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‘Perfect murder’ crime scene State heritage listed

Mar 06, 2018

Camel Station Northeast elevationCamel Station Southern elevation 1

  • Camel Station, Sandstone scene of author Arthur Upfield's 'perfect murder' plot
  • Rare example of government-established camel breeding program

The remote bush location of an infamous crime that attracted international media attention as the 'perfect murder', has been included on the State Register of Heritage Places.

The story of the 'Murchison Murders' at Camel Station in Sandstone and killer Stanley 'Snowy' Rowles has its origins in the work of Australian crime novelist Arthur Upfield, and his fictional Aboriginal detective Napoleon Bonaparte.

Camel Station is also significant as a government farm established in 1908 to breed camels as pack and draft animals servicing station outposts, and once housed 350 camels.

Located along the Rabbit Proof Fence, it comprises the ruins of a 1920s stone residence, wooden structures and timber-lined tank.

In 1929, Arthur Upfield was working as a Rabbit Proof Fence boundary rider stationed at Camel Station. During the writing of his novel, The Sands of Windee, he discussed the 'perfect' disposal of a fictional murder victim with fellow workers, including labourer Snowy Rowles.

The method involved burning the body, and then sifting through the ashes for identifiable metal objects which were to be dissolved in acid, and crushing any remaining bone fragments.

Later that year, Rowles left Camel Station with two local labourers - James Ryan and George Lloyd. While Rowles was seen driving Ryan's truck, the two labourers were never seen again.

In 1930, Rowles left the station with New Zealander Louis Carron who had a £25 cheque. Rowles cashed the cheque and was later seen burning clothes. Carron was never seen again.

After his arrest, it was discovered that Rowles was prison escapee John Thomas Smith. Rowles was convicted of the murder of Carron, and executed at Fremantle Prison in 1932.

Comments attributed to Heritage Minister David Templeman:

"This heritage-listing encapsulates the fascinating story of the 'Murchison Murders', the hard and isolated life of boundary riders on the Rabbit Proof Fence, and the role of camels in Western Australia's development.

"The story of Snowy Rowles, who was never charged with the murders of Ryan and Lloyd despite substantial evidence, features in the True Crime tour at Fremantle Prison."

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