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Rafferty Rules!: Ernest Schultz’s bigamy mania

Mélanie Méthot

Photo taken in 1944

NSWSRA, NRCG-617-1 [17-1567] 36870. 

The expression rafferty’s rules has been part of Aussie slang for a long time. The phrase, a play on the historically Irish surname Rafferty, is a way to say you aren’t playing by any rules at all. Could Schultz have deliberately chosen to switch to using this last name to reflect his attitude towards life? Because that’s how he lived, by Rafferty’s Rules!


In the last post ( we learned that Ernest Karl Schultz, aka Ernest Michael Rafferty, was sent to Pentridge prison in Cobourg (VIC)  for 18 months after committing bigamy.  What did he do between June 1938, the moment he got out, and March 1939 when we encountered him travelling along Tasmanian roads? The only thing we know for sure is that he stayed out of jail! 

Since neither his mechanical background nor his professional boxing skills had landed him a job, our man decided to recycle his Air Force scheme. Dressed in a snazzy uniform, he went from garage to garage, seeking to impress potential young victims. With his colourful flying stories, he conned them into paying him “recruitment fees”. When the police, catching up to the con-man, questioned him about his activities in Devonport, he produced what looked like “authentic” military  papers. He maintained that he was on a recruiting mission, and 9 lucky Tasmanian youth would be selected to be part of the Australian Air Force. Though a convincing liar, the local police smartly exercised due diligence and contacted the secretary of the Air Board.  Not only did they learn that Rafferty had no mandate to recruit future pilots, he wasn't even part of the Air Force! 

Evidently feeling cornered, Rafferty left Devonport in a hurry. He was apprehended almost the minute he arrived in Launceston. Mainland authorities had forwarded their criminal files which included mugshots. 

Above left: Photo taken in May 1929, Public Record Office of Victoria [PROV], 

​​VPRS 515/P0000, 40317 - 40738, 1930. Above right: Photo taken in November 1932, NSWSRA, NRCG-617-1 [17-1567] 27068. Bottom left: Photo taken in April 1935, PROV, VPRS 515/P0000, 40317 - 40738, 1930. Bottom right: Photo taken June 1938. PROV, VPRS 515/P0000, 44084 - 44496, 1936.

A Hobart Mercury reporter revealed his stupefaction upon learning that even when confronted with his photograph Rafferty denied it was him. The journalist added that only when informed he’d be detained did the recidivist admit he was the man in the pictures. [1]  

Once again we observe the pattern we saw in previous arrests, with the offender attempting to charm his way out of a prison sentence. The forever fraudster thought that by pleading guilty and offering to leave the state, the Tasmania police may let him go free. [2] This plan didn't work. Rafferty served his 10-month sentence in Campbell Street Hobart Goal. [3] The Launceston police magistrate captured the essential character of the offender when he remarked: You seem a born Swindler. [4]

Rafferty clearly lacked sufficient imagination or savoir faire. As soon as he was out of jail, he made his way to the small town of Rosebery where now going by the name of Ernest Sinclair, he resorted once more to pretending to be a recruiting officer. Who knows where he got his air force uniform from this time! But he was soon caught and sent to jail for another 3 months.


Out of prison, seemingly tired of role playing, Rafferty decided to join the Australian Military Forces for real. His decision was facilitated by the fact that Australia was actually at war, and any willing body was a good body to have in the forces.

For once Rafferty told at least some elements of truth. To the Burnie recruiting officer, the swindler gave his correct date of birth and details of the town where he was actually born. He even mentioned that he was a widower, explaining that his first wife Mabel had sadly died in 1937 (but not before having “kept company” with George Francis Barry and giving birth to a daughter). Rafferty put as his next of kin his “eldest son” for whom he gave his mother’s address in Gerogery (NSW). Perhaps his mother or one of his half sisters was taking care of his son after Mabel died. 

NAA B883 TX 1267

On April 18, 1940, Rafferty was accepted into the military, probably on the day after getting out of jail. Keeping things interesting, within ten days, a Hobart Salvation Army major married 33 year old Ernest Michael Rafferty to 17 year old Gwendoline Clare Jones. The marriage certificate provided during his 1944 bigamy trial shows that every single detail listed was false. [5] If he was intending to reform on joining the forces, his resolutions were short lived. 

Gwendoline apparently did not feel particularly married, because on joining the Women Australia Air Force in 1942, she not only put her mother as next of kin, but identified as S i n g l e.

NAA A9301, 104395

It’s important to mention that Gwendoline never actually lived with Rafferty since only a week after their nuptials, her husband was transferred to the Eastern Command in Sydney. 

What sentiments did the soldier have towards his new wife? Did he intend to keep in touch? All we know is that once in Sydney, it didn’t take Rafferty long to find his way into the arms of 36 year old Eileen Annie McCabe. They went through a form of marriage on the 18 of July 1940. The next day he went A.W.O.L.. 

Photo taken in October 1940, NSWSRA, NRCG-617-1 [17-1567] 32982.

Rafferty was living with Eileen when he was yet again apprehended, not for bigamy this time around but sexually assaulting a girl under 16.  The judge was ready to let him out on a £200 bail- despite his prior convictions! Unable to post bail, Rafferty tried unsuccessfully to get the sum reduced, arguing that since he was in jail, he was unable to prepare his defence or gather witnesses. [6] 

During the trial, detective Aldridge of the Crime Investigation Bureau testified against our villain, pointing out that the soldier was A.W.O.L., operated under many aliases and  had a long list of prior convictions. [7] The victim, her mother and his sister in law testified that Rafferty visited the exclusive neighbourhood of Vaucluse where his sister-in-law lived, taking  the 12 year old June, whom he then assaulted. Her mother claimed she’d “known” Rafferty for years and so allowed her daughter to go with him, which leads us to ask how well she knew such a man to let her young daughter go anywhere with him. The victim also testified that her mother had given her consent to visit Rafferty’s sister-in-law. Papers remarked that the girl kept calm while the mother wept uncontrollably. The sister-in-law mentioned that the girl appeared rather pale when they arrived, but she’d put it down to shyness at the time. [8] With the additional details from Truth we can recognize Rafferty’s usual pattern of taking the victim’s testimony and then mixing in some of his own story lines. [9]

In the end, Justice Markell didn’t buy his story, and sentenced him to 5 years in prison. The judge proclaimed that to all intents and purposes the crime was rape for which the punishment actually was the death penalty. Rafferty was fortunate that he hadn't been charged as such. For the first time, and only time, the accused didn’t admit his guilt, even stating that he would appeal. 


The coverage of the sexual assault received national attention although none of the papers in Tasmania covered the story, leaving Gwendoline in the dark about her husband.

Rafferty was still serving his 5 year term for sexual assault when Detective Aldridge discovered  the 1940 bigamy. His find meant the career criminal would stay longer behind bars. At first Rafferty denied marrying Gwendoline, but the marriage certificate proved otherwise. Rafferty faced an additional four years in prison. On his appeal, the sentence was reduced to 3 years. Released in December 1946, he was “on licence” for the rest of his sentence, meaning he had to be on his best behaviour. 

Rafferty soon found work as a hospital warden. He evidently had not lost any of his charm as he swiftly seduced his hospital colleague, a certain Miss Duncan. Ah! The stories he must have told his future bride during their longish courtship! They met at work before Christmas, were engaged by March and planned a June wedding, before deciding in April to tie the knot. Rafferty was probably feeling some degree of pressure to get married before Gwendoline’s divorce proceedings became public knowledge. Gwendoline had served divorce papers on the first of April 1947 and it was no April’s fool’s joke. The rapid marriage confirms that Rafferty had no actual desire to make Miss Duncan his legal wife. If he’d just waited for the divorce to come through, he would have been able to legally marry. The whole marriage business was apparently another one of his swindling schemes.  

When detective Aldridge heard of the twice-convicted bigamist’s upcoming wedding, he rushed to inform his fiancé. When Miss Duncan confronted her beau, he boldly suggested they go together to the police station, where the bride asked if she could find out about someone’s criminal past. Unfortunately, the police officer on duty informed her that only his superior could give out that kind of information.  Rafferty’s bluff worked: the couple didn’t wait for a June wedding, but married on the next day.

This relationship was to be yet another very short “marriage” since Rafferty was arrested only an hour after the celebration. When the accused came to the door, police informed him about the charge, upon which he instinctively replied: “What rot! I was divorced 3 ½ years ago.” Unfortunately for Rafferty, detective Aldridge knew that Gwendoline had only served the divorce papers two weeks earlier. According to one of the arresting constables, Rafferty had stated on his way to the police station that: I did not see Aldridge when I came out but I knew when I saw him there that I would have no chance of bluffing it out.” [10]

Rex V. Ernest Michael Rafferty’s trial transcript only includes the testimony of detective Aldridge and the sentencing words of Judge Markell. The detective explained he found “letters in his possession suggesting that he had been writing to himself to indicate where he may have been whilst in prison. He was in possession of a pilot’s log book and said he had been a member of the R.A.A.F.”.  Rafferty was abundantly bold and imaginative.

The swindler was unable to offer any defence, but went on the attack instead, suggesting that Detective Aldridge had informed his employer of his criminal record and caused him to lose his job. Rafferty asked Aldridge: “Do you think it is a fair thing that a man should be ostracised?Judge Markell didn’t fall for it. Instead he told the accused that he remembered sending him to prison for the assault on a young girl adding: I thought at the time that it was a horrible offence. It seemed to me you should have been charged with attempted rape.When Markell asked Rafferty if he had anything to say about the present charge, the convicted man replied: According to law I am guilty. The judge didn’t lose a minute before retorting: “And you are guilty according to anybody who has a sense of what is right and wrong. So far as I can see nothing can be said in your favour at all. You make it your business to impose women and then marry them, and you go about it in an ingenious way.[11]

For his third charge of bigamy, Rafferty received the maximum penalty of 7 years’ imprisonment. In the end, the only place Rafferty ruled was in prison.

*I would like to thank Rhonda Campbell at Museums of History NSW - State Archives Collection for providing the NSW gaol’s mugshots.

I also want to thank Mark Heinrich and Marian Lorrison for their comments on an earlier version of the blog 


1 “Posed as Air Pilot”. The Mercury, 16 March 1939.

2 ”Born Swindler”, Launceston Examiner, 16 March 1939. 

3 ”Theft of Suitcase”, The Mercury, 25 November 1939.

4 “Posed as Air Pilot”. The Mercury, 16 March 1939.

5 New South Wales State Records and Archives [NSWSRA], NRS-856-13-[10/38741]-746/1947, “Marriage certificate Rafferty-Jones”. 

6 “Quarter Session” The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 September 1940.

7”Assaulted Girl. Soldier Jailed” The Daily Telegraph, 3 October 1940.

8 “‘Horrible’ Says Judge” Sydney Sun, 2 October 1940. 

9 “Gaol for Assault on young Girl”, Truth, 6 October 1940.

10 NSWSRA, NRS-856-13-[10/38741]-746/1947, “Deposition of Constable Warren Charles Linkenbagh”.

11 NSWSRA, NRS 2713-1 6/2358 [1319], “Trial transcript Rex v Ernest Michael Rafferty”. 

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