I love the State Records Office of Western Australia—an infinitely fascinating repository for archives relating to Western Australia’s European history. I’ve used it as a research resource for three of my books, and I spent several weeks there recently (with many more to come), working on a new novel in the preliminary stages of research and development.
While I was there, one of the archivists showed me the macabre map you see below. I actually hadn’t seen this during my research for The Sinkings in 2003–04, which I suppose confirms my belief that research is never finished; there’s always something more to find.
The map was produced in 1882 by Licensed Surveyor Fenton W. Hill, for the Albany police officer Sergeant Hector McLarty, who was in charge of investigating the murder of Little Jock King. It shows The Sinkings, the site where Little Jock was murdered on 2 October 1882, marking where various body parts were unearthed about a month later—’BODY FOUND’, ‘LEGS FOUND’, ‘HEAD FOUND’. It also shows where the bucket and axe used by the murderer were discovered (these had also been buried).
The map was referred to in evidence during the trial of John Collins for the murder of Little Jock.
What an incredible artefact of Western Australian history to have been kept and preserved, and what a thrill it was for me to be able to examine it (although that might sound a bit gruesome, given the content!).
My reaction confirms another belief of mine: that old obsessions never die; they just lurk in the background while you get on with other things.
A few details:
Map courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia, and my thanks to Senior Archivist Damien Hassan.