Newspaper articles – The West Australian – 3rd, 6th, 11th & 14th November 1885

The West Australian



For a striking and deplorable instance of ‘ fouling one’s own nest,’ commend us to the persistent broad insinuations of our Fremantle contemporary that the Roebourne double murder was committed not by criminals for the sake of plunder, but was a deed of a totally different class.

Says the journal in question on Saturday last, it was “an act committed, not for the sake of spoil but from jealousy, hate, or fear.” Why, it asks, is this Government  taking no further action to discover the murderers ? “Is it that it dare not take any effectual steps to track up the murder for fear of offending the sensibilities of the settlers of the district,” who we are further on told have “assumed an attitude of resentment and menace “- causing the Government to ” think it expedient to let the matter drop rather than expose itself to the hostility of these  people and their sympathisers.”

Anything more disgraceful than these insinuations or more grossly libellous upon the settlers of the district it would be impossible to conceive. It is well  known that the unfortunate victims had  not an enemy in the world, not the faintest indication existing of motives in committing the crime such as those our contemporary suggests must have prompted the murderers. The only clue, absolutely the only one, presenting itself, was that so clumsily followed up, and, to this day, no one doubts that the murder was committed with the object of plunder, while  than the Roebourne settlers none can be more anxious to see the criminals brought to justice.



Our Fremantle contemporary knows just as well as everybody else that what we have taken exception to in its resent scandalous articles respecting the Roebourne murder has not been that it has urged further enquiry into the matter, but that it has ventured broadly to insinuate, and without the slightest shred of reason for doing so, that amongst the murdered men’s own associates would be found the guilty parties, that the settlers of the district, suspecting this, resent any further steps being taken to elucidate the mystery, and that the apparent inactivity of the Government is owing to this attitude on their part. This is what we took exception to. And, in the absence, we repeat, of the slightest ground upon which to base such a suggestion, it amounts to the most monstrous calumny. The only clue which presented itself was, no doubt, most clumsily followed up, but it does not in the least follow that the police had allowed their in- vestigations to take a mistaken direction. The lecture our contemporary reads the authorities is quite superfluous. They have taken and are taking special steps to elucidate the mystery. But what those steps are they of course have sense enough not to publish from the housetops.



Our Fremantle comtemporary devoted yesterday a second long leader to an endeavour to gloss over its monstrous aspersion of the Nor’ West settlers, whom it lately accused of resenting the prospect of further inquiry into the Roebourne mystery for fear that other than persons, belonging to the ‘criminal class’ should be found to have been implicated in the dreadful affair. Our contemporary, it will be remembered, added that to this attitude of the settlers was probably due the inaction of the Government in the matter, these suggestions, again we repeat, being a most disgraceful instance of ‘fouling one’s own nest’ – of wilfully and without the slightest ground for it seeking to bring discredit upon our colonists and Government in so serious a matter. Whether the steps which the Herald is now forced to acknowledge the authorities have taken are adeqaute or not is open to question. We should be inclined to think a wiser course might have been adopted. The result, however, will show whether the confidence of the Government has or has not been misplaced.

Rumours reached Perth by the last northern steamer that important fresh evidence had already been collected, but the statements which have been made have not yet received confirmation. Of the disastious stupidity of those first engaged in carrying on the investigation there is constant fresh proof. It now appears that the late Mr. Anketell had about him on the night of the murder a quantity of loose silver, amongst it, so report says, a ‘marked’ piece. All this silver had disappeared when the bodies were found. And yet this important piece of evidence was never even heard of at the trial.



News and Notes

It is satisfactory to find that we have so completely routed our Fremantle contemporary in respect of its assertions regarding the desired increase of expenditure on immigration, roads and public works and regarding also its late scandalous suggestions in connection with the Roebourne murder, that our contemporary, yesterday, saw no other, way of covering its ignominious retreat than a resort to statements which, in polite language, we may describe as ‘ absolutely devoid of historical foundation.’ Our contemporary adds a complaint of our representing it as saying that the murder ” could not be the act of one of the ‘criminal’ class,” declaring that the word it used was” labouring ” and not ” criminal.” What a contempt our contemporary must have for its readers if it imagines they may be gulled by this flight into the regions of fiction. That “criminal” was really the term used by our contemporary all those readers have not yet quite forgotten.