The Coongoola Murder.
A Conscience-stricken Culprit
AT the Cunnamulla Police Court, at the end of last month, William Riley and Kate Callaghan were brought up before Mr. B. R. Stafford, P.M., charged with the murder of Ernest Henry Martyr on or about the 14th July, 1895, near Coongoola woolshed. The hearing of the case resulted in some awful disclosures, which reminds one of the Keniffs and Crows Nest cases. It will be remembered Riley gave him- self up to the Glen Innes police, and confessed to burning down Coongoola woolshed out of revenge against Mr. Armstrong, the manager of the station. Riley was arrested at the time for arson and murder, but was acquitted. His confession to the arson, however, removed a stigma which rested upon a well-known and respected man in the district, who was covertly accused of the burning, although no evidenoe could be produced against him. Confession to the arson, however, did not appear to appease the guilty conscience of Riley, who appears to
have suffered the tortures of the damned for twelve long years, with the knowledge that he had committed two capital offences. It appeared from the evidence that Martyr lived in a hut near Coongoola station with a woman named Kate Callsghan, who passed off as his wife. By her he had a family, of whom be appeared very fond. Riley was always about the place, and did odd jobs of fencing, &c., and at time of shearing " tailed" the shearers' horses. For this purpose Riley camped some seven miles from the station. It appears Martyr suspected Riley was too friendly with his spouse, and confided his troubles to several persons. Martyr was preparing his shears for shearing when he mounted a horse and rode away. He was never seen alive afterwards. It was reported he had gone to Blackall, but no trace could ever be found of him, although the police searched diligently, and enquired from Martyr's people at Tumut, N.S.W., and a firm of Goulburn solicitors advertised for him. He had apparently dropped clean out of the world. After the shearing Riley was quite at home at Martyr's for twelve months, and used to do charcoal burning, the produce of which he used to take into Cunnamulla per medium of Martyr's dray and sell it to the blacksmiths. The eldest son appeared to be anxious about his father's whereabouts, and made futile search and enquiry for him. The mother did not interest herself very much in the matter--one man was apparently as good as another to her. And so the years rolled on. A body found near the station woolshed was supposed by some to be Martyr's, but there was no certainty about it. Future events showed it was not. It appeared as if the murder was to be another bush mystery when Riley made a full confession, and the sub- stance of it is this:--He had his camp some seven miles from the woolshed, where he had
the shearers' horses on good grass and water. Martyr rode over to him and accused him of not watering some horses of " Nobby's." A few words ensued. Martyr was on his haunches cutting up a pipe of tobacco when Riley slipped up behind him with a tomahawk and struck him and killed him. Riley carried the body to a rock overlooking the water, where a hollow like a cave had apparently been made by kangaroos, and placed the body there,--it was like a shelf at the foot of the rock. He put some stones in front of it, but still he could not understand how it was the
police never discovered it. He found blood on
his clothes, so he took them off and made a
pile and burnt them. He unsaddled the horse, which Riley hinted was a " crook" one, and let him go. He never saw the horse again. He kept the bridle, and the saddle he cut up into strips and put them sideways into a hollow boxtree,--the hole was about 8ft. from the ground, and was hollow, as be heard the things fall to the bottom. The tree was a conspicuous object, as it stood on the top of a ridge, was the largest in the neighborhood, and had a white top. After his discharge on suspicion of having murdered Martyr, he went one night to burn the evidence of his crime. He placed a lot of brushwood on a flat stone in a small stoney gully, and placed the body thereon. He put a lot of brushwood on top. The fire was a quick one, and there was some difficulty in burning the skull. He did nothing with the residue, and he expected the rains scattered the ashes. He did not cut off any buttons, neither did be search tbe pockets, and remove a pipe, or watch and chain. Riley repeated his statement to Sergt. Bell and assisted the police in drawing out a plan of the site. The police found the tree with two stirrup irons and pieces of leather therein and the cave wherein the body was placed. About a fortnight was spent in searching the neigh- borhood of the gully, and various small pieces of bone and shirt buttons were found.--Upon conclusion of the evidence, Mr. Sasche applied for the discharge of female accused. Mr. Staf- ford said the evidence against her was weak, but he would leave tbe onus of discharging her
to the Crown Prosecutor. Both accused were then committed to take their trial at the Supreme Court, to be held in Roma next month.