Triple murder near Ballina shocks community
IT WAS the worst of news for the residents of the tiny area known as German's Creek (later renamed Empire Vale) just south of Ballina.
Three of their own had been murdered in cold blood by a man they trusted, their bodies found the morning after by the son and daughter of two of the victims.
John Raymond Brown had been working for Mr Daniel and Mrs Margaret O'Keeffe as a labourer but had left their employ two months before the fateful night of July 15, 1906.
In his own words Brown described what he did on the last day of the lives of the O'Keeffes and their employee Patrick Gillick.
"I didn't go to O'Keeffes to murder them," his statements were reported in The Clarence River Advocate.
"I wanted money and arms to start a revolution for a white Australia.
"I hit the old woman with a sandbag and it burst. I then drew (a) bayonet and stabbed her.
"She called for help and the old man came. I stabbed him...in the side."
When Mr O'Keeffe went to defend himself with a gun, Brown stabbed him again.
The noises brought labourer Patrick Gillick on the scene where he tried to defend his employers by hitting Brown over the head with a bottle.
Brown, however, had the upper hand and he swung the bayonet striking, and killing Gillick.
Suddenly he was a fugitive.
Despite getting a head start and making good ground, the bodies weren't discovered until the next morning, Brown was hunted down and caught by the police in the Tweed area.
He had travelled 86 miles in two days.
Brown was charged with the murder of all three victims and sentenced to hang.
He was transferred down to Grafton jail where he was hung on December 11, 1906.
The O'Keeffes are buried at Wardell cemetery.
* 'German Creek Tragedy', The Clarence River Advocate, Tuesday, July 24, 1906, Page 2.
* Austcemindex.com. Accessed December 29, 2016.