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Awful Murder near Kilmore

Harker Brookes

Bareley have the feelings of the community received such a terrible shock as on Tuesday evening last when the news was circulated of a terrible murder which had been commited at Forbes, about four miles south-westerley of Kilmore. The particulars were brief, and merely to the effect that a dairy farmer Harker Brookes who is pretty well known throughout the district, had committed the awful crime of murder, the victim being his own wife. On th efollowing morning the public were in full possession of the particulars. It appears that during the day Brookes and his wife, who had only been married a little over two months, quarrelled over some matter which will never be known, and Brookes who hwas always noted for his excitable temperament, threatened to shoot his wife. This threat was no idle boast and made his wife feel very nervous and considerably frightened. When Brookes was out of sight she made up a small parcel of clothing with the intention of leaving her husband lest he should carry his threat into execution. Towards evening a girl named Annie Evans
about 14 years of age, daughter of Mrs Evans a neighbour distant about three quarters of a mile from Brookes house, drove up to the door in a spring cart, for the purpose of taking Brookes weekly supply of butter for the hawker. Miss Evans noticed Mrs Brookes had been crying, but did not say anything, as Brookes was sitting under the verandah of th ehouse close by. It may here be mentioned that the house is an ordinary selectors one, built of paling, with iron roof and stone chimney. It contains two rooms, a kitchen and bedroom, to which was attached the dairy. The house is a new one, having being built by Brookes during the past three months, and is prettily situated on the Banks of Beveridges Creek. Towards the east the country is very mountainous but in other directions abound in rich grassy flats. Mrs Brookes gave the girl the butter, who placed it in the cart and drove off. When about 150 yards distant from the house, she turned back and was met by Mrs Brookes carrying a parcel and leading a little girl about 3 years of age along side of her. She threw the parcel into the cart and had proceeded another 50 yards when her husband, who was only dressed in trousers and shirt, rushed up and demanded from his wife what the parcel contained, to which Mrs Brookes replied “Oh, there are only dirty clothes.” Brookes disbelieved his wife and cried out angrily “I know better than that, Its something you are concealing from me come back home.” Mrs Brookes was afraid of her husbands violent temper and refused to go where upon the ruffian caught hold of her by the shoulders, threw her down on the ground, knelt on her chest. He then drew forth from the inside of his shirt his pocket knife, the blade of which was already open, and holding back the unfortunate womans head, deliberately stabbed her in the throat three times. Naturally his poor victim screamed, but that appeared to incite him more for his bloody work. The girl Evans, who was only a couple of yards distant in the cart, screamed for help, and picked up the little child from the ground. Brookes appeared frightened, and threatend to treat her the same way if she interfered or said another word. The girl then drove away with all possible haste, and on looking back, saw the cowardly wretch standin over his wife prostrate form, lift her head, no doubt to assertain whether he had fully accompished his diabolical deed, and then dash it to the ground. This done, he ran off in th edirection of the house, and thence over the creek towrds the scrub, where he was lost sight of.

On arriving at her Mothers place, Miss Evans related the whole of th etragic circumstances, and dispatched a messanger to th ehouse of Mr James Still, about a mile distant. Mr Still at once sent one of his sons into Kilmore for the police and medical aid, whilst Miss Evans, who exhibited much courage and endurance throughout rode a distance of five miles to the unhappy parents Mr & Mrs J Evans, Kilmore Diggings. Sergeant McCopping, accompanied by Constable McCarthy and Tracey, and Dr Semple, lost no time in the journey, and arrived at the scene of the murder shortley before 9pm the parents following shortley afterwards. The body of Mrs Brookes was found lying near the bank of a creek still alive, and weltering in a large pool of blood. The only words the poor woman uttered were “Brookes, Brookes,” and held her hand to her throat. She had dragged herself about 30 yards from the spot where Brookes had first attacked her, evidentley endeavouring to reach a neighbours house, but being so much exhausted from loss of blood, she fell unable to rise again. Dr Semple at once advised her removal to the Kilmore Hospital, where her wounds were dressed. The poor woman lingered until half past one on the following morning when she expired.

The police at once set about to discover the whereabouts of the murderer and not withstanding the heavy rain during the night searched th ebush for miles around, whilst others remained in charge of the house thinking the murderer might return. On Wednesday morning, the black trackers were telegraphed for, and a sharp lookout was kept for their arrival. Meanwhile the whole of the police from the outlying stations were ordered to proceed to the scene of the murder, there being no less than 19 members of the force engaged in the search for the murderer. The whole of th esurrounding country was scoured and waterholes searched, but without success. The black trackers Willie and Johnny, two smart Queenslanders, in charge of Mr Fawkner, arrived in Kilmore from Dundanong about 5pm and at once proceeded to the scene.

By this time a large number of people from Kilmore visited the scene of the tragedy, and assisted the police in scouring the country. Towards 7 o’clock in the evening a number were returning homewards led by Messre O’Niel, Danphy, Toohey and others with Constable O’Shaunnussy, Whittaker and Waldron in the rear, Mr Dunphy knew th ecountry well, and advised those present of a shorter route which was down an unfrequented lane, about half a mile from Brookes house. Mr Dunphy immediatley cried out “i’ve got him” and there was a general stampede the police rushing forward withdrawn revolvers, some thinking Brookes had been found alive. Meanwhile the black trackers had started up the gully and were urged on by large “caoeya.” On reaching the spot, sergeant McCoppin, Mr Fawkner, the trackers and others were shown the body which was quite cold and wet, having apparentley lain there for 24 hours. On examining the body, a large deep gash was found in his throat, and another wound in his left arm, thus showing the unhappy wretch had commited suicide after the brutal murder of his wife. Further examination showed that Brookes had also attempted to hang himself, for on th elimb of a tree about 10 yards up the hill, was found a strap, a portion of which was on the ground. Underneath the tree was a quantity of blood, which flowed from the wound in Brookes throat. The general opinion is that Brookes first tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat, and threw the knife away. Finding the wound not likeley to effect fatal consequences, he then took the strap off his trousers, and fixed it on the limb of a leaning tree. He must afterwards have hanged himself, and the strap breaking, his body rolled down the hill in the wretches death struggles. The drop was about 8 feet and insufficient to cause dislocation of the neck. A rude stretcher was constructed, and the murderers body brought to Kilmore.

Brookes was well known throughout the Kilmore district. He lived for a number of years with his parents on a farm near Lancefield Road. In former years he was an active member of the Kilmore football & cricket clubs, whilst playing football against the Toorack club, he exhibited his violent temper, drew his knife against one of the players and would have stabbed him had he not been interferd with. In October last Mrs Brookes, mother of the murderer disposed of her farm to Mr R Robinson, and left the districtto reside in Lancefield. She gave her son £100 to start for himself, and with this he rented the farm adjoining Mr G S Beveridges Woodburn Station, built a house and stocked the farm. He married Miss Edna Evans on the 3rd of November last, much, we hear, against her will. She was the daughter of Mr John Evans a respectable farmer residing at Kilmore Diggings, and has five brothers and seven sisters. Brookes was a determined sort of a man and a noted gambler, and it is summised he commited th efoul murder and suicide owing to monetary difficulties.

The bravery of Annie Evans deserves a word of more than passing praise. That a young girl of fourteen summers could have witnessed what she was perforce, compelled to see, and have the presence of mind to save the childs and her own life, is worthy of all commendation, when to this is added that she not only aroused th ewhole neighbourhood, but then rode some five miles to inform the parents of the murdered woman, when the murderer was supposed to be at large with firearms the magnitude of her performances can be properley gauged. The boy still is also deserving of praise for th espeedy information he gave to the police.

The Funeral

The body of Mrs Brookes after death was left in the dead house of the hospital, where large numbers came to view the remains, some out of morbid curiosity, whilst others wished to testify by their presence their regards for the desceased, and sympathy for the parents. Shortley after two o’clock, the coffin covered with wreaths, was put into the hearse, and the long procession slowley wound its way towards the cemetery where it arrived about three o’clock . The beautiful service of the Church of England was impressivley read by the Rev. Mr Toomath, and the coffin was lowerd into the grave amid tears of many females and the sighs of strong armed men. The parents were inconsolable and had to be led away from the sad scene.

Brookes’ body was removed to Lancefield yesterday, were he was buried.

The Inquest on Mrs Brookes

The inquest on the body of Mrs Brookes was held at the Court House on Thursday morning before Mr C Shuter, P.M Coroner for the district. After the jury had been enpannelled. (Mr John Mckenzie foreman) the following evidence was adduced.

Annie Evans a girl about 14 years of age, daughter of the late Thomas Evans of Forbes deposed – Remember Tuesday 19th had occasion to go to Mrs Brookes for some butter in the evening. Was driving a spring cart, th edistance being about half a mile. When i got to Mrs Brookes, she was sewing. I got the butter and started off home but having forgot a parcel returned. Mrs Brookes came to meet me, carrying a parcel, i put the parcel in the cart, we had gone about 30 yards from the house, Mrs Brookes then followed me up. I know Harker Brookes her husband. He followed her and called her back to milk the cows. She refused to go and he held her back. He then caught hold of her, and threw her down to her back, he kneeling on her chest, Brookes then took his knife from her shirt – it was an ordinary pocket knife. Saw Brookes cutting her throat, and blood flowing from the wound Mrs Brookes screamed for assistance. He also said if i interfered he would stab me. I took the child up in the cart. Afterwards i saw Brookes running away. I went home and told my mother and then sent J Still for a Doctor. I went and told desceased’s father, who lives about five miles away. The assault was commited one hour previouse. Brookes was driving up the cows. Mrs Brookes told him she would leave him, and would not live with him. Saw Brookes when i first went to the house. They appeared to have had a quarrel. Mrs Brookes had been crying, Brookes was sitting on the Verandah. The knife was open when he pulled it out of his shirt.

John Evans, farmer, residing at Goldie, deposed – Am the father of deceased, now lying at Kilmore Hospital. Last saw her alive on Sunday last at my house. Her Husband and self walked over. Had no conversation with them as to how they were getting along, desceased was 26 years old, and married nearly three months. Have never seen any difference between them, and as far as i knew they lived happily together. Brookes complained of being in debt which troubled him. Remember Tuesday evening last witness telling me of the occurance and went to th escene of the murder. When i got there desceased was lying on the ground covered with blood. She was still alive but exhausted and knew both her mother and me. She was lying about 150 yards from the house. Saw wounds in the throat, from which the blood was flowing. I took her to Kilmore Hospital. She asked for a drink of water. Remained in the Hospital some time with her, and then returned home. To the foreman – She only said “Brookes! Brookes !” holding her hand to her throat.

Sergent McCoppin deposed – On Tuesday evening at 7.30 a boy named John Still rode furiousley to the gaol, and said a man named Brookes had cut his wifes throat at Forbes. At once proceeded to Brookes farm with Constable McCarthey. When about 200 yards from the house found desceased lying on her face and chest. When we came close desceased put up her both hands and waved them. She was all covered in blood, which was flowing out of wounds in her throat. She tried to speak but could only make a gurgling noise. Tried to put a handkerchief around her neck, but she put up her hands to stop me. Told her she must have it, and she desisted. Then tied the handkerchief around her neck, when she moaned. Her father and mother then arrived. Saw a large gash in her throat, and when she tried to cough, the blood oused out of the wound. Dr Semple dressed th ewound and accompanied her to the hospital. Made search for the knife but could not find it. Saw blood in four different places. Deceased had appered to have struggled on for about 50 yards in direction of house. Her face, hair and clothes were covered in blood.

Dr Semple – deposed – About 8 o’clock on Tuesday evening a boy came to his house and acting on information went to Brookes’ house at Forbes. Before reaching house, was shown the body of deceased lying on the ground. She was lying on her face with her hands partley under her head. Examined the wound and saw there had been considerable bleeding but by that time it had stopped. Dressed th ewound temporily and had desceased removed to the hospital. At hospital examined the wounds more closeley, and found the principle one was between four and five inches long extending across the neck, the deepest on the right side where it reached the muscle. There were two other small wounds one near the chin and the other near the ear, and appeared to be inflicted by a small blade of a pocket knife. There were also wounds of one finger on each hand. Dressed the wounds, and left the desceased about half past 11 but about an hour and a half afterwards i was sent for, and on my arrival found she was dead. Think wounds in desceased could be made by knife used by Brookes. The cause of death was hemaroege brought on by wounds described.

Sergent McCoppin on being called immeadiatley after finding the body Edna Brookes, placed two constables in charge of the house, and took steps for the capture of Harker Brookes desceaseds husband. Brookes body was found next day with his throat cut.

The jury found that desceased Edna Brookes died from haemorage caused by wounds inflicted by her husband Harker Brookes also desceased.

Inquest on the Body of the Murderer

After the inquest on the body of Edna Brookes, an inquest on the body of Harker Brookes, the murderer of his wife, who was found dead the following day. Sergent McCoppin identified the body as that of Harker Brookes who killed his wife. Found Brookes on Wednesday evening about 7 o’clock. Was at desceased’s residence and despatched two constables to Kilmore across the bush. Some of the civillians went with them, Mr P O’Niell being one. About half a mile from the house, they turned up a road, and stop. Heard a loud “cooey” went to the place, and found desceased lying on his back with his right leg drawn up, both hands being clenched. Examined his throat and found a large wound. Also observed a leather strap hanging from the limb of a tree about 15 yards from the body. Portion of the strap was tied on the limb, and part lying on the ground broken. The strap appeared to had a heavy strain upon it. The limb was about 8 feet from the ground. Deceased had evidentley hanged himself. The body was dressed in moleskin trousers, cotton shirt and flannel and heavy boots. Deceased appeared to have rolled down the hill, which was very steep. Looked for the knife but could not find it. Desceased was about 11 Stone. Think desceased must have lain there 24 hours. The body was found in sight of the home. It was afterwards removed to Kilmore.

DR Semple – deposed – Knew the desceased as Harker Brookes. Examined the body, and found a large wound in the throat extending from middle of neck to right side which was sufficient to cause death. Saw no other marks of any consequence. Supposed deceased inflicted it himself. Desceased was a passionate man. His family were not healthy, but was not aware of any insanity. The wound must have been inflicted about 2 days ago.

A verdict that desceased Harker Brookes commited suicide by cutting his throat was given.


Nigel Brooks
14th March 2009

Many thanks again to Naomi Haworth who took the time to obtain the copy of this Newspaper article in Australia. It is greatfully appreciated the time you have spent.


Owner/SourceNigel Brooks
DateMar 2009
Latitude-37.304917891534465
Longitude144.90863800048828
File name
File Size
ID132
Linked toHarker BROOKS

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