Warrimoo’s forgotten history – serial killers, murderers and train fatalities

On January 31, 1930 an area centred on Warrimoo was called the tragic spot in newspapers because of the horrors that had occurred there.  

The latest tragedy struck on January 27, 1930, at 7.30pm. 

Two locomotives heading an excursion train from Mt Victoria were derailed near Warrimoo. The leading engine turned on its side, pinning three men beneath it. 

Harry Hanna, the driver and Edward Smith, the fireman, were both killed and Joseph McGarritty, a junior porter, was severely injured.

The second engine rolled over an embankment. The crew jumped, escaping injury. 

The brake van veered on to the up line after becoming derailed. This saved the carriages from following the second engine down the slope. No passengers were seriously injured

The Molong Express noted on Saturday February 8, 1930 that the engine derailed that January evening, was “a fateful engine” which had collided with a car at Dean’s Crossing, near Molong, on September 30, 1926, killing five people.

Although the area had suffered through bushfires and other murders, the second tragic incident referred to by journalists was the murder of Ronald Leslie.

Two miles west of the spot where the derailment occurred was the scene of his brutal death in his blue Buick Tourer on October 12, 1927. 

William Higgs was tried for his murder, and his brothers Hubert and Bruce were tried as accessories after the fact. All three were found not guilty in a jury trial in 1928. 

Ronald Leslie’s death remains unsolved. 

Three miles east of the train crash, Captain Lee Weller had also been murdered in 1896. 

Frank Butler advertised in the classified columns of The Sydney Morning Herald for people to join him in prospecting in the Blue Mountains. 

Butler, a well-travelled 35-year-old, would head to the Mountains with his chosen companion. At the selected spot, the victim would start digging. When the hole was deep enough, the poor man would be shot in the head and buried, Butler pocketing any valuables and money. 

Butler murdered this way at least three times in the Lower Blue Mountains. 

When he realised the police were after him, Butler signed on to the four-masted barque, Swanhilda, planning to work his way to California. He called himself Lee Waller and used his victim’s papers. 

Ingenious police caught a steamer, the Miowera, reaching San Francisco before Butler. He was arrested, brought back to Sydney, tried, found guilty and hanged in Darlinghurst Prison on Friday July 16, 1897. 

Some writers consider him to be one of Australia’s first serial killers.

Our flourishing and attractive Lower Blue Mountains residential villages were once, briefly, a tragic spot indeed.