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George David SILVA





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Revenge for not letting him marry Maud
Number of victims: 6
Date of murders: November 16, 1911
Date of arrest: 5 days after
Date of birth: 1884
Victims profile: Agnes Ching, 45, and her children Maud, 15, Eddie, 9, Dorrie, 7, Hughie, 5, and Winnie, 1
Method of murder: Shooting - Battered to death
Location: Mackay, Queensland, Australia
Status: Executed by hanging at Boggo Road Gaol in Brisbane on June 10, 1912

George David Silva (1884 1912) was an Australian multiple murderer. Silva, who was of Cingalese descent, worked as a farmhand on a property owned by Charles Ching at Alligator Creek, about 20 miles from Mackay, Queensland.

On 16 November 1911, Charles Ching told Silva he was traveling to town for supplies and money for Silva's wages. While he was away Silva murdered the six Chings after the eldest daughter Maud had rejected his advances. The bodies of Agnes, Maud, Hugh and Winnie were found in the house. Mother and eldest daughter had been shot by a revolver and a muzzle-loading rifle, while the boy and baby had their skulls smashed in. The bodies of Teddy and Dolly Ching were found a mile and a half away; both had been shot and their skulls smashed in.

Police and aboriginal trackers inspected the crime scene, and after the trackers stated that there was no trail to follow the police homed in on Silva. Silva, fearing a lynch mob from Mackay, eventually confessed to police.

Tried only for the murder of Maud Ching, Silva was hanged at Boggo Road Gaol in Brisbane on 10 June 1912 and buried in South Brisbane Cemetery.


  • Agnes Ching, wife of Charles Ching

  • Maud Ching, 17 daughter of Charles Ching

  • Teddy Ching, 10 son of Charles Ching

  • Dolly Ching, 8 daughter of Charles Ching

  • Hugh Ching, 4 son of Charles Ching

  • Winnie Ching, 20 months daughter of Charles Ching


A Terrible Tragedy

Northern Territory Times and Gazette

December 15, 1911

Long details appear in late exchanges respecting the recent tragedy at Alligator Creek, N.Q., in which a whole family named Ching -with the exception of the husband and father- were done to death, presumably by a man named George David Silva, who worked on Ching's farm.

The tragedy took place on November 17, during Ching's temporary absence from home. After his arrest Silva tried to implicate twoJ neighbours named Dooley Khan and Charles Butler in the crime, but there is no evidence to support this statement.

Prisoner is supposed to have shot his victims. A peculiar thing is that the prisoner, after murdering his victims, locked the door of the house and awaited Ching's return. He told Ching that the family had gone to visit a neighbour, and the two had tea together.

After tea Ching went to look for his family, and on returning anxiously opened a window to gain access to the house, and discovered the bodies. Silva was still there, and offered to go and report the murder. He did so, taking with him a bundle containing the bloodstained clothes he had worn when perpetrating the crime. These he tried to burn on the way, but portions were afterwards recovered by the police.

Silva reported the murder and returned with tho police. Two of the children missing from the house were found shot in a back paddock. The footprints of the prisoner were found leading to and away from where the bodies lay. At latest accounts the prisoner persisted in his story that the Hindoo neighbour and his mate participated in the crime. It is alleged that the prisoner wished to marry the eldest daughter, Maud Ching, but that Mrs. Ching would not hear of it.


100 years on: Ching family massacre

By Bruce Mckean -

November 18, 2011

TERROR and fear struck the heart and soul of every man, woman and child living in the Mackay-Sarina region when a mother and five children were massacred at Alligator Creek, about 25km south of Mackay.

The Ching family tragedy remains the worst of its kind in Queensland history and its 100th anniversary falls this week.

There will be no celebrations, but the descendents of the survivors will meet to pay their respects to their slain ancestors and give thanks that the family line has continued for 100 years.

The Daily Mercury was notified of the tragedy at nine o'clock on Saturday night, November 17, 1911. A reporter was sent to the scene where police were already starting an investigation and Government Medical Officer Dr William Hoare had driven down by car. Two Justices of the Peace, several neighbours and Plane Creek Mill chairman Alex Innes were there.

Inside the corrugated iron house, with a dirt floor, front and back doors and one window on each side, were four bodies huddled together.

They were Agnes Ching, 45, and her children Maud, 15, Hughie, 5, and Winnie, 1.

The husband and father of the children was Hong Kong-born Charlie Ching. It was a Friday and he had gone to Plane Creek to talk about cane production.

On return he was met by his farm hand of six months, George David Silva, 28.

He found his house was locked. It was late in the afternoon so he cooked a meal with his farm hand in the kitchen house, which was separate to the residence. He thought his family was visiting neighbours.

After dark he went to several neighbours' residences and one suggested he get into his locked house to see if his family was there.

He broke in via a side window, with Silva's help, and discovered the four bodies.

His wife Agnes and Maud, 15, had been shot with a revolver and/or muzzle-loaded rifle and the two children had been battered to death.

The rear room was splattered with blood and witnesses said it looked like a slaughter house.

For some unknown reason, the four bodies were dragged into the sitting room, were thrown together, near a coloured table, and a rug was placed over them.

Mr Ching sent Silva to a neighbour's property to raise the alarm.

Telephone communications were sparse but eventually Sarina police were notified. The phone line to Mackay police was not working.

Another neighbour gave the farm hand a horse and told him to ride to Mackay to alert police.

A report at the time said: "George Silva had intentions to tell the police what happened but when questioned he was not displaying much anxiety to carry out his intention."

As the investigation was in full swing on the Saturday, there were very grave concerns for the two children who had attended school on the Friday.

They were last seen walking home from school.

The bodies of the four victims were taken by cane tram to Sarina for immediate burial.

Two of the Ching children were still missing.

A great tragedy was about to become much worse.

Farmhand arrested after massacre

THE second of a four-part series on the Ching family massacre, a crime that horrified Mackay people 100 years ago.

ON THE morning after the bodies of Agnes Ching, 45, and three of her children were found slain in their Alligator Creek farmhouse, the police investigation got into full swing.

The four bodies were found on a Friday night, but it was not until about midday on the Sunday that extensive searching resulted in the discovery of the bodies of Eddie, 9, and Dolly, 7.

Farmhand George David Silva, 28, was sent on horseback to Mackay to alert police on the night of the deaths.

Sarina police also tried to contact Mackay, but the phone line was down, so someone was sent in a horse-drawn buggy.

On reaching Mackay, Silva went to a private residence at the corner of Wellington and Victoria streets where he met a travelling salesman and bought a new pair of drill trousers.

He told the salesman about the murders and claimed bushrangers must have done it.

Silva then went to a boarding house and changed into his new clothes.

He eventually got to the police station.

He arrived at the police station after the alarm had been raised by the person who came into Mackay in the horse-drawn buggy.

He was taken back to the farm.

While Silva was away, investigators took possession of a blood-stained shutter of the girls' bedroom and also found a muzzle loader, which was broken into pieces, a flask of gunpowder and a ball shot.

The stock, barrel and ramrod were among the broken pieces found in the grass between the house and the kitchen.

A well known local indigenous tracker, Charlie Deighton, who was in Mackay at the time, went to the farm with police. He found certain footprints, which were measured and found to coincide with Silva's.

With the help of two other trackers and police, they located the bodies of the two missing children.

The bodies of the two children were well away from the farmhouse, and to this day it remains unknown if they ever got home or were killed by the wayside.

There were about 25 to 30 students at the Alligator Creek State School at the time and they were very distressed by the news.

The head of the Townsville CIB, Det Sgt Thomas Head, arrived by steamer several days later to oversee the investigation.

Silva initially told police he spent the Friday sleeping under a tree near the tram line. However, he could not find the tree.

He then claimed an Afghan man who was working on a nearby farm may have killed the family.

The schoolgirl who walked home with the two Ching children was Grace Carey.

She told police she saw Silva wearing khaki trousers and a blue shirt meet the two children near the house.

When Silva eventually got to the Mackay police station the next day he was wearing dark trousers and a white shirt.

Silva was the main suspect and when he was taken back to the farm he took Det Sgt Head to a location where a revolver was found.

Then he took the officer to a dry gully along the main road to Mackay, about 1.6 kilometres away, where the remains of charred pieces of clothing were found.

Health Department officials said the clothes were bloodstained.

A watch stolen from the Ching farmhouse and belonging to Mrs Agnes Ching was also in the fire.

George Silva was always the prime suspect.

He voluntarily slept in the cells at the Sarina police station each night, probably fearing for his own safety from vigilantes, and was arrested on the Wednesday, five days after the killings.

He later faced trial for murder.

Farmhand faced six murder charges

THE third of a four-part series on the Ching family massacre, a crime that horrified Mackay people 100 years ago.

GEORGE David Silva was born at Homebush, just outside Mackay, of Sri Lankan parents.

Twenty-eight years later, the farmhand would find himself initially facing six murder charges.

On the Saturday morning eight days after the killings there was intense public interest and people lined the streets outside the old courthouse.

Silva was reported to be "a miniature and very depressed looking specimen of humanity who was marched barefoot and securely handcuffed into the Police Court".

"He looked undersized to the curious sightseers who crowded every seat and vantage spot in the court and the adjoining verandah."

He wore the same clothes he purchased on the day after the killings.

He was remanded in custody and went to trial in the Circuit Court (now known as the Supreme Court) in Mackay for two days in March the following year.

He was charged with just one of the murders because any conviction would have brought the death penalty.

The courtroom was packed for three days and the witnesses included Alligator Creek neighbours and residents James Innes, Dooley Khan and Ballas Allah, Robert Brett, Sam Appoo, Sam Butler, Charles Ching, James Carey, Dr William Hoare and police officers Sgt James Sergant and Const Robert Brett

Silva did not testify but the defence lawyers vigorously attacked the police officers, claiming evidence was not given freely.

One witness set up a motive, saying Silva had wanted to marry Maud Ching and had been told by her parents that he couldn't.

There were allegations at the trial that at least one other person must have been involved in the murders.

In addition to all the evidence about weapons, motive, burnt clothing and confessions, the jury heard a watch had been stolen from the Ching residence and found with Silva's burnt clothes at the site of a fire in the bush.

However, Silva claimed he stole the watch one week before the murders.

He also said the blood on his clothes was not human.

The defence also argued that he hid the revolver in bushes after Charlie Ching found the bodies because he feared Mr Ching might shoot himself in despair.

After a jury convicted Silva, he was asked if he had anything to say.

He said: "There was a lot of false evidence against me and I was choked by Sgt Head in a stable at Ching's place and knocked about".

Silva's final words in court were: "Your Honour, I'll ask you to have the greatest recommendation to mercy upon my soul. I am innocent."

Justice Lionel Lukin said he agreed with the jury's verdict and he imposed the death penalty.

George Silva was taken by steamer to Brisbane where an appeal failed.

He was hanged to death at Boggo Road Jail on June 10, 1912.

The motive

NEIGHBOUR Peter Antoney testified that Silva told him he intended marrying Maudie.

Mr Antoney said: "You can't marry. You got no money. You got no blanket. No decent trousers. How would a girl like to marry you like that?"

Silva allegedly replied: "I'll have plenty of money at Christmas. Mr Ching is going to give me a piece of ground and I will build a house."

The police case was that Silva killed the family for revenge for not letting him marry Maud.

The reporter

ONE of the three surviving Ching children was Harry, a well educated bilingual man who was 24 years old in 1911 and was working as a journalist with the Mackay Standard.

He reported on the family tragedy for his readers, attending the family farm at Alligator Creek.

He covered the court appearances and the Circuit Court trial. He even went to Brisbane to witness the execution being carried out.

He then came back to Mackay, left with his father and another relative for Hong Kong, and became one of the great newspaper reporters of South-East Asia.

Surviving family members carry on

THE fourth of a four-part series on the Ching family massacre, a crime that horrified Mackay people 100 years ago.

THE Ching family massacre 100 years ago will be remembered today by the descendents of the survivors.

George Silva was hanged in 1912 for the murders of Agnes Ching, 45, and her children Maud, 15, Eddie, 9, Dorrie, 7, Hughie, 5, and Winnie, 1.

One man's cowardly, brutal and violent attempt to destroy a whole family failed because several family members survived.

Charles and Agnes Ching had three older children, Florence, Henry and Henrietta, who had left home and were not at Alligator Creek on the day of the massacre.

Florence was married to Charles Kee Wong in Mackay in December 1905 and was living in Townsville in 1911.

Charlie Ching was devastated by the murders of his wife and five children so he left Mackay and Australia in 1915 for Hong Kong where he remarried and had one more child.

He lived in his native village of Shataukok, on the north-east border with China, until his death.

Henry, or Harry as he was more commonly known, was working as a journalist on the Mackay Standard.

Harry Ching was held in high regard in Mackay.

He was a swimmer, a cricketer, a footballer and played other sports, and a large group of friends were at the wharf to wave goodbye when he left.

Harry went with his father to Hong Kong in 1915 where he joined the South China Morning Post in February, 1916, as a reporter.

Harry Ching then was editor of the South China Morning Post for 33 years and was editor during the Japanese occupation.

His report of the liberation of Hong Kong remains one of journalism's classic reports.

It was reported in 1986 that Harry Ching was the greatest editor in the newspaper's history.

"His influence over four decades gave the newspaper the reputation it holds to this day," the Australasian Post reported.

Henrietta, aged 22, married Ernest Steindl and she lived all her life in Sarina where she became a bit of an icon.

Her grandson, Paul Steindl, said: "Henrietta was a great community person. She loved her lawn bowls.

"She used to go to the old convent school and help them out with arts and crafts as well.

"She was a photographer and a lot of her photos were used in books and articles about Sarina."

Another grandson, Lance Steindl said: "Henrietta looked after the old library in Sarina. It used to be in an old bomb shelter. She loved that."

A great photograph of Henrietta holds a place of honour on the Sarina Bowls Club wall where she was president of the ladies' club from 1955 to 1962.

Henrietta died on February 18, 1974, aged 84, and her husband Ernest Steindl died on November 24, 1958, aged 71.

They are buried just a short stone's throw from the mass grave of the Ching family victims.

One of Henrietta's daughters, Beryl, was a war bride and she married an American at the end of the Second World War.

Grandson Lance visited the American family about two years ago.

There are now hundreds of descendants throughout the world.

About 80 of the Australian descendents will gather today and they will come from Sydney, Brisbane, Maryborough, Gladstone, Cooktown, and from throughout our region.

As Paul Steindl said: "We as kids weren't told a lot about the tragedy. One of the great-grandchildren didn't even know about it until 2001.

"Lance and I have been discussing what we're going to do this weekend.

"It is not a celebration. It's going to be a remembrance and a family reunion."

The mother

MRS Agnes Ching was from Barnstaple in England where she had two married sisters.

She married Charlie Ching in Townsville 26 years before the murders and they came to Mackay and operated a small store at the corner of Victoria and Brisbane Streets.

The couple went to Brisbane for a short time and then lived in Rockhampton for 14 years.

They came back to Mackay in 1905 where Charlie Ching became a cane farmer at Farleigh.

Charlie Ah Ching had come to Australia in the 1880s during the gold rush in North Queensland.

The family moved to Alligator Creek about 1908.

The three oldest children had left home by 1911 and, obviously, they survived the massacre.

The Steindls

ON THE Steindl side of the descendents, Ernest and Henrietta have nine grandchildren and they are -

 Rod, a sugar research scientist.

 Lance, an electrician who worked at Hay Point for 34 years.

 Greg, a boilermaker by trade.

 Trevor, a carpenter/machine operator who operates his own business.

 Ricky, a retired engine driver and carpenter.

 Malcolm, a QR safety officer.

 Janelle, a sales assistant.

 Paul, a Mackay Regional councillor.

 Darren, a boilermaker.

Today's events

THE descendents will gather at the Sarina Cemetery at 10.30am for reflection.

There will be a family lunch at the Sarina RSL club where the family tree may grow a bit bigger.

Later this afternoon there will be a barbecue at Cr Paul Steindl's residence.





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