Murrumbidgee, Fatal Onslaught

The Sydney Morning Herald

27 May 1848

On the 19th of last month, a serious and fatal onslaught was committed by a tribe of aboriginals from the Mannus country, in the Hume district, on some of the natives of this quarter.

The attack was made shortly before day-dawn of the 19th, and whilst the whole camp were wrapt in that sound sleep in which nature steeps the human senses towards the approach of day.

The unfortunate people were wholly unconscious of the proximity of an enemy, none but the savages of friendly tribes having been seen in the neighbourhood of the township by any person.

The foe stole upon them with so much cunning and so little noise, than even the cunning guardians of the camp foiled to note their approach or alarm the thoughtless sleepers.

They slept until the murderous spear had commenced the work of death, when a scene of fearful confusion occurred; but so quietly was the butchery consummated by the enemy, and submitted to by the defenseless victims, that Europeans resting at twenty-five yards distance were not disturbed.

The women belonging to the assailed party flew to the houses of the residents for protection, and received shelter; and the men, who were alone the objects of violence, escaped as best they could.

Two were killed on the spot, and savagely mutilated, the thighs of one being taken off at the hip joints, and a moiety of the breast and ribs of the other removed, whilst the noses and ears of both were cut away, together with a portion of the fat from the interior of the bodies.

Of those who escaped, one received a dreadful wound in the lower abdomen, from a spear, and which ex posed the intestines: another received two spear wounds through the fleshy part of the posteriors, the weapon entering on one side and passing through to the other; another sustained a fearful wound in the temple and butt of the thigh, and a fourth a wound in the head.

All the wounds were inflicted by the same description of weapon, viz., spears jagged along their edges for the space of fifteen inches, by the insertion of fractured pieces of glass firmly secured by gum, and placed in grooves.

As these fearful implements were torn out of the body of the respective sufferers, to enable them the more readily to escape, the wounds assumed a fearful appearance, but notwithstanding the dangerous character of the injuries, the men have all recovered.

The aborigines themselves can avowedly assign no cause for this dreadful deed of dark and sanguinary treachery; and of course it is difficult for Europeans to do so; but we are of opinion it has not been an, act of retaliation, but perpetrated purely for the purpose of obtaining a supply of human fat, and possession of human bones, both of which every tribe regards as indispensable to enable them to "resist the Devil and all his works."

They consider the possession of such relics as a charm against all diseases, as well as a decided check to the intrusion of hiss Satanic majesty; and we presume that the supplies, having run out, or been expended, the tribe in question took the steps detailed above to lay in a fresh stock.