Auburn hotel tragedy: Popular constable murdered

The Royal Hotel, corner of Auburn Road and Queen Street, Auburn 1903, where Constable Long was shot. Inset left: Henry Jones and Digby Grand. Inset right: Constable Long

A WIDE spread man hunt got underway when a popular young police constable was shot dead during a botched pub robbery in Sydney’s west in 1903.

Constable Samuel ‘William’ Long was 37 when he was cold bloodily shot in the back of the head after noticing the bar door of the Royal Hotel, Auburn, wide open about 2am on a Monday morning in January 1903.

Evidence later showed that Digby Grand and Henry Jones had intended to rob the pub before they were disturbed by Constable Long.

After their arrest, both men were charged with murder, however neither admitted to firing the fatal bullet that killed the police officer.

Pleading their innocence right to the end, Grand and Jones were eventually found guilty of murder and were sent to the gallows. The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser reported on Wednesday, January 21, 1903:

SHORTLY before 2 o’clock on Monday morning Constable Samuel Long, 37, was shot dead in the Royal Hotel, Auburn, 11½ miles south of Sydney.

The licensee, Mr. P. C. Trautwein, was aroused by sounds from the bar and running down heard a man jump over the counter and run out of the front door.

On going to the bar, which is detached from the main building, he found Constable Long lying on the floor, and bleeding from a wound in the back of the head. He informed the local police, and Constable Everett proceeded to the spot.

Constable Long was then breathing his last.

An examination of the premises showed that the bar had been entered from the cellar. It is surmised that Long, who was on duty in the neighbourhood at the time, noticed the front door of the bar open, and on entering the premises was shot from behind.

The murdered constable was a single man, 37 years of age, and had been stationed at Auburn for the past two years. He was very popular amongst his comrades, and was held in the highest esteem by the people of the district.

The Royal Hotel is situated about 200 yards from Auburn station, on the left hand side coming from Sydney, and at the intersection of Queen-street with Auburn-road.

The building was formerly used as the private residence of Mr. Alban Gee, manager of the Sydney Meat Preserving Company. In front of the building, which contains about 20 rooms, there was formerly a garden, but the greater part of this is now taken up by the bar.

The cellar entrance, where the burglars obtained entrance to the Royal Hotel.

This apartment is about 40ft. by 20ft., the counter running almost its entire length. Behind the bar are a number of well stocked shelves, and underneath the counter is a small safe and a table with the cash register on it.

As soon as news of the murder was sent through all the police stations in the surrounding districts were notified and orders given to keep a sharp look out for possible suspects.

Superintendent Brennan and Inspector Morrow were early on the scene, and were soon busy directing the operations of a large body of detectives, plain clothes men, and police. A black tracker was also employed, and he was not long in getting a clue as to the direction taken by the fugitives. It was discovered that a sulky had been tied up in the bush on the other side of the railway line. It was apparent that the vehicle had been left there for some time, as the bark had been gnawed off a tree while the horse was waiting.

A number of packets of cigarettes which had been taken from the hotel were also found nearby. The tracks were followed for about a mile along the Parramatta-road, where they became confused and were lost. Several statements were made to the police on Monday that about 3am a vehicle was heard being driven along the road at a rapid pace. The Government has decided to offer a reward of £200 for information leading to the arrest of the murderer of Constable Long.

Auburn Road, from the railway bridge.

Footnote: The Royal Hotel was later demolished and replaced with a tavern inside a shopping mall. It trades today as the Village Tavern in Auburn.

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