south west horrific murders
south west horrific murders

20 of south west Queensland’s horrific killings

IN 1872 Patrick Collins faced the gallows after he had been found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by hanging.

Collins' death in the small southwest Queensland outpost of St George would mark the last hanging in the state.

Although killing another person is no longer punishable by hanging, there would be many killers in the southwest who would strike and horrify the remote communities over the decades.

The Western Star has delved deep into the archives and brought to light the historical true crime cases that have rocked southwest Queensland communities since 1871.

In order of date, here are the murders that have taken place in the south west. For more information, please click on the hyperlink.




The St George Court House was built in 1870 and it didn't have to wait long for a major conviction to take place within it's walls. Simon Zieman and his brother were very prominent storekeepers in the town and they also dealt in livestock, which is the reason why Zieman chose to walk to "Wagaby'' Station in 1871, he was to talk business and procure a horse and then commence his journey to Surat and Roma with the intention of buying cattle.

While at Wagaby he was overheard conversing about a large sum of money he would be using to purchase the stock by a man known as Patrick Collins. Next morning he commenced his journey on horseback, which to Surat would take at least eight hours and he was never seen alive again.

During the same month of November, a travelling local man came across Zieman's horse running free with an injury to it's leg and this led him to finding Mr Zieman floating face down in ''Gunda Gunda'' Creek on ''Donga'' Station. When the police arrived they found the tracks of a horse and man near the creek, these boot tracks were invaluable and led them to Patrick Collins who had left some boots with Mr. Overs, the local bootmaker previously.

Mr Zieman's trousers, shirt and bridle were discovered at the home of Patrick Collin's sister Catherine Beckett and were collected as evidence. Patrick was arrested at McAllistar's Commercial Hotel after trying to cash a cheque belonging to Zieman to the value of 33 pounds.

Patrick Collins denied the murder and he was arrested on purely circumstantial evidence. Measures were taken to secure further evidence for the trial.

Dr. Godfrey attended the murder scene on ''Gunda Gunda'' creek and it was there on the banks of the creek that he removed the head of Simon Zieman, the neck was removed an hour later and both were placed into an air tight tin, this was then taken to Surat under police escort.

Mr. Zieman's body was then buried on the creek bank was removed again at a later date but to where could not be found. Zieman's brother declared ''I will not bury my brother until the day his murderer hangs."

It was said that on arrival in Surat, the head was baked in a camp oven so that all the flesh could be removed so the skull could be used in court as evidence of injuries. There was quite an outcry about this later on during the court case.

Patrick Collins had finally admitted to striking Zieman across the back of the head with a pistol, thinking he was carrying 800 pounds in cash, which wasn't the case as Zieman would have paid this amount by cheque. Collins was wearing a mask and had not killed Zieman, he was just badly injured and was knocked off his horse but as Collins walked away, leaving him in the water Zieman called out ''you will hang for this Paddy Collins'' so he returned and inflicted the fatal blows.

On the May 28, 1872 Patrick Collins was hanged for the murder of Simon Zieman which was the last hanging ever performed in Queensland. At the time of the hanging Patrick refused to shake hands with the hangman and an error was made in the measurements of the rope. When Collins fell this caused a large gash across his throat and blood sprayed all over those in attendance.

True to his brothers word, Simon Zieman's funeral was held that very day as declared in Brisbane, no doubt in a ceremony befitting his station and I imagine Patrick Collins was buried in a paupers grave in the grounds of the prison unless his body was collected by family.


Submitted by: Borewater and Banter St George QLD


William Dwyer


Constable William Dwyer was sworn in on December 11, 1877 and was then transferred to Taroom in central Queensland. During his time there, a notorious man known as Wild Toby roamed the district. Records state for many years he caused great trouble and fear in the district. In September 1882, Wild Toby was arrested by Constable Edwards for kidnapping a grazier's daughter. He was interred for the night in the station storeroom and chained to a log but still managed to escape. On September 25, 1882, a warrant was issued for Toby's arrest on a charge of attempted murder of one James Anderson of Wandoan.

On January 24, 1883, Senior Constable Wright, Constable Dwyer and a tracker left the Taroom Police Station in pursuit of Toby who was reportedly camped at Juandah Station (about 2 days ride from Taroom). Late on January 25 the patrol saw a fire coming from what they believed to be Toby's camp but due to the late hour they stopped to camp for the night. At daylight on the 26th, the patrol made its way towards the camp and when closer, saw Wild Toby. The patrol rode single file into the camp with Wright in the lead.

Without warning to his colleagues, Dwyer got off his horse and charged at Toby, grabbed him by the neck and put a revolver to his head. But Toby had no intention of surrendering and Dwyer could not hold onto him as he was covered in pig fat and was slippery. As Toby leapt to his feet with his tomahawk, Dwyer's gun was knocked out of his hands and Toby lunged at Dwyer with his tomahawk. Wright got off his horse and fired two shots at Toby but that did not stop him from hitting Dwyer in the head with the tomahawk. Wright then managed to shoot and kill Wild Toby.

Constable William Dwyer died half an hour after the attack from a massive head wound. He is buried in the Juandah cemetery.


This information has been supplied by the Queensland Police Museum from the best resources available at the time of writing.


Patrick and James Kenniff

The story of the Kenniffs is one of adventure and tragedy as well as being an intriguing murder mystery. Patrick and James came to Queensland in the early 1890s and became notorious for horse and cattle theft. In 1895 both received prison terms at St Helena Island in Moreton Bay. After their release they moved to the Upper Warrego and took up a large grazing lease known as Ralph Block. When cattle disappeared from neighbouring properties the Kenniffs became the prime suspects. They were evicted from their land and took up a nomadic life, riding armed through the district. The Commissioner of Police was so concerned that the Upper Warrego Police Station was established on the Ralph property.

The Kenniffs continued to steal cattle and horses and held up a general store in Yuleba. In March 1902 police at Roma took out a warrant against the brothers for stealing a pony. A police posse set out consisting of Constable Doyle, Albert Dahlke, the manager of Carnarvon Station, and Sam Johnson, an Aboriginal tracker.

They tracked down the Kenniffs to Lethbridge's Pocket, a well known Kenniff haunt. James Kenniff was caught but Patrick managed to escape. Sam Johnson was sent to retrieve the party's packhorse which had been left behind at the start of the chase. When he returned Doyle and Dahlke were nowhere to be seen and he was pursued by the Kenniffs as he fled for help. A later expedition found the charred remains of Doyle and Dahlke and evidence of a gun fight. A massive manhunt was organised and three months later the brothers were captured at Arrest Creek, south of Mitchell. Despite the circumstantial evidence they were both found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. James' sentence was later commuted to 16 years jail and a royal pardon saw him released in November 1914. Partick was executed on 12 January 1903 at Boggo Road Prison and buried in South Brisbane cemetery. He proclaimed his innocence to the last.

Credit: John Oxley Library admin


Murders and suicide

Printed January 6 1900 by Morning Post

Last night a man named Edward Snow murdered a woman named Mrs Goward, her son aged 17, and her daughter aged 16. The two former were shot in the head, and the girl's throat was cut. Snow then committed suicide by cutting his throat.

Later at about 5 o'clock this morning, Martin Dewin, who resides at Mr G. Isle's selection on the western side of the Balonne River about 3* miles from St. George, informed the police that a Mrs Goward and two children living on a selection 5 miles away had been poisoned and that a young man named Snow had cut his throat, about a mile and a half from where Gowaids were supposed to be murdered, a Sergeant Williams and Constable Behan proceeded to a paddock back of Isles' selection, but could not find the bodies.


James Brokenborough


Catherine Smith was the wife of Herbert Smith, a hawker residing at Tego Springs, near Cunnamulla. The Smiths has been on friendly terms with a man named James Brokenborough, who stayed with them when he was out of work. But Smith noticed a coolness developing between his wife and Brokenborough. On June 24, 1907 at noon, James Brokenborough reported to Herbert Smith that the had shot Catherine accidentally that morning while out pigeon shooting.

Written on the photograph "The Tego Springs Murder. Place and position where Mrs Smith body was found, Jason Brokenborough, the alleged murderer, myself Constable Solomon Richards, D. T. Scuriah, the JP who held inquiry and my Tracker Jack. Person kneeling beside corpse is husband of deceased."

Constable Cowley of the Hebel Police Station, was informed of the murder. That evening he went over to the spot and camped near the body and the next day made a searching inquiry. Dr Arthur Murray examined the body and found a bullet hole that had penetrated the left lung and the right ventricle of the heart causing death from internal haemorrhage. Constable Solomon Richards of Bollon Police Station was also involved with the investigation.

James Brokenborough, who murdered Catherine Smith in 1907

On June 28, Brokenborough told Cowley, "I shot her alright. I had good cause to do so. I was out after kangaroos coming out of the brigalow clump and saw Mrs Smith. I sang out to her. She looked at me and cantered away. She wouldn't stop. I up with my pea rifle and shot her."

Brokenborough was then arrested and charged with wilfully shooting Catherine Smith with intent to kill. It was thought that Brokenborough shot Catherine because she had rejected his advances. He was tried for murder in the Roma Circuit Court on September 17, 1907, found guilty and was sentenced to death. This sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in December of 1907.


This information has been supplied by the Queensland Police Museum from the best resources available at the time of writing.



The Chinchilla Murder

Printed August 2, 1909 by Queensland Times.


The police received a report from Normanton to the effect that Dick Normanton, a black trooper, formerly employed at Toowoomba was arrested on at Macaroni, by Senior-Sergeant Portley andConstable Haylan, on suspicion of having been concerned in the Chinchilla murder. He arrived here some months ago. The prisoner made a fierce and violent resistance, and assaulted both officers. In connection with the arrest, 100 miles from Normanton, of the aboriginal Dick for the alleged murder, at Chinchilla, of a man named D. R. Clements, it transpires that Dick Normanton was a black trooper employed in Toowoomba district.

Clements, with George Lawton, was camping in an old hut nine miles from Chinchilla. Clements and Lawton were on the veranda smoking, after tea, when a rifle shot rang out.

Clements dropped dead, shot through the head. Lawton went for the police and investigations were made. The police were unable to gain any clue to the murder. Subsequently tracks were picked up and Sergeant Portley, with black trackers followed these to Condarra, 75 miles from

Chinchilla. Condarra is an out Station from Auburn, and here they received information that the aboriginal had called at the outstation and had offered to exchange a silver watch for rations. This was the only occasion on which the aboriginal suspected by the police was seen with arrested at Normanton. Sergeant Portley followed his tracks as far as Aramaic, a distance of nearly 500 miles. The police then came to the conclusion that the aboriginal was making for the Gulf country, which was his home. They therefore, decided not to attempt to follow him overland, but went to Rockhampton, where they took a boat for Normanton and awaited the arrival of the suspected man in the district, were he was arrested, as stated. The police assert that Dick has since admitted the crime.



Percival Cornelius Read

Percival Cornelius Read, aged 44, was a prominent wheat farmer sharing his time between properties in Springbrook, near Nerang and Pirrinuan, near Dalby. Read and his employee, Frederick Benn, had attended the Toowoomba Show together in March 1933, and returned home later the same night. It was the last time anyone would see Percival Read alive. A month later Fred Benn and another farm employee James Heron, noticed a strong smell coming from the disused 60 foot well on the Jimbour Plains, about a mile from Read's home.

The lonely unused well, the only landmark for miles of flat countryside, located in Pirrinuan, near Dalby.

Benn and Heron notified Dalby police and a supervised inspection was immediately arranged. Police and medical examiners visited the property and probed the well using grappling irons, which failed to bring anything to the surface. Albert Spilling from Dalby, for the Coroner, was then lowered down the well and found the decomposed remains of a man who was fully clothed in work wear, a blanket, an overcoat made of leather, rope and other dress articles.

Randall, Government Doctor from Dalby, identified the decomposed remains as those of Percival Read. Post Mortem examination found the skull had been smashed to pieces. Janet Read, the wife of the deceased, identified the articles that were found in the well as those belonging to her husband. During the course of the investigation, 30 witnesses were interviewed by Detectives.


Image and text taken from the Truth newspaper, April 10, 1938.



Michael Flynn

Printed March 18, 1943 by Townsville Daily Bulletin


Michael Flynn, 29 police constable, stationed at Chinchilla, appeared on remand in the Police Court, charged that on March 3, he wilfully murdered Sapper Ronald Edward Baker, 47, also

known as David Cox.

Sergeant Aspinal said he saw the accused on March 4, and accused said he wished to tell the whole story. He said he had been having trouble at home and had not been friendly with his wife. He became very friendly with Mrs. Baker, and had relations with her. She said she had been living with a man named Baker who had gone to the war and married overseas. On the morning of March 3, he learned that Baker was back. In the afternoon, he received a message from Sergeant Brown saying that Baker was at the police station, and to keep away for a couple of hours. Later, Brown told him that Baker was going to clean him up. When he was at home about 5 o'clock, he received a message saying that there was hell to pay at Baker's, and that Mrs. Baker was getting a bad time, her screams being terrific. He rode down towards

Baker's house, but was told that everything had quietened down. Later he went to see Mrs Baker, who told him that Baker had threatened to kill her and her son, Ronnie. Later in the evening, Brown told him not to go out on duty as Baker was in the street, and was threatening to shoot him. Shortly afterwards, he got a message from Mrs. Baker, saying that

Baker was smashing everything in the house. He got his pistol and met Mrs Baker in the street, taking her to a friend's place. At Mrs Baker's request, he went to her flat to get her some clothes. While inside, he heard light steps on the veranda. He saw a man near the door and said: 'Are you Baker?' Deceased said: 'Yes. Now, it's you or me for it.' Accused said he pulled his gun and told Baker to stand back or he would shoot. Baker appeared to be slipping his hand towards his hip, and accused fired twice. He then left the flat and went to the C.P.S. (Mr. Schafer) and told him what had happened. The police went to the flat and Baker died three minutes afterwards. Witness, in reply to Mr. J. Cook for the accused, said he thought Baker was of a violent disposition. Sergeant Brown said that on the night of March 3 he look a knife from Baker at the police station. Deceased had a criminal record. He heard him threaten to kill Flynn.




Printed September 18, 1947 by the Courier Mail.


Colin Joseph Lusk, 26, forestry worker, was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour today after a jury in the Circuit Court had found him guilty of the wilful murder of Brian

Vincent Olive, 12, of Roma.

"I do not think there is anything I can say which would have any effect on you," the Chief Justice (Mr. Justice Macrossan) said.

"There is only one sentence I can impose."

Lusk showed little emotion when the sentence was pronounced.

During the retirement of the jury he was allowed to go outside the courthouse, and he calmly

sat on the steps and smoked.

Lusk had pleaded not guilty of having wilfully murdered Olive at Roma on June 14. The jury,

after a retirement of three-quarters of an hour, found him guilty of wilful murder.

His Honour said: "You have been found guilty of what your own counsel has described as a

cruel and foul crime - the murder of a small boy."



Charge of murder at Cunnamulla

Printed December 5, 1952 by the Courier Mail.


A witness said in the Petty Sessions Court yesterday he had heard a man say 'Get, get, or I'll shoot you.' The witness, John Henry Martin, drover, of Charleville, was giving evidence in a case in which Baker Lucas, about 42, of Cunnamulla, was charged that, at Cunnamulla, on October 27, he murdered Robert John Hart.

Sergeant D. Wallace, officer in charge of Cunnamulla police, said that at 1.30am on October 28, he was advised of a disturbance at the local aboriginal camp. In the afternoon, Lucas

said at the police station that he had shot Hart, Wallace continued. Lucas told him that he and Hart and other aborigines had attended a party the previous night, after which Hart and Hart's mother visited Lucas' home. Lucas said he had warned Hart not to go, otherwise he would shoot him and had proceeded to do so. He had shot him with a .22 rifle.



Leslie Tennyson


Leslie Tennyson, 54, a divorced groundsman and cleaner at Chinchilla's Commercial Hotel, was found dead in the bedroom of his Mayne Street flat on July 29, 1993, after failing to show up for work.

Webb, then a farmhand, had been drinking with Mr Tennyson on the night of his death. He said he woke to find Mr Tennyson on top of him trying to molest him.

After grabbing a knife, he stabbed Mr Tennyson five times in the chest, piercing his heart twice.


Credit: The Chronicle



Lynette Geraldine McNiven


A man injured in a fight with his defacto staggered outside and collapsed where he in effect froze to death, a court has heard.

Douglas Coolwell, 58, died as a combination of hypothermia, which brought on heart attacks, and loss of blood after being found lying in a street in Cunnamulla, in western Queensland, two years ago.

Temperatures in Cunnamulla often drop sharply at night, the court heard.

Coolwell's de facto partner Lynette Geraldine McNiven, 48, was originally charged with his murder but that was later downgraded to manslaughter.

However, in the District Court in Brisbane today, prosecutor Phil McCarthy said pathology tests were unable to show any causation between the injuries inflicted on Coolwell in a fight with McNiven and Coolwell's death.

McNiven pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm and unlawful wounding, on March 30, 2008.

Mr McCarthy detailed how Coolwell and McNiven had both been alcoholics and there were a long history of domestic violence on both sides in the relationship.

McNiven was upset about Coolwell allegedly seeing other women and after a day of heavy drinking they had been arguing.

It appeared they had gone home and had a fight in which each struck the other.


Credit: The Courier Mail, Mark Oberhardt



The crime that haunted the Roma community

Stacey-Ann Tracy was walking to school on the morning of May 22 when Barry Hadlow abducted her, committing his vile crimes before dumping her body in Bungil Creek.

He was out on parole after 22 years for the murder of Townsville girl Sandra Dorothy Bacon.

"Hadlow never told anyone what he had been to jail for previously, but he should never have been out on parole," Mrs Hewitt said.

Hadlow was among the townsfolk who spent four days searching for the young girl before she was found near Miscamble St on Saturday, May 26, 1990.

He was charged with her murder, forcibly detaining a child under 14, and indecently and unlawfully dealing with a child under 12 years of age.

Hadlow pleaded not guilty to Stacey-Ann's murder, but the jury disagreed.

He was sentenced to life in prison and his file was marked never to be released. He died in 2007 at the age of 65.


Credit: The Chronicle, Ellen Ransley


Rodney Michael Cherry


Double murderer Rodney Michael Cherry was denied a chance to appeal to his life sentence for killing his wife and stepdaughter in Roma.

More than 11 years have passed since the former Springsure man was convicted for the brutal murders and given a mandatory non-parole period of 20 years.

His failed attempt to appeal was based on a legal loophole relating to 537 days he spent in custody for drugs and weapons charges, which were later dropped.

Cherry's lawyers argued they were not taken into account in his sentencing and the judge's decision was therefore illegal.

Appeals Court Justices Margaret McMurdo, Hugh Fraser and Philip Morrison remained "unpersuaded that the interests of justice" warranted granting an appeal after 11 years.

They found the 2002 sentence was lawful and "the applicant's appalling murder offences render it unlikely he would be considered as a serious candidate for release or parole" even after 20 years.

Cherry handed his stepdaughter a pistol and had her kill her mother, Annette Cherry (nee Guise), 36, in Roma in 1997.

He then murdered another of his step-daughters, Kira Ranee Guise, 17, in Roma in 1999.

Cherry had been having a sexual relationship with the girl before she was 16 and believed she knew of his role in her mother's killing.


Credit: Fraser Coast Chronicle, C Calcino


Louis James Mahony


Former police officer Louis James Mahonywas sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his de facto partner in Charleville in 2009.

The Supreme Court in Toowoomba heard that Mahony, 44, killed his longtime partner Laine Coldwell, but told police she had fallen from a tree while taking down party lights.

Ms Coldwell was taken to hospital with a severe head injury on August 23, 2009, and died two days later.

Mahony was arrested in 2015 for her murder.


Credit: ABC, Amy Phillips and Nancy Webb



Shane Michael Oulds

After facing a gruelling trial for their Dalby son's execution-style murder and now awaiting an outcome for his killer's appeal, the parents of a Sunshine Coast man also might have to relinquish $185,000 from his estate.

Raymond and Gail Burns, from Dalby, have been listed as administrators of the estate of Jye Raymond Burns from which the Queensland Government seeks to extract the above sum.

Shane Michael Oulds was sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting Burns, 24, five times at close range on a remote Landsborough road after the pair had been pub crawling between Maroochydore and Mooloolaba together on July 8, 2010.


Credit: Big Rigs, Rae Wilson





Police in Queensland have announced a $250,000 reward for information regarding the bizarre disappearance of a man who walked off from a campsite and was never seen again.

Jason John Vance vanished on October 24 in 2013 in the Barakula State Forest near Chinchilla and an extensive land and air search failed to turn up any clues as to his whereabouts.

Police say the 41-year-old father had been camping with two friends when he walked into the forest and never returned.

Lester and Debra Marriage, his parents, told The Gold Coast Bulletin last year that a man had come forward claiming that Jason had been murdered.

The witness also claimed to know who was responsible. Four months after he made a statement to police, the man died.

"In that statement he pointed to people that … could have been implicated in the murder of our son," Mr Marriage told the newspaper.

Jason's disappearance was out of character, he said, and the fact that police hadn't found a trace of him was baffling.

"The one thing that is not true is that he did not walk off into the bush and vaporise into thin air," Mr Marriage told the newspaper.


Credit:, Shannon Molloy


Troy Angus Kearns


A man who pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing his brother has been jailed for eight years for manslaughter.

Troy Angus Kearns used a boning knife in a fight with his older brother Wade Kearns at their parents' home at Roma, in Queensland's southern inland in December 2014.

Troy Kearns' Supreme Court trial was told an argument about missing money got out of control and Kearns stuck the knife in his brother's chest.

In handing down the sentence in Brisbane, Justice John Byrne said he accepted that Kearns did not mean to kill his brother, but that he had a knife and had expected to use it.


Credit: ABC, Lexy Hamilton-Smith



Owen James Harris


Owen James Harris, 30, of Roma was been charged with murder over the disappearance of Brisbane man Sam Price-Purcell, who has been missing since 2015.

Mr Price-Purcell, 25, was in the Mitchelton area in Brisbane's north on February 16, 2015, but police believe he then travelled in a yellow Holden Commodore to Toowoomba on Queensland's Darling Downs.

He has not been seen since, and homicide investigators believe he met with foul play.

Mr Price-Purcell's remains have not been found.


Credit: ABC, Elaine Ford and staff and The Chronicle, John Weekes


Jason William Binney

Just shy of 1000 days since Dalby father-of-three Mark Wilkes was killed in his sleep, a man is behind bars for at least the next 20 years for his murder.

Jason William Binney pleaded guilty to murder in the Supreme Court, where it was heard the tragedy came as a result of a love-triangle turned deadly in the small town.

Binney and the victim's estranged wife Letisha Finn started a relationship in the wake of her split from the deceased in 2015.

The court heard that during this romance, Binney had asked a man numerous times to "tickle up" his partner's ex while he was away in Hervey Bay and had an alibi.

Mr Wilkes died in his sleep in 2016.

It was also heard that a witness claimed the accused told Ms Finn, "I'll do away with him and I'll make it look like an accident."

In the wake of the killing, Binney offered sympathies to the victim's family and asked that Facebook messages declaring his shock at the blaze be screenshot.

Justice Martin Burns said Mr Wilkes died from being struck in the head numerous times with a hammer prior to a fire that engulfed his Dalby home on January 20, 2016.


Credit: The Chronicle, Anton Rose