Hawson Killers


Hawson’s Killers

Unfortunately, Frank’s elder brother, Henry Hawson, was being married in Tasmania during the time of the tragedy and was not able to provide the leadership his family needed at that moment.

The day following the tragedy, all Aborigines left the vicinity of Port Lincoln, causing locals to panic. Schurmann and others were told who the murderers had been, but as indigenous testimony was not yet allowed in a court of law, no arrests could be made. As time went by and no-one was convicted of the murder, the Aborigines filtered back.

No Aborigine was ever brought to justice for the murder of the youngster, despite the names of those involved being common knowledge. Settlers, scratching a living outside of the town itself, began to live in fear in case local Aborigines believed themselves to be beyond the arm of the law – which in some respects they were and a spate of murders began, along with other acts of violence and theft.

There was one rather curious upshot to the case. The artist George French Angas visited the area a few years later and wanted to sketch some Aborigines. Here is his record taken from his book “Savage Life and Scenes in Australia and New Zealand”:

Amongst the natives congregated on this occasion were one or two connected with the murder of some of the settlers a few years since; and, although well-known accomplices in those crimes, no evidence can be brought forward to convict these individuals: they, however, have, until lately, fought shy of the neighbourhood of the settlement [Port Lincoln], and have been living in continual dread of punishment.

One of these men, Milliltie, was marked out as having thrown one of the spears that killed young Hawson. Being a remarkably wild-looking fellow, I began sketching him; when he suddenly bolted, imagining that I was exercising some witchcraft over him by which means his evil deeds might be discovered.

Perhaps Milliltie was also afraid of his likeness being captured in an 1840’s pre-photography version of a mug shot! (The first photographic portrait taken in Australia was of the white-haired Dr William Bland in 1845, five years after the Hawson incident.)