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Australian Opal Opal Fields

Opal Robbery at White Cliffs Opal Field in 1896

The following story was published in the Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser of June 13, 1896

Extensive Opal Robbery

“An opal robbery of a sensational character has been reported here by the Wilcannia visitors to the White Cliffs Races, who returned from the township on Saturday Afternoon.

It appears that on Thursday last, while the races were being held, a man who passed the residence of Mr E F Murphy, manager of the opal blocks, a property of a Wilcannia Syndicate, on his way to the racecourse noticed three suspicious characters loitering in the vicinity of Mr Murphy’s house. On arrival at the racecourse he apprised Mr Murphy of the fact.

Constable Doddie shortly after rode across and caught the men in the act of leaving the hut with several bags of opal worth around 1,000 pounds in their possession. The officer arrested one man but the other two made their escape into the bush. All the opal has been recovered.

The burglars were evidently experts at the business. An examination of the office and the safe showed that they went to work in a most determined manner. The office door was burst open by means of a pick. Rugs and pillows were then taken from the building and the safe thrown face forward on them. With the aid of axes a plate of 18 inches by 22 inches was cut clean out of the back of the safe which is Simpson’s make. The backs of the drawers were than cut out and the opal extracted.

The constable had some difficulty in effecting the arrest , having to threaten the man with a revolver before he could accomplish the object. The man threw the bags containing the opals into some abandoned workings which the police later recovered.

At present two constables are located in the opal fields but one of them is often absent doing patrol duty. It is considered that in such a large centre two constables should be constantly stationed there.

William Francis Teel has been committed by the White Cliffs Bench for trial at the next Court of Quarter Sessions to be held at Wilcannia on a charge of stealing a quantity of opal, the property of E F Murphy.

On Saturday two men were arrested on suspicion of being implicated in the robbery, but no evidence being forthcoming to incriminate them in any way they were discharged. All the men arrested were strangers to the district.”

This is just a short story that was published in The Sydney Mail in 1896 and republished here for the interest of readers of this site.

Johno

By Johno

Johno is a retired Engineer who has enjoyed a lifelong passion for Australian Opal.