By HARRY CLARKE | EXCLUSIVE
POLICE will allege North Queensland cattle station owner Darryl Young called the grazier family living next door for a meeting at their boundary fence line before shooting three of them dead in a close range, execution style killing in the rugged coastal ranges west of Proserpine.
A would-be fourth victim managed to escape despite being shot in the abdomen, and the Caller can reveal another neighbour, who was not present, was told recently he’d also been “marked” as another alleged target of Mr Young.
Mr Young, known in the remote grazing area by the nickname “Blinky”, is the owner of Shannonvale Station, an historic pastoral leasehold block which was a hive of activity during the frontier Normanby gold rush of the late 1800s.
The 59-year-old has allegedly been part of tense disputes with neighbours over property borders and cattle ownership for years, amid accusations of violence threats and livestock duffing going back at least a decade.
Alleged murder victims Merv and Maree Schwarz, originally from the Roma area, purchased the neighbouring Sutherland Station last year and it’s understood they inherited problems relating to Shannonvale’s adjoining boundary when they moved onto the property.
Another neighbour told the Caller the Schwarzs had recently finished building a new boundary fence between Sutherland and Shannonvale “to stop all this arguing and fighting” but ultimately the initiative only escalated tensions further.
Mr and Mrs Schwarz and Mrs Schwarz’s son Graham Tighe were gunned town at the boundary fence about 8:30am on Thursday morning while Mrs Schwarz’s other son, Ross Tighe, fled the scene in a farm ute.
Ross Tighe raised the alarm with a neighbour before being airlifted to Mackay Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery.
In a haunting irony, it’s understood the killings occurred a mere few hundred metres from an historic graveyard from the Normanby gold rush era, near Shannonvale’s front gate.
Having now charged Mr Young with three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, police are working to establish exactly how the violence unfolded.
“We understand there was a conversation that occurred the night before which was the reason why the parties had met at the gate on the property,” Detective Inspector Tom Armitt told a press conference in Bowen yesterday.
“What I can say is that there was an invitation for them to go there and discuss.
“It was a number of hours before (police) were able to establish where the incident occurred.
“Police had to traverse a large amount of ground before we actually found where the scene was,” he said.
“Police drove forward into the crime scene not knowing whether the armed offender was present or not, putting their lives at great danger, especially when the report was that they had been shot with a rifle and that they were in danger of being shot from any distance whilst approaching the crime scene.”
The other neighbour interviewed by the Caller, whose property borders both Shannonvale and Sutherland stations, said he and other landowners throughout the ranges area were also on high alert throughout Thursday.
He said he’d had numerous tense encounters over the years with Shannonvale residents relating to allegations of cattle theft.
“A couple of weeks ago he (Mr Young) told Graham that I was marked as well,” he said.
It was unclear to residents after the shootings whether the alleged killer was still at large, trying to make an escape through the vast surrounding bushland, or whether they’d make a violent approach at neighbouring homesteads.
“He had nothing to lose … I battened down,” he said.
“You could say I had a range of weapons – two pistols, a .410, a .30-30, a .243, a .222 and about 2,000 rounds. If it went on into the night I was going to sit off the house and wait.”
The Caller has spoken to multiple other residents in the area who had mobilised with firearms amid the threat of a shooter on the loose.
But by late afternoon on Thursday five people, including Mr Young, who were on Shannonvale Station at the time had been taken into police custody without further incident.
Two were Mr Young’s partner and son, while the remaining two were wind farm contractors who happened to by carrying out surveying work on the property and became caught up in the ordeal.
All four of those people were released from custody Friday morning, while Mr Young was charged over the alleged triple homicide.
He is due to appear in the Proserpine Magistrates Court on Monday, August 8.