I had heard claims that Fred Ward was a murderer but when I had asked – repeatedly – for evidence, nothing was provided, either then or in the two years since. But a rapist? I’d never heard that one before.
Soon afterwards, when I was preparing my myth-debunking piece regarding Fred’s alleged employment at Daandine Station, I realised the origin of the rape claim. And I realised that I could easily debunk it.
On 11 May 1918, the Queenslander (p.41) published an article by William Clark claiming that he knew Fred Ward when he brought cattle from J.P. Wilkie’s property at Daandine to Clark’s father’s property at Brisbane in the early 1850s. Clark then wrote that:
Ward attempted to commit an assault on a married woman. He made his escape, went to Daandine, got a fresh horse, and started duffing fat cattle and selling them to local butchers. He was caught and sentenced to imprisonment on Cockatoo Island.
I know I keep banging on about the simplest historical detection rule (that is, determine the likely accuracy of unknown information by evaluating the accuracy of known information in the same historical source), but if this “rapist” telephone caller had been paying attention, he wouldn’t have laid such a dreadful charge against Fred’s character.
As starters, everyone knows that Fred was not convicted and sent to Cockatoo Island for duffing fat cattle in Queensland and selling it to local butchers. That being the case, William Clark’s reliability as a source of accurate information about Fred Ward is immediately open to doubt.
And what about the rape claim? This can be instantly dismissed. It wasn’t Fred Ward who was working for J.P. Wilkie at Daandine. It was his nephew John Garbutt. Whether Garbutt "committed an assault on a married woman" or whether Clark's memory was inaccurate on this count as well, will probably never be known.
See Did Fred Ward’s life of crime start in Queensland?