The first murders

Picture of Abrolhos killingsIn my last post, I described how Jeronimus Cornelisz, arch-villain of the Batavia shipwreck survivors, divided his flock by setting up settlements on different islands. He’d promised all of them to supply them with provisions from the central store, a promise he never intended to keep.

Before he could do much more, however, Cornelisz needed support, and he found willing conspirators amongst the young men who had shared the stern section of the Batavia with him. Several were younger sons of noblemen, sent off to make a name for themselves in the Indies.

Now to gradually reduce the number of people on Batavia’s graveyard in more permanent ways, while at the same time cementing his authority.

The first death was an apparently legal execution and demonstrates how Cornelisz used the authority he had gained as leader of the Island Council to do what he wanted. A soldier and his friend were accused of secretly tapping a keg of wine for their own use. This was theft of communal goods and Cornelisz sentenced the pair to death by drowning. While the island Council supported the judgement on the thief, councillors felt his companion, who had not stolen the wine although he’d helped consume it, should receive a lesser punishment. The thief was duly drowned, but Cornelisz used the councillors’ dissension as an excuse to dismiss then, and appoint men who supported him. The very fact that Cornelisz was able to take this radical step was an indication of the strength of his position.

That very night, four men were secretly taken away on a raft . Anyone who asked was told the men had joined the soldiers on the High Islands. In fact, three of them were drowned. A fourth was spared, on condition that he joined the gang, which, of course, he did. This became a pattern in the gang’s dealings with people on the islands. They often forced people to join them or die, and often forced otherwise innocent folk to kill or be killed. I’ve referred to this practice in an earlier post, entitled ‘kill or be killed’.

Cornelisz was becoming increasingly confident. The clandestine killings continued but the first broad daylight massacre was coming soon.

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