The Auburn Tragedy: The Murder of Constable Long


tags: NSW Police Force, Murder, Auburn, NSW,

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By Noel Johnson

From the September 2012 issue of the Australian Police Journal.

On 29 September each year (St Michael’s Day) police across Australia stop to reflect on their fellow officers who have paid the supreme sacrifice of losing their lives in the execution of their duty. Staff attached to the APJ also look back on times long-forgotten and, each September, we have endeavoured to bring forth worthy articles (of remembrance) in regard to some of those brave souls.

The following article was carefully researched and documented by our graphic artist Noel Johnson who, incidentally, was born and raised in the area where Constable Long’s murder took place and so he is well-acquainted with the crime scene and other landmarks described in his story.                                                 


It was 2.25am on Monday 19 January, 1903, the night was still and quiet, the moon, just into its second quarter, bathed a silver hue over the earthen streets. The peaceful little municipality of Auburn, New South Wales, was very much asleep. Although it was less than 20 kilometres from Sydney’s CBD, living in Auburn, during that era, was still considered by most people as living in ‘The Bush’; this attitude was reflected by its small, two-man police station which had been operating for only six years.

One of those policemen, Constable Samuel William Long (described as being of medium height with a strong, athletic build) was walking slowly along the darkened streets doing his rounds on that morning. His primary duty that night was to check if all the windows and doors on his beat were locked properly because there had been a number of recent break-ins in the area but, as yet, no-one had been ‘brought to book’ for these crimes.

Constable Long, with fair complexion and a pleasant, open countenance, had transferred there from Parramatta three years earlier and was highly regarded by the local inhabitants. His dedication to police work had also impressed his peers who described him as being honest, conscientious and fearless.

He was also a regular at St Johns Church of England and he spent his spare time studying in the reading room at the School of Arts.

He originally came from Victoria but after his parents had died (when he was young) he moved to NSW. Although he had only a few living relatives, he had an uncle he was fond of, a William Long, who had recently retired from the NSW Police Force as a sub-inspector. Samuel had often sought out his uncle’s advice on police matters, and the pair used to lunch together.

Samuel, who was 37 years old, was engaged to be married. However, at that time his fiancée was away visiting relatives in Adelaide and, although he was saddened by her absence, he was free to work the night-shift and sleep during the day.

Danger Lurks

The night crept on and Constable Long eventually approached Auburn’s largest hotel, the ‘Royal’. He and fellow officer Alexander Eddie had promised to keep a close eye on the licensed premises as it had been subject to an attempted break-in a few weeks earlier. As he passed the front of the building he came to an abrupt halt! The door to the bar-room was slightly ajar. He stood silent, listening for any sound emanating from inside.

Hearing nothing, but taking no chances, Constable Long eased his gun from its holster.

Since 1894, the NSW Government had been issuing police with British ‘Webley’ revolvers, but Constable Long still preferred to use his own weapon, a long-barrelled Colt revolver.

Using his left hand he scratched a wax vesta match alight on the door and then, holding the flame in front of him, he walked carefully into the darkened room.

What happened next has never been fully explained, but a witness said later that just after the policeman entered the hotel a gunshot suddenly shattered the silence of the night. It appears that the shooter was well versed in the use of firearms too, because, at that precise moment Constable Long’s ‘earthly race’ was over. He fell to the floor with a bullet imbedded into the back of his head ...

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