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Forensic Collector


An avid collector and active member of the Northern Territory Police Museum and Historical Society is Senior Constable Kym Chilton, Senior Crime Scene Examiner, former Team Leader at the Forensic Services Section, Darwin. Apart from contributing to the Museum's collection, Chilton has an impressive personal collection of items relating to the history of the Northern Territory - an actual 1872 cypress pine pole from the Overland Telegraph Line; Chinese mining items; World War 1 and World War 11 memorabilia; books, maps, early railway items and the fascinating list goes on and on.

Chilton would like to see the impressive collection installed in a proper NT police museum open to the public. Over the years he has done much to save the history of, and spread knowledge about, the NT Police Force. Currently he is preparing items for a video about mounted police patrols at Timber Creek, a project organized by Sergeant Pini. At the Peter McAulay Police Headquarters, Berrimah, Kym kitted out an early trooper in a display case. At the nearby Forensic Services Section he played a large part in setting up display cases with photographs and exhibits from major court cases and investigations.

At the recent Bombing of Darwin anniversary in the Adelaide River Railway Heritage Centre attended by many old Diggers from south, Chilton displayed a collection of military items from WW11 that he had found while fossicking in the NT. Other items have been bought at interstate auctions and include a hat badge from the so called Rum Corp which ran the early Sydney convict settlement and which were the centre of the “Rum Rebellion”. He also has gold prospecting licences which figured in the Eureka Stockade uprising.

Whenever he gets a chance to get out of town, Kym can be seen head down looking for new finds. He says his experience looking for items of interest in the Territory sharpened his forensic skills, enabling him to “read” the ground to turn up anything from relics from the past to minute evidence at crime scenes. Walking around the Darwin foreshore, ever alert for anything unusual, he recently found a piece of very old Chinese porcelain at Doctor’s Gully.

Kym has been with the NT Police Force for 31 years - 23 in forensics - and was the Northern Territory Police Crime Scene representative on the National Specialist Advisory Group.

His career with the Northern Territory Police Force began in Darwin with four years in general duties. After a short spell in Katherine, in January l986 he was posted to Mataranka as Officer in Charge. It was there that his collecting obsession started. During WW11 there were large military camps in the area and he later found helmets and other items in the bush.

He devoured books and reports on the early days of the NT; one book in particular, The Shackle, A story of the Far North Australian Bush, by D. E. Kelsey, edited by Ira Nesdale, published in l975, enabled him to retrace the footsteps of Kelsey who arrived in Port Darwin in 1869 and who spent 28 years in the Top End. The Shackle township and mine took its name from the shackle made from two porcelain insulators, held apart by two short metal straps, bolted to a telegraph pole. Kelsey, a telegraphist, was stationed at The Shackle in l883 and wrote a detailed account of those days. Kelsey often went on patrol with police officers and indulged his hobby of taxidermy, collecting and preserving birds.

Chilton found the book a fountain of information and followed in the author’s footsteps. The detailed descriptions enabled him to locate former settlements; building sites such as pubs and police stations, and associated mining and other business activities. In the process he discovered an amazing number of valuable historical items.

There were numerous Chinese and British coins; porcelain black and white gambling money; assay crucibles; Chinese jars and a wide range of bottles; police badges; buttons, stirrups, spurs, dog registration discs going back to the l890s, manacles, locks, keys, mailbag tags for Yam Creek, Brock’s Creek and Southport, percussion caps and bullets.

Right here in Darwin an excavation at the intersection of Wood and Bennett Streets turned up a large number of bottles, including some bearing Darwin names such as Man Fong Lau and (William) Felix Holmes, an early entrepreneur who had many business interests – pearls, cold stores, shops, pastoral properties, an aerated soft drink factory, many race horses, and even Darwin’s power plant. It is also said he employed Mick Paspalis when he came across from Broome, eventually diversifying into many businesses like Holmes and becoming the richest man in Darwin.

A very early medical syringe surfaced at Doctor’s Gully. (image caption)

Yet another interesting find in Darwin Harbour is an old green bottle which at first glance appears to have an embossed swan with raised wings. Look closer at the swan, says Chilton, and you discover that the swan actually looks like a dragon on a plinth. This leads Kym to hypothesize that it could be connected with the Third of Foot, the first British regiment garrisoned in the Top End at Fort Dundas on Melville Island from 1824-1828. This regiment had previously fought with honour under Wellington in the Peninsular Wars in Portugal.

Belt buckles which Kym has unearthed in the Territory include two unusual ones connected with cricket. A lion is rampant with a cricket bat and ball and a set of three stumps; another shows a cricketer, wearing a cap, sitting with bat and ball.

A cigarette stand he has is made from the camshaft of a Kitty Hawk shot down over Darwin (bullet holes visible), and there are examples of trench art made in Darwin from bullets and other war items. Wonderment continues as Kym shows you the four stages of a two shilling piece gradually turned into a souvenir ring, probably for an American soldier during WW11. Still in his possession are the first Chinese rice wine jars he found at Yam Creek.

Kym tells of an experience at Mataranka where his Aboriginal Tracker, Wilson James, tracked a vehicle used in the robbery of a safe from the medical centre. The car left unusually wide tyre tracks and the information passed on to Katherine by Chilton lead to the arrest of some southern miscreants who were travelling in a large American car, and doing break and enters along the way. The safe was located dumped in the river at the Katherine low level bridge.

Chilton was back in Darwin in June l986 and served in the Task Force, a specialist group in the Crime and Services Command. He undertook a number of courses in a wide range of subjects from armed offenders, marine operations and explosives. Then it was into the Fingerprint Section, Technical Services, Operational Support Command. By l988 he was in Forensic Services and during his time in the Crime Scene Examination Section he has probed hundreds of cases.

In the field of stolen vehicle identification, Chilton has played a big part in the Territory and he is a founding member of the International Association of Automobile Theft Investigators.

In 1989, working with Queensland Police on Operation Henry, he was responsible for the identification of 21 Ford Falcon vehicles stolen and brought to the Territory. In l997 he delivered an address at an International Conference in Brisbane on the recovery of engine and serial numbers, using heat and chemical methods.

In October of that year he was involved in another stolen car racket investigation, Operation Garmit, involving vehicles with changed identifying numbers which were trucked in from NSW, and sold in the Territory.

There were 17 cars - Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan 4WDs, Honda sports cars, various other sedans and a late model Mercedes Benz. Two men were arrested from NSW and Chilton received a Commissioner’s Commendation for his work.

Commissioner Brian Bates presents the commendation.  
(image caption) 


In early 2000 Chilton went to East Timor for the United Nations, and carried out examinations in and around the house in which the Balibo 5 newsmen were slain in l975. He had been asked to search for any skeletal remains including teeth for DNA analysis. Witnesses to the killing of the newsmen who had been interviewed said the bodies had been burnt several times inside a house. Nobody had been able to say what had happened to the charred remains. It was known that the Indonesian military had taken a small box containing remains to Jakarta in l975 for a ceremonial funeral attended by Australian government officials, Richard Woolcott, Alan Taylor and Malcolm Dan.

When Chilton arrived at the house in Balibo it was found to contain six skeletal remains in miniature coffins, victims of militia killings when the Indonesians left in late 1999. The building was being used for religious purposes.

The room in which the five were said to have been murdered did not have a roof. Some witnesses said the newsmen were shot on the road outside, their clothes removed and changed into military looking clothing and their bodies faced sitting at a table in the room. In a written account which appeared in the NT Police News March 2002, Chilton described the situation in the room:

“It was very quiet. I could sense the fear that would have taken place some 25 years earlier in this room. The house has walls of rough rendered brick and three main rooms and a small washroom, where one journalist who was hiding from the Indonesians was allegedly coaxed out and stabbed…”

“The Australian House” in Balibo (above).  
(image caption) 

The Balibo House where the journalists were allegedly killed (below).  
(image caption) 

While the team sieved and dug, they were joined by an elderly, local Timorese woman, known as Mad Mary, whose whole family was said to have been killed by the militia. No teeth were found at the Balibo house, and bones examined back in Darwin could not be positively identified as human.

Much later, there was a claim that the remains from the Balibo house had been removed from the fire, placed on corrugated iron, and disposed of down a track some 80 metres away.

Chilton was informed of a nearby dwelling known as the kissing house where it was alleged that members of the militia had killed many male and female Timorese by first putting lipstick on their lips and then smashing their faces into the internal walls while sexually assaulting them.

The Kissing Wall. 
(image caption) 

During the examination of the house he found a room in which he could see what looked like lipstick marks and blood splatter on the walls, above, in many places. This house had witnessed a lot of fear and inhumane treatment, he said.

In 2001 Chilton was seconded to the Australian Police 6th Contingent for six months and served in East Timor once more with the United Nations. This involved crime scene examination and training local police.

Chilton’s work was highly commended by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). Describing him as a credit to Australia, an UNTAET report said he had been an invaluable asset to the United Nations. He had on many occasions during his deployment as a civilian police officer, investigated human rights abuses and mass killings of Timorese, specialising in crime scene analysis, determination of gravesites, exhumations and physical examinations. In 2009 he was a member of the Black Saturday Victorian bushfires disaster victim identification team.

Cadaver dog searching for bodies.  
(image caption) 


Looking back at his career, Kym has many tales to tell. There is mention of a cold case, a human skull found at Lake Bennett, which surfaces from time to time, urging him to crack the mystery.

Of the many fatal motor vehicle accidents Kym attended over the years, the one which haunts him most is the “eerie scene” at Kakadu where a doctor, his wife and two children were killed in a head on crash. When he arrived at the scene, the mother and father were sitting deceased in the front, their two children, also deceased, in the back. The apparent cause of the accident was that the driver swerved to miss a bird on the road. On retirement another police officer who attended the same accident, said how much that tragic accident had affected him.

Chilton has investigated a wide range of cases – fires, assaults, deaths, suicides and homicides. Seconded to the NSW Police Force, he found himself investigating a stabbing in Sydney’s Chinatown.

Chilton again became involved when a person found a submerged half cabin launch buried in mangroves at Channel Island, exercised salvor’s rights, raised the vessel and took it home, where he began to hose out the accumulated mud inside the vessel. As the mud washed away, a body was uncovered and the police were called. After carrying out the forensic examination of the body, a male, Chilton removed more mud and another skeleton, a female, was found in what proved to be a murder/suicide. The woman had been shot and then the man had turned the gun on himself.

A crime scene Kym investigated at Borroloola was described as being like the shoot-out at the OK Corral. He was involved in police work associated with the discovery of what is believed to be the first clandestine drug lab in Darwin where large quantities of Sudafed packets were found (a precursor in the manufacture of illegal drugs).

He was one of a large number of police involved in the manhunt for the German tourist Joseph Schwab, 26, who went on a shooting rampage in the NT and WA. In June l987 Schwab shot dead a father and son, Marcus and Lance Bullen, who were fishing on the Victoria River in the Northern Territory. Three days later, he murdered a newly engaged couple Phillip Walkemeyer and Julie Anne Warren and their friend Terry Bolt, at the Pentecost River Crossing, near Wyndham.

A seven strong team from the WA Tactical Response Group and a forensic officer flew from Perth to Kununurra to assist the Kimberley police in the manhunt. Information was received that a helicopter pilot from Napier Downs Station had spotted a camouflaged vehicle in bushland near Fitzroy Crossing and had alerted police.

Uncertain if the vehicle belonged to the gunman, police moved in and a plane flew over the spot. A man emerged from the bush armed with a semi-automatic rifle and began firing at the aircraft and police. He was shot dead. No reason was ever discovered for the horrific actions of Schwab, whose bizarre story was covered in the TV show, Crime Investigation Australia, entitled, The Kimberley Killer.

Chilton carried out line searches around the murder site at Victoria River with the Police Task Force. The victims’ vehicle had been burnt out and the bodies were buried in sand nearby, a hand visible. At first it was assumed the two had been stabbed to death. However the line search found .223 cartridges.

Coming back from the Victoria River murder investigation, Chilton’s party paused along the way for a “call of nature stop”. Kym slipped into his fossicking mode, perusing the ground for anything of interest. An elongated stone-like object caught his attention and he felt it was something unusual so it became part of his collection. In recent years it has been positively identified as a fossilized “turd”, not human, from an unidentified animal. A dinosaur? It is doubtful if there is a police officer anywhere in Australia who is the proud owner of such an oddity.

Another unusual exhibit is a cheap alarm clock which figured in a bomb scare outside the Indonesian consulate residence in Nightcliff. The Bomb Squad attended, finally declared it a hoax and gave the clock to Chilton. He removed the inner workings and made it into a picture frame for a photo of his two young daughters. The bodies of three air-crash victims arrived in Darwin from Indonesia for identification. The boxes were filled with ground up coffee, apparently acting as both a balming material and a deodorizer.


As an indication of just how diverse is the field of forensic investigations, Kym was asked to make out the faint names of Australian soldiers, members of the 2/5th Battalion, on a Japanese flag souvenired in New Guinea. One of the signatories was the late Senator Bernie Kilgariff of Alice Springs, a member of the NT Police Museum and Historical Society. Using special lighting techniques, Kym was able to draw up a complete list. The flag had been found during fighting on the Kokoda Track and Kilgariff had it framed; it is now believed to be at the Alice Springs RSL.

In recent years Kym took part in an exhumation at the old Darwin Cemetery in a bid to identify a Cyclone Tracy victim, the forensic orthodontic tests enabling the person to be named.


Chilton has an extensive reference library and unusual volumes dealing with the NT. One is a rare, limited edition book, Essays and Miscellaneous Pieces By the late Edward R. Stephenson, published in Adelaide in l865, with a foreword by “ his friend”, Charles Todd, the Overland Telegraph Line chief. It contains an essay about the likely difficulties of colonization in the Northern Territory. Stephenson, who had written about the evils of slavery, nevertheless envisaged African Negroes, saved from slavery, happily toiling in Territory fields, producing rice and cotton for their white, kind masters in the Top End. The essay had won a prize at Adelaide’s St. Peter’s College and the slim volume contains the bookmarks of two previous prominent South Australian owners, both keen collectors.

One was Charles Richard John Glover (1870-1936), Lord Mayor of Adelaide 1917-l919, owner of the Richmond Hotel, benefactor and book collector, who amassed many volumes about Australia, New Guinea and the South Seas. The other was medical practitioner, Edward Angas Johnson (1873-l951) said to have built up a remarkable collection of curios and historical relics, especially relating to South Australian history. Yet another photograph of interest in the Chilton collection shows two l9th century police officers posing near a showcase displaying Northern Territory gold at an Adelaide exhibition.

This page contains the text from an article in the 2012 Citation magazine.  It is included here as text so that it is searchable on the site.  Read the article with full images in the formatted magazine.

Citation May 2012

A Japanese Flag that was subject of forensic examination.