New South Wales has produced a number of colourful and notorious villains. These scoundrels, rogues and criminals received an enormous amount of press coverage and became household names in their time. A few, thanks to their wild and improbable tales, became the subject of books, plays and films, and are still inspiring writers today.
John Dunn - the unsuccessful bushranger
John Dunn, born on 14 December 1846 near Yass, NSW, was the eldest of nine children to convict parents Michael and Margaret Dunn. When he was 18, he joined Ben Hall’s gang of bushrangers and, over the next few months, raided stations, inns, stores and mail coaches.
In January 1865 Dunn shot dead Constable Samuel Nelson in a bungled robbery of Kimberley’s Inn at Collector, not far from modern-day Canberra. His life of crime didn’t last long at all – he was given the death sentence for shooting Constable Nelson. He was hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol in Sydney on 19 March 1866. He was only 19 years old.
Henry Louis Bertrand – the mad dentist
“…a case more atrocious, more unreal, and more disgusting in its horrible details than any before recorded in the annals of crime”.
(Illustrated Sydney News, December 16, 1865)
Sydney dentist Henry Bertrand was married with two children, but started having an affair with one of his patients, Maria Ellen Kinder, a married woman from St Leonards. The Kinders and Bertrands were social acquaintances and it wasn’t long before Maria Ellen’s husband, Henry Kinder, a bank official, started to get suspicious of Bertrand’s intentions towards his wife.
The dentist decided the best thing to do was to get rid of Mr Kinder.
There were several botched murder attempts, starting with a tomahawk. Bertrand then persuaded his young assistant, Mr Burne, to buy a pair of pistols. As recorded in a newspaper report of the trial, ‘He did so subject to approval, and the same night Bertrand, disguised in woman’s apparel, accompanied him to where the pistols were, approved of them, and gave the price of them to Burne’.
The next day he sent his assistant off to the butcher to buy a sheep’s head, which Bertrand then used as target practice.
Soon after, during a social evening at the Kinders, Henry Kinder was shot in the head. Bertrand was the only one to witness it, and claimed it was a suicide attempt. Kinder lingered for a few days and, Bertrand, desperate to finish the job, persuaded Maria Ellen Kinder to poison her husband with a mixture of belladonna and milk. The coroner ruled the death, on 2 October 1865, to be suicide.
“Bertrand is a young man, apparently of five or six and twenty years of age, about five feet five inches in height, and rather effeminate in appearance. Mrs Kinder appears to be about the same age; in height she is rather above the average, and in personal appearance decidedly inferior to Mrs Bertrand; towards whom the public feeling is one of pity.” (Illustrated Sydney News, December 16, 1865).
About this item:
Bertrand was convicted of the murder of Henry Kinder, who died on 2 October 1865, in one of Sydney's most notorious homicide cases of the time. Bertrand served a 28 year prison sentance, most of which was spent at Darlinghurst Gaol.
This watercolour was accompanied by plans of Darlinghurst Gaol and titled 'watercolour drawings by H. Bertrand, Darlinghurst 7-12-91'.
Bertrand then unsuccessfully tried to murder his wife, in the hope of marrying Maria Ellen Kinder. Eventually, however, the case was reopened – Bertrand had confessed shooting Kinder to his sister and she became one of the prime witnesses during the trial.
He and Maria Ellen Kinder were both charged with murder. She was discharged due to lack of evidence, but Bertrand was sentenced to 28 years imprisonment, most of which was spent at Darlinghurst Gaol.
Henry James O’Farrell – attempted assassin
Prince Alfred the Duke of Edinburgh made a visit to the colony in the 1800s which turned out to be rather more eventful than expected.
On 21 January 1868, the Duke, one of Queen Victoria’s sons, arrived in Sydney during a round-the-world cruise to spread royal goodwill among the colonists. The reception he received was very enthusiastic, up until March 12, when he agreed to go on a picnic to Clontarf, a popular spot near the beach. The picnic ground was packed, and all went well until Henry James O’Farrell, an Irish immigrant, shot Prince Alfred in the back. The bullet didn’t do much damage and was removed. After the incident, the Duke let the people of New South Wales know that his belief in their continuing loyalty hadn’t been shaken by the actions of one person.
O’Farrell was arrested at the scene. He claimed he’d been acting under instruction from the Fenian Brotherhood, a radical Irish nationalist organisation. He soon retracted that – he was, in fact, acting alone.
O’Farrell had a history of mental instability. During his trial, Prince Alfred interceded on his behalf in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid the death penalty. O’Farrell was found guilty, and hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol (which now houses the National Art School) three months after the shooting, on 21 April.
As a way of giving thanks for the Duke’s recovery, a number of influential Sydney people decided to build a permanent monument – the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital is in Camperdown.
Witness to a shooting
Prince Alfred wasn’t the only casualty on 12 March 1868. George Thorne, a businessman from Rose Bay in Sydney, was shot in the foot by the second bullet from O’Farrell’s gun. He was there with his family, including his 17-year-old daughter Emily, his sixth child, who wrote about and illustrated an account of the day. The library acquired her notebook in 1996.
'Clontarf', What a calamitous day that name brings before our minds, & what a happy day it might have been. We little thought when starting how sadly the day would terminate….
'Clontarf' is a short distance up Middle Harbour directly opposite The Spit, & it was there on the 12th of March 1868 at the Sailors' Home Picnic that the sad event which I am going to relate happened.
Papa, Mama, Annie, George, Rosalie, Annie Grice & I,
started from our wharf at Claremont (Rose) about 1/4 to 12 & reached the place of our destination about 1 o'clock, directly we landed we walked to see the Prince's Tent. It was a double one a pliceman stood before the door to keep the people out it was carpeted with a red drugget plenty of cane chairs & a little (chair) table in the middle covered with a red cloth embroidered with gold leave it looked very comfortable. Then we went into the Luncheon tent it looked so pretty, such long tables up & down,
the Prince's table was almost in the middle of the tent, but we were not allowed to stay in there, for Raphael the ……. entreated us to go out. A short time after we met Mr.H. Mort then the Knoxes & talked to them a good while.
Afterwards we stood under the trees near the beach & listened to the bands of which there were two 'The Queen's Own' & the 'Galatea' band. About 1/2 past one the people began to go into Lunch & by two o'clock the ground looked almost desserted but as we came more especially to see the
Prince we did not mean to go to lunch before he (the Prince) came.
At last he arrived, directly we saw the little 'Fairy' coming we ran along the beach to the little pier at which he would land. All the yachts saluted him as he passed by them.
Directly the steamer came along side all the gentlemen of the Picnic Committee went to the end of the wharf & presented him with an address. After which Sir William Manning conducted H.R.H. to the
luncheon followed by the Vice-Regal party & suite. We followed a few minutes after & we found the tent so crowded that we could only just creep in with the people, but we did not mind for how long we were as we went in at a door close to the Prince's table, & we had a long look at H.R.H., he was just asking the Countess what she would take.
In a short time we managed to find places which had just been left by some other people, so the consequence was that the only thing to be seen on the table were empty dishes dirty plates
& bones, so we thought ourselves fortunate when we found two dusty plates, a tumbler, a champagne glass a knife a carving fork & a small fork, between 4 of us. We were about 10 minutes eating our lunch & then we walked up to the Prince's table again, where we were stopped again by the crowd of people, (Lord Newry gave us a good stare) not being able to get out of the same door we came in by we went out by another one & in going passed close behind H.R.H.'s chair he was taking to Sir W. Manning. Rosalie who was walking just in
front of me heard him say, 'In those days' & I heard him say 'And I had to go to them you know' he has such a nice voice.
We then walked slowly across the grass to the trees bordering the beach where we saw Mrs. Lamb & Connie for the first time after their return from Tasmania, we had a short talk with them & then they passed on while we stood at a little distance from the trees in the shade.
Papa & Mama where sitting down somewhere & George was getting something to eat & presently we heard cheers in the tent so we looked eagerly towards it
expecting that H.R.H. would soon come out, which he did leading Lady Belmore to his own tent, he had not been there long before he came out again with Sir William Manning & they walked down towards the beach in a straight line for us. The people by degrees began to disperse & they walked alone. Just then Papa came & we began to congratulate ourselves upon the beautiful opportunity we should have of seeing H.R.H.
While he was still a good distance from us a Gentleman went & shook hand with him. (We found
afterwards that it was the Hon. George Allen) & introduced Mrs. Allen to H.R.H.
As soon as they were about sixty yards from us Annie said 'We had better walk on a little it seems so rude to stand staring at him here' & I was just going to say something to her when we heard a sharp noise like a chinese cracker & looking towards the place from which the sound came I just saw the Prince fall. Then the whole flashed across our minds in a moment & we all exclaimed 'The Prince is shot'. I covered my face with my hands & hardly
any thing all I can remember is someone falling down beside me (Annie) some one falling down beside the Prince, people rushing up from all directions & then Annie Grier & I were alone. We heard another shot. Presently we saw Papa limping out of the crowd. I almost screamed out 'Oh Papa what is the matter' & he said 'I'm shot I'm shot.
I then caught hold of his arm & tried to bring him to where Mama was but he turned round & was going amongst the crowd only as soon as I caught sight of the
Man struggling with the crowd, I said 'Oh don't go there Papa the man might shoot us both' then Rosalie came up. (Annie Grier had told her) & we took Papa to a seat & left him with Mama while we ran for brandy & water. The people around were very kind they, one Lady sat us all on a seat & told us to be quiet for Papa's sake, as we should make him worse if he heard us crying. Papa kept asking 'Is the Prince alive, how is the Prince.' & when someone said the 'Prince is alive' he seemed better. A gentleman called two water policemen & they
carried Papa down to a boat & we all got in & they rowed us to our steamer but there was no one on board, so we were going on board one of the large ones when we met Mr. J. Lamb going to the Xerifa & he said he knew Mr. Parbury would take us home before any of the steamers so we went with him. Mr. P. was not on board so we had to wait for him, it seemed an immense time but at last he came & we set sail. Mr. P. told us he had heard that the bullet had been taken out of the Prince & that
he had come to the door of the tent to shew the people that he was not much hurt.
The sail in the yacht would have been very pleasant had not our minds been filled with the late outrage on the life of the darling son of our Noble Queen, & as we had at then time plenty of time to think over it I will will go back a little & give a few more particulars. It is impossible for anyone to imagine what a shock it was to us unless they had been there. It was an awful moment. What I see most vividly in my mind is our Noble Prince falling, first on
his hands & knees & then over on his back, look up & uttering two dreadful Oh's! I only have a dim reccolection of a revolver being held close to the Prince's back but I did not see the man at all. I must have been look another way at the moment. But now I must go on with my story. Mr. Parbury landed us at our wharf & Rosalie, the two Annies & I ran up to the house & sent the Gardener & coachman down to carry papa up.
I ran down to Mrs Dumaresq's to see if Dr. Nathan was down there, he was not & Mr. [Hope?] came up with me to see if he could help . Then Rosalie Millie & I found the cart & horse where John had been working, so we took it down where Papa was & it brought him much quicker than if they had carried him all the way. As soon as he was on the sofa in Mother's room - George drove in to Dr. Belmont, he was a long time - just as we had finished tea he came back with Dr. B. & Dr. Milford.
This story has been developed with the support of the State Library of NSW Foundation.
We would like to acknowledge the generosity of Public Purpose Fund (The Law Society of NSW), Allens Arthur Robinson, Clayton Utz, Gilbert & Tobin Lawyers, Henry Davis York Lawyers, Freehills.