Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

Constable Duncan Joseph McDonald (‘Mac’) arrived in January 1906. “Mac is every inch a man and there are many inches of him.”[2] In 1906 he received a ‘stripe’ by way of promotion.[3] A number of reports indicate his taking annual leave to visit Melbourne to enjoy horse racing – especially the Melbourne Cup including one item that said “report hath it that the genial Mac got home on the Hebrews an won a tidy sum.”[4] He stayed until 1912 when the police station was transferred to Thornleigh following the non-renewal of the  lease of the Wongala Avenue property. No subsequent permanent placement of police thereafter took place.

During this time the activities of the police were various: a small amount of petty theft;[5] a dead baby was found in the bush; bodies of those killed by trains,[6] and a young boarder set light to the local school –  Ravenhurst College . The most serious crime took place in 1906.

The Pennant Hills Massacre[7]

Charles John Tye was a Chinaman who had worked as a market gardener for Mr Hughes of  Dundas and sold vegetables for him throughout the district. He had been 20 years in NSW. He left Mr Hughes employ and went to work for Riverview  College at Hunters Hill. On Sunday 12 August 1906 Mr Tye left his residence at the school and travelled to Thornleigh to visit a friend, Joe Young a gardener working for Mr Garrett. On the following Tuesday night he slept in the bush. On the Wednesday afternoon he visited Mr Young, also Chinese. He left Mr Garratt’s, with another friend Yeo Sam, and walked pass the Royal Hotel carrying a parcel until he arrived at the railway station.

At 5 minutes to 5 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon there was a gathering of people waiting for the train to  Sydney . Mr Tye purchased a single ticket for the full journey for both himself and his friend. The station master counted out the change “in the Chinese method.” There were over
a dozen men on the station as the train started to arrive. John Edward Hockley, a 21 year old slaughterman working in Mr Pollard’s yards, was one of the men standing on the station when, as he lent against an awning post, felt a blow on the back of his head, and then as he moved forward, another between the shoulder blades and then a third across the side of his face. Mr Hockley ran to the local hotel to seek assistance.

The station master, after attending to the train upon which Mr Tye’s friend departed, dispatched Arthur Welsh, post boy and messenger to get Constable McDonald from Beecroft. Master Walsh, having earlier seen Constable Allen from Hornsby in the vicinity went and sought his assistance before going in search of Constable McDonald.

In the meantime Mr Tye, crossed the line still carrying his tomahawk, scaled the bank and then disappeared in the vicinity of St Joachim. In the gully at the bottom of Stevens Street Pennant Hills, Mr Tye came across 9 year old Albert Gordon Pettett. Albert was returning to his father’s dairy farm after delivering some milk, in a billy can, to Blitchford’s. Albert saw Mr Tye coming with a tomahawk and tried to run but Mr Tye caught and killed him with a number of blows to the head.

Mr Tye then moved along  Stevens Street until he came across 16 year old Horace Henry (‘Tos’) Aitken sitting in his cart outside the Hines home: having made a grocery delivery. Mr Tye struck him one blow and Tos tried to escape but again Mr Tye caught him and killed him with a number of other blows. Mrs Hines called out to Aitken “Run Tos; run for your life, Tos!” She and her daughter screamed “Murder! Murder!” The deceased scrambled up somehow, and made as if to get under the fence dividing the road from William Thompson’s place opposite but the Chinaman rushed upon him and chopped him with the tomahawk as though he was chopping wood. “Oh, it was awful!” said the girl, who shuddered at the thought of the terrible scene she had witnessed.”[8]

Mrs Hines and her daughters fled into their house and bolted the dining room door behind them, before the mother and two of the daughters (Esther and Ethel) escaped into the garden mistakenly leaving the youngest daughter in the house. A neighbour Mr Jim Shields broke in to rescue the littlest girl. By this time a number of other people had come to the house and Mr Tye barricaded himself inside the main bedroom of the Hines residence. Constables Allen and McDonald now arrived on the scene together with “some forty or more people had assembled, and if ever a man was near being lynched, that Chinaman was.”[9] The surrounding crowd started to throw stones through the bedroom window at least one of which struck Mr Tye. Mr Tye lit a fire in the room using the bedding but the people threw in water to douse it.

Mr Charles Aitken, a relative of Tos battered the bedroom door in with a stout piece of wood and both constables rushed Mr Tye with Constable McDonald having his revolver drawn. A tussle ensued, in which Constable McDonald was wounded, before handcuffs were secured on Mr Tye’s wrists.

The prisoner was taken initially to Pennant Hills Police Station and then by the 6.42 pm train from Hornsby to the police cells at Ryde. When asked why he did it Mr Tye said “something went wrong here” indicating his forehead. He also said to Constable McDonald “I not mad; I killed two boys. Devil tell-ee me kill three. You shoot-ee me, no harm. I very sorry now.”[10] Mr Tye was found unfit to face criminal charges due to a lack of mental capacity and was committed to Parramatta Lunatic Asylum where he remained until at least 1919.[11]

Constable McDonald remained at Beecroft, and while he received a number of stripes, was not promoted. When the premises in Wongala Avenue were sold by the owner in 1912, Constable McDonald was re-located to Thornleigh and no police presence has been based in either suburb since. As the Cumberland Argus reported:

“The inspector says the population here is so law abiding that it doesn’t need a resident police
officeman, whilst the fact that there are two hotels in Thornleigh and Pennant Hills call more for a resident officer there.”[12]

Crime after 1915

Following the removal of the police presence, the assessment of the Police inspector appears to have been justified.

There was an incident in 1915 when Ernest Arthur Martin was convicted of assaulting another local resident, Thomas Bellamy over Martin digging for rock too close to a right of way used by Bellamy to access a part of his farm.[13]

Neree Mason a 33 year old commercial artist of York Street Beecroft was found dead by a gunshot would in a creek bed in Beecroft in 1933.[14]

A brush with international crime occurred in 1969. Eric Flower, was serving a 12 year sentence for armed robbery and conspiracy in Wandsworth Gaol, when he escaped from the gaol with the infamous Ronald Biggs one of the Great Train Robbers.[15] Biggs and his associates stole 2.6 million English pounds in a train robbery in 1963 – with most of the money never being recovered. Flower was subsequently caught living in Beecroft in 1969 before being extradited back to  England .[16]



[1] T McCaskill One Great Hour (2000, Beecroft) p 5
[2] Cumberland Argus 14 May 1910 p8
[3] Cumberland Argus 7 June 1919 p 6
[4] Cumberland Argus 18 November 1911 p8 [5] For example apples of Mr Gordon Ray were stolen by two plumbers (Robert Rayward and John Henderson) who were working on a building site in Beecroft: Cumberland Argus 19 January 1918 p 6
[6] For example Gordon Norton was a block porter killed at Beecroft: Cumberland Argus 16 August 1919 p 8
[7] Cumberland Argus 18 August 1906
[8] Cumberland Argus, 18 August 1906
[9] Cumberland Argus, 18 August 1906
[10] Cumberland Argus 18 August 1906, p 11
[11] Cumberland Argus, 7 June 1919, page 6
[12] Cumberland Argus, 30 December 1911
[13] Cumberland Argus, 4 September 1915, page 8
[14] Townsville Daily, 20 April 1933
[15] The Guardian, 9 July 1965
[16] The Age 16 December 1969, Sydney Morning Herald 28 October 1969
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