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1895 Murder/Suicide

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M63 Track, Timor VIC 3465

Features

  • Site of the 1895 murder of Ellen Randell
  • Murder/suicide committed by her fiance Robert Bowring
  • Rock cairn
  • Information sign
A small information sign stands alongside the M63 Track in the bush outside Timor indicating the site of the 1895 murder of Ellen Randell, tragic victim of a murder/suicide committed by her fiance, Robert Bowring. A pile of stones was placed over the pool of blood where Ellen Randell had died, which remarkably still remains over a century later. It is located among the trees 70 metres off the track, a narrow path trails off from the information sign directly to the stone cairn.

Ellen Randell was travelling home from Maryborough by buggy with her fiance, Robert Bowring, when she stopped to pick wattle flowers beside the road. Bowring shot her in the head, then traveled a little further along the track before stopping to shoot himself. 

Bowring had been experiencing money troubles and his suicide was certainly premeditated. He had left multiple suicide notes (see below) explaining his reasons and saying his goodbyes. The murder of his beloved bride-to-be, however, is quite curious as he spoke only of his own death in his notes and had even written one to Randell herself. All reports described their affection for each other right up to the day of the tragedy, and they were to be married shortly.

Ellen Randell was initially buried in the Carisbrook Cemetery, but was later reinterred to her final resting place in the Timor Cemetery. Her funeral was a grand affair with many in attendance. "The main street in Maryborough, through which the cortege had to pass on its way from Timor to the burial-ground, was lined with people, and at the cemetery there was a large concourse" (source: www.trove.nla.gov.au)


Robert Bowring was buried in the Timor Cemetery and although many gathered in the streets, few followed to the cemetery for the burial.

The road-side information sign erected at the murder site was researched and placed by local historian, John Tully. The sign displays the following text:

Murder of Ellen Randell 1895

On Wednesday 14th August 1895 Ellen Randell was murdered here by her fiance, Robert Bowring. Ellen was only 20 years old while Bowring was 26. Both were from well-respected families at Timor and were planning to have been married in October. Bowring followed the occupation of a miner, and seems to have been doing fairly well; but does not seem to have taken the best care of his earnings. On the previous Saturday he gambled and lost his savings while at the Caulfield races, this preyed heavily on his mind. He apparently was afraid to tell his fiance that he was not in a position to fulfil his financial promises made to her in case she would give him up. 

Deciding to take his own life, he wrote suicide notes to both his parents and his intended bride. Unaware of this, Ellen then joined him on a trip to Maryborough where he settled some accounts. Bowring had secluded a double-barreled shotgun in the buggy. Coming home along the Dunolly Road, they turned into the bush and stopped here but what took place between them can only be surmised. After picking some wattle blossoms, Ellen returned to the buggy where she was shot at close range in the head. She fell with the wattle still clasped in her hand. Bowring then straightened her body and placed his coat over her but leaving in haste turned the horse sharply and ran the cartwheels over her. 

Bowring then travelled a mile and a half further down the track to near the Nuggetty Gully Reservoir where the full consciousness of the awful deed must have come upon him. He wrote a further note in large shaky letters describing where Ellen's body could be found. He had written that Ellen was "too good for any man on earth to have". Then he shot himself dead in the mouth. A father and son nearby heard the shot and upon investigating found Bowring's body, the note and followed the tracks to where Ellen's body lay.

Ellen's funeral a few days later was somewhat unique in that she had six female pallbearers who were all dressed in white. At first she was buried at Carisbrook to be away from her murderer but later reinterred at the Timor Cemetery.

Stones were placed over the pool of blood where Ellen Randell had died so as not to distress the many friends and relatives that visited the site. This impromptu stone memorial still remains 70 metres south of here.



The following text was published in the Launceston Examiner, Mon 19th August 1895:

TIMOR TERRIBLE TRAGEDY
A VICTIM TO GAMBLING
MURDERED HIS SWEETHEART
THEN COMMITTED SUICIDE

Regarding the terrible tragedy reported from Timor in Thursday's issue, the following additional information is given in the Melbourne press:- 

MARYBOROUGH, WEDNESDAY.

The man Robert Henry Bowring, who first murdered his sweetheart (a young lady named Ellen Randell) and then destroyed himself, was employed at the Grand Duke Mine, and his victim was 22 years of age and a daughter of one of his fellow workmen. She was prepossessing in appearance, and was highly esteemed by a large circle of acquaintances.

Last week Bowring went to Melbourne to attend the race meeting at Caulfield, evidently with the intention of plunging heavily. He had also recently been speculating in shares, and had lost most of his money. Bowring lost heavily at the races, and upon his return saw Miss Randall, and they arranged to go for a drive to-day.

They had been engaged for two years, and the wedding had been fixed for October. This afternoon they drove into Maryborough, and the most friendly relations appeared to exist between them. After resting for a while in the town they started for home, going by what is called the back way. This road goes past a spot called "The Rocks," near the reservoir which afferds the water supply to the town. At this place Bowring shot Miss Randall with a double-barrelled gun, the charge entering her head and killing her instantaneously. He then drove towards Timor, which was distant about a mile and a half from the scene of the tragedy, and was passed by a men named Grose, who was accompanied by his son.

Shortly afterwards they heard a report like that of a gun, and thinking that something was wrong, hurried to the buggy, the horse having been stopped. They were horrified to see Bowring sitting on the right hand side of the buggy leaning over the gun, which was between his knees, and with part of his head blown off.

Another man named Nicholas Crowle arrived on the scene about the same time, and he noticed a piece of paper pinned on the cushion of the seat. He picked it up, and found that it contained directions to go to the spot where the body of Bowring's victim would be found. The directions were followed, and the search party found Miss Randall's body a few yards from "The Rocks"

Information was at once given to Constable Smith, who is stationed at Timor, and to Sergeant M Kinnon, of Maryborough, who took charge of both bodies. Miss Randall's corpse was conveyed to her parents' residence, and Bowring's body was taken to Berger's Hotel.

At the spot where the girl was murdered there were no indications of a struggle. Over the body was thrown a man's overcoat. She had evidently been shot in the right cheek. Her hair was slightly disordered. In her left hand she held some wattle-blossom, while her right arm was bent under her body. It is uncertain whether the girl was in the buggy when shot. Bowring's letters indicate that he had at first resolved only on self-destruction, and nothing has been ascertained to show why he changed his mind. He appears to have been infatuated with his victim, and his conduct in driving over her body is the more inexplicable. He borrowed the gun yesterday from Mr Lauder. After he shot the girl he must have re-loaded the barrel, as one chamber was loaded when the gun was found. The greatest sympathy is expressed for the relatives. An inquest on the bodies will be held to-morrow.


In the pockets of Bowring's coat the following letters were found:

August 13.

"Dear Loving Father and Mother and Brothers,- It is with aching heart I do this awful deed, but it is nothing else but buying shares that has driven me to it. I leave half of my chain to Alf, half to Will, the locket to Neal, the pony to Albert, and the rest of my things to- Isaac and Jim; father and mother to have the money [here reference is made to people owing Bowring money]. Good-by till you meet your foolish Robert above. Now. I am very cut up over this lot. My poor darling Ellen is the queen of the land. She is the best little girl in the whole world. There is no man living on earth good enough for my Ellen. She is the best little girl ever I had. Ellen, my dear, forgive me, won't you, love? You are my dearest angel, Ellen. You have been good to me; also your people. I have to thank them for their kindness. I was always treated like a gentleman. So no more from 
"Your dearest,
"ROBERT HENRY BOWRING.
"Thousands of kisses to my poor dearest
Keep this out of the Hawk."

A second letter was addressed to his victim. It bore no date, but read as follows:- 

"Ellen, dearest Ellen, I am going far from thee. I want you to forgive me leaving you like this. You are the queen of the land and of my heart. Dearest, you are too good for any man of earth to have. You should be an angel above with your Heavenly Father. Ellen, sweet girl, good-by. Ellen, dear girl, thousands of kisses to you, love. Good-by, dear ones. Don's go to any expense to bury me. Keep all the presents I gave you, dear, and don't go with a man on earth; there is none good enough. Oh, Ellen, it is hard to leave you,dear. Good-by, love, good-by."

A third letter was also without any date line, and read:

Dear Ones at Home,- It is hard to leave all you love so dearly behind you. It is an awful thing to think of. I am going up the paddock to dear little Albert to destroy myself. Mother, dearest mother, forgive me for telling you the lie this morning about going to the claim, and I never won any money at the races at Melbourne last Saturday. Dear Isaac is away, good luck Dear Ike, good luck. And now, dear brothers, do what father and mother want you to and you will not go wrong. Take their advice and love her. Since I have been mining I have been earning the best of money, and never took care of it. Don't follow in my footsteps, good brothers."

Mr Grose makes the following statement:

"I and my son started out from my place at Timor a little before 3 o'clock this afternoon for the purpose of shooting, and went towards the reservoir. I saw Bowring draw up jest outside the wire fence of the reserve known as Scott's Park. He was about 103 or 150 yards away. I heard the report of a gun, and thought the report sounded very distant, but could not understand why. My son went up to the buggy and thought Bowring was asleep until he noticed blood issuing from his head. My boy called for me, and I ran over and found the body lying over the right side of the buggy. I walked round to the other side, and there saw a note pinned on the cushion at his side. It read- 

"Go on till you come to the ridge of the rocks, and then turn to the right. Keep this side till you get on the road, and you will find my darling Ellen."

On one corner of the note lower down was written "We both died together," and at the bottom of the note were the words "Good-by all." It appeared as if Bowring had placed the muzzle of the gun in his mouth, held the butt with his knees, and pressed the trigger with a forked stick which was lying in the buggy. I then went and saw Nicholas Crowle, who is a butcher at Timor. He told me that he had found the body of Miss Randall about one mile and a half from where Bowring was found. The girl's body was lying on the off side of the road. About seven yards away from the body was a pool of blood. She had evidently been picking wattle blossom. The tracks showed that the buggy had been turned round at this spot, and had been driven over the body from head to foot. Bowring must have shot himself at about five minutes past three o'clock, as I heard the whistle of the claim at three o'clock."

MARYBOROUGH, Thursday.

The inquests on the bodies were held at Berger's Hotel, Timor, this afternoon, and lasted till late in the evening. Many pathetic scenes occurred, the sister, father, and mother of Miss Randall, who was murdered, being deeply affected, while Mr Bowring, the father of the murderer, completely brole down. Mr Joseph Dubourg, J.P., presided, and the evidence was taken before a jury of seven. The first inquest was relative to the death of Bowring.

John Bowring, an engineer, identified the body as that of his son Robert Edwin, not Robert Henry, as he signed his last letters. His son was despondent and quiet on Wednesday, but there was nothing peculiar in his deportment except that he would not speak when addressed. He noticed recently that Robert had been very downcast, and on several occasions deceased had borrowed money from h'm, the last amount being £15. He could not remember the date of the loan. When he gave him the £15 he told him to be careful and turn over a new leaf, as he was going to destruction. Seeing him so much cut up recently he agreed to make him a present of all he had lent him, Deceased said he would get a lot of nick nacks for Nellie. From appearances he believed his mind was undoubtedly unhinged. Deceased told him he could not keep away from the girl of his choice. Deceased could not speak of Miss Randall without his voice faltering.


After other evidence, the coroner summed up briefly, and the jury returned a verdict that the deceased Robert Edwin Bowring died from a gunshot wound self inflicted while temporarily insane.

The inquest on the body of Miss Randall was then proceeded with.

Dr. Miller deposed that he had examined the body, and found a wound the size of a florin in the right cheek, the edges round which were scorched; the brain was protruding through the bones composing the roof of the skull which was shattered; the skin over the centre of the forehead was split in a vertical direction. The gun had evidently been discharged a very short distance from the cheek, as the shot had not scattered at all. There were no bruises or marks of violence about the body.

To a juror- There was no sign on the body to indicate a scuffle.

To the coroner- some hair overhanging the cheek was scorched.

To a juror- He could account for the body having been removed from the pool of blood only by its having been lifted.

To the police- Deceased might have been sitting in the vehicle, but the gun must have been pointed upwards; everything pointed to both being in the buggy.

To the coroner- The shot had gone horizontally through the head; if deceased was sitting beside Bowring when the gun was discharged it was very possible that the gun was across his knees with the muzzle slightly canted upwards; death must have been instantaneous.

The jury returned a verdict that the deceased came by her death by a gunshot wound inflicted by Robert Edwin Bowring whilst he was suffering from temporary insanity.

Source: www.trove.nla.gov.au - article published Mon 19th August 1895, Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)

Special thanks to Olivia for her assistance gathering information.

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Comments

Leave a comment

Glenn Braybrook
16/10/2018
My good friend, John Tully placed that sign there. Its on the old dirt road between Norwood Homestead and Simpsons Charlotte Plains homestead..John done the research. Cheers..Glenn Braybrook
Goldfields Guide Admin
16/10/2018
Thanks Glenn, there is no name on the sign to indicate who had placed it, I will add credit to John Tully on this page, cheers!
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