Fatal Gun accident in Willunga in 1884

Event Dates:

11 April 1884

On Saturday 12 April 1884 Henry Malpas J.P. held an enquiry at the Courthouse in Willunga into the cause of death of Horatio Yeates who was found shot dead on the evening of Good Friday. George Sara was choosen as foreman of the Jury.

After the jury had viewed the body and examined the scene of the accident evidence was taken from Horatio Yeates’ friend Charles Howell of Knightsbridge who indicated that he “had no reason to believe he had any thought of self-destruction”. Other witnesses who testified about the day of shooting and “opossuming” included Henry Hales of Kent Town, Alfred Theodore Krichauff of Norwood and Thomas Aldam Atkinson of East Adelaide.

Mounted Constable Thomas Stephen Tuohy testified that upon being notified he had contacted Dr Robert McGowan and then gone to the place where the body was found where the deceased was lying on his back in a watercourse close to the north fence of the police paddock. Tuohy indicated that there were marks on the post and rail fence where the body was found including blackening on the outside of the top rail as if from burnt powder. He stated that “I am of the opinion deceased touched the hammer of the gun with is heel while attempting to climb over the fence, and so caused the gun to go off”.

The Coroner commented that the deceased was not tall and “he must have been on the fence at the time of the accident”. Dr McGowan then stated that the deceased had a “large lacerated wound in the chest” and that “death must have been instantaneous”. The jury, after about ten minutes of retirement, found that Horatio Yeates “came by his death, by Accidentally shooting himself while climbing over a fence”.


1884 ‘CORONER’S INQUEST‘, South Australian Register 15 April, p. 3. , viewed 17 Feb 2024,
1884 ‘FATAL GUN ACCIDENT AT WILLUNGA‘, South Australian Weekly Chronicle 19 April, p. 9. , viewed 17 Feb 2024,

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