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Hurst, Henry Facey (1832–1866)

Henry Hurst, by Samuel Calvert, 1866

Henry Hurst, by Samuel Calvert, 1866

State Library of Victoria, IMP27/​10/​66/​356

The death of the late Mr. Henry Hurst, by the hand of the bushranger, Burke, has been the cause of the most painful excitement throughout the district, as the deceased was a resident of nearly fifteen years' standing, and was generally liked and respected. On Saturday and Sunday the station was visited by a great number of his friends, who were desirous of offering their condolences to the surviving members of his family; and many others who were not personally acquainted with the deceased young man, made their way to the scene of the tragedy, for the purpose of expressing their sympathy with the bereaved family. It appears that the encounter between Mr. Hurst and the bushranger has been incorrectly reported in one particular. The account previously published stated that Burke fired two shots before Mr. Hurst closed with him, while the actual fact is, that Burke did not discharge his pistol at all until Mr. Hurst closed with him, when he fired three successive shots, the last penetrating the deceased's abdomen, and lodging in Burke's own leg. This was the fatal shot, the two previous ones having inflicted merely slight injuries. According, however, to the statement made by the deceased just before his death, Burke tried to fire off one of the chambers before the struggle took place, and his object was only defeated by the cap missing fire. It was not until after this unmistakable evidence of the ruffian's murderous intentions that Mr. Hurst discharged his gun, and when he did so, he was so close to Burke that he could not raise the piece to his shoulder to take aim. As the charge went considerably wide of the mark, and was very nearly striking the deceased's sister, it seems probable that Burke, by a quick movement, pushed the muzzle of the gun on one side, and thus escaped death. The shot, after leaving the barrel of the gun, held very well together, for the charge can now be seen, almost in one lump, embedded in the slabs of the kitchen. It seems that the night before his visit to the station, Burke excited attention by the singularity of his conduct at a place called the Kangaroo-grounds, distant from Mr. Hurst's station about five miles. He arrived at this place on Wednesday evening, and going to a boardinghouse kept by a person named Weller, stated that he was bushed, and wished to remain there for the night. He took tea with a number of other persons, and it was noticed by several that he appeared to be very uneasy and fidgety, and disinclined to look any one in the face, a peculiarity subsequently remarked by Miss Hurst. He was shown into a sleeping-room, and in the morning it was found that he had left before any of the inmates had risen, leaving his bedroom candle burning. From what occurred afterwards, it seems clear that Burke, who evidently knows something of the country, made his way straight across the bush to Hurst's station, arriving there before eight o'clock. Burke, it appears, is not altogether unknown in this locality. He was recognised by a police-constable as having been a stockrider on the Wimmera four or five years ago, and it is said that at one time he was engaged in school-teaching in this colony. According to his own statement, his native place is Dublin, where a number of his relatives live. On his person was found a letter from his uncle, written in a style which proved its author to be a man of some education. Had all the chambers of Burke's revolver been loaded when he reached the station, it is more than probable that Abbott would have shared the fate of the deceased man. When Abbott courageously seized the bushranger by the throat, the latter presented his pistol at his breast, and threatened to shoot him unless he let him go; but had there been another charge in the revolver there can be no doubt that the ruffian would have fired at once, instead of using an idle threat, judging at least from the freedom with which he had previously used his weapon upon poor Hurst. Abbott, however, was under the impression that the pistol still contained one or more charges, and in striking the weapon out of Burke s hand he showed great presence of mind. Abbott's courageous conduct is greatly praised by the inhabitants, and it is hoped that the Government will recognise it in some way. With regard to the particulars of the encounter no better description of it can be given than that furnished by the witnesses at which was held to-day, at the station. Mr. Candler, who was stopped by the flood at Diamond Creek on Friday, arrived at the scene of the murder shortly before ten o'clock, and proceeded at once to hold the inquiry, a jury of eighteen having already been empanelled. Mr. Hare, superintendent of police, was present, and conducted the inquiry on behalf of the Crown. Burke was not in attendance, as his medical attendants did not consider him in a fit state to undertake the journey from Melbourne. It is understood, however, that his wound is rapidly healing. The jury having viewed the body of the deceased, Mr. Hare proceeded to call evidence. The first witness examined was

Robert Hurst, who deposed, — I am a settler, and reside at the Diamond Creek station, on the Diamond Creek. The deceased, Henry Facey Hurst, was my son, and was thirty-four years of age last April. On Thursday, the 4th October, at about eight o'clock in the morning, I was going away from the house when I met a stranger in the paddock, about fifty yards from the building. He was on foot. I said, "Good morning." He merely said, "Good morning," too, and went on into the house. I saw my son coming up, and I said, "Henry, there is a strange man gone into the house. I don't like the look of him. Go in and see after him." My son said, "Very well; you go and look after the horses, and I will see about the man." I saw him go into the house, and I went away. When I had gone about half a mile up the paddock, I heard the report of a gun. It had a curious muffled sound, which is accounted for by its having been fired off in the house. It did not sound as if the gun had been discharged in the open air. Immediately afterwards I heard three or four more reports in quick succession. There was about the same interval between them as between the beats of a clock pendulum. I went about a mile further on, when a young man named George Hammett came running after me, and said, "For God's sake, come home directly, a bushranger has shot Henry." I came home as fast as I could, and met my daughter Emily, on horseback. I told her to ride as fast as she could for the Queenstown police. I tried to catch a horse to take my son to Melbourne, but Mr. Abbott called out to me, and told me it was no use, for he was too bad to be moved. He had previously asked me what I was catching the horse for. I then came up to the house, and saw the man lying on his back in the yard, with his arms and legs tied. I asked Abbott who it was, and he replied, "That's the bushranger." I asked the man what he did it for, and why he had come here. I believe I said, "You villain, what did you shoot my son for?" He said that my son had insulted him, and that he would not be insulted by any man. I left him, and went in to see my son, who was lying on the bed, apparently in a dying state. I said, "Henry, how are you?" He said, "Well, father, I am a dead man — I shall be dead before dark." He lived about eight hours afterwards, and died about five o'clock in the afternoon. My son was a healthy, strong man. Two doctors were sent for immediately after my son was shot, and Dr. Ronald was in attendance by about ten o'clock, and was with him until the deceased's death. There was a considerable difference between the reports which I heard. The first was louder than the succeeding ones. There was an interval of about two seconds between the first report and the three which followed. The man had no swag, but he had a sort of poncho on his arm. He was respectably dressed, but I did not like his manner, and I said to myself, "That is a Sydney native." He walked right into the house, only saying, "Good morning," and scarcely looking at me.

Ellen Hurst deposed, — I am daughter of the last witness, and deceased was my brother. About eight or half-past eight o'clock on Thursday morning, I saw a man coming towards the house, and I went and met him at the door. He said "Good morning. I have come a long way, and am very hungry. Will you give me some breakfast?" I told him to come in, and I gave him a seat in the kitchen. While I was getting his breakfast ready he was conversing with me about the colonies. I was talking to him for about ten minutes, but he would not look me in the face. I gave him his breakfast, together with the little shepherd boy, William Hammett, and he was then sitting with his back to me. The boy was in the room when the man came, and was there all the time. My brother came into the house, went into the bedroom, and, calling me in, asked me what the man wanted. I told him that he wanted some breakfast, when my brother said, "I don't like the look of him." I then went into the sittingroom, when my brother took his double-barreled gun from the corner and loaded it. I think it was with shot, but I am not certain. I helped him to load it, and got the caps for him. I saw powder and shot in his hand, and I put them away afterwards. While he was loading the gun, my brother said he thought the man was no good. I wanted my brother to let me go into the kitchen, and see if the man would stick me up, and if he did so my brother could come to my assistance. The deceased would not consent, but followed me into the kitchen with the gun in his hand. I forgot to mention what made my brother load his gun. Before coming into the sitting-room, my brother went with me into the kitchen, and as the man was leaning over the table to get some bread, he saw the end of a revolver sticking out under his coat. It was then that we came into the sitting-room and loaded the gun. While my brother was finishing the loading, I went into the bedroom to hide some jewellery. I then went into the kitchen, and my brother followed me. The man was still at his breakfast and I stood nearly behind him about two yards off. My brother was on my left hand behind the man about a yard off. He put his gun in the corner on his left hand side. I don't know whether he cocked the gun or not. The first thing my brother said to the man was, "Good morning, mate. Where are you from?" He answered, "Cape Schanck." My brother said, "And where are you going?" To which he replied, "To Kilmore." My brother said, "The deuce you are; you are going a roundabout way to it." The man turned his body round on the stool to face my brother, and said, "Are you the master of the house?" My brother said " Yes." The man struck the stool with his fist and said, "I will never take an insult from any man. I came to get my breakfast." My brother said, "You won't?' meaning, won't you take an insult? The man jumped up from his seat, and put his hands behind him, throwing his coat up, and saying, "Do you know who I am? I am a bushranger." He then jumped at my brother, with a revolver in his hand. My brother stooped to get the gun, being quite close to the man. I was going towards the man, to ask him not to shoot, when my brother made a sign, which I thought meant that he wished me to go for assistance. I was just going to the stockyard to call Mr. Abbott, but when I had taken a few steps, two shots were fired, and before I got out of the kitchen the smoke went over my head, and I heard something pass me, but what it was I don't know. I met Mr. Abbott coming, and told him to go to my brother's assistance. When I had got half way to the stockyard, I heard one or two more shots fired. I met Mr. Abbott about half way between the house and the stockyard. I said, "Do go up to the house; a bushranger has shot my brother." He ran to the house, and I ran down about a mile and a half, and told some men, who went for the police at Eltham. When I came back again, in about an hour or an hour and a half, the man was lying in front of the house, tied hand and foot. Both of his legs were covered with blood. Constable Hall and others afterwards carried him to the hut, so that he might have his wound dressed. Before I went out of the kitchen the boy had risen from his seat, and appeared to be frightened. During the day, we discovered shot marks on the wall in the kitchen. When I left the room, my brother was so close to the man that he could not possibly have raised the gun to his shoulder to shoot him. When I saw the pistol, the man had it in his hand, with the muzzle pointing downwards in the direction of my brother, and he appeared to be just raising the muzzle to present it at him. The pistol was not further than eighteen inches from my brother's body. The man was sitting at breakfast in such a position that he could see us as we entered the kitchen. My brother had the gun in his hand in front of him. I think the man must have seen the gun, and he could have heard my brother put it down in the corner. The man went on eating when he entered the room, but he did not eat or drink anything after my brother spoke to him. He must have heard my brother load the gun, as it was in the next room. The rooms are only separated by slabs, with calico lining. Ordinary conversation carried on in one room can be heard in the other, but we spoke in an undertone. When I came home after going out, I saw my brother lying on the bed wounded. He was quite sensible. He told me he should die, but we had no conversation about the encounter. The man said he was a bushranger, but he did not say what his name was. He made no attempt to stick up the place, and to me he was very civil. I had never seen him before, and I did not like his looks when I saw him at the door. He asked no questions about the neighbours. The persons who slept in the house on the night of the 3rd were my father and mother, who were in a separate room attached to the main building, the deceased, my brother Frederick, my sister Emily, Mr. Abbott, and myself. The boy slept in the hut with his brother George. All the other men were away with the sheep about seven miles off. My mother did not take breakfast with us, and was not up when the man came. All went away after breakfast except myself and the little boy. The man came a few minutes after they left.

William Hammett, a boy thirteen or fourteen years of age, the son of a plasterer living in Melbourne, deposed, — My brother and I are employed as shepherds by Mr. Hurst. Between eight and nine o'clock on Thursday morning I was getting breakfast in the kitchen when I saw the bushranger come down the yard. Mr. Hurst said "Good morning" to him, and he said "Good morning" in reply. He came up to the backdoor, and Miss Hurst went to meet him. He said he was very hungry, and wanted some breakfast. Miss Hurst said "Come in and sit down." He came into the kitchen, and sat down on a stool. I was then eating my breakfast, Miss Hurst got him something to eat. Soon after Mr. Hurst came into the kitchen with a pair of shears in his hand. While he was there the man reached over the table to get the bread, and I saw Mr. Hurst look down at his back. He then went into the sittingroom. I did not hear him load the gun. When he came back, accompanied by his sister, he had his double-barreled gun, which he carried at his side in his right hand. The barrels were pointing upwards. He carried the gun past the man, and placed it in the corner by the fireplace. Mr. Hurst said after a few minutes, "Well, mate, where do you come from?" The man said, "Cape Schanck," and that he was going to Kilmore. Mr. Hurst said, "You are a deuce of a long way out of your road." The man then turned round, and asked it he was to be insulted while he was having breakfast? Mr. Hurst said, "Decidedly not." The man then said he would take an insult from no man, and struck his fist on the stool. He then jumped up, drew his revolver from his belt behind, and rushing forward presented it at Mr. Hurst, saying, "I am a bushranger." Mr. Hurst then took up his gun, and fired without raising it to his shoulder. The bushranger fired almost at the same time, as near as I can guess. I then jumped out of the window and ran to the stockyard, just as Mr. Abbott was going in at the front door. I cannot say whether more than two shots were fired, I was so frightened. I stopped at the stockyard about a minute, and then I saw Mr. Abbott with the man outside. He threw the man down on his back, and held his hands down, while I went and got a rope to tie him with. I got a halter, with which Mr. Abbott tied the man's hands. When I first saw them struggling together the man had a revolver, but Mr. Abbott knocked it out of his hand.

Joseph Abbott deposed, — I have been living on the station two years with Mr. Hurst, as a friend. A little after eight o'clock on Thursday morning I was down at the stockyard, milking, when saw a man go past with a poncho on his arm. He was going straight to the house. A few minutes after, Miss Emily Hurst came, and said that the man had a pair of revolvers under his coat. While I was talking to her I heard the report of a gun or pistol. I dropped a bucket that I had in my hand, and ran out of the yard towards the house. As I was coming up I heard the report of three more barrels, and the screams of Miss Ellen Hurst. I met her about half way when she dropped behind a tree, saying that Henry was shot. I immediately came up to the back door of the house, but not seeing either Mr. Hurst or the man I went round to the front door, when I saw the man standing against the post of the sitting-room door. I sprang forward, and caught him by the necktie. At the same moment I saw Mr. Hurst, whom I did not observe before, struggling with the man. Hurst said, "For God's sake, Abbott, take hold of him, for he has shot me; I am a dead man." Mr. Hurst at this time had hold of the barrel of a pistol, and the man had hold of the butt-end. We all three struggled into the kitchen, and when half through, Mr. Hurst fell, from exhaustion. The man and I struggled until we had got half a dozen yards out of doors, when he put up his right hand, pointed the pistol to my breast, and said, "If you don't let me go I'll shoot you." I threw up my left arm, and knocked the pistol out of his hand. We struggled then for a short distance, when I threw him down. At the same moment I saw the boy Hammett coming up from the yard, and I ordered him to bring me a rope as quickly as possible. He brought a halter, and I tied the man's hands in front of him. I had my knee on his throat at the time. I then came into the kitchen and got a longer rope, with which I tied his arms to his body. I also tied his legs. I then sent the boy to catch a horse, and in the meantime took the other revolver out of the man's belt, and threw it away. I sent the boy down the paddock for help; and then shouted to his brother in the yard to catch another horse. While he was away William Hammett came with two men, whose names I do not know. One was left in charge of the man, while the other helped me to lift Mr. Hurst on the bed. Deceased's father came in shortly afterwards, and asked his son how he was, when he said, "I am a dead man." Shortly after the deceased's father left; and I asked the deceased how it occurred. He said, "The wretch — the first barrel he would have fired missed fire, and then I shot him with my gun." I asked him how many shots he had in him, and he said two. I remained with Mr. Hurst until he died. I saw the man in custody of the police, with handcuffs on. I pointed out the revolvers to Constable Hall. (The weapons were produced, and identified by the witness) After I had tied the man, he said "For God's sake slacken the rope, my hands are bursting." I said "I will slacken your brains with a bullet before I will do it."

Dr. Ronald, J.P., deposed. — I was sent for on Thursday, to see the deceased. I arrived at about eleven, and found him in what I considered to be a dying state. There was no pulse at the wrist, and the hands were perfectly cold. I could just detect the beating of the heart. I immediately prescribed brandy, and after he had taken a little he rallied somewhat. He was too weak for me to examine his wounds. He got stronger in about three-quarters of an hour, and I was then enabled to examine his wounds. On the shoulder-bone was an abrasion about three inches long, blackened with powder, but there was no blood. There was a bullet wound on the right thigh, and another a few inches above, towards the crest of the ilium. There was another wound about four inches from this. There was no hemorrhage at this time, but there had been a good deal previously. He died at about five o'clock. As justice of the peace, I took the deceased's deposition before he died. (Deposition put in, and proved.) The deposition was taken in the presence of a man calling himself Burke. Burke was asked if he had any questions to put to the dying man, but he did not put any.

The following is a copy of the document produced:

"The deposition of Henry Hurst, taken on oath this 4th of October, 1860, at his own house, on the Diamond Creek, he suffering at the time from a pistol-shot wound or wounds, and declared by the medical man present to be in a dying state; the prisoner, Robert Burke, being present: — I am a settler. About nine o'clock this morning the prisoner, who has since been shown to me by Constables Hall and Mills, came into my house and asked for breakfast, which was supplied. He came on foot, as from the direction of Melbourne. He was sober. As he was sitting getting his breakfast I observed a pistol hanging over the stool, as if suspended round his waist. It was my sister Ellen who supplied him with his breakfast. I thought he was a bushranger, from his appearance and from the sight of the revolver, and I went and loaded my gun with shot. I asked him where he came from, and he said from Cape Schanck. I asked him where he was going, and he said to Kilmore. I said, 'You have come a long way out of your way to go to Kilmore.' He then turned round from his breakfast, and said, 'Do you intend to insult me?' I replied, ' No.' He said, 'I can take my part with any man in the country.' I said, 'I don't want to insult you.' He then said, 'I am a bushranger.' He then jumped up, and took his revolver from behind his coat. Previous to this I had brought my gun from the kitchen. He held his revolver in such a manner that I saw he was going to fire, and I then fired at him. I identify the gun now produced as the one I used. There were two charges in the gun, but I only fired off one barrel. I then caught him round the arms, and he fell. I believe he attempted to shoot me before this, but the revolver snapped. We struggled, and fell together. I dropped the gun, and as we rolled on the ground he fired three shots at me. He said, 'Well, you are a game fellow; but, you — , you are done for now.' At this time we were both down, he uppermost. We then struggled on our feet for about five minutes, when Mr. Abbott came. I found my leg giving way, and could not hold him any longer.

"Taken and sworn before me, at Mr. Hurst's station, the Diamond Creek, this 4th October, 1866. W. RONALD. J.P."

"Statement of prisoner. — I don't know whether I said, 'You are a game —— .' I fired two shots only."

Dr. Edward Barker deposed. — On Thursday afternoon I was sent for, to go to Mr. Hurst's station. I started, but on arriving at Greensborough I was informed that the deceased was dead, I was then requested by Mr. Superintendent Smith to examine a man that he had in custody. I found that the man had been wounded in the left thigh, a ball having passed through. There were two wounds — one on the front and the other on the back of the thigh. On Saturday I visited the man, in the Melbourne Gaol, and examined the wounds carefully. I then satisfied myself that the wound at the back of the thigh was where the ball had entered, and that the one in front was its place of exit. There were no marks of powder about either of these wounds. There was no hemorrhage from the wounds, even on the first night. The man was suffering some pain on Thursday night. He is not in a fit state to come here to-day. Yesterday I made a post mortem examination of the deceased, in the presence of Dr. Ronald, who assisted me.

The Coroner stated that there were several other witnesses to be examined, and as they were not in attendance he must adjourn the inquest at this stage.

The inquest was then adjourned until Monday next, at the Diamond Reef Hotel, Diamond Creek, at nine a.m., when Dr. Barker will be further examined as to the results of the post-mortem examination made by him.

It is probable that the rest of the investigation will be conducted in Burke's presence, as he will most likely be quite able to travel in a week's time.

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'Hurst, Henry Facey (1832–1866)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hurst-henry-facey-15329/text26538, accessed 24 November 2017.

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