Drowned in the river after a long illness

The Cape Verde islands where Antonio Peanna was born and raised before moving to Australia and raising his family in North Lismore.
The Cape Verde islands where Antonio Peanna was born and raised before moving to Australia and raising his family in North Lismore.

AS A young man of 20 years old, Antonio Peanna went on the adventure of his life when he landed on the shores of Australia, from his birth home of the Cape Verde Islands, a protectorate of Portugal.

He had lived his life with his wife Margaret Amelia Dias, who was born in Sydney, for 40 years in North Lismore.

They raised their three sons and four daughters in the local area in Alexandra Parade near the Wilsons River and opposite what is today the Richmond River High School.

It was this location that caused drama for a young woman by the name of Winifred Dann in 1927 after visiting the home of the Peannas.

"She left the house to go home at 11 o'clock,” The Northern Star of the day reported.

Ms Dann had left with a 22 year old man by the name of Herbert Henry Ditton.

"When passing through the grounds of the high school (Ditton) took hold of her and dragged her under the building...and there committed the offence, despite her struggles and screams.”

Ditton was convicted four months later and sentenced to death for molesting Ms Dann.

Some years later in 1935 Mr Peanna had suffered with his health and was being treated medically.

On the night of Wednesday, July 3, he had left home around 6pm telling his wife he wasn't hungry and didn't want any dinner.

"He was dressed in a cardigan jacket, patched trousers and sandshoes and had no hat,” The Northern Star reported.

When Mr Peanna didn't return home, it kicked off a large search party for the next 10 days taking in all parts of the district in the hope of finding him.

Newspaper reports kept readers up to date but hopes that Mr Peanna would be found alive, faded.

On Saturday, July 13 Mr Les King of North Lismore noticed an object in the middle of the Wilsons River and alerted authorities.

The body was unmarked but covered with the clothing Mr Peanna had been wearing when he was last seen.

A coroner's inquest found he had died of asphyxia from drowning.

He was buried in the Roman Catholic section of the Lismore cemetery.


  • New South Wales, Australia, Registrs of Coroners' Inquests, 1821-1937,, accessed January 10, 2018.
  • 'Sentence of death', The Northern Star, Friday, April 8, 1927, Page 5.
  • 'No Trace Found', The Northern Star, Friday July 5, 1935, Page 6.
  • 'Floating in River', The Northern Star, Monday, July 15, 1935, Page 6.

Topics:  antonio peanna cape verde islands northern rivers history north lismore tales from the grave

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