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Murphy Family: An Unsolved Murder Case

The Murphy family made up of Mary Murphy (mother), Daniel Senior (father), and their 10 children, owned a farm at Blackfellow’s Creek. An area, 8 miles from the town of Gatton. Gatton was a small town, having only 449 people living there in 1901. Now, the town is slightly larger, having 5295 people living there.

The Murder Of Murghy:

On the 26th of December 1898, 29-year-old Michael Murphy, who was home for the holidays, borrowed a one-horse sulky cart from his brother-in-law William M’Neill to take his sisters Norah, 27. And Ellen, 19, to dance in the town of Gatton. However, before the trio came to the dance, Michael received word. That it had been canceled, so he turned the cart around and started to head home. No one arrived home alive. When the Murphy family awoke the next morning, they found that Michael, Norah, and Ellen were missing. So O’Neil set out to look for them. Once he found the distinctive tracks from his sulky cart he followed them and a grizzly scene lay before him. Michael and Norah lay back-to-back, within 2 feet from each other.

Norah lay in the same east/west orientation, on a neatly spread rug, 28 feet to the east. Forming a triangle, the sulky faced to the south, 17.5 feet from Michael and 36 feet away from Norah. The horse had been shot in the head and still lay between the shafts of the cart. The legs were arranged with the feet pointing west. O’Neil contacted the acting sergeant; William Arrell, who arranged for police to attend the crime scene. There were many delays. With the interrogating officers not arriving at the scene until 48 hours after the bodies were found.

The Autopsy Of Murphy Family:

Source: Wikipedia

Once the police finally arrived, the corpses were moved to ert’s hotel, and around 4 pm Dr. Von Lossberg arrived and began the autopsy around 4-5 pm. Michael had been struck with a blunt instrument on the right side of the head. Ellen had her skull fractured by blows to the left side of her head. Given the wounds and position of the bodies when they were found, indicating that Michael and Ellen were sitting upright and back to back when killed. Norah had also been hit on the left side of her head, which fractured her skull so much that her brain was protruding. Norah also had a harness strap tied around her neck, tight enough to have caused her death. It is alleged that both Ellen and Norah were raped.

In the absence of semen, based on the evidence of Sergeant Arrell that he found a pool of blood, which turned the soil to mud and stuck to the bottom of the rug on which Norah was found, it seems that both Ellen and Norah were rapped with the brass-mounted handle of a whip. Police were never able to find the whip.

Michael’s Purse:

O’Neil confirmed that even though Michael’s hands were not wrapped when he first arrived at the scene. It did appear as though his hands had been tied behind his baccarat at t t k some point, with one hand holding an open purse. This was possibly untrue since all other witnesses testified that Michael’s hands were not tied. But that a breeching strap lay nearby, with the empty purse lying a short distance away. When Michael’s body was moved, around 1:30 pm. He was now found to have the breeching belt between his untied hands, with the empty purse held in one hand. There were originally 15 shillings in the purse and it has never been clarified to take the money.

Exhumation and Contradictions:

The original postmortem was performed by Dr. Von Lossberg and supervised by Sergeant Arrell. From the accounts from people who had seen the bodies, Chief Inspector Stuart inferred that Michael had been shot in the head. But this had not been found by Dr. Lossberg, despite many claims that he had been asked to look for a bullet. Chief Inspector Stuart ordered that all three bodies be exhumed at it was then found. That the first autopsy had been no more than superficial analyses. Even though the decomposition of the corpses was now advanced it was found that Michael had been shot in the right side of the head. And then struck in the same spot with a blunt object. So that the later wound partially hid the bullet hole. The bullet was then removed from the head.

Failure of the Police Investigation:

William O’Neil contacted Sergeant Arrel at 9:15 am on December 27th. Both of the men went to the scene of the crime and stayed there for 30 minutes before the Sergeant returned to the tow of Gatton to deliver a telegram to the Commissioner of Police. Sergeant Ariel took no notes while at the scene, did not take any action to protect the scene, and did not bother to interview anyone who was already at the scene. When Sergeant Arrel got to Gatton, he requested that the telegram be marked as “urgent”, only to be informed that the police had no authority to send urgent telegrams. This was considered untrue, and Arrel was later chastised for not knowing that he had the authority and waiting for a reply to be sent to him.

The telegram was delivered to the Brisbane Police Headquarters at 12:52 pm, however since it was a holiday, it was not opened until 9 am the following morning, December 28th. Sergeant Arrel then delegated Thomas Wilson, a magistrate, and William Devitt to look after the crime scene while he went to Gatton, but the two men did not do the duty assigned to them which allowed the crime scene to be contaminated.

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