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10. The Story of the Assault.

It is indeed mysterious that one so popular with his fellows as Quong Tart was, should be the victim of an assault which nearly cost him his life. But such was the case.

At a quarter-past eleven on the morning of August 19th, 1902, while seated in his office, an unknown man entered and struck him on the head several times with an iron bar.

The circumstances of the case were startling in their audacity and simplicity. The office in which the assault was committed was on the same floor of the Queen Victoria Markets as his Elite Hall, but some distance away, and on the other side of the landing. It consisted of two connected departments. The door of the outer one opened on the inside balcony of the Markets, and the window of the inner one overlooked George Street. The inner room was used by Mr. Tart as his office and contained his safe, account books and confidential papers. The outer room contained piled up chests of tea, all but a passage to the inner office, being used in this way.

It appeared that the assailant first waited on him on the previous Monday morning. He stated that he had some tea to dispose of. Mr. Tart was not anxious to do business with one whose appearances gave little indications of a reliable connection, and he told the man he was too busy to see him. At this the man went away, presumably because the opportunity necessary for his purpose was not sufficiently favourable.

On the morning of the 19th, at ten minutes past eleven he again presented himself at the office. Mr. Tart was engaged with one of his employees, and the man went away. Apparently he did not go far, but waited until the employee left the office. When Mr. Tart was alone he walked into the office and began an extraordinary story. He said he was a detective, and had come to inform him that it had come to the ears of the police that there was a plan on foot to rob him. As a detective he had been told off to watch the premises. He stated that the robbery would be attempted by one of the Redfern Murderers. Such a story considerably alarmed its hearer. Nevertheless, he was by no means satisfied as to its authenticity. He was well acquainted with most of the officers of the detective department and the man before him was an entire stranger. Neither did his appearance nor manner suggest the detective. He had a handkerchief under his chin, partly covering his face and knotted under a black hat.

Photographs following page 84: The late Mr.Quong Tart. - The funeral cortege leaving the deceased's residence at Ashfield

Photographs following page 84: Funeral of the late Quong Tart, Ashfield, July 28, 1903. Procession of 200 Chinese, Headed by a Band from the Professional Musicians' Association

Photographs following page 84: The hearse

Photographs following page 84: Wreaths

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In answer to a question of his genuineness the stranger stated that his name was Smith, and that he had but recently joined the detective staff. He accounted for his dress and the handkerchief by saying he was disguised, and he recalled to Mr. Tart that he was the same man who had waited on him the day before regarding the sale of some tea. He then suggested that he should ring up the detective office on the telephone and inquire as to his statements. Mr. Tart was far from satisfied, turned to the telephone on his table that communicated with the clerk's office. He had turned the handle, and was picking up the receiver when the man struck him violently over the head with an iron bar.

The weapon was about eighteen inches long and had been held hidden inside his coat. A piece of newspaper had been pasted round it, doubtless with a view of allaying suspicion should it be seen. At the first blow Mr. Tart was knocked backwards over his chair. The assailant made several other blows at him, but the victim received them on his hands, which he had raised to protect himself. Warning the injured man to keep quiet, the assailant snatched up the money on the table, amounting to about twenty pounds and which Mr. Tart had been intending to bank. Three cheques that were also lying near he did not touch. He passed out of the office and made his way down the stairs into George Street.

Bleeding profusely, and almost stunned, Mr. Tart left his office and went to the Elite Hall. He gave instructions that a doctor should be summoned and the police informed. Dr. Robert Wilson was telephoned for, but in the meantime Sergeant Irwin, of the Glebe Police Station, rendered first aid. On arrival, the doctor dressed the injuries. It was found that Mr. Tart was suffering from a contused wound in the head and injuries to both hands.

Mrs. Tart was informed, and had her husband conveyed to their home in Ashfield. Superintendent Potter and Detective Bradley arrived on the scene in haste. They went closely into the case, and as a result of their enquiries were hopeful of quickly effecting an arrest.

The news of the assault quickly spread through the City, and during the afternoon hundreds of persons including a great number of the most prominent business men in the City, called at Mr. Tart's office to express their sympathy. Telegrams and letters came from all over the country, expressive of sorrow for what had happened.

As soon as he was able, Mr. Tart described the encounter in his own graphic way.

“I was in my office, sitting at my desk,” he explained, “when this man came in. He came in and half closed the door. Then when I asked him what he wanted, he said, ‘I'm a detective.”’

  ― 86 ―

“I didn't like the look of him. When he said he was a detective, I asked him again what he wanted and he said that he came to warn me; to tell me that some thieves were going to make an attack upon me.”

“Then I said: ‘Well, if you are a detective, I don't know you. I know all the detectives.’ He answered by saying: ‘Oh, but I am a new man.’ He went on to say that if I did not believe him I could telephone to the office and find out for myself. I asked him: ‘What is the number of the Detective Office?’ He hesitated, and I said ‘Oh it's all right.’”

“I could see the fellow was up to no good by the suspicious way in which he was going on, so I thought I would ring up one of my clerks and ask him to come upstairs. I thought it would be better to have some assistance at hand in case he tried to do anything; for my office is a quiet place, and when you are inside you could kick up a great row, and probably nobody would hear you outside.”

“As I turned the handle of the telephone and took up the receiver, the fellow closed the door more, and took a step towards to where I was sitting at the desk. He said, ‘Here I will show you how to do it.’ At the same instant he pulled something out, which he had either been carrying hidden under his arm or which he had under his coat. It looked like a piece of stick wrapped in newspaper, but I think it was a bar of iron by the weight of it. It was about a foot and a half long.”

“Almost before I knew that he had it in his hand, he had hit me over the head with it. I sang out, ‘Here, what are you doing?’ and I jumped up at him, but he hit me quickly three or four times over the head again. I thought I was killed. I said: ‘For God's sake don't kill me. What do you want to kill me for? If you want the money that is no reason why you should kill me.”

“He gave another blow at my head, but I raised my hand to protect myself.”

“Then he swept the money off the table into his pocket, and ran away. As he was taking the money and I was struggling to get up, he said ‘Don't you try to follow me or I will kill you.’ He ran out of the office and slammed the door.”

The appearance of the office when visited soon after the perpetration of the robbery was eloquent confirmation of Mr. Tart's graphic story. Everything was in confusion. Papers from the opened table-desk were scattered all over the floor. The office chair on which he had been sitting was overturned beside an open iron safe filled with papers and account books. Though the safe door was pushed right back, there was no sign that the safe had even been looked into. How profusely Mr. Tart's wounds had bled was evident from the amount of blood which was about the office. Chairs, desk, papers and the floor were as though a murder had been committed;

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there were the same red fluid everywhere, plentifully besprinkled.

The police were for some time baffled in their attempts to secure the arrest of the assailant, but after several weeks the extreme cleverness of Sub-Inspector Roche and Senior-Sergeant M‘Lean, assisted by Senior-Constable Macintosh and Constables Clarke and Coombes, was fully rewarded, for they succeeded in proving their captured man guilty, he receiving a sentence of twelve years’ penal servitude on the 2nd of December, 1902.

To express their sympathy for Mr. Tart and also to show the greatness of their pleasure upon his recovery, a great crowd of citizens gathered at the Town Hall on October 28th, 1902 and presented him with a handsome piece of plate and a cheque for three hundred guineas.

During Mr. Tart's disablement he was the recipient of sympathetic messages and inquiries from all classes in the community, amongst whom were the following:–

His Excellency Sir Harry Rawson, K.C.B.

Sir W. J. Lyne.

Rt. Hon. G. H. Reid, P.C.

Sir John See.

Hon. B. R. Wise, Attorney General.

Hon. John Kidd, Minister for Mines.

Members of the Federal and State Parliaments.

The Archbishop of Sydney.

Mr. Justice Simpson.

Mr. Justice Pring.

Mr. Justice Stephen, Acting Chief Justice.

Sir Geo. R. Dibbs.

Sir Wm. McMillan.

Bishop of Newcastle.

Bishop of Gippsland.

Moderator of the Presbyterian Assembly.

President of the Methodist Conference.

The Sisters of Charity.

Congregational, Baptist, and other denominations.

The Jewish Ministers.

The Officers of the Salvation Army.

Senator Nield.

Sydney Smith, M.H.R.

Joseph Cook, M.H.R.

Consuls of Foreign Nations.

Hon. Robert Fowler, M.L.C.

Hon. Edward Greville, M.L.C.

Hon. Alexander Kethel, M.L.C.

Hon. A. W. Meeks, M.L.C.

J. S. Hawthorne, Esq., M.L.A.

George Anderson, Esq., M.L.A.

John Hurley, Esq., M.L.A.

R. W. W. McCoy, Esq., M.L.A.

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Thomas Jessep, Esq., M.L.A.

John Haynes, Esq., M.L.A.

W. M. Fehon, Esq., Railway Commissioner.

Medical and Legal Professions.

Representatives of the City, Suburban and Country Press.

Municipalities, Ashfield.

Charitable Institutions.

Numerous Societies, Masonic Lodges and Officers of the Military Forces.

Government Officers.

Inspector-General Fosbery.

Parliamentary Staff.

The Chinese Community.

Commercial and Shipping Community.

Sporting Clubs.

Tramway and Railway Employees.

Bandsmen, Cabmen, 'Busmen, Carters.

Members of Fire Brigades.

Members of Hospital Staffs.


Factory Girls and Boys.

His own Employees and ex-Employees.

Old friends 70 and 80 years of age called personally.

Ashfield neighbours called daily, like a swarm of bees.

Some hundreds of letters, cards, and telegrams from Tasmania, Queensland, New Zealand and Victoria.

“Evening News,” 2nd September, 1902.


At the Hotel Australia on Monday, Senator Nield presided over a thoroughly representative meeting, which had been called to express abhorrence at the recent dastardly attack upon Mr. Quong Tart, and to express the deepest sympathy with Mr. Tart, and wish him a speedy recovery.

Mr. Hawthorne, M.L.A., moved: “That this meeting express its horror at the dastardly attempt made upon the life of Mr. Quong Tart, and deeply sympathises with him in his suffering, and wishes him a speedy recovery.” Mr. Broughton, M.L.A., seconded the resolution, which was supported by gentlemen who have known Mr. Tart for over 30 years. The motion was carried unanimously. Mr. Justice G. B. Simpson then moved: “That this meeting desires that Mr Tart's worth as a citizen should be acknowledged in a substantial manner, and that a subscription list be opened for the purpose of presenting him with a purse of sovereigns, in recognition of his many generous and philanthropic actions.” Mr. J. P. Wright seconded the motion, which also received a lot of support, and was carried unanimously.

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Mr. W. R. G. Lee, one of the Chinese residents in Sydney present, said he desired to thank the meeting for the good feeling that existed. He said the actions of the people of Sydney only showed that any man, no matter what colour or nationality, could win the esteem of a British community, if by his life he showed that he deserved it. (Applause.)

Messrs. J. P. Wright and F. E. Winchcombe, M.L.A., were appointed hon. treasurers, and Messrs. Alderman Fitzgerald, A. J. Kelynack, and R. M. McC. Anderson, hon. secretaries. About £53 was subscribed in the room.

“Those who can appreciate public spirit, true benevolence, and the fervent desire (which has been attended by pronounced success) of a man of another race to identify himself with our life and our interests, will rejoice that definite steps have been taken to express to Quong Tart the hearty sympathy of the community in his recent trouble. Quong Tart, it will be remembered, was recently murderously attacked and robbed by a ruffian who gained admission to the injured gentleman's office. A representative meeting, held at the Australia Hotel yesterday, determined not only to show, but to express in practical form, sympathy with the victim. No less should or could be done, considering that Quong Tart has ever been among the foremost to lend a helping hand to any cause that needed assistance. The matter was taken up very warm-heartedly at the meeting, and it is hoped the result will prove that striking generosity can be fittingly acknowledged by Mr. Tart's fellow citizens.”

“Star,” 2nd September, 1902.


At a Public Meeting, held at the Australia Hotel on Monday, it was resolved that a subscription list be opened for the purpose of presenting Mr. Quong Tart with a testimonial by way of showing public sympathy with him in connection with the recent murderous assault. Subscriptions towards this object are invited, and remittances may be sent to the Honourary Treasurers, namely,

Mr. J. P. WRIGHT, 280 Elizabeth Street.

Mr. F. E. WINCHCOMBE, 48 Bridge Street.

Or to the Honourary Secretaries,

J. D. FITZGERALD, Town Hall, Sydney.

ARTHUR KELYNACK, Denman Chambers.

R. M. M‘C. ANDERSON, Pyrmont.

The Editor of the “Star” will receive any subscriptions forwarded to him.