20 March 2024

Riverina Rewind: Constable slashed with a knife at Yerong Creek

| Chris Roe
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man and policeman in knife fight in early 1900s

Suspected thief Leonard Louis Reynard pulled a knife and struck out when a Yerong Creek constable attempted to arrest him. Photo: Chris Roe.

The well-regarded Constable Osborne from Yerong Creek was no stranger to violence and for some reason, he would be targeted in November of each year.

His third encounter in three years between 1902 and 1904 would leave him scarred for life as he was slashed across the face with a knife in a potentially deadly duel with a larcenous Frenchman.

“Either November is an unlucky month for Constable Osborne, or he is the victim of co-incidence,” reflected The Wagga Wagga Express in November 1904 in its report on an “Exciting Time at Yerong Creek”.

“Whilst making an arrest for stealing at Mulwala in November 1902, he was mobbed and considerably knocked about, and in November last year he received some rough treatment at the hands of some shearers.”

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Sometime after 11 pm on Tuesday, 22 November, 1904, it seems that a Frenchman named Leonard Louis Reynard had been seen skulking outside the Yerong Creek Hotel.

A boarder named Colin Henderson spotted him crouching behind the hotel, and the publican, Gunning Plunkett, chased him off the property.

After a string of robberies in Henty and Culcairn, Constable Osborne was already on the lookout and he approached Reynard to arrest him on a charge of “being found on premises for an unlawful purpose”.

“As he approached, the man drew a butcher’s knife and slashed the constable in the face, completely severing one side of his nose,” reported The Express.

“The man made off, and notwithstanding that he was smothered in blood and dazed from the injury he had received, Constable Osborne followed, and fired several shots at the fugitive.”

Back at the Yerong Creek Hotel, a small group of men watched the drama unfold, and more emerged as the pistol shots rang out.

The brave Constable remained on his attacker’s tail as he ran along the creek, and Osborne called out to the men as he passed, “Come on, boys, he stabbed me!’.

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Plunkett and the group joined the chase and together they cornered the Frenchman near a fence.

“Surrender the knife,” ordered Plunkett as Reynard brandished his blade and lunged again at the policeman, shouting “Bloody shoot!”.

But as he “excitedly” turned his attention to the bloodied constable, Plunkett moved in from behind and seized Reynard by the arms, forcing him to drop the knife.

“He was immediately secured with handcuffs and lodged in the local lock-up, where several articles reported stolen from Henty and Culcairn a few nights previously were found in his possession,” The Express reported.

“Constable Osborne, who certainly had a narrow escape from death, was taken to Henty where his injuries were attended to by Dr Cameron, who had to put five stitches in his nose.”

Reynard fronted court in February 1905 where he was charged with maliciously wounding Constable Osborne with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and with resisting arrest.

The Frenchman entered a plea of “Not guilty” through an interpreter but was sentenced to five years.

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