Summary of Events


The Immediate Events Surrounding the Murders

The following are the immediate events, some alleged, surrounding the murders of Thomas Anketell and Henry Burrup. The times and dates have been gathered from witness depositions, the police file and newspaper reports.
It was the custom for Thomas Anketell and Henry Burrup to sleep on the Union Bank premises. Thomas felt the heat and often slept on his stretcher on the front verandah where it was slightly cooler. Henry had his own room located at the back of the bank.

Monday 12th January 1885

Life in Roebourne would have started out ordinarily enough. People went about their business in the stifling heat as usual. Thomas Anketell, bank manager of the Union Bank had left Roebourne the day before (Sunday) at 3am in company with J. Edgar. The two men spent the day at Meares & Wilkinsons and went across early on Monday morning to spend the day with the Richardsons at Pyramid Station. Thomas apparently had to see a man named Rouse on business connected with the bank. (Could this have been Albert Edward Rouse? He was a grazier and pearler being a half owner with Alex McRae in the pearling boat “Expert”.)

During the day Thomas also met Edward Keenan at Harding Creek, eight miles east of Roebourne. Keenan handed Thomas a cheque for £1400. The cheque was later entered through the bank’s books.

During the morning Jane Noonan saw Charles Warburton leave town to go to work at a quarry. It was his habit to come into Roebourne on a Saturday night and stay at her hotel, the Victoria Inn, until Monday morning. He would then return to his campsite (some 2-3 miles) east of Roebourne where he quarried stone.

Frederick Bevan, also camped and worked with Charles Warburton and alleges that he too left the town in the morning for the quarry.

At 8:00pm Francis Smith, a sawyer alleged to see Frederick Bevan and Charles Warburton at Bevan’s house. Bevan asked Smith if he was going to join the Good Templars. (During the ensuing trial, Francis is positive this happened on Monday evening, the 13th January, but it was pointed out to him that Monday was in fact the 12th January. Nevertheless Smith swears it was Monday night as he was not in town on Tuesday. As Smith made a mistake with the actual date, doubt was cast upon his testimony.)

At around 8:30pm Thomas arrived back into Roebourne. He had made the journey from Pyramid Station to town alone. He was tired having ridden 42 miles that day. Thomas and Roderick McRae spent the evening at the Roebourne Hotel. They were seen gambling by a Mr Henshaw. Henshaw said that Thomas Anketell won 2 pound from Roderick McRae and it was paid in silver. In a confidential 1886 report hearsay from Col. Angelo, Govt. Resident also mentions a gambling party that night though no names were mentioned. Mr Henshaw said that Anketell and McRae did not leave the hotel till after 12 o’clock and that neither McRae nor Anketell was sober when they left the hotel.

McRae accompanied Anketell to the Bank to eat a watermelon which had been sent up by a man named Farthing.

At about 11:45pm Roderick McRae stated that Thomas said he was tired and wished to turn in. He left Thomas on the back verandah of the Bank in his usual health. He returned to his own room at the Mercantile Store owned by his brothers. If, as Mr Henshaw was to later claim that both Anketell and McRae were not sober when leaving the Roebourne Hotel Roderick McRae’s testimony about this time may not be accurate. The bank was locked up and Henry Burrup had not yet returned from an evening out. To try and escape the heat indoors Thomas would bring out his stretcher and sleep on the front verandah according to where the winds were.

Tuesday 13th January 1885

Around 1.00am Henry Burrup left the home of the Rev. Mr. Parker where he had spent the evening. He returned to the bank and lights were seen in his room shortly after. All seemed well.

Later in the early hours Mrs Caroline Platt was lying awake in her bed and heard the footsteps of a few people coming and going between her house and the Noonans. Her dog was barking.

About 4:00am several dogs around her house were barking so furiously that she called to them through broken panes of glass in her window. It was then she saw an “object” go up Mt. Welcome from behind the bank. She realised it was a man when it stood up and looked around. He then headed towards the cemetery. She thought, from his build, it was Pontt (Augustus). Later she saw a man heading towards Thompson’s stable to her right and also another man heading towards the church. (She later had doubts cast upon her testimony as she only made her statements after the rewards were posted.)

At 5.00am – Alfred Brown observed Roderick McRae come out of his house and look towards the Bank for a few minutes and then return to his house.

Around 5:00am Roderick McRae was walking along Carnarvon Terrace where he met Gilroy.

About 5.40am – Roderick McRae alleged he was on his way to the Roebourne Hotel, and about 70 yards from the bank noticed Thomas Anketell lying in his front verandah with his face towards him, the sun shining upon it. Roderick walked a few paces towards him and then turned back. [50 and 108] I suggest that rather than at 5.40am the time was in fact much closer to 6.00am (according to statements from two separate witnesses).

At 6.00am – Alfred Brown observed Roderick McRae go towards Thompson’s hotel (Roebourne hotel).

Around 6:00am Roderick McRae was in the Roebourne Hotel having a drink with Mr Henshaw.

Also at around 6:00am, as was her custom each morning, Mrs Law walked over to the bank with a pint of milk for Thomas Anketell and to clean the table on the back verandah. She knew he was home as she saw his horse in the yard. She also saw his clothing in the verandah. She saw that Burrup’s door and window were closed but thought nothing of it as he did not usually arise until 7:00am and it was now only about 6:15am. There was a bottle of whisky on the table and she took a little. On hearing Anketell’s horse neighing she hurried away thinking he was coming.

Mrs Law alleges she never saw the body of Thomas Anketell on the front verandah because she passed from the back of her house directly to the back of the bank (her usual way) and his body was not in her line of vision. As she did not enter the bank premises, she did not know that Henry Burrup was also lying dead, in his bed in the back room. She therefore left the premises oblivious to the murders that had been committed.

Robert Burns - witness at the trial Robert did not think San Qui was one of the murderers, however he felt sure that San Qui knew something, due to his much changed demeanour. Howevever, the likely cause in San Qui's changed demeanour and subsequent agitation was that he had been physically threatened by Roderick McRae for refusing to take money in payment for admitting to knowledge of the murders. This is part of a photo of the Burns family group (click here to see original photo) taken at Roebourne in 1885. Used with the kind permission of Gay Fielding.

Robert Burns – witness at the trial
Robert did not think San Qui was one of
the murderers, however he felt sure that
San Qui knew something, due to his much
changed demeanour. Howevever, the
likely cause in San Qui’s changed
demeanour and subsequent agitation
was that he had been physically
threatened by Roderick McRae for
refusing to take money in payment
for admitting to knowledge of the
This is part of a photo of the Burns family
group (click here to see original photo)
taken at Roebourne in 1885.
Used with the kind permission of
Gay Fielding.

At 6.40am Miss Isabel McRae went onto her front verandah. She resided with her brother Mr Alex McRae (who was away). Their home was nearly opposite the bank and some 40 yards distant. She saw Mr Anketell lying under his verandah and thought it unusual for him to still be there so late in the morning. She also thought he looked strange. She went into her house and told her sister who then went to get some glasses [binoculars] so they could see better. It was then that they saw that their was blood about Thomas and what they could see of him was also covered in blood. Isabel ran over to her brother Roderick’s house but he was out so she sent a messenger for him.

At about 6:40am Roderick McRae was sent for. McRae and Henshaw ran to the bank. McRae discovered the body of Thomas Anketell lying as he had seen him earlier in the morning; his head battered in. McRae then went around to the back of the bank where he looked in through the fastened, but not locked window of Henry Burrup’s room and saw Henry dead upon his stretcher. He then sent for the Sergeant of Police and remained until he arrived.

At 7:00am Daniel O’Connell, Sergeant of Police at Roebourne arrived at the scene of the murders. He observed Thomas Anketell lying on the verandah between his stretcher and the wall covered with bedding, upon which he found a bunch of keys. He found Burrup’s body still on his stretcher, with a pillow over his head. Burrup’s safe key was found in the pocket of his waistcoat that was hanging on a peg in the wall.

Jane Noonan allegedly saw Frederick Bevan at her house (Victoria Inn) at about this time.

Between 7.00am and 8.00am the government medical officer, John A. Meehan was called to the Bank where he observed the bloody and shocking states of Thomas Anketell on the front verandah and of Henry Burrup in his room at the back of the premises. He estimated they have been dead for about 4-6 hours. He left the awful scene and went home.

Shortly after 7:00am Mrs Caroline Platt alleged that she saw Frederick Bevan crossing Noonan’s yard. She saw him a few minutes later going from Noonan’s public house towards Osborne’s black smith’s shop. She then saw him a third time going towards his own house. She saw him stoop down and take up a bit of stick, with which he picked his teeth. She had been standing at her back door all this time.

Also between 7.00am and 8.00am Mrs Lilian Hall alleged that she served Frederick Bevan before breakfast, with a gallon of beer. As he did not pay, she wrote down the transaction in her book. She was positive about the date. Frederick Bevan denied being in Roebourne that Tuesday morning. He stated that he had bought a gallon of sugar-beer in Roebourne on Monday morning and another on Tuesday afternoon, but denied that he had done so early on the morning of the murder.

At 9:00am Dr. Meehan returned to the crime scene at the Union Bank. He determined that Thomas Anketell had been struck several times, the weapon being either an axe or tomahawk. He believed Henry Burrup had been struck by a round pick, causing instant death, but there was another wound caused by a sharp instrument such as a tomahawk.

During this time there was a great crowd around the bank. Robert Burns, a carpenter and builder was one of those standing in front of the bank along with San Qui. The two men talked. San Qui said he was at Frederick Bevan’s house the previous night and that there was a lot of singing and dancing. Robert Burns asked who was there and understood San Qui to say “Bevan, Mrs Bevan and a lot of them”. [19]

Later, at about 9:30am San Qui was in Roderick McRae’s store. As San Qui left, it was noticed that his usually quiet pleasant demeanour has changed and “he looked more like a wild and ferocious native who was going to spear somebody”. He was very agitated. [19]

The change in San Qui’s demeanour may be explained by the story he later told Sub Inspector Back. That Roderick McRae sent a native to fetch him, San Qui, to his store. On arrival Roderick took him into his office and asked him who had killed Thomas Anketell. San Qui told him he did not know anything about it.

“McRae then put his hand in his pocket and produced a handful of gold and counted out 50 pound and said ‘Tell me about it and I will give you 50 pound’. I told him again that I knew nothing. McRae then swear and face look very bad and say by God, by God, you to tell me. He put his fist in my face and tell me he knock me down.” [105]

San Qui would also state he believed his master Roderick McRae was the murderer.

At about 11:30am Alfred Smith, a teamster in the service of Mr Platt, arrived at the camp where Warburton and Bevan were quarrying for stone and told the men of the murders.

At around 12:00pm Charles Warburton came back into Roebourne after hearing about the murders.

At 1:00pm Sgt. O’Connell went over Mt. Welcome and discovered a track about a quarter of a mile from the Bank. He followed the track up to a tree. It appeared the party had sat down, then walked around the tree several times before heading in the direction of Roebourne. As dusk was setting in, Sgt. Connell stopped following the track.

Evening A double funeral is held for Thomas Anketell and Henry Burrup.

Wednesday 14th January 1885

At 5:00am Roderick McRae was bathing in “the Pool” (a section of the Harding River that runs adjacent to the town) and Frederick Bevan joined him. They knew each other and had a conversation. According to Roderick McRae, Frederick Bevan stated that he knew nothing of the murders until Mr Smith, the teamster, told him. It was Bevan who introduced this conversation.

Sgt. O’Connell tried to pick up the track again at McKay’s paddock but failed as there were other tracks about.

At about 8:00am San Qui told Robert Burns that Roderick McRae has offered him fifty sovereigns if he would tell who had done the murder. San Qui believed he would be locked up by the police.

Sgt. O’Connell’s suspicions were raised when he went to San Qui’s place at the back of Eaton’s butcher’s shop. There he found a blouse and trousers with blood stains. He also found a pick without a handle with spots of blood, as well as a small axe and tomahawk that were perfectly clean and very sharp. Sgt. O’Connell then arrested San Qui on suspicion of murder.

Thursday 15th January 1885

Sgt O’Connell was at the Victoria Hotel and noticed that Warburton has a cut on the back of his hand, but said nothing to him about this observation.

Friday 16th January 1885

Sgt O’Connell once again followed up the tracks with P.C. Lawrence and aboriginal trackers Prince Tom and Henry Smith. They picked up two tracks between the “backwash” and the showground and followed them away from town for about two miles to the well in McRae’s paddock. One of these tracks lead to the camp of Charles Warburton and Frederick Bevan, where they have been quarrying for stone. Their camp is about half a mile from the well. Warburton and Bevan were questioned if they had been to the well to which Bevan replied that they have been there on the Monday. When asked if they come out by the “backwash” Warburton replied that “the distance between the well and the backwash is not a road usually frequented; there is no track or road that way”. They did not know of anyone who had passed that way.

Whilst at the camp Sgt O’Connell asked Warburton about the cut on his hand and he replied “with this knife”, holding it up in his right hand. Sgt. O’Connell then arrested both Warburton and Bevan upon the charge of having broken into the bank.