George Palmer - Queensland
George Palmer and Alex Archibald were convicted of the murder of local publican and gold trader Patrick
Halligan. Two others had also stood trial for the crime, Charlie Taylor and a man referred to only as
McNevin but they were acquitted.
Halligan was well known in Rockhampton. The proprietor of the Golden Age Hotel which he held the lease for, along with his wife Hannah and their two sons. He was well liked by the diggers because he always paid them a fair price for their gold, and was considered to be a pillar of the community.
In February 1869, Halligan failed to return from a gold buying trip to the Morinish field and police were soon scouting for him. After a week, he was presumed to have met with foul play, and police began seeking clues to who had killed him.
The most accurate account of what happened is probably that given by Palmer himself after his arrest.
The plan was that Jack (Old Jack) Williams, and Palmer, would stick Halligan up on his way back from the Morinish Gold field. They chose this idea because in order to return from Morinish, Halligan had to cross through a patch of Brigalow scrub which would make an ideal place for them to ambush him.
Palmer made camp at the Agricultural Reserve a short distance from the place where the hold up was to take place and he and Jack waited for a message that would tip them off to Halligan passing through. They missed him the first time as the message came through too late. After that, Old Jack decided to go into Rockhampton himself and scout for any news of Halligan's next run.
He chose his timing well and found Halligan boasting about his next trip. He told Halligan that he ought to be careful how he shot off his mouth warning him that one of these days, someone would stick him up and take his gold.
Halligan didn't seem to worried, claiming he would shoot any man who tried to rob him and displaying an American six shooter as proof of his seriousness.
Halligan set out for the Morinish diggings again on April 25th 1869 and Old Jack followed in the same direction a short time later to meet Palmer. The two rode to the Brigalow scrub and settled in to await Halligan's return.
Around sunset, they saw Halligan come galloping back down the track through the scrub and Palmer rode out and called on him to bail up. Palmer had been a regular at the Lion Creek Hotel which Halligan held the lease to priort to taking up the Golden Age, and Halligan recognized him. He cried out that he wouldn't give the gold to Palmer, set spurs to his horse and took off with Palmer and Williams in pursuit.
A struggle ensued when Palmer seized Halligan's bridle and tried to force him to stand. Halligan fired a shot that missed Palmer's head by inches. There was another shot, and Halligan was hit in the chest.
After their arrest, Palmer and Williams each tried to shift blame for the shooting onto the other, Palmer claimed that his gun (which had been fired) had misfired when his horse bolted. However, the night before he was hanged, Palmer made a written confession in which he stated simply. "I shot Halligan."
This information on George Palmer was kindly provided by Meg Britton.
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