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Mystery skeleton found in lonely cave

When Thomas Sedman of Campsie, a suburb of Sydney, decided to go looking for wild flowers in 1911 in the far northern suburbs of the city, he was probably not prepared for what he would find.

Traipsing through the bushland of the Kuringai Chase National Park, near the suburb of Mount Colah, he stumbled into a cave and discovered a man's skeleton. Alongside the remains were a pair of gold-rimmed glasses, a felt hat, a broken pipe and a revolver. Mr Sedman quickly alerted authorities and Senior Constable Wade of Hornsby police, accompanied by a doctor, visited the scene.

The body was that of a man about five feet and eight inches in height. On the skull were tufts of fair hair tinged grey. The head was lying a distance from the body and nearby the revolver was found to be a five-chambered Webley with four chambers still fully loaded. In the fifth was an exploded cartridge.

The exposed bones seemed to be blackened, possibly by a bushfire but no local resident had been missing for some years past. The body was dressed in a dark blue coat and vest and grey striped trousers. Keys were found in one pocket.

After indepth investigations it was noted in police records that at 2pm on May 13, 1909, Herbert Massey, a mining agent living in Paddington had left home saying he would return at 5pm. Then he simply vanished. His disappearance was noted in police records as an unsolved mystery.

It is believed the mystery body was that of Mr Massey. District coroner Mr E. L. Maitland conducted a magisterial inquiry at Hornsby's courthouse and it was here that Conrad K Job, son-in-law to Mr Massey, stated the remains were that of his father-in-law.

Coroner's report on the death of Herbert Massey. Courtesy Ancestry.

Mr Massey had been born on the Isle of Man in 1850 and owned a business as a mining agent and some property. However, he had lost it all and took to drinking heavily. The items found with the body were similar to Mr Massey's belongings and Mr Job produced a cufflink exactly like the one found with the remains.

One can only imagine the despair and heartbreak Mr Massey felt at losing all that he had built up and seeing no way out of his troubles. To trek so far north from his home into the rugged beauty of the Kuringai Chase park, looking for the most secluded place he could find, only to end it there, leaving behind his wife and two children.

A bullet wound was in the temple of the skull and the revolver was in the right hand of the body. The coroner confirmed a verdict of suicide.


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  • 'Mystery solved after Years', The Scrutineer and Berrima District Press, Wednesday 3 January 1912, Page 2.

  • 'Kuringai Chase Mystery', The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 28 December 1911, Page 9

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