A FORMER member of parliament was bludgeoned to death with a tomahawk in a tropical paradise was among the news Bendigo was digesting 150 years ago this week.
The gruesome murder may not have captured central Victoria's attention at all if the victim had not been a former member of parliament who even had influence on the way Bendigo's stock exchange developed.
But in April 1871 the entire colony of Victoria zeroed its attention on events in a bedroom nearly 4000 kilometres away in Suva, Fiji.
There, William Baillie's wife Elizabeth had walked into his house (she lived in another, but more on that later) and found blood on the mosquito netting around his bed, according to a Fiji Times report run in the Bendigo Advertiser.
It was then that she discovered her husband's skull "had been beaten in", the Fiji Times reported.
The body was still warm, based on an account given to the paper.
It said no-one was able to find Baillie's partner, Henry Scott, on the morning of the murder.
Baillie and Scott had been sharing a hut. Elizabeth and Baillie's daughter had been living in a hut next door.
A long way from Melbourne
So how did a former stock broker, chairman of the Stock Exchange and member of Victorian parliament come to get his skull smashed on a small outpost deep in the Pacific?
The Baillies had arrived in Melbourne 17 years earlier and William quickly cashed in on the state's gold rush both as a buyer and assayer.
The highflying co-founder of trading firm Baillie and Butters, led efforts to set up Victoria's stock exchange system, which eventually included trading hubs in Bendigo, Ballarat and Melbourne.
Baillie was well connected. By 1866 he had been sworn in to the colony's parliament to represent gold-producing powerhouse Castlemaine.
Baillie's business partner James Butters was just as ambitious. He was sworn into parliament in 1868.
The sky was the limit.
But storm clouds were forming.
Allegations surfaced about dodgy land dealings.
Butters was expelled from parliament after a month for "alleged, but not completely proven, bribery charges", economic historian AB Hall said in a 1968 book about Melbourne's stock exchange and the wider Victorian economy.
The charismatic Butters quickly won re-election but the whole affair left a mark.
Baillie's name had been dragged into the scandal.
By 1870, rumours were swirling that parliamentary colleagues were leaning on him to vacate his seat.
He was gone by November.
Worse still, Baillie's business had collapsed.
It was time to sail for climes less stormy.
Manhunt for suspected killer begins
Both Baillie and Butters settled on Fiji, where a number of rich Victorians were rushing to grab land and cash in on surging prices for goods like cotton.
Baillie got involved in a plantation believed to be in Rewa Province, outside the city of Suva.
Many of Baillie's contemporaries considered Fiji to be a little too wild and lawless, but cotton growers were making a killing.
Others were too, Baillie's wife discovered, when she discovered his body.
Like this story? Here are some more from our weekly history series WHAT HAPPENED?
Suspicion immediately fell on Scott. He had been seen arguing with William Baillie the day before the murder.
Multiple witnesses at an inquest held the same day of the murder had heard Scott had struck Baillie 10 days earlier during an argument.
One said that in the last four months the pair had had "frequent quarrels".
A witness said he had broached the possibility of buying both his and Baillie's share of a plantation out to help resolve the dispute.
It is unclear today how far those discussions had progressed.
A Bendigo Advertiser correspondent from Sydney (close to Newcastle, where ships from Fiji often docked) wrote that Scott "was known to be of a rather moody disposition, and liable to brood over even an imaginary slight or fancied wrong".
Residents of Suva had launched a huge manhunt for Scott on the day of the murder. They believed he had also stolen two guns and 180 sovereigns.
A third party with a plantation deep in the bush had left the money there because there was less chance of thieves pinching it.
Someone found Scott's body a few weeks later, not far from the murder scene.
Scott had committed suicide the day of the murder, authorities decided.
No-one could work out where most of the 180 sovereigns had gone. Only a small amount was found in Scott's clothing.
A cyclone had passed through the area, perhaps disturbing any other evidence.
In the months that followed, Baillie's penniless wife and daughter had to be bailed out by friends so that they could sail for England.
Butters fared better from his time in Fiji.
He became speaker of King Thakombou's parliament the same year Baillie's head was smashed in.
Butters returned to Melbourne in 1874 plying his old stock broking trade and working in real estate and was well respected in high society.
He even got back into parliament, though he temporarily lost his place after misstating his property qualifications.
This story is the latest in the Bendigo Weekly's regular history series WHAT HAPPENED? Our thanks to the Bendigo Regional Archives Centre's Desiree Pettit-Keating for help sourcing documents.