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The Bermagui Disappearances
Monday 13th September 1960:
The Bermagui Disappearances
    The small settlement of Bermagui, on the Southern New South Wales coast, was alive with the news of gold discoveries. A flood of miners poured into the area, stretching resources to breaking point. In response to a telegram expressing concern from the area's local officials the Mines Department in Sydney sent two of its representatives to inspect the crowded conditions of Bermagui: the young geologist Lamont Young and his Austrian-born assistant Karl Schneider.
    Early on the morning of 9th October, a Sturday, the two visited the diggings. They were joined there by Senior Constable Berry, who conducted them through the area.
    Later that day the three lunched at a makeshift restaurant. Schneider then left them, saying he had a friend to see in the township.
    Young spent the rest of the day touring the diggings and talking to the goldfields warden. Henry Keightly. Towards the end of the day Young took his leave of Berry and Keightly, arranging to meet the former the next day. Lament Young and his assistant, Karl Schneider, were never seen again, dead or alive.
    Two days before Young and Schneider had arrived from Sydney, three fishermen had moored their twenty-four foot boat off Bermagui. Saturday night was the last time they were seen alive.
Never seen again...
    Early the next day their green fishing boat was seen heading north from Bermagui, but no one was sure how many men were on board. The boat was not sighted again until 4 p.m. that day.
    At 6 a.m. on the Monday Senior Constable Berry was visited by a young lad who told him of a fishing boat washed up on the rocks at Corunna Point, a few miles from Bermagui. Inside the boat were a number of personal effects belonging to Lament Young. Berry set off immediately.
    He first called at the house of John Hobbes where Henry Keightly was staying, and Hobbes and Keightly rode with Berry up to Corunna Point.
    The boat was caught between the rocks, but had travelled some distance inside the shoal, a task that would require skilful manoeuvring. There were four large holes in the hull, apparently caused by the impact of striking the rocks.
    Inside the boat they found geologists' gear, and clothing, all readily identifiable with Young and Schneider. Also inside the boat were a large sack of potatoes, several good-sized rocks, and Karl Schneider's spectacles neatly laid out on the seat. The oars and mast had been lashed to inner supports, but there was no sign of the sails and the anchor.
    On the beach the men found the remains of a campfire, and around it some morsels of food. Close by were some items belonging to Young and Schneider, and in a pool formed by rocks were an axe and a shovel. There was nothing to suggest a struggle had taken place.
An accident?...
    There was a multitude of unanswered questions. If there had been an accident at sea, how did the boat manage to navigate through the rocks? At first the officials believed that the tide had swept the boat up on the rocks, but the idea that the rocks had made the holes in the hull was discounted when it was realised that the holes had actually been made from the inside. None of the boat's contents were saturated, so the boat could not possibly have been swamped.
    The other alternative was foul play. A revolver bullet was found in the boat, and the copper case of a cartridge was found in the sand about 30 yards away. But neither the fishermen nor the geologists were known to carry any weapons.
    How did the rocks come to be in the boat? Surely not for ballast, for they would have rendered the journey over the rocks impossible. Where was the anchor and sail? Why were Schneider's spectacles laid out on the seat? They would surely have been tossed by the waves.
    Everything pointed to foul play, but for what reason and by whom? The police were baffled. There was simply nothing for them to work on. All sorts of theories were put forward, but none could satisfactorily explain this mysterious disappearance.
    A Select Committee failed to find any firm evidence to suggest murder; likewise a private detective hired by Lament Young's father drew only blanks. The only explanation the authorities could reach was that the five men perished at sea. The questions remain unanswered.
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