Coulter and Treffene Found Guilty and Sentenced to Death
When the jury returned at 4.45, the two accused were put up in the dock again. Treffene was excitedly wiping his hands but Coulter was calm. The jury had been absent for - - - three hours and twenty five minutes.
To the question of the Associate, the foreman said the jury had agreed upon their verdict that both Coulter and Treffene were guilty of wilful murder.
They added the rider: We wish to add your honour, that we very much deplore the fact that Mr Clarke is not in the box too.
On the scale of ripping yarns, it is a worthwhile read. Here is the transcript. I've been sniffing around this story for a while, ever since Old Salt first told me about Clarkie's Camp.
"Yeah, it was on the north side of Brooks'. Always a nasty spot to have a camp on an inlet - the north side. Cold and wet, all the sou-westerlies come on shore. Anyway, this bloke Clarke lived out there for years and years, til he died I think. I never met him, or I don't remember meeting him anyway. Maybe I did and didn't know who he was. People said he'd turned Queens evidence, or King's evidence I s'pose at the time, and moved out to Brooks' under the witness protection program. Said him and his mates had shot a coupla Kalgoorlie cops from the gold stealing squad, back in the 1920's."
These days Brooks' Inlet is called Broke Inlet; one of those big south west estuaries swelled by the hill country rivers and flushed out to the Southern Ocean. Here is a story I wrote about coming across the Broke Inlet refuge of Johnny Chester when I was a kid. Ms Mer has a shack down there. She's fished the inlet for probably thirty years or so. Aside from fisher folk, isolated, cold places such as Broke have traditionally been home to fugitives like Chester and men like Clarke, who simply needed to disappear from the demons and gold stealers.
Last night at another isolated inlet, I asked Old Salt again about Clarkies' Camp and the story of the gold squad detective murders. I think I was reminded of the tale because Mountain Man was back with his shambolic camp and he always sets up right next to the only toilet in town. He bothers me because he's a shouter and I like to toilet in peace without getting completely freaked out. In places like Pallinup, there is rat logic, there is kindness, there is camping etiquette and then there is this kind of experiential-On-the-Road-the-guys-in-white-coats-don't-know-where-I-am. That's fine. I have a real admiration for people who manage to step off the edge.
Just. Don't. shout at me.
Apart from the Mountain Man, Old Salt and I were the only people around for miles. Unruly has gone east fishing, somewhere, probably Stokes Inlet, no one can say. Grievous' Bro has his boat moored on the shore but he was nowhere to be seen when it came time to set nets. I fretted about this: "Maybe he's been bit by a snake and is lying in his shack dying. Shouldn't we check on him?" Only last week he'd told me there were two plump and glossy tiger snakes wandering about his camp like they owned the place.
"Well, best I don't find him," said Old Salt. "There's no way I'm givin' that ugly bastard mouth to mouth."
This morning I wandered up to the toilet in the half light, bleary and trying not to think about crazy fringe dwellers, fugitives, tiger snakes or that my leaking wet weather gear meant I was about to get drenched on the boat. The wind was already stepping up to the predicted gale warning and bits of foam from the river rolled along the ground and flicked over my boots.
Out of the drop dunny, I broke into a jog to liven myself up.
"The waves are coming over the bar! The bar! It's comin' over the bar!" He shouted at my back.
God, it's five fifteen, I thought. But Mountain Main was right. To the east, huge waves sprayed above the sandbar in milky plumes. It's probably one of the nicest things he's ever shouted at me.
Treffene said: I am innocent of the charge of murder. It was a pure and simple accident. That is all I have to say.
His Honour then put on the black cap and sentenced both men to death.
The Daily News, Perth, 15th September 1926, p.1.