The pair had escaped on 14 September 1853 and made their way to the Circular Head district where they began to terrorise the local population. First they raided the homestead of John Spinks where they stole a gun and tied up the family. Then they moved onto William Staines’ property, arriving there between 3:00 and 4:00 am. There the bushrangers demanded food and compelled a servant known as Long Smith at gunpoint to accompany them to John Stagg House’s farm.
At around 6:00 am, they approached the Stagg House residence and demanded entry. Six year old Thomas opened the door and was then ordered back by the intruders. Alfred Phillips, who was the fiancé of John Stagg House’s eldest daughter, rushed from his bedroom when he heard the commotion. Soon all members of the household were brought into the same room and had to submit to being tied together in pairs.
Brandishing their guns, the bushrangers demanded to see John Stagg House, who on hearing their voices had already made his escape through a window to run to the next farm for assistance. Bradley fired two shots at John as he fled from the scene. Fortunately neither took effect. Enraged, Bradley then discharged his gun at Alfred Phillip’s neck killing him instantly.
After ransacking the house, the two bushrangers made their way to Thomas Atkins’ farm where they ordered breakfast and then on to William Medwin’s hut where they took another gun and a small quantity of provisions. From there, they then proceeded to Table Cape where along the way they fired several shots at a constable, causing injury to his arm.
Immediately on the murder being known, a large party of the inhabitants started off in pursuit and although they left four of their party at the mouth of the Inglis River, Bradley and O’Connor managed to hijack a schooner and escape. One of their hostages was tied to the mast in order to keep the people onshore from firing at them.
On reaching the Mornington Peninsula after crossing the Bass Strait, the bushranger continued their reign of terror all the way up to Kyneton, a journey lasting approximately 40 days. Their intent was to reach the Victorian goldfields and continue their prey along the road to and from Melbourne.
About a dozen troopers finally caught up with them and brought them back to Melbourne where they were tried and hanged.
The trauma inflicted on John Stagg House and his family compelled them to abandon their Forest home and move to Stanley.
Many years later, Sarah Stearne, wife of Thomas Ollington, would lower her voice at the mere mention of the bushrangers’ names, and react with “a shuddering glance around the room as though she expected see them enter the house.” Such was the impact of the bushrangers’ murderous deeds across the entire community.
Thanks for checking in and welcome to my adventure
Follow in Facebook to receive the latest updates