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“Murderer’s Hill”

Posted by on February 24, 2012

(A Waanyarra tale of Murder, Lust ?, Betrayal and Revenge)

Double Murder at Jones’ Creek

On Sunday, 29th November, 1857 while crossing the ranges between Dunolly and Jones’ Creek, William Henry Dean, (“a black man”) whilst heading for a new “rush” at Jones’ Creek he had heard about, found the bodies of two men in a water hole.

The buzzing of flies had attracted Dean to the water hole, where he discovered the bodies partly covered by dirt and a foot protruding from beneath a possum skin rug in the water near the surface.
Police Officer, John McCormack of the Camp at Dunolly, was immediately informed by Dean and they returned to the spot.

The bodies appeared to have been there for some weeks.

The Coroner, Dr. Pierce held an inquest the next day at “Old House at Home” Hotel.

Dr. Louis M. Quinlan said it appeared that the two victims had died by being struck on the back of the head by a sharp object, such as a pick.

One of the dead men, Robert Dunlop, was once a sailor. He was aged about 35, of stout build, 5ft. 10in. tall, with light reddish hair, thick beard and moustache. He had come to the colony long before the gold rush era.

Dunlop was married with two young children and lived in the area of Thomson’s store at Jones’ Creek. His wife who was expecting another child was cared for by the people on the creek.

The other victim was Hugh McLean aged about 40 years, 6ft. tall with black hair, whiskers and a thin broad face. He was clothed in a blue serge shirt, moleskin trousers, pes jacket and Blucher boots. His calico cap had a hole in it, matching the hole in his head which had probably been made by a pick.

He was said to be a cultured man who was well known at the Maryborough rush where he had been known as “The walking library” on account of his learning.
Both men were buried at Dunolly.

William Henry Dean was arrested for the horrific murder, but was released because there was insufficient evidence against him.

He was again arrested when blood was found on his pick handle. He spent some weeks in gaol before suddenly remembering that he had taken the pick into the butcher’s shop in Dunolly—a story corroborated by the butcher. He was again released.

Samuel Dryden, John Anderson, Thomas Dearling and Robert Jones were arrested in Tarnagulla on Friday February 5th. 1858 by Detectives Williams and Randall and were taken to Carisbrook where they appeared at the Criminal Sessions Court on March 5th. charged with the murders.

The police however were unable to produce any real evidence against them and they were released on March 16th. to the cheers of their friends, and much criticism of Her Majesty’s Police Force!
In December 1858 a man named Charles Dunbeer came to the Carisbrook Police and confessed to taking part in the double murder.

Dunbeer implicated his cohorts Bill Brown, Job Neil and MaryAnn (Polly) Dodd saying he was tricked into committing the crime, believing that the two men had a large nugget.

“Polly” had been his girl, but had left him after the murders because of their frequent and violent rows. She had told him that she was going to her sister in Sydney, but he had found out that she had taken up with Neil

Dunbeer wanted to seek revenge on “Polly” and Neil who had “gone off together” after the crime.
He said he wanted to bring them to justice.

Dunbeer’s story was believed, and ‘Polly’ was arrested in Dunolly. She now had a new-born baby. At the time of the crime she was aged 28, and had two children, one of whom died before the arrest.
Job Neil was arrested at Pleasant Creek.

Bill Brown managed to elude capture and was never brought to trial.

Their trial began in Dunolly in February 1859 before Captain Murray, W.C.Day and Henry O’Brien Daly, and resumed at Castlemaine General Sessions on 30th June, 1859. Surprisingly, Dunbeer denied he had confessed to the crime and that he had implicated the others.

This complete reversal turned the court into chaos. There was a state of confusion, the judges were incensed, and said Dunbeer was a case for Yarra Bend (insane asylum).

Neil denied he was in Dunolly at the time of the murders and “Polly” and her sister Mrs Unwin (who was the keeper of a shanty on Sporting Flat) admitted that their original evidence was false. Mr Unwin apparently went to pieces in the witness box in having to deny his original evidence supporting his wife and “Polly” and said many foolish things.

The case laboured on with much lurid and contradictory evidence of what went on in the Sporting Flat and Jones’ Creek shanties.

During the confused and contradictory evidence given in this case, mention was made that the murdered men were ambushed not far from Boan’s shanty (later to become the “White Swan” hotel) on the Dunolly road.

The Unwins were charged with perjury and acquitted.

Neil was acquitted and released in July, 1859.

He returned to Kangaroo Reef where he was welcomed with the news that the dividends being paid by the reef were substantial.

Mary Ann Dodd was to be released from the Castlemaine Gaol, but unfortunately she encountered Dunbeer in the corridor of the gaol beforehand. She was walking there with her two children when Dunbeer saw her and asked permission to speak to her.

Immediately he came close to her he viciously bit off her nose.

Dunbeer was charged for this offence and was sentenced to three years gaol on August 31st 1859—his plea of insanity having failed.

The area where this shocking double murder took place was named “MURDERER’S HILL”, the name it carries to this day.

Read contemporary newspaper reports of the murder.

8 Responses to “Murderer’s Hill”

  1. Danae Callister

    My husband’s grandfather was William callister son of William Crellin callister, miner of Jones Creek and Mary Dunlop, previously married to Robert Dunlop who was murdered in the area. William and Mary did marry in 1877 but sadly in the following two years they both died. Their children William b 1866 and Edwin b 1870 (but no birth record as yet) were found neglected in 1879 by a local farmer and handed to authorities. The two boys ended up as state wards in Melbourne.
    I cannot find a trace of Edwin at all except in state care.
    Any suggestions on research or any additional information would be welcome.
    Kind regards

  2. Beverley Compagnoni

    I drive past Murders Hill at least once a week…I have always wondered what the sign was for. Thanks for this article!

  3. Richard Desmond

    Danae. My great great g’mother was Mary Ann Dodd. I would be interested to know of the life of Mary Dunlop.

    • Cheryl

      Hi Richard,
      After Mary’s husband Robert Dunlop was murdered Mary had a relationship with Thomas Comrie. They had one daughter Janet Comrie who was adopted by Ann Johnston. Janet died from Diptheria aged 8 years. Thomas married and went on to have a family. He was a well known identity in Waanyarra. Mary met and had 2 sons to William Callister. William and Mary married a few months before William died. Mary died a few months later aged 50 years. Their 2 sons were found waundering the streets and were made Wards of the State.

    • Maxene Callister-McHardy

      Hello Richard, I am Danae’s sister in law and gggrandaughter to Mary Guthrie/Dunlop/Callister. We have been researching our family trees and swap information often. Mary G Guthrie was born in 1831 in Paisley, Renfrewshire, her father, John, was 32, and her mother, Mary, was 31. she came to Australia on 20 December 1848 Arrived in Victoria on board the ship “Waverly” and her occupation was listed as a house servant, she was 17. went on to Sydney, not sure of her history there. Mary G Guthrie married Robert Campbell Dunlop in Sydney, New South Wales, on 7 December 1852 when she was 21 years old, they had two children together. Robert Dunlop was murdered and she was alone with two girls. She also had one daughter with Thomas Comrie. later she married William Crellin Callister (my gggrandfather) and they had two sons (my ggrandfather and great uncle) together. She died on 4 June 1878 from heart disease in Waanyarra, Victoria, at the age of 47, and was buried there. William Crellin Callister is also buried at the Waanyarra Cemetery.

    • Cheryl Clark

      Hi Richard,
      Wondered if you heard from Danae Callister regarding Mary Dunlop and your Gr Gr G mother Mary Ann Dodd. I am also related to Mary and William Callister.

  4. John Martin

    My ggg grandfather was Job Neil (Neild), he died in Moyston and buried there but his two wives did not survive him and he brought up his children, one being admitted to the Ararat Asylum suffering from fits. Two of Job’s daughters are my gg grandmother and g grandmother, both living in Dunolly but moving to other parts of Victoria before dying. The sign “Murder’s Hill” has been stolen a number of times and is now on the opposite side of the road.

  5. Andres w Machado

    This is an epic story to share on a camp trip to the area. Thanks so much for writing it up.

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