Joseph Sewell was hopping mad.
The 57 year-old farmer from Longford, a short way out of Murchison, had been in a decade-long dispute with his neighbour, Walter Neame, over property.
In particular, in 1903, the dispute had come down to what happened to a white-faced heifer that Neame had branded and set loose with four others along a river beach near his farm. He had not seen the cow for two years.
Neame saw the creature on Sewell's property but he was told it wasn’t his.
Sewell responded by locking up a wire chair device that Neame used to cross the Mangles River.
Police tried to calm the situation but there was little they could do.
So Neame took the cow, only for Sewell to take it back.
On and on it went, until Neame filed an application in court for compensation.
On May 1, 1903 the public gallery at the court was packed with Murchison residents.
Both Neame and Sewell opted to represent themselves.
Sewell accused Neame of lying and warned “I’ll blow the devil to hell and I have enough dynamite to do just that.”
He also accused Neame of murdering his wife who had died two years before.
Suddenly police realised Sewell had not taken his left hand out of his pocket throughout the hearing.
Quickly the magistrate suggested an adjournment for Sewell to go outside and compose himself.
Two police officers followed him closely but as they went to pin his arms, Sewell turned and warned them off.
He began backing outside pulling out an explosive and said he had 50 more wrapped around him.
One of the police officers went to calm him down but the explosives went off.
It was reported that Sewell was blown to bits, and the closest police officer, Inspector Edward Wilson received a grave head wound. But no one else died. Wilson’s trousers and beard were blown off, but he eventually recovered.
So large was the explosion that the courthouse was moved several inches on its piles.
At the inquest, his children said Sewell had become increasingly obsessed and despondent and had access to 150 plugs of gelignite.
The finding was that Sewell had suffered a temporary insanity.
It had not been the first time Sewell believed he could solve his problems with explosives.
He had confronted a solicitor several years earlier over payment in another case showing him he had a package of dynamite.
The solicitor had decided he did not need payment that badly.
Sewell is buried in the Murchison Cemetery.
It is believed to be the world’s first non-military suicide bombing.
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