Ghosts of the South Coast
The Death of Captain Broadfoot
Port MacDonnell is located 450km south east of Adelaide, and is the southern most town in South Australia.
The area was first sighted by Lieutenant James Grant whilst sailing the ship, The Lady Nelson (now part of the Mount Gambier Tourism Centre), and later the port was named after Governor Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell
The town officially became a port on the 4th of April 1860
|Coastline view from old Port MacDonell Light-house
It is a beautiful place to visit, with an amazing scenic coastline, and one of the longest jetty’s in South Australia and was second only to Port Adelaide in terms of business, shipping wool and grains around Australia and the world.
In 1853 murder came to Port MacDonell when Captain Broadfoot, Captain of the ship “Jane Lovett” (which was wrecked) was murdered by two men working locally as shepherds at Leak’s Station.
|South Australian Register,
Friday 11 November 1853,
The men would do his chores, shave him, the menial household stuff the Old Captain could no longer do for himself, but would also go and plunder the old Captains wrecked ship.
One day Broadfoot saw the two men, pillaging the cargo from his ship and went to confront them, he wasn’t seen again until much later, when a man named Ferguson and a local Aboriginal found the Captain, with his throat cut, and the cut-throat razor in his left hand, the paralysed hand.
Instantly an alarm was raised in the town, the local constable who knew Captain Broadfoot very well, knew he could not grasp a bottle, let along a cut-throat razor in his left hand, and deduced that suicide was out of the question, He also knew Crawford and Stevens aided the old man on a regular basis.
The two men, Crawford and Stevens were Van-Demonians ( A term used to describe people from the then named “Van Diemans Land”, now known as Tasmania) who were very well known in the local area.
|Customs House – Port MacDonell
The Two men used to visit Captain Broadfoot, who was a very old drunk with a paralysed hand, and couldn’t do much for himself anymore.
The constable went to Crawford’s meagre hut to question him, and quickly decided to handcuff the alleged murderer. Whilst there Crawford asked the Constable to get him a drink before he took him back to the station, of which the humble officer did, only to turn around to face Crawford again with the drink, and find Crawford holding a gun.
Crawford then uncuffed himself, stole a horse and rode off to Mount Gambier to make his escape, local gossip at the time reports that he went straight to bar that had two officers in it and ordered a drink, but made a clean getaway.
Stevens on the other hand was arrested at Mount Schanck, past Mount Gambier, where he confessed (conveniently) that he had seen Crawford slit the throat of the Old Captain, he was duly sent to trial.
Stevens trial was to be held in Adelaide, and upon getting near to the city, he escaped, ran to a butchers shop where meat was being cut for trade, and asked to have his chains cut off. The Butcher refused and a scuffle broke out, the Police were soon upon the scene, and Stevens (also spelt Stephens in some news reports) was rearrested and duly taken to the police courts.
Soon it was discovered that Crawford and Stevens were both ex-convicts and known for their criminal activity, which didn’t fair well for Stephens who was duly sentenced and did time in Adelaide Gaol.
Crawford on the other hand had long escaped into the bush, but word got back to the police that he was telling everyone, that “I wont be going down without there being bloodshed” – but he was never heard from in South Australia again. It is assumed that he changed his appearance and name, and returned at some point later to recover the stolen money and valuables he had hidden somewhere near Mount Gambier.
© 2013 Allen Tiller
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