The single winding, gravel road through Bogie creek leading to the scene of an alleged mass murder is an eerie drive at the best of times, say locals.
Now every time they pass the nondescript turnoff en route to Collinsville from Bowen in the Whitsunday region of northern Queensland, they’ll be reminded of the deaths of Maree and Mervyn Schwarz, along with Maree’s son Graham Tighe.
A lonely bouquet of flowers has been left on the corner of Peter Delemothe Road and Normanby Road – the only way in and out of the isolated locality.
The 77km dirt track is a mobile phone black spot and the vast stretches of space between properties makes for a quiet journey.
Warning signs line the first few properties on the street. They read: ‘Do not enter’, ‘Retreat’, and ‘Entry by invitation only’.
But even those faint signs of civilisation wane within 15 minutes, replaced by the potent smell of manure, herds of cattle and the odd kangaroo.
The single winding, gravel road through Bogie creek leading to the scene of an alleged mass murder is an ‘eerie’ drive at the best of times, locals say
Graham Tighe’s wife had recently given birth to a second child, relatives say
On Friday afternoon, longtime property owner Darryn Young was charged with three counts of murder.
The tiny locality – comprised of an estimated 207 people – spent Thursday night waiting with bated breath on news of a suspected gunman on the loose.
Only hours earlier they’d learned their neighbours had allegedly been shot dead with a rifle at close range.
No further details were available at that stage, but in a community as small as Bogie and nearby Bowen, people talk. Concerns were raised about an ongoing dispute between the Schwarz family and Mr Young.
‘Once the Inspector announced this morning they had the person in custody – the suspect, I think – a huge relief ran across the region,’ Whitsunday councillor and former Bowen mayor Michael Brunker said.
Prior to the announcement, there were fears the alleged gunman was hiding out among the vast bushland connecting each of the properties.
A lonely bouquet of flowers has been left of the corner of Peter Delemothe Road and Normanby Road – the only way in and out of the isolated locality
The faint signs of civilisation wane within 15 minutes, replaced by the potent smell of manure, herds of cattle and the odd kangaroo
Maree and Mervyn Schwarz died from gunshots wounds, along with Maree’s son Graham Tighe.
Tensions were at an all-time high as the isolated stretch was locked down. It’s understood residents communicate primarily via radios – particularly while they’re on the road.
With no phone reception for hours in either direction, the little information police were able to share trickled through the community slowly.
‘It’s a marvel that boy was able to get help,’ one local, Michelle, said over lunch on Friday. ‘What with those windy roads and an alleged gunshot through his stomach.
‘It’s eerie down there.’
Ross Tighe, a new father in his early 30s, reportedly travelled for 45 minutes to a neighbouring property seeking help after he was shot in abdomen. He’d allegedly just seen his older brother Graham, 35, mother Maree Schwarz, 59, and stepdad Mervyn Schwarz, 71, shot dead.
He’s understood to have sought out neighbours at the Flagstone cattle farm 40km away. A man at the property said he would not comment on the incident, adding his family were ‘too close’ to those involved.
Maree Schwarz’s brother-in-law Greg Austen said Ross (pictured) is a strong man
Pictured: One of the Schwarz-Tighe family’s properties, situated on Sutherland Road
People who live around the Bogie region started leaving flowers at the property on Friday morning (pictured)
The drive between the two properties is not easy, though Mr Tighe has likely made the trip countless times since his family acquired the $10million, 29,000 hectare property in May 2021.
The Schwarz family property is some 70km down the narrow winding Normanby Road, strewn with rocks and gravel and lined by dried up creeks.
Kangaroos and enormous herds of cows are interspersed through the street and cross the road at their own leisure, making for a nervous drive – particularly around blind bends.
It’s easy to see why police said they were met with ‘tough’ conditions during the initial stages of the investigation on Thursday.
They were forced into unfamiliar terrain and first responders had to scour the dried creek beds and overgrown terrain looking for clues.
They then made contact with five people who were later taken into Bowen police station for questioning.
Darryn Young has been charged with three counts of murder and will spend this weekend in the watchhouse ahead of his court appearance on Monday
The only cars seen on the road on Friday were unmarked police vehicles traveling between the property and nearby Bowen
‘The crime scene is approximately 2.5 hours from Bowen and 1.5 hours from Collinsville ,’ Acting Superintendent Armitt told reporters on Friday.
‘The distance between the two properties is a 45-minute drive and it is a 3km drive from the front gate to the house on the property.
‘At that particular point in time we had no idea who or where the shooting offender was and obviously we had to push forward into the scene being very mindful of our own safety and at the risk of police officers being shot.’
The only cars seen on the road on Friday were unmarked police vehicles traveling between the property and nearby Bowen.
Detectives have set up an exclusion zone at the top of Shannonvale Road – about 10km from the entrance of either of the properties at the heart of the dispute.
Mr Brunker said it’s beyond belief that an argument over something as trivial as boundary lines may have allegedly sparked such a devastating series of events.
Graham Tighe (pictured left) leaves behind a young family, including a little boy who was recently sick
Maree Schwarz, who died on Thursday morning, is pictured with one of her grandchildren
‘In the 1800s people were shot over gold claim. If you went on the wrong claim you got shot and that was the Wild West,’ he said.
‘This day and age you might have a punch-up at a pub but certainly not to this extreme.’
Mr Brunker said property disputes were not necessarily uncommon out in Bogie given the rugged nature of the terrain.
It is almost impossible to build fence lines but everyone in the region knows their neighbours and can generally solve disputes fairly quickly.
‘This is an extreme event,’ he said.
Pictured: The entrance to the Schwartz-Tighe property on Friday morning. Flowers could be seen at the gate
The Schwarzes were the owners of several farms across Queensland. Pictured: The couple’s Bogie property that they shared with her son Graham
All evening on Thursday and into Friday, nearby towns were abuzz with innuendo. A bartender at one of Bowen’s three pubs noted she’d heard ‘different variations of the same story from nearly every person’ she’d served.
‘I don’t think there’s anyone yet who can say for sure what happened. We’re all just guessing a bit based on what we’ve heard in the past,’ she said.
‘It’s a real tragedy though. I think we’re all feeling it.’
Detectives will allege Mr Young, 59, invited his neighbours to meet at the border of their adjacent farms early Thursday morning.
When they arrived, he allegedly pulled out a rifle and shot them at close range.
Maree Schwarz’s brother-in-law Greg Austen, a councillor on the Isaac Regional Council, told Daily Mail Australia the neighbours could not agree on where the boundary point should be between their two farms.
‘When we first heard something happened, we thought they were playing silly buggers in Collinsville,’ he said.
‘They were an honest Christian family. They were a bush family who worked seven days a week and had beers on Sundays, participated in events, very community-minded and well-respected in the community. Just a normal Australian family.
‘Graham had a young family – they had a son who was taken to Brisbane because he was crook. He’s the first boy born that can carry on the Tighe family name. I reckon Graham only spent about three days with his son.
HOW CRITICALLY INJURED FATHER WAS ABLE TO SOUND THE ALARM ABOUT MASS SHOOTING
It’s alleged young father Ross Tighe alerted authorities to the critical situation while suffering a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
The injured man had been able to make his way to another home – which police said was ‘many, many kilometres away’ from where the alleged shooting on a remote property took place – and contacted the authorities.
He was flown to Mackay Base Hospital to undergo emergency surgery and is now in intensive care in a serious but stable condition.
He was able to be interviewed by police on Thursday night.
Ross’s uncle-in-law Greg Austen, a councillor on the Isaac Regional Council, said he showed incredible courage.
‘Ross has two girls, but he’s OK. I haven’t spoke to him yet because he’s about three hours away, but we’re heading there,’ he said.
‘Ross is a very strong young man.
‘To witness what unfolded in front of him and then to be able to walk back to the car shows real resilience, and I’m sure he won’t forget it for the rest of his life.’
Detectives said Ross was ‘able to tell police that he had allegedly been shot and three others (were) also shot’.
‘We believe the male was able to extract himself from the area. He was fleeing from the scene.’
‘Originally, when the male person spoke to us, he was obviously in a very distressed state and there was some confusion about where the shooting had occurred.
‘We were able to conduct searches ourselves based on the scant information that was provided and we had to update the location as to where the incident occurred based on the crime scene that we located.’
After searching the area where the injured man was found, police deemed the location safe ‘and a further exclusion zone was established at a property along Shannonvale Road where the alleged shooting is believed to have occurred’.
The shooting took place on a sprawling cattle property which is ‘rural, remote, very hilly and heavily forested’.
‘It has taken a number of hours for police to search and clear the area, however we have declared a crime scene in the remote rural location where we believe we have located three deceased persons,’ Inspector Armitt said.
An emergency declaration for the area was issued at around 11.30am.
‘Investigations remain ongoing into the circumstances leading up to the shooting,’ the police said.
‘Police are currently conducting emergency operations in the area and requesting members of the public and aircraft to not attend the declared location.’
Police are clearing the ‘extensive’ property and will remain in place ‘as long as we need to do our job’, Acting Superintendent Armitt said.
Though there are no other people living in the exclusion zone, the police have urged everyone to avoid the area.