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Michael O’Sullivan p3

In Cameos of Crime, Michael O’Sullivan writes of a horse thief in Rockhampton. The thief would steal horses used by butchers, merchants, breweries and storekeepers. Then he would “plant” the horses, or keep them in some field. When a reward was offered for the missing horses, he would find them and claim the reward. The author said that this went on for 17 years and was almost accepted as normal in Rockhampton.

On May 28, 1895, the thief, H., left Rockhampton for Mt Morgan which was prosperous due to the gold mine. There were a lot of horses in the area, to take goods from the railway station Kabra to Mount Morgan, and also to haul timber for the mine.

Mr O’Sullivan writes: Having some knowledge of his methods I made arrangements to make his stay as brief as possible. He pitched his tent in what he christened Belltopper Gully, just on the outskirts of the town. On the second night he took two van horses belonging to a Chinese who carted fruit from Rockhampton to Mount Morgan. I was within one hundred yards of him, inside the old brickyard, when he drove them off the flat in Happy Valley.

He continues: To cut matters short, this sort of thing went on for about eight days, and in that time he had taken away and “planted” nine horses, every one of which had been recovered by myself or a man I had working on friendly terms with H., and who did his work excellently.

Mr O’Sullivan went to Belltopper Gully at daybreak on June 9th, and he arrested H. The thief seemed unconcerned. Then Mr O’Sullivan took H. to the police station, read out nine charges to him, and took H. to the stableyard. He showed H. the nine horses that had been brought in the previous night.

He writes: In each case, I explained to him where he took the horse from and where he planted it; also that I had immediately removed it, and replanted it, and continued to do so until I had all the evidence I wanted.

“So we were rid of H. for twenty-one months.”

-See Cameos of Crime for many more of the author’s experiences investigating crime in Queensland from the late 1880s to early 20th century.