From the Port Phillip Herald November 12 1841:
On Saturday week last Mr Mitton was travelling along the Sydney Road about 25 miles out of town; at about half past seven or eight o’clock in the evening, on approaching a tree, a man sprung from behind it aiming a blow at Mr Mitton: the horse started leaving Mr Mitton on the ground, where he was immediately seized by two men, one of whom knelt on his back keeping him down, while the other kicked him severely, so much so, that he became insensible; as soon as he recovered he found his saddle close at hand with its girths cut and his horse at some short distance; he immediately rode to Beveridge’s, and heard that two men had been there before him; after remaining a short time, the two men entered the room he was in, but he could not identify them as he had not seen them distinctly, it being dark at the time of the robbery. On arriving at Beveridge’s, Mr Mitton discovered that he had lost 30 pound in cash, a watch, and a bottle of castor oil, all of which must have been taken from him when held down or senseless. From information received, Neil the district constable, tracked the two men to the Ovens River, where they were arrested on Mr Wallace’s station, with a watch and a considerable sum of money in their possession. Two men whose names are Joseph Day and Robert Bruce, one of them a native, standing upwards of seven feet high, have been brought into town and were arraigned before the Police Bench yesterday, when the watch found on the prisoners was identified as being the property of Mr Mitton. They have been remanded for further evidence.
So what happened next? Unfortunately the Port Phillip Herald didn’t report on the case because the other papers would have reported on it first ( the three newspapers of the day were published each day in turn, and the Port Phillip Gazette reported it). The case came up for trial on 30th November before Judge Willis. The victim was called “Mutton”, not Mitton but the location is correctly identified- Beveridge- the later birthplace of Ned Kelly. You go past it on the way to Sydney, but it’s very small.
The Ned Kelly house is still there too, apparently; although I’ve never seen it up close- I think it’s in private hands and surrounded by a wire fence. I’m surprised that it hasn’t been turned into a tourist attraction.
What the newspaper report doesn’t tell us is that Mutton had been in Melbourne to apply for a liquor licence at Kilmore, but was beaten to it by another applicant. He had a drink in Melbourne to drown his sorrows, rode on for about three hours, then refreshed himself with a brandy and water and dinner at Kilmore. He fell into conversation with Bruce and Day at that inn. People at the inn noticed that Day was carrying his bundle on an unusual stick. Mutton resumed his travel at about 5.00 and was heading towards Beveridge when he was sprung from behind. After recovering consciousness he went on to Beveridge, saw Day and Bruce and had them arrested. The stolen goods were found on them. The day after, Mutton returned to the scene of the crime and found the ‘stick’ marked with cutting features.
The defence lawyer tried to argue that Mutton was drunk, and that there were no trees in the location where he claimed to have been attacked. But to no avail- the prisoners were convicted, and both sentenced to be transported for life.
Gee, you’d be filthy, wouldn’t you- stealing a bottle from a man and finding that it was CASTOR OIL!!! Neither of the accused was a ‘native’- both were free settlers- and certainly no more was said about one of them being seven foot tall.
- Port Phillip Herald Nov 12 1841
- Paul R. Mullaly Crime in the Port Phillip District 1835-51 p.489