The Kenniff Brothers the last Bushrangers

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Location: Queenslandmap
Surname/tag: Australian Bushrangers
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Australian Bushrangers

Patrick Kenniff (1863-1903) and James Kenniff (1869?-1940), were cattle duffers.They were found guilty of [1]murder, Patrick was hanged in Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane in 1903. James sentence was reduced to life with hard labour he spent 12 years in prison.

Patrick Kenniff
James Kenniff

Patrick was born at Main Creek, near Dungog, New South Wales, on 28 September 1863. James’s birth was not registered but is thought to be born around 1869. They were both convicted for stock stealing in northern New South Wales. In 1891 they left New South Wales and moved to Queensland with their father. Their younger brothers Thomas and John later joined them.Moving to the Upper Warrego in 1893, they joined forces with convicted cattle duffers Thomas Stapleton, John and Richard Riley and others, they stole cattle from Carnarvon Station and other neighbouring stations. During this time both Patrick and James served prison terms. For reasons unknown they really disliked the manager of Carnarvon station , Albert Christian Dahlke.

In March 1902, a warrant was issued for Patrick and James for stealing a pony. Constable George Doyle, Albert Dahlke, the manager of Carnarvon Station, and Sam Johnson, an Aboriginal tracker joined together to track down the brothers. On Sunday 30 March 1902, they came upon Patrick and James who were camping at Lethbridge's Pocket, they managed to captured James but Patrick escaped.Sam Johnson was sent to collect the police pack horses so they track Patrick Kenniff. When he returned, he could not find Doyle and Dahlke , they found the camp site, showing what looked like a gun fight.[2]Constable Doyle's horse was found and in the saddle bags were 200 pounds of charcoal that was later identified as burnt human remains, including some personal belongings of Doyle and Dahlke.It look like the Kenniffs had burnt the bodies of Doyle and Dahlke with the intention of disposing of their ashes.A reward of £1,000 and a large police manhunt was organised. On 23 June Patrick and James were [3]captured 3 months later at Arrest Creek near Mitchell.

The Kenneff brothers were put on trial in Brisbane, for the wilful murder of[4] Constable George Doyle and Albert Dahlke.Sam Johnson the Aboriginial tracker that was with Doyle testified that he heard shooting but had escaped the Kenniffs when they pursued him. .On Saturday 8 November 1902, both Patrick and James Kenniff were found guilty of murder and the judge Samuel Griffith sentenced them to death by hanging. The brothers appealed the sentence . On 9 December 1902, the conviction against [5]Patrick Kenniff was upheld,but only three of the four judges upheld the conviction against James Kenniff .The Kenniffs then appealed to the Privy Council.A benefit concert was held on 29 December to raise funds for the appeal. On 1 January 1903 it was announced that the Executive Council of the Queensland Government had decided that Patrick Kenniff was to be hung on Monday 12 January, while James Kenniff's sentence was reduced to life imprisonment with hard labour.

There were a[6] number of[7] public meetings to postpone Patrick Kenniff's execution. But on 12 January, 1903 [8]he was hanged at the Boggo Road Gaol Brisbane. Usually prisoners executed at Boggo Road Gaol, were buried in unconsecrated ground in South Brisbane Cemetery, the Kenniff family provided the coffin and a hearse, although Patrick would still be buried in unconsecrated ground. An estimated 400 people were at the funeral. James served twelve years. He died in Charters Towers on 8 October 1940 from cancer.

Throughout the trial Patrick maintained his innocence.His final words were for, the Chief Justice, Samuel Griffith:I am as innocent as the judge who sentenced me. James was released in 1914, he never wanted visitors and lived out his life alone. Some say he was the one who pulled the trigger. If he did he never said anything and took the secret to his grave. Patrick's grave was looked after for over 30 years by a mysteries woman in black.


  1. The Brisbane Courier p.4; 1st January 1903 article; Kenniff case Excutive council decision
  2. The St George Standard and Balonne Advertiser p.4; 11th April 1902 article; Human remains found
  3. Darling Downs Gazette p.3; 24th June 1902 article; Kenniff brothers captured
  4. Truth Brisbane p.3; 9th November 1903 article; Kenniffs put on trial
  5. The Brisbane Courier p.6; 3rd January 1903 article; Appeal to Privy Council on behalf of Patrick Kenniff
  6. Telgraph Brisbane p.5; 30th December 1902 article; Concert in aide of appeal for Kenniff brothers
  7. Western Star and Roma Advertiser p.4; 10th January 1903 article; Public meetings in surporting of the Patrick Kenniff
  8. Warwick Examiner and Times p.3; 14th January 1903 article; Execution of Patrick Kenniff

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