It’s not unusual that the state’s most senior policemen, the mayor and local MP would turn out on Monday to attend the memorial service for an officer lost in the line of duty.
Senior Constable John Ward was shot at point blank range and died the next day from his appalling injuries. The dignitaries stood in silence enduring steady rain as the prayers and dedications were delivered at Birriwa Station near Coonabarabran.
What makes the scene rather remarkable is that the officer’s blood was spilt almost one and a half centuries ago.
Sam Poo, who committed the murder, achieved fleeting infamy as Australia’s only Chinese bushranger.
The gold prospector, apparently weary of thin pickings on the Talbragar claims, decided to switch jobs and take up bushranging. Fellow diggers were alarmed by news a man reported to look like a Chinaman had stuck up a woman and her little girl on the Mudgee Road. There were more reports of a Chinaman ”bailing up” travellers.
Ward, married with five children and with five years’ experience in the police force, was soon on his trail. On seeing his man after some hard riding, he called out ”Put down that gun.”
Poo responded: ”Me fire: you policeman.” And he did.
A stockman took the officer to his homestead. The nearest doctor travelled 80 kilometres to tend to him, arriving the next day.
By then Ward was reportedly beyond the reach of human aid and died soon after.
Two weeks later three constables aided by a ”smart half-caste Aboriginal stockman and tracker Harry Hughes” found Poo hiding in scrub. The fugitive was shot in the neck. He recovered at Mudgee Hospital and was later convicted of murder. He was hanged at Bathurst Jail in 1866.
Fast forward to the service last week, part of the NSW Police Force recognition of the sacrifice made by officers over 150 years of policing.
Inspector Scott Tanner, of the Mudgee area command, said: ”We were looking at how to mark the 150 years of policing. We have a plaque in Coonabarabran police station to John Ward and then there was the loss of Dave Rixon [the senior constable shot dead in Tamworth last March] so we started thinking about how to also remember John Ward – he walked the same streets that we walk today. When I first came here I lived in the house he had lived in.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.