Suicide Bombing at Murchison, 1905

Murchison suicide bombing a world first

Forget Islamic extremists or anything to do with the Middle East, the world’s first strapped-on suicide bombing happened in Murchison.

Joseph Sewell was a 57-year-old farmer from Longford when he strapped himself with sticks of gelignite and blew himself up outside the Murchison Courthouse on Friday 14 July 1905. It was an event that got reported worldwide as “The Murchison Tragedy”….

Whatever his mindset at the time, Joseph Sewell had developed an unshakeable belief in the efficacy of explosives to settle virtually any dispute. Some years before he had unsuccessfully sued the Buller County Council for damages to his property sustained by a careless cart driver along its road. After Westport solicitor Edward Harden sent Sewell three accounts with a final demand for payment for having represented him in the case, Sewell marched into his office.

“Do you intend to actually get this money?” asked Sewell.

“Certainly, people in my line of business do not usually go to the trouble or expense for nothing,” replied the solicitor.

“Then we shall go to hell together!” expounded Sewell, who then produced from under his coat a package of dynamite with a detonator attached. The solicitor jumped up saying actually there was no hurry for the money, in fact he wouldn’t bother if it was never paid, but it still took some persuading for Sewell to finally settle down and leave.

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