IPSWICH ICON: The interior of St Mary’s Church Ipswich in 1935.
IPSWICH ICON: The interior of St Mary’s Church Ipswich in 1935. CONTRIBUTED

Times Past: Ipswich man not guilty of young boy's murder

THE murders of Nora, Helen and Michael Murphy near Gatton on Boxing Day 1898 created news headlines and much has been written about this tragedy in the ensuing years.

Yet there was a murder of a young boy at Darra around the same time of which we haven't heard a great deal.

Records from The Queensland Times stated "The Darra Tragedy" was first brought into public notice when on December 17, 1898 a telegram received by Senior Sergeant Johnson from Acting Sergeant Small of Goodna read: A lost boy - Alfred Hill aged 16 years, dressed in light grey suit and straw hat; left Nundah last Saturday for Redbank Plains on piebald horse branded J7H on shoulder, has not arrived at destination, out with search party all day, no trace except he delivered a letter to Mrs Catchpole of Oxley on Saturday (end of telegram).

Then on December 22, 1898 the following public notice was placed in the QT by the boy's father: Five pounds reward offered for the recovery of a boy aged 15, fair complexion, one tooth missing in front, was dressed in light tweed clothes, black and white straw hat and the piebald mare he was riding was branded J7H. Last seen at Oxley near Ipswich. Apply to station master at Goodna or Fred Hill, saddler, Nundah, Brisbane.

By January 7, 1899 a search party consisting of Chief Inspector Stuart, Sergeant Shanahan and Constable Auld of the Criminal Investigation Department Brisbane, Acting Sergeant Small of Goodna, Constable Henden of Oxley and Constable Proud of Brisbane, accompanied by Mr T Bridges MLA and his son, left Oxley to make a search for the lad.

It was mentioned here that the carcase of the boy's horse had been found earlier in a secluded spot in a paddock known as Brown & Walsh's at Darra.

After some time the body of Alfred Hill was discovered by Mr Bridge's son.

It had been carefully covered with branches of trees and the only part of the boys clothing visible was his boots.

The spot was on the north side of a gully about 88 yards off the Brisbane Rd, mid-way between the railway shed and the road about a mile and a half from Oxley.

The body was placed in a coffin and taken to Brisbane for a post mortem examination.

People of the Oxley, Darra and Goodna areas were of the opinion that there would probably be some connection with this and the Gatton murders.

Suspicion began to centre on a resident of Ipswich who, on the particular date when Hill was reported missing, was seen travelling along the Brisbane Rd in the direction of Darra, dragging a perambulator containing a crippled boy.

It was reported that the man was "wanted" by Ipswich people for serious offences and he had stayed at the Oxley Hotel on the night after the boy Hill disappeared.

A write-up on January 9, 1899 read: "The boy was shot at close range with either a revolver or pistol.

The body was so decomposed that it was impossible for the doctors to tell whether an unusual offence had been committed. There was scarcely any flesh on the body and both hands were gone. A purse containing a watch key and three old nails were found in one of his pockets."

The next day January 10 a suspect was named. He was Edward Linton Cairns Wilson, a former member of the teaching staff of the Ipswich Boys' Grammar School. On January 12 a small paragraph appeared in the newspaper stating the ELC Wilson had been captured at Albury.

The next report about the murder trial appeared on January 21 when it was reported the search work was still being continued under Sub Inspector White and something had been discovered thatch the police regarded as reasonable importance.

It wasn't until February 14 that Wilson and his crippled son were returned to Brisbane from Albury by the steamer "Peregrine" and his appearance was greeted by hooting, yelling and hissing by the crowd who had gathered at the wharf. Wilson was brought before the Ipswich Court on February 6 and remanded for eight days.

At a magisterial inquiry held in the South Brisbane Police Court on February 17, Mr Wilson and his son were questioned. The defendant stated that he did not meet a boy riding a piebald pony anywhere between Goodna and Oxley.

Mr Wilson son Claude however said they did meet a boy on a pony, after which his father left him and went into the bush.

He said he heard the report of a revolver and sometime later his father came back and said he had shot a hawk but not to say anything about it to anyone.

Nearing the end of March 1899 Mr Wilson was committed in the Ipswich Courthouse to take his trial at the Criminal Sittings of District Court, to be held in Ipswich on April 18.

Finally it was at the Courthouse in Brisbane that Mr ELC Wilson was found not guilty.



"How much the Kelly gang cost the government is probably not on record, but a few small items are still being paid out."

These were the opening lines of an article printed in the QT on September 29, 1911.

It recorded that: "Constable McIntyre, who was rendered unfit for duty through exposure at the time of the Wombat ranges murder, receives an allowance of 52 pounds per annum. Mr Michael Bearden, for injuries received in the attack on the outlaws at Glenrowan has a similar allowance and the widow of Sergeant Kennedy who was murdered in the Wombat Ranges is allowed 49 pounds per annum. Constable McIntyre and Mrs Kennedy are also in receipt of pensions under the Police Regulation Act."



The paintings of the Stations of the Cross by an Italian artist living in Sydney were erected in St Mary's Church Ipswich in April 1912. They were reproductions from originals of old Roman artists.

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