The View From Mount Clarence

A look back at settlement along Western Australia's South Coast

Interlude Continued

Originally Published  3 August 2014:

Regina Vrs Yungala

Supreme Court – Perth

Monday, 24th October, 1881


old Postoffice - Albany

Above: Albany’s 1869 government building  which housed the Court House, Post Office and Customs Office. Yungala was committed for trial at the Supreme Court in Perth after a hearing here on September 23rd, 1881, before Resident Magistrate Rowley Crozier Loftie.

Last week I had the very good fortune to have been sent the State Archive file on the trial of John Dunn’s accused murderer, Yandawalla. At the time, Yandawalla was known to the police as Yungala.

The documents do their best to describe proceedings but are brief and hand written. As a stand alone record they simply fail to give an adequate account. However, there were newspaper articles published soon after and these help to build a more substantial picture of the trial. I’ve done my best to assimilate all three and detail what happened below. The newspaper summaries came from;
The West Australian, Friday 28 October,1881, and

The Herald, Saturday 29 October, 1881, and

The Inquirer and Commercial News, Wednesday, 2 November, 1881


The trial of Yandawalla/Yungala took place in Perth on Monday October 24th 1881, following a preliminary hearing in Albany a month earlier on September 23rd. In 1881 the Supreme Court convened in the former Commissariat Store, part of the Perth Government Buildings complex, which is on the same site as today’s Supreme Court.

Commissiarat Store at Esplanade - Perth - Historic - Battye LibraryAbove: The Commissariat Store off Barrack Street near to the Perth foreshore around 1870. The Photograph comes from the Supreme Court government website. Accompanying text says the court was actually held in the second building, centre left in the picture background.


Supreme Court at Esplanade Perth - Goog EarthAbove: Today’s Supreme Court of Western Australia is in the same location but 133 years later, things look rather different.


Chief Justice presiding in the case was Henry Wrenfordsley. The Chief Justice and Attorney General conferred on various occasions during the day, remarking on the poor and unsatisfactory presentation of the evidence.

Sir Henry WrensfordslyAbove: Henry Wrenfordsley, Second Chief Justice of the West Australian  Supreme Court


Prosecution on behalf of the Crown was led by the recently appointed Attorney General to Western Australia, Alexander Campbell Onslow. Onlsow, within a year and relative to the past, had shown a lenient tendency toward native cases, being prepared to accept reduced charges where he deemed appropriate. Previous prosecutors had not acted in the same way. Onslow’s address to the jury prior to their verdict in the Yungala case had far-reaching consequences.


Alexander Campbell OnslowAbove: Alexander Campbell Onslow, first Attorney General and then Third Chief Justice of the West Australian Supreme Court. From his ADB entry. . . “An accurate impression of Onslow’s character and his attributes as lawyer and judge is hard to make. He seems to have been quick to take offence and stand on his dignity, to oscillate between rigid adherence to the letter of the law in situations which called for flexibility, and to let his emotions get the better of his judgment”  Image from the National Portrait Gallery. Painting by Tom Roberts, 1896


The case had been referred to the Supreme Court by R.C. Loftie,  the Albany Resident Magistrate, who looks as if he was not in attendance.


Rowely Crozier LoftieAbove: Rowley Crozier Loftie, Resident Magistrate at Albany  from 1881 until 1899, committed Yungala to trial from the District Court at Albany on 23rd September 1881. From  Bob Howard’s Noongar Resistance on the South Coast, 1830-1890 “In 1881, R.C. Loftie, a gentleman of the “old school”[9], took over as the Government Resident at Albany. It was the sort of place “where above all a gentleman is required” and he was “highly popular”[10].


The defence was led by a noted Colonial lawyer of the era, George Parker.


George Parker - Defence LawyerAbove: George Parker, member of a prominent legal family at the Swan River Colony, was appointed by the Crown to appear for the prisoner, Yungala.   Image comes from the Wikisource version of the History of Western Australia by W.B. Kimberely.


In Perth a the time and who ‘happened to be in court’ was Mr James Pratt Dempster, older brother to Mr Andrew Dempster and a stake-holder in the Esperance Bay Pastoral Company.

James DempsterAbove:  James Pratt Dempster in 1890. The photo is cut from a portrait reproduced in Rica Erickson’s ‘The Dempsters’  In 1868, James Dempster was reported by one of his shepherd’s, James Smith, for beating him and ordering him to lay strychnine for the natives who stole from his rations supply. I have added a transcription of that complaint at the very end of this post.


In court, in chains, were the native witness Dartambaum and the native prisoner Yungala.

Aboriginal men at Roundhouse Lock-upAbove: Aboriginal men at the Roundhouse lockup in Fremantle around 1895. Dartambaum, aged about 50, and Yandawalla, probably in his early twenties, were arrested ‘in the bush’ and brought to Esperance. From Esperance  they went separately to Albany and from Albany to Fremantle by sea. Dartambaum, even though only a witness, appeared in court in chains. As did the prisoner. Photo taken from Far From Home, Pg 50, by Neville Green and Susan Moon, UWA Press, 1997.


Also in attendance were the settler witnesses, Mr Walter Dunn, youngest brother of the deceased, Mr Thomas Riley, a stonemason employed by Cocanarup Station, and Mr James P. Dempster of Esperance Bay Station

I detailed the reporting of John Dunn’s murder in the Extended Interlude post on July 26th, so if you have only just joined the story it’s probably best to read that post first. In that installment we learned that the murder was reported directly to Albany Police Station (as opposed to the significantly nearer Esperance Bay out-station) on April 1st, ten days after John Dunn’s body was found. I queried that length of time. It was reported in the occurrence book that John Dunn had been speared and was dead, that is all. The book shows that Sergeant Furlong, in charge, made quick arrangements to get an investigation underway.

The trial’s prosecuting evidence came in the form of statements made by Thomas Riley and Walter Dunn, by the accused Yungala himself and by the main witness and associate to the murder, another native well-known to the station owners and police in the Esperance area, Dartambaum, alias Jumbo. The murder had taken place on March 20th 1880, the crime reported by William Dunn at Albany on April 1st, 12 days later, the body not having been discovered until March 22nd.

The story is best served by looking first and as far as possible into the period between the time of the report and the detail provided by the Supreme Court trial staged 19 months later.

The Albany and Esperance police books for the period show that P.C. Coppin with a special native left Albany at 2.00pm on April 5th, 1880, for Cocanarup via Bremer Bay, arriving Bremer Bay on the evening of April 8th to exchange the special native for another named Geordie who was employed by Mr John Wellstead. Geordie was known to police as being familiar with Cocanarup. After the exchange P.C. Coppin and Geordie then proceeded to the upper Phillips River locality. P.C. Wheelock and a long serving Colonial Surgeon at Albany, Dr Cecil Rogers, left Albany at the same time but went via the Porongurups, presumably to visit the Dunn homestead and gather further information.

Dr Roger’s inquest at Cocanarup was held on April 10th, according to his report, meaning they arrived in five days and returned in the same amount of time. Dr Rogers return from Cocanarup was logged in the Albany police book at 8.00am on April 16th. This is evidence enough to show that the Dunn brothers, Walter and Robert, delayed five days before reporting their brothers death. There are many reasons why this could have been but the question was never officially asked and none, therefore, were given.

Dr Rogers cause of death - excerptAbove: An excerpt from Dr Roger’s Inquest statement where he describes the cause of death and what might have caused the wound associated with it.


The inquest had to exhume the body which was in an advanced state of decomposition consistent with having expired around three weeks previous. Dr Rogers examined the body and concluded that John Dunn had died “from exhaustion caused by loss of blood, the loss of blood to a wound found in the Carotid (neck) artery. The wound seemed to have been produced by a somewhat sharp-pointed instrument.
Marian Brockway, in The Dunns of Cocanarup, helps fill the five month gap from the period after the inquest on April 10th until September.

Police correspondence, April 1880 to January 1881, reveals the efforts made to identify the murderer of John Dunn.48 Contradictory allegations were made on every aspect of the case– the person who killed him, the reason for the killing, the weapon used. There was even a suggestion that it might have been suicide! The only consistent observation was that John Dunn was probably an innocent man killed in revenge for an act committed by one of his brothers. A name that came up frequently was that of Aborigine, Dartaban, also known as Jumbo, a man aged about fifty, whose son and daughter had allegedly been kept captive by the Dunns, and Dartaban himself  ‘ill-used’.


P.C. Truslove, the Esperance based policeman, returned from a Fraser Range patrol north-east of his station on April 13th 1880, too late to respond to the Cocanarup report. As a result he wasn’t directed to the Phillips River area until September of that year where he sought further evidence. As above, the police had been given information which suggested Dartambaum, aka Jumbo, was lead suspect. At Cocanarup he re-interviewd the Dunn’s stonemason Thomas Riley and some semi-resident Aboriginal men in the area, most notably Cranky Geordie. Cranky Geordie was not the same Geordie who had gone to Bremer Bay and returned with P.C. Coppin in April, but one of a group of native men who appear to have been known to the Dunn brothers. Truslove reported that there was nothing he could find to suggest the native named Dartambaum was responsible.


From the Esperance Police Books of 1880

17.9.1880 Telegram to Insp. “Have been to Dunns Station can give no reason for suspecting Jumbo except supposed to have been in neighbourhood at time. Riley cannot say whether old or young man or woman that went with Dunn. Saw Crankey knows nothing. Natives report Jumbo gone upward hundred miles inland. Cannot get natives here who knows country to go. Settlers advise more than one constable to go there. Can you let me have Wheelock to accompany me if Jumbo to be arrested.


20.9.1880 Telegram from Insp: “Return by Jarramungup (sic) there are a large number of natives there which I want you to disperse…”


1.10.1880 notes there were no Aborigines at Jerramungup.


Esperance Bay sub district - Goog EarthAbove:  The police sub-district of Esperance Bay, simply an enormous area for one man on horseback. The police outstation was located with the telegraph station and sheep station buildings at Esperance Bay. Jarramungup Station was 190 miles to the west,  Dempster’s Fraser Range Station 180 miles to the north and Israelite Bay 160 miles to the east. Albany was 300 miles away to the south-west.


Six weeks after returning from Cocanarup and Jarramungup in September, another entry relative to the case was entered in the Esperance Police Occurrence Book.

10.11.1880 P.C. Truslove, “Reports seeing native Mullyall who says he knew the natives who murdered the late John Dunn.”


Mulyall’s name had appeared in the Esperance police book once before. On March 27th in fact, a week after the incident at Cocanarup but still four days before it had been reported at Albany.

27.3.1880 “Mr Dempster;  Reports that he had received information from one of his shepherds George Doust stationed at Carlingup that he had lost a quantity of rations last week & that natives Mullyall & George were suspected of stealing them as native Harelip said he saw tracks which were theirs. Mr Dempster stated that he wished them arrested at once.”


Carlingup was a Dempser out-station in the locality of the Ravensthorpe Range, in the same area as Cocanarup

Cocanarup - BonzelAbove: Carlingup is about 25 miles north east of  Cocanarup. Manyutup (Manutup), described several times in the trial as the place where John Dunn was drawn towards at the time of the murder, is about 12 miles from the Cocanarup homestead. This map comes courtesy of Bonzle.Com


The information provided by Mulyall would no doubt have pleased the police and it is likely at the time of the report that he, Mulyall, would have been encouraged to try and bring the suspects in. Yungala’s arrest then must have come with both surprise and relief at Esperance Police Station when it took place on December  12th, 1880,  when Mulyall and Joe arrived in from the bush with Yungala in tow. The Esperance police book records;

20.12.1880 “Nat assts Joe & Mullyall arrived at Station from bush with native Yungalla arrested about the 12th Inst- charge murder of late John Dunn at Cocananup… he admits murdering Dunn with other natives…”


An initial statement was taken from Yungala through an interpreter, a man named James Cody. Cody was indentured to one of the stations at the time; probably Dempsters as a shepherd, but it’s not clear. By the time the trial came around there was a warrant out for Cody’s arrest, he having absconded.

Truslove sought to extract a statement from Yungala but didn’t caution him and used ‘chaining up’ as a measure of  ‘invitation’ to get him to speak. In the end, through Cody, Truslove recorded the following;

Truslove rewritten statement 1 - Yungala trialAbove: The first page of P.C. George Truslove’s rewritten statement submitted as evidence to the court. The statement does not show that the prisoner had been cautioned, neither does it indicate the use of an interpreter or whether the interpreter was sworn to tell the truth. Truslove is respectful enough to say he threatened to chain up the prisoner but after that declaration says the prisoner made his admission by his own accord. The statement was subsequently disallowed, not by the Chief Justice, Henry Wrenfordsley, but by the ardent personality of the prosecuting attorney, Alexander Onslow.
Onslow displayed dissatisfaction with the way George Truslove had obtained his statement and was immediately suspicious of it. The below cutting from the West Australian newspaper report on the case shows how his examination of P.C. Truslove went.


Yungala Trial West Aust Excerpt 1Above: Excerpt from The West Australian, Friday 28 October,1881


Onslow’s doubt over the legality, accuracy and truthfulness of Truslove’s submission had been piqued by earlier attempts to examine the accused Yungala and the lead witness Dartambaum. This was because of the difficulty in getting a translation. The trial documents show some confusion but again it is the newspaper account that makes better sense of what was happening in court.


Yungala Trial West Aust Excerpt 2Above: Excerpt from The West Australian, Friday 28 October,1881


From this we begin to get a feel for the style of Onslow. He didn’t like to be frustrated in his work and Wrenfordsley, the Chief Justice, was equally expressive. When Dartambaum, a witness, was brought in to the court in chains it also gave surprise. Mr James P. Dempster, ‘who happened to be in court’ decided he would be able to do a better job than the native interpreter used initially so volunteered to step in, but things didn’t go well and the native interpreter had to be called again. In the end, both the native and Mr Dempster did the job. Both Onlsow and Wrenfordsley lamented the outcome.


Yungala Trial West Aust Excerpt 3Above: Excerpt from The West Australian, Friday 28 October,1881


The Herald  gives a version of Mr Dempster’s time with the witness.


Yungala Trial Herald ExcerptAbove: Excerpt from The Herald, Saturday 29 October, 1881


The actual trial documents held by the State Archives also contain notes on Mr Dempster’s interpretation of Dartambaum’s answers to the court. Reading these requires some judgement. The writer is doing his best to set down what he hears, but this was 1881, and there were no set rules as to ‘how’ he set it down.


Yungala Trial Dempster Translation 1

Yungala Trial Dempster Translation 2Above: Excerpts from the Dempster translation.


This section of Mr Dempster’s translation, if accurate, is almost impossible to believe. Mr Dempster, to my mind, is telling the court in the language the court can most clearly understand, that there was no doubt what so ever that Dartambaum and Yungala were present at the time of death and that it was Yungala who threw the spear. Dempster states unequivocally, on Dartambaum’s behalf and on three separate occasions, that Yungala threw the spear which killed John Dunn. There is no allowance for linguistic difference here, no allowance for delivery. It’s entirely as if Mr Dempster is saying the words himself.

I got the feeling when first reading this document that Dempster was effectively telling the court that nothing else mattered other than that Yungala committed the act. It’s as if he was trying to tell them the guilty man is here, let’s not get bogged down in technicalities, Yungala murdered John Dunn, convict him.

The surety with which the police, Magistrate Loftie and Mr Dempster had and were going about the court, along with other occasions during the trial when P.C. Truslove and Walter Dunn acted as interpreters, I think, was a little too much for Alexander Onslow’s dignity.

Yungala Trial West Aust Excerpt 4Above: Excerpt from The West Australian, Friday 28 October,1881


It becomes clearer as you investigate the trial documents that Onslow positioned himself absolutely and didn’t like that position to be compromised. Onslow expected Supreme Court hearings to be properly prepared and to run smoothly. I’m reminded at this point, by the ADB summary of his character.

“An accurate impression of Onslow’s character and his attributes as lawyer and judge is hard to make. He seems to have been quick to take offence and stand on his dignity, to oscillate between rigid adherence to the letter of the law in situations which called for flexibility, and to let his emotions get the better of his judgment”


From the outset, Onslow recognised the value of both the accused and lead witness statements, as well as their responses in court under questioning, as dubious. He responded by belittling those who had referred the case to him; namely, Rowley Crozier Loftie and, by implication of his presence, overt willingness to involve himself in the prosecution, and by his status as brother to Justice of the Peace and Magistrate at Esperance Bay (Andrew Dempster), Mr James Dempster. The jury, after Onslow addressed them, took just ten minutes to deliberate before coming back with the verdict, Not Guilty.

Despite the near certainty of Yungala, under the direction of his elder, Dartambaum, killing John Dunn, Loftie, Dempster, the police and Walter Dunn were all effectively thrown out.

The effects of what that group did next are still keenly felt today, over 130 years later, and  is what the Outdone story collection is ultimately all about.


Postscript: 01/10/2014   I only discovered the Inquirer and Commercial News coverage of the Regina Vrs Yungala case recently and saw from it that the Mr Dempster cited by the other two papers as being in court was in fact James Pratt Dempster, oldest of the Dempster brothers who established Esperance Bay Station. I also said in the Supporting Cast post when talking about John McKail that I would produce evidence where I could that exposed the less gentlemanly behavior of those whose biographies have been engineered to exclude their lesser deeds. My intention here is to demonstrate that many of our pioneer heroes were rough, cruel men prepared to go to violent extents in order to protect their interests.  The below transcription comes from the State Records Office. It is a letter of complaint written by one of the Dempster shepherd’s, James Smith, who sought to escape the poor treatment handed out to him by his employees after he reported his rations stolen. The letter tells its own story regarding the Dempster brothers attitude toward the native presence.


C.S.R. Vol.621 Folio.107

James Smith states: I wrote in to Mr Dempster about my rations being stolen by the Natives. He, Mr James Dempster, told me to lay Strychnine for them. I made answer God forbid that I should put my neck in a rope for any native. They, the two Mr Dempsters, told me if I did not do it they would not believe my rations had been stolen, they looked round my hut for tracks, they said they could not see any. I was leaning against a tree. They rushed in on me and as I made a step to one side I fell down on the ground and they both commenced kicking me. They ordered me to go into the house. I asked them if they would count out the sheep before I left them to see whether they were correct. Mr James Dempster said there was no necessity of doing so as he believed they were correct. I again asked them to count them and they did so. They found them correct except one missing. I gave them an account of the one missing. It had been taken away by dogs. I asked for a discharge and a pass. They told me to go to hell they would give me neither. I asked them for rations and they refused to give me any. I asked for my wages they told me they would leave them with the Resident Magistrate when they came up. I had to borrow 10/- from a fellow shepherd to get rations to bring me to Albany. W. Dempster sold me rations knowing I was coming into Albany. I started from Mr Dempster’s station on the 9th May last. I came on to Mr Taylor’s station 80 miles distant. I remained there 3 or 4 weeks on account of my feet being so bad, I had to travel without shoes. Mr Taylor gave me some provisions and came on with me as far as Doubtful Island Bay. I stopped there one night and then went on to J. Wellstead’s remained there one night and them came on to Albany where I arrived on 23 July [1868] inst.

James Smith – Before H. Cockburn-Campbell

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