Newspaper articles – The West Australian – 8th -10th July 1890

The West Australian





In connection with the telegram from our Albany correspondent in Friday’s issue, stating that Miss Kate Russell, a clairvoyant in Professor Baldwin’s Company, had declared as likely as not for advertising purposes that the Roebourne murder had been committed by one man, and that he would be convicted within three years.

The following statement, from a Fremantle correspondent, will be read with interest:-

“A peculiar story has been detailed to me by a man named Robert Roan, an engine-driver from Sydney, and a native of Germany, and who has only recently been liberated from the Lunatic Asylum at Fremantle.

It appears  that Roan has consulted a Fremantle solicitor with a view to bringing an action, against certain officials at the North-West, for false imprisonment in the asylum. His demeanour and general behaviour, besides the clear manner, in which he details his story and gives data, would easily lead one to  believe that there was some truth in his  assertions. He has repeated his story to many in the town, as well as to the police, who complain of the frequency of his visits, and the persistency with which he narrates his complaints. The police, however, treat his tale as a fabrication, they no doubt having made enquiries into the statements.

The following are particulars of Roan’s sensation al story : He states that he has been on the Kimberley gold fields for nearly three years, and about November, 1889, he came into  Wyndham, and started working for the Roads Board.

On the 12th April, 1890, he was arrested by the late Sergeant Troy, and in answer to his enquiry, as to why he was arrested, was told that he would find out soon enough. Two days afterwards, he was brought up before the magistrate. No charge was read over to him, and he was remanded back to the lock-up.

On the following Wednesday, the Resident Magistrate and Dr. Mountain saw him at the station, and the doctor asked him how long he had been in the district. He replied, ” Three years,” and the doctor said he thought that it was too long, and that they would send him south for a trip, while he behaved himself, he would be all right in a fortnight. Roan asked if they were going to, send him to the Lunatic Asylum, and they said no, but he would go to a place where he would be taken care of.

He was subsequently taken on board  the Franklin in charge of Constable Shacking,  and brought down to Fremantle and placed in the Lunatic Asylum. Roan alleges that while on board the steamer he was allowed his liberty, and during the passage he observed a man who seemed to recognise him as someone of the name of “Bosun,” and who always avoided coming into his presence. Roan thought the man was trying to take a ” rise ” out of him, in consequence of being in charge of a policeman, so one night he suddenly went up to him, seized him by the shoulder, and exclaimed, ” What’s up, mate? ” The man seemed frightened and replied, “Oh, you know, Bosun, it is that Roebourne murder ; it will hang me yet.” Roan told bim that he would not split, and was then taken into the cabin by the man, who stood him several drinks .While participating in the refreshment offered him, the man confessed to Roan that he had had a hand in the Roebourne murder, and also stated that the other man who helped him was then one of the crew of the steamer.

Roan reported this to the police on his arrival at Fremantle, as well as reiterating his statements several times since. He also said that the man who confessed  landed at Roebourne with horses.

Roan was discharged from the asylum on May 13, this year. While in the asylum, Dr. Barnett saw him every morning, and asked him how he felt. He always told him that he felt all right. Recently Roan has visited a solicitor several times, and he asserted that the murderer was on board the Franklin when the steamer arrived on her last trip from the North. He added that he was quite prepared to go with the police and point out the man, who had confessed to him as having committed the murder.”




In reference to the statement of Robert Roan respecting the Roebourne murder, Mr. Cohn informs us that Roan was working for him at Kimberley, prior to his removal to Fremantle. Mr. Cohn informs us that when brought before the Police Magistrate at Wyndham, he was undoubtedly insane and had the previous day attempted to stab a young lady. On the voyage to Fremantle he told the same story regarding the Roebourne murder to Mr. Cohn and many other passengers. In addition to that hallucination he had several others, none of which were regarded seriously.