PORT DENISON TIMES .. 19th MARCH, 1864
Simultaneously with the account of the reputed capture of the notorious Gardiner, as related by our Rockhampton Correspondent, we have to record a case of brutal outrage which occurred on March 4th, at the Houghton River, by which the life of Mr. R. H. Willis, of the Cardington Hotel, was placed in imminent danger; indeed, as no further information has been received, we are still uncertain whether the frightful wound he received may not have ended fatally, especially as, owing to some disagreement among the medical men, several days were allowed to elapse before Dr. Smith went to the assistance of the sufferer.
As the men who committed the deed are well-known, and a large reward has been offered for their apprehension, we trust no long time will elapse before they are brought to justice.
The account of J. H. Hill, blacksmith, whose shop is about 100 yards from the hotel, is as follows:
“I heard a shot, and looked out to see what was the matter. I was going over to the public house, and saw Manns standing at the door holding three horses. He called the others out, and took the fire arms and presented them to me.
They said if I came one inch further they would shoot me. I returned to the shop, and remained there till the men mounted and rode away. I then went over to the public house. Mr. Willis was sitting on a chest covered with blood. I asked him what was the matter. He said he had been shot in the face, and asked me to go to Black’s station on the Fanning. I got the first horse I could and rode over.”
The shot perforated the left cheek and remained in the jaw bone.
PORT DENISON TIMES .. 8th APRIL, 1865
The man McPherson, who last year shot Mr. R. H. Willis, of Cardington, in the cheek, has been arrested in Sydney, and will be brought to Bowen for trial.
PORT DENISON TIMES .. 20th MAY, 1865
FROM THE BOWEN POLICE COURT, 17th MAY, 1865
Before the Police Magistrate and M. Miles, Esq., J. P.
James Bruce, alias Kerr, alias Alpine McPherson, was brought before the Bench, by Detective Lyons, of the New South Wales Police, charged with shooting at, with intent to murder, one Richard Henry Willis, on the 14th March, 1864, at the Houghton River, in this District.
Detective Lyons, having given evidence to the arrest in New South Wales, Sub Inspector O’Connor applied to have the prisoner remanded for the appearance of Prosecutor, Mr. Willis.
The Bench granted the application and remanded the prisoner for 8 days.
PORT DENISON TIMES .. 27th MAY, 1865
BOWEN POLICE COURT, MAY 24th, 1865
Before the Police Magistrate, James Bruce, alias Kerr, alias Alpine McPherson was brought up on remand, charged with shooting R. H. Willis, at the Houghton River.
John Hill, being duly sworn, stated – I am a blacksmith and reside on the Bogie. About 16 months ago, I was in the employ of Mr. Willis, and resided on his place on the Houghton.
One day (I cannot remember the date) while I was in the blacksmith’s shop, I heard a shot fired in the public house.
I at once ran towards the house, when the prisoner came out and said, “If you come an inch further .. I will shoot at you.” I went back to the shop, and in about 10 minutes, I saw the prisoner and two other men ride away from the house.
The other two men I know; one is called McMahon, and the other Charles Dawson. I then went to the public house, where I found Mr. Willis lying behind the counter, covered with blood. I picked him up and sat him on a chair. I went for his wife, and she returned with me and my sister. Mr. Willis could hardly speak; he told me to get a horse and fetch Mr. Byrne to take out the ball. I did as he directed, and Mr. Byrne came that night. The following morning, I started for this town, to lay an information against the prisoner.
Two other men were drinking at the bar at the time Mr. Willis was shot, one is named Jonathan England and the other is a traveller. I do not know his name. My sister was also in the bar, and when she made an attempt to come and tell me, the prisoner said he would shoot her if she moved. I heard him say so. The blacksmith’s shop is about 100 yards from the house. I was not 50 yards from the prisoner when I heard him threaten her. When I picked Mr. Willis up, he said McPherson had shot him because he would not allow himself to be bound.
By prisoner:-- I can swear you were one of the men at the public house. The shop is not over 100 yards from the house. I have seen you 3 times previous to that, each time for almost a minute.
Sergeant Higgins begged for a further remand to allow Mr. Willis time to reach town.
The Bench accordingly remanded the case for 8 days.
PORT DENISON TIMES.. 10th JUNE, 1865
BEFORE THE POLICE MAGISTRATE, THE MAYOR,
& W. P. CATLING, J. P.
James Bruce, alias Kerr, alias Alpin McPherson, was brought up on remand, charged with shooting at, with intent to murder, one Richard Henry Willis, at the Cardington Hotel, on the Houghton River, in March, 1864.
R. H. Willis, being duly sworn, stated: In March 1864, I was proprietor of the Cardington Hotel, on the Houghton. About 10 a.m. on the 4th of that month, I was settling with two men named Fendello and Morrow, in the house, when prisoner came in and asked me for some drink. I served him, and he paid for his drink and left with the two men.
About half an hour afterwards, I saw two men named Charles McMahon and Charles Dawson, and the prisoner riding towards my house. They alighted at the door of the bar. Prisoner and McMahon came in, and Dawson remained at the door minding the horses. I went behind the counter to serve them. Prisoner and McMahon asked for something to eat, some rations, a new saddle, some other things, and what loose money I had.
At the same time, prisoner pulled out a revolver, and commenced swinging it carelessly before him. I asked jokingly .. “If there was anything else I could oblige them with?” Prisoner said they were in earnest, and, presenting the revolver at my head, ordered McMahon to tie me up.
McMahon came forward with that intention, and I said .. “if you are in earnest, so am I, so you had better stand back.” I drew back my fist to strike McMahon and he called to the prisoner to “drop me”. Just then a blackfellow called George came in, and McMahon tied him. While he was doing so, the prisoner held his revolver within 10 inches of my face, I watched my opportunity to pick up a hammer that lay on the counter at my elbow.
The instant I moved, the prisoner fired in my face, and I fell with my back across a box. The ball had entered my face by the cheek bone, and although I could not move or speak, I was quite conscious of what was going on. I heard Dawson say, “If I knew you intended to take life, I would have had nothing to do with it.” I also heard him say “Don’t shoot the woman.”
My wife came in, raised me up, and asked what was the matter. Dawson said “I am sorry you shot him.” Prisoner answered, “What I say I mean.” McMahon said, “Serve the b…… right, if he had been quiet we would not have knocked him down.”
Prisoner helped himself to what things he wanted, and handed some to his companions. Afterwards he came to me and said, “Are you much hurt?” “Oh you can easily get that out.” (alluding to the ball).
They all went to the door, and Dawson turned round and ordered us not to send anyone out for 6 hours. The three men rode away. A few minutes afterwards, prisoner came back and took a single barrel gun I had in the bar.
By the Bench .. As soon as they were gone, John Hill came in. I forgot to state that Jonathan England was tied up by the prisoner and his companions.
By the prisoner .. I can positively swear you were one of the men who robbed my house. The first time you came, you were on foot, the second time on horseback. The first time you stayed about 1 minute and then left with Fendello and Morrow. The second time you rode a chestnut horse and were differently dressed. I am positive it was the same man both times.
The former depositions having been read, prisoner was asked if he had anything to say. Prisoner answered “not at present.”, and was formally committed to stand his trial at the next Rockhampton assizes.
PORT DENISON TIMES .. 24th JUNE, 1865
After all the trouble and expense that has been spent over the miscreant Bruce, Alias Kerr, alias Alpine McPherson, to bring him to justice, he has, through the culpable negligence of Constable Maher of the Bowen Police Force, succeeded in making his escape.
It appears that while the “Diamentina” was lying in Mackay, some evil spirit prompted the Constable to give way to sleep, and the prisoner, taking advantage of his drowsy guardian, and the absence of his handcuffs, which his jailer (notwithstanding the remonstrance of the Officers of the ship), had humanely removed, left the vessel, and made good his escape. Constable Maher remained at Mackay to follow the tracks of the would be murderer. We shall not be surprised to hear by the next steamer that McPherson, now driven to desperation, has taken to the road, and perhaps succeeded in committing murder.
An enquiry is to be held touching the Constable’s conduct, and we hope he will be dealt with severely as the Law directs.
The Constable was subsequently brought before the Bench, and, after hearing evidence, was sentenced to six months hard labour, for having allowed Prisoner McPherson to escape. He served his time, in the gaol at Rockhampton.
PORT DENISON TIMES .. 29th NOVEMBER, 1865
THE WILD SCOTCHMAN
A telegram has been sent to the police announcing the fact that McPherson, alias the “Wild Scotchman”, has fulfilled his promise of robbing the Roma mail. He stopped the mail, ransacked the letters and parcels; and, after taking possession of everything valuable .. including a number of banknotes and a parcel of gold, it is said, belonging to the Bank of Queensland .. rode off with his booty.
The “Wild Scotchman” is a desperado, with a “bee in his bonnet”; he is said to be perfectly reckless and desperate, and it is very likely he will give the police some trouble before they succeed in catching him.
Is it not strange, that no escort was provided for the mail, after the deliberate announcement by the robber, of his intentions to plunder it? We cannot help thinking that the Bank and the public were entitled to such protection.
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