With malice aforethought

Richard Jones, alias Bullock, a convict, top sawyer, bushman and timbergetter built quite a reputation at Moreton Bay, Moggill, the Sunshine Coast and Gympie.

But in the end, it was his wife, Jane, who gained real notoriety.

Jones was one of 270 convicts transported to Sydney from England on the James Pattison on October 25, 1837.

From there he was transferred to Moreton Bay as a second offender on board the Schooner Curlew on July 31, 1839.

The register of the James Pattison shows he was 24 years old, from Montgomeryshire, single, protestant and unable to read or write.  

His occupation was given as top sawyer. He was tried at the Montgomery Assizes on June 30, 1836, found guilty of housebreaking and sentenced to seven years.

His previous conviction was four months. Most of the convicts on the James Pattison were transported for seven years and were second offenders.  

A personal description was included: 5ft 6.5in tall, complexion fair ruddy, light brown hair and blue eyes, a burn mark centre forehead, a scar on the left side of same and a round scar on the right side of the upper lip.

Jones, occupation top sawyer, was put to good use as a convict. Perhaps his alias came about from his ability to work like a bullock.

When Andrew Petrie, from 1838-1841, explored the districts to the north of Brisbane, Jones travelled with him and gained valuable knowledge about the stands of timber.  

His ticket of leave was issued on November 8, 1841 and his certificate of Freedom on December 22, 1841.

He was in demand as a timbergetter at Moggill, on the Pine River in the 1850s and on the Maroochy River in the 1860s.

A skilled bushman, he accompanied William Pettigrew by horseback along the Blackall Range to look at timber reserves west of Nambour in 1865.

Lieutenant Heath conducted a survey in 1861 of the Maroochy and Mooloolah river mouths as a prelude to ships crossing the bars to load timber, when he met Jones who was in charge of a band of timbergetters for Brisbane businessman R. S. Warry.  The men were cutting and rafting from 18 miles up the Maroochy River at what is now North Arm.

Jane McCartney had migrated on the Wilson, arriving in Sydney in January 1842. The ship’s register shows her occupation as house servant.

She was employed by a Mrs Brookes of Queen’s Place at 14 shillings a month and rations supplied. For whatever reason, she soon left for Moreton Bay on one of the little schooners that plied between the two settlements.

Just as soon, she found a husband in Richard Jones. The Register of Convicts’ Application to Marry (1826-1851) records their names on May 23, 1842. Richard Jones, 29, and Jane McCartney, 21, were married by the Rev I.C.S. Handt on June 13, 1842 at Moreton Bay.

Jane Jones’ name appeared regularly in newspapers. Her husband was often away in the bush and Jane was left to her own devices in Brisbane.

In 1852 she was under investigation for theft but was acquitted.  Later that year she was given seven days imprisonment for false evidence over a bottle of brandy. Other charges related to her improper behaviour. Generally she was acquitted or let off with a caution when faced with the law.

By 1866, his wife and children had joined Richard on the Maroochy River and were living in a slab hut near other timbergetters upstream where logs were received by rafting.  

Timbergetter camps attracted unsavoury characters and were often scenes of drunkenness and disorderliness, so a murder in the camp
was not a surprise to critics. Newspapers had a field day.

On March 24, 1866 Jane Jones was indicted on a murder charge that she did feloniously, wilfully, and of her malice aforethought kill and murder one Martin Farrell.

Witnesses, perpetrator and victim were all well known to one another over many years of working together in the timber industry in Moggill and on the Maroochy. Timber workers, William Wilson, Charlie Chambers and his wife Anne, her brother James McMahon, Charles Brown, Charles Marshall and George Knight were close by when the shooting occurred.

Mrs Jones admitted to taking a double-barrelled shotgun and discharging it into fellow timber-getter Martin Farrell.

Brisbane sawmiller William Pettigrew, Justice of the Peace, took depositions from Constable Thomas Tyrrell, Detective Craven, Captain Watson and the timbergetters.

William Wilson and James McMahon were both called at her trial. Both knew well the prisoner and the dead man. Both had seen them shortly before the shooting as their huts were neighbouring.

Witnesses said that Mrs Jones had been asking for some grog. Farrell had told her that he had some earlier but she had drunk it all. She then called him a liar. The comments of one only served to provoke the other.

No one had any grog but there was a suggestion that some might be found in Charles Brown’s hut. Mrs Jones had also asked the deceased for a smoke of his pipe which he refused. However, he followed her to Brown’s hut.
Mrs Jones claimed that Farrell tried to take liberties with her and threw her on the bed. A gun was lying at the end of the bed and she grabbed it, telling him she would shoot him if he did not leave her alone.

Farrell ran outside as she fired at him without aiming. He attempted to take the gun from her but in the struggle the gun was again fired and Farrell was fatally shot through the left side of his chest.

Hearing the gunfire, Wilson investigated and found Farrell dead. He then rode to the Gneering and immediately returned with Detective Craven and Captain Watson. (Detective Craven was aboard the Gneering, having come from Brisbane to investigate another murder, that of botanist Stephens).

He established that neither Farrell nor Mrs Jones was drunk although they had been drinking.

Charles Brown’s double-barrelled shotgun was found nearby, recently discharged. It had been loaded with duck shot. Craven took possession of it as evidence.

Mrs Jones readily confessed and was taken aboard the Gneering to face a criminal charge of murder at the Brisbane Court. Farrell’s body was buried nearby the following day.

At her trial, witnesses recounted the events and the court provided the evidence. Jane Jones was adamant, she had shot him while trying to protect her honour. A verdict of acquittal was returned and she was discharged.

Image: The rafting ground at Moggill Creek.