The grave of Australia’s first detective was consecrated in Sydney 151 years after burial

October 23, 2019 by Henry Benjamin
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Israel Chapman, known to all those who knew him as Izzy, was Australia’s first detective and after a painstaking search, his unmarked grave was located in Sydney’s Rookwood Cemetery where his brand-new headstone was consecrated today.

David Ossip and Vic Alhadeff lay a wreath                         Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

The search for Izzy’s Chapman’s last resting place was initiated by the Acting Assistant Commissioner of the NSW Police Stuart Smith.

It has been a long-standing passion of AAC Smith to memorialise outstanding members of the NSW Police Force since its inception.

Rabbi Mendel Kastel lays a stone on Izzy Chapman’s grave

Today, three descendants of Israel Chapman attended the  consecration of his headstone by NSW Police chaplain Rabbi Mendel Kastel.

The official party was accompanied by a lone piper, representing the Jewish community was the Vice-President of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies David Ossip and CEO Vic Alhadeff.

Born in Chelsea, London in 1790, Israel Chapman was transported to the penal colony of NSW in 1818 after being convicted of highway robbery.

AAC Stuart Smith said: “A model convict, Chapman was made the principal overseer in the newly-built Hyde Park convict barracks in Sydney  joining the Sydney police 18 months later.”

In 1821 he was granted a conditional pardon and entered the Sydney police as a constable.

Constable Chapman’s duties took him throughout the colony where he captured many bushrangers and was wounded several times.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smit, Vic Alhadeff, Betty Bailey, David Ossip, Rosalie Pollett, Barry and Dianne Robinson and Commissioner Mick Fuller

On 28 November 1820 in St Philip’s Church, Sydney, he married convict Catharine Martin.

In 1827 he was transferred from the basic police to become appointed  “The George Street Runner”.

Chapman had been appointed to the newly-created post of police runner at an annual salary of £100. Like the Bow Street Runners, he was primarily a detective.  He was popularly known as the ‘George Street Runner’, because he was attached to the George Street police office in Sydney.

In the same year, the NSW Governor Sir Ralph Darling granted Israel Chapman a full pardon.

A fearless character who gained notoriety as a master of disguise and was ruthless in finding and capturing Bushrangers with his bare hands.

In February 1829, within a month of his wife’s death, he returned to London. In June 1832 his request for a passage to New South Wales as a free emigrant was warmly supported by Darling, the former governor. Chapman returned to Sydney and in March 1833 was appointed one of the six wardsmen in the police force at a salary of £73. He died destitute at the Liverpool Asylum on 4 July 1868 and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Jewish section of the cemetery at Haslem’s Creek now part of the Rookwood Cemetery.

Stuart Smith added: “For the last twelve months the archival team at the Rookwood historic cemetery. the NSW State Library, NSW State Archives and State Crime Command under a set of terms of reference by the NSW Police Force Detectives Board, identified the last resting-place of Israel Furthermore we have recovered and replicated key documents of the policing career of Chapman including the absolute pardon and a copy of The Australian functioning novel celebrating the deeds of Detective Chapman.

These documents will now be permanently on show at State Crime Command at the Detectives’ Training Course in Hurstville standing as a guide to the trainees of the tenacity, skill and the expectation required to achieve the designation of detective”

He thanked the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies who provided assistance and funded today’s celebration.

He added: “The Police Association of NSW is meeting the costs associated with the preparation of the placement of the headstone.’

He thanked the State Library and the NSW Police State Records for granting access to records which have been sealed for 192 years.

Commissioner Mick Fuller told the guests  that Chapman was “a small fellow who made a large impact on public safety” adding “you would have liked to have a beer with him to be at the bar listening to his stories.” He thanked The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies for funding the headstone.

David Ossip, the vice-president of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies said: “Israel Chapman represents a long history of the Jewish contribution to this country.” He said that the Jews of NSW in Chapman’s time faced no discrimination and there no position of authority that was denied to them adding “they passed in Colonial society indistinguishable from the general population.”

He pointed out that Israel Chapman was the first detective but also the first policeman John Harris was also Jewish.

Ossip commended the “tremendous support the Jewish community receives from the NSW Police on an ongoing basis. It is greatly appreciated.”

The three descendants of Izzy Chapman are grateful to the NSW Police who found their ancestor.

Izzy had a brother who had worked in Berrima and Barry Robinson who lists genealogy as one of his interests had let it known that he was looking for a Chapman. Stuart Smith’s team had contacted Berrima police in the search for Izzy Chapman’s data.

Now Barry wife Dianne and her relatives Betty Bailey and Rosalie Pollett heard firsthand today the story of a lost long ancestor.

And for memory of Israel “Izzy” Chapman, a headstone marks  his grave and his life.


3 Responses to “The grave of Australia’s first detective was consecrated in Sydney 151 years after burial”
  1. Kevin Banister says:

    It was mentioned that he had a wife but a shame her name was not mentioned. Her name was Catherine died 26/1/1829 aged 29. She was buried in the Devonshire Street Cemetery, which no longer exists. I have a photo of her headstone.

  2. Sheila Singh Bhagirath says:

    What a wonderful memory of this Israeli hero.God’s people they always have a heart of gold. Where ever they go they shine out like anything. The Word of God is always true, they are the blessings to the Gentiles .Yahweh bless all the Jewish around the world. Shalom.

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