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2-060 (Original)

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Of all the murders that have been committed by the Van Diemen's Land natives, none have caused such anxiety as the deaths of Captain Bartholomew Boyle Thomas, and his faithful farm overseer, Mr James Parker, who died by the hands of the blacks on the 31st. of August, 1881.
Captain Thomas, as manager of an agricultural company, settled in Van Diemen's Land five years ago, landing in Hobart Town from the ship Albion on the 3rd. of May, 1826; but, subsequently he settled near Port Sore!! on his own sheep run, which he called Northdown.
On the day of his death Captain Thomas accompanied by Mr Parker, rode down to the usual landing place to superintend the discharge of a large boat loaded with provisions and stores for Northdown that had just arrived from Launceston. Two bullock carts followed them to commence the conveyance of the freight to the homestead. Near to the boat a large tent was pitched, for the convenience of the boatmen when on shore.
A goodly detachment of the Big river tribe were at this time sojourning at Port Sorell, some of whom were sauntering about the shore, but the greater number stood about the tent and the boatmen, who being well armed caused the natives to be civil enough; for they are a set of cunning fellows, and never attack at a disadvantage. But each side was on the watch, the one to rush the boat, and the other to entrap the blacks, for the sake of the reward of £5 a head, that is offered for all who are brought in alive. With this in view the men gave them liberally of whatever they seemed to covet most, such as tea, sugar, tobacco and bread; but, they were too wide awake for their would be captors, and not one of them would trust himself within the boat.
When Thomas and Parker came down to the port, the blacks, though bent on mischief, appeared to be perfectly quiet and friendly with their new acquaintances, which the former who was of a trusting disposition mistook the meaning of. He was one of those kindhearted fellows who never suspect others of being worse than themselves, or of entertaining designs that have no place in their own thoughts. He had long held the belief, that the natives are poor inoffensive creatures if left alone, and that the manifold acts of violence done by them were defensive only, and not the result of premeditation. He formed the fatal resolution of visiting their camp alone, in order to establish a good understanding with them, and thus assisting to effect the conciliation of the two races.
Captain Thomas now dismounted from his horse and asked the natives to take him to their camp, which they readily agreed to do, - in other words, the savages were only too happy to separate him from his party and get him into the bush. But here Parker, who had no good opinion of the natives strove hard to dissuade him from engaging in so rash an enterprise, saying to him - "Surely, Captain Thomas, you are never going to trust yourself with those blackguards, who'll kill you directly they are out of our hearing."
The infatuated settler was not to be persuaded out of his belief of the harmlessness of their nature, and merely replied - "Oh, they are not so bad as they are represented, I am not afraid, and will go by myself."
Parker stood amazed at the indiscretion of the other, but mistrustful as he was of the natives himself, the noble-minded fellow, after a moment's thought, would not suffer him to go alone, so springing from his horse and shouldering his double-barrel gun, he strode after him. Parker was a very robust young man, a little over thirty, and possessed of wonderful resolution, and he had no doubt, armed as he was, of being able to protect his employer against half a dozen of them if it came to blows; but the poor fellow had no idea of the artifice inherent in the savage, and in this one particular they were an overmatch for him.
As Thomas and himself proceeded towards the camp of the blacks, their two or three attendants were, as if by pre-arrangement, soon reinforced by others; one fellow meeting them here, another a little further on, and a third, fourth, fifth and sixth, somewhere else, until they grew into a large but most disreputable looking troop, of whom the majority kept an eye on the unarmed captain, whilst two or three only, but the most resolute of their number, marched on either side of his companion, of whom the most conspicuous were two named Mac-a-mee and Wow-ee; the former, unarmed, walking on the right, and the other, bearing a heavy waddy, on the left hand.
The party had moved forward about two miles when the assault commenced by Mac-a-mee, as quick as thought, snatching the gun out of Parker's hand, which he did with such force as to turn him more than half round, and then run-fling off as fast as he could with the prize. [134] At this moment Parker's face was turned away from the other savage, who swinging his waddy aloft, dealt him such a blow on his temple, that he reeled and fell to the ground, apparently a life-less man.
It is not in the power of language to describe the excitement of the men of the tribe at witnessing the fall of another of the enemies of their race, nor the scene that took place at this moment between them and their wives, such as no one would expect to read of as an usual incident in savage life, the men rushing up with yells of savage joy to finish the fallen man, and the women equally as vociferous, interposing, by entreaty, to stay the wrath of their husbands, and to save him from death, but without effect in the case of either victim.
In the end, Parker was literally nailed to the ground by the spears of the blacks, twelve of which were driven through and through him, every wound being quite sufficient to cause death.
Captain Thomas, on seeing the fate of his friend, to whom he could give no assistance, ran off, screaming out murder as loudly as he could, (which the natives, who are often capital mimics, afterwards demonstrated without knowing what he meant by it). He was an uncommonly active man, and on fair ground ran with such speed that few could contend against. But swift-footed as he was, he was no match here for the agile savage unencumbered by clothes; and several young fellows starting after him were at his heels by the time he had got sixty yards, which was the distance he ran when they overhauled him. The captain wore a half military frock coat at the time, at the skirt of which the foremost of them made a grasp, and, though it gave way, his speed was so checked that they had him before he could advance another yard. He was knocked over directly and speared to death, being pierced quite through in ten places.
We must now go back to the beach, where we left the two carters, whom Parker had directed to remain until Captain Thomas and himself returned to them, and where they awaited until the sun was getting low, loitering about till the last minute, so as not to go without them, and firing their guns for their return but to no purpose, for they were both dead long before this; so yoking up their bullocks, they reluctantly faced home-wards, taking with them the two horses of the now missing men.
By the time the drivers had got about half way to Northdown they were joined by the black women, who had sullenly quitted the tribe, when the above murders were committed, and now followed the carts towards Northdown. They had not gone far before they were overtaken by the three men, Mac-a-mee, Wow-ce and Calamarowenee, who seemed by their gestures, to insist upon their immediate return to the camp; but the women were much too excited by the event of the day to obey, so they continued to follow the bullock carts, the three men walking with them, sometimes entreating them to return, and at others threatening them with their waddies if they persisted in going on. 
It was night when the party reached Northdown, and as the blacks seldom travel after dark; there was no help for it, but for all of them to remain at the homestead; and Mrs. Parker, though very little pleased at her husband's absence, having at present no serious fears for his safety, kindly directed the men to look after the wants of these most unexpected, and none too welcome visitors; thus poor Mrs. Parker entertained, but most unconsciously, the very individuals who had made her a widow.
Next morning four of Captain Thomas' assigned servants, commenced a search for their master; the natives meanwhile remaining at Northdown, for the females, as sulky as black cockatoos, refused to return to the tribe and the men would not go without them. But the natives had not been long at Northdown, before the men of Captain Thomas began to suspect foul play, as they could not extract any satisfactory explanation from natives as to the disappearance of the two men. Some of the farm servants, taking the law into their own hands, enticed the blacks into the most secure room in the house, locked them up and placed a sentry over them. They were kept there until the boat returned to Launceston, where they were all marched down to the beach, put on board and sent off to George Town gaol, which wretched place chancing to be empty at the time, they had it all to themselves. 
The search was kept up for ten days, until the 9th. day of September, when Mr. Alexander M'Kay, the young assistant to the protector of aborigines (George Augustus Robinson), arrived on the scene with some soldiers and a black native woman, known to our people as Black Sal. M'Kay, an excellent bushman, saw at once that the search was ill-managed and that the men, who instead of finding anyone, were constantly getting lost themselves. He decided to interview the natives in George Town gaol as the quickest means of eliciting the whereabouts of the missing men. He reached George Town on Monday the 11th, and presenting his credentials, was furnished with an order to confer with the prisoners as often as he pleased, and with another one directing the gaoler to render him every assistance in his power likely to promote the mission.
On entering this abode of misery he found the prisoners in a condition almost bordering on destitution, their wants most imperfectly attended to, their cell cold and comfortless and themselves huddled together for a little warmth. [135] Though the weather was icy cold, they had not been given a fire, the next thing, after food, that a native had difficulty to dispense with. M'Kay was angry, and ordered the gaoler to provide fire and food, hot tea, bread, meat and tobacco without restriction, at which, they ate and drank like mad.
One of the first effects of good cheer, on half famished men and women, is to produce good humour; and M'Kay noticed - after they had eaten to repletion - a very marked change in them all; the sullen frame of mind in which he found them having quite passed off. Black Sal, had been most assiduous in her attentions to them, even though she cared not one straw about them. She now took her place besides one of her own sex, an extremely handsome young woman, named Nung-in-a-bit-to, and after a good deal of pleasant chit-chat about matters quite foreign to the real business she was upon, the cunning old faggot, by insensible degrees brought about the subject of the two missing men, and by dint of coaxing and cajolery (after the ways of woman) wormed the whole truth out of the poor simpleton, which was that they had been killed by the men of her own tribe. She spoke of Captain Thomas as Kandownee, meaning a superior person, such as a chief of an establishment as she divined him to be, as distinguished from Rageo, which meant a common fellow, like a stock-keeper for example, a class of persons whom the natives hated, Rageo being part of the term by which they designated the devil, Rageoroppa.
"When we had got to be good friends," says M'Kay, "she confessed that they had died by the spears of her tribe, and that two of the three men then in gaol were the most active in the murders, which two she declared to be Mac-a-mee and Wow-ce; and she volunteered to show us the bodies of the murdered men."
This offer, M'Kay accepted directly, and he started for Port Sorell next morning, accompanied by the two women, and an active constable of the George Town police, named George Warren.
The party crossed over the water at Port Dalrymple Heads, and soon reached Port Sorell, which they passed over, and M'Kay reported his progress to Captain Moriarty and his search party, informing them at the same time that the new arrival, Nung-in-a-bit-to, knew where the bodies of the murdered men lay, but which, from some caprice, she refused to show to any other but his party. Her peculiar humour being respected, they started under her guidance, and she led them straight to where they died.
"She took us," says Warren, "about two miles into the bush, where the two women stopped and cried, and would go no further, but pointed to the place where the bodies were to be found." This was about one hundred yards from where they sat down. M'Kay describes the spot, as nearly open ground, and very inferior, and that as they approached the spot where Parker lay, many crows flew up from it. Sixty yards further on the body of Thomas was discovered. It was thirteen days since they died, but the weather had been so cold that decomposition had not yet set in. Still the body of Parker presented a shocking spectacle, that M'Kay can not speak of it without horror. Thomas seemed more like one asleep than dead.
M'Kay next went down to the port, and gave information about the bodies, and several persons went up with him to where they were. A kind of stage was built on which they were deposited for the night, and they were sent on to Launceston next morning. A coroner's inquest was held directly but not concluded for several days, owing to the absence of M'Kay. His absence was accounted for thus: - Nung-in-a-bit-to had informed Black Sal (in strict confidence of course, but who blabbed directly) that her husband, Killmoronia, had taken some part in the death of Thomas, and had retreated to the Surry Hills, towards which M'Kay then directed their footsteps, but the party was stopped by the Mersey River, greatly swollen and in flood. Here, he learnt that the handsome young native intended to give him the slip to rejoin her husband, but she being too important a personage to lose sight of just now, he marched her off to Launceston, where he arrived three days after the first assembling of the Coroner's jury. M'Kay handed the young lady over to the police, who very unwisely placed her with her previous companions, the native prisoners, with the result, that when she came before the jury, she contradicted all she said before; M'Kay, of course, being sworn to interpret her evidence.
It then transpired, that she had passed the preceding night with the other natives and she so prevaricated, that M'Kay at last told the jury that it was evident to him, that a plan had been laid to get the prisoners off by contradicting her former evidence. She, however, still admitted their presence at the murders, but contended they took no part in them. The jury, however, did not believe her story, and all three men were adjudged to be guilty, were committed to gaol accordingly, and M'Kay bound over to appear at their trial.
The Attorney-General of the Territory, Alger-non Montagu, Esq, decided against prosecution, and the whole party of natives were therefore discharged, but, of course still remain in custody in order that, shortly, they may be sent captive to the settlement, Wyba-Luma, on Flinders' Island, one of the islands in Bass's Straits.
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