COCKBURN: A Murder of Crowe
Cockburn is a small town in South Australia’s mid north, on the boarder of New South Wales. Cockburn is 50km’s west of Broken Hill and 462 Km’s north-east of Adelaide.
The little community began in 1886 after the South Australian Government struck a deal with the New South Wales government to exploit ore deposits in nearby Silverton, Thackaringa and Umberumberka.
The NSW Government turned the deal down, and local business identities instead, built their own line from Silverton to the SA border.
By 1892, 2000 people were calling Cockburn home, and the town boasted two hotels, a butcher, two general stores, schools and churches.
In 1929, Daniel Crowe, his wife Clara and six children moved to the small community. Daniel worked a shunter for the South Australian Railways Department, and lived in provided railway cottages in the town.
Earlier in the year, Daniel and Clara lost their eldest son, Daniel Jnr. in accident at Peterborough.
Things had not been good between the couple since the death of their eldest son, and over time Daniel became suspicious that his wife was cheating on him with a man named Kennedy.
One-day Daniel wasn’t feeling good, and decided to go to the doctor at Broken Hill. He asked Clara to go with him and she replied; “Not on your life. I have too see a friend tonight.”
Daniel replied; “I am nothing?”
To which Clara replied; “Yes. You are alright, but I think that I have met better!”
Daniel left to see his doctor in Broken Hill. On his way back into Cockburn he noticed Kennedy acting suspiciously, ducking and weaving through train carriages, as if trying to avoid him.
Daniel burst into his home and asked Clara; “What is the strong of this?”
Clara screamed back; “Go to Blazes! Why did you not stay in Broken Hill, you’re not wanted here” and stormed off into the bedroom.
The following morning, Clara, the 15-year-old daughter of Daniel and Clara Snr. awoke at 7am, she lit the fire in the kitchen readying it to make breakfast. Younger sister Kathleen, went into her mother’s room to rouse her. Suddenly a scream ripped through the house, and Kathleen came back in the room, and fighting through tears, said to her brothers and sisters “Mummy is dead!”
The night before, Daniel had stormed out from the house, and made his way to the rail siding, where he knew a bottle of Lysol was stored. He then made his way back to the family home, loaded his rifle, and snuck into the bedroom.
He squatted at the foot of the bed, and shot his wife one time in the face, somehow not waking the entire household.
At 3:30 in the morning, he was seen by eldest daughter Clara, who had been disturbed by the sounds of something falling over, entering the kitchen and getting a bottle of beer, then muttering to himself “Now that’s done”, before exiting the back door of the house.
Eldest Daughter Clara ushered her siblings off to a neighbour’s house and alerted police. They arrived and found Clara Snr. dead in her bed, 50 yards out from the rear of the house, they found the unconscious body of Daniel laying on the ground.
Daniel was taken away and placed in Parkside Mental Hospital in Adelaide, under suspicion of murder and of attempted suicide by poison.
He was questioned by police, but denied remembering anything to do with the incident.
Daniel Crowe faced magistrates at Gladstone Gaol, with his attorney’s issuing a statement of insanity as his defence.
The Jury hearing the case could not decide one way or the other over the charge of murder, so Daniel Crowe was left indefinitely in the Parkside Asylum. He died in 1962.
Cockburn is now a town of about 25 people, with one pub….
© 2018 Allen Tiller