Death of Thunderbolt



Brisbane Courier Mail. 2 June 1870
(As reported in the Armidale Express, May 28.)  

WE have great pleasure in being able to state that that pest of the Northern districts for many years, Frederick Ward alias Thunderbolt, has at last been got rid of, through the combined influence of one of his victims having had the good sense to give the police prompt intelligence of his whereabouts, and the gallant conduct of constable Walker in following him up until Ward, having refused to surrender, paid the penalty of his repeated outrages on the law by the sacrifice of his worthless life.

There is much excitement throughout the district at the startling intelligence, and the greatest admiration is expressed of Mr. Walker’s heroic conduct. An old and much valued correspondent of   ours has favored us with the following account, which we received after noon yesterday: -“On Wednesday, about 4 p.m., Giovanni Cappasoti came into Uralla, and reported that he had been stuck-up near Mr. Blanch’s public house, on the Northern-road, about four miles from Uralla. Senior Constable Mulhall and Constable Walker immediately started off in pursuit, but Mulhall’s horse being the faster one; he arrived at Blanch’s about half-a-mile ahead of Walker. He there encountered two men on horseback, one of whom immediately fired at him. Mulhall fired back. The two men then turned down the fence towards Kentucky Creek.

Constable Mulhall turned off towards Uralla, and met Walker, to whom he said, ‘There are the bushrangers. I have exchanged shots with him. Shoot the wretch.’ Constable Walker immediately galloped up. When the elder man of the two (Thunderbolt) saw him, he turned towards the road, but the younger man blocked him by crossing his horse. Thunderbolt then turned down the fence, with Constable Walker after him. Walker, in drawing his pistol, happened to discharge it by accident into the ground. Ward then turned and fired upon him. The chase was kept up through the bush for nearly an hour, Ward doubling and Walker following; across gully and creek bog and hill, full tear, the pair dashed through the bush, until at last Ward pulled up along-side a waterhole in Kentucky Creek, near the junction of Chilcott’s Swamp, dismounted, and plunged into a waterhole. Walker, who was close upon his heels, with admirable prudence immediately shot the bushranger’s horse, and then galloped down the creek about two hundred yards until he could cross it. By the time this was accomplished Ward had crossed, and throwing off his coat started to run up the creek about 100 or 120 yards, until he came to a narrow channel about sixteen feet wide. This he dashed across, and, when he got on the other bank, stood and faced Walker, who by this time had arrived at the edge of the creek.

There was now but the creek between them. Ward asked him who he was? Walker called upon him to surrender. Ward asked him his name. Walker told him, and in answer to other questions said that he was a trooper and a married man. Ward then told Walker to  remember his family. Walker said he had considered all that, and called upon him to surrender. Ward answered, ‘No! I’ll die first.’ Then said Walker, ‘It is you and I for it,’ and immediately dashed his horse into the    creek. The horse went under, head and all At that moment Ward rushed towards Walker evidently with the intention of pulling him off his middle and grappling with him in the water But at the critical moment Walker fired his last remaining shot, the ball entering under the left collar bone, near the armpit, passing through both lungs and coming out below the right shoulder blade. The effect of the shot was to make Ward fall into the water, but immediately afterwards he rose again, and endeavoured to seize Walker. Constable Walker then struck  him violently on the forehead with his empty pistol, knocking him down. Walker then turned his horse out of the creek, and, dismounting, proceeded in and dragged the man out, apparently dead. He then rode back to Blanch’s for assistance; but on proceeding thence with a horse and cart, he was unable to find the place. It was daylight before the body was found, and brought up to Blanch’s.

“A magisterial inquiry was held by Mr. Buchanan, P.M., when the evidence was most conclusive as to the identification of the body with that of the man Frederick Ward, alias Thunderbolt.  

At the conclusion of the inquiry, a testimonial to Constable Walker was set on foot, for the bravery he had displayed in following Ward alone, and bringing him to bay. £32 were subscribed in the room, Mr. George Western, J.P., heading the list with £20; and it is hoped that the whole northern portion of the colony will assist in thus rewarding merit.  “A view of the ground, and the whole features of the case, at once testify to the cool bravery displayed by Walker. In shooting the bushrangers horse, and thus cutting off his chance of escape, he made the desperado more desperate still, and in following him up until it became a hand to hand encounter, Constable Walker braved every danger, intent on the one object – doing his duty, regardless of consequences to himself – and thus has been the means of ridding this district of a scourge and a pest.
“In thus following a man like Ward, Constable Walker also exhibited good horsemanship, or he would never have gained on the bushranger whilst following him through such a country as a chase for life led him to take. All honour to the brave!

” Uralla, May 26.”  

We have also been faced with the following account from another reliable source, and, although there is in it, of necessity, similar in-formation in many respects to the foregoing, yet in others there are interesting additional items which, we doubt not, will be welcome to our numerous readers: – “About half-past 3 on Wednesday afternoon an Italian hawker came into Uralla, at a gallop, and gave information to the police there that he had been stuck-up and robbed, by a man calling himself Fred. Ward, at Mr. Blanch’s inn, about four miles from Uralla. Senior Constable Mulhall and constable Walker immediately mounted their horses, and galloped towards the inn. On getting in sight of the house, Mulhall, who came up first, saw two men, riding grey horses, coming towards him. The man calling himself Ward, saying nothing, fired two shots at Mulhall, who fired two shots from his revolver in return. Constable Walker then galloped up.  Mulhall cried out, ‘That’s the wretch – shoot him,’ Walker’s revolver accidentally went off in bringing it to the present, whereupon Ward turned round and fired at Walker, missing him. He then galloped away, and Walker followed. The pursuit lasted over seven miles of ground, as hard as the horses could tear, the country being very rough, with gullies and hills. On coming to about the junction of Kentucky and Chilcott Creeks, Ward dismounted, and jumped into the creek.  Walker then caught Ward’s horse, and shot him dead. Subsequently, while Walker was rushing his horse into the creek, the animal stumbled in the water, but Walker managed to get across. Thunderbolt presented his revolver at him, and said, ‘Are you a trooper?’

Walker said yes. Thunderbolt then said, ‘ What’s your name? ‘ He replied, ‘ Walker.’

Ward then asked, ‘Are you a married man? ‘ He replied he was, and added, ‘Will you surrender?’

Ward said, ‘No! I’ll die first.’
Walker then said, ‘It’s you and I for it,’

Ward made a rush towards Walker, when the latter fired the last shot in his revolver, and wounded Ward in the left breast. Ward fell into the water, and was making another rush, when Walker struck him on the forehead with the butt of his revolver. Then Ward fell again   into the water, and when Walker pulled him out he was dead. Ward’s revolver fell into the creek. All this was done single handed by Walker, Mulhall having long before disappeared from the chase. Walker left the body on the side of the creek,  and went back to Mr. Blanch’s inn, to get a horse and cart. On returning with them it was then dusk, and he could not find the spot where the encounter took place. But about 3 next morning, assisted by Senior-constable Scott, he started again, found the body towards daybreak, and brought it in the cart to Mr. Blanch’s inn.  

“On searching the body at the creek, the police found several articles of jewellery belonging to the hawker, with a silver stop watch, a small gold nugget, and some few articles of imitation    gold jewellery. There was also a meerschaum pipe (in a case) that had been smoked for some time, and there was an article that no doubt belonged to Ward-an iron horseshoeing hammer. Ward was dressed in strapped moleskin trousers and long boots. He had two Crimean shirts on, and an old cabbage-tree hat. Singularly enough, he had no spurs on. The body had the appearance of a dirty, bush-like man, without any of the heroic-like characteristics that some people have imagined Thunderbolt was distinguished by. The horse Ward was riding he had that morning taken from a man who was coming into Armidale with it. It belonged to Mr. Huxham, and the man, who at first was supposed to be an accomplice of Ward’s is stated to have been quite the reverse, being the person from whom he had taken Mr. Huxham’s horse, and further, that he was following and blocking Ward, to endeavour to get it back, after the police came up. “On Thursday, at 2 p.m., a magisterial inquiry    relative to the death of the deceased was begun at Mr. Blanch’s inn, Church Gully, and it ex-tended over six and a half hours. The witnesses examined were Senior-constable Mulhall, Constable Walker, Senior-constable Scott, the Italian hawker, the hawker Ward who some time back was stuck-up and robbed by his namesake near Moree, Senior-sergeant Balls, a man named Pearson, Mr. Blanch, and Dr. Spassbatt. It came out in evidence that besides robbing the hawker and stealing Mr. Huxham’s horse on Wednesday, Thunderbolt had also robbed Mr. Blanch; while he and his wife were returning in a spring cart from Uralla, Ward left the inn, stuck them up, and took a purse containing    some money from them.

“At the inquiry Senior-sergeant Balls produced a copy of the Police Gazette of date October 21, 1863, wherein there was a minute description of Frederick Ward, as a prisoner    who had escaped from Cockatoo Island, and for information leading to whose arrest a reward of £25 was offered by Government. It appeared he had escaped on September 11, and his description was: -A native of Windsor, N.S.W.; at that time 27 years; 5 feet 8 1/4 inches; pale, sallow complexion; light brown curly hair; hazel grey eyes; mole on the right wrist, and two warts on the back of the middle finger of the left hand. Mr. Balls, on examining the body found the mole and the warts as preciously stated, the hair light brown and curly, and eyes grey, and the age of deceased apparently    33 or 35. On measuring the length of the body it was found exactly 5 feet 8 1/4 inches. Mr. Balls could also recognise the features – on look-at them in profile-as beyond any doubt  those of prisoner Frederick Ward he had known on Cockatoo Island while doing his sentence there.

“A man named Pearson stated that on the previous Tuesday he met the man now lying dead in coming from the Salisbury Mountain, and he asked him if he would make Blanch’s by the way he was going? Pearson replied in the affirmative, and added that his name was Pearson, and asked him did he not recollect him when they were breaking in horses, in Mudgee? Deceased replied that he did, but he could not stop to talk to him then, as he wanted to be off. Pearson now said he knew Ward    when they were breaking-in horses at Mudgee, about nine years ago. At that time Ward told him that he was a ticket-of-leave man. He had      not the slightest doubt the man lying dead was the Fred Ward he had known as Mudgee.  

” Ward, the hawker who was stuck-up and robbed on April 18, by a man calling himself Thunderbolt, identified the body as that of the robber.

Dr. Spasshatt said that the description in the Police Gazette produced, of Frederick Ward, tallied exactly with that of the dead body.  ” Mr. Buchanan came to this conclusion: -‘From the foregoing evidence, and from the appearance of the body, I am of opinion that the deceased, Frederick Ward alias Thunderbolt, met his death from a gunshot wound, inflicted by a member of the police while in the execution of his duty-and not otherwise ‘ “The body was left in the charge of the police at Blanch’s during Thursday night, and was brought to Uralla yesterday morning. It is not to be buried till today, so that anyone who  wishes may see it in the meantime. Many persons have gone out to see the body, and even a photographer has gone to take a representation  of the deceased, if permitted.    

“Lists are being prepared to be sent through- out the district for the testimonial to Constable Walker, and we have no doubt that the capital suggestion will be crowned with the success that it merits.  

“We are not yet aware what Senior-constable Mulhall has urged for his speedy absence from the chase after Ward, but the matter demands a rigid investigation.”  

A third account to hand does not differ materially from the foregoing information.