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The Murder of Nellie Duffy

by Stephanie Bennett


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In 1908, on Queensland's remote Carpentaria Downs station the vibrant Nellie Duffy was found dead, her throat slit. Fanny Wilson, wife of the station manager, and Billy, an Aboriginal station-hand, were charged with the murder.

The high profile trial failed. The truth never surfaced. Newspaper headlines screamed of a high-level cover-up, and calls for a parliamentary inquiry went unheeded.

Who was responsible for killing this popular housekeeper and companion to Fanny Wilson? Among the many suspects was Fanny's husband, the station boss Henry Wilson, known to police via allegations of cattle stealing and cruelty to Aborigines. For almost a century, the legend surrounding this callous murder has lingered, fuelled by tales of adultery, family secrets, racial exploitation, brutality and police bungling.

In The Murder of Nellie Duffy, Stephanie Bennett narrates a fascinating tale and presents a compelling exercise in forensic reconstruction. Along the way she tackles the questions: What evidence was hushed up? Why do rumours that persist in the vast North tell a different story from the one the public was allowed to hear?

Stephanie Bennett takes us on to Carpentaria Downs and paints a vivid portrayal of station life on a remote cattle property in colonial far North Queensland. So accurate is her reconstruction, that this book has been used in schools as a true account of life in the Colonial Gulf region of Australia. But the questions remain. Why was Nellie Duffy killed? Indeed, who killed Nelly Duffy?

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