Lacmalac Arson Trial

29 May 1865  The Tumut and Adelong Times 

Tumut Police Court, Thursday, May 25. (Before the Police Magistrate.)

Arson. - Thomas Curry, on remand, was brought up on suspicion of having on the 20th instant, set fire to a shed on Mr. Michael Quilty's farm at Lacmalac, a nearby property, to the value of ,£1000 was destroyed. 

The accused was defended by Mr. Robertson.

Sub-inspector O'Neill conducted the prosecution.

Richard Creaghe, sworn, deposed : I am senior-sergeant of police stationed at Tumut; 

from information received I apprehended Curry at Blowering, on suspicion, last Monday;

when I did so he said "All right, I'll come with you;   

I'm as innocent as a child".

Previous to this I asked him if he had heard the news, and he replied, "No, what was it?"

I told him Quilty's place at Lacmalac was burned down.

He said, "I don't know where Lacmalac is;

I never heard of such a place;

I never knew that Quilty had a farm."

This conversation did not take place at the time of arrest;

it was on the Sun- day.

When I told him about the reward he said "I didn't burn it; how could I when I was at Blowering ?"

I said nothing to elicit such a remark.

Upon arresting him I asked to see the boots he wore in Tumut on the Friday previous.

He pointed to those he had on and said, "These are them."

I took off the right boot and measured it, because I noticed a peculiarity in a track of the right boot in the ploughed ground.

I then allowed him to put it on again, but on Tuesday I took the boot to Quilty's farm, laid it on the tracks, and found it to correspond in length, breadth, and peculiar impression.

We examined the track in several places and found the boot to correspond.

I was accompanied by Quilty, John Howe, and con- stable Johnson. The track first began about fifteen yards from the burnt shed in the direction of Vickery's.

We lost the tracks when we got near Yickery's, but after hunting about we found them again at the corner of the paddock, close to a gate leading towards the Blowering road.

The boot now produced is the same I have referred to. At one of the gates we found an impression of a boot-tip. 

Cross-examined: When I addressed accused on Sunday I was in plain clothes, but he knew me having seen me often before.

He said he had never been far above Mrs. Shelley's. People coming from Yickery's would pass through the gate.

There is a choice of roads.

The peculiarity of the boot is that it is a little down on the outside.

From Blowering House to Quilty's farm is about six miles.

Some people wear their boots down on the inside. 

By the Bench: The soil had been recently ploughed, but the ground was too dry to detect the marks of nails;

the heel-tip was not distinctly visible. I could not say the track at the gate was the same.   

Michael Quilty, sworn, deposed: I am an inn-keeper at Tumut;

I have a farm at Tumut Plain, about five miles from town.

On the farm I had a shed in which were nearly 12,000 bushels of wheat, a ten horse-power threshing machine, a dray, and other farming implements. 

I was there on Wednesday the 17th instant, storing the wheat in the shed.

All was safe when I left that night. About three o'clock on Saturday morning John Howe, who resides on the farm, came and told me that the shed had been set on fire.

I went out with the police and found his statement correct.

Curry was at my house on the Friday, and remained there till about four o'clock. George Moore was there at the time, he and accused had a quarrel in the bar;

Curry hit at Moore with a loaded stockwhip handle, but missed him.

Moore then knocked him down, and I said it served him right for attempting to use such a weapon. 

They separated, and soon afterwards accused said '"Revenge is sweet, and by - -  I will be revenged for the treatment I have received here to-day."

I can't say to whom this was addressed;

Moore, my wife and sister only were within hearing.

We were always on friendly terms;

have known him for many years;

he was about half drunk when he made that re-mark;

he had been worse, but was then recovering and knew well what he said.

He also expressed his dissatisfaction at my interference between him and Moore.

I can't say that it was at the time he spoke of being revenged. 

Cross-examined: I went out to the farm with the police about nine o'clock on Saturday morning.

When I arrived there I found four or five persons with my father, mother, and Mrs. Vickery, looking at the unconsumed articles. Whilst there some men came to render assistance.

I could not say whether it was the roof or lower part of the shed that had been set on fire.

A ladder was there.

Monday was the first day I looked at the trucks in company with others.

Creaghe tried the boot, and others tried their's, but none answered except the one Creaghe had.

On the following day we had a black tracker.

The track may have been made by someone who had helped to put out the fire, but I don't think it was, as they all measured. 

The distance from the shed to Blowering is about nine miles.

I have often heard Curry say he was a very old man;

he is said to be about eighty years of age. 

Richard Creaghe, re-called, deposed: When I went to the scene of the fire on Saturday I searched for tracks, but did not succeed in finding any then.

It is possible that tracks were there without my seeing them.

The tracks we found were not at the commencement of the ploughed ground but six or seven yard's on it. 

John Howe, sworn, deposed: I reside at Mr. Quilty's farm.

I was at home on Friday night last and went to bed between 10 and 11 o'clock.

Shortly before that I looked out and everything was all right.

In the dead of night old Mrs. Quilty roused me up, when I saw the shed on fire from one end to the other.

My brother and myself with some others tried to save what we could.

I then rode into town and told Mr. Quilty.

There were no strangers about the premises that night. I was present when Creaghe compared the boot with the track. 

On coming to Tumut to acquaint Mr. Quilty I found one gate at Shelley's off its hinges;

it is about half-a-mile from the farm, and on one of the roads to Blowering.

I would prefer going to Blowering by the upper road and not through Shelley's gate.

The tracks we saw headed to the road leading to Shelley's gate. 

The place could not take fire. 

By the Bench: There are dogs about the farm, but I did not hear them after going to bed.

No one slept in the shed since the previous Monday. 

Cross-examined: I did not see the clock at Vickery’s, but heard them say it was 3 o clock

Six of us tried to extinguish the fire  we were running all about the farm.

When I returned from Tumut we all began to shift the wheat. 

My brother and self were ploughing the day before the fire, but the ground next the shed we had ploughed about a fortnight before.

One man could lift Shelley's gate off its hinges; my brother has done it.

I have seen the accused twice before.

John Clune and myself were getting chaff, out from the shed the evening before the fire.

Nobody slept in the shed that night.

My brother and self slept in the hut, and two other men slept in a barn which is about thirty rods from the shed.

I conclude that the two men slept in the barn that night because I saw them emerge from thence when aroused about the fire by me.   

Edward Vickery was sworn, but his evidence was considered very immaterial. 

George Waddy Shelley, sworn, deposed: I was at home on Friday night last.

The dogs made an unusual noise about twelve or one 1 o'clock.

I heard no noise of travellers or horses.

There are two ways from Blowering to Quilty's farm, one goes by my place.

There is one paddock with a gate at each end, both locked.

On Saturday last I found both gates unhinged; it was the first time I ever found them so.

It is possible for one man to unhinge them.

My residence is within two miles of Quilty's farm;

one road goes close to my house, the other is 1½ mile from it.

The farthest road from my bouse is the nearer one to Blowering from Quilty's farm.

Taking the shorter road one would not have to pass through either gate. 

Cross-examined: I locked one gate myself about 4 p.m. on Friday last; the other was locked by the person to whom I gave the key. 

I do not know that it was locked.

One road from Quilty's to Blowering is about ten miles, the other about twelve miles. 

Re-examined: The gate I locked was that nearest to my house, and the farthest from Quilty's farm.

Sub-Inspector O'Neill asked for a postponement of the case to the following morning in order to produce evidence that no one slept in the shed on Friday night. 

His worship objected to do so, unless it could be shown that the evidence was most material.

He thought the only points at present elicited against the accused was the threat he had made use of, and the fact of the finding of a track which corresponded in size with his boot. 

Michael Quilty was then re-called and further cross-examined.

He deposed:- Some four or five months ago I was told that a person said he would be revenged on me.

I have not seen that, person since; we were on bad terms. 

John Clune, sworn, deposed: I reside at Mr. Quilty's farm, and was there last Friday night.

I slept in the barn. No one slept in the shed that night that I know of.

No fire was about the shed, nor any one smoking. 

Cross-examined: I was in the shed that day for a rope.

I seldom smoke. 

This being the case for the crown, His worship the Police Magistrate in discharging the prisoner, said that the evidence went entirely to exculpate him from the crime laid to his charge.

He felt bound to say that the prisoner left the Court without the slightest imputation on his character as far as this case was concerned. 

The accused was thereupon discharged.