Buried at the public cemetery in Chudleigh, without even a rock to mark the spot, are the graves of convict Isaac Riches and his wife Hannah. Somewhere in the same cemetery, but far away from the Riches grave, is the unmarked grave of John ‘Jackey’ Lambert, the man who murdered them!
Just like Melbourne had Ned Kelly, Deloraine had Jackey Lambert. He looked dangerous -he was a ‘big man, bull-necked, bullet-headed, and low-browed’. He pillaged from his neighbours, stole anything he could get his hands on, from a ‘fat beast to a horseshoe’. He was the prime suspect for the murder the old widow Mrs Young at Red Hills, and some unsolved missing persons cases in the area. It appears he got away with most of it – he only served 7 years at Port Arthur for cattle stealing.
In 1874, Jackey was renting some land and a small hut at Mole Creek, when married couple Isaac and Hannah Riches moved in with him. After several months, the domestic arrangement turned sour, and disputes broke out over money. Jackey had made the couple beneficiaries of his Will, and now Jackey suspected the couple were trying to poison him to get their hands on his money, of which there was allegedly a very tidy sum.
On 3 November, 1875 a neighbouring farmer, James How, found Jackey hanging from a tree and quite dead. He was impeccably dressed – wearing white moleskin trousers and a clean cotton shirt, all freshly laundered without a drop of blood on them. His feet were bare, and not a skerrick of mud or dirt on them.
Inside Jackey’s hut, he found Hannah in a pool of blood and beaten to death on the floor, and Isaac beaten and unconscious on the bed. No medical man in the area would come to Isaac’s aid because of the stormy weather! Isaac died soon after.
The subsequent investigation found that Jackey had attacked the couple with an iron bar, and that he must have changed his clothes, before hanging himself from a tree. His blood splattered clothes, his boots and his apparent fortune were never found. The ash in the fireplace was checked thoroughly, as was the hut and surrounding farm.
It was thought that Jackey had a secret cave in the area, which he used to hide stolen property, among other things. The Daily Telegraph April 18, 1914 reported that “If Jackey really had a secret cave, I fancy the entrance to it was from Mole Creek, but there may be a dry upper chamber in the cave where he kept stolen property, and perhaps the skeletons of a few who disappeared in the locality and were never again heard of”.
The Daily Telegraph 8 June 1895 suggested that the ‘Limestone holes about the old place would be worth prospecting’. To this day Jackey’s stash has not been discovered!
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