Return of the Expedition from Nickol Bay
Government Resident’s Office, Roebourne
To The Hon. the Colonial Secretary, Perth
Feb 26, 1868
Referring to my letter of 18th inst., No 478, I beg to add that the sea party returned on the 22nd inst., in the forenoon, and the land party on the evening of the same day.
From Mr McRae’s report, herewith forwarded, it will be seen that the principal murderers have not been secured, and that the prisoners captured made their escape. In fact, it was difficult to get at the men at all, and it became necessary to fire upon those who are retreated into the mangroves. If this had not been done, the natives would have been able to attack the party, under the cover of the mangroves. A few – I do not know how many – were killed and some wounded.
Much as I regret that loss of life should have ensued, yet I cannot forget that but for the terror thus created among the natives, it would have been, if not impossible, very hazardous to attempt arresting the murderers with the ordinary police. I shall now send out the policeman with white and black assistants, and do not now apprehend that they will have to encounter resistance in the execution of their duty.
I have the honour also to forward report from Mr Withnell, in which he gives an account of operations on the islands. Had I not chartered the vessel, it would have been impossible to disperse the natives.
You will observe that the natives attacked were in possession of the property of the murdered men, and I may add that from information I have received, they were all either concerned actively in the murder or consenting parties thereto.
I have tended to Messrs Withnell, McRae, and the gentlemen associated with them, my thanks for the services they have rendered, and I have no hesitation in saying that by their action, loss of life among the isolated whites has been prevented, the well-disposed natives confirmed in their amity towards us, the wavering made steadfast, the guilty terrified, and the old feeling of security revived among the whole white population.
I have, &c.,
Robert J SHOLL