EXCLUSIVE: The ‘REAL reason’ neighbours were at war before mass shooting is revealed – after survivor fled in a ute after being shot in the stomach and seeing his family slaughtered on their $10m farm
- Maree Schwarz, her husband Mervyn and her son Graham Tighe were shot dead
- Another son Ross Tighe is recovering in hospital after being shot in the stomach
- Mr Tighe miraculously escaped and went to another property to raise the alarm
- Five people were assisting detectives with their inquiries on Thursday night
- Three of those people remain in custody – including the alleged gunman
Two neighbours were embroiled in a years-long dispute over a fence boundary line before one shot dead three members of a family and wounded another, Daily Mail Australia can reveal.
It comes as incredible details emerged over how a young father, Ross Tighe, managed to escape – fleeing the scene in a ute and raising the alarm, despite being shot in the stomach.
Ross accompanied his older brother Graham, mother Maree Schwarz, and stepfather Mervyn to the boundary line of their Bogie property, in the Whitsundays region of North Queensland, about 9am on Thursday to meet their neighbours.
Detectives say a 59-year-old neighbour had allegedly invited them on Wednesday night to meet at the border of their farms early the next morning.
But the 59-year-old allegedly pulled out a gun and shot all four members of the Schwarz-Tighe family, leaving Ross with a bullet wound to the stomach. The neighbour has not been identified, and is expected to be charged on Friday afternoon.
Despite his injuries, Ross miraculously escaped by jumping into a car and driving several kilometres to another property to alert police, who rushed to the small rural town in search of the three other alleged victims and gunman.
Ross Tighe, pictured with his partner Kaitlyn, is recovering in hospital after allegedly being shot in the stomach
Police say the alleged shooting took place after the Schwarz-Tighe family met their neighbours at the boundary line of the property
After making an emergency declaration and locking down the area, police found Mervyn, Maree, and Graham dead on the Shannonvale Road property a few hours later.
Maree Schwarz’s brother-in-law Greg Austen, a councillor on the Isaac Regional Council, told Daily Mail Australia the neighbours had been warring over where the boundary point should be between their two farms.
‘It was a fence line dispute and it’s been going for many years,’ he said.
‘One bloke thought it was put up in the wrong place. It’s just ridiculous.
‘They have so may programs these days to deal with anger – how it happened in this day and age is beyond me. It’s not America.’
Ross, who has a one-year-old daughter with partner Kaitlyn, was airlifted to Mackay Hospital in a critical condition, where he was rushed into emergency surgery.
He remains in a stable condition in the intensive care unit and was able to be interviewed by police on Thursday night.
Mr Austen said was shocked by how the feud allegedly escalated as he paid tribute to his community-oriented loved ones.
Maree and Mervyn Schwarz died from gunshots wounds, along with Maree’s son Graham Tighe.
Graham Tighe (pictured left) bought the property with his mother and stepfather in May last year
Pictured: The block of land owned by the Schwarz-Tighe family in Bogie, in North Queensland
‘When we first heard something happened we thought they were playing silly buggers in Collinsville, but we didn’t realise the outcome which was so severe,’ 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.
Mr Austen said his nephew-in-law 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.’
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
The family were long-time graziers who owned a number of farms
They had recently purchased the property were Graham, Maree, and Mervyn were found dead on Thursday. Pictured: Cows on one of the Schwarzes’ properties
Queensland Police Acting Superintendent Tom Armitt said a 59-year-old man has been taken into custody and is expected to be charged later today.
Acting Superintendent Armitt said the man had invited the Schwarz-Tighe family to meet him at the boundary line of the property.
TIMELINE OF BOGIE MASS SHOOTING
May 2021: The Schwarz family buy the 300-square-kilometre Bogie farm for $10million
Thursday, August 4, 2022
9am: Mervyn and Maree Schwarz, and Maree’s sons Graham and Ross Tighe meet neighbours at the boundary lines of their properties. An altercation occurs and all four are allegedly shot.
Ross escapes and makes it to a property several kilometres away where he raises the alarm.
10am: Queensland Police confirm they have sent units to a rural property following reports four people have been shot
11am: Police announce they have located one man some distance from the property and he is being treated for gunshot wounds
An emergency declaration is set up by police and members of the public are told to avoid the area
4pm: Police confirm three people have been found deceased at the Bogie property
Friday, August 5, 2022
7.15am: Queensland Police Acting Superintendent Tom Armitt announces the alleged gunman has been taken into custody
‘I can’t go into detail but what I can say is that there was an invitation for them to go there,’ he said.
‘We understand that there was a conversation that occurred the night before, which was the reason why the parties had met at the gate on the property.’
Acting Superintendent Armitt said the man arrested was a ‘long-time resident of the area’.
‘He will be remaining in our custody, and we expect to lay criminal charges in relation to the matter sometime later on this afternoon,’ he said.
Police have released four of the five people that were taken into custody on Thursday night to assist with their inquiries.
Acting Superintendent Armitt said two of those persons were involved in a power company and after taking statements from them, they were released.
He said the three others included the 59-year-old man, his son, and another female family member, both of whom have also since been released.
Police said Ross was soaked in blood when he arrived at the property ‘many, many kilometres away’ to contact authorities.
The sole survivor was in a ‘very distressed state’ when he originally spoke to officers, which led to confusion as police tried to narrow down the area where the alleged shooting took place.
Police are yet to determine a motive for the tragedy but said it appears there was a dispute.
‘There is not too much detail I can tell you right now. What we do know is that the parties involved are neighbours, Acting Superintendent Tom Armitt told reporters on Friday.
‘Some conversation has occurred between the parties and resulted in a meeting up of the parties at the boundary line in the early hours of yesterday morning when the incident occurred.’
Local residents said there had been a disagreement about boundary lines between the neighbours.
The family had only bought the huge 300sqkm plot of land for $10million in May 2021, which is zoned for cattle grazing, breeding and farming purposes.
The purchase – which was made by Mr and Mrs Schwarz, along with Graham Tighe, netted the previous owners a profit of almost $7million after holding onto the property for just three years.
Property records show Mr Schwarz and Mrs Schwarz, who was then Ms Tighe, bought a livestock farm for $1.8million in Mount Abundance, in the Maranoa region, in December 2003.
The couple married sometime within the next eight years before going into business with Graham to snap up a Bogie cattle grazing plot in October 2011.
The Schwarzes were the owners of several farms across Queensland. Pictured: The couple’s Bogie property that they shared with her son Graham
Three weeks before the fatal shooting, Graham Tighe and his wife celebrated the birth of their second child.
However, Maree Schwarz’s brother-in-law Greg Austen told Daily Mail Australia the youngster was raced to hospital in Brisbane ‘because he was crook’ and was only released this week.
‘I reckon Graham only spent about three days with his son,’ Mr Austen said.
‘He’s the first boy born that can carry on the Tighe family name.’
On July 11, Mr Tighe’s wife wrote a gushing social media post to introduce their newborn to family friends – their toddler sat next to her new brother, beaming at the camera.
‘Congratulations guys, so happy for your beautiful little family of 4,’ a friend wrote in the comments section.
Graham Tighe (pictured left) leaves behind a young family, including a little boy who was recently sick
Five years later, the trio purchased a $2.6million farm, with land use for sheep breeding or growing grains, at The Gums, west of Tara in the Western Downs region.
Ross had his second child just 18 months ago. At the time, his doting mother shared a photo online of herself cradling her newborn grandchild with a beaming smile on her face.
Forensic specialists will return to the scenes on Friday morning to continue examining the regions for clues.
Police revealed on Thursday afternoon the rugged terrain had proven difficult to navigate and would pose further challenges throughout the course of the investigation.
The tragedy has rocked the small agricultural town, which is home to just over 200 people.
When word spread throughout the community of a shooting, several of Mrs Schwarz’ friends reached out via social media wishing her well.
‘Hope all are safe,’ one friend wrote on the notice, tagging Mrs Schwarz in her message.
Whitsunday Regional Councillor Jan Clifford said ‘everybody knows everyone else’ in their ‘little village’, adding the community would be ‘devastated’.
‘To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever happened in the Whitsunday region before.
‘We are all deeply saddened by the tragedy.’
HOW CRITICALLY INJURED FATHER WAS ABLE TO SOUND THE ALARM ABOUT MASS SHOOTING
It’s believed 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 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 tell police that he had been shot and three others (were) also shot,’ Inspector Armitt said.
‘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 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.