Robin Hood of Warwick stole from farmers, gave to widows

HE STOLE cattle, slaughtered them for his butcher shops and shared the spoils with the town’s struggling widows.
HE STOLE cattle, slaughtered them for his butcher shops and shared the spoils with the town’s struggling widows.

HE was known as the Robin Hood of Warwick.

But to the police of the day he was just a cattle thief.

His name was Mark Betts and he - and his wife Ethel - owned and ran two of the town's butcher shops.

Ethel and Mark Betts ran two of the local butchers in Warwick.
Ethel and Mark Betts ran two of the local butchers in Warwick. Contributed

When Warwick folks saw him riding out of town toting guns on his hips they knew it was business as usual.

And Warwick's savvy lone policeman knew what he was up to.

But no one could prove it.

The setting was horse-drawn Warwick and the years spanned from the 1920s to the 1940s.

It was a time when folks lived on their wits … and our Robin Hood thrived on his.

He got his nickname because religiously once a week he would hand out free meat trays to the widows of the town.

The colourful butcher would hitch up his bullock team every four weeks and head out bush.

OPINION: Story of Warwick's own Robin Hood one to remember

In tow would be his indigenous tracker companion.

Cattle would disappear at his hands, to reappear again as meat on the hook for sale at his butcher's shops.

He left a trail of furious and confused farmers; but no trail for anyone to follow.

Our diligent policeman would do his rounds on horseback and had his own indigenous tracker.

The showdown came in thick bush when both trackers met and Betts was cornered with blood on his hands and butchered cattle strewn on the ground.

What the officer didn't know was Betts's tracker and his tracker were from the same tribe. Betts got the heads-up on the raid.

So Betts had plenty of time to hide the evidence … burnt brands from the hides of the stolen cattle.

"Gotcha at last" cried the policeman.

"No you haven't; where's the evidence," replied Betts.

The policeman and his tracker dug up the entire campsite and couldn't find a single brand among the hides.

Without the evidence the policeman knew he had no case to take to the magistrate.

With that, the policeman and his tracker withdrew.

The evidence? Betts had hidden the farmers' brands in the anatomy of the cattle where the sun doesn't shine.

And each Friday, as a ritual, the widows of Warwick who had lost their breadwinners continued to receive their free week's meat supplies.

Topics:  cattle editors picks history robin hood theft

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