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The Mountain Hut Murder: killer cyclist pleads for mercy after victim found in mine shaft
Maryborough, Victoria, Australia | 1937
On the last day of his life, John Woods pitched camp at the old gold diggings known as Mountain Hut. Woods had been prospecting around the Victorian goldfields for most of his life and there wasn’t much he didn’t know about the game. Plenty of gold had been found near The Hut at the turn of the 20th century nearly forty years before and, with the eternal gambler’s optimism of the life-long prospector, he figured it was time to give the area another go.
The 56-year-old wasn’t doing too badly now, at the back end of the 1930s. Pushing a homemade wooden barrow through the bush was a labour of the past. These days his prospector’s outfit boasted a horse-drawn wagon with a canvas hood to keep out the early June weather.
Woods was getting ready to boil the billy when he spotted the young bloke cycling towards his camp. A gold man is always wary of strangers, but the boy looked hungry, it was a cold day and he didn’t mind sharing his rations. They were munching a meal in front of the campfire as evening drew in when the youngster made a startling statement: “I’m going to take your horse and wagon.”
Woods arced up. This was no way to repay his hospitality. “It’ll take a better man than you,” he bellowed, taking a swing at his guest and knocking him off his perch. The young man, whose name was later to be read out in court during his murder trial as Reginald James Kilpatrick, grabbed Woods’ axe lying near the campfire and bashed the older man in the head. Woods reeled, stunned but still alive. Kilpatrick swung the axe again and again in a violent frenzy before throwing the prospector’s lifeless body into an old mineshaft nearby.
He then calmly loaded his bike into the wagon, hitched up the horse and drove away. He’d be long gone by the time the body was found. If it was ever found. Who’d miss a lonely old prospector? It was Thursday, 3 June 1937 and Reginald James Kilpatrick, aged 21, one-time buckjumper who’d made his living in a daily dare with danger, was young, fearless and smarter than any cop. Or so he thought.
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Greed, Gore, Gangs and a Ghost Town: The legend of Chuck Stanton part III
Antelope Station, Arizona, USA. 1886
We resume the life and times of Charles P. “Chuck” Stanton just as he perfected the business model that allowed him to control every government and law enforcement service in the town now bearing his name, as well as all commercial enterprises – and just about all its inhabitants.
His final rival in the storekeeping business, Barney Martin, endured years of threats and beatings from Chuck’s private army of Mexican enforcers, the notorious Vega Gang, before bowing to the inevitable and turning over his business for a song in July 1886.
Sensibly, Barney immediately packed up his wife and children and fled town. For any normal megalomaniac, the cloud of dust behind the Phoenix-bound Martin wagon would have been the end of the matter. But Chuck Stanton wasn’t your normal megalomaniac. Chuck had got where he was by forcing his competitors to leave this earth – not just this town – and he wasn’t about to let glorious tradition die. Barney Martin had dared to thwart Chuck for seven long years. Now he had it coming.
As the Martin wagon slowed to pass through a gulch, Francisco Vega and seven of his gang attacked, butchered every member of the family and burnt their bodies. A few days later a search party found their charred skeletons – including the tiny bones of an unborn child cradled within Mrs Martin’s frame.
Back in Stanton, anger towards Chuck boiled over. Everyone knew who bankrolled the Vega Gang. Perhaps he didn’t own as many of the townspeople as he thought. A few months later, probably thanks to the efforts of Barney’s friends in Phoenix, Chuck was arrested and charged over the Martin murders.
But the move failed to put the well-deserved noose around his neck. Chuck still controlled enough of Stanton’s lowlife and their testimonies got him off. How could it be otherwise? Chuck was the invincible overlord of Stanton, king of all he surveyed. He knew everything that went on in town and he owned everyone.
Well… not quite everything. And not quite everyone. He didn’t control the feisty Froilana Lucero, a dark-eyed Mexican beauty who refused to bestow her body to Chuck at the nightly orgies in his notorious hotel-cum-brothel. And he couldn’t see over his own ego to spot that Vega was a tad grouchy over the meagre payout for the Martin massacre.
One night a drunken Chuck tried to force himself on Froilana. She punched him in the mouth and told her three brothers of the affront to her honour. The Lucero brothers were members of the short-changed Vega Gang. It was the tipping point. Chuck Stanton was about to get what he’d dished out for a decade and a half to the hapless people of “his” town.
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