Biography – Frederick Bevan

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Frederick Bevan

Height 5′ 3 1/2″ tall.
Fair complexion
Light coloured hair
Blue eyes.
Thin face
Body middling to stout.
Scar on left wrist. [77]
Truculent Looking [15]

“I was not set to watch Bevan, but I had a suspicion of my own about him as soon as I heard of the murder and had seen the bodies.”

Statement made by PC. William Thomas [50]

What was it about the manner, character or history of Frederick Bevan that provoked the above statement by police constable Thomas? It is no small thing to believe a man to be capable of such a heinous crime. So what is known of Frederick Bevan?

Frederick Bevan was born in 1844. He was a brass finisher and caster by trade, was semi literate and a Protestant. He came to the Colony of Western Australia on the 4th July 1866 on board the Belgravia. He came not as a free man but as convict No. 8798. He had been convicted two years previously on the 12th October 1864, in Birmingham England for stealing a purse and 12 shillings and sentenced to seven years transportation. He also had a prior conviction as well. [65]

He received his Ticket of Leave on the 11th November 1869 and his Certificate of Freedom, in Bunbury, on the 23rd October 1871. Perhaps there was no opportunity to ply his trade in Western Australia for it appears he never returned to employment as a brass finisher. He was to be variously employed as a general servant, painter, cook and labourer. [65] His name has been variously spelt as Bevan, Beaven & Beavan.

At some point he must have decided to try his luck at Roebourne. It was there that he met and married Mary Ann Blurton in 1880. On the marriage index his name is spelt as Beaven. [66]

It appears that Frederick Bevan had a son born prior to his marriage. In the book “More Lonely Graves of Western Australia” there is the following entry:

“Beavan Walter died 30.9.1882 aged 4 years on Table Hill Station. The informant was F. Beavan, father Cooey Pooey (Could be Cooya Pooya).
He was the son of Frederick Beavan (labourer). The cause of death was apparently sunstroke.” [85]

The mother’s name is not mentioned but it may well have been Mary Ann Blurton. It is almost certain that the Frederick Beavan mentioned above is the one and same as Frederick Bevan. Cooya Pooya was not far from Roebourne. According to the Register of Heritage Places, the Cooya Pooya Station (also known as Table Hill Station) was located 35km south of Roebourne on the Harding River. Cooya Pooya Station may have been named after a pool nearby that was known as “‘Cooa Pooey”. [86]

Cooya Pooya Station (also known as Table Hill Station)
Located 35km South of Roebourne along the Harding River.
Now in ruins.
Frederick Bevan laboured here in 1882.
A stunning but harsh country that claimed the life of his young son.
Used with the kind permission of Graeme “Ditto4”.

Bevan’s arrest and subsequent trial for the murder of Thomas Anketell in 1885 is dealt with in great detail in other parts of this website and so I shall not repeat them here.

Bevan returned to Roebourne almost immediately after the trial. One may wonder why he didn’t try to make a new start elsewhere. Perhaps the answer lies in the following observation made by a reporter from The West Australian Newspaper. I believe he is referring to Frederick Bevan in the following paragraph:

“An incident occurred which  many may think a fair revelation of the white prisoners’ characters. ” …….. His companion evidently thought the moment for sentiment had passed, and that the time had  come to do a stroke of business. Treating the trial and his connection with it as matters that might now be safely dropped into obscurity, he without preface hinted that his learned advocate might oblige him with the price of a night’s lodging. We must add, however that the thanks came the next day.” [22]

From the preceding statement it could be inferred that Bevan was feeling a little cocky. Did he really believe all his troubles over? If he thought he was going to resume the life he had in Roebourne before his arrest for the murder of Thomas Anketell, he was mistaken. Despite the “not guilty” verdict, there were many people who thought otherwise. Bevan says himself in a later trial, which you can read further along, that he was “shunned and unable to earn a living”.

The following year, In a small newspaper article dated the 15th February 1886, it was reported that Bevan was charged with assault. Bevan certainly wasn’t helping himself either when he apparently supplied other prisoners with a key to escape the prison:-

“COSSACK, Feb. 13. – The man Bevan, of the Roebourne murder case renown, has been sentenced to a fortnight’s hard labour for assault.”

“Three natives escaped from Roebourne gaol on Thursday and a fourth was discovered in the act of opening his padlock with a false key. This key is supposed to have been furnished by Bevan.” [68]

It wasn’t long before Bevan was in trouble again. In another newspaper report dated the 22nd November 1886, he, along with his wife, is charged with assault:-

“Frederick Bevan and Mary Ann Bevan, were committed for trial at the sessions on a charge of assaulting Anthon Bolenas at Cossack on Oct. 6, admitted to bail in £20 each and one surety of £10.” [69]

On the 17th December 1887 The West Australian reported that Frederick Bevan had attempted to murder his wife. The case was dubbed “The Attempted Wife Murder”.

“ROEBOURNE, Dec. 16. Frederick Bevan, one of the men who were arrested about three years ago, charged with the murder of Messrs. Anketell and Burrup, cut his wife’s throat last night, and stabbed her twice in the right side. Mrs. Bevan’s life is in danger, but with careful nursing it is thought she may pull through. Bevan is now in Roebourne goal. [70]

The next day it was reported:

“Frederick Bevan was committed for trial today, charged with the attempt to murder his wife. The evidence shows a deliberate and brutal attempt to kill the woman.” [71]

Mary Ann Bevan survived her husband’s viscous attack. The evidence given during his trial makes us realise that she was an incredibly lucky woman to live through the ordeal.

“ROEBOURNE, December 23, 1887 – The hearing at the Police court of the charge against F. Bevan for the attempted murder of his wife was partly proceeded with yesterday. Five colored men wore examined all of whom swore they saw Bevan strike his wife twice in the left side with a butcher’s knife. The blood spurted out. She attempted to run away, but Bevan caught her by the hair, threw her down and cut her throat. Mrs. Bevan is now out of danger, but the case is adjourned until she is sufficiently recovered.” [72]

“ROEBOURNE, January 20 1888 – Frederick Bevan was committed for trial for the attempted murder of his wife, Mrs. Bevan. The evidence pointed out premeditation, and deliberation. Mrs. Bevan in evidence said that with her husband she went for a walk to the beach at Cossack. On arriving there, he said to her “come closer,” and stabbed, her twice, severely, with a sheath knife. A third blow struck the steel of her stays, apparently bending the top of the knife with the force, used. Mrs. Bevan then fell on her knees and cried out “I am stabbed.” She then attempted to run away, but her husband re-caught her, and cut her throat. The cut is a horrible one, being on the right side of the throat, taking an oblique direction. Doctor Frisell stated that he could see the pulsation of the arteries, and that the blow showed deliberation, being in an oblique direction, showing that the person who did it had some idea of anatomy. Bevan reserved his defence. He had received a nasty blow on the head, inflicted by a Malay while he was butchering his wife’s throat, and is now under medical treatment.” [73]

The description of the attack and injuries sustained is quite chilling to read and shows that Bevan was calculative and quite capable of a determined and bloody attack upon a defenceless person. His only defence was that he blamed his wife for provoking him, as can be seen in the following article.

“News from Roebourne – By our correspondent – April 7 1888

The Supreme Court Sittings were held on the 4th inst. Frederick Bevan was charged with the attempt to murder his wife, Mary Ann Bevan, a half caste. The evidence was very clear, and proved a most brutal outrage. The woman was stabbed twice in her left side, thrown down and then her throat was cut. Bevan pleaded guilty. When addressing the jury he said he had great provocation ; that his wife cohabited with Malays, and that he found a Malay with her in her bedroom. He said he had no intention when he went to Cossack to assault his wife. He only wished to induce her to give up her bad life, and become a moral woman. He said that his character had been stigmatised through his having been arrested, charged with the Roebourne murder, and that he was shunned, and was unable to earn a living. But as sure as there was a God in Heaven, he was innocent of that crime. He trusted the jury would have mercy upon him. He asked the jury if any of them who were married men, would not be provoked if they found a man in his wife’s bedroom. The jury brought in a verdict of guilty of wounding with intent to murder. Mr. Commissioner sentenced him to ten years penal servitude.” [74]

After sentencing, I assume that Bevan was probably sent back to Perth. He may have spent some time behind bars but five years after his conviction, was out working; though it appears that he was under a curfew as evidenced from the following brief reports in The West Australian:-

25th April, 1893 – “At the Fremantle Police Court, yesterday, before Mr. B. Fairbairn, B.M., and Mr. L. W.Clifton, …… F. Bevan was fined 10s. for being out after hours…..” [75]

29th August, 1893 – “ABSENT FROM HIS LODGINGS.- Frederick Bevan, an expiree, who has been employed as caretaker at the Fremantle casualty ward, was charged with absenting himself from his lodgings. The accused, it appears, was in the habit of frequently deserting the ward, near to which he lived, and as the offence had been often brought against him, he was sent to gaol for a month.” [76]

According to his Death Certificate, Frederick Bevan, occupation “shoemaker”, was aged 50 years when he died on the 13th March 1894 “near Koojan Midland Railway”. This is in the Victoria Plains district of Western Australia. The cause of death was shown as “Accidental. A heavy pole falling across his neck whilst asleep and suffocating him”. The informant of his death was Fred. G. Bewsher, Lance Corp. of Police, New Norcia.

A search of The West Australian newspaper revealed the following account of his death. In the article Frederick is referred to as “Frank” Bevan. This may be a reporting error or Frederick may have used the name “Frank” to avoid being stigmatised over the murder case of Anketell and Burrup at Roebourne. Either way, it appears The West Australian was not aware of his identity, for that detail would surely have been mentioned.

“Our Victoria Plains correspondent writing under date, March 19th, reports:-

A fatal accident occurred at Koogan on the night of the 12th inst., during the storm that swept over the district. A man named Frank Bevan slept in a tent over which he had a screen of poles and boughs, which collapsed during the night and crushed the unfortunate man under it. Mr. M. T. Padbury missed the man from his work next morning, and went to Bevan’s camp to find out what was amiss. On removing the debris it was found that a heavy pole had fallen across the man’s throat and choked him. He had been dead for some hours. Corporal Bewsher reported the occurence to Mr. Roberts, J.P., but it was not considered necessary to hold an inquest, the facts of the case being evident.” [83]

It is not known where Frederick Bevan is buried. The Shire of Moora kindly did a search for me including surrounding shires, but his name did not appear on any records. From this, I assume that he is in a lonely and probably unmarked grave in or around Koojan somewhere.