Monthly Archives: March 2019

Sandilands Murder: Part IV: Conviction and Release

Sandilands Murder: Part IV: Conviction and Release

Herbert Cyril Curnow – after his arrest

Mounted Constable West of the Maitland Police Station first saw Curnow at 5:30pm when he entered the police station to hand himself in.
Constable West asked Curnow if had “shot a girl named Eleanor Louise Bockmann at Sandilands this afternoon? “, which Curnow replied “Yes, how is she? Is she dead?”

The constable then proceeded to tell Curnow that she was dead and asked him what he shot her with. Curnow replied that it was with a 12-gauge shotgun. The gun was now in Mr Rowe’s wheat paddock.

The constable searched Curnow and found in his pocket a spent 12-gauge shotgun shell and a photo of Eleanor Bockmann. He asked Curnow if it was the shell with which he shot Bockmann, and Curnow replied “yes”.

Constable West charged Curnow with murder.

Mounted Constable Ewens, stationed at Ardrossan received a message at 4:15 pm on Friday, September 8th, requesting him to go to the Sandilands home of the Bockmann family posthaste.

When the constable arrived at the family home he found Dr Alpers sitting in a bedroom with the deceased. Dr Alpers described her wounds to him before the constable then made an inspection of the house.
He found in a bedroom a box containing 12 gauge shotgun cartridges. In the dining room, near the window was a large pool of blood. The constable followed a trail of blood from the dining room, through the kitchen and enclosed verandah, then outside for nine yards, stopping just near the rainwater tank.
The wall and chairs in the dining room were covered in small holes consistent with shotgun pellet spray.

The Constable travelled over to Rowes farm and located the gun in a paddock. M.C. West and M.C. Ewens both travelled to the paddock the following day and recovered a number of unspent shotgun shells.

When appearing in court, Curnow seemed indifferent to what was going on around him. He was wearing football boots and a football Guernsey under a jacket and refused to speak. Members of the Bockmann family offered their evidence.
Curnow was formerly committed for trial at the close of the Coronial Enquiry. The following morning Curnow was officially charged with Wilful Murder.

The trial proceeded in Adelaide. It did not take long for the jury to find Curnow guilty of murder. He was sentenced to hang, with the date chosen to be two days after Christmas in 1922. Curnow’s lawyer appealed for mercy, due to his young age, but it fell on deaf ears.

Within days, supporters for Curnow pleaded for mercy for the 18-year-old. A Parliamentary enquiry proceeded, and after their investigation, Curnow’s sentence was reduced to life in Yatala Prison with hard labour.

But, Curnow’s story doesn’t end there. In 1935, after many petitions to the Government on his behalf, prison officials decided to release Curnow. He was released from Yatala Stockade in February 1935 and sent to live in Melbourne with family.
After that, the trail left by Curnow becomes harder to follow…reports are inconsistent, with some saying he died that year, others say he may have changed his name and lived out his life in Victoria.

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

1922 ‘DEATH SENTENCE COMMUTED’, Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW: 1888 – 1954), 23 December, p. 2. (SPORTING EDITION), viewed 04 Jan 2019,

1922 ‘DEATH SENTENCE COMMUTED’, Kalgoorlie Miner (WA: 1895 – 1950), 23 December, p. 4. , viewed 04 Jan 2019,

1922 ‘DEATH SENTENCE.’, The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 30 November, p. 8. , viewed 04 Jan 2019,

1922 ‘MAITLAND TRAGEDY.’, The Register (Adelaide, SA: 1901 – 1929), 12 September, p. 9. , viewed 04 Jan 2019,

1922 ‘THE MAITLAND MURDER.’, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1889 – 1931), 30 November, p. 8. , viewed 04 Jan 2019,

1922 ‘YOUTH GUILTY OF MURDER.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 30 November, p. 9. , viewed 04 Jan 2019,

1935 ‘Little Danger From Released Murderers’, The Mail (Adelaide, SA: 1912 – 1954), 16 March, p. 2. , viewed 04 Jan 2019,

South Australia Police Gazette Indexes, 1862-1947. Ridgehaven, South Australia: Gould Genealogy and History, 2009.

South Australia Police Gazette Indexes, 1862-1947. Ridgehaven, South Australia: Gould Genealogy and History, 2009. AU5103-1922 SA Police Gazette 1922

South Australia Police Gazette Indexes, 1862-1947. Ridgehaven, South Australia: Gould Genealogy and History, 2009. AU5103-1935 SA Police Gazette 1935

Sandilands Murder Part III: “If I Had a Gun, I’d Shoot You, Then Myself!”

Sandilands Murder Part III: 

“If I Had a Gun, I’d Shoot You, Then Myself!”

Herbert Cyril Curnow, known to friends as Cyril, had previously made threats to Eleanor Bockmann. He had said to her, “If I had a knife, I would cut your throat, then my own.” On another occasion, he had said to the girl, “If I had a gun, I would shoot you, then myself!”.

On Thursday the 7th of September, Curnow waited on the Ardrossan road about three miles down from Sandilands. He knew Bockmann had to come this way to go to her sewing lessons. Curnow set up a barbed wire across the road, hoping to catch Bockmann in it. He went up onto a nearby hill, and waited for her, hoping to shoot her when she rode into the barbed wire.
He waited until nightfall, but Bockmann never rose through, so he returned to the Bockmann family home in Sandilands.

On Friday the 8th of September, Curnow, after kicking a football with Lawrence Bockmann, waited for Lawrence and his dad to go out into the paddocks and spread manure. He watched the two men go out and knowing Mrs Bockmann was not home, took advantage of the fact, and went and got the families gun. He cleaned the gun, loaded it, and put it near the kitchen door.
He went back into the bedroom and read. He went outside for a drink and noticed the gun was gone. He told Eleanor Bockmann that her father said he could have the gun, and asked her to get it. She got the gun, he returned to the bedroom, gathered his belongings, then returned to the dining room where the girls were mending socks.

He checked the gun was loaded, raised the rifle, and aimed for Eleanor’s temple, fired the gun. The girls screamed, with Eleanor falling to the floor, and the other two girls running way in fear.

Curnow ran outside. He ran for two miles into the scrub, with the intention of giving himself up to Mr Rowe a nearby farmer. As he was running, a motor car came along, so Curnow threw the gun into a paddock and hitched a lift to Maitland.

When in Maitland, Curnow went to the local police station and handed himself in.

Sandilands Murder Part IV: Conviction and Release

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

References in the final post.

Sandilands Murder Part II: Wilful Murder

Sandilands Murder Part II: Wilful Murder

Thirteen-year-old Gladys Bockmann was the first witness in the trial against Herbert Cyril Curnow for the murder of Eleanor Louise Bockmann. Gladys stated to the court, that on Friday the 8th of September the family sat down to lunch together, with Curnow present as he had been staying with the family during the local football finals, as he was on the same team as her brother Lawrence.
 After lunch, Curnow and Lawrence had gone outside to kick a football. He came back inside around twenty minutes later, and laid on the bed in her brother’s room and read a book. At about 2:30pm, Curnow went outside to get a drink of water. He had come back inside with a gun.

Gladys claimed that Eleanor said to them “let’s go up into the bedroom, he might shoot us!”. Gladys and Eleanor got up and went into their bedroom.
 Curnow went outside again, and as he did Alvera called out to her cousins that he had left the house. Eleanor went out to the veranda taking the gun, coming back inside and hiding the gun in the house.
Curnow returned not long after and asked where the gun had gone. Gladys told Curnow she didn’t know where the gun was and called out to Eleanor to get it. Eleanor took the gun outside once again.
 The girls gathered once again in the dining room, thinking that Curnow had gone down to the horse stables.

Gladys then stated that she was sitting in the dining room with her sister Eleanor, and cousin Alvera darning socks.

Shortly after, Curnow returned, went into the boy’s room for a few minutes, then came into the dining room. He had his hat and coat on and the gun in his hand. The girls, sitting around the sewing machine, watched in shock as, without a word, Curnow levelled the gun at them.
Alvera called out “Auntie!” and Curnow turned the gun toward Gladys, next he turned it toward Eleanor.
 Eleanor said “Don’t shoot me, Cyril!”, without saying a word, he pulled the trigger, then ran outside.
Eleanor fell to the ground, she had been shot through the left side of her neck. Her head fell forward, then her hands came up and grabbed her neck. She ran outside.
Gladys ran outside to find her father and brother in a nearby paddock and screamed at them that Lorna (Eleanor) had been shot. They all jumped on their horse and cart and rushed back to the house.
 Eleanor, now laying near the water tank of the house, died in her father’s arms…
The back view of a house at Sandilands near Maitland, Yorke Peninsula, where 17-year-old Eleanor Louise Bockmann was murdered on 8 September 1922 by Herbert Cyril Curnow. The Observer newspaper reported “The home of the Bockmann’s. The girl ran from the house and fell close to the galvanised-iron tank where she died in the arms of her father.” SLSA: [PRG 280/1/32/167]
Next Week: Sandilands Murder Part III: “If I Had a Gun, I’d Shoot You, Then Myself!”

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

References in the final post.

Sandilands Murder: Part I: Herbert Curnow and Eleanor Bockmann

Sandilands Murder: Part I:

 Herbert Curnow and Eleanor Bockmann

At 18 years old Herbert Cyril Curnow was a troubled young man from Moonta, South Australia. His father had been prone to explosive outbursts of anger that led to physical violence in the home. At the age of fourteen, Herbert had gone out on his own and found a job. He also played football in a local team. His other interest was reading about bushrangers and robberies, he studied these stories, and often imagined himself as a bushranger.

He had met the Bockmann’s only a few months previously through playing football and had started visiting the house to practice with the Bockmann brothers. While practising, he met 17-year-old Eleanor Bockmann. Within the coming weeks, the two became friendly, with Curnow accompanying Bockmann to Sunday School, Church and local dances.
Curnow fell hard for Bockmann, but she didn’t feel the same for him. Two months into their relationship they had begun to argue after Curnow saw Bockmann becoming friendly with other

Artists impression of 18 year old
Herbert Cyril Curnow

young men.
Curnow saw Bockmann walking along a local street with a drunk young man. The young man had his arm around Bockmann, which enraged Curnow. He confronted Bockmann, she replied, “If you don’t like it, you can lump it!”
The family went to church on September 3rd, with Curnow joining them. After church, Curnow and Bockmann had another argument. Bockmann broke of their relationship then and there, leaving Curnow devastated.
Bockmann then began to ignore Curnow at every opportunity. Curnow, on the other hand, could not stop thinking about her and found himself unable to sleep.

In the first week of September 1922, during local football finals, Curnow arranged to stay with the Bockmann family at Sandilands, near Maitland on the Yorke Peninsula. He shared the bedroom of the Bockmann brothers for the week and ate dinner with the family, including Eleanor.

His love for Eleanor had not subsided, and only intensified sharing the same house as her. On Friday the 8th of September, he ate lunch with the family and waited for Eleanor’s father to head back out to work, then he took his opportunity.
He took her fathers shotgun, entered the room, and shot her in the neck. Curnow then ran into the scrub, but eventually gave himself up to police.

Next Week: Sandilands Murder Part II: Wilful Murder

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2019

References in the final post.