Frank Avard shooting.

Frank Avard was born in Quirindi on the 26th July, 1917. His parents were Tom and Margaret, and he had 4 other brothers and two sisters. Frank served in the Australian army as a gunner in world war 2. 

Frank was found shot dead on his property "Runnymeade" just south of Willow Tree, on January 12, 1963. No one was ever charged with his murder, and there was never an explanation given explaining what exactly happened.

This incident made national news at the time. Willow Tree was over-run with newspaper reporters and policemen. It gained national coverage.



Below is word for word from 'The Sydney Morning Herald', of 17th February, 1963

New Theory in death puzzle.


Grazier "hit in sleep".


By Bob Johnson.


Willow  Tree,  batchelor grazier Frank Avard, found shot on his Willow Tree property last month, is believed to have been attacked as he lay in bed.

Investigating detectives will not at this stage go beyond saying that Mr Avard might have been the victim of foul play.

But the new theory comes from his closest family and friends, and the men from this little town who rushed to his aid on the day of the shooting, whom I talked to in Willow Tree this week.

They say bruising and graze marks found on the right side of his head, there was only one bullet wound, this in the centre of his forehead, back up their theory.

They believe the grazier was asleep in his little flat adjoining  the garage on his property when an intruder crept in and hit him on the head.

The blow, or blows only stunned the powerfully built victim, who staggered out of bed and made for the saddling  shed a few steps away to get the rifle he kept there.

He had the rifle and a box of bullets-later found scattered beside him, in his hands, when the attacker turned on him with another rifle and shot the grazier as he stood in the door way of his shed.

The people of Willow Tree, [population 150] which is clustered around a tree lined bend of the New England highway, 235 miles north of Sydney, believe to a man that he was murdered.

The men say that even if their attack theory is wrong, the absence of powder burns around the bullet wounds in Mr Avards forehead must prove he could not have fired the fatal bullet.


Tests on bullet.

Besides, Frank Avard, owner of the rich pastoral property “Runnymeade” a mile from Willow Tree, loved life and horses too much to have taken his own life they say.

He was “A happy bloke” who had lived in the district all his life and didn’t have an enemy they say.

Mr Avard was found unconscious and bleeding from a bullet wound in his head, in the doorway of his saddling shed about midday, January 12 by Gunnedah well borer, Mr J Dignam.

Only a few days before, Mr Dignam had told a jubilant Mr Avard that he had found water on Runnymeade, the first underground supply found on the property.

The well borer had returned to pick up his tools when he saw the grazier lying on his back with legs protruding from the sheds doorway.

He was wearing only pajama shorts and blood was oozing from his head. An ambulance took him 10 miles to Quirindi hospital, but he died there without regaining consciousness, despite the skilled surgery of a Sydney brain specialist.


Town mourns.

Mr Avard was buried two days later, on January 16, in St Oswalds, the tiny chamfer-board church next to the police station in Willow Tree. The whole of the town turned out for the funeral. Willow Tree mourned his death, but life went on in it’s normal unhurried vein until police announced this week that the bullet that killed the grazier apparently did not come from the rifle that lay beside him. Ballistics tests were made, and detective sergeant Ray Kelly led a team of Sydney detectives to Willow Tree immediately the ballistics report was ready.

New Line on killing.


Detective Kelly dismissed yesterday a theory that someone could have changed rifles after the dead man shot himself. The detective established that the rifle found beside him, belonged to Mr Avard. Detective sergeant Kelly also disclosed that the rifle had been recently fired, supporting the townspeoples theory that the grazier got the weapon to defend himself.

The dead mans nephew, apprentice motor mechanic, Jack Avard, told me in Willow Tree today that his uncle always kept his rifle in the saddling shed, about 30 yards away from his bedroom. Jack said he held the “Attact in bed view”.


Nephews view.

His uncles efforts to arm himself could have been his last desperate act of defence, for he apparently tried to reach his wall phone and knocked it over in his attempt to phone for help

Police said today they had not completely discounted suicide, but it was difficult to find a reason for Mr Avard to want to take his life. He had worked hard to improve his 850 acre holding and had only recently got it to the stage where it was carrying 1000 head of sheep and 100 head of cattle making him comparatively wealthy.

He was engaged to be married and had plans for a new home on the property. Police and neighbours said Mr Avards batchelor quarters, a kitchen and bedroom in his garage were seldom locked and could easily be entered by someone bent on robbery.

Frank Avard on far left, with his family.

The above photo shows Frank with his large family, taken christmas day, 1947.

From left, standing, Frank, Alma [Upton], Charlie, Tom, Jack, Jean [Callcott], Allan. Sitting, Tom and Margaret.

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Judy Anderson | Reply 31.05.2017 19:25

Forgive the spelling, should have said the Avard family.

Judy Anderson | Reply 31.05.2017 19:23

Award family were well known in Willow Tree, remember them well.

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Latest comments

25.09 | 09:36

Absolutely delighted to come across a part of my direct ancestors history about which I knew very little and shall endeavour to find out more
Thank you Prof. A.

23.09 | 22:23

Very interesting Kelaher family history. Impressive number of trained nursing sisters. Jack lent the Copelands a cream horse, Playboy, in 1950's, ridden by Kate

09.09 | 17:58

Wonderfully informative. Thank goodness for Jane and John Atchison's work

06.09 | 14:33

I am Jack Kelaher and I am proud of my pop, dad and ancestors.

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