Joseph LUKER




New South Wales


On the night of 25/26 August 1803 Constable Luker was patrolling Back Row East Sydney Town. His intention that night was to endeavour to capture a number of burglars who had recently committed several offences on homes in the area. In the early hours of the morning during his patrol near Mary Breeze`s dwelling (where an offence had been committed earlier that night) Constable Luker was set upon by a group of offenders and beaten to death. He suffered horrific head wounds and when found had his cutlass guard embedded in his skull. Another Constable Isaac Simmons was strongly suspected of the murder however this allegation was never sustained although he was almost certainly guilty. For the offences of stealing and Luker’s murder Joseph Samuels was sentenced to death (commuted when three attempts to hang him failed) and John Russell was acquitted. Constables Isaac Simmons and William Bladders were both also found not guilty. Australia’s first newspaper the Sydney Gazette reported the story of Constable Luker’s murder and the ensuing enquiry in some detail informing its readers that “Joseph Luker a Constable whose time of duty commenced at twelve o’clock went off his post as is conjectured at or rather before daylight with a design of examining the brush behind Back Row; but was shortly afterwards found on the edge of the road leading to Farm Cove a breathless corpse shockingly mangled and with the guard of his cutlass buried in his brain”. The Sydney Gazette again reported on 6 November 1803 that “A Grave-Stone has lately been erected over the head of the late unfortunate Luker with an Inscription and Epitaph descriptive of the circumstances of his death”. (NB Date of death is incorrect) Sacred to the Memory of JOSEPH LUKER Constable; Assassinated Aug. 19 1803. Aged 35 Years My midnight Vigils are no more Cold Sleep and Peace succeed; The Pangs of Death are past and o’er My Wounds no longer bleed. But when my murderers appear Before JEHOVAH’S Throne Mine will be to vanquish there And theirs to endure alone. This was the first recorded death of an Australian police officer. Back Row East is now Phillip Street Sydney. The site of the murder lies in the area bounded by Phillip Street Hunter Street Macquarie Street and Martin Place. At the time of his death the Constable was stationed in Sydney. His patrol area was the eastern side of the settlement around Phillip Street.

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