George Joss DUNCAN
New South Wales Police Force
Regd. # ‘Q‘ 9575
( For the purposes of this website ‘Q’ represents those Police joining between 1 March 1862 ( commencement of NSWPF ) – 23 February 1915 ( Commencement of NSWPF current numbering system )
Rank: Probationary Constable – appointed Saturday 4 January 1913 – Mounted Constable
Stations: Forbes, Bogan Gate, Grenfell, Tottenham ( by 3 days )
Service: From 4 January 1913 to 26 September 1916 = 3+ years Service
Awards: No find on It’s An Honour
Born: 1891 in Scotland
Died on: Tuesday 26 September 1916 a few minutes after 9pm. The eve before his marriage.
Cause: Shot – Murdered at Tottenham
RESULT: Offender Frank FRANZ & Ronald Nicholas KENNEDY were hanged at Bathurst Gaol at 9am on Wednesday 20 December 1916
Age: 25 – 27
Funeral date: Sunday 1 October 1916
Funeral location: ?
Buried at: Parkes Cemetery, Want St, NSW
Plot Presbyterian, Row M
Memorial location: Parkes Cemetery, Want St, Parkes, NSW
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
George IS mentioned on the Police Wall of Remembrance
The constable was shot at the Tottenham Police Station by offenders Roland Kennedy (20) and Frank Franz (28). The offenders were members of the “Industrial Workers of the World” organisation during World War 1 and were incensed at the constable’s arrest of one of their members the previous day. While the constable was sitting typing at his desk in the station the offenders crept up to a small window behind him, aimed their rifles and shot him from close range. He died a few minutes later. Both offenders were arrested and hanged at Bathurst Gaol. A third accused, Michael Kennedy, was acquitted.
The Kalgoorlie Western Argus of 3 October, 1916 printed the following brief account.
A CONSTABLE MURDERED – Sydney, Sept. 27.
Confirmation has been received by the Inspector-General of Police, that Constable George Joseph Duncan, stationed at Tottenham about fifty miles from Trangie, was shot dead last night. Yesterday afternoon, Duncan was at Dandaloo and there arrested a German whom he lodged in the lockup there. After his return last evening, two shots were heard by the neighbours and Duncan was found lying dead in his office. He had apparently been working at a typewriter when the shots were fired. Detectives have been sent from Sydney to make investigations. Duncan was 25 years of age.
The constable was born in 1891 and joined the New South Wales Police Force on 4 April, 1913. At the time of his death he was stationed at Tottenham.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 28 September 1916 page 8 of 12
TRAGEDY AT TOTTENHAM.
The Inspector-General of Police M.G. Mitchell, received a telegram yesterday evening stating that Constable George Joseph Duncan was found dead in the office of the Tottenham Police station at about 9 o’clock on Tuesday night. The information was communicated to headquarters by Constable McIntosh, who is stationed at Trangie, about 45 miles from Tottenham.
According to the telegram, two neighbours made the discovery. They heard a couple of shots fired, and on entering the lockup found Duncan dead. The position of the body made it apparent he had been using a typewriter when the shots were fired.
On Tuesday afternoon Duncan arrested a man whom he took to the Dandaloo Police Station, a distance of about 1 1/2 miles. After lodging the prisoner in the cell he returned to Tottenham.
Up to the present no clue has been found ; and yesterday morning two detectives were sent from Sydney to make investigations.
Duncan, who was 25 years of age joined the Service in 1913. He had previously been stationed at Forbes, Bogan Gate, and Grenfell.
National Advocate ( Bathurst )
Monday 2 October 1916 page 1 of 6
REWARD OF £200 SYDNEY, Sunday.
The Inspector-General of Police (Mr. Mitchell) has authorised the issue of a reward of £200 for information leading to the discovery of the murderer of Mounted-constable George Joseph Duncan, whose dead body was found in his office at Tottenham on Tuesday.
Dubbo Dispatch and Wellington Independent (NSW : 1887 – 1932),
Tuesday 10 October 1916, page 1
FULL STORY OF A FOUL CRIME.
BY SERGEANT MEAGHER.
Sergeant Meagher, after nearly a fortnight spent at Tottenham in investigating the murder of Constable Duncan, attending the inquest, etc., has returned to Dubbo.
Interviewed at his residence on Sunday, Sergt. Meagher supplied particulars of the crime, as learnt by him and his fellow officers, and elicited at the inquest.
Sergt. Meagher states that on the night of the murder he received instructions from Inspector Peterswald ( John Peterswald # Q5489 ) to go to Tottenham.
He proceeded to Trangie by the midnight goods train, which was late in arriving at Dubbo. He waited at Trangie till daylight, and got into communication with Tottenham, learning that Sergeant Scott, of Narromine, had just arrived after an awful night in the rain and mud. The night was pitch dark.
He rang up Dr. Bertram, of Trundle, who set out for Tottenham, but his car became bogged six miles from his destination.
The doctor then set out on foot and walked three miles, when he had the good fortune to get a lift in a sulky.
Without X-rays the doctor was unable to locate the bullet that had entered the body on the right side of the back.
Arrived at Tottenham after much tedious travelling owing to the soft state of the country, Sergt. Meagher, with Sergt. Sawtell (Warren), Sergt. Scott (Narromine), Constables Sykes (Nevertire), McIntosh (Trangie), McLean (Narromine), and Lewis (Dandaloo), made every possible inquiry and search of the police station and surroundings.
They located the suspects, measured up the building for the purpose of making a plan.
Subsequently Inspector Whitfield arrived from Forbes, and two detectives (Messrs. Davelin and Downey) from Sydney, and the suspects were brought to the station.
Constable McLean, having been stationed at Tottenham previous to the deceased, was of great assistance in the investigations.
The three accused and two others were brought to the station in strict silence without causing the slightest excitement in the village. “That, I am pleased to know,” said Sergt. Meagher, “gave general satisfaction to the public, and it was pleasing to hear the appreciative reference to the sound judgment and discretion of the police. It was a difficult task on account of the wet and cold weather, and the inadequacy of the arrangements for the housing of the suspects.
Two of those were kept in a wooden cell in the yard, and two others, were guarded day and night in the office.
The station is only a small structure— two rooms — and it was difficult for the police to converse without the prisoners hearing them.
The residents, however did everything possible to help the police, and,” said Sergt. Meagher with much earnestness, “we are all very thankful to the hotel keeper, Mr. Veech, and his good wife and staff, who did everything possible for our comfort and convenience. The meals and beds were excellent, and we were attended to in a way that warrants every gratitude, especially on account of the bad weather Mr. and Mrs. Veech had also to contend with.” Continuing, Sergt. Meagher stated that the late Constable Duncan had his life assured with the A.M.P. for £250. He was 27 years of age, a native of Scotland, and had only taken over Tottenham from Constable McLean (now of Narromine) on the 23rd ultimo— three days before he was foully murdered.
An attempt was made to dig a grave for his body at Tottenham, but it filled with water as fast as it was dug out.
“Sergeant Sawtell,” says Sergeant Meagher, “is deserving of all praise for the way he attended to the guarding of the prisoners in relays— and keenly alert to seize any little word or look, or piece of evidence to sheet home the guilt.
Sergt. Sawtell‘s good services will no doubt be a matter the inspector will not miss. The police worked together in a way that reflects the highest credit on themselves and the department. It was also very pleasing to observe that there was a total absence of any ill-feeling amongst the police towards the accused men, not withstanding the strain in full view of a murdered comrade in a small room with them from Wednesday to Friday morning, it was a great relief when the body passed out of our sight, seeing that we were not able to attend the funeral, which took place at Parkes, and we hope, and request, that Inspector Whitfield will be good enough to put the inward feeling of us all in the service with a view of a small coin being asked from all to mark the last resting place of poor Constable Duncan.
The three men detained in custody and subsequently committed for trial at Bathurst were Michael Herbert Kennedy, Roland Kennedy (brothers), and Frank Franz.
Preliminary to the crime certain events happened which are worth mentioning.
Deceased has only been three days in Tottenham.
Charles Martin, a German, was charged with having firearms in his possession, and at Dandaloo was fined £3 and costs by Mr. Gates, relieving P.M. of Dubbo.
George Wann, a German, the man arrested by deceased on the night before the tragedy, for obscene language and resistance to arrest, was taken by deceased to Dandaloo the next morning and lodged in the lockup — he pleaded guilty before Mr. Gates, P.M., and was fined £1 and £2 with costs.
Deceased was hooted by a number of men when he arrested Wann and he spoke to Roland Kennedy when he returned from the lookup, and was heard to say to Kennedy that it was no laughing matter.
A summons was found in the police office, but not declared or signed—no doubt it was prepared at Dandaloo. There was also an entry of the matter in deceased’s pocket book.
On returning from Dandaloo that evening deceased asked after Roland Kennedy, and Kennedy, hearing of this, went from the residence of his father into the street and inquired for deceased, but didn’t see him.
After returning from Dandaloo deceased went to Mr. Travers’ place— where he had his meals—for tea.
To Mrs. Travers he said: “I am sopping wet; I will put my horse in the stable and come back for tea.”
He said he was tired, and the roads were in a dreadful state. He asked about Roland Kennedy, but did not see him. After going to the station, subsequent to his having his tea, deceased took off his wet uniform, and put on an old singlet, blue police jumper, socks, and dry shoes, and sat at the typewriter with his back to the office window.
He was making out a monthly return of diseased cattle, and was shot before he had completed it, as three letters, the last on the paper, were struck together.
The window is a two sash, with two panes of glass in each. There was a hole one could put the tip of a finger into in the left-hand corner, and there was a large piece broken out of the other pane. There was another bullet hole in the bottom frame, six inches below the line of the other two shots, and six inches to the right. That bullet passed through and out of the weatherboard wall on the opposite side of the room and could not be traced, except that it struck the ground ten yards from the hole in the wall.
The bullet was a 32 calibre, and that is the bore of the rifle owned by Frank Franz, who, at the inquest, said he fired that shot only. It didn’t hit deceased.
Roland Kennedy said he fired the shot that left the small hole in the window at the con-stable. That would have hit the constable on the right side. He fired a 32. That shot, if the one that entered the right side of deceased’s back, fractured two ribs, passed upwards through the lung, and came out about his neck, just above the breastbone. The bullet could not be found.
Roland Kennedy said that Franz fired the other shot at the constable, the shot that broke the pane, and then stepped to the right in front of him (Roland Kennedy) and fired the shot that passed through the bottom of the frame.
Roland Kennedy pulled the trigger a second time, but the cartridge missed fire.
It was afterwards discovered that Roland Kennedy had a cartridge in his vest at the residence of his parents, the cap of which was dinted, and the bullet still in it.
Franz said that the two Kennedys stood side by side, and one counted three as a signal for all three— the two Kennedys and himself— to fire together through the window at the back of deceased.
Franz also said that after the word three both the Kennedy fired a volley, but he (Franz) didn’t fire.
The Kennedy then turned to him and ordered him to fire, and he, being frightened that they would shoot him, fired the shot that hit the bottom of the frame.
Franz then pointed to a spot at the boundary post of the fence and said, “I stood there when I fired” — that was 11 feet from the window.
The spot where Kennedy said Franz stood was about half that distance.
Both spots were in a line of the bullet’s course, but there were no powder marks on the window, as there were in the case of the other two shots, the showing that this shot was fired at a distance.
Michael Kennedy said he was not at the shooting, nor was he a party to the arrangement to shoot the constable.
Roland Kennedy said that his brother was not at the shooting, but he was at the verandah of their father’s residence when it was arranged to shoot deceased.
Roland Kennedy further stated that he said to his brother “Come on,” and Michael Kennedy said, “It is no good to me; I am a married man, with a wife and two children.”
Roland Kennedy also said that his brother advised them to let it alone.
According to Roland Kennedy’s statement, when Franz was told that deceased was home from Dandaloo, he (Franz) said, “The —— is back; we will stone the b— — and he picked tip stones and put them in his pocket. Roland Kennedy then said to Franz: “It’s no good stoning him; let us shoot him.” Franz then said — according to Roland Kennedy, “I will go and get my rifle.” Franz did so, and he and Kennedy shot the constable.
Against this, Franz said the two Kennedy and he were on the verandah at old Mr. Kennedy’s residence, and the two Kennedy’s said, “We will shoot the policeman; get your rifle.”
He, being afraid of them went home and had his tea, but his wife objected to him going out again, and cried.
He stopped three-quarters of an hour, put his rifle out through the window when she was not looking, and at last got her consent to go out.
He had been served with a small debt summons and a summons by Const. McLean for riotous behaviour.
Franz said he wanted to see Herb Kennedy, who was regarded as a bush lawyer, to get advice about the summonses.
He went out and met the two Kennedys on the verandah of their father’s residence, and the three of them then went to the police station, sneaked up, and the deceased was shot as described.
They ran away — R. Kennedy and Franz in one direction and Herb Kennedy in another — in the grass so as to make no tracks.
There was no tracker to be got, and a half caste, who was in Tottenham, refused to try to track.
Another, seven miles away, was sent for, but he would not come.
The weather was wet, and the roads in a dreadful state, and the indistinct tracks at the window in the grass could not be followed.
Mr. Kennedy, senior, 80 years of age, passed away during the trouble.
His unhappy son saw him before he died, but he didn’t know of their trouble.
He and his wife were drawing the old age pension, and lived 50 yards away from the hotel, facing a street.
The old man had been a stock dealer and master butcher at Parkes and Peak Hill ; also a storekeeper.
The accused said they were I.W.W. men, but they didn’t believe in taking life.
They were committed for trial by the coroner, Mr. James Patterson, the owner of the local paper, on a charge of wilful murder.
National Advocate ( Bathurst )
Thursday 19 October 1916 page 1 of 4
KENNEDY AND FRANZ ON TRIAL.
PLEA OF GUILTY WITHDRAWN. ACCUSED FOUND GUILTY DEATH SENTENCE PASSED
Roland Nicholas Kennedy and Frank Franz were arranged before the Chief Justice (Sir William Cullen) and a jury at the Bathurst Circuit Court yesterday charged with having at Tottenham on September 26 last murdered Constable George Joss Duncan. Both accused are comparatively young men. Kennedy is sturdily built, dark complexioned (he had about a week’s growth of beard), and intelligent looking. As he entered the dock his eyes wandered around the court room and there was indications that he realised the gravity of the situation. In fact there was a trace of a smile as he stood up preparatory to answering the charge. The other accused, Franz, is fair complexioned, and the usual bush worker type. He is about 5ft in height, of medium build, and a demeanor that by no means indicated the strong will power of the alleged partner in crime.
The court room throughout the day was thronged with interested spectators, whilst during the morning two young women occupied seats in the body of the court, both of whom appeared to be little concerned about the fact that perhaps on the issue of the proceedings depended the lives of two — perhaps three — men.
Mr. Wilfrid Blackett, K.C. and Mr. D. S. Edwards, instructed by Mr. E. A. Withey, of the Crown Law Office, appeared for the Crown. Kennedy was defended by Mr. N. Pilcher, of Sydney, whilst Mr. E. R. Abigail appeared in the interests of the accused Franz.
The first to be called upon to plead was Franz, who replied ” Not guilty ” in a firm voice. Then Kennedy created somewhat of a sensation by pleading guilty in a firm voice and with a broad smile. Immediately Mr. Pilcher asked his Honor not to accept the plea of guilty, and Sir William Cullen then explained to the accused that the charge was a serious one and that the only way in which it could be properly investigated was by a plea of not guilty. Then all the circumstances would be brought out.
Kennedy: I can hardly hear what your Honor is saying.
The Chief Justice repeated his advice, whereupon Kennedy said: And if I plead guilty all the circumstances will not be brought out.
The Chief Justice: That is so.
Kennedy: Then I’ll withdraw my plea and plead not guilty.
The jury were then empanelled, the first to be called being Mr. W. Boyd. Franz freely exercised his right to challenge, and ordered six jurors to stand aside. Kennedy, on the other hand, accepted all the jurymen as they were called without demur.
THE CASE OUTLINED.
Mr. Blackett outlined the case for the Crown. He said that Tottenham was situated about 52 miles from Trangie. On September 25 last Constable Duncan arrested a man, a member of the I. W.W., for having used abusive language. A crowd collected and there was some hooting and general disorder. However, he arrested the man and took him to Dandaloo, about 13 miles. On his return he interviewed accused Kennedy and told him that he would take proceedings , against him for having used abusive language on the next night, September 26, Constable Duncan’s dead body was found near a wire fence just outside the police station door with two bullets in the back. A third bullet was found in a panel of the wall of the room. The Crown theory was that the two accused and another, man, Herbert Kennedy, agreed to shoot the constable at a given signal. Two were to fire, whilst a third was to reserve his shot in the event of the shots not having the desired effect. The three stood outside the window of the police station, where Constable Duncan was sitting with his back towards them engaged at the typewriter. When the shots were fired the constable rose and staggered towards the door. This was when the third shot was fired, and the Crown contended that the third shot was fired as arranged, but missed Duncan and entered the wall just above his head. The chief evidence against the accused was statements made by each. Franz said that he was terrorised into participating in the shooting by the Kennedys, who threatened to shoot him. Kennedy, in his statement, stated that Franz planned the murder and threatened to shoot him if he did not go with him. He made no reference at all to his brother being present. However, the Crown would contend that all were equally guilty of the crime.
‘The Crown does not suggest, added Mr. Blackett, ” that this foul murder was committed out of revenge for the arrest or threatened arrest. Such would be too trivial. It does suggest, however, that these men were members of the I.W.W. and had their minds inflamed and saturated by the pernicious literature of that body and which was found at their residences. Boys, after reading Deadwood Dick stories, commit crime, and in the same manner this murder was committed by men after reading the pennicious literature regarding the objects and methods of an organisation to which no law abiding citizen would attach himself. ”
Mr. Blackett also pointed out that the two bullets found in Duncan’s body were 32 calibre, similar to those from the rifle found at Kennedy’s, whilst the bullet in the panel was of 38 caliber, and used in rifles similar to that owned by Franz.
Detective Patrick Joseph Downey, of Sydney, stated that he went to Tottenham shortly after the murder. During his investigations he interrogated Ronald Kennedy, who denied any connection with the murder. He admitted he had a 32 caliber Winchester rifle and that he and his brother were members of the I.W.W. He stated, however, that they did not advocate the destruction of life and property. He took Kennedy to the inspector of police and had Franz’s statement read to him. Kennedy laughed during, the first part of the statement, but became white and broke out into a perspiration when the circumstances of the actual shooting were being read. In reply to witness, Kennedy said it was. ” all a lie. ” Franz, at his (witness’s) request, then recognised Ronald Kennedy as the man mentioned in his statement. When he formally charged Kennedy with the present charge the latter said, ” Well, fix me up : I wish you would take me out and shoot me. ” He put Kennedy in the cell and afterwards heard him crying. Later he heard a man named Martin, who also occupied the cell, say to Kennedy, ” I always knew that you were a headstrong young man, but I did not think you would take up a rifle and shoot a man down like this. ” Afterwards, in company with Inspector Whitfield, he took the accused to the window of the lockup and asked him to mark the positions where he considered that the three men stood. He then took Franz to the lockup and asked him to do likewise. While Franz was present Kennedy pointed out the hole in the window which, he said, had been caused by his bullet. He (witness) then examined the window and performed experiments ( in company with Inspector Whitfield ) which went to show that Franz’s statement, that three men were present when the murder took place, was correct.
Inspector Whitfield stated that he saw Franz at the police station on September 28, when the accused said that he was born in Wellington ; that his mother was a Scotch woman and his father of German descent. In regard to the arrest of Wann, accused said that he had not become excited when Wann was arrested. On the day after the murder Franz approached him, telling him that he had something to tell him and that he could not refrain from doing so any longer. Continuing, Franz said; ” The Kennedys shot the constable ; I was there also and fired a shot. ” He took the accused to the lockup, where he made a statement.
Constable Stewart. L. McIntosh, stationed at Trangie, stated that he examined the police station at Tottenham on September the 28th and described the condition in which he found the room in which the Constable was murdered.
William Henry, a tinsmith residing about 15yds from the police station at Tottenham stated that at about ? o’clock on the evening of September 26th. he was lying in bed when he heard two shots, as if from a double barreled gun. The first shot was much the louder. Only a second lapsed between the reports of the two shots. It was impossible to reload the rifle during the interval between the shots.
Thomas Johnson, dentist of Peak Hill, said that on the evening of September 26th. he was sitting at his table in Tottenham when he heard two shots. He walked outside and thought he heard moanings, which he thought was caused by cows. The first of the two shots was much louder than the second.
To Mr. Abigail : He was engaged in mechanical work when he heard the shots. There were two distinct shots.
Augustus Loftus Travers Smelter, residing at Tottenham also heard the report of the two shots when he was occupied at his home. It would have been absolutely impossible for anyone to reload a rifle during the interval between the two shots.
Annie Woods, who resides with her parents in Tottenham, corroborated the evidence of the previous witnesses regarding the quick succession of the two shots.
Herbert Oswald Rudd, a laborer, of Tottenham, stated that on the night of the murder he met Franz, who told him that the policeman had been shot and added, ” We shot him. ” Franz also told him that there had been three shots, to which he (witness) only replied, ” Did you? ” Franz replied, ” Yes ; but don’t you tell the Kennedys. ”
Mr. Abigail : Although you had heard from Franz that the Kennedys and he had shot the constable you did not inform the authorities ? — No. When did you tell them ?— When they asked me. You robbed a drunken man, didn’t you? — He wasn’t drunk; I just picked the money up from the ground. And divided it amongst your friends ?- Yes.
You used to live in the same house as one of mates at Tottenham, didn’t you? — Yes. And in a lapse of forgetfulness you walked off with his clothes?— Yes. What did that cost you?— £3 at the Police Court.
Stephen Horton, laborer; and photographer residing at Tottenham gave formal evidence in connection with photographs taken at the Tottenham Police Station.
George Fishpool, mining manager of Tottenham, stated he saw Constable Duncan arresting a man in front of Beach’s hotel on the evening of September 25. A crowd assembled on the occasion and hooted. The constable returned, spoke to the Kennedy’s and Roland Kennedy laughed. He did not hear the conversation between the constable and the Kennedys.
Margaret Eva Traters, married woman, residing at Tottenham gave evidence of having last seen, the deceased early on the evening of September 26.
Dr. Thomas D. Betram of Tottenham stated that on September 27 he made a post mortem examination of the body of the deceased and found two bullet wounds in the back and one on the front of the body. The organs were in a healthy condition. He found in one of the lungs fragments of glass and ribs.
To Mr. Abigail : He believed that the two bullets that entered the body were of 32 calibre and the one that struck the sash of the window, of 38 calibre. He knew a 32 calibre bullet, at sight.
Dr. William Boazmam of Parkes also gave formal evidence.
Constable James Sykes, stationed at Nevertire, stated that he arrived at the Tottenham Police Station on September 27 and saw the body of constable Duncan lying there and he removed garments from the body 0f the deceased and obtained pieces of glass and bone from Dr. Bertram.
To Mr. Abigail: He was of opinion that the hole in the sash was made by a 38 calibre bullet.
Frank Franz, 23 years old said that he had been employed in the Tottenham district for some considerable time. He was born in Wellington his father was of German descent and his mother was a Scotch woman, he last saw his father about 10 years ago. He had never been taught the German language. About a month ago he was asked to join the I. W. W. by the Kennedys. They told him that any man who did not belong to the organisation was no good, but a rotter and a —–.
He had had no transactions with any one in connection with joining the I. W. W. , but had given his subscriptions to the Kennedys, in the stated. He had received literature, but did not understand the rules of the organisation. He had received a book of membership tickets, but had not used them. He did not believe in the destruction of life. At the time constable McLean was leaving Tottenham he had a conversation with the Kennedys who, referring to McLeans successor, Duncan stated that he was a —– and would have to be stopped. He did not reply to this remark. He had never fallen out with Duncan. He had never spoken to him with the exception of one occasion when he bade him good-day. The first conversation he had had, in regard to shooting the policeman, was with the Kennedys, on the day of the murder. He had met the Kennedys on Hudson’s verandah when Roland Kennedy said ” ain’t this constable a —— ; we’ll shoot him.” He the ( accused) had had a few drinks that day, but did not reply. In the evening he again saw Roland Kennedy at the Kennedys house. He had gone there to get some comic papers but he did not have them. Roland Kennedy on this occasion said ” you ought to bring your rifle up ; me and Herb is going to shoot the policeman. ”
As he was going they told him not to forget to bring his rifle up or they would blow his –— head off. He went home and sneaked the rifle through the window, not allowing his wife to see him. The rifle was of 38 calibre. He subsequently left home and went to the Kennedys. Both Roland and Herb Kennedy told him to fire at the constable or they would shoot him. They then left for the police station. When within 20 yards of the station, they stopped, Accused became frightened and lagged behind. The Kennedys whispered something that was, to him, unaudable and they walked on. The Kennedys walked up to the window of the police station and he stood against a post, that was not quite in front of the window. He could see the policeman, who was using his type writer. The Kennedys took aim, and as soon as the constable sat erect they fired simultaneously. The deceased, when shot, fell to his right and disappeared. The accused then fired while the policeman was still out of sight.
He then went home. He put the rifle in the back room an went to bed. Be could not sleep that night. He got up next morning and put the rifle under some bags. He next saw Roland Kennedy at a hotel. Kennedy told him not to get drunk and not to ” split, ” or he would blow his brains out.
On Thursday he stayed at home, and on Friday he saw the Inspector of Police and made the statement. The first statement he made was untrue, and he was frightened, at first, to alter it. That was why he had to see the Inspector alone. He had never intended to shoot the policeman, and only accompanied the Kennedys because he was frightened that they would shoot him. They had told him they would do so. He did not say to Rudd that they had stopped the policeman.
Mr. Blackett, in his cross-examination of the accused, endeavoured to connect the murder with his association with the I. W. W. but in answer to Mr. Blackett, the accused said that his connection with the I. W. W. had no bearing on the murder, at all. He had known the Kennedys before he joined the I. W. W. and although he subscribed to the I. W .W paper, he did not read it. He had not paid his subscriptions for three or four months.
He did not believe in the destruction of life. He could not explain why he said the I. W. W. had led him astray, but supposed it was on account of his association to the Kennedys. After a short retirement the jury returned a verdict of ” guilty ” in both cases.
When asked if he had anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon him, Kennedy replied in the negative, and added, ” I must thank the jury for their verdict. ”
Franz asked why Herbert Kennedy had not been tried with Roland Kennedy and himself? His Honor explained that this was not the time to answer such questions as this.
Franz further stated that the jury had not returned a proper verdict.
The sentence of death was passed by his Honor without comment.
Forbes Advocate (NSW : 1911 – 1954),
Friday 22 December 1916, page 4
PAID THE PENALTY
CONSTABLE DUNCAN’S MURDERERS
Executed at Bathurst..
The Tottenham murderers; Frank Franz and Ronald Nicholas Kennedy, were executed in Bathurst Gaol at 9 o’clock on Wednesday morning. Mr ?. M. Wilshire, of Sydney, represented the sheriff. No one but the gaol officials and press representatives was present.
In tragic irony for such an occasion, the day was a beautifully fine and peaceful one. The sun shone in all the splendour of mid-summer, and the birds sang and chirped in the trees in pure joy of the life around them.
There was nothing outside the grim-looking walls of the gaol to indicate that on the inside the tragedy of, two misguided, misspent lives was about to come to a sharp and awful conclusion.
A period of only 35 seconds elapsed from the time the men left the condemned cell till the bolts were drawn, death in each case being instantaneous.
Kennedy hobbled, or it would; be more correct to say that he danced, on to the scaffold, and, as he turned and faced those present, he laughed somewhat hysterically, though his voice was firm enough when he exclaimed: ” Good-bye, boys.”
Franz showed unmistakable traces of fear. His legs trembled, and his face twitched nervously. As the hangman adjusted the caps over the eyes of the men, his lips moved as if he was about to say something, but the bolt was withdrawn, and both men died instantly.
At the conclusion of the trial, and after sentence of death had been pronounced, the condemned man Kennedy turned to Franz and said, ” I’m satisfied so long as you get the same length of rope as I do.” Since then there had been a strong feeling of antagonism between the pair, but prior to the execution the men were brought together, and shook hands.
Franz was a married man, with a wife and two small children. He was a native Wellington, N.S.W.. and 25 years of age.
He was a first offender.
Kennedy was a single man, a native of Peak Hill, and only 20 years of age. He has a mother and several brothers living. The murder was his first offence also.
Since their conviction both men gave little trouble. Kennedy, though, at times, would show signs of breaking down, but succeeded in maintaining his expressed determination to die gamely. However, he, as well as his confederate in crime, clung to the hope of a reprieve up till Tuesday, but the hope was shattered by the decision of the State Cabinet that day.
Franz always protested his innocence, and complained that he had not received a fair trial. He felt his position keenly, and at times would completely break down, and weep bitterly. Both men passed their time reading and writing, and eagerly accepted the spiritual ministrations offered them.
Both men saw their relatives and friends for the last time on Tuesday night. Each passed a fair night, awoke early, and partook of a light breakfast. Just prior to execution, they expressed themselves as perfectly resigned, and fully prepared to die.
Franz‘s last words before he left the cell were in regard to his wife and children. He also expressed thanks for the manner in which he had been treated by the gaol authorities.
Kennedy also expressed his thanks to the latter, and said he was prepared to accept the punishment for his crime.
The murder for which the men paid the extreme penalty of the law was described by Sir William Cullen, Chief Justice, who presided at the trial, as the most callous and cruel in the annals, of Australian crime.
On September 25, Constable George Duncan, who had only arrived at Tottenham on the day previous, arrested a friend of Kennedy’s on a charge of having used indecent language.
According to a statement made by Franz, the murder was planned at the residence of the two Kennedys, and it was agreed that the two Kennedys and Franz should visit the lockup that night, and shoot Duncan. This was done, and, an Duncan was engaged at a typewriter, he was shot twice in the body from the rifles of the men, who stood at the window, and aimed at a distance of only about 8ft. The third bullet struck a partition just above where the constable was sitting. Duncan staggered outside to the wire fence, where his dead body was found a few minutes later by residents, who were attracted by the rifle reports.
Franz was responsible for the arrest of the two Kennedys, under whose threats he alleged he was forced to participate in the deed. Franz and Roland Kennedy were tried together, and convicted, whilst Michael Joseph Kennedy, an elder brother, was tried the following day, and acquitted, the case being withdrawn from the jury by the Chief Justice, on the ground that the Crown had failed to corroborate the evidence of the accomplice, Franz.
It is a noteworthy fact that Franz was the first Informer in New South Wales to suffer the death penalty.
Both bodies were buried in the Bathurst cemetery. It is understood that the relatives of Kennedy applied for the body to be taken to Sydney for burial, but the request was refused by the authorities for certain reasons.
Previous hangings at Bathurst gaol were:- Bertie Glasson, in 1893, for murdering Mr J. W. Phillips, bank manager, Carcoar, and Miss L. Cavanafh. In 1804, Frederick Dennis, alias Paton, was hanged for shooting J. W. Hall, at Fifield.
Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934),
Thursday 10 May 1917, page 17
CONSTABLE DUNCAN’S MONUMENT.
The monument to the late Constable Duncan, which has recently been completed, forms a striking object in the local cemetery. It consists of an obelisk of granite, resting on a concrete base, inset with tiles, and rises to a height of about 12 feet.
On the face of the obelisk an inscription sets forth that ” This monument was erected by the Government of New South Wales to Constable George Joss Duncan, of Tottenham, who was treacherously shot dead in the execution of his duty on the 26th September, 1916. ”
It may, however, be mentioned that the total cost of the monument was not borne by the Government. The proceeds of the concert organised by Mrs. J. F. Allen in October last, and totalling some £13 were expended on the base and tiling on which the obelisk rests, although the monument bears on its face no reference to this contribution from the people of Parkes.
Dubbo Dispatch and Wellington Independent (NSW : 1887 – 1932),
Friday 18 May 1917, page 2
LATE CONSTABLE DUNCAN.
A Parkes correspondent says: ” The monument to the late Constable Duncan, which has recently been completed, forms a striking object in the Parkes cemetery. It consists of an obelisk of granite, resting on a concrete base, inset with tiles, and rises to a height of about 12 feet.
On the face of the obelisk an inscription sets forth that ” This monument was erected by the Government of New South Wales to Constable George Joss Duncan, of Tottenham, who was treacherously shot dead in the execution of his duty on 26th September, 1916. ”
The correspondent, however, goes on to say that £13 of the cost was contributed by the Parkes people.
Leader (Orange, NSW : 1912 – 1922),
Monday 11 June 1917, page 3
THE LATE CONSTABLE DUNCAN.
Messrs McMurtrie and Co., .monumental masons, of Summer street; have received the following letter, from the “Inspector General of Police :
” I beg to convey to you.an expression of the appreciation of this department, with regard to me manner in which you have carried out the work entrusted to you, of erecting a monument over the grave of the late Constable George Joss Duncan, at Parkes, and to thank you for the generous treatment you have given the matter in carrying out certain details beyond those originally specified,at your own expense.
Your obedient servant.
Inspector General of Police.”
Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954),
Wednesday 19 March 1919, page 8
Police and Prisons Officials DISTINGUISHED SERVICES
The Governor ( Sir Walter Davidson ) presented Imperial Service Medals to retired members of the police force and prisons department at the police depot this afternoon. Below are summaries of the official records of the services and deeds of the recipients.
SERGT. ROGER MEAGHER. — Served in the Police Force of New South Wales for over 34 years. He took a prominent part in the investigation and arrest of the offenders for the murder of Constable Duncan at Tottenham.
The Braidwood Review & District Advocate
Tuesday 3 January 1928 page 4 of 8
When Constable Ford murdered Mrs. Laws and then shot himself at Leichhardt recently, he completed a tragic triangle of death. He was the third constable who has served at Grenfell to die by violence.
Forbes Advocate (NSW : 1911 – 1954),
Tuesday 26 May 1914, page 3
FALL FROM A HORSE.
CONSTABLE DUNCAN INJURED.
A rather serious accident happened to Constable George Joss Duncan, at Bogan Gate, on Friday.
The trooper was riding a rather vicious horse, and taking fright somewhere close to Bogan Gate, the animal bolted. After a long run, the mounted trooper and horse both came to grief, and the horse, in falling, rolled over the rider.
The constable was picked up, and as he was suffering from concussion of the brain and other injuries, he was taken to Parkes Hospital, where he regained consciousness on Sunday.
Two of the first men to come to the constable’s assistance, were a pair he had locked up the previous evening for imbibing too freely.
On inquiries being made at Parkes Hospital to-day, it was gleaned that Constable Duncan is making good progress.
My name is Rob Duncan.
My Great Uncle is Constable George Joss Duncan, Tottenham. Police Honour Role 1916.
I request the support of Australian Police web site to re-examine with modern forensic science the 32 calibre bullets taken from George’s back to determine if both Roland & Michael Herbert Kennedy were actually responsible for the assassination of Mounted Constable Duncan.
This would involve a simple examination of the 1916 Trial exhibits to compare both bullets taken from Constable George Duncan’s back on either side of his spine.
If the bullets don’t match this will clearly historically prove the older brother Michael Herbert Kennedy was also responsible for my Great Uncle’s death.
Michael Herbert Kennedy was tried separately and found not guilty because his younger 20 year old brother took the wrap for him.
Frank Franz the other convicted killer was the only crown witness to ever be executed. He pleaded his innocence claiming the IWW Kennedy Brother’s threatened his life. Frank Franz fired a 38 calibre rifle whose bullet went through the window sash then embedded into far wall, not striking the Constable who was seated with his back to the closed window writing a report at 9pm.
Inspector Joseph Develin maintained till his retirement “declares the confession written by Franz was one of the most complete and honest he has ever read.”, which clearly implicates Michael Herbert Kennedy as one of the shooters.
(Please reference “Two Murders, How Inspector Develin Solved Them He retired Yesterday” , Sunday Times, 20/11/1927) for further details.
The trial exhibits were displayed in the Police Museum in 1920-1930s and are stored in there archive including window with bullet holes, winchester repeating rifles , bullets and bullet in bone fragment of my Great Uncle.
Thank-you for your comprehensive research on George’s brutal Assassination.
My family always referred to it as an Assassination not murder.
It is now considered Australia’s first Political Assassination and Australia’s first Terrorism Act Against a Police Officer.
Currently these brutal cowardly IWW union killers are being romanticised as the next Ned Kellys.
George Duncan is blamed for his own death by these IWW fantasists and his honour and sacrifice disrespected.
It is a tragic Grim’s fairytale for the Duncan family who have remained silent for 103 years.
We have never being contacted by the NSW Police for any Blue Ribbon event, memorial dedications or anniversaries.
In the early 1930’s, my Father Gordon Stewart Duncan was fostered by Sergeant Walter R. Follent , later Inspector Follent in the early 1930’s because he was George Duncan’s nephew in a Glebe Orphanage. Gordon would later serve his country as a Military Policeman in Occupational Japan at the end of WWII.
We have never been approached by any Professional Historian for the Duncan’s family viewpoint or perspective.
Current book publication of this topic ” Murder in Tottenham First Political Assassination” does not even include a picture of a uniformed Constable Duncan or his Memorial, instead the three Murderers are featured on the front cover and within the covers again and again. It should be re-titled “Murderers in Tottenham” if ever reprinted.
This is deplorable for the Duncan family.
The NSW Police Museum website section affectionally titled “The Wobblies” referring to violent IWW is questionable. The “Murder In Tottenham” chapter fails to include a photograph of my Great Uncle, Tottenham Police Hut with bullet holed window or George’s memorial instead shows one of the Winchester Rifles used in the Assassination. Why?
This completely de-humanises this fallen Police Officer and is disrespectful to his memory.
This is disgraceful as it is offensive to the Duncan family.
A photograph of Constable George Duncan in his Mounted Constable Uniform is readily available through the National Library’s TROVE newspaper search engine. Its not rocket science.
George lasted three days at Tottenham in September 1916. He was ordered to single handedly restore law and order to this isolated copper mining town and arrest control from the IWW Union thugs during WWI.
George deserves to be awarded a posthumous Bravery Award in my opinion.
He was a well respected 25 year old Constable with three years of service before his horrific death.
The Tottenham Outrage is now often referred to as “Ned Kelly’s Ghost.”
This is BULLSHIT !
I wish to stop the Romanticism of these Tottenham Cop Killers.
Looking forward to your support in my mission
Robert Stewart Duncan
29 July 2019