Mummy's been shot: The day darkness fell over our region
*WARNING: Some readers may find this content distressing*
TRUE CRIME: They were horrible murders which would leave a permanent stain in the Gympie region history books.
A well-known and well-loved Amamoor family, torn apart with two bullets fired from a hateful and vengeful hand.
"Double Murder and Suicide near Gympie" screamed from The Courier-Mail's front page on July 18, 1934 after 25-year-old Harold Ivan James shot and killed his alleged 17-year-old lover Phyllis Busby and her mother Olive - before turning the gun on himself at the Busbys' Amamoor home the previous afternoon.
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"A woman and her daughter were shot dead, and their assailant committed suicide at Amamoor, 12 miles from Gympie, this afternoon," the report opened.
"Mummy's been shot", were the heartbreaking words of horrified five-year-old Kathleen - the youngest in the Busby family - after witnessing the murders and hiding from the gunman underneath her cot.
The report stated Kathleen ran to the nearest neighbour's house after the sound of gunfire stopped and alerted them of the tragedy.
"(Neighbours) were horrified to find Mrs Busby unconscious in the yard, with a bullet wound in the left temple," it continued.
"She died a few minutes after the two men arrived.
"On the floor of the combined kitchen-dining room they found the bodies of Phyllis Busby and James lying side by side, each with a bullet wound in the forehead.
"They also were unconscious, and died fore assistance could be obtained.
"A .22 calibre rifle lay across James's arm, the barrel touching his shoulder."
After Police arrived at the scene and spoke with Kathleen, they learned James had walked onto the yard of the Busby property holding a rifle, and she heard he sister say "Mother, here's Ivan".
"He stood against a tree, which supported the clothes line. A minute later a shot was fired, and Mrs. Busby fell without a sound," the report read.
"Kathleen then ran upstairs and hid beneath her cot. She heard James come up the stairs, and her sister, who had run on to the front veranda, said to him: 'Ivan, speak to me.'
"Then the terrified child heard two shots punctuated by sounds as though someone was falling. When all was quiet she ran for help."
Police soon located husband and father James Busby, who was working "several miles up" Amamoor Creek, and "told him of the tragedy".
James Busby, a teamster, had six children with his 41-year-old wife Olive.
Described as a "well-known and respected" family, the Busbys had "resided in the Imbil and Amamoor district for several years".
Neighbours described Phyllis as a "quiet, pleasant girl".
The other children were absent from the house at the time of the murders.
The perpetrator, a "hut-dweller" near the township, was revealed to have been working around Amamoor for around three years, including for James Busby as a teamster until "about a week" before the tragedy.
He had been "keeping company" with Phyllis for two years previously, until the Busby parents "forbade him to associate with their daughter".
As the shaken and tight-knit community were left to share in the heartbreak of their neighbours' deaths, Police hoped a letter discovered in the gunman's pocket would reveal a motive for the crimes.
Stay tuned for more on this tragic true crime story this week in The Gympie Times.
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