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Larry Boy Manhunt

Larry Boy Story - Elsey Search – September 1968 - by Roy (Bluey) Harvey (text only - see original for images)


September 20, 1968 The township of Mataranka, south of Darwin, had been extremely quiet for sometime. The wet season was approaching and temperatures as expected were beginning to climb as was the humidity. I recall Friday evening, 20 September 1968. The town was beginning to liven up with local stockmen and station people, both black and white, arriving in town some for a drink and to watch the movies, others to stay for the weekend. I was talking with the local publican, Rex Hall, and remarking how quiet the town was and that there appeared to be little to do lately apart from the extra shifts we had to perform three nights a week to Katherine. During the evening, I sat with Peter and Mary McCracken, my wife Margaret and Jim and Betty Martin. We had a few beers and watched the movie, the name of which I cannot recall. At the finish of the show, we were all invited to Elsey Station for a barbecue, but I declined because on weekends, with a crowd in town, I preferred to stay close by in case of the odd disagreement or accident. September 21, 1968 At approximately 3am on Saturday morning, the phone rang and I answered the call. I remember vividly the exact words of the manager of Elsey Station, Peter McCracken. He said, "You had better get yourself here in a hurry, you've got a murder on your hands and a man badly injured". I replied, "You and Martin (manager of Mataranka Station) are having a go at me, you've still got the party going". He said, "No way Bluey. Please get onto Katherine and get an ambulance ". I knew then he was fair dinkum. I rang Gary Burgdorf at Larrimah for assistance and notified Darwin of the complaint and of my intentions. I recall speaking to Ken Pascoe who relayed the message through to the Duty Officer Alan Metcalfe. I left for Elsey Station immediately and on the way, I came across a utility parked on the edge of the road. When I woke the occupant and told him not to pick anyone up and the reason, he immediately left for Roper Bar. It was one of the Heaton boys from Roper Valley Station. I was pleased that I had spoken to him as later in the morning the station rang Elsey and offered any assistance to the Police that was required. I arrived at Elsey Station at about 3.40am. Before leaving Mataranka, I had seen the local postmistress, Kath Hall and told her the telephone lines were very bad and what had happened. She volunteered to sit up the remainder of the night until firm contact had been made and the lines fixed. At Elsey Station Peter McCracken met me in the yard and with Police Tracker Bennett and several native stockmen, we went over the event. I was taken to the stockmen's quarters where I spoke to David Jackson, a white stockman. He was unable to say or remember much as the side of his face had been smashed in with what appeared to be a heavy object, possibly a tomahawk.


I observed tracks in the blood on the concrete floor and these were immediately identified as those of Larry Boy Janba because of the shape of the right big toe. We followed the tracks to outside the building and observed where a body had been placed on the ground. The tracks then went back into the room where a blanket had been removed from a spare bed, then back to the body which was picked up and taken 300 yards to an old saddle shed where it was laid on the ground. The body was in such a position that it appeared that the girl had been sexually assaulted, her head had been smashed up with a heavy object and probably been dead for several hours. The body was that of Marjorie, tribal wife of Larry Boy Janba. They had been separated for several years. The story was that Jackson was having an affair with her and that Larry Boy knew about it as did all the other natives in the camp. Larry Boy, though educated, preferred to live in what was known as the Elsey Jungle and rarely came to the station, but it would appear that Marjorie knew he was about that night as she had asked Mrs. McCracken if she could stay near the station that night as she was afraid of him. Jackson was not in Mataranka that night either and it was likely he knew too. From enquiries it appeared that Larry Boy had arrived at Elsey Station at about 7pm in the evening and went to old Ginger's hut, an old aged pensioner and a relation of his. He borrowed a.22 rifle, some ammunition, and a tomahawk. He apparently did not say much other than he was going bush. Old Ginger said he just disappeared into the darkness and never came back. Marjorie was a kitchen girl at Elsey and was doing the dishes that evening with three other much older housegirls. She was nervous and it was obvious she knew Larry Boy was around.


It was approximately 2.50am on Saturday morning, 21 September that Louise Scott, the young attractive bookkeeper at Elsey and whose quarters were approximately ten yards from where the murder occurred, heard someone moaning and trying to call out. She at first thought one of the stockmen was having a bad dream but when it continued, she got up and walked over to the quarters, turned on the light and looked inside and saw Jackson and the rest of the mess. It was sheer coincidence that at the same time, Kath Hall the post mistress had got up to make a cup of coffee and noticed the shutter on the switchboard drop down and was able to receive and relay the call to the Police Station. Gary Burgdorf arrived from Larrimah at approximately 4.30am having had brake trouble with a Police ute he had on loan from Katherine. Together we went over the events again and details were rang through to Darwin, who also advised us that Sgt. Pat Salter of Forensic Section, together with Sgt. Bob Jackson of C.I.B., would leave as soon as possible, also that David Swift from Daly Waters Police and Speedie Eckert from Maranboy had been instructed to equip and depart for Elsey Station immediately. Gary and myself decided to wait until daylight before proceeding further. In the meantime, we ascertained what horses, vehicles and trackers could be obtained from the station to assist. At 5.30am, the ambulance arrived from Katherine with Dr. Jim Scatine and a sister and the injured Jackson was taken from the station. At daybreak, Burgy and myself with Peter McCracken and his staff and trackers made numerous attempts to locate Larry Boy's tracks from the station and interviewed many natives but could obtain neither a track or further information, apart from his activities the night before at old Ginger's camp. During the day, Swifty and Speedie arrived, then Bob Jackson and Pat Salter, the latter being the man who was to play the most important part in the conviction of Larry Boy. Pat took photos and drawings and departed for Darwin.The Police camp was set up and plans made. The Elsey search was about to begin and what was thought to be a relatively simple operation was to take forty days and nights with thousands of man hours and miles covered by foot, horseback and in vehicles and helicopters, up to this date, the most modern search carried out by the Northern Territory Police for the period it went.


September 22, 1968

Sunday morning at approximately 5am, we were ready to start a series of searches in different areas. Five 4x4 vehicles would proceed in different directions, Mataranka Homestead and Mataranka Station, both sides of the Roper River, one vehicle covering the Moroak Station end and the other in the vicinity of the station and camp.All vehicles except the station vehicles were to remain in constant contact. The station vehicles would meet up at various points and assess the progress and information to hand. In the mean time, two trackers were out with several station hands mustering horses for future work.


At approximately 11am that morning, our first break came when one of the house girls walking along the riverbank picked up Larry Boy's tracks heading towards the Elsey Jungle, his home since he was a child and we all knew well that if he got into the jungle, it would be one hell of a job to find him. All vehicles and men converged on the area and it was late that same evening that we found Larry Boy's firstcamp. The tracks into it were bare feet, the same tracks seen in the blood on the concrete floor at Elsey Station.However, Larry Boy had heard us coming. It was common for him, as we later experienced, to make his camps inside swamp areas so he could hear us tramping through the water to get to him. Larry Boy had an axe with him as he would stack sheets of bark up above water level, light a little fire at each end to ward off mossies. He also still had the rifle as we could see the butt mark in the swampy ground where he had leant it against a tree.We had to return to Elsey that night to make arrangements to shift camp to the jungle area and the spot we chose was Goose Lagoon.


September 23, 1968

All available members and trackers were swung into the jungle area but Larry Boy made the first move. Aware that some of the native trackers and some of the stockmen wore rubber scuffs he had changed into a pair and with so many different parties walking sometimes on the same tracks and having to cross creeks on the same logs, we were unable to distinguish who was who. It was back to square one and I know not one member of the search group who was not sorry to get out of that snake and crocodile infested area that day.


September 24,1968

On the night of the 23rd, we discussed our next move and it was decided to swing in a helicopter as by the time we got into position in the mornings after trudging through stinking swamps, flocks of mossies and the ever present threat of snakebites which was on everybody's mind, Larry Boy, if he was still in there, had set himself up in a good hiding position and we knew the day would be wasted. The helicopter arrived Tuesday morning and several men were dropped into various positions, like where logs crossed the river and we suspected he would cross, others to various positions in the jungle. I took a really top black tracker, Tony Mullagully. He was young and keen, and had previously been promised to Marjorie before Larry Boy, so there was no love lost between them, as this was to prove correct later in the search. We covered the outer areas of the jungle such as caves and tracks leading out from the jungle. I recall one cave we inspected only five miles from the station and decided it was not necessary to enter the cave as the whole front was just one mass of cobwebs which had not been disturbed. It was obvious he was not in there. We flew at low level for hours, flattening heavy swamp reeds with the reverse thrust of the helicopter blade. This enabled us to look right into them but we found nothing to indicate Larry Boy's position.


September 25, 1968

At daylight we decided to saturate the jungle by using the helicopter to drop men into position as previously mentioned and patrols to cover all tracks in an effort to flush Larry Boy out. On this occasion we put all search-ers into sand shoes and within half an hour everyone had been dropped off. We placed the Katherine Police boat on the Roper River to constantly patrol and check out tracks at the log crossing, but after a day of slogging through tropical heat, mossies and mud, we never picked up one track, though we found numerous tunnels cut through thick undergrowth that Larry Boy had made months before and could now be used for a quick departure when he heard us coming. The helicopter returned to Darwin as our eight hour hire was up and we made our way out of the jungle on foot, meeting up with John Francis on the Police boat or vehicles placed in position as planned. I was beginning to believe the remarks of the old timers in the area who said that if Larry Boy everbroke clear, we would never find him because he was so experienced in the bush.


September 26, 1968

Bob Jackson re-formed the whole party and we sat down with Peter McCracken and his staff who had assisted us right from the start to assess the position of the search as we were of the opinion that Larry Boy had broken out. Vehicle patrols were divided up to cover the outer areas of the jungle, plus patrols of the river and creeks to Mataranka Homestead and Mataranka township, as we believed Larry Boy might attempt to contact his mother and sisters at Mataranka, at the same time we would still cover the jungle. Gary Burgdorf, Dave Swift and Speedie Eckert with station vehicles were split into various areas and with trackers would attempt to locate Larry Boy's tracks. John Francis was to remain on the boat to check out the Roper River and log crossings. Myself, Peter McCracken, trackers Tony and Jacob and Teddy Martin of Mataranka Station would take a horse patrol, skirt into the jungle as far as we could, then continue on foot. We hoped that with a smaller team and the vehicles having departed the area, Larry Boy might begin to move around more. We now ran into the biggest problem faced by the N.T. Police, no gear. We were on borrowed horses, with borrowed saddles and bridles and had no portable radio, so the station vehicles and horse patrols had to somehow remain in contact with a roving Police vehicle. The job was carried out by Vic Hoy of Roper Bar.

Mobile patrols had commenced and horses were moved to the Lagoon area at the edge of the area known as the jungle and camp was made there that night. We, with the horses, had not heard from the boys on mobile patrols so, as according to our previous discussion, we left at daybreak and entered the jungle in two different parties, Peter McCracken and Teddy Martin with two trackers and myself with trackers Tony and Jacob. We searched as two separate parties until about lunch time, then met up for lunch. We then travelled until about 2pm heading towards camp when we came across what we had been looking for, a dead wallaby, the legs and shoulder having been removed only that morning. Larry Boy had killed the beast with a crudely made spear. He had obviously not been game to fire a shot. He was still wearing his scuffs, the difference being that the big toe on his right foot had worn through the rubber and his tracks were clear, right foot scuff with big toe mark in the middle. We cut across to John Francis who we hoped and hoped correctly was in position with the boat. The trackers returned to the camp with the horses and we returned to Elsey Station to muster all available members of the party. Larry Boy was still in the jungle and we intended to move in at daybreak in the morning.


September 28, 1968

The early hours of the morning found us back at Goose Lagoon which was infested with crocs, wild pigs and anything else that thrived in a tropical jungle. Some members were able to get as close as they could with vehicles but because of the thickness of the jungle area and undergrowth, we were unable to get the horses in very close. These were left with a stockman to take back to the camp. From here on, it was all on foot. Larry Boy's tracks were picked up again and I was sure that this time we had him cornered with four parties consisting of some twenty men, including police, station hands and trackers. Larry Boy's tracks led Tony, Jacob and myself to his camp, which actually took some hours to locate. He had stacked bark to about twelve inches deep in eight inches of water. We had to go through 200 yards of ankle deep water to get to him. Needless to say he wasn't there when we arrived, but a clear footprint on the water's edge on a nearby creek and the water still rippling indicated we had missed him by minutes. He had left behind two hind-quarters of wallaby, which didn't mean much as the area was abundant with any amount of food. It was obvious he was still in the area as the other parties neither heard nor saw him. It was back to the camp. Tempers were getting frayed, arguments were breaking out, we were all tired of Larry Boy and fully realised he was no fool, but needed a break and to see our families whom we hadn't seen since the search began.


September 29, 1968

The day was treated rather lightly. Damaged vehicles had to be repaired, tyres and tubes fixed. So we put out several small horse patrols constantly circulating the jungle. Bob Jackson went into Mataranka to speak to Charlie Porter, then Inspector Northern Division. We needed more equipment, a mechanic (later supplied by Department of Works, Katherine) and radios. On top of this, we needed new horses and saddle gear. The list was quite long, so I suggested to Charlie that he give us a change of jobs, also say Alice Springs.That night we returned to Elsey Station. We had to change horses and leave several vehicles for new springs and other repairs. As always when near Elsey, Mary and Peter McCracken would welcome you with open arms. There was always a cold beer and a meal at hand. That night we were treated to a barbecue and it was the first time for days that I noticed the close friendship developing amongst us. We had now been ten days following a man we had never even seen, through heat one minute, then up to your waist in swamp the next. I must admit that it worried me mostly at night and often wondered whether one of us would run into a wild buffalo, a wild pig or get bitten by a snake or croc whilst walking through those swamps. However, Bob Jackson had returned with some good news. A RAAF helicopter would arrive in the morning for several days, backed by ground staff and a DC3 ferrying fuel. The relief was so great, I sat down on the grass at Elsey and quietly got drunk, for tomorrow was my birthday. Little did I know or even guess that there was still 30 days to go.


September 30, 1968

The RAAF arrived at approximately 8am. The helicopter landed at Elsey and the DC3 at Moroak Station owned by Les McFarlane. Vic Hoy left to pick up the ground crew and fuel. We liaisoned with the crew pending Vic's return. It appeared the helicopter was on a Hercules (?) returning from Vietnam when the Police request came through so it was off loaded, the blades fitted and flown to Elsey Station. Adjustments had to be made before it could leave. This would take approximately two hours. In the meantime the pilot, recently returned from Vietnam requested all details of the area so he could assist in any way possible. Peter McCracken got Billy Fulton, a part coloured stockman to draw up a map of the Elsey jungle area with coloured pens. The pilot advised after the first drop that the map was very accurate and the country looked like a replica of Vietnam. A large number of drops and pick ups were made that day, confirming that Larry Boy was still in there. We hoped that he was beginning to wonder how much more he could expect, because on this day we found he had been eating cabbage palms, which indicated his movements were confined. Patrols located a camp he had used two days earlier, but he had once again concealed himself.


October 1, 1968

At daybreak, approximately 25 people, civilians and trackers were again dropped into and around the Elsey Jungle in the hope that today would be the day Larry Boy was caught. The RAAF had loaned us two backpack radios which were of great assistance. Other teams were issued with mirrors with which to signal the helicopter if they had any problems. The helicopter stayed in the area, remaining in contact with each party and there was an occasion because of a bush fire, he had to be called in to move a party to a different position. By evening, we had covered the jungle area, but there was so much overgrown swamp and banks of creeks and dense jungle we only got close enough to Larry Boy to inherit his dog, plus remains of fish and cabbage palms he had eaten for his morning meal.


October 2, 1968

The RAAF helicopter had been ordered back to Darwin so it was back to vehicles and horses. Billy Fordham, a part coloured contract musterer with 40 horses was hired to supply fresh remounts to the mounted searchers and instructions were to continue the pressure on Larry Boy. It was obvious that we had come very close to him as on one occasion we picked up his tracks where he had nearly walked into an on coming search party. With freshhorses and 28 men, mostly civilians and trackers, we made camp at Red Lily Lagoon for the night and proceeded on to Goose Lagoon the following morning.


October 3, 1968

Patrols were out at daybreak. It was a repetition of what we had been doing for days and everyday just turned out the same, Larry Boy's tracks, but still he eluded us. We had hoped his dog would lead us to him but it appeared our camp was better than Larry's. Bob Jackson had left for Darwin to obtain stores, medical supplies and boots, also as many Police who could ride a horse as possible, as from the day the search started, the most Police that could be mounted was two men, the others could not, or maybe had the brains enough not to. It was in the evening, I was returning to the camp with trackers Tony, Billy Fordham and Billy Fulton, when crossing a cattle pad, there were Larry Boy's tracks. He had broken out into the open, presumably heading up into the hills to camp the night away from the swarms of mosquitoes or heading into Mataranka. We had come across an act we suspected he had been pulling on us for some time. He would leave the jungle via the cattle pad late in the afternoon and cattle coming in for water would wipe them out, but today he was either too early or our presence had kept the cattle clear of this inlet. It was now too late to shift the horses, or even confirm that he had headed off to either Elsey or Mataranka and double back in first thing in the morning. We returned to camp and that night we discussed the matter and it was decided we would make a thorough search of the hills surrounding thejungle whilst two horse patrols would leave before daylight and check cattle pads coming out of the jungle andtwo vehicles immediately to cover the river crossing first thing in the morning.


October 4, 1968

I remember this morning very well, as Billy Fordham would always wake about 3am, get the horse tailer andcamp cook out of bed, then sit down and play his wireless, needless to say so did everybody else. I recall a song that I had never heard before and Billy told me it was a new release, called "These boots are made for walking". I looked down at mine and thought you're not bloody wrong. We left with two horse patrols consisting of three men, each to cover the area where Larry had broken out. The sun was not up yet. Gary, Swifty and Speedie were ready to hit the hills, Vic Hoy and John Francis had returned the night before to cover crossings that Larry was using. These consisted of logs dropped across the narrow parts of the river by Larry's father many years before and were probably used to hold up the flow of water. We found no sign of Larry Boy entering the jungle and at lunch time, met up with the Toyotas. They had found Larry's camp up in the rocks, together with rations - tins of defence supply and an empty spam tin and spoon left around a dinner camp by one of our own patrols. Larry told me later that he watched the helicopter land, the crew get out with one policeman, sit under a tree and eat. He waited for them to take off then went over and picked up half a tin of meat, a spoon, half a tin of condensed milk and half a tin of spam, both khaki tins.The patrols had lost Larry's tracks but it looked as if he might be heading for Elsey, one tracker even suggested Beswick. We decided to move camp to the Roper River Crossing near Elsey Station and on the way attempt to pick up his tracks and direction. Larry Boy now had the whole of the top end up his sleeve, but for some reason, tracker Tony was convinced that Larry would double back as he had put it over us before. We had even seen occasions where he had followed the search group.

We reached the Roper River Crossing late in the evening to be met by Jim Bowditch, the editor of theNorthern Territory News and photographer, Yves Corbit. Bob Jackson had also arrived in the evening.Bob returned with the only stores he could obtain from Police stores in Darwin. They consisted of ten very old Polish Army saddles, obviously destined for the rubbish dump or archives. They had no knee pads and had been designed to carry a bed roll over the front to substitute pads. They were rotten and the girths and leather was the original and to have put them on a stock horse would have been suicidal. There were four very ancient .303 rifles, several pairs of sandshoes and some old army water bottles. To think that a few days earlier, we were riding in one of Australia's most modern helicopters, and tomorrow they wanted to put members on 100 year old saddles, but we never used them as they were too dangerous. The medical supplies for snake bites consisted of several dozen small bottles of tablets. Each person was to be issued with a bottle with instructions that should you be bitten by a snake take three tablets immediately. We were led to believe that the tablets given to Bob were the answer to our life and everyone felt quite relieved about it. However a week after the search was over, Dr. Jim Scantini of Katherine Hospital was using the Mataranka Police Station as a clinic and noticed two of thebottles sitting on my desk. He asked me what I was doing with them, I told him of the issue and why. He laughed and said they would have probably given us an extra thirty seconds to a minute more. They were merely Phenergon tablets and would possibly have slowed down the blood pressure.


October 5, 1968

On the morning of the 5th, it was decided to move camp to the Caves Creek area just a few miles from Elsey Station. Horse patrols would be carried out along the river banks towards Mataranka, mobile patrols would cover the main road to Mataranka, the old road and a track leading to Mataranka Station. The old caves were inspected but showed no signs of having been used. The cobweb covering the entrance to the one I had inspected earlier in the search had not been interfered with. Jim Bowditch and Yves Corbit asked to be able to inspect the jungle area and the caves area in their own vehicle. It did not bother us as they had clearly indicated they wanted to see and experience the conditions the men were putting up with and how conditions compared with the reports theTerritory people had received. We found nothing during the day and that night were invited by Jim Bowditch to a cold beer and barbecue at Elsey Station.


October 6, 1968

The previous day had failed to locate Larry Boy's movements, however it was decided to keep the boat patrolling the river with further watches on the crossings, a further inspection of the river with horse patrols, with one patrol proceeding to Beswick Station, inspecting the water holes on the way. Tony, Billy Fulton, Peter McCracken and myself went up the river towards the jungle. These two trackers were soundly convinced Larry Boy had doubled back because the area we were in was easy to track but we had been unable to find any signs. On top of this, food had been hidden under a log, bread and salt beef of the Mataranka Station stock camp which departed the previous day. The food had obviously been left by the camp cook for Larry Boy, but he had not got this far to be able to collect it. I was beginning to believe, as others were, that Larry Boy was being assisted and we were to prove this later in the search.An inspection of the riverbanks revealed nothing until we got near the edge of the jungle. It was here that Billy Fulton who was with Peter McCracken, came across a freshly cut cabbage palm. Larry Boy was back in the jungle. It was back to the camp to call in all patrols and move immediately to Goose Lagoon that night. The horses would follow the following morning.


October 7, 1968

We left at daybreak in three vehicles and drove as far as we could in the fringe of the jungle area. We still had the same members, plus civilians and each knew his position and what was required. Morale was very low. Larry Boy knew the country like the back of his hand and even our trackers knew this. So it was a case of trackers of equal experience trying to outwit him, but today was not to be. They had tracked him to a narrow creek and lost him. Another day and another disappointing result for us. This showed up in the camp that evening when, after twelve hours in the tropical heat and humidity, and after 17 days not even having sighted Larry Boy, let alone catch him. For those that have worked in the tropics, it is easy to understand the feeling after slaving your guts out all day covering the same area day after day, nerves were pretty worn and several small arguments broke outamongst the friendliest of members. However things sorted themselves out as we were all good mates and Jim said he had no intention of mentioning it, which he didn't. We were shortly to receive word that Sergeant Roger Textor would be arriving the following morning to discuss the future of the search. Roger Textor was at the time, head of the C.I.B. and the only senior member involved in the handling of the search that had any bush experience, so we were pleased it was he whom was coming.


October 8, 1968

Bob Jackson left early in the morning to pick up Roger Textor. Patrols again entered the jungle in a furtherattempt to pick up tracks. Tony and I decided to circle the jungle in an effort to find a break out. Jim Bowditch and his photographer asked if they could follow us on foot. I could see no reason why not so I took another tracker, Big-foot John with me. I felt certain that Jim and Yves would not see the day out. We had been out for about one hour when the boys picked up Larry Boy's tracks. He was circling the jungle but making no attempt to leave it. The tracks had been made the previous night and he was using a well worn cattle pad. We spent three hours following, then losing the tracks. This went on time and time again, but the news men still followed on foot, but about 11pm we completely lost them. I suggested to Jim and Mate that they return to camp as the heat was beginning to show on them. Tony's horse had split a steel shoe in half and, after removing the remaininghalf, we sent the horse back with Bigfoot John and the news men. The boys swapped horses and Tony and I went on for a further hour before stopping for lunch. Tony shot two geese and we cut the best pieces off them with thehalf of the horseshoe which had worn very thin, then cooked them on hot coals. I was hoping Larry Boy wasclose because it might have made his mouth water.We returned to camp that evening, still not knowing if Larry Boy had moved in or out of the jungle. I noticed Jim and his Mate weren't long out of their swags that night. We sat down for quite a while and went over the whole thing with Roger Textor, whom I knew to be a very understanding person, as I had worked with him as a Constable.


October 9, 1968

We were undecided as to what area Larry Boy was in and Roger Textor wanted to examine the whole area. Patrols again split up covering both the jungle and the surrounding hills, but it again proved fruitless. There were no tracks in the jungle or in the hills or departing cattle pads. Larry Boy was laying low. It was later in the evening that Roger advised us that unless we could find evidence of Larry Boy's whereabouts, a cut back in thesearch was looming. Roger left that evening for Darwin and I believe he stopped at Elsey Station to advise Peter McCracken of this possible cut back. Peter was not happy about this, as whilst Larry Boy was loose, no one would muster and the fear at the Station native camp was very noticeable. The house girls would not go home at night when they finished work and all the huts in the camp were completely locked up each night. I had a feeling that should a cut back occur, there would be a very large scream from the district. Either way it was none of my business, I was only one of the blokes.


October 10, 1968

Again today horse and vehicle patrols were carried out in the area, but another day went by without eithersighting Larry Boy or his tracks. Some trackers were of the opinion that he was lying low making out that he hadleft the area and returned to Mataranka. Others claimed that he could be sick from eating cabbage palms. Atabout 2pm all patrols were called in and Bob Jackson read a message he had received from Darwin. The search party was to be cut down. Dave Swift would return to Daly Waters, Gary Burgdorf to Larrimah, Colin Eckert to Maranboy, Bob Jackson to Darwin, John Francis to Borroloola, Vic Hoy to Roper Bar. I was to remain at ElseyStation and would be joined later by Barry Frew who would leave Darwin the next day for Elsey Station.That night, after all had packed and departed, I went into Elsey Station. I knew then that there would be Federal intervention. Peter McCracken had rung the Federal member, Sam Calder in Canberra. He was backed by Les MacFarlane, MLC and Mataranka Homestead owner, Bill Richardson ALP MLC. Dick Ward, then a top solicitor and later to become a judge in the N.T. Supreme Court also decided to back McCracken and heavy questions were asked in the N.T. News editorial on October 11, 1968. It was headed "Manhunt poses questions". I have cut it down to what they were mainly getting at in the quarter page writeup.


(1) The News sympathised with Peter McCracken on the decision to drastically cut the size of the Forceengaged in the murder manhunt.(2)The News further stated that after having seen for themselves the immense area of country and difficulties involved in tracking a man down who was holding all the aces they were not prepared to attack the plan in hand as it could turn out effective. The fact is the man has killed once and probably thinks he has killed twice. He is still at large and there is immense fear on the Station.The full-scale scrub bashing by 30 men, 4x4 vehicles, a motor cycle and horses has not proved anything after18 days, although it went very close.The above revealed glaring weaknesses in Police equipment, training, experience and lack of finance. Police on the job have done all they could and often more in the realms of determination and physical effort -equipment would have put the odds in their favour. Questions asked by experienced bushmen were (1) Why no tracker dogs? (2) Why no field radio communications, hundreds of miles covered just to remain in contact with one another. (3) Why no real use of the helicopter? (4) Why can't more Police ride horses? At times the search had 20 mounted men with only one policeman riding.With newsmen in the search area, Jim Bowditch could see we were constantly borrowing, the men were treated unfairly under extremely tough and difficult conditions and some men had insufficient training for the type of work involved. These remarks were backed up by Dick Ward, MLC. This wasn't the last time we were to see all this. There were other searches after the Elsey Search that went through the same problems. The Ministerfor the Interior, Mr. Nixon, stated that he was satisfied with the modified Elsey Station murder manhunt and that extra protection would be given to the Homestead. I would continue the search with Barry Frew, one of the hundreds of decisions made from Canberra. There was no mention of obtaining some decent boots, riding gear or portable radios which I believed the defence had in Darwin. We knew the RAAF had two which they had taken back to Darwin. Nevertheless, I had to confront a man on the night of the 10th for the loan of horses, saddles and extra trackers. I was lucky his argument was with the chiefs. He knew there was nothing I could do about it.


October 11, 1968

This morning I left the Station on a horse patrol of the old road between Elsey and Mataranka Stations,covering part of the river area and the Mataranka mustering camp. I had Peter McCracken's own horse plus headnative stockman, Leo, as my tracker. We circled time and time again in an effort to pick up Larry Boy's tracks,but found nothing. We had lunch at the mustering camp, borrowed another two horses and continued on to checkthe banks of the Little Roper near Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort. This area was used constantly by pensioner natives for fishing and camping and was frequented by Larry Boy's mother and two sisters. We spoke with his mother but she claimed she had not seen him since the murder. We returned to Elsey that evening dropping off the two borrowed horses and picking up the Elsey Station mounts. It was just coming on dark andon arrival at the Station found Barry Frew had arrived from Darwin. He was an experienced man and was dressed to suit the job ahead of him and not wearing a nicely pressed uniform and Julius Marlow dress shoes. We had an evening meal and discussed the next day's moves. On checking the Station map, Leo and myself had covered an estimated 58 miles that day using two changes of horses.


October 12, 1968

This morning we travelled by vehicles to the jungle and hills area as I wanted Barry to familiarize himself with the area. We had with us two trackers, Tony Mullagully and Jacob, both top class trackers. I believed we had overall, the best trackers in the N.T., including top quality white experienced stockmen and bushmen, but Larry Boy still held all the aces. A foot patrol of the jungle area revealed nothing and the trackers could not see why Larry Boy was not moving about. He must have needed food or he was sick. Peter McCracken was in bed with a virus and seven natives had been taken to Katherine Hospital with pneumonia or some type of virus. We returned to the Station that night with Barry trying to figure out what he had done wrong to score such a bastard of a job.


October 13, 1968

This morning Barry, myself with trackers Tony and Jacob travelled along the Roper River towards the jungle area inspecting the Red Lily Lagoon area on the way. We found nothing at the Lagoon except an obvious croc shooter and his girlfriend who had been camped there for several days. We didn't have time to do much with him except hunt him out of the area. We carried on into the jungle on foot and were in there about an hour when we heard what sounded like a chopping noise. We headed in the direction the noise had come from and came across a freshly cut down small cabbage palm with the centre cut out of it and around the cut down tree in the soft burnt ashes, there were tracks. Larry Boy had his feet wrapped in wallaby hide and this was the reason for the absence of any sign of his tracks previously. The noise we heard was him cutting down the tree but unfortunately, he had heard us coming. But now we knew for sure that Larry Boy was living in the jungle. We carried out a hurried search after Tony had wrapped his feet in his shirt to see the affect of the track. There was then no doubt about Larry's use of wallaby hide. We returned to Elsey and contact was made with Darwin. Dave Swift arrived back about 7pm, closely followed by Speedy Eckert. Plans were made for the following morning. During the eveningI received a phone call from Darwin giving permission to rehire Billy Fordham's forty horses and three men as horse tailers for the sum of $100 per day. I was also advised that Vic Hoy of Roper Bar would be sent to assist, together with Bryce Fardell and Bob Kucharzewski who were both good horsemen.


October 14,1968

It was planned to make an early departure for the jungle area but sickness amongst the trackers placed us in the position of having to reorganise the whole thing. The camp had been hit by a severe virus and it was necessary to call an ambulance to the Station, also Dr Scantini and a Sister from Katherine Hospital. However,we moved camp to Goose Lagoon. On the way, parties checked various tracks previously used by Larry Boy and everything pointed to the fact that he was still in the jungle. Swifty went to the jungle area by boat, checking the crossings as he went. On arrival at a large log that blocked the river, he turned the motor off to check if Larry Boy had used the crossing the previous night, but he apparently had not. Swifty then decided he would leave the boat and with his tracker and two stock boys, walk through the jungle to the camp at Goose Lagoon. They had been walking for about half an hour when clear as anything and close by, they heard what sounded like three rifle shots. They ran towards the sound only to find they had missed Larry Boy by seconds. The sound they had heard was Larry Boy cutting up a cabbage palm as he had the day before. They followed his tracks to a creek where they found a new camp, but no Larry Boy. Larry Boy had changed back to bare feet from wallaby hide. Examination of several piles of excreta revealed that he had been living mainly on cabbage palms and flying fox.That night, more members of the Police arrived, and we now had seven Policemen, 22 civilians, 5 4x4 Toyotas, 40 horses, one motorcycle and the Police boat for river patrols. The civilians came from Elsey and Roper ValleyStations. Later that evening, Peter McCracken arrived in camp and advised us that he had hired a helicopter from Katherine which would arrive at daybreak next day. The cost came out of his own pocket and the hopes of the Police Department going halves never eventuated. Barry Frew had to leave the search party to return to town for a court case.


October 15, 1968

The civilians were split up so as to ensure that a Police officer would be with each team. A shortage of members complicated this action as we could not put out enough teams to secure such a large area. Fardell took a horse patrol and covered the Goose Lagoon side of the jungle, Kucharzewski another horse patrol and covered the bottom of the ranges, the motor cycle would constantly patrol the road bordering the jungle in case Larry Boy broke out and crossed it. This was done by David Munroe of Roper Valley and tracker Joey McDonald riding pillion. The rest of the party would be dropped in various positions inside the jungle in an attempt to pickup Larry's tracks again. The helicopter proved invaluable as we would have wasted hours attempting to get in on foot. Swifty took the Police boat and I, with tracker Tony, would remain with the helicopter to constantly keep check on all parties. If anyone found anything of importance he was to fire three shots to attract assistance. It took only 25 minutes to place the foot patrols in position as against the usual 1-2 hours. Unfortunately, the motor cycle patrol was short lived because Joey who was riding shotgun, was originally going on horse patrol, but being short of trackers, we swapped him over to the bike patrol, however he forgot to take his spurs off and the first bump they hit, there were no spokes in the back wheel so he went on horse after all. The search partieswere out about 31/2 hours when the first shots rang out. The pilot scrambled the aircraft and after being up about 8 to 10 minutes, we picked up the mirror flash. It was Bob Jackson's party. They had found Larry's morning camp and again he had departed in a hurry leaving behind only a handful of cabbage palms. We constantly patrolled overhead flattening the grass and reeds in the swampy area with the blades. Other parties moved into the area to assist but Larry had slipped away again. Bob took over the helicopter and Tony and I grabbed the horses and made for the outer area, Fardy and Kuck to a tighter circle of the jungle and for the first time in 23 days, I thought we had him trapped in a pretty tight circle. However, at 6pm that night we had still not found him. He was still in the swamp area, but we could not pick up a track. However, we did find one very important thing. On leaving the swamp area on a very narrow damp track, Tony pointed to the edge ofthe track and there, placed very neatly was one tin of ready rub Log Cabin tobacco, one packet of papers and a box of matches. Larry Boy had been supplied by one of our own party and it was only 100 yards further on, we found Larry Boy's tracks over the top of our own course only 20 minutes old. It was too late and too dangerous to carry on this evening, so we returned to camp. Apart from Larry Boy still being armed and possibly thinking he was trapped, we had to think of snakes and we still had two creeks to cross with the horses and I didn't like doing that in the dark. I hoped the mossies were treating Larry Boy the way they were treating us. We werecertainly very popular with them. The camp was not the happiest that night, but there was little more we couldhave done. I later found out who supplied the tobacco and he became the new horse tailer - on foot. The pilotadvised that we still had two hours hire left and he was quite happy to carry out the same procedure in themorning.


October 16, 1968

The same procedure as the day before commenced at daybreak. Horse patrols consisting of four groups to cover the outer area of the jungle and the rest were dropped into various positions by helicopter. I was convinced that if Larry Boy was worried with us being so close the day before and not knowing how much longer we would keep it up, he would have broken out of the jungle that night. Throughout the whole day we found nothing, not one track in the jungle or out of it. It was a late finish as those dropped by helicopter, had to walk back to thevehicle pick up area.Swifty had checked out the river crossings but none had been used. Some volunteers including Speedy andPolice trackers would have to be re placed as the flu was beginning to take its toll. Speedy had broken out in boils and would have to go for treatment. Sickness was to be expected, meals when you could get them, therewas rarely a lunch break and often it was one meal a day in the evening. There were times when one minute you'd be sweating like hell, the next minute soaking wet. The tropical weather was taking its toll.


October 17, 1968

Today it would be to check out the whole outer area of the jungle, Caves Creek, the ranges and Red Lily Lagoon. We all left early in the morning and by midday all teams had covered their given areas, but there was no sign of the fugitive. We decided to extend the patrols to the Elsey Station area and that afternoon shifted camp to Elsey Crossing. Bob Jackson suggested that tonight we would take two vehicles into Mataranka and raid Mataranka Station Camp. We had that feeling that Larry Boy had again set us up and was sitting down at Mataranka. We arrived in town about 8pm and contacted Jimmy Martin and advised him what we were about todo. Martin laughed and said we were mad and that we wouldn't get within two miles of the Station as the peacocks would sent us off. At 11pm we started out from Bill Richardson's Resort. We walked into the back ofthe camp with vehicles to come in from the front at given time. But sure enough, 20 minutes from the camp, the peacocks started screaming but we reckoned we had come this far we might as well keep going. I think there were three of us and as we got to the first hut we heard a voice calling out "is that you Larry Boy?" and it wasjoined by others singing out the same thing. There was no doubt they knew Larry was in the area, but nobodywas going to tell us anything. We left for Elsey about 3am.


October 18, 1968

We concentrated on both horse and vehicle patrols in the Elsey and Mataranka areas. A break came late in the morning that Larry Boy was expected when Billy Fulton, a part coloured top class tracker and one of the best wehad used to date, picked up a set of sandshoe tracks on the other side of the river, three miles north of ElseyStation. He followed them knowing they were not Larry's, but not knowing whose they were and came across afood cache consisting of a tin of powdered milk, a large piece of cooked meat and some bread. All looked to beonly a day old. The horse tailer had been up to his old tricks again and on top of this, food was missing from ourcamp, probably taken the night before when we were all away. All patrols reported in late and that evening we walked down to where the food was and staked it out, but no one came that night.


October 19, 1968

We continued local area patrols as everything pointed to the fact that Larry Boy was in the area. We alsonoticed that there was considerable unrest amongst the aged people and the house girls had asked to sleep around the Homestead instead of walking home in the dark. Today it was proved that Larry Boy was in the vicinity ofthe Station when tracker Jacob picked up a set of tracks about two days old in the limestone area. They were Larry's tracks, but Jacob was unable to follow them because of the terrain. There was nothing to do but wait.That night we were to lose a vehicle when Vic Hoy was proceeding to Katherine for supplies, when about onemile north of Mataranka, he hit a bull and rolled over. He was not injured, neither was the tracker who had been asleep in the back. Larry Boy's dog also disappeared that night, just as cunning as his master.


October 20, 1968

Patrols were continued around the Elsey Station area in an effort to pick up tracks. This was a bad area for tracking being limestone country and so rocky, it was easy to jump from one rock to the other. Patrols consistedof horse and vehicles but nothing was found to indicate that Larry Boy was holed up there or using the rough terrain to cover his movements.


October 21, 1968

Again we were out early in the morning and it was decided to truck horses into Mataranka and work out from there. It was to prove that we were right in thinking Larry Boy was in the area. Billy Fulton picked up a set of tracks about five miles from Mataranka on the junction of Salt Creek and the Roper River, close by was a campand on the ground was a polony cold meat wrapper, a bread wrapper and several empty bean tins. It was LarryBoy's camp and he was being fed. Enquiries at Mataranka revealed that his mother had bought this food two days before. The patrols were concentrated on the Mataranka area. This consisted of six Policemen and 20trackers and stockmen. Fardell and Kuck were to finish today and return to Darwin. Fardell was getting married. Replacements tomorrow would be Constables Barry Graham and Bob Shepherd, Speedy Eckert would also return the following day. We moved camp that evening to Caves Creek as it was suspected the fugitive was using the area to lie low for a few days.


October 22,1968

Patrols were still concentrating around the Mataranka and Elsey Station areas with two horse patrols covering Caves Creek. The day went by with nothing found and we suspected that Larry Boy had sufficient supplies offood to make it unnecessary for him to move about. We all returned to the Caves Creek camp where we were advised that Commissioner McLaren and Inspector in charge of the search, Tim Tisdall would be down early inthe morning and Bob Jackson and myself were to meet them at Elsey Station.


October 23, 1968

The patrols were kept up for the day with several remaining in camp to assist with shoeing of horses and vehicle repairs. Jackson and myself left for Elsey Station and on arrival, were met by the Commissioner and Inspector. After Peter McCracken had finished telling the bosses what he thought of the whole set up, we were invited to stay for lunch after which Bob and I returned to Caves Creek and the bosses to Darwin. I was at a loss to know why they had come down, as nothing was gained out of it. Again this day, nothing was seen of Larry Boy, but we would follow the instructions the Chiefs had travelled 300 miles to give us, i.e. "keep up thepressure, attempt to make contact with him and tell him that no harm would come to him if he gave himself up". This was given to the Press and as a result, the record of interview was later to be thrown out of the SupremeCourt. The thing that amused me was the try and make contact bit. What did they think we'd been doing for thelast 33 days. Someone jokingly suggested we drop him a mob of leaflets to this affect and that McCracken pay for the plane.


October 24, 1968

We shifted camp again to the river area near Elsey Station. We had no tracks to go on so it was decided three foot patrols would return to the jungle in the boat to see if he had slipped back in. The other would remain in theStation area in the hope of finding something, but both setups proved negative. Bob Jackson was to return to Darwin for a rest period, no other changes would be made.


October 25, 1968

We kept up constant patrols for the next four days and on the 30 October, Inspector Tisdell advised that I would be replaced by Gary Burgdorf and hand over of gear to be completed at Elsey Station. What gear I asked?

At 5am on 31st October, Peter McCracken woke me at the Police Station. He said that Larry Boy had been into the Station during the night and stolen bread, meat and sandshoes. He asked me if I would go out as he had the horses ready to go. I went straight with him to the yards. Burgy had arranged for patrols to go to certain positions along the river and in the Station area. I grabbed a horse Tony had ready and we left the Station. We picked up Larry Boy's tracks just by the school house. He was in bare feet but the tracks were sparse. On one occasion Tony picked up a leaf from the ground and said that this tree only grew in the jungle. This means that Larry was brushing his tracks out as he went. It was then indicated that he was heading for Mataranka, but just then the school teacher drove up in his car and stated that a bucket had been stolen from the school. I thought about it and decided that if Larry was going to Mataranka he wouldn't need a bucket. Tony and I went on and circled for about one hour when we came to the edge of the newly graded road. (This was done every night by the Station to assist in getting Larry's tracks). Right in the centre of the road was a toe mark. It was Larry Boy's toe mark andon the other side of the road, was a small branch of the tree that only grew in the jungle area. He had crossedhere and again doubled back. Larry was heading for the caves area, the reason for the bucket. He left no tracks,but he left plenty of leaves.We came to the mouth of a cave and lying outside was the branch he had been brushing his tracks out with.(You will recall 1 had previously inspected this cave on several occasions and found the entrance to be coveredwith a large cobweb). We inspected this and found it had been split down the side. 1 recall Tony's words quiteclearly. He said "We got him Bluey". It was then I realised I was unarmed. I had taken my revolver off to ride this horse, just in case he threw me and I had left it hanging on the yard fence. Tony had a .22 rifle so I borrowed that and after singing out a number of times for him to come out we decided to go in.It was a large entrance and at the end of it were two tunnels. Outside one tunnel was the stolen bucket. Larry was in that tunnel. I attempted to crawl in but the air was so foul I could hardly breathe. I sent Tony to try tolocate any other patrols and some twenty minutes later Peter McCracken and Jacob arrived. They had picked up our tracks and Jacob had guessed correctly that Tony was on to something. Speedy Eckert was located and drove into the caves area. It was long after that Billy Fordham and Joey McDonald realised that we hadn't turned up at the meeting place and decided to find us. We tried all methods to get Larry out of that tunnel, with Speedy attempting to get in but he was too big. Then Joey McDonald, a relation, managed to crawl in far enough to seehim and after some time, coax him out. I arrested him on a charge of having been in possession of an unregistered firearm. He was handcuffed and after his belongings had been recovered, he was taken to Mataranka Police Station. The search that had lasted 40 days was over and I was pleased that it had ended with no one being injured Items recovered from the cave consisted of a .22 rifle, 39 rounds of ammunition, one small axe, tobacco, cigarettes and food stuff. Larry Boy had no clothes on nor did he have any with him. He had used his naga as adilly bag. On arrival at Mataranka Police Station, he was foot printed and fingerprinted. I was advised that Det.Sgt. Alexander would arrive later and carry out a record of interview. I spent some time talking to Larry Boy and he told me that Police were so close to him on occasions he could have reached out and touched them. After questioning we returned to Elsey Station to try and locate his blood stained clothes, but this proved negative. Larry Boy was charged with murder. Les McFarlane travelled from Moroak Station to officially deal with the charge. Larry Boy, after hearings before Mr. Leader, S.M., was committed for trial before Mr. Justice Blackburn. It was during this trial that the record of interview was refused because of promises made by Police Headquarters to the media. It was also refused because we had been too cautious with our warnings, in which case the Judge considered that we were of the opinion that Larry did not understand the warning. However circumstantial evidence and photographs taken by Pat Salter were accepted, together with the axe, which when fitted with the hole in Marjorie's skull fitted perfectly. However, there were problems with the evidence of trackers Tony and Jacob, as the night before they had both had their jaws broken and didn't know by whom. It was after much argument that Mr. Blackburn accepted their hand up statements. Larry Boy was convicted and received a total of 13 years goal on the two charges. He died on 13 June 1972 of a disease known as Meliodosis, and passed on to humans by rats and pigs and contracted no doubt during his life in the jungle.

The following members who took part or were involved in the search are also dead: Sgt. Bob Jackson,Sen Const. Vic Hoy,Sgt. Colin Eckert,Sen Const. Ken Reed,The Magistrate, Mr. Leader,The Defending Solicitor and later Judge, Dick Ward; and the Richardson’s from Mataranka Resort.


Members still serving at the time of this article being published: Sgt. Dave Swift (retired as Senior Sergeant)Insp. Gary Burgdorf (retired as Commander)Barry Graham (retired); andBarry Frew (retired as Detective Sergeant)


 

Original printing of the Larry Boy story link - contains images

First published NT Police News - Vol. 6, No 4 September 1983 - and Vol. 7, No 1 December 1983

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