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John Gofton

Death: July 26, 1840
Little Para River, South Australia, Australia
Managed by: Private User
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About John Gofton

John Gofton

CATTLE STEALING.-The week before last, we stated that two men had been apprehended on the Sunday evening previous, in the act of slaughtering stolen cattle. They were brought up before the Resident Magistrate on Tuesday week, when they were remanded and brought up again last week. From evidence then produced, it appeared, that on the [?], Sergeant Halford of the police, accompanied by Thomas Naughton, a police constable, constable out about dusk in the evening, he having a suspicion from what he had beard, that some- thing not right was going on. They went to what is called the Black Forest, to the right of the road leading to the Bay, where Halford had received information of the existence of a secret stockyard. After considerable searching, they came upon the yard, which is situated in the midst of a dense low scrub, in a situation that it is almost impossible to discover it. In the stock yard there were three men, who appeared to be busy at work round a beast which was lying on its back on the ground. When the policemen got up to the yard, Sargeant Halford stopped off his horse on to the fence; and whilst he was doing so, the three men leaped over the fence on the opposite side and made off. Halford and Naughton gave chase, and each succeeded in capturing a man. The one caught by Naughton managed, however, to get away again. Naughton thinks his name is Fenton. The name of the man caught by Halford, is Joseph Broadrip. They returned to the stock yard, where they found a bullock dray with four bullocks in it-three cattle slaughtered-one cut in quarters, another [?] on which they were a [?] being on the ground in its skin. There were four large empty casks on the dray, and a bag of salt lying beside it. Broadrip stated, that he was employed by a person of the name of John Gofton, at whose house he lodged; that on the Sunday afternoon. Gofton and a man named Fenton, had told him to get the dray ready with four casks and a bag of salt, as he was going to kill some cattle and salt them. They all went to the stock yard, where Gofton killed three bullocks-one of which they were skinning when the policemen came up, when Gofton told him to run away. Several head of cattle were found in the stock yard by the policeman, which were taken into town. Mr. Hamilton identified five of them as being the property of Mr. Mundy, who has gone to Swan River. The cattle had been under Mr Hamilton's care. Mr. J. H. Fisher identified a cow, which was found in the pen, as his property; and Mr. Letts, Adelaide, identified another cow and calf as belonging to him. On the Monday morning, the policemen went to Gofton's house and apprehended him. they were again brought up before the Resident Magistrate on Monday, and remanded for a week-chronicle.

1840 'EMIGRATION DEPOT.', South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), 9 May, p. 5. , viewed 26 Aug 2018,

Gofton escaped from gaol and was subsequently shot in the head at Little Para, 26 Jul 1840. The man charged with his murder, Joseph Stagg, was hanged at Adelaide gaol on 18 Nov 1840. He declared his innocence and later, a deranged ex police officer, confessed to the crime, but was dismissed as crazy.

"In front of the gaol, then under construction, Joseph Stagg ended his life on 18 November 1840 for the murder of John Gofton. This execution was attended by strange circumstances, the elements of which would have furnished ample material for a sensational romance or a melodrama. The trailing of Stagg and the way the crime was brought home to him by the police, with the late Inspector Tolmer at the head, in itself furnishes a narrative that would need little embellishment to rank with some of the imaginative detective stories of the present day.

When being pinioned Stagg declared that he was about to die for a murder he never committed, but that the true murderer was standing in the crowd before him, and he added that he, however, deserved to die because of the part he took in the roasting to death of a man who was a flagellator in Van Diemen's Land. He mounted the scaffold with wonderful nerve and met his death without further protest. He was the first criminal interred in what was then the new gaol.

Some years afterwards Mr Justice Cooper received a dispatch from the Secretary of State intimating that a lunatic named Lomas, a former trooper in the SA Mounted Police, had voluntarily confessed to having shot Gofton. This called for a most careful investigation and it resulted in satisfying him that the admission was a fabrication."


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John Gofton's Timeline

July 26, 1840
South Australia, Australia