Handcuffs used by Water Police Magistrate P.J. Cloete to apprehend David Lloyd

Alleged murder, handcuffs and a fascinating report

In 1869 an alleged murder was committed on Lord Howe Island. Several reminders of the events surrounding the investigation are on display at the Museum.

One exhibit being included as part of the new history gallery displays is a set of handcuffs. These were brought to the island by the Water Police Magistrate P.J. Cloete in 1869, and left on the Island in the case they were needed in the future.

The reason for Cloete’s visit was to investigate an alleged murder on the island.

David Lloyd, his wife Mary and daughter Alice settled on the Island in 1862.  Two years later Alice married John Leonard, a deserter from the American whaler Gayhead.  In 1869 Leonard engaged in a violent quarrel with his father-in-law and attacked him.  In the ensuing fight Lloyd defended himself with a knife, fatally wounding Leonard. 

Water Police Magistrate P. J. Cloete was sent to the Island on the Government steamer Thetis to investigate the death and subsequently ruled the incident justifiable homicide.  In his report Cloete wrote:

Lloyd killed his son-in-law, a wastrel of a fellow from an American whaler.  If the old man had chosen to hide in those dark mountains – Lidgbird or Gower – no man could have found him.  But he had given himself up and seemed to have been first assaulted before he stabbed the other.

David and Mary returned to the mainland shortly after the investigation. Alice wed again and remained on the Island until her death in the early 1920s. It could be said that Leonard hung around for some time as over the years Islanders claimed to have seen his ghost or felt his presence near an old greybark tree that stood on the spot where he lost his life.

The Museum not only has the handcuffs left by Cloete, but in our library we hold a valuable copy of the report of the Thetis expedition published by E.S. Hill in 1870. This report has fascinating accounts of the geology, botany, island life and a statistical register of all residents living on the island in 1869. 

Of even more value, the museum library holds the original hand-written notes made by Cloete while he was on the Island. The documents are stamped ”Crown Law Offices Sydney“ and dated 16th June 18969.

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