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Wardell Ferry

On the morning of May 19th 1885, Albert Robbins (son of Mr F. Robbins of Wardell), turned the punt rope for the ferryman, Mr John Poor. The ferry stopped about 10 yards from the bank on the Wardell side. Albert observed an old sac & tried to dislodge it. It was firmly draped over the rope. Attempts to move the sac brought into vision a pair of mens boots. Close inspection revealed a dead body tied in the sac. Albert dopped the ferry's rowing boat over the side & rowed quickly to the Wardell side & fled to the ferryman's house. There he woke John & old him of the findings.

John & Albert went straight to the Wardell Police Station where Senior Constable Edwards was in charge. The three men untangled the body & it was towed beside the rowboat to the Wardell side of the river. The body was then taken to the Police Station for investigation. Removal of the sac left the police none the wiser. The isolation of the cane farming properties & seasonal nature of a lot of the work, meant that it was not surprising the man could not be identified.

The inquest was held at Wardell. At the time there was no possibility of identifying the man. This meant that the identity of both the murderer & murdered man were unknown. The findings were, the deceased:
* was a fairly well built man
* was 28-30 years of age
* was 5 feet 7 inches tall
* was fair in hair colour
* was medium in complexion
* was dressed in moleskin trousers, blucher boots & a crimean shirt
* had his left leg atached to a bag containing 4 stones
* had an 18 inch rope between his legs & the bag
* had the back of his head bashed in & severely bashed about
* had been bundles into a 3 bushel sac which was then tied around his hips
The bag attached to the legs had 1C on it in puce letters.

The police traced the bag marked 1C as one sold by James Barry, the storekeeper, to a farmer on the 25th April. The puzzle was that he (Liddiard) lived down stream from the ferry & on the opposite bank to where the body was found. One of the girls from the Barry farm had heard Hirlsford & Liddiard out in the boat on the 13th May & heard a splash as something hit the water.

As the months went by, news filtered through that a man named Patrick Noonan who worked on a farm near Pimlico had not been seen for months. Sub-inspector Garwin went to the farm to interview the farmer, Liddiard & his employee Hirlsford. Liddiard was much respected in the district. Liddiard was very calm & confident during the interview, but Hirlsford was extremely frightened. It was found that Hirlsford had left Liddiard's employ a few days before the body was found on the ferry rope & he again left Liddiard's employment after the police interview.

All facts but one were making Liddiard a prime suspect. The body was found upstream from Liddiard's farm.

On December 10th Sub-inspector Garvin happened to be visiting Grafton goal. He found Hirlsford had been taken into custody. Garwin told Hirlsford that if he could tell the police anything about the missing Patrick Noonan he would do all he could to help out the lad.

Hirlsford was persuaded to tell the story of what had transpired. Liddiard had been insanely jealous of his wife. He had accused her of having relations with Hirlsford & later with Noonan. Liddiard rose at day break & went out working the cane, leaving Noonan alone in the house with his wife. Relations between the two became steadily worse. The day before the murder, Liddiard told Noonan he'd soften his Irish head for him.

On the 13th May, Liddiard had been "bad all morning". In the evening, Pat & Hirlsford were chipping cane. They had just finished chipping one row & Pat started the second row. Hirlsford was walking down the other end, when he saw Liddiard come running out of the house with a gun & tommyhawk in his hand. He rushed up on Pat & hit him in the back of the head before hecould do anything. Liddiard repeatedly hit Noonan. Hirsford ran up to stop him, but he pointed the gun at him. Liddiard told Hirsford he was as good as the murderer as he had seen it done. If Hirlsford mentioned it Liddiard would say that Noonan & Hirsford had a fight & that he saw the lad kill Noonan.

So, Hirsford helped Liddiard pull a gunny sac down over Noonan's head. They placed some stones in another bag & tied it to his leg. They put Noonan in the boat & Liddiard made Hirlsford row over to the other side of the river. They heaved teh body into the water & it just lay there for a little while before sinking. Hirlsford left that day. When Hirlsford went back to work, Liddiard told him to tell everyone Pat had gone to Queensland.

The police interviewed Liddiard again & he was arrested on 6th February & taken to the Ballina lockup. Liddiard accused his wife of gossiping & causing his arrest. The case was presented at the Grafton Quarter Sessions in 1886.

Evidnece for the case included:
* the sound the girl heard when the body was being disposed of.
* the obsevations of Liddiard's employer, James Barry, who testified that he had noticed Liddiard's unease & insane jealousy with regard to his wife.
* an employee of Lidaird's (Finian from London) stating that he heard Liddiard's wife when in a rage, accuse Liddiard of being a murderer. Finian also witnessed Liddiard's jealousy.
* the purchasing of the potato sac by Liddiard.
* Liddiard accusing his wife of disclosing his act.

There was some evidence at trial that Liddiard had good reason to be jealous of both Hirlsford & Noonan. Liddiard's loyalty to his wife never wavered, however, & he maintained she knew nothing of the murder. Liddiard maintained that the 3 men he employed constantly worried his wife with their attentions.

Liddiard was hung for murder in the Grafton goal.



Copy of page originally transcribed by Mandy O'Neill (content remains unedited)
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