Perils of the Police – 1903 article

From the New Zealand National Library Archives –


Wanganui Herald, Volume XXXVII, Issue 11010,

28 July 1903, Page 7
* Taking their Lives in their Hands
Long List of Fatalities.

The execution of Digby Grand and Henry Jones in Sydney the other day for the murder of Constable Long at Auburn a few months previously gives a sad interest to the subjoined list of New South Wales policemen who have either been killed or seriously wounded by desperate criminals while endeavouring to preserve the public peace. When bushranging was rife many constables lost their lives in endeavouring to rid the country of its human pest.

Sergeant MaGinnity was shot dead by Morgan at Tumberumba on June 24, 1864;

Senior-sergeant Smyth was shot dead by the same miscreant on September , 1864, near Kyambra;

Sergeant Parry was killed by bushrangers who had stuck up the mail from Gundagai to Yass, on November 15, 1864;

Constable Samuel Nelson was shot dead by Dunn at Collector, on January 27, 1863; and

Constable McHale was seriously wounded by Dunn when the bushranger was captured at Marthaguy Creek, on December 14, 1865.

Morgan was himself shot near Wangaratta (Victoria), while Dunn was executed at Sydney on March 19, 1866.

A particularly brave single-handed attack upon its party of bushrangers at Nerringundah on April 9, 1866 by a young constable named Miles O’Grady, led to the policeman being shot dead by Clark and Connell, two of the gang.

On 3 February, 1865 Senior-constable John Ward was shot dead by a Chinaman in Denison Town.

Constable Raymond on April 14, 1866 was shot dead by James Crookwell, a prisoner of Berrima Gaol, who with 10 others made a desperate attempt to escape. Crookwell was hanged at Sydney on the following July 2.

At Binnie Creek, a few miles from Cowra, Sergeant Sutherland was shot dead by two armed men on May 1, 1872.

In the Warren district, on September 20, 1878 Senior-sergeant Thomas Wallings was shot by Thomas Law, alias “Midnight,” who was himself pursued and shot by Constables Hatton and Gray.

Constable Bowen was shot dead by an armed gang, which stuck up the Wantabadgery Inn on November 16, 1879.

On March 12, 1885, two prisoners named Angel and Thurston, in Coonamble gaol shot Constable John Mitchell, the gaoler, and effected their escape. The offenders stuck up a store Slashers Flat, near Gulong in which Constables McKinlay and Day were awaiting them. They shot Charles Stewart, the storekeeper dead, but were themselves both shot by the police.

On August 13, 1885, Constable William Hird stopped two men at Canterbury, near Sydney early in the morning and interrogated them as to the contents of a parcel they were carrying. One of the men struck Hird with an axe and killed him. One of the pair was sentenced to imprisonment for life and the other to 15 years.

Sergeant Beatty of Penrith was stabbed to death in February, 1890 by a native of India. He also stabbed John Zahnliter who endevoured to apprehend him and save Beatty. The Indian was shot by Constable Mosdey.

On August 6, 1898, Constable McLean of Liverpool, had two men in custody; one of them, George Peisley, fired at the policeman (shooting him) and escaped, but was recaptured after a prolonged hunt in the bush, and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. ( Pursued by Police around Oatley, Mortdale and shooting to avoid apprehension. Eventually arrested at Arncliffe ).

Among the more important of recent cases are those of the late Constable David Sutherland shot by a burglar named James Morrison, in Rockwall Street, Potts Point, early on June 3, 1889;

Constable Slater, shot in the shoulder and thigh by burglar three weeks later;

Constable Pearce, shot in the shoulder while endeavouring to arrest a man in the grounds of Mr Oxbenham’s residence at Randwick on June 7, 1897;

Constable (now Detective) E.G. Ward, shot in the head by a man whose object, was to rescue a prisoner in Oxford Street, city, on October 22, 1900;

and the brutal murder by George Shaw, the coiner, in Shepherd Street Redfern, on July 19, 1902 of Constable Denis Guilfoyle, which occasioned a great sensation, owing to the escape of Shaw and his companion.

Constable Sutherland, who was only 28 years of age, was on duty in Rockwell Street at about 2.30 on the morning of June 3, 1883 ( 1889? ), when he saw Morrison, a noted burglar, slip out of a yard and walk hurriedly away. The constable, as Morrison would not stop, caught hold of him and the two fell to the ground. As they were struggling, the criminal drew a revolver and shot Sutherland in the groin. The dying constable struck him over the eye with his baton, inflicting a serious wound ; but Morrison, after firing another shot escaped, and throwing the weapon into a garden, ran down to Victoria Street where blood-stained and excited, he attracted the attention of Sergeant Hogan (now of Burwood) and Senior-constable Robinson, who arrested him. Constable Sutherland died some hours later in Sydney Hospital and Morrison was subsequently executed at Darlinghurst Gaol.

Mr Justice Stephen was awakened between 1 and 2 a.m. on June 25, 1889, by hearing two shots fired in his garden at Paddington. The judge ran out and discovered Constable Henry A Slater in his garden in the pouring rain, fainting from weakness and shot in two places, the shoulder and the thigh. Slater had seen a man entering the place, and endeavoured to arrest him, when two other men sprang out of the darkness, one of whom struck him on the head with a tomahawk, and the other fired at him. A tomahawk was found with a revolver, of which two chambers had recently been discharged. Slater recovered. Two men were arrested, and twice tried in connection with the affair, but they were not convicted.

The man who shot Constable Pearce was never discovered ;

but the assailant of Constable Ward received a sentence of seven years hard labour for his crime. Ward recovered, the bullet having only grazed his skull. This officer (says the Sydney Evening News) was one of the party that arrested Digby Grand.