Aerial View of Pancake Creek. Photo Brenda Strong / The Observer
Aerial View of Pancake Creek. Photo Brenda Strong / The Observer

FLASHBACK: Fishing inspectors never seen again after patrol

It was a harrowing period in Bundaberg and Gladstone's history when in 1972 two local fisheries inspectors vanished.

Woongarra Street man Ronald Kelly and Maynards Road local Kenneth Murchison were expected to turn up at a fishing net auction sale, but when they never showed, the men were reported missing on June 24.


The pair had left Bundaberg on Thursday, June 22, bound for Pancake Creek in a four-wheel drive towing a boat belonging to the department.

Mr Murchison, tragically, was on his final patrol before resigning.

As for Mr Kelly, a senior inspector, it was his first patrol after taking up duties in Bundaberg about a month before.

The men would normally not have ventured so far north around Bustard Bay, but with the Gladstone inspector on leave, the duo decided to take up the patrol.

On June 24, an oar and hat were found at Jenny Lind Creek around noon, prompting a full-scale search of land, air and sea.

The search was called off when torn and ripped clothing, that looked like it had been in the jaws of sharks, was discovered.

A trawler would discover their boat and outboard motor floating upside-down three miles off the coast in Bustard Bay.

Their vehicle was parked on the northern bank of Pancake Creek.

A pair of shorts and a boot were found at Jenny Lind Creek on the morning of July 25, with another pair of shorts later found on the beach.

A trawler picked up two shirts and two singlets half a mile out to sea.

The clothing was deemed similar to what the men would have worn.

During the search for the men, schools of sharks were seen in the area.

The NewsMail reported an inquest into the men's disappearance returned a verdict of accidental death, with rumours circling in town that the men were victims of foul play.

Shark attack was taken as the most likely explanation as to the inspectors' disappearance.