The Hunter Valley, New South Wales.
A line of men wearing baggy jackets crested the grassy
hillside with their expensive guns clutched in their hands. When they approached
a cluster of trees they raised their weapons in readiness.
Amongst the trees beaters waited until the shooters had
silently spread out in an arc that almost surrounded the trees.
A rattling sound came from the trees, and then another; it
was a sound not unlike a machine gun firing and all of a sudden a flock of birds
burst from the cover of the foliage.
Pop, pop, pop, pop, each gun went off as the birds flew in
all directions and the shooters turned and twisted, aiming, firing, re-loading,
aiming and firing again. Finally when the birds that had escaped were out of
sight the dogs were released and scampered off to retrieve dead birds from where
they had fallen from the sky.
In a minute it was all over and the seven men broke their
smoking shotguns and surveyed the now-quiet hillside. They passed around the
cigars and lit up as they congratulated each other. No-one had noticed that one
of them was missing until their attention was drawn to a man signalling.
‘Over here!’ A man employed as beater was shouting and
waving his hands in the air.
When they reached him they found the body of their host,
Brigadier General Richard Sheffield, face down in the grass and seemingly shot
in the back.
‘Father!’ The youngest member of the shooting party threw
himself down beside the prostrate man. The general’s son Stephen rolled him over
onto his back and lifted his head; it was obvious he was dead.
‘One of you has shot my father!’ screamed the young
The dead man had been carried back to the house and the
police had been called. As they gathered in the drawing room they tried to work
out what had gone wrong.
The general’s son Stephen sat in a chair, stunned.
‘Are you alright?’ asked Captain Miller.
‘Yes, thank you John, it’s just such a shock.’
‘I’ll get you a drink.’
‘I was at the other end of the stand,’ said retired judge
Samuel Napier. ‘I would have had to shoot through you all to hit Richard.’
‘I was next to him,’ said Doctor Thomas Hill, ‘but I never
had a bird in that direction.’
‘Why don’t we try to work out where we all were?’ said
Chief Superintendent Williamson as he walked to an ornate desk and picked up a
piece of paper and a pencil.
‘Now, Richard was here,’ he said as he put a cross on the
paper. ‘You were next to him, Thomas,’ and he wrote a T.
‘I was behind you all,’ said Liam Sullivan. ‘About here,’
and he pointed to a spot on the paper.
‘I was next to the judge,’ said Lieutenant Stephen
‘I can’t see how he could have been shot when all our guns
were aimed at the birds,’ said the doctor.
‘I was late firing,’ said Captain John Miller. ‘Damn safety
catch jammed on.’
‘Who’s going to have a drink?’ asked Sullivan as he poured
himself a large Scotch.
‘Yes,’ said Napier and Williamson as they surrounded the
After about an hour Constable Jones from Maitland Police
Station arrived in a borrowed car and was shown the body. Jones could see
straight away that this was way out of his league and said he would arrange for
the body to be taken to Maitland Hospital.
Donald Williamson took him to one side and said, ‘Do you
know who I am?’
‘Er…no, sir,’ said Jones. ‘I was just about to take all the
‘I’m Chief Superintendent Williamson from police
headquarters in Sydney.’
‘Is yours the highest rank on duty today?’
‘Yes, sir,’ said Jones. ‘There’s just me and Constable
Fulton, he’s on the desk.’
‘Who is your senior officer?’
‘That would be Inspector Moore, sir.’
‘Can he be sent for?’ asked Williamson.
‘He’d be at the footy, sir, in Sydney.’
‘Do you have any detectives on duty?’
‘There’s just DS Boyd,’ said Jones.
‘Can you notify him?’
‘He’s at the footy with the inspector, sir.’
‘I marked the place where the general was shot before he
‘Thank you, sir,’ said Jones.
‘I’ll have to get someone sent from Sydney, is that alright
‘Yes, sir. What do you think I should do now?’
Williamson told the constable to start taking statements
while he made a phone call.
It was almost the same situation in Sydney; it seemed a
Saturday towards the end of the football season was not the best time to start
He was told Detective Sergeant Tiveton from Central Police
Station was on stand-by and they would try and locate him.
The Darling Hotel was not one of the oldest pubs in the
inner city suburb of Balmain, nor was it one of the most comfortable, but for
the regulars it was their home from home. It was Saturday afternoon and the bar
was packed. Most of the drinkers were having a quick drink before heading
towards Leichhardt Oval to watch the Balmain Tigers at home to South Sydney,
their last game before the finals.
‘One more?’ asked the one-armed Lefty.
‘Yeah,’ said ex-detective George Overton. ‘We’ve got time,’
and up came two more drinks.
Detective Sergeant Clive Tiveton arrived hot and sweaty,
pushing his way through the crowd until he stood at the bar. ‘I’ll have a beer,
Mickey,’ he said. ‘I didn’t think I’d make it.’
‘I don’t know how you do it, Clive,’ said Overton. ‘I
thought you were on stand-by.’
‘They won’t be able to find me,’ he said sipping his beer.
‘Are you just about to leave?’
‘Last drink,’ said Lefty.
‘Won’t you get in trouble?’ asked the bartender called the
Cap’n. He got the nickname from when he skippered a harbour ferry.
‘I’ll just say there was a ruckus at the Trocadero and it
took me all afternoon to sort it out.’
‘What about a report? You’ll have to fill out a report.’
‘I’ll just make up some names,’ said Tiveton. ‘That’s all
the larrikins do anyway.’
‘Alright, let’s go,’ said Lefty. ‘Or we’ll miss the kick
They came out of the pub with most of the men from the bar
and stood waiting for a tram to take them through Rozelle to Leichhardt Oval.
A black Morris Oxford car with a police sign on the roof
cruised slowly passed the waiting men and pulled to a stop in front of Overton
and Tiveton. What’s this? they thought as Constable Joe Colyer from Central
Police Station got out of the driving seat and stepped up onto the kerb.
‘I’m glad I found you, sir. There’s a panic on.’
‘How did you find me?’ asked Tiveton.
‘Everybody at the Court House knew where you were.’
‘What’s the panic then?’
‘Headquarters want you to go to Maitland, there’s been a
shooting, a man’s dead.’
‘You’re to use this car; I’ve got to take the ferry and get
back on the desk.’
‘Who’s been shot?’
‘General Sheffield,’ said Colyer. ‘Chief Superintendent
Williamson is up there.’
‘Then why can’t Don Williamson deal with it?’ asked
‘It appears he’s a suspect.’
‘Alright,’ said Tiveton. ‘Sorry, George, I’ll have to dip
out on the footy.’
‘Actually, can I come along?’ asked Overton.
‘You’ll miss the game.’
‘Don Williamson was my old Super at George Street, so if I
can help in any way—’
‘Alright, come on then.’
‘Will you tell Margaret for me, Cap’n?’ asked Overton and
the bartender nodded.
As they got into the police car Constable Colyer gave
Tiveton a sheet of paper. ‘That’s the address; it should take you about three