Police file – George Stevens – 31st December 1890-2


The Police File

I arrived in Roebourne on the 29th August 1890 but did not proceed to make any enquiries for a week or so and I am convinced of the policy of this course as I met in Roebourne some people who had known me previously and the enquiry was what brought me to Roebourne.

It was rumoured that I had come to investigate the Roebourne murder case and although I have a good idea as to the source of this rumour I could not ascertain for certain.

I found that the police had some twice previous examined the boxes of Roderick McRae with a view to finding a clue and from this twice McRae took to serious drinking which soon brought him to the hospital.

On my arrival McRae was in the hospital in a dying condition and unable to see anyone but I subsequently saw him. I saw also William and Augustus Pont too who were at one time thought to have had something to do with the murder but they would not give me any information beyond
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these will be explained in the latter portion of my report.

Anketell returned from a place called the Pyramid some few miles out of Roebourne at about 8 o’clock on the night of the murder. He had been out to see a man named Rouse[?] on business connected with the bank. He was in company with McRae after his return at the Roebourne Hotel till past twelve o’clock that night and he and McRae were gambling. The Hotel was at this time kept by a man named Robert Thompson (since dead).

A man named Henshaw saw them gambling and saw Anketell win money from McRae. Henshaw says that Anketell won about two pounds and that it was paid in silver. It will be remembered that at the trial there was no evidence of any money being found on Anketell.

They did not leave the hotel till after 12 o’clock and McRae accompanied Anketell to the Bank to eat a watermelon which had been sent up by a man named Farthing [?] Neither McRae nor Anketell were sober when they left the Hotel.

The next morning McRae went down to the Hotel about 6 o’clock and he and Henshaw were having a drink. After some time had elapsed someone said “There’s something wrong at “the Bank” and then the cry “Anketell’s murdered”. The two men ran to the Bank and found Anketell. Upon seeing Anketell McRae said “My God Burrup’s murdered too and ran round to where Burrup slept and found him dead. Henshaw and others offered their assistance to track but it was refused and although the murder was discussed so early no attempt was made to track until the afternoon notwithstanding it was comparatively easy at that time as a shower of rain had fallen the night before and the murder could not have been committed before one o’clock. McRae made the remark to Henshaw “It was a wonder I did not hear the noise as I slept on the corner of the verandah” (meaning the verandah of the house he was living in). The corner of the verandah where McRae slept was not more than 50 yards from the spot where Anketell was murdered.

McRae to go from his house to the Roebourne Hotel had to pass the distance of the width of the road from the spot where Anketell was lying.

I saw McRae in the hospital but had very little chance of talking to him as he was in a large room with other patients in it but what little conversation he had with me he did not care to talk about the murder but said that he supposed it would all come out at his death. He was at this time unable to walk his lower limbs being useless otherwise I should have been able to have got him out of the large room and have had more conversation with him.

I also saw Duncan McRae but he knew nothing about the matter. It was said that the reason why he would not have anything to do with his brother was because he would not disclose about the murder but I could find no foundation for this report.

The question is what was the motive for the murder? To decide this question the following questions must be answered.

1. In what Bank did Anketell bank his money?
2. What money did he have of his own previous to the murder?
3. What dealings did Rouse have with him as Manager of the Bank or privately?
4. Did Rouse have an overdraft at the Bank at this time of the murder?

I tried to find out what Rouse’s financial position was previously to and at the time of the murder but failed for reason I will explain and had I been successful in this a clue to the murder would have been discovered.

I could not see McRae’s sister who is residing with her husband many miles out of Roebourne nor could I get a chance of communication with Mrs Church (formerly ? A McRae).

The evidence of San Quay and Harriet Quinn is inmaterial as regards the murders. San Quay will only give evidence of what took place between McRae and himself as the reward offered by McRae to him and that when McRae told him he could give information if he liked and threatened him San Quay said to him you are the murderer.

Harriett Quinn states that she was a servant with Mr A. McRae at the time of the murder but that he was out of town at the time and that she knows nothing about it nor did she [see] Anketell with Miss McRae though he was very often at the house.

To conclude this report I have to call attention to the way in which I was interfered with in my investigation.

I left Perth to proceed to Roebourne to investigate this matter upon the distinct understanding that no communication was to come to me from the Police Department. I also gave the Commissioner of Police to understand that I would not probably make any attempt in the matter for a fortnight after my arrival in Roebourne of which intentions he approved to use his own expression “till they got used to me”.

In face of the above and of the well known necessity for entire secrecy the Commissioner of Police wired to me three weeks after my arrival signing himself as Commissioner of Police.

All previous rumours of the business upon which I went to Roebourne were at once revived and I had to stop all attempts of any kind for the purpose of obtaining information.

Had I been left alone I am convinced I should have been able to solve the mystery.

Upon receipt of the Commissioner’s second telegram it seemed to me it was determined that I should not succeed.

The matter can only be solved now by some person rested with authority and as an officer known as one and I should suggest that an Inspector be sent to the district and if he acts properly can compel the information required.

Geo J. Malcom Stevens
31st December 1890