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George Bell (?–1866)

The Bathurst Times of May 23 reports that George Bell, the bushranger, charged with being the accomplice of John Garvey—who committed the daring robbery upon a party of miners at the Ironbarks, on the 6th February last and who inflicted a dangerous gunshot wound upon a German named Hinzerling, and a few moments after lost his own life—died at 11 o'clock, on Sunday night, in our gaol. The evidence as to his identity was unmistakable, and his death is ascribed to the terror with which he was inspired at the prospect of the punishment of his guilt, for he was charged with a capital offence. His fear so worked upon his imagination that he fell into a low fever, and when told that he would die of his illness, he is reported to have replied that it was better for him to die that way than on the gallows. He was first taken seriously ill on the 11th instant, and was attended by Dr. Busby, the gaol surgeon, and subsequently, at the request of his friends, by Dr. Machattie also. He never rallied; and as he grew worse was constantly attended by two fellow-prisoners, who state that he ate little or no food. A magisterial inquiry was held by Dr. Palmer yesterday, when the facts we have mentioned were elicited. The prisoner, it will be remembered, was arrested on the morning of the 12th April, by senior-sergeant Grainger, at Wattle Flat, and the same morning was brought before the bench and remanded from time to time, as the attendance of the various witnesses could be obtained. The investigation was conducted with closed doors, and we were not permitted to publish the evidence, as it was thought the ends of justice might be defeated. The death of the prisoner has, however, removed the necessity for secrecy, and we, therefore, give the following abridged depositions, as affording an outline of the case:—James Osborne, a licensed publican residing at Ironbarks, stated: I recollect being robbed of some gold; it took place at the Ironbarks on Tuesday, the 6th of February last; I had a share in a claim; on that day I and my fellow shareholders—Daniel Henzerling, a German, Peter Dupois, a Frenchman, John Caugherty, and a friend, one Robert Hutton—were retorting some gold at Smith's crushing machine; we got, as near as we could guess, 120 ounces in two cakes, which were placed in an earthenware basin; we left the machine, and John Caugherty carried the gold; when we were about 100 yards from the machine, going towards the township, we saw two men galloping down the hill towards us; when they came within four or five yards of us they pulled out firearms, presented them, and one of them called out "Drop that;" we hesitated a little, and he sang out again, if we did not drop it he would blow our brains out; I then told Caugherty he had better put the gold down, for there was no use in holding it; he did so, and the men, being still on horseback, cried out to us to "stand back ;" we commenced stepping backwards, and they cried out, "Keep together:" they urged their horses up, seemingly with the intention of getting off to take the gold, when we made a rush at them in order to frighten them; their horses seemed scared, and we kept throwing up our hands and calling for help; one of the bushrangers then cried out, "Shoot them," and at the same time he fired at the Frenchman, but without hitting him; the other bushranger then fired at the German, who was nearest to the gold; Henzerling put his hand to his leg, as though he was hit; one of the bushrangers then got off his horse close to the gold, and when he was in the act of picking it up the German (Henzerling) made a rush at him, but when he got within three or four yards of the fellow, he (the bushranger) presented his rifle at him, fired, and shot him in the breast; the German staggered back, exclaiming, "I'll die—I'll die;" the bushranger then got on his horse with the gold and galloped after the other robber up the hill; I looked across the creek and saw William Bragg, a butcher, presenting his rifle at them; I then turned to look after the bushrangers, who were galloping away; I heard the report of Bragg's rifle, and saw the horse of the man that had the gold flinch as if he was hit; they then galloped on over the hill out of sight. [The witness then described one of the men minutely, and the clothes he wore, saying that he had a cabbage-tree or felt hat tied down the sides of his face with an old handkerchief. He identified the prisoner as that man.] He knew the other man's features, but could not at the time call to mind who he was or where he had seen him; he it was upon whom Bragg fired, and when his body was found over the hill witness at once recognised him as having been a carpenter at Bell's engine, named "Old Joe;" witness saw his body half an hour after the butcher fired the rifle; he was lying on his back, and he was the man who fired twice at the German; the prisoner was the man who called out to the other "shoot them, shoot them."—Remon Dupois, the Frenchman, corroborated the statement of the last witness, and added that the robbers' faces were smeared over with some blue pigment, but he would not swear to the prisoner as being one of the men.—Robert Hutton was examined, and testified that the prisoner's companion, who was shot, was a man, named Garvey; he believed the prisoner to be one of the men, but could not swear positively to him.—Alexander Gold, a baker, deposed to having seen the prisoner ride through the township on the morning of the day on which the affray occurred, thus proving that he was in the neighborhood at the time.—Daniel Henzerling (the German) deposed: On the 6th February last I resided at Ironbarks; on that day I, three of my mates, and a friend, were on our way from Smith's engine to Isaac's store, and we had in our possession 100 ounces of gold, or more; one of my mates, named James Caugherty, carried the gold; when we got about one hundred yards from the engine, I saw two men ride towards us from the hill, with their faces painted blue; at first we thought they were blackfellows; they came up within three or four yards, presented arms at Caugherty, and ordered him to drop the gold, and he laid it down; the prisoner is one of these men; some of my mates went backwards, after the gold was laid down, but I and the Frenchman stood and called out "Bushrangers—murder:" when we cried out, prisoner fired at the French man, and Garvey, the man that is dead, shot me in the left thigh; I then retreated a few yards; Garvey was getting off his horse to get the gold when I made a rush at him; he jumped on his horse again, without taking the gold, and presented his rifle at me; he got off his horse again, and was going to take the gold, when I made another dart at him, and tried to pick up something to throw, so as to frighten him; he jumped on his horse again, when the prisoner said, "Garvey, God —— it, shoot the ——;" Garvey then fired upon me, and shot me in the right breast; the ball has since been taken out from the back of my right shoulder, by Dr. Rigate, of Wellington; after I was shot, I stepped back a few yards, and lay upon the ground; Garvey picked up the gold, and rode off with the prisoner. [The witness, in conclusion, said he had known the prisoner for eighteen months or two years, and that he used to reside with his father, about a quarter of a mile from Smith's machine, and positively identified him as one of the robbers; he further stated that from first to last the bushrangers were not occupied in the robbery more than two or three minutes.] The last evidence was taken on the 4th May, when the prisoner was remanded for seven days. As stated above, he was taken ill on the 11th, and gradually sank till Sunday night last, when he expired. The gold taken by the robbers has not been recovered.

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'Bell, George (?–1866)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 May 2024.

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