Sunday, 14 September 2014


John Patrick Bell. Cardigan Station. 1915.. 

We’re going back in time to a disturbing incident when my great uncle, my grandfather and another man were poisoned.
It occurred at Cardigan Station, near Charters Towers in 1900. The station was managed by my great uncle, John Patrick Bell. My grandfather, Richard George Bell, was working there at the time. After returning to the station after mustering for a few days, my great uncle went to the cupboard containing bottles of brandy, whisky and port. Yes, the Bells did not drink milk.  John poured a glass of port and brandy for Richard and himself.  After tasting his, John complained that it had a bitter taste. He told my grandfather that he thought it must be off. They decided against drinking anymore.
The next day, a visitor by the name of Graham was visiting and that evening, John got out the bottle of brandy and poured glasses for Graham, himself and my grandfather. Graham drank his first and immediately said that it contained poison. He then fell to the floor and started convulsing.  Fortunately, Graham did not die.
After straining the brandy, my great uncle found crystals at the bottom of the glass. John suspected it was strychnine and informed the police. If you don’t know what strychnine is, it is a deadly poison that is pink in colour and has a bitter taste. If inhaled, absorbed through the eyes or mouth or swallowed, it can cause severe convulsions and death by asphyxia. It is the poison that has been portrayed in literature and movies over the years.
When the police arrived from Charters Towers, they questioned a young employee named Frederick Cole who was only fifteen. Cole confessed under questioning that he had decided to kill my great uncle who had earlier chastised him. Cole said that he had stolen the poison from my grandfather’s locker and put it in the bottles of alcohol. My grandfather used the poison to kill dingoes.

Cole was arrested. My great uncle, grandfather and Graham had no lasting effects from the poison.  It takes more than a glass of poison to kill outback men.