ON THE night of Boxing Day 1898, Michael Murphy and his sisters Ellen and Norah were returning home from a trip to Gatton.

Along the way back to their parents' farm on Blackfellow's Creek, a short distance away, they were ambushed and led to an isolated paddock.

Michael, 29, the third eldest of 10 children, was shot dead. Norah, 27, and 18-year-old Ellen were savagely raped and bludgeoned to death.

The town was instantly in panic and gossip quickly spread about who was responsible for the vile crime. Soon after, a police investigation began.

An inquiry started in Ipswich before word reached Brisbane and the head of the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB), Inspector Frederic Urquhart.

What followed was a bewilderingly bungled investigation that seemingly overlooked all logical evidence and failed to solve the case.

Stephanie Bennett is the author of The Gatton Murders.
Stephanie Bennett is the author of The Gatton Murders.

Brisbane dentist turned author Stephanie Bennett became fascinated with Urquhart while she was writing her first book The Murder of Nellie Duffy in 2002.

Her book The Gatton Murders is the basis for Monday night's episode of Australian Story: When Blood Runs Cold.

Introduced by her film director son Bill Bennett (Spider and Rose, Kiss or Kill, The Nugget), When Blood Runs Cold centres on a crime that has been described as one of the top five unsolved murder mysteries in Australian history.

The nation was shocked by the brutal deaths of three siblings on a bush track.

Stephanie Bennett has spent years painstakingly trawling through archival evidence and she now believes she's cracked the case. Others are less convinced.

But some Murphy descendants say the crime scarred the family down the generations. They are grateful for her efforts and believe she may have delivered 'the truth'.

  • Australian Story is on Monday at 8pm on ABC1.