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KEENAN FAMILY in Australia


The Catherall-Keenan double shooting tragedy in1909


 (This transcript was prepared by Peter James Keenan in December 1994)

Grace Catherall, the mother in this report, was formerly Grace Keenan, a daughter of Henry and Nancy (Ann) Keenan. In this report references are made to the youngest boy and the elder lad. Sydney Catherall was younger than Eric Catherall. According to Grace's evidence, Sydney was 7. Eric was probably about 10.

This tragedy was first reported in The Tumut and Adelong Times on 5/3/1909.

The Batlow Shooting Fatalities


The following evidence was adduced at the inquest held at Batlow before Mr. W. M. Fincham, P.M., the Tumbarumba Coroner, into the cause of the death of Sydney Stuart Catherall and Eric Harold Catherall whose bodies were found, both with wounds in the head, close together near the Batlow recreation reserve.  

Grace Catherall, mother of the deceased, deposed that her husband, John Henry Catherall, lived at Johannesberg, South Africa. The body she had viewed was that of their youngest son. 

Dr. Lyle Bond, of Adelong, examined the body of the youngest lad and found a bullet wound in the right frontal region, perforating the skull. The direction of the wound was slightly downwards. There was no mark of exit; the bullet must have lodged in the brain cavity. There was no mark of powder or burning about the wound; nevertheless the shot which caused the wound appeared to him to have been fired at point-blank range.  Death must have been instantaneous. From the direction of the wound he was of the opinion that it was not self-inflicted. Found no other marks of injury on the body. He also examined the body of the elder lad. If the wound had been caused by Eric, the younger boy must have been lower in position than the elder. In his opinion he would be in a sitting or kneeling position when he received the wound, which might have been produced by such a weapon as the rifle produced. The blood stains on the stock of the rifle might have been produced by forcible expulsion of blood from the mouth or nostrils; the elder boy had expelled blood from the mouth and nostrils, but Sydney boy had not. 

To the Police: If the rifle was lying with the left side of the stock uppermost and within 6 or 8in of the elder boy (Eric), the blood marks on the stock were just what witness would expect to find. From an examination of both the bodies he was unable to express an opinion as to which died first, though he was satisfied that death in both cases was instantaneous. 

Grace Catherall (recalled) deposed that Sydney was born on August 19, 1901, at Durban, South Africa. On the third inst. he came home from school between 5 and 6pm, in company with his brother. Both remained at home about 10 minutes, then went in the direction of a boy named Alan Harrison, some 200 yards from the house. The three boys went together, in the direction of the racecourse. About a quarter of an hour afterwards she heard three or four shots fired in the direction the boys had taken, but they were out of sight. Saw no more of them till the bodies were brought to the house. The three boys were good friends. Sydney was of a cheerful disposition, and was on the best possible terms with everybody in the house. Knew of no one likely to bear any ill-will to either deceased, who were her only children. Eric was in the habit of shooting with the pea-rifle produced, but she did not notice that he had it when the three boys left. Had often told Sydney not to go out shooting with Eric, and threatened to punish him if he did so. Never on any occasion saw them go out in company with the rifle. 

Arnold E. S. Quarmby, aged 11, deposed that about 9 o'clock on the 4 inst., while on his way to school, he saw the two boys lying on the road. The stock of the pea-rifle was lying nearly under Eric's head. Did not go nearer to the bodies, but went straight to Constable Brown, telling some people on the way. Saw at once that both boys were dead. 

George A. R. Keenan deposed to picking up an empty cartridge case on the ground at a spot on the road where he saw two pools of blood, at 1 p.m. on 4th inst. 

Constable Thomas John Brown, stationed at Batlow, deposed to going to a place indicated by the boy Quarmby and there saw the two bodies of the deceased. Sydney's body was on its back, in an extended position along the line of the road, the head being towards Batlow. there were no marks on his clothing to suggest any violence. There was a small pool of blood on the road, about 2 1/2 feet from the right shoulder of the deceased (Sydney), but no blood immediately where the body was lying. Observed a small hole in the forehead, above the right eye, and a slight quantity of dried blood from the wound on the face. No marks of powder were round the wound. The blood in the pool could not have flowed from the wound while the body was in the position in which he found it. Observed certain marks on the ground such as would be caused by a soft substance being moved over it. On each side of the body were marks where the hands were lying, as if caused by a convulsive movement of the hands, and similar marks were at the feet, which were bare. Lying close to the body was that of his brother Eric, whose feet were about 4in from Sydney's head, the body lying at right angles to his. He was lying on his stomach with the face resting on right cheek. The photograph taken by Mr. Palmer at the time represents the position of both bodies. The rifle produced (a Winchester chambered for 22 calibre short or long cartridge) was lying with the left side uppermost and the stock within aim of Eric's head, and with the barrel sloping outwards slightly from the body. In the presence of the Coroner witness fired several shots from the rifle that morning at a piece of cardboard. At a range of 6in there was a slight discolouration round the hole made by the bullet, but at a range of 8in there was none. An empty cartridge shell was in the rifle when he picked it up, and several shots had recently been fired out of it.  

Alan Edgar Harrison, 10yrs, son of Alexander Harrison, deposed that by arrangements with the Catheralls, he met them after going home from school on the Wednesday evening, with the Winchester rifle to go shooting. Eric fired one shot while he was with them. They stood on the road near the racecourse, and about 300 or 400 yards from where the bodies were found, talking for about three quarters of an hour, and he them left them, the Catheralls saying they were going to set traps and moving off in the direction  of where the bodies were found. Witness was running when passing Harvey's in order to get home before his father and brother, who were driving a trolly. After parting from the Catheralls he heard two shots fired, the first when about 100 yards past Harvey's and the second when near Wm Broom's, 400 yards distant. The shots seem to be in the direction where the bodies were found, but nearer to Batlow. No quarrel occurred between the Catheralls, and no other person was with them to his knowledge.  

Alexander J. Harrison, deposed to seeing the two Catheralls crouching over a rabbit trap which they were setting at about 6pm in a paddock about 200 yards from where there bodies were discovered the next morning. There was no person with then or with in view. Saw no rifle with them and heard no shots fired. When he got home he saw his son coming along with some firewood from the opposite direction from where deceased were.

 The Coroner found that the said Sydney Stuart Catherall, at Batlow, died from the effects of a wound in his head, accidentally inflicted by Eric Catherall (since deceased) by means of a pea-rifle.  

In respect to the inquest on the body of Eric Catherall, Dr. Bond deposed that he found a wound in the region of the right temple, caused, in his opinion, by a bullet from a small rifle fired at point-blank range. The direction of the wound was obliquely upwards and backwards. There were no marks of powder about the wound no mark of the bullet's exit. The wound might have been self-inflicted.

Grace Catherall gave further evidence. She warned Sydney against going shooting with his brother, because she was afraid of an accident - not for any other reason. When her sons did not return that night she was not alarmed because they had on other occasions stayed away with various people - Eric often.

Alan E. Harrison further deposed that he had told Dr. Bond on the first day of the inquest that he was not with the Catheralls at any time after school on the Wednesday because he was afraid of getting a hiding from his father for being with them. Just as he left the boys the lower part of the sun seemed to be just touching the trees on the high part of the hill.

 Arthur J. Harvey deposed to seeing Alan Harrison running past his home towards Wm Broom's. The sun had just dipped behind the hill, and the sunlight was like it was a six o'clock on the evening of the inquest.

 The Coroner's verdict was the Eric Harold Catherall died from the effects of a wound in the head wilfully inflicted by himself by means of a pea-rifle.


P Keenan Notes: Allan Edgar Harrison b. 22/9/1898  d.30/3/1963. Father: Alexander Joseph Harrison (1863-1942. Mother: Ada Eleanor Hayward )1878-1971).