Wonnangatta murder mystery

The Wonnangatta murder mystery is an exciting look at the media and policing in 1917/18 in Gippsland, Victoria.

Victim: James Barclay (died around December 22 1917).

John Bamford was the last person to see him. He went missing in February 1918.

The land looked this

Looking north from Mt. Howitt N. Gippsland. Waugh, Arthur John, 1868-1928, photographer.

The chronological unfolding of the Wonnangatta murder mystery:

The murder of James Barclay, the manager at the Wonnangatta Station, in Victoria’s high country, occurred on or around December 22 1917.  The autopsy occurred at the Mansfield hospital, discovering the shotgun blast through his shoulder blades claimed his life.

John Bamford was initially pursued as the murderer until they thought he might too have been killed after he went missing in February. It wasn’t reported in the newspaper until March 8 1918, by a special correspondent at Mansfield.

Constable Brown from Rosedale broke the case broke within six days of the article due to a tip received.

Constable Brown arrested a man, who called himself James Joseph at Yarram, who had razors in his swag. The constable had heard he was at Willung.

Four days later, the papers reported the suspect was released because he wasn’t the man – James Bamford, the police thought he was.  His story didn’t line up. The Melbourne Magistrates court discharged him.


On March 26 1918, a full description given by the Omeo Police Department about the man believed to be the James Barclay’s murderer. He was looking for a balding, 55-year-old man, standing at 5 foot 6-7inches tall.  His shoulders stoop over his medium build with highly defined muscular arms. Brown hair peppered with greys in his whiskers and remaining hair. He recently bought a coat and vest made by Solomon in Mansfield.

On March 27, 1918at Mount Howitt John Bamford’s body was found. A bullet lodged in his skull from 5 yards away was the cause of death.

The best option reported by the newspapers on December 4, 1918, said it’s likely that cattle thieves murdered the man. However what manager turns his back on

However what manager turns his back on thieves with a shotgun?

Explore Wonnangatta by four-wheel drive.

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