In the early evening of 7th May a masked man burst into the Mount Egerton bank in Victoria and demanded money from the manager, L. J. Bruun. The bandit forced Bruun to write a note stating 'Captain Moonlite has stuck me up and robbed the bank'. After signing the note with the deliberately mis-spelt name of 'Captain Moonlite', he raced off into the darkness.
The shaking and bewildered manager ran to the police station and swore that he recognised the bandit's voice as that of Scott, the local lay preacher. The police refused to believe him, and charged Bruun with faking the robbery. Before the trial, however, the humble lay preacher found it necessary to travel interstate on religious business. Andrew George Scott had just pulled off what seemed like a perfect crime. The townsfolk even gave him a gold watch as a farewell present!
Scott was born in Ireland on 5 July 1842, the son of an Anglican clergyman. Throughout his early years he was high-spirited and, on occasions, mischievously violent. In 1861 the family moved to Auckland, New Zealand, where Scott senior took charge of Christ Church, Coromandel, and Andrew enlisted in the military.
In 1868 he moved to Australia and was appointed lay reader to the Church of Holy Trinity at Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. Twelve months later he was transferred to Mount Egerton, near Ballarat, befriended L. J. Bruun, and successfully relieved him of £1000.
While Bruun was languishing in prison, awaiting trial, Scott was enjoying the sights of Sydney on his ill-gotten bounty. As the funds ran low he began passing rubber cheques, one of which he used to buy a yacht named Why-not. As he was setting sail for Fiji he was picked up by the water police and subsequently spent twelve months in the Maitland jail.
Meanwhile Bruun was acquitted and he determined to convict the real criminal. So, as Scott walked from the Maitland jail he was charged with the Mount Egerton robbery and sent back to Victoria. After seven years in jail at Ballarat he was released in March 1879. He was by no means reformed, however.
|On his release he turned bushranger|
On his release he turned bushranger, resurrected his old name of Captain Moonlite and enlisted five accomplices. One of these, Augustus Wernicke, was the youngest known bushranger -- he was all of fifteen years old.
In just a few short months Scott and his gang had engendered fear in the residents of northern Victoria and southern and central New South Wales.
Although he was almost as well known as the Kelly gang, Scott was decidedly more callous. He never hesitated to use violence, even on those in no position to retaliate, and on one occasion he shot dead a colt that was restless when he tried to mount it.
After a spree that lasted only a matter of months, Moonlite and his gang met their match while occupying the Wantabadgery homestead near Wagga Wagga. For two days the bushrangers held the station's employees and the resident family hostage, while they gorged themselves on turkeys, hams and wine, and rampaged through the homestead smashing china and furniture.
When one of the gang stabbed a prisoner in the side Moonlite ordered a woman servant to sew up the gash with needle and thread.
By the end of the two days nearly fifty people were being held, including the patrons from a nearby pub that Moonlite had robbed. However, a station hand managed to escape and alert the police at Wagga Wagga.
Moonlite and his band drove off the force and fled to an isolated hut, but the police managed to follow their trail and surrounded the hut. In the melee that followed Sergeant Bowen was shot dead and two of the gang were killed.
One of these was young Wernicke. He reportedly ran from the hut amid a hail of bullets and was shot down, screaming as he fell, 'Oh God, I am shot and I'm only fifteen.
The four survivors, including Moonlite, yielded when their fate became obvious. They were taken to Sydney and tried for the murder of Sergeant Bowen. Moonlite conducted the defence case, arguing that Bowen had been shot by a stray bullet from one of his own men. The task was futile however, and he concluded by saying 'If the law has been so broken that it must be avenged by a human life let me be the victim and spare these youths. God created them for something better than the gallows.
Andrew George Scott, alias Captain Moonlite, and Thomas Rogan were hanged on 20 January 1880. The two other surviving members of the gang, Bennett and Williams, had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.