Dr William Hoare was the Government Medical Officer who drove twice to Alligator Creek to examine the six bodies. He also testified at the trial.
Dr William Hoare was the Government Medical Officer who drove twice to Alligator Creek to examine the six bodies. He also testified at the trial. Contributed

Farmhand faced six murder charges

THE third of a four-part series on the Ching family massacre, a crime that horrified Mackay people 100 years ago.

GEORGE David Silva was born at Homebush, just outside Mackay, of Sri Lankan parents.

Twenty-eight years later, the farmhand would find himself initially facing six murder charges.

On the Saturday morning eight days after the killings there was intense public interest and people lined the streets outside the old courthouse.

Silva was reported to be "a miniature and very depressed looking specimen of humanity who was marched barefoot and securely handcuffed into the Police Court".

"He looked undersized to the curious sightseers who crowded every seat and vantage spot in the court and the adjoining verandah."

He wore the same clothes he purchased on the day after the killings.

He was remanded in custody and went to trial in the Circuit Court (now known as the Supreme Court) in Mackay for two days in March the following year.

He was charged with just one of the murders because any conviction would have brought the death penalty.

The courtroom was packed for three days and the witnesses included Alligator Creek neighbours and residents James Innes, Dooley Khan and Ballas Allah, Robert Brett, Sam Appoo, Sam Butler, Charles Ching, James Carey, Dr William Hoare and police officers Sgt James Sergant and Const Robert Brett

Silva did not testify but the defence lawyers vigorously attacked the police officers, claiming evidence was not given freely.

One witness set up a motive, saying Silva had wanted to marry Maud Ching and had been told by her parents that he couldn't.

There were allegations at the trial that at least one other person must have been involved in the murders.

In addition to all the evidence about weapons, motive, burnt clothing and confessions, the jury heard a watch had been stolen from the Ching residence and found with Silva's burnt clothes at the site of a fire in the bush.

However, Silva claimed he stole the watch one week before the murders.

He also said the blood on his clothes was not human.

The defence also argued that he hid the revolver in bushes after Charlie Ching found the bodies because he feared Mr Ching might shoot himself in despair.

After a jury convicted Silva, he was asked if he had anything to say.

He said: "There was a lot of false evidence against me and I was choked by Sgt Head in a stable at Ching's place and knocked about".

Silva's final words in court were: "Your Honour, I'll ask you to have the greatest recommendation to mercy upon my soul. I am innocent."

Justice Lionel Lukin said he agreed with the jury's verdict and he imposed the death penalty.

George Silva was taken by steamer to Brisbane where an appeal failed.

He was hanged to death at Boggo Road Jail on June 10, 1912.

 

The motive

NEIGHBOUR Peter Antoney testified that Silva told him he intended marrying Maudie.

Mr Antoney said: "You can't marry. You got no money. You got no blanket. No decent trousers. How would a girl like to marry you like that?"

Silva allegedly replied: "I'll have plenty of money at Christmas. Mr Ching is going to give me a piece of ground and I will build a house."

The police case was that Silva killed the family for revenge for not letting him marry Maud.

 

The reporter

ONE of the three surviving Ching children was Harry, a well educated bilingual man who was 24 years old in 1911 and was working as a journalist with the Mackay Standard.

He reported on the family tragedy for his readers, attending the family farm at Alligator Creek.

He covered the court appearances and the Circuit Court trial. He even went to Brisbane to witness the execution being carried out.

He then came back to Mackay, left with his father and another relative for Hong Kong, and became one of the great newspaper reporters of South-East Asia.

TOMORROW - Part four - The Descendents


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