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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

R v Devil Devil [1825] NSWSupC 23

Aboriginal defendant - assault - Newcastle


Source: Australian 18 November 1824, p. 3.

In the beginning of September last, Jeremiah Buffy, Wilks, and a little girl (whose mother was an aborigine) left Newcastle to search for lost cattle; they met a black man, and having given favourable answers to their questions, regarding the cattle, he and they agreed, that the black should accompany them. The weather having become rainy, and the sun obscured, they lost themselves. The conduct of the black was now such as to excite suspicion, and Buffy spoke sharply to him; particularly on one occasion, when in pretending to lead them to a tract, he brought them to the place they had set out from; the little girl told them, moreover, that he intended some mischief, and that he was coo-ing for some of his tribe. The dogs caught a kangaroo, and Wilks ran to get hold of it. Buffy sat down, and the black sat with him; but how different the occupations of the two. While Buffy filled the pipe, that they had both shared, and were likely again to share, the black was whetting the tomahawk (avowedly for opossums), with which he purposed to destroy the man he had lived with on terms of fellowship. Availing himself of Wilks' absence, he laid Buffy prostrate with the edge of the tomahawk, and proceeded to plunder them of their fire-arms and provisions. When Wilks returned he found Buffy insensible. After a time, however, he spoke, and telling them he was dying, insisted that Wilks and the faithful little girl should return to Newcastle, as they were in danger if they remained. Having washed him, they left him, conceiving that he could not live long. All this time the black hovered about them, and now and then having a loaded musket, threatened to shoot Wilks, if he did not go away; and actually threw the tomahawk at the girl. After remaining helpless, and without food for five days, it pleased Providence to preserve Buffy, by the instrumentality of two black boys and his dog. The boys were leading him to Newcastle when the people came in quest of him, expecting to find him a corpse. The wound was situated in the back of the neck, immediately under the head, and must have been effected by three strokes of the edge of the tomahawk, as it presented a gash extending from ear to ear, so that the head rested upon the breast. He is, I believe, doing well. The Magistrates at the Hawkesbury were apprized of the fact when it took place. It happened about 40 miles from Newcastle, and opposite to Moon Island.[1] The barbarian had a deformed foot; the toes being turned upon the instep; the name by which he is known is, "Devil Devil." He spoke of Mr. Wiseman, on the Hawkesbury. Wilkes is now in Sydney; and the girl can be found, if wanted.  (From a Correspondent, who subscribes himself a Northumbrian.)

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Source: Sydney Gazette 3 February 1825, p. 3

Devil Devil, alias Bumblefoot,[2] an aboriginal black native, was next placed at the bar. Not understanding the English language, and no one being in attendance that could act as interpreter, it was found necessary to remand the prisoner. His Honor the CHIEF JUSTICE observed, that it would be difficult to try a case like the present under Lord Ellenborough's Act,[3] but suggested the propriety of framing an information for an aggravated assault, which would be indictable at common law. The want of an interpreter is much needed, for justice cannot be said to have fair play between the European and the aborigine, till their language is comprehended.

No. 90 The King against Devil Devil otherwise Bumblefoot Information

3 June 1825

Source: SANSW:  Supreme Court of New South Wales, NRS 13477, Informations and other Papers, [T20]

Be it remembered, that Sax Bannister, Esq. His Majesty's Attorney General for the Colony of New South Wales, who prosecutes for His said Majesty in this Behalf, being present in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, on the third Day of June in the Year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and twenty-five informs the said Court, That Devil Devil, late of Newcastle in the said Colony, an Aboriginal Native of the said Colony, otherwise called Bumblefoot, on the nineteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and twenty four, with force and arms, in the District of Newcastle, in the said Colony in and upon Jeremiah Buffy then and there did beat around and ill treat, so that his life was greatly despaired of and that the said Devil Devil, otherwise called Bumblefoot, with a certain sharp instrument, called a Tomahawk, which he the said Devil Devil, otherwise called Bumblefoot, in his right hand then and there had and held, the said Jeremiah Buffy in and upon the back part of the neck, from Ear to Ear of him the said Jeremiah Buffy, and over the right Eye of him the said Jeremiah Buffy, then and there unlawfully, violently, and maliciously did strike; by means whereof, he the said Jeremiah Buffy then and there grievously hurt, and wounded; and also by means of the Premises, he the said Jeremiah Buffy became sick, weak, languid and distempered, and remained and continued sick weak languid and distempered for a long space of time to wit for the space of two Months then next following and other Wrongs to the said Jeremiah Buffy, then and there did , to the great Damage of the said Jeremiah Buffy, and against the peace of our said Lord the King his Crown and Dignity.

Prisoner arraigned and pleaded Not Guilty. Tried and Adjudged Guilty.

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., 3 June 1825

Source: Sydney Gazette, 9 June 1825, p. 3

Devil Devil, alias Bumblefoot, an aboriginal native, was indicted for a violent assault on Jeremiah Buffey, at Newcastle, on the 19th of September last. Guilty -- Remanded.[4]


'Circular', 8 Oct. 1828

Rev. L. E. Threlkeld, Lake Macquarie Mission

Source: N. Gunson, Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L. E. Threlkeld, Missionary to the Aborigines, 1824-1859 (Canberra: AIAS, 1974): 99.

On the following day, one of the blacks came, but being informed of my interference, he speedily decamped to his comrade Bumble-foot, in the woods. This black is so named from a natural deformity, and also Devil-devil on account of his habitual wickedness. He was in Gaol for a considerable period, in consequence of his attempting and almost carrying into effect the decapitation of a White man (Jerry Buffy [...]) in the Woods.

Source:  Sydney Gazette, 27 July 1830

A black native, known in Sydney by the name of Bumble, who was formerly sentenced to death for his murderous exploits, but obtained his Excellency's pardon, has recently been committing some most daring and atrocious [sic] depredations at Brisbane Water.[5]  He has placed himself at the head of a party of his tribe, and from his warlike threats, and known ferocious character, the persons residing on the spot, have been deterred from pursuing him.  A request for the assistance of the Police was sent to town on Sunday, and we hope soon to hear that this furious gentleman, on whom conciliation has produced so little effect, is in safe custody. 

Source: Australian 30 July 1830, p. 3.

A native black, named Bumble, is said to be signalising himself by various depredations and assaults on the Broken Bay settlers, who have sought redress from Head-quarters, and begged hard for the aid of a few constables. Constables! Bumble will beat them hollow. His own countrymen are the lads to catch him. As we have said before, a score or two of active, athletic, and intelligent natives, clad and paid, and rewarded properly, would do better service as bush constables, than twice the number of "white fellows," with all their nous.[6]



[1] Moon Island, also known as Green Island or Nirritiba, lies just off present day Swansea Heads.

In February 2018, our original minimal report of this case was  greatly enriched by the generosity and care of Laurie Allen, PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle. These case notes and most of the selections and transciptions are his.

[2] Devil Devil was known as Bumble, Belcher and Gitto, as well as Bumblefoot.

[3] 43 Geo 3 c 58, Malicious Shooting or Stabbing Act (1803). In this first court appearance, Devil Devil was charged with murder, but the Chief Justice requested that a lesser charge be brought instead.

[4] This was Devil Devil's second court appearance. This account indicates he was convicted but not sentenced. A writer to the Sydney Gazette thought that Devil Devil was still in custody in February 1826. ['To the Editor of the Sydney Gazette', 18 Feb. 1826, p. 4.]

[5] This report says that Devil Devil was eventually sentenced to death and then pardoned.

[6] No record has been found of Devil Devil having been captured or brought before a court again. He is reputed to have died peacefully at Yarramalong Valley NSW in about 1870. [See E. Stinson, A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, 3rd ed., Vol. 1 (Wyong NSW: Wyong Shire Council, Aug. 1983).: I-12].

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University