National Archives of Australia
F133 Item 1966/186
Death of a Child at Papunya
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
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
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
Set out hereunder are details of all close relations in this
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.
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
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
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
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.