Policeman hammered to death

Patrick Hackett’s impressive gravestone in the York cemetery also contains a memorial to his short-lived first son.

Beverley, WA, 1884 – Constable Patrick Hackett, 26,  may have been in a great mood the Friday he was murdered. He had, after all just become a father.

His first child, a boy, had died ten days after being born, but now he and his wife of two years, Mary Anne, were the proud parents of a week-old infant.

He was the sole policeman in the small farming town which also serviced the local sandalwood industry.

So, life being good, Hackett made a decision which probably cost him his life.

It was September 12 and two drunken ex-convicts had started an argument in the bar of the town’s only hotel, the Settlers Arms, having arrived in town on the York mail cart late that morning.

The publican called Hackett to sort out Andrew Miller and Thomas Carberry (also spelt Carbury).

Mid-afternoon, Hackett arrested both men for drunkenness and “marched them to the station”.

The prisoners had with them a bundle of clothing which Hackett suspected was stolen, so he arranged for them to appear before the court on Monday morning. But here Hackett made his fateful decision – he allowed both men bail, Carberry apparently promising to return later with the one pound of bail money.

Later that evening Hackett went to search for the men – some reports say for the bail money, others that he was just going to the hotel (where the duo were staying), to make sure they were behaving.

He never made it to the hotel. The next morning his severely beaten-about-the-head body was discovered near the Beverley showgrounds by his in-laws, who were out searching for him.

Always keen to describe a good murder, one newspaper gave this description-

“The deceased’s head and face had been so crushed in by violent blows of some heavy weapon, as to be almost unrecognizable; in addition to which the poor man had received several stabs in the face, neck, and breast, while his pockets had been rifled of all their contents.”

 Two recently washed hammers were found in the nearby blacksmith shop, apparently stolen before being used for the ‘’horrible deed’’ and then returned.

A police posse spent the following four days pursuing the wanted men over the local countryside.

Carberry and Miller had been joined by another ex-convict, William Brown, by the time the police party caught up with them at the Dale River near Waterhatch Farm,  east of Beverley.

A dramatic “Kelly-gang style shoot-out’’ followed, with numerous shots exchanged.

Brown was shot and killed, Miller was wounded and died a short time later – but not before confessing to his involvement in Hackett’s murder.

Carberry escaped and continued to elude them until he was recognized by the police constable at The Lakes and was captured.

By then, Hackett had been under the ground four days, having been buried at the York cemetery on September 14, at a funeral attended by over 200 people including his widow and his one-week old son.

Carberry was found guilty of Hackett’s murder and hanged in the Perth Gaol on October 23, 1884.

Perth Gaol in 1860 – the prisoners’ yard is where Carberry was hanged in 1884. Image courtesy Museum of Perth.

While in jail, he made a will, attempting to leave all his property  (some cut sandalwood, two horses and a few pounds owed to him as wages) to Mrs Hackett.

A newspaper said that after his conviction he never mentioned Hackett by name, but always “alluded to the poor fellow as ‘that man”’ and never giving any hint as to why he killed him.

He did not go to his death easily and the description of his hanging makes for fascinating reading.

He was restless the night before, and on the morning of his death “he became so extremely agitated that the Head Gaoler thought prudent to give him a small glass of brandy’’.

This did not calm him enough, and he was in such a state they decided to knock off his irons in his cell, rather than in the exercise yard (also where he was to be hung).

“Owing to the bolts of the rivets being too hard, and the chisels being too soft, nearly half an hour was spent in  striking off the irons, during which time the wretched man gave vent to heart-rending groans which resounded throughout the building.”

He was so distressed the decision was made to hang him in a chair and one was readied on the drop  “but after, further consideration it was removed, and two short planks were placed across the drop to afford, standing space for two constables to hold the man up.

“At three minutes to eight the hangman entered the prisoner's cell in order to pinion the condemned man, but he was in such an agitated state that he was unable to stand, and two warders, assisted by two constables, had to hold him up while his arms were being tied behind his back.
“During the operation the prisoner gave vent to the most lamentable groans, and seemed to be quite delirious with fear.
“The order was then given to conduct him to the scaffold, but Carbury was totally incapable of standing, much less of walking.
“A policeman then took hold of either arm and literally carried him into the execution yard, but great difficulty was experienced in getting him up the winding staircase leading to the drop.
 “At last the culprit was placed on the drop in his stockened feet, the cap was pulled over his head, and the fatal noose adjusted round his neck.
“The unfortunate man seemed to be in a perfect paroxysm of terror, and although he was firmly held he kept blindly staggering upon the drop evidently trying to get off the fatal spot. His attendants, however, led him back to his proper place, when the lever was drawn and Thomas Carbury was launched into eternity.
 “So skillfully had the fatal knot been adjusted that the criminal died instantaneously, for after he fell not even a single quiver was to be seen in any of the limbs.

So ended a tale which began with a hopeful young family man going about his work, and ended with two men chased down and killed and the terror-filled execution of his third murderer.

York cemetery, where Hackett is buried, is about 30 kilometres north of Beverely, where he died.

Want to read more fascinating accounts of deaths, originating from trawling around some of Australia’s most remote cemeteries? Then please subscribe.

Sources: The Daily News, Thursday, 23 October 1884 – p3, Thursday 18 September 1884 – p3, Saturday 20 September 1884 – p3

The Inquirer and Commercial News, Wednesday 17 September 1884 – p3

York Cemetery Historical Walk Trail, compiled by Anthony Clack and Julie Rae. Published by The York, Society Inc 2006.

Museum of Perth, Old Perth Gaol and the Western Australian Museum, viewed at https://www.museumofperth.com.au/old-perth-gaol

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

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