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Camels - 1953 Camel Patrol

Written by Tony Kelly


Constable Millgate had been sent from Alice Springs with Les Penhall of Native Affairs to the scene of the murder at Curtain Springs Station. They found the suspect, “Barry” Mutarubi, had shot through towards the West Australian Border, but they could not pursue him by vehicle as there were no fuel supplies West of Curtain Springs. On 4th May 1953 I was told to borrow a couple extra riding camels and to join the hunt at Curtain Springs. It took me until the 14th May to get there with the camels. I found that Constable Millgate had made no use of the Native Affairs vehicle to make enquiries so we left one Tracker with the camels at Mulga Park and drove to Ernabella Mission in South Australia, seeking information as to the suspect’s whereabouts, without success. When we returned to Mulga Park we went by camel to Ayliff Hill, just inside the S.A. Border, where the suspect’s tracks had last been seen. No new tracks were found there. The old tracks indicated Barry Mutarubi could have been heading for the Kelly Hills, back in the Territory to the North West, where he could have hidden out. We searched that area and then headed South West to the foot of the Musgrave Ranges, checking around water holes for tracks, again without success. We returned to Mulga Park on Friday 22nd May. As there was a track suitable for a four-wheel drive to Ayers Rock and Mount Olga we checked the vicinity of the water holes in that area, again without success, and climbed the Rock, leaving our names in a depository on the top. We later heard from aboriginals that the suspect had crossed the border into West Australia. We decided to abandon the search, as the suspect would return eventually to his own country. I headed back to Erldunda with the camels. When I went on leave in March 1954, Constable Millgate took over at the Finke. He was provided with a Landrover so did not use the camels. I was posted to Alice Springs on my return from leave. Some months later I had to return to the Finke. Geoff Millgate had sustained a broken an arm in a fight with Gilligan, an aboriginal. I had also had some trouble with Gilligan but I had convinced him to leave Finke and get a job on a Station. A Flying Doctor plane, a converted Tiger Moth was sent to bring Geoff to the Alice Springs Hospital. I travelled down lying on the stretcher in the body of the ‘plane, looking over the pilots shoulder. When I arrived at Finke the townspeople had subdued Gilligan and locked him in the Police cell. I escorted him to Alice Springs by train. Stanley followed me from the Finke to Alice Springs, and I was able to get him a job as Tracker at the Alice Springs Police Station. In 1956 whilst still stationed at Alice Springs, I raided an aboriginal camp at Yuendumu at dawn one day, together with Stanley, in search of a suspect in another matter. Stanley recognised Barry Mutarubi’s tracks in the camp so I was able to arrest him as well as the other suspect. I had never seen Barry and would not have found him without Stanley. At his trial Barry’s lawyer pleaded provocation, on the grounds that the girl he had killed had called him ‘Karlu’ (erect prick). The Judge held that whilst words could not amount to provocation in our culture, they could in Barry’s so he sentenced Barry to six months for manslaughter. Norman's evidence, from the tracks, was that Barry had followed the girl, who was hunting rabbits. He had speared her in the back and then had intercourse with her as she lay dying. Of course this was all inference from the tracks Norman had found, he had not witnessed the actual events.

This link goes to his home page - the story is under Papers by Dr Kelly near the bottom titled 'Early Days and Camel Patrols ' and includes accounts of Finke, Alice Springs and Darwin.


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