A 19th century butcher who claimed to be an aristocratic heir is the latest character of Australian history to have his story retold by an Albury television journalist.
Paul Terry, who has previously penned books on Ned Kelly, Captain Moonlite and Banjo Paterson, has looked up the Olympic Highway for his latest inspiration.
The Claimant examines Wagga butcher Tom Castro who states he is Sir Roger Tichborne, a baronet last seen in South America in 1854 who is heir to a fortune.
Castro, who himself may be Arthur Orton an English butcher who worked in Australia, goes to court to seek the windfall and convinces Tichborne’s mother he is her son.
“It’s a story not well known outside Wagga now, but when I start telling people about it, they go ‘wow’,” Mr Terry said.
The Prime7 News manager originally happened upon the story when he was covering a Wagga council meeting for The Daily Advertiser newspaper in the 1990s.
“With respect to council, the meeting was very dull and I was not paying a lot of attention, and I ended up looking at this large painting that had this enormous man sitting in a courtroom – he just jumped out at me,” Terry said.
“I started wondering about him.
“But I didn’t think much more about it for years until I started thinking of ideas for my fourth book.
“I looked into him again and I thought what a brilliant story.”
Terry said the Tichborne trial was a story that went around the world and made Wagga famous.
Castro’s face was considered at one stage to be the most famous in England behind Queen Victoria’s and he appeared on teaspoons and handkerchiefs.
The yarn even captured the imagination of renowned American author Mark Twain, who travelled to Wagga on the strength of what he learned about the case.
In his book, Terry quotes Twain as saying: “The public would say such things could never happen. And yet the chief characters did exist, and the incidents did happen.”
Terry has his beliefs on what the truth is behind the Tichborne saga.
However, he reckoned only DNA testing on the remains in a nondescript grave in London’s Paddington Cemetery would end the mystery for once and for all.
“There are still many nagging questions,” he said.
Terry says The Claimant is likely to be his last book with the time required being hard to find alongside his work duties.
The Claimant retails for $32.95 and is available at Lavington’s Big W department store and Albury’s Dymocks book shop.