A “CRIME scene investigation” of Fred Fisher’s murder probably produced more questions than answers, according to Campbelltown & Airds Historical Society president Jackie Green.
But, she said, that was to be expected as one bit of information or question triggered another one.
Ms Green said the new approach to the incident was very well received, with 22 adults and three children taking advantage of the History Week event recently.
The partipants took part in a round-table discussion, viewed primary source material and visited the scene of the crime and the properties of both the victim and the accused George Worrall.
Ms Green said several amateur historians attended, as did a teacher, a home school mother and several private researchers.
While the scrutiny did not unearth any new facts, she said, a conspiracy theory did emerge.
“The conspiracy suggested the police had made out Fisher was murdered so they could get hands on his land,” she said.
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The legend of Fisher's ghost is a popular Australian story dating to the early 19th century. It arose from a series of historical events which occurred in Campbelltown, now a large urban population centre on the southwestern outskirts of Sydney, but at the time a remote rural outpost.
In 1826 a Campbelltown farmer named Fred Fisher suddenly disappeared. His friend and neighbour George Worrall claimed that Fisher had returned to England, and that before departing had given him power of attorney over his property and general affairs. Later, Worrall claimed that Fisher had written to him to advise that he was not intending to return to Australia, and giving his farm to Worrall.
Four months after Fisher's disappearance a respectable local man named John Farley, ran into the local hotel in a very agitated state. He told the astonished patrons that he had seen the ghost of Fred Fisher sitting on the rail of a nearby bridge. Farley related that the ghost had not spoken, but had merely pointed to a paddock beyond the creek, before disappearing.
Initially Farley's tale was dismissed, but the circumstances surrounding Fisher's disappearance eventually aroused sufficient suspicion that a police search of the paddock to which the ghost had pointed was undertaken - during which the remains of the murdered Fisher were discovered buried by the side of a creek. George Worrall was arrested for the crime, confessed, and subsequently hanged. Fred Fisher, whose lands he had coveted, was buried in the cemetery at St. Peter's Anglican Church in Campbelltown.
It is thought by some that the story of the ghost may have been invented by Farley as a way of concealing some other speculated source of his knowledge about the whereabouts of Fisher's body, but this cannot be confirmed. Contemporary police and court records do not mention the ghost story - but they are also silent on how the authorities knew where to look for Fisher's body.
The legend of Fisher's ghost has since entered popular folklore, and is celebrated during Campbelltown's annual Fisher's Ghost Festival which commences early November concluding mid month. The creek beside which the body was discovered is known as Fisher's Ghost Creek. It has now however been converted into mostly a storm water drain.