Tuesday, 5 April 2022

The Sundown Murders: Part One – Confession

The Sundown Murders:  Part One – Confession

Raymond Bailey (center)

December 1957, the bodies of Thyra Bowman, aged 44, her daughter Wendy, aged 14 and their family friend, Thomas Whelan aged 22 were found at a deserted outback property known as Sundown Station.

The trio was travelling from Glen Helen Station, via Alice Springs to Adelaide.

Each of them had fractured skulls and bullet wounds. Newspaper reports described them as being ‘clubbed to death', and their bodies hidden under 'blankets and canvas'.[1]

  Raymond Bailey aged 24, was arrested by Mount Isa (Queensland) police on a provisional warrant for the murders. Police in Queensland wanted the RAAF to fly Bailey’s car to Adelaide for forensic testing.[2] Bailey was a married man and worked as a carpenter. He had one son. The family lived in Dubbo, New South Wales.
Bailey told police he was driving north to Alice Springs towing a caravan. He saw a Vanguard motor car parked on the side of the road, with three people sitting around the campfire. Bailey stopped further up the road, where his wife went to bed.

 Raymond Bailey had been arrested at Mount Isa in Queensland under suspicion of murder in outback South Australia. In court, Prosecutor, Mr E.B. Scarfe, read to the Judge and Jury a statement allegedly from Bailey, confessing to the crime.

It read,

"I saw the three people lying down. I heard a noise behind me when I was passing through the camp and was just about through it and I turned around and fired. I did not see if it was, but it sounded like a dog growling.
  When I fired, a chap jumped up and made a noise and fell down again. I thought I had killed him and I just went mad after that. When I did this I thought I would have to kill the lot and cover up.
 The young girl and the woman rushed towards, me. That was when I moved over to see if the chap was dead.
  I loaded my rifle again and aimed it at the older woman who was rushing towards me and fired. She fell down straight away. "The young girl ran at me too, so I loaded again, aimed it and shot her. She fell down, too. "I don't know how many times I shot them. I just went mad.”

I put the three bodies in the Vanguard car together in the back and put all the canvas and blankets and other stuff that I could find around the camp with them. Then I drove the Vanguard car into the scrub on the other side of the road and went in a fair way and emptied the back of all the bodies and blankets and canvas. I laid the bodies out and put the canvas and blanket over them as well as everything else that was there.”[3]

 After walking back to his caravan, Bailey washed and went to bed. His wife asked where he had been, and he lied, telling her he had been sick. The next morning, he awoke early and headed back to where he had killed the trio. He found two dogs tied to a tree and shot them.

 He then told police, as he neared Alice Springs, he threw the rifle away into the scrub. Somewhere between Tennant Creek and Mount Isa, he had thrown Whelan’s now empty wallet from the car.


Next Week: The Sundown Murders: Part Two: Execution

© 2022 Allen Tiller

[1] 'Science May Solve Sundown Murder', The Canberra Times, (9 Jan 1958), p. 15.,
[2] 'Charge Follows Arrest Of Murder Suspect', The Canberra Times, (24 Jan 1958), p. 3.,
[3] 'Man Shot Accidentally, Baily Told Detectives', The Canberra Times, (14 May 1958), p. 7.,

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