Deaths by Drowning

de001b12On this day, 152 years ago, a terrible tragedy occurred on the road from Greensborough to Eltham. The following is an account of the inquest published in the  Age newspaper, Monday 10 October 1864.

Two inquests were held at Eltham, on Saturday, by the city coroner, one of them was on the body of John M’Alveen, a trooper in the mounted police, who was accidentally drowned, on the 5th inst., whilst on duty. Peter Lawler, sergeant of police, Eltham, deposed that, on Thursday morning last, the horse of trooper M’Alveen was brought to the Eltham Police station, by a man, who said he had found the horse in the bush. The stirrup leather and iron were missing. Sergeant Lawler then directed a search for the trooper in the creeks and gullies. The body was found, together with that of another man, in a gully near Eltham. Witness found upon the body a watch and chain. The watch had stopped at a quarter to two o’clock. There were also a breast pin, fifteen shillings and sixpence, some election papers, and a memorandum from the sergeant in charge at Whittlesea, directing him to proceed and collect the different returns, and to start with them on Thursday morning, unless he received different orders from Mr. Wilton at Yan Yean, who directed the constable to come on at once to Eltham. The night was very dark and raining very hard. The trooper and a guide he had procured are supposed to have been drowned in the gully where their bodies were found. There were no marks of violence upon the body. Henry Hatton stated that he was employed to search for the body of the deceased and found it in a gully running into the Diamond Creek on a road leading from Eltham to Greensborough. The gully is usually dry, but on Wednesday night it was flooded in consequence of the rain. Jane Bailey, wife of Jas. Bailey, farmer, Eltham, stated that she lived on the road from Eltham to Greensborough, near the last slip panel close to Eltham, and that, on Wednesday night, some time after she had lit the candle, she saw two men pass along the road riding one horse. She saw one was a police trooper. They were talking and laughing together, and rode well as though they were both sober. A verdict of accidental drowning was given by the jury. The other inquest was on the body of Alfred Hooper, who accompanied trooper M’Alveen as guide. John Johnson, boots at the Greensborough Hotel, deposed that, on Wednesday night, while he and the deceased were sitting in the kitchen, about eight o’clock, the deceased was called out to show a trooper the road to Eltham. The deceased was quite sober. They started almost immediately. The deceased knew the road quite well. They came the right road. The deceased was a laborer, and single, about twenty-six years of age. Sergeant Lawler stated that he had searched the body of the deceased. Externally there were no marks of violence. There were found on him a pocketbook, containing letters and papers, and threepence halfpenny. The body was found close to that of the trooper. They appeared to have been both upon the horse. When they entered the water they missed the bridge, got thrown, and were carried under the bridge, and drowned. The horse had scrambled out of the gully, close to the upper side of the bridge. The jury returned the same verdict as in the case of M’Alveen.