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Curran, Francis (?–1900)

from Advertiser (Adelaide)

The enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Francis Curran, the victim of the Bombala murder, was commenced to-day at the residence of Michael Woolfe, situated 16 miles from Bombala. Sleigh, alias Ward, who is 33 years of age, was present in custody, and exhibited the utmost coolness, questioning the witnesses closely, and taking the keenest interest in the proceedings.

Seargeant Sim deposod to going to Woolfe's house on Sunday with Constable Young. On nearing the house Sleigh saw the police, and made off into the scrub at a great pace. Alter a fruitless search the police rode up a long gully, and shortly afterwards noticed a dense smoke, and a smell as of a beast burning. On riding to the fire they had great difficulty in putting it out. They found the upper portion of the trunk of a human being, but no sign of the head or legs. A portion of one arm was visible. After removing the remains to the house they again set out after Sleigh. At nightfall the sergeant returned to Woolfe's house. Soon after he heard "cooeeing" in the ranges. Woolfe, in obedience to witness's instructions, answered the cooees. Soon after a man's voice was heard calling out, "Come here. I want to talk to you. I will not harm you." Woolfe declined the invitation. The cooeeing continued a long time, during which the sergeant was hiding. After about an hour Sleigh came to the house. He peered into the windows, tried the door of the kitchen, and walked in. He commenced talking to Woolfe. Witness rushed in, catching Sleigh by the legs, and throwing him over. With the assistance of Woolfe he handcuffed him, but found it necessary to tie the man down with straps.

Rose Woolfe, aged 16, and her mother, who is Sleigh's step-sister, deposed that Curran started for a paddock at 9 on Saturday morning, carrying an axe, a billy, and some tea. Soon after Sleigh and a boy, Henry Woolfe, went shooting. Sleigh had a Winchester rifle, containing 12 cartridges, belonging to the elder Woolfe. The boy had a shot gun. He told the boy to go in a northerly direction for a mile, and to wait for him, and in the meanwhile went in the direction where Curran was working. Two hours later Sleigh returned to the house, and said to witnees, "I have bad news. I am going to kill you all. I have killed Bones" (Curran's nickname). He then walked away, but returned later, and sat in the kitchen, after putting the rifle in the rack. During the afternoon Sleigh said that if the boy returned he would shoot him. The lad's mother kept an anxious look-out, and warned the boy not to come near the house, lest Sleigh should kill him. The boy was so frightened that he wandered about the bush for hours, returning at 8 o'clock that night. After watching till 2 o'clock in the morning the boy started again for Bombala. Sleigh was very quiet all night. The girl hid the rifle.

After further evidence, the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against Sleigh, who was committed for trial.

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Citation details

'Curran, Francis (?–1900)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/curran-francis-14580/text25693, accessed 13 November 2019.

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