~ david coombe history

A True Story of Murder, Madness & the News in Colonial Melbourne


It's 1850s Australia.

A double murder.

A locked room.

The murderer is dying from a gunshot.

But the reporter says the scene is near impossible.


Melbourne Herald reporter Edmund Finn – better known by his pen name Garryowen, author of The Chronicles of Early Melbourne, 1835 to 1852 – described it as "one the most atrocious deeds which darken the pages of colonial history". Yet he also reported that not one man in five hundred could have shot himself with that length of gun.


Was all as it seemed? Was the scene’s “discovery” staged by the dead woman’s husband to deflect suspicion from himself? Was the dying man the real murderer and was he sane?


This is a journey to Melbourne in 1853. Using historical detective work and tools common to those exploring family history, the author reinvestigates this murder case and those connected with it. He reveals a far more complex story with modern resonance.


What Readers are Saying

~ Gripping historical tale ~
~ Archives, Trove, colonial history and true crime in one delightful package. ~

~ Read your new book into the early hours of the morning. Fascinating! (City historian) ~

 ~ I am hooked on the combination of genealogical and news archive combinations augmented by proper archives. ~

See what others are saying on goodreads.


Precis: On Friday 21 January 1853, Charles Smith made a day trip into Melbourne from his new farm at Moysey’s Springs in the Brighton district, near modern day Cheltenham. While in town, his wife Bridget Smith and son Charles Joseph Smith were murdered. The suspect was their farm labourer George Whitfield Pinkerton, a recent crew member of the 1852 fever ship, the clipper Ticonderoga. The local policeman was Constable Ambrose Draper. And who was Henry Smith?


More: See this book index for more participants in the true story of Three Rabbits Alibi. Read about the inspiration for William Strutt’s grand painting Bushrangers on St. Kilda Road, 1852. Find out more about journalist Edmund “Garryowen” Finn. Plus a little miscellany.


Buy the eBook or Download a Free Sample


About the price of a beer or wine. Just search for “Three Rabbits Alibi” at your favourite e-book store or directly from your e-reader or follow one of these links: Apple iBooks / iTunes, Smashwords, Amazon AUS, Amazon UK,, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Inktera, Overdrive and other e-book market places. Follow a link above or for iPad® you can get it very easily from Apple iBooks (link above). If you do not have a mobile device and wish to read on your computer, I suggest Smashwords (link above) which has good options and instructions for reading on a computer.


ISBN 978 1 31198 734 1




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3 Rabbits Alibi


Cover design incorporates the image: Wood engraving, “Group of Rabbits – First Prize, Exhibited by Mr. W. Bissell; Second Prize, Exhibited by Mr. H. Smith.” Walter Hart engraver, Alfred Clint 1843-1924, artist. Published in The Australian News for Home Readers, 25 August 1865. Source: State Library of Victoria. Accession no(s) IAN25/08/65/5


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Copyright © David Coombe, 2015-17.