Inquest in to the death of William Dunne

In 1987 I commissioned Betty Horskins of Glen Waverley, Victoria to search for the inquest into the death of my great great grandfather William Dunne. This was in response to finding that on his death certificate, the cause of death was given as "lost in the bush, Verdict at inquiry at Pakenham 26th November 1889".

Coroner's Inquest    Colony of Victoria  Register no 1564 Year 1889

Dunne, William found dead at Pakenham, Victoria, age 56
The following is a transcript of the inquest carried out by John Startup Esq. Justice of the Peace

This deponent Peter Augustus Mills on his oath saith, I am a Mounted Constable stationed at Pakenham.

"On Sunday the 24th November 1889 from information received on that day I proceeded to Upper Gembrook and in company with William and Edwin Dunne I proceeded to a spot on the Wallace creek about half a mile from Mr Were's house and there found the complete skeleton of an aged man lying on back with legs stretched out full length, and left arm thrown out at full length, the right arm was at full length lying along the side of body. The skull was uninjured and inclined slightly to left, the right foot was found about 5 yards away from the trunk where it had evidently been carried by dingoes or native cats.

The remains had brown tweed trousers, drawers, sat coat white collar and shirt, braces and a truss was worn around the body. There was a black boxer hat found 3 yards away from the body, the boots and vest were missing and could not be found. About 3 yards from where the body was laying a pocketbook and pair of spectacles were found. There was nothing covering the skeleton which was only about 4 yards from the water edge.

In April last I was engaged along with search parties and the black trackers searching for a man named William Dunne, who was lost at Gembrook on the 24th April 1889. I was over a fortnight searching but did not find any trace of the lost man. The place where the skeleton was found is within 3 miles of where Dunne was last seen alive on the 25th April 1889. Some of the search parties searched within half a mile of the spot where the skeleton was found. I have no doubt as to deceased having perished in the bush which is very wild where remains were found."

PA Mills MC 3457
Taken and sworn before me, the 26th day of November 1889
at Pakenham John Startup JP

This deponent Harold Wallace Were on his oath saith, I am a Clerk in the Bank residing at Caulfield.

"On the 21st of November 1889 I went down to the Wallace Creek at Upper Gembrook to fish, in the company with Mr AH Stephen. I walked along the bank for about 2 miles and when turning I discovered the skeleton of a man lying in a clear space on the edge of the creek. I did not touch the skeleton but returned home at once to Mr Were's house.

On the 23rd November I went to Watson's Store at Gembrook and told him ( Mr JH Watson) I had found a skeleton of a man and asked him to inform the police. I was present on Sunday 24th November when Constable Mills came and took the remains away, the skeleton now lying at the Gembrook Hotel is the same that I found. I was only at Mr Were's house for a few days on a visit, for the most part of the year there is not any person living at Mr Were's house at Gembrook. The reason I did not report finding the skeleton earlier was because I missed the coach on 22nd November 1889."

HW Were
Taken and sworn before me, the 26th day of November 1889

at Pakenham John Startup JP

This deponent Edwin Dunne on his oath saith, I am a Storeman in the employ of Frederick Tate and Co of South Yarra residing at Caulfield.

"I have seen the remains now lying at the Gembrook Hotel and identify the remains of those of my father William Dunne whom I last saw alive on the 23rd day of April in 1889 at my own house cliff St South Yarra. He then told me he was going up to Mr F R Godfreys at Gembrook for a holiday as he had been ill, I know of my own knowledge that he has been ailing for more than 12 months prior to the time I last saw him.

On the 27th day of April (4) days after I last saw him I received word from Mr Lesouef Director of the Royal Park, that my father had not reached Gembrook and it was feared he had been lost in the bush of Gembrook. I at once proceeded to Gembrook and in conjunction with others searched the bush round where he had been last seen for over a week, but failing to get any trace the search was abandoned, to the best of my belief owing to the delicate state he was in I do not think he would survive more than 2 nights without food or shelter. My father was 56 years of age last September."

Edwin Dunne
Taken and sworn before me, the 26th day of November 1889
At Pakenham John Startup JP.

Magesterial Inquiry held before John Startup Esq JP at the Gembrook Hotel Pakenham on the 26th day of November 1889.
Touching the identity and death of the late William Dunne late of South Yarra Melbourne.
Having taken evidence on oath I find the remains are those of the late William Dunne and no evidence being shown as to the cause of his death.
John Startup JP

Betty Horskins said in her research she had consulted the newspapers of the day and it appeared that the weather may have played a big part in William's death. It had been very dry and hot and then the rain had come to such an extent that two weeks after his death, the rain and weather were still being widely commented upon. She also reported on seeking out information about William's work with the Royal Park ( later to become the Melbourne Zoo) Unable to find anything but suggested papers which are held at the PRO in their Laverton Repository may have something. Newspapers checked were: "Argus" Roll 103 1/4/1889 to 29/6/1889 - no report "Mornington Country Herald" roll 2706 22/3/1889 to 26/2/1890 - no report "Gippsland Independent" 6/1/1887 to 27/2/1890 - no report Albert Alexander Cochrane Lesouef born in England, educated in Germany of French Hugenot ancestry Director of Royal Zoological Gardens. Reference - Public Record Office of Victoria
Index to inquests 1840-1892 VPRS 1920 Reel 1
Section 1 Jan 1882 - 31 Dec 1892

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