My good friend, SBC expert Bill Denheld is talking to members of the BBM Facebook page about his search for the site of the Police murders shown in a couple of very famous photos taken at the time by professional photographer Mr F C Burman. Many people are claiming it’s all too complicated and too hard to figure out which site out of five proposed, is the most likely one . Well, I’ve studied all the sites in detail, and visited them all more than once, and I can tell you right now, it’s not hard at all. So, read on to see what I mean.
Five different sites along Stringybark Creek have been nominated as being likely to be the exact site of the Police Camp where Lonigan and Scanlan were murdered by the Kelly Gang:
1. Ian Jones site on the Eastern bank of SBC, south of the so-called Kelly Tree which is supposed to be a marker of the approximate position of the police campsite
- Bills “Two Huts” site not far from Jones site but on the opposite (Western) side of SBC
- Further north the “CSI” site promoted by Briggs Gill Dean and Standing.
- Further north again, Adam Fords site in the Visitor Picnic grounds
- Even further north, the Kennedy Tree Group site of King Fogarty Younger and Lloyd.
STEP ONE: ELIMINATE THE SITE THAT NOBODY ACCEPTS
Eliminate the Jones site, the one he said was ‘unarguable’ the one he discusses on an old video you can still find on You Tube, because Jones missed the clue everyone else has subsequently spotted, which was the description by McIntyre that the Police tent faced SBC to the EAST. “The entrance to the tent was facing east and also the creek which was about 70 yards distant”. The only way SBC can be to the EAST of the tent is if the tent is on the WESTERN bank. End of story.
NOBODY accepts the Jones site is in contention any longer, so we are left with FOUR possible sites.
STEP TWO: LOOK AT THE BURMAN PHOTO:
Recall that the 1880 Burman photos of the Police Campsite are the starting point for all efforts to identify it in 2023 and that interpretations of those photos fall into TWO groups:
Adam Fords group and the CSI Team believe that the photos were taken from the south or south west with the Camera facing to the north and Northeast. This view necessarily implies that when he positioned people in the frame to re-enact what happened, even though he knew exactly where police and Gang members would have been at the time of the ambush, Burman placed them all in the wrong place and looking in the wrong direction, ie to the South when they actually looked north.
On the other hand Bill and the KTG group believe the photos were taken from the north and north east with the camera facing south and southwest, which would necessarily imply that when Burman positioned people in the frame to re-enact what happened, Burman placed them in more or less the correct position. He did this because he knew exactly where the police and Gang members were at the time of the ambush. Bills backs up his view about camera angles and orientation with analysis of shadows and where sunlight can be seen falling in the Burman photos to confirm where north actually was.
STEP THREE: ELIMINATE THE SITES BASED ON WRONG PHOTOGRAPHIC INTERPRETATION:
Decide which interpretation of the camera orientation you agree with, to eliminate the two groups who have misinterpreted the photos and have therefore headed off down the wrong track. So, if you think it makes sense to imagine that Burman put all his ‘actors’ in the wrong positions even though it would have been just as easy to place them in the right ones, then you are left with the two sites in the middle, Fords Picnic area site or the CSI Site.
On the other hand if you agree with me that it makes more sense to expect that after making such an enormous effort to drag all his heavy cameras and lead plate photographic equipment into the wilds of the Wombat ranges, Burman, the professional photographer, would then have done everything he could to make his images as accurate and as credible as possible, then you are left with the Two Huts site or the KTG site.
STEP FOUR: KTG SITE vs TWO HUTS
There are many fatal flaws in the KTG claim to have located the police camp, the most important one being that its entirely dependent on the discredited methodology they used to try to identify the so-called “Kennedy Tree”. In both cases their approach was to look for trees that resembled the trees seen in the 140-year-old photos taken by Burman. Their initial ‘find’ was the so-called ‘Kennedy Tree’ but when their entire case was submitted by the KTG team itself to expert analysis by Heritage Victoria, it was rejected. They submitted a revised version of their case and that also was rejected.
The KTG claim is that they identified the Police Campsite by working backwards from the ‘Kennedy Tree’. However, now that their claim to have located the ‘Kennedy tree’ has twice been rejected by Heritage Victoria, they no longer have any basis to their claim to have found the police Campsite.
There are many other important flaws in their case, being dependent as it is on the very dubious identification of living trees based on what they looked like in 140-year-old photos. Their interpretation of other features in those photos was also highly problematic, one important example being their assertion that apart from themselves, every person who has ever looked at those photos got it completely wrong when they thought it showed a slope in the background with fallen saplings lying across it. The KTG site lacks a slope, and it was therefore necessary for them to deny such a slope could be seen in the Burman images, and so they claimed the photo showed flat ground with post-and-rail fences on it. However in saying this they were forced to dismiss on the basis of literally nothing, the published report of an 1880 eye-witness who said that the campsite was at the foot of a slope, that ground around it had been cleared for horses but that there were no fences. Their sweeping dismissal of an actual eye-witness account was simply breath-taking : but they were forced to either dismiss the eye-witness, or else concede their entire case had just collapsed.
This leaves the Two Huts site as the clear front runner. On his absorbing WebSite [HERE] Bill Denheld has produced a very thorough, very detailed and very convincing argument in support of his claim to have located the site of the police camp. The Two Huts site includes archaeological evidence of the fireplaces of the ruined huts that were there at the time and visible in the photographs, evidence not found at any of the other sites, and the slope seen in the background of the Burman photos, also not seen at any of the other proposed sites, is exactly where it should be at Bills.
Game, set and Match.