Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter X page 2
Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir
CORNELIUS GREEN GOLD BUYER
I have alluded on a previous page to a band of horse stealers in the Omeo district, but besides these were some others of a still more dangerous kind. Through some strange perversion of judgment the position of sergeant at Omeo was filled by one of the London police brought out by Superintendent Freeman, as already related. This sergeant had passed all his career in city work, at which he was an expert, but so far as bush lore went he would probably have lost himself in the few acres of ti-tree scrub that then covered Fisherman’s Bend. First class man as he was at his accustomed work, it was a cruel fate that set him to watch over criminals who knew no home but in the wilderness of the bush. It was precisely the same sort of error that in later days left the Kelly Gang of bushrangers unchecked in a long career of crime.
The miners at Omeo in 1859 were never so numerous as those at Ballarat or Beechworth, nor was the output of gold sufficient to require a fully equipped police escort. The local gold-buyers had therefore to take the risk of conveying their treasure to Bairnsdale, some seventy miles distant, over difficult roads and past many danger spots offering cover and concealment to an attacking party. A solitary constable was the extent of the official protection that could be furnished.
On the 4 th January, 1859, a gold buyer named Cornelius Green, accompanied by Miss Mutta, a lady returning to her friends in England, started from Omeo in the afternoon, intending to reach Burn’s Inn at Tongio Mungi, about twelve miles distant on the road to Barnsdale and Sale. Constable William Greene, a recent recruit, armed with a pair of old-fashioned single-barrelled horse pistols, constituted the sole police guard. The whole party was mounted, and Cornelius Green led a pack horse bearing about one thousand ounces of gold. He was a young man of considerable enterprise who had made Omeo his headquarters. The following is an extract from Constable Greene’s report:- 'When we got within one and a half miles of the Tongio Mungi Hotel we had to pass through a steep gully, with scrub on both sides of the road. When within about two hundred yards from the gully three men rode out of it, named George Chamberlain, William Armstrong and George Penny. A fourth man rode in an opposite direction. I did not know any of them at the time, as I had been only a short time at Omeo. They joined our party, and seemed to be on friendly terms with Mr Green and Miss Mutta. I rode on for about fifty yards and waited until our party joined me, the others going in the direction of Omeo.
In going through the scrub that the strangers had just left Mr Green remarked to me that it was the kind of place he would be most afraid of; but that there was no danger, as he had brought down gold several times before, and was never molested.' He also said: ; ‘This is my last trip with gold.’ In a short time after, we reached the Inn at Tongio Mungi, where we stopped for the night. I slept in the same room with Mr Green. The gold was placed on the floor between us. Mr Green remarked before we went to sleep that the man Armstrong, who was occasionally employed by him, whilst cleaning his revolver the previous day, had rendered it unserviceable.
We were joined at the Inn by a man named Somes Davis, a storekeeper from Swift’s Creek, and, as we intended going to his store in the morning to get orders, he stopped for the purpose of accompanying us to his place, about three miles distant.
We started from the hotel about nine in the morning, our party now consisting of Mr Green riding, and leading a pack-horse with the gold; Somes Davis, also riding and leading a horse; Miss Mutta, also riding; and I on horseback. Mr Green and Davis rode in advance, Miss Mutta and I about thirty yards behind. When we had travelled about two miles Mr Green called Miss Mutta to join him. She did so, and Davis joined me . . . . Immediately after I heard a shot, and, thinking it must have been Mr Green’s revolver that went off, I looked and saw Mr Green leaning forward in the saddle. I also saw a man on my right hand armed with a gun. I drew a holster pistol and fired at him, and he either fell or got behind a tree. I was then fired at from a tree on the left side, and was shot through both arms. I did not see the man who fired at me, for the tree was forked, with branches interlaced, but he must have been very near to me, as several slugs passed through my left arm, carrying strips of my jumper with them. A slug also entered my right wrist, and was held by the skin on the opposite side. Also a slug grazed the skin across my chest. My horse turned suddenly and galloped sixty or seventy yards and stopped. I was unable to do anything with him, as both my arms were useless. While the horse was standing I turned round as well as I could, and saw one man lying on the ground, and another standing over him. I saw a man present a gun in my direction and fire, when my horse galloped away and carried me back to the Inn from which we had started in the morning.'
At this stage Constable Greene became unconscious, while some good Samaritans bound up his wounds; but he was on his horse again in about a quarter of an hour, an old soldier named Cross leading the horse and steadying the constable in the saddle, while they made their way to the scene of the shooting. Cross was the only one of several men at the Inn who was game to do this. They found Mr. Green lying dead, fearfully mutilated. Later they made their way to Davis ’ store, where they found Davis and Miss Mutta, who had both been thrown from their horses. Davis had also been wounded. The horses, including the pack-horse that carried the gold, had all reached the store, and so the murderers gained nothing by their crime.
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