and a new man in town called Thomas Day. Sus­pi­cion also fell on the fam­ily of the de­ceased girl Michael had al­legedly re­fused to marry af­ter im­preg­nat­ing her – the ex­pla­na­tion was of­fered that they were so dev­as­tated that they had the Mur­phy sis­ters raped and killed as pun­ish­ment for Michael’s sins, be­fore killing him too.

Urquhart be­came con­vinced that the mur­ders were the work of Richard Burgess, a man who in his own words was “born to be hanged”. He had only been re­leased from his lat­est stint in prison the month be­fore the mur­ders and was spot­ted in the vicin­ity of Gat­ton over the Christ­mas pe­riod. When in­vited to pick men out of a lineup, wit­ness Mar­garet Car­roll – one of many who saw a man loi­ter­ing in the area that night – could not say with cer­tainty that Burgess was the man they had seen that night close to the sliprails. Her son John, how­ever, was cer­tain it was Thomas Day he had spot­ted. The third and fi­nal sus­pect, Thomas had ar­rived in Gat­ton on 15 De­cem­ber 1898, sup­pos­edly hav­ing trav­elled all the way from New South Wales. He quickly started work with A. G. Clarke, the lo­cal butcher, and boarded in a hut on Clarke’s prop­erty, lo­cated right next to Mo­ran’s pad­dock. Up un­til the mur­der Thomas Day had sported a mous­tache, but the day af­ter the mur­ders he shaved it off, and dis­ap­peared from Gat­ton for­ever ten days later.

Nev­er­the­less, Burgess was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of mur­der on 6 Jan­uary al­though, much to In­spec­tor Urquhart’s dis­may, there was no ev­i­dence that he com­mit­ted the Gat­ton mur­ders and there was much pub­lic out­cry over his treat­ment as a sus­pect. By this point months had passed since the mur­ders, and con­sid­er­able time had been lost by po­lice in­ves­ti­gat­ing the wrong cul­prit.

With all leads turn­ing cold, an in­quiry into the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the Gat­ton po­lice was held on 6 March. Un­der in­tense in­ter­ro­ga­tion the mem­ory of John Car­roll wa­vered and he ad­mit­ted that per­haps it had been Burgess he had seen af­ter all. The Royal Com­mis­sion noted the se­ries of blun­ders in the po­lice’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion: “In­com­pre­hen­si­ble, in­dica­tive of the ex­is­tence of a rot­ten sys­tem of polic­ing and a cul­pa­ble indifference on the part of the In­spec­tor [ Urquhart] to his duty to the pub­lic.”

and Thomas Da y w as seen w ash­ing boil­ing a sus­pi­cious b lood­stained

mur­der s jumper in the da ys af­ter the above- right More than 1,000 peo­ple at­tended the slain Mur­phys’ fu­neral at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Gat­ton. The three sib­lings were then buried in the Gat­ton ceme­tery be­low In his case sum­mary, In­spec­tor Urquhart, who headed the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said, “We have failed be­cause from the very out­set we had no chance of suc­cess”

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