The Execution of Jackie Underwood 1901.
Jackie Underwood was one of the perpetrators of a crime known as the Breelong massacre that occurred on the night of the 20th July, 1900.
The story of will of the Breelong massacre sound strangely familiar as it has been immortalised in the fictionalised novel and film, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith.
Jimmy Blacksmith’s real surname was Governor, he had a fencing contract with a man named John Mawbey at farm called Breelong, near Gilgandra in Western New South Wales.
Governor in turn sub contracted the work to some of his family and friends. One of them being a man named Jackie Underwood, sometime known as Charlie Brown.
Jimmy had been insulted by reports from Ethel, that Mrs Mawbey and Helen Josephine Kerz, a schoolteacher who lived with the Mawbeys, had taunted his wife for marrying Aboriginal.
On the night of 20 July 1900, accompanied by Underwood, Governor confronted the women, who were alone in the house with seven children and Mrs Mawbey’s 18-year-old sister Elsie Clarke. Jimmy alleged that the women laughed at him and Helen Kerz said: ‘Pooh, you black rubbish, you want shooting for marrying a white woman’.
Jimmy’s reaction was disproportionate to the insults on the day, but he snapped as he had no doubt that this type of insult about him was rife. The cumulative effect of the racism he had endured is an often put up theory as to what initiated the massacre at Breelong, the same could be said for Jackie Underwood’s and explain Jackie Underwood’s actions/reactions at the house that night.
Jimmy Governor and Jackie Underwood, with nulla-nullas and tomahawk, killed Mrs Grace Mawbey, Helen Kerz, and Grace (16), Percival (14) and Hilda Mawbey (11); Elsie Clarke was seriously injured. Undeerwood was attributed as the killer of Percival Mawbey.
Underwood was quickly caught and held at Dubbo for his trial and hanging.
Jimmy Governor and his brother Joe Governor, continued to rampage, terrorizing a wide area of north-central New South Wales for the next fourteen weeks. Seeking revenge on persons who had wronged them, they killed Alexander McKay near Ulan on 23 July, Elizabeth O’Brien and her baby son at Poggie, near Merriwa, on 24 July, and Keiran Fitzpatrick near Wollar, on 26 July.
After some robberies in the North of the state, they moved onto the Manning and Hastings rivers, pursued by black trackers brought down from Queeensland, bloodhounds and hundreds of police and civilians.
On 8 October the NSW Government offered a reward of £1000 each for their capture.
Jimmy was shot in the mouth by Herbert Byers, a hunter, on 13 October1900; in a weakened condition he was captured by a party of settlers, near Wingham, on 27 October 1900.
Joe was shot dead, north of Singleton on 31 October. They had been outlawed on 23 October 1900.
Underwood was executed on the 14th January1901, in the Dubbo gaol four days later, Jimmy Governor was hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol on 18 January 1901 and buried in an unmarked grave in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery.
THE CRIME AT BREELONG
26 July 1900
The Breelong Murders
The whole of the Great West is up in arms in consequence of the murders perpetrated by Blacks in the Breelong district on Friday night last. Another murder was committed 20 miles from Mudgee on Monday. a man named Mackay being killed and his wife injured; and a woman and child were butchered to death 13 miles around Merriwee, near the Goulburn River, There seems some ground for the belief that word has passed around among the blacks to massacre different families in widely separated localities at about the same time.
Jacky Underwood, one of the participants in the outrages on the Mawbey family at Breelong, was captured on Tuesday night. Only the two aboriginals named Governor are now at large.
28 July 1900
THE BREELONG MURDERS.
Albert Mawbey, stated : I am 9 years old, I canread and write a little; I am the son of John Mawbey, and reside at Breelong ; last Friday night went to bed at about half-past 8 in the back bed-room ; Jack Mawbey, whose proper name is George Mawbey, went to bed with me ; I think I was asleep, when I was awoke by the voice of a black fellow singing out, ‘I will blow your brains out, and stamping his feet; I jumped out of bed and came out of the door, and saw a black fellow standing in the middle of the sitting-room ; he was big and tall; I saw no head ; he had trousers and shirt on ; I don’t know his name, and never saw him before ; he was belting into Percy, hitting him with a rifle or a stick ; I don’t know rightly what it was; it was dark, but there was a little light from the fire; there was no candle burning ; Percy was on the floor lying down ; he hit Percy 10 or 13times; I was frightened, and ran out over the creek and hid in some bushes for about 10 minutes ; I then heard screams coming from the house ; I saw no other black fellow except the one belting Percy; I then ran on to our old house, to my father and Fred Clarke and Reggie Mawbey, my brother ; I said ‘A black fellow is killing Percy,’ and father ran up to this house, where Percy was being killed ; Reg and Fred ran after him, Reg took his rifle ; I saw no more ; I know Jim Governor, who lives at the camp, about three miles away ; the black fellowI saw was not like Jimmy Governor ; I did not see my mother when the black fellow was hitting Percy ; I heard her screaming in her bedroom; Miss Clarke was also sleeping in hers ; I did not see her; My sisters, Hilda and Grace Mawbey, were also sleeping in the room with my mother ;Miss Kerz also slept in the room ; Cecil and Garnet aged 7 and 4, slept in the kitchen ; Percy usually slept in my bedroom in the same bed.
George Mawbey, called also Jack, said : I am 13years ; I am the son of George Mawbey, and live at the house at Breelong with my uncle, John Mawbey ; I remember last Friday night; I went to bed about 7 or 8 with Bert and Percy ; we had undressed, and all got into bed ; we were lying in bed talking; I am sure I did not go to sleep ; Mrs Mawbey always sleeps in the kitchen with uncle, also Garnet and Cecil sleep there; I heard Mrs Mawbey say,’ Oh, there’s a black fellow, he has hit me on the head with a brick ;’ she was screaming this out; Percy ran out of the room ; I lay in bed for a minute and then heard Mrs Mawbey and the girls screaming ; I ran out and saw a black fellow near the back bedroom door ; he was stooping down, watching Percy; I heard another black-fellows voice outside the house; it was Jimmy Governor’s voice, I am quite sure ; I know it well; I have met Jimmy Governor a dozen times, perhaps more, and have had a good long talk with him ;Jimmy Governor said ‘ Go on, Jacky, don’t take no notice of them ; dash out their — brains ; I have had enough of them ;’ I was frightened and ran past Percy into the front bedroom, but the door was fastened ; afterwards they let us in, and Percy was standing looking towards the back of the house with something in his hand, and saying to the black fellow whom I saw first, and whom I think to be Jacky ; ‘What is it you want ?’ Percy said this several times, and then his voice stopped ;after he screamed I got into the front bedroom, and got under the bed; I heard the sound of blows coming from the sitting-room ; I heard a black-fellow, but which one I don’t know, say ‘ There’s another one about somewhere;’ I then heard a body fall on the floor; I think it was Elsie Clarke ;there was a barefooted black fellow in the bedroom ;I heard a sound as if he was picking up axes or tomahawks; then very shortly I heard Reggie coming in with his rifle; I then heard Jimmy Governor sing out before Reggie came,’ Come on, Jack, come on;’ I came from underneath, the bed, and saw Reggie standing with a lighted match crying and holding his rifle ; Reggie said ‘ Oh, here’s poor little Jack,’ meaning me ; Reggie and I left the house after uncle came in and went from the front of the house towards the creek, and found Miss Kerz this side of the creek, lying dead ; Uncle and Reggie carried her up to the house ; some time after I saw uncle bring Hilda’s body in ;about two weeks ago I went to the blacks’ camp, about three miles from here ; I saw Jimmy Governor and two other bleak fellows; the black-fellow in custody was not there ; I also saw a white woman, Jimmy’s wife ; I have seen the black fellow Jack Porter outside the court; I don’t think he was one of the two blacks I saw with Jimmy Governor at the camp; I was under the bed when the bedroom door was smashed in ;when I came out from under the bed the window was open ; after I got into the bedroom I heard somebody smashing in the door.”
John Thomas Mawbey, of Breelong, said : I identify the four bodies as those of Miss Kerz, Hilda, Grace, and Percy Mawbey ; the last three mentioned are my children; Helen J Kens was a teacher at the public school at Breelong : she lived with us as a border ; I last saw the deceased alive at midday on Friday last; she was sleeping at my old building; about 11 p.m. last Friday Jimmy Governor, a three-quarter aboriginal, and another man, I don’t know whether white or black, came to within eight or nine feet of the back door and sang out, ‘ Anyone there ?’ I said, ‘ Hullo there, who’s that ?’ Jimmy Governor said,’ It’s me, will you bring me up a bag of flour in the morning?’I had just gone to bed; I replied, ‘I will bring it up in the morning or sometime to-morrow;’ I had opened the door and gone out them ; he said, ‘All right;’ I said, ‘You had better come in and have a warm;’ he said, ‘We won’t come in, we will get home ;’ they went away and I went to bed ; about20 minutes or half an hour afterwards my son Bertie came running, and said ‘ Jimmy Governor has shot Percy and is killing him on the floor; jumped up, put my boots on unlaced, and called Reg. and Fred. Clarke to bring their rifles; I ran on, and they overtook me before I got to the house ;after crossing the creek we heard someone calling out, and we ran up and found my daughter Grace and Miss Kerz close together on this side of the creek; I picked Grace up; she never spoke, but only groaned ; I brought her in through the backdoor, and saw Mrs Mawbey lying across Percy’s face just inside the sitting-room near the back door ;I shifted Mrs Mawbey and put her on pillows ; I thought she was dead ; I sent Fred at once for the doctor and the police; Reggie, I, and little Jack went and got Miss Kerz ; I then stationed Reggie in tbe fireplace, and lighted the lamp on the table and opened the back door ; I told Reggie if he saw any black fellows, to let them come in first and then shoot them ; I then went in search of Hilda; in half an hour I found her in the creek dead ; I could not carry her; I came up to the house and got Reggie; I heard a noise in the bush, and would not let Reggie go out; I then went and carried Hilda into the house, and ran into the bedroom off the kitchen, where my wife and two little fellows and I usually sleep, and found them fast asleep; I then went to old Johnny Owen, who was camped over the creek, and got him to go for Julias Auber, who was camped a little higher up ; they came, and I then covered the bodies up; Miss Kerz, Hilda, and Percy ware dead ; Elsie Clarke was lying in her bed in the front bedroom groaning, and was badly wounded and covered with blood ; Mrs Mawbey was terribly wounded and unconscious; Grace was wounded in the forehead, and groaning ; as soon as I saw the wounds I was sure that they were not shot wounds; Grace never recovered consciousness, and died on Sunday morning ; Mrs Mawbey is still living, but frightfully injured ; Elsie Clark is still alive, but unconscious ;my wife knew me on Sunday when I came home, but was too low for me to question her; Jimmy Governor had a contract for splitting, and erecting a fence for me; he had other blacks working for him ; one was his brother, Joe Governor, a three-quarter caste; another was Jack Underwood, a full-blood black fellow, and another named Jacky Porter, who came from Dubbo ; there was a little black boy named Peter; Jimmy Governor’s wife (Ethel Page) is legally married to him ; she has a little baby ; I never saw any other blacks but these mentioned as being in camp; there was no bad feeling existing between me and Jimmy Governor, but I had to condemn about 100of his posts about a fortnight ago; I said ‘I will condemn those posts he said ‘Will you allow me half-price for them ?’ I said ‘ All right, they will do for a cross fence ;’ that was the only affair in the shape of a grievance that he could have; he wanted money, but I told him I would give it to him as soon as he had it coming to him ; I have no reason for supposing they had any grounds of enmity against me and my family ; Governor always got everything be wanted in the way of rations ; I have never seen Jimmy Governor drunk, ‘nor have I known him to be drunk; I have never known a drop of grog to come into the camp ; I am quite positive that he was sober that night; he never showed violent temper, nor was he of a quarrelsome disposition ; the boys Percy and Reggie had heard Jimmy Governor say he would like to be a bushranger, as no police would ever catch him ; he was making about 5s a day when he was working; he spent a lot of time catching rats and ‘possums to eat ; I believe Mrs Mawbey told Mrs Governor that Jimmy was not to come about the place ; I have never refused Jimmy or his wife rations or tobacco ; they had plenty of flour, tea, and sugar; I was not aware of any money being in the house on Friday last; I have not missed anything ; all the blacks in the camp have boots except Jackey Porter ; it was very dark ,when they came to me ; I could not see anything in their hands ; I slept at the old house that night, because we were sacking wheat, and it was very late; my family knew I would not be home; I often sleep there when I am busy ; Reggy or Percy always sleep here: Percy always brings his rifle to this house, but forgot it last Friday and left it at the old place ; the blacks could not have known that; Jimmy Governor had an old rifle, and wanted to sell it to my boy; he also had a tomahawk similar to the one produced ; it is a peculiar make, and rather uncommon in shape ; Jimmy said he bought it; I cannot swear positively that the tomahawk in the possession of Constable Berry is the same as that I saw in Jimmy Governor’s hand, but I believe it to be the same; I never saw a tomahawk like it before ; I don’t think it has the same handle that I saw ; we heard no screams as we ran up to the house on Friday night; I know of no other aboriginals within 30 miles ; Jacky Porter came here about a fortnight ago; Jimmy was the leader and head man of the camp ; I have not been in camp since Joe Governor and the others came, but I was there when Jimmy was about; I did not see any aboriginal weapons.
Mrs Governor stated : My name is Ethel Governor, am married, and wife of James Governor, a half-blooded aboriginal; I reside three miles from Breelong, up the creek ; I am willing to give all the evidence I know about the crime ; I remember last Friday night, and was in the camp with my husband, also Joe Governor, Jack Underwood, and Jacky Porter, and a little blackboy, Peter Governor, who is Jim Governor’s sister’s son ; at tea time I and my husband quarrelled because he thought me and his brother Joe were sweet with each other; Jimmy said he would leave me, and the others could do the fencing if Mawbey liked to give it to them ; Jimmy bid good-bye to Jack Porter and Joe and went away at 10 at night, accompanied by Jack Underwood ; Jimmy said ‘ We are going down to Mr Mawbey’s, we will see them ;’ they went in the direction of Mawbay’s ; Joe, Jacky, Peter and I stayed in camp ; they came back in about an hour ; Jimmy came back by himself, he had the nulla nulla and the blanket with him which he had taken away with him; Jack Underwood had a 44 calibre Winchester 16-shot repeating rifle and a tomahawk when he went away with Jimmy ; shortly after Jimmy came back, Jack Underwood came back with the rifle and the tomahawk ; when Jimmy came back he said to me and Joe Governor and Jacky Porter, ‘Now all will have to go from the camp to-night, because Mr Mawbey and the others are close behind us. We have killed all the women and one boy. Joe, you will have to come with me or I will take your life ; he turned and told Jack Porter and said ‘You can go to the Wollar and get mother and all the children, take them to Redbank’ (that is a darkies’ mission near Coonamble) ; He finished speaking and then immediately Jack Underwood came back ; he said ‘ I heard Mr Mawbey coming up from the old place ;crying out, “Jimmy Governor, you black wretch,” then I ran out of the house and sang out for you’ (James Governor) ; Jack said ‘ I have killed three of them with the tomahawk, Mrs Mawbey and Percy Mawbey are not quite dead, and I killed the girl; he did not say which girl: Jimmy Governor said ‘ When the three women jumped out of the window and ran I ran after them and hit them ; it was half way between the house and the creek ; I don’t know why Jimmy and Jacky Governor went to Mawbey’s, except that Jimmy had a grudge against Mrs Mawbey for a few shillings that she made him pay for rations, when she made up the bill about two months ago ; Jimmy complained to me that Mrs Mawbey made out that he (Jimmy) owed more than he really did ; he said ‘Mrs Mawbey is a swindler;’ that’s why I judge Jimmy had a grudge against her; Jimmy never accused me with being familiar with any of the Mawbey boys, only with Joe Governor ; I was married to Jimmy Governor at the Church of England, Gulgong, about 19 months ago ;about two months after Jimmy said to me ‘ I will be a bushranger before long ;’ he had been reading about bushrangers before I married him when he was tracker in the Cassilis police ; I am 18 years old ; Mrs Mawbey was always kind to me and Jimmy ; Jimmy never threatened to injure any of the Mawbeys ; I forgot to say, after Jack Under- wood came back to the camp last Friday night Jimmy said—speaking to all of us—’Jack was too slow for me, or we would have killed Mr Mawbey and all the others down at the old place ; When Jacky Underwood and Jimmy went away to Mawbey’s Jimmy had empty cartridges capped, but no powder in them ; He had loose bullets in his pockets ; I saw Jimmy taking all that there was; Jack Underwood had no cartridges ; there was no powder in the camp at all; that’s why the shells were not filled ; no other black fellows have been near the camp the whole time we have been camped there, for about four months; the blacks in our camp never said to me they had met any other when out in the bush ; Jimmy also told us all at the camp, when he and Jack Underwood came back from Mawbey’s, that the police would be at the camp that night and watch it, and if we did not go away they would arrest us, because they knew he did it ; in about a quarter of an hour from the time Jimmy and Jacky Underwood came from Mawbey’s we all left the camp together at about half-past 11, as far as I could guess, some time before the moon rose ; all went ; towards sunrise Jimmy was ahead of me, and Joe and Jack Underwood and Jacky Porter behind ; in about a mile and a half Jimmy killed with a nulla a dog of Jacky Porter’s, because it was barking, and made a fire where the dog was killed ; Jimmy said to me ‘ You go away to Dubbo, you know which way to go—go across the gully and this pine hill, follow the flat to the dam ; you will come to the creek, follow the creek and you will get to the road ; you will know where you are then ; you can’t keep up with us and I don’t want you with me, or they will say you were in it too ; we are going to Merrygoon, then to Digilah, then to Wollar;’ Jimmy said ‘ Iam going to Wollar to kill the other blacks—old Jimmy Coombe, and Eliza, and Kitty and Molly, but not my own’—meaning his own mother and brothers and sisters. Jimmy said he would get ammunition from the kangaroo shooters at Wollar he said ‘ We will watch the hut, see the men away, and then go down and take all the ammunition and food, and then we will go out into the mountains and stay; we will go round and get into the point and watch the police, and all that comes underneath, and we will kill them all;’ I would know the ‘tomahawk ; it has a yarran handle ; the one shown me by Constable Berry is Jimmy’s ; Joe made the handle of green yarran ;Jimmy has had the tomahawk nine weeks; he got it from Sam Ellis, a Mudgee hawker, at our camp ;I have often used it ; I am sure it is his ; it has marks where he put ridges and nails in the back of it ; it has a mark on the blade where Joe Governor threw it at a bird, missed it, and it struck a stone ; Jimmy ‘took the tomahawk when we all left the camp last Friday night ; the yarran stick produced was made by Jacky Porter and belonged to him; Jimmy or Jacky Underwood could have taken the stick from Porter’s gunyah that night ; Jacky Porter has been a fortnight in the camp ; Jacky Underwood had no hat on when he came back from Mawbey’s that night ; I would know it again; it is a straw hat with a red band ; the hat produced is his hat; Jimmy’s nulla had a long point; the wood was not very dark, and there was a little white wood on the knob ; Jimmy and Jacky told me they ran all the way back from Mawbey’s; I have given all the evidence quite freely because people’s lives are in danger from these two men; Jimmy Governor and Jacky Underwood and I would not like to see Joe Governor and Jacky Porter punished for nothing when they had no hand in it; the police have not offered any reward, nor threatened to have me punished.
Senior-constable Berry, Gilgandra, gave evidence as to finding the wounded and dead, and also to the arrest of Jacky Porter and the black boy, Peter Governor. Jacky Porter, a very old and feeble aboriginal, said : My name is Jacky Porter ; I am 80 ; my father and mother were full bloods; I have been living at the Redbank Mission, and had been at camp about a week ; the camp was Jimmy Governor’s; I remember last Friday night being in Jimmy Governor’s camp with Joe Governor; Jack Underwood (also called Jack Brow), Peter the boy, Jimmy Governor, and his missus, a white woman ;Jimmy sneaked away from camp, saying to me, ‘Well, old man, I’m going away ;’ just woke up, and saw Jack Underwood go away with a blanket,a rifle, and a tomahawk ; Jimmy carried a nulla-nulla ; it was his own, not mine ; they were away about two hours ; Jimmy came back first ; he said to all of us, ‘ Well, we better get away from here. We have been rushing Mawbey’s house, and have hit tbe girl and the boy and two more girls;’ Jimmy said, ‘ One jumped out of the window, and I hit them with a nulla-nulla ; when Underwood came back he said, ‘Me and you bushrangers now, Jack. We must go away out of this to the camp at Digilah. The police will shoot us if we stay in camp ;’ I said to Jimmy, ‘You’ll get banged now; Jimmy said, ‘I knocked down four;’ he also said, ‘ Joe, I’ll kill you. I want to take you with me. If you don’t come I’ll kill you ;’ Jimmy said to Jack Underwood when he was coming into camp, ‘I thought you got killed ;’ Jack said, ‘ You have my blanket;’ Jimmy said,’ Yes—it’s all right ;’ Jimmy said, ‘ Jacky, how many did you knock down he said, ‘ Only one;’ Jacky said, ‘ I hit the little boy with the nulla, Jacky also had a boondah ; Jack also still,’ I hit the little girl on the head ;’ Jimmy said he killed three; Joe owns the tomahawk Peter, the black boy, aged 10, saw Jimmy and Jacky go away ; Jacky had a rifle and a tomahawk Jimmy had a nulla-nulla ; Jacky had the rifle and tomahawk in his hand; when he came back Jimmy said, ‘Oh, my, uncle Joe, I killed two of the Mawbey’s girls, and Jack killed one boy;’ he said Jimmy was going to kill all the blacks at Wollar, and then go out bushranging ; he said he was going to kill old Jimmy over at that place.
The tomahawk that was picked up by Davidson and some other civilian when they fired on the two blacks at Digilah on Sunday exactly fitted in the wound in Percy Mawbey’s neck, and also fitted Grace Mawbey’s wound.
A verdict of wilful murder was returned against Jimmy Governor, Joe Governor, Jacky Underwood, Jacky Porter, and Mrs Governor.
Mrs Mawbey positively stated that she heard a woman’s voice outside while the men were striking the victims.
Joe Governor (Jimmy’s brother, younger by 2 years)
Born 1877 – Died 1900. Joined his brother and went on a murderous spree between July through to October 1900. Joe was shot and killed near Singleton late October.
Ethel Governor (Jimmy’s wife)
Was initially arrested on the evidence of the dying Mrs Mawbey who said she had heard a woman’s voice during the massacre. Ethel was pregnant by Jimmy when all this erupted and gave birth to a Daughter a couple of months after Jimmy was executed. She remarried in Wollongong to Frank Brown. She had two children to Jimmy, Sidney in April, 1899 and Violet in April, 1901. Ethel died in 1945 in Sydney and is buried at Rookwood Cemetery, Lidcombe NSW.
Jackie Porter (Jimmy’s xxx)
Also known as the Old man was initially arrested on very little evidence of being involved in the murders at Breelong, it was decided that he was far too old to have had any involvement in the massacre. His arrest was mostly for his own protection from revenge inspired vigilantes.
Peter Governor (Jimmy’s xxx)
Born 1890 Died 1921. Was an Uncle of Jimmmy Governor. Also was initially arrested on very little evidence of being involved in the murders at Breelong, this was also for his own protection from revenge inspired vigilantes. Peter was about 10 years of age at the time of the murders.
3 October 1900
Evening News Sydney
UNDERWOOD CONVICTED AND SENTENCED TO DEATH.
ETHEL GOVERNOR AND JACETPORTER DISCHARGED.
DUBBO, Wednesday.— The trial or Jacky Underwood for the murder of Percy Mawbey, at :Breelong, on July 20, was concluded in the Circult Court, before Mr. Justice Simpson, last evening.
The evidence was practically the same as that given at the inquest. Mr. Colonna Close, in his speech for the defence, admitted the accused’s presence at the house during the murders; but claimed that he was intimidated into attending, Jimmy Governor and struck the fatal blows. The dying depositions of Mrs. Mawbey, in which she clearly implicated accused, were not put in. After an hour’s deliberation by the Jury, a verdict of guilty was returned. The Judge asked the jury for an opinion as to whether the prisoner actually dealt the fatal blow, but the jury failed to agree on this point The prisoner was then sentenced to death.
During the hearing his Honor commented several times on what he regarded as the inexplicable detention of Mrs. Governor and Jacky Porter in gaol for so long a period, they presumably being innocent; and remarked, in summing up, that from the evidence there was nothing to convict Ethel Governor.
Acting under Instructions from the Attorney-General, the gaoler discharged Ethel Governor and Jacky Porter on Monday. Both stayed at the lockup of their own free will till Tuesday.
Mrs Grace Mawbey at Breelong by Jimmy Governor 20 July 1900
Hellen Kerzs (aged 21) at Breelong by Jimmy Governor 20 July 1900
Elsie Clarke (aged 18) at Breelong by Jimmy Governor 20 July 1900
Grace (aged 16) at Breelong by Jimmy Governor 20 July 1900
Percival (aged 14) at Breelong by Jackie Underwood 20 July 1900
Hilda (aged 11) at Breelong by Jimmy Governor 20 July 1900
Alexander Mackay (aged xx) at Ulan NSW by Jimmy Governor/Joe Governor
Elizabeth O’Brien (aged xx) near Merriwa by Jimmy Governor/Joe Governor
James O’Brien (aged 1 Year 3 months) near Merriwa by Jimmy Governor/Joe Governor
Elizabeth O Brien’s unborn child near Merriwa.
Keiran Fitzpatrick near Wollar, by Jimmy Governor/Joe Governor
THE CAPTURE OF JACKIE UNDERWOOD
Duram and Glouster Advertiser
27 July 1900
JACKY UNDERWOOD CAPTURED.
The third aboriginal, Jacky Underwood, connected with the Breelong murders, was captured by Mr James Hatton, late postal assistant at Mundooran, and lodged in Leadville lockup yesterday afternoon.
Duram and Glouster Advertiser
31 July 1900
Jacky Underground arrived at Mudgee oh -‘Friday at 11.45 a.m. under police escort from, Gulgong, Sergeant Harvey and Constable Dunlop bringing him in. There were about 220 people at the lock up to witness -his arrival. He is a small, wild looking man. ‘
THE TRIAL OF JACKIE UNDERWOOD
6 October 1900
Trial of Jacky Underwood.
T:ik Circuit Court opened on Tuesday at Dubbo before Judge Simpson. Mr. Pike was Crown Prosecutor. Jacky Underwood was arraigned for the murder of Percy Mawbey, at Breelong, on July ’20. Mr, Colonna-Close, assigned by the Crown, appeared for the defence.
Ethel Governor and Jacky Porter, who were committed for trial on warrants from the Coroner’s Court, were on Monday released, the Attorney-General declining to file a bill against either. At the trial on Tuesday Ethel Governor was called as the first witness against accused Underwood.
Other evidence was given by the two boys who escaped on the night of the massacre, but both deposed that they did not see accused among the assailants. Other witnesses were Senior-constable Berry, Mr. Garlin, Mr. W. H. Shaw (at whose house accused was captured), Mr. Mawbey, and Mr. W. Davidson, who fired on the blacks the day after the murders. Jacky Porter and the boy Peter were put forward by the Crown, but were unable to satisfy the Court that they understood the nature of an oath, and were withdrawn. Mr. Colonna-Close, in a speech for the defence, admitted the accused’s presence at the house during the murders, but claimed that he was intimidated into attending ,and struck no fatal blows. The dying depositions of Mrs. Mawbey, in which she clearly implicated accused, were not put in. After an hour’s deliberation by the jury, a verdict of guilty was returned. The judge asked the jury for an opinion to whether the prisoner actually dealt the fatal blow, but the jury failed to agree on this point. The prisoner was duly sentenced to death.
During the hearing his Honor commented several times on what he regarded as the inexplicable detention of Mrs. Governor and Jacky Porter in gaol for so long a period, they presumably being innocent.
THE TRIAL OF JIMMY GOVERNOR
JIMMY GOVERNOR’S TRIAL
The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 24 November 1900
THE BREELONG TRAGEDY. TRIAL OF JIMMY GOVERNOR. THE CASE FOR THE ACCUSED. VERDICT OF GUILTY. JIMMY GOVERNOR SENTENCED TO DEATH.
The trial of the aboriginal, Jimmy Governor, on a charge that he did at Breelong on July 20 last feloniously and maliciously murder Helen Josephine Kerr, was continued at the Darlinghurst Old Court yesterday before Mr. Justice Owen and a jury of 12.
Mr. G. G. Wade, Crown Prosecutor (instructed by the Crown Solicitor), conducted the case for the Crown ; Mr. F. S. Boyce (instructed by Messrs. Lane and Roberts), was the counsel assigned by the Crown for the defence.
The prisoner had pleaded not guilty (on the facts).
When the Court rose on the previous (the first) day of the trial, the Crown case had closed.
CROWN WITNESSES RECALLED.
At the request of Mr. Boyce, John Thomas Mawbey was recalled. In answer to Mr. Boyce he said he did not know whether anything was stolen from his house. He had not looked.
Did you look round the house ?- I did.
Was there anything to lead you to believe that other blacks had been about ?-Yes, I saw other tracks about.
To Mr. Wade: Blacks used to hunt opposums about the place. It was on the Sunday that the strange tracks were noticed.
Constable Berry, recalled by Mr. Wade, said that when he was following the tracks as previously described by him, he saw two tracks of persons going from the camp towards Mawbey’s, and the same two tracks going back towards the camp. That was in the grey dawn of the Saturday morning.
A juror : Did you see tracks of two men only ? Yes, of two only.
Mr. Boyce : If there was a woman there you would find some difficulty in tracking her ? No, not if she wore boots. I could not say whether any other tracks were about the house, because I did not look for them.
OPENING THE ACCUSED’S CASE.
Mr. Boyce : Your Honor, the accused desires to hand a statement to the associate to be read. He cannot read well.
The Judge : Very well.
Mr. Wade : If he can write a statement he can read one, and the law is that he may not put his evidence in writing if he can give it orally.
The Judge (with an authority before him) said that the Full Court had laid it down that in their opinion the statement of a prisoner must be given orally if it could. In view of that opinion he could not admit the statement.
Mr. Boyce : I am surprised at the Crown taking such a technical point.
The Judge : It is not a technical point ; it is the law. Such a statement might have a prejudicial effect on the mind of the jury. The Crown has not taken a technical point, but has simply pointed out to me what the law is.
Mr. Boyce : The law in England is such that your Honor has power to admit the statement. This is a case of life and death, and surely in this case where the man cannot read English and desires to make a long statement of fact be ought to be allowed to do so.
The Judge : There is no doubt good reason for the law. I do not even know who wrote this statement. It may not have been written by the prisoner. It may be a document carefully prepared by a solicitor and containing ingenious argument. This man can speak good English -as good as anyone in the Court – and if he can reduce a statement to writing he can surely speak it.
The prisoner rose to speak.
The Judge : I would have liked this statement to be taken by a shorthand writer. However, we must go on.
STATEMENT BY THE ACCUSED.
Accused said : Me and my missus had some words about the Mawbeys at the camp, and I said, “Drop it, don’t tell me no more of it, I don’t want to hear any more of that.” So she said to me, ” They rub it in , they do as they like with you.” I said to her, ” You come down and I will see about it.” So we got ready and made off – me and my wife, Joe, and Jacky Underwood. I was going down for some flour and a bag of sugar. I went down first to Mr. Mawbeys. They were in bed. so I sung out to Mr. Mawbey, ” Is Mr. Mawbey in bed ?” Mr. Mawbey said, “Yes Jimmy, we’re just about turning in.” So he came out. I said, ” Please, Mr. Mawbey, I want a bag of flour up in the morning and a bag of sugar. ” He said, ” All right, Jimmy ; I will send them up in the morning or sometime to-morrow.” He asked me inside. I said, ” No, it is getting late I must got back. ” He said, “Good-night, Jimmy,” I said, ” Good- night, Mr. Mawbey. “
So I came back to where my brother and my wife were I said to my wife, ” I am going to see Mrs. Mawbey about those words she has been saying, I’ll make her mind what she is talking about. I’ll take her to Court if she does not mind herself.”
I went up to the house. I said, ” Are you in, Mrs. Mawbey? Did you tell, my missus that any white woman who married a black fellow ought to be shot ? Did you ask my wife about our private business ? Did you ask her what sort of nature did I have-black or white ? ”
With that Mrs. Mawbey and Miss Kerz turned round and laughed at me with a sneering laugh, and before I got the words out of my mouth that I said in court I struck Mrs. Mawbey on the mouth with this nulla-nulla.
Miss Kerz said, ” Pooh, you black rubbish, you want shooting for marrying a white woman.” With that I hit her with my hand on the jaw, and I knocked her down. Then I got out of temper and got hammering them, and lost control of myself. I do not remember anything after that.
The Judge : Is that all you want to say ?
The accused : After that I went to camp. All this bushranging business that we were talking about we all agreed to. It was not all true that we were going to do it. We wanted to get my missus out of the road. We made it up that Joe was not to be there, nor my missus. I had a great name as a smart man and all that, so when we did this they would know I was the man. But it was not true I was the main man. Away we went that night and we camped in the bush. We parted in the morning.
Accused resumed his seat.
Mr. Boyce intimated that he had no witnesses to call. He asked accused if he had anything more to say, and Governor added : “I am speaking straight from my heart, and I am afraid of nobody.”
Mr. Boyce addressed the jury for the defence. He said the jury could not have helped reading the sensational accounts served up of the tragedy, but he hoped they would succeed in putting aside all thoughts of the public clamour for vengeance on this particular black. Had the jury ever thought that perhaps after all this man was not so bad ? Had they ever reflected how it was that this calm and quiet mannered man suddenly became a raving demon. The man, they must remember, was not being charged for the murders in the bush, of which they had all heard, but of the murder of Miss Kerz. Now the theory of the defence was that the man had acted in a frenzy of temper in the case of Miss Kerz, and the law mercifully said that in certain cases where provocation was given to the accused by the deceased, and such provocation was intentional and of a nature reasonably calculated to rob a person of self control, and really did have that effect, the killing would be manslaughter.
Here was a man of no high feeling or high sentiment, a rover under the roof of Heaven, a man who by his environment and nature had not learned to control himself as other men had. Could we, who had neglected, despised, and taunted the aboriginals, expect them to exercise the ordinary human control.
This particular man had taken a white wife. He was a man of sensitive nature – a better man than most blacks, because he worked when he could get work – and the taunts hurled at his wife were doubly felt by him.
The jury could picture the white wife of a black fellow knowing [kneeling] in the camp and praying ” O Lord take me away from here, I cannot stand what these women are saying.” The husband had seen that and there was then sown the seed of which the harvest was that terrible night.
Jimmy Governor denied that the object of the men was bushranging, and could not that statement be credited when it was remembered that the men went armed not with guns but with sticks, and they stole nothing.
No motive was suggested by the Crown for the murders, because it was clear there was no motive – it was the outcome of sudden passion. Jimmy used to play cricket with the children of the Mawbey family, and so it was apparent that the two families were in friendly relations. If the idea of wholesale slaughter was in Jimmy Governor’s mind, why did he not start by sacrificing Mawbey when he found him alone and unarmed ?
The answer was that the sudden passion was not there ; that having no intention to commit murder, the idea never entered his head in preconceived form. His intention was to ” take Mrs. Mawbey to the court if she did not watch herself.” He went to the house for that purpose, and it could not be supposed that he suddenly became a raging lunatic for nothing. Mrs. Mawbey and Miss Kerz wheeled round on him and laughed and sneered, and Miss Kerz said, ” Pooh, you black rubbish, you ought to be shot for marrying a white woman.” That was the turning point, when those words were spoken to him the sudden passion rose and that was the last of self-control.
The savage heart, tainted with the thirst of blood, burst through reason and one of the foulest of crimes was committed. The man’s mate seemed also to have lost his reason. Was it not corroborative of the accused’s statement about the sneering remarks that Mrs. Mawbey on her death bed referred to the ” black rubbish.”
The statement of Miss Kerz touched Jimmy Governor on two spots which were susceptible-that of his colour and that of his wife. There could be no question of robbery , there was no suspicion of money being in the house, so the motive of robbery and bushranging was out of the question.
There could be no such motive as revenge, else why did he kill the little children ? Could he have wanted revenge on them? And on the other hand, if revenge were the motive why did he not wreak it upon Mr. Mawbey.
Then, again, let them think of the weapons used. Jimmy Governor had been a tracker in the police force, and was a cunning man in many respects. Would such a man, starting out with the diabolical intention of killing eight or nine people, arm himself with a stick ? There was a tomahawk there, but other blacks were also there. Percy Mawbey was killed by a tomakawk, and Jacky Underwood had killed Percy Mawbey. Miss Kerz was killed by a stick, and she was killed by Jimmy Governor.
There would be in the minds of the jury cases where men had been convicted of manslaughter though half-an-hour elapsed between the time of the provocation and the killing. Here in this case the whole of the event was completed at once-in one burst of temper.
That the Crown had selected the death of Miss Kerz upon which to try Jimmy Governor for his life was perhaps fortunate for the accused. If the death of Mrs O’Brien or of the children had been the subject of the trial, perhaps nothing could have been said against the charge, but in the death of Miss Kerz there was abundant evidence of high provocation, and of unreasoning passion.
Mr. Wade said the law was that if a man were provoked and angry, and in anger or passion took a fellow creature’s life, that was murder, unless the man proved that when the blow was struck it was not struck with the intention of taking life.
If Governor had stopped short at the first blow the case might have been different, but it was shown that after he first struck Miss Kerz she ran 100 yards, and Governor, with a murderous implement in his hand, pursued her and beat ber head in.
The case of a black fellow could not be regarded in any different light from that of a white man no matter that his habits of life differed.
The Crown admitted all through that there was ill feeling between the families, and contended that the murder was done as an act of revenge. The reason why the children also were murdered was to clear out the house of all witnesses. The evidence showed that the accused had been taunted by his mates, and told that he had no courage as a bushranger and those taunts no doubt helped him to arrive at the determination to obtain revenge on the Mawbeys.
The accused’s statements had differed in material points on the several occasions on which he had made them.
He (Mr. Wade) proceeded to review the evidence and deduced from it that the two blacks had premeditated an expedition to first ascertain whether, Mr. Mawbey was away from home and if so then to murder Mrs. Mawbey and Miss Kerz and also, in order to remove evidence, everyone in the new house.
Supposing it could be believed that Jimmy Governor merely went down to remonstrate with the Mawbeys, then why did he go with Jacky Underwood, why was Jacky armed with an axe, why did he go into the house, and why did they chase the people out of the house, and kill them outside ? They had to remember the evidence of one of the boys, which was that Jimmy Governor had said to Jacky Underwood, “Go it, Jacky dash their brains out.”
Surely no one would say that was anything but intentional murder then again there was the remark of one of the men, “There’s another somewhere” That again showed the premeditated plan of killing everyone in the house.
THE SUMMING UP
Mr. Justice Owen summed up. He said the counsel for the defence need have no fear that he had not done his duty by his client. The address which he gave to the jury and the way in which he had conducted the case throughout had been admirable. He had said everything that could be said and taken all points on behalf of his client. Now it was the duty of the jury to deal with the case which was placed before them.
No doubt learned counsel laboured under considerable difficulty from, probably, twofold causes – their peculiar circumstances of this case and the defence set up by the prisoner himself.
When the murder first took place a thrill of horror passed through the whole community, and the excitement was not limited to the time of the murders, but for weeks or months afterwards the excitement of the public was kept up in the tracing of the footsteps of those who were supposed to have committed the crime. In consequence the minds of the public were necessarily imbued to a very large extent with preconceived ideas of the persons who were ultimately arrested. Therefore it was a task which taxed the ingenuity of counsel to set the jury to view the case apart altogether from their prejudices.
The jury came there to try the case on the sworn evidence presented to them, and had no right to consider anything outside of that. It lay on the Crown to prove to the satisfaction of the jury that the prisoner was guilty of the crime with which he was charged.
Everyone was considered innocent until he was proved guilty, and even if the jury had preconceived opinions before they came to that court as to the guilt of the prisoner, if the Crown had left the case in doubt, the jury would be bound to give a verdict for the prisoner. But of course if the Crown had made out a case to the satisfaction of the jury they must return a verdict of guilty. The defence which had been set up had relieved him (the Judge) of a good deal of trouble in bringing before the jury all the points of the evidence to show tbat the accused struck the fatal blow.
It was admitted by the defence that the accused was the one who killed Miss Kerz. The defence was that he killed her by an unpremeditated act caused by taunts which she threw out against him and his wife and that, therefore, the act was manslaughter.
The section of the Act under which they could bring in a verdict of manslaughter contained three provisions which were necessary to be proved. He particularly wished to draw their attention to one of those provisions, which was “that the act causing death was done suddenly in the heat of passion caused by such provocation without intent to take life.” The law presumed that when life was taken by a blow it was murder unless the prisoner could prove it was manslaughter. That meant that when a person had received grave provocation and struck a blow there and then – being roused by a taunt or blow or insult – and the blow caused death, but the person striking the blow had no intention to kill, but merely to strike by way of punishment, it would be manslaughter.
Now the jury had to decide whether the blow which the accused inflicted on Miss Kerz was intended to take life.
The Judge then briefly reviewed the evidence, and dwelt upon that part referring to the finding of the body at a distance from the house. Of the points taken by the counsel for the Crown, he said the one which struck him was why Jacky Underwood was at the house at all.
If it was merely a question between the Mawbeys and accused and his wife, why was Underwood there, and why was he engaged in the midst of the carnage?
However, the jury’s duty was clear to them – they must be thoroughly satisfied that the blow was a premeditated one for the purpose of killing.
THE SENTENCE OF DEATH.
The jury retired at 12.15 p. m., and returned into court at 12.25 p.m. with a verdict of guilty on
a charge of murder.
Mr. Boyce handed in writing the low points he had raised on behalf of the accused. They were as follows :-
1. That his Honor should have directed the jury that on the evidence and law the plea of autrefois convict was made out.
2. That his Honor should have directed the jury to return a verdict in favour of the accused on the plea of autrefois convict.
3. That his Honor should have directed the jury that on the evidence and law the plea of autrefois attaint was made out.
4. That his Honor should have directed the jury to return a verdict in favour of the accused on the plea of autrefois attaint.
The Associate asked the prisoner whether he had anything to say why the Court should not pass sentence of death upon him.
Jimmy Governor, who now appeared to be considerably agitated by the circumstances of his posi- tion, grasped the iron railings of the dock as he stood and shook his head. Being asked if he had made reply, he drank water from a pannikin handed to him by one of the attendant constables, and then said in a weak voice, ” No, nothing.”
The usual warning was given by the usher,-
” All manner of persons are commanded to keep silence in court while his Honor the Judge passes sentence of death.”
The Judge then sentenced the prisoner to be hanged, and Governor was removed from the dock.
THE HANGING OF JACKIE UNDERWOOD
19 January 1901
EXECUTION OF JACKY
Jacky Underwood, alias Charles Brown, who was convicted at the Dubbo Circuit Court, in October last, of the murder of Percy Mawbey at Breelong on July 20, was executed in the Dubbo Gaol on Monday morning.
The scaffold was erected in the exercise yard, and was surrounded by screen. The rev. Father Brophy was with the condemned man from an early hour. The condemned mini listened attentively to his exhortations, which seemed to buoy him up and give him hope.
A few seconds after tho gaol clock struck nine, a procession headed by the priest, came along the corridor, Jacky walked calmly, and required no support from either Howard or his assistant, we were by his side, At the foot of the scaffold, Father Brophy shook hands with the condemned man, and said ” Good-bye, Jacky.” He replied “Good-bye, sir,” and then walked up the steps and stood firmly on the scaffold while the rope was being adjusted. When the bolt was drawn he fell, death being instantaneous, the body was allowed to hang for the usual time, after which it was cut down, and the customary inquest held.
The Gaol authorities said Jacky was a well behaved prisoner, and realised the calamity of taken the life of his fellow man. His future evidently occupied his thoughts for he said Will I be in Heaven in time for dinner?
THE HANGING OF JIMMY GOVERNOR
Hanged at Darlinghurst
[By Teleqraph Sydney, Friday.
Jimmy Governor was executed at 9o’clock this morning.- He slept well last night, and had a good breakfast. He had nothing to say, and walked firmly to the drop, smoking a cigarette, he was accompanied by the Rev. Canon Rich. Just before the cap and rope were adjusted Jimmy throw the cigarette from his lips.
The bolt was then drawn and death was instantaneous, Since his imprisonment Jimmy has been fairly cheerful. He exhibited a strong religious feeling towards and, reading with avidity books upon religious subjects, which were given him. On several occasions the prisoner was visited by his wife and child.
Nothing can be ascertained as to what ; transpired, still it is paid that at no time did he lose his tranquility. Once his wife was been leaving the gaol with the child in her arms,. But she appeared cool as a woman who had been discharging some ordinary business duties.
The last hours of the condemned man were passed peacefully enough, and he 1 gave- no trouble- whatever .The prisoner retired at an early hour in the evening, and his guards state that he slept soundly throughout the night.
Shortly after daybreak he awoke and spent considerable time in listening to the ministrations of the chaplain. He is also said to have eaten, a good breakfast. Before leaving the gaol the whole of the spectators, who, including the loading gaol officials and the Sheriff and Under-Sheriff numbered about 18, signed a certificate to the effect that they had witnessed the execution which had been carried out according to law. Among the …names ‘thus appended to of parchment was one George Mawbey, which attracted attention. – Mawbey is a brother to John Mawbey, the of the murdered family.
Speaking afterwards to a press representative, Ho said, ” I would not have been content if I had not seen him hanged. I am only sorry I could not hang him myself.” Mawbey is the father of the boy George Mawbey, who escaped the murderers by biding under a bed.