Aboriginal men wanted for robberies

Potory-Minbee is recognised as being involved in the first incident. Local authorities order the arrest of him and 16 others. Catching Potory-Minbee proves difficult. Two months later four constables set a trap to capture some Aboriginal men wanted for the robberies. They report that: “the Blacks being so resolute and seizing hold of their fire arms, they were obliged in self defence to fire at ‘Jack Jones’ [Potory-Minbee], who is a very powerful man, and wounded him severely in the neck before any of them would surrender – during the scuffle three of them [natives] made their escape…”

Potory-Minbee, Nambo and Jago were captured and taken to the lock-up at Gosford, awaiting transport to Sydney for trial. That same day they escaped. Court records tell us that immediately Constable Smith, who had charge of the lock-up: “had drawn the bolt [to give the Blacks some water], they pushed the door suddenly open against him, ‘Nambo’ and ‘Jago’, who were handcuffed together seized hold of the Constable…while…(’Jack Jones’) who was sitting on the floor, and was so severely wounded in his neck…was considered as unable to move, but as soon as one of the blacks spoke to him in his own language, he through [sic] the Constable a blow….the other two thus dragged him from the lock-up, tore off his jacket…striking him with the handcuffs…and after about twenty minutes struggling with the Blacks…during this time ‘Jack Jones’ had made his escape, and…the other two made their escape also”.

The other Constable was, at this time on board a vessel, in charge of three other blacks for Sydney Gaol…Constable Smith should…have used more precaution, by handcuffing the three blacks together…(as the leg irons were in use on the Blacks, on board the vessel) as [the natives] are very determined…”

Potory-Minbe is recaptured and sent to Sydney to await trial. He appears before Judge Dowling and a Military Jury in the Supreme Court on 11 May 1835. Together with Long Dick, Abraham and Gibber Paddy, “Jack Jones” (Potory-Minbee) stands indicted for stealing some goods of Alfred Jacques and William Rust (a watch, some coats, shirts, trousers, sheets, blankets, handkerchiefs, towels, a pocket book, a powder flask, and a razor and case). Potory-Minbee, together with Gibber Paddy, Abraham and Long Dick are also indicted for “putting in bodily fear” Jacques and Rust. Rev Threlkeld interprets and tries to explain the customs of Aborigines to the court. Through Threlkeld and Birabahn the prisoners deny the whole of what the witnesses state, and say “it was done by other black fellows”. Evidence received during the case by Jaques includes: “I know Jack Jones and Abraham well, but I cannot swear whether they were among the parties; the aborigines have been committing several depredations on me within the last nine months…they have been treated very well by me and my men; none of their gins were ever taken away from them; my opinion is that the blacks are not solely to blame, being led on either by bushrangers or prisoners…[and by William Rust:] I asked [the accused] what they were destroying the house and stealing the furniture for, and they told me they had right to steal what they thought proper; I saw some of my master’s shirts on John Jones (Potory-Minbee]…I can swear all the prisoners at the bar were there; I got wounded…by a spear; it was not a dangerous [spear, it] was not jagged…Jack Jones held a conversation with this witness in tolerable good English, and threatened him if ever he caught him in the bush again…they do kill bullocks [sic] and eat them; my master has had many losses in his cattle”.

Despite the denial of carrying out the crime, the jury find all those tried guilty in around five minutes. All are sentenced to death recorded. It is not certain what happened to Potory-Minbee, Abraham or Gibber Paddy after the trial. (Blair, 2003, 81).