Death of a Child at Papunya

National Archives of Australia F133 Item 1966/186 Death of a Child at Papunya Paul Mackett Copyright P J Mackett, 2011 30. 5.1966 From Papunya to Social welfare Alice Springs Circumstances report on death of unnamed child, born 27. 5.1966, died 27. 5.1966, mother Murmuya, father Freddie West. 8.15am friday 27. 5.1966 a new baby was brought to the Hospital by (old) Nanguri, Son - Talyuri. Baby weighed 5lbs 9ozs was well formed but was dead - limbs freely movable. Dirt was noticed to be between baby's lips and I tried to flick it out with a piece of wooden spatula only to find that the mouth was full of dirt. The mother (in camp) was well and she told me that when the baby was born - Quote, 'Cry, cry, cry', so it was understood that the baby cried at birth. The floor of the wurley was covered with soft old dirt. (Handwritten note - For details of this family see Folio 101 on Kintore Range Patrol file.) Signed W Eldridge P Pedersen Superintendent 3. 6.1966 Handwritten note AD Ref folio 21 and 22 This looks suspicious to me. Spencer and Gillen describe a method of committing infanticide by filling the new born childs mouth with dirt and thus suffocating it. I experienced this method of infanticide in a case we investigated at Mt Doreen in 1954. You will note that the Police are investigating and we will keep in touch. Nangura was arrested on a charge of murder on 3. 6.1966 She appears in the Alice Springs Police Court at 10.00am on 10. 6.1966. Legal aid is recommended in the lower court regardless of plea. Legal aid approved. 6. 6.1966 From Papunya to Social Welfare Alice Springs Relatives of Deceased child - died 27. 5.1966. As requested in your radio message, re the above, the following is submitted for your information:- The parents of the above child were included in a group of Pintubis which was brought to Papunya from the West in April 1964. The father, Freddie West or Jugudi Jagamara, has been working here for some considerable time now but the rest of the family has taken very little part in Settlement activities and still prefers the camp situation. The mother of the dead child, Murmuya is at present in Alice Springs Hospital. The mother of Murmuya, Nanguri was taken to Alice Springs by the Police Patrol as was Parara, co-wife of Murmuya. Set out hereunder are details of all close relations in this particular group. Jugudi Jagamara, known as Freddie West, parents both deceased, father of child. Parara Nabaljari, No 1 wife, father Kirindji Kuku deceased, mother Anmanari Nangala. Kim Naburula, daughter aged approx 4 years. Murmuya Nabaljari, No 2 wife, mother Nanguri Nangala, father Willie Jungarai deceased. Bobby Juburula, son of the above aged approx 8 years. Nicholas Juburula, son of the above born 12.12.1964 The only other relatives belonging to this particular group are two brothers of Freddie West, namely George Jagamara and Jampu Jagamara, who are both here at Papunya also. P Pedersen Superintendent 5. 7.1966 Northern territory Police Alice Springs Witnesses required for Supreme Court 11. 7.1966 Paul Pedersen, Superintendent Papunya Patricia Ann Nunan, Sister, Papunya Murmuya and Parara, both at present at Amoonguna Stewart, interpreter at Amoonguna Joan McCormick, wife of James McCormick at present at Raggatt well on the road to Glen Helen A Woodroffe PC S/Const 101 14. 7.1966 District Welfare Officer Supreme Court Hearing Murder Charge - Aboriginal Nangura The above aboriginal was charged in the Alice Springs Supreme Court on 13. 7.1966 with the murder of an unnamed child at Papunya on 27. 5.1966 Dr Hawkins gave evidence that the baby's death was caused by 'asphyxiation from the presence of foreign matter in the child's breathing system'. Defence then cross examined Aboriginal Stewart as to his reliability as a competent interpreter, when Senior Constable Woodroffe used his services to obtain depositions at Papunya and the CIB office in Alice Springs. Defence ascertained that Stewart's accuracy of interpretation must be verified and that he was unreliable as an interpreter because of his inadequate knowledge of English. Judge Bridges allowed that the evidence be admissable in Court and the onus be on the jury to put as much weight as they wished on these interpretations. Mr Penhall was brought in to provide extrinsic evidence to show that Nangura was not a person capable of comprehending the cautions administered to her, or why she had been brought into Alice Springs. Constable Woodroffe's method of obtaining the confession was questioned as under the Judge's rules it is insufficient to caution a suspect if they are not capable of comprehending the caution, however the Judge ruled the Constable administered the caution to the best of his ability and again it was the duty of the jury to weigh the evidence for what is was worth. The Constable's evidence of the alleged confession was admissable as evidence for the prosecution. Murmuyah, mother of the dead child was cross examined with the aid of aboriginal Michael as interpreter. Murmuyah admitted she saw Nangura put sand in the baby's mouth, however she also said she told Nangura to kill the baby. (This would make her an accomplice to the murder.) Parara, co-wife of Murmuyah was cross examined with the aid of aboriginal Michael as interpreter. Parara said she saw Murmuyah as well as Nangura put sand in the child's mouth and raised further doubt as to who put sand in the child's mouth actually causing death. In address, defence divided the prosecution case into three parts - confession and evidence of the two witnesses, and in each case pointed out there was undeniably reasonable doubt present. The jury the retired to consider the evidence and subsequently a verdict of 'Not Guilty' was given, Nangura, Murmuyah and Parara were then taken to Amoonguna and will be returned to Papunya by first available transport. D Stewart Patrol Officer _______________________________________________________________________