A stuffed, prize-winning ram is all that remains of a world-renowned stud line, and a reminder of its owner's gruesome end.
An hour outside of Melbourne is the satellite city of Geelong. Known today as a commercial center and industrial port, Geelong was once the prosperous hub of all wool production in Australia.
Honoring the city’s proud textile and manufacturing history, the National Wool Museum exhibits the industry’s trials and tribulations—from Australia’s colonial days to the wool production boom of the 1950s, through the industry’s collapse in the 1990s.
Among the 19th-century shearing tools, spinning wheels, and modern machinery stands Stanbury Jacko, a champion ram whose strong build and thick fleece won him several awards throughout his life. Jacko’s legacy, however, goes far beyond that of ribbons and trophies: He is a reminder of the most horrific crime to ever shake the wool industry.
Stanbury Jacko was a part of the award-winning Stanbury stud, an internationally recognized line of Corriedale sheep bred by competitive breeder Darcy Wettenhall. Wettenhall dedicated his life to building one of the greatest wool dynasties in Australia (one of his rams once sold at auction for a record-breaking AUD$55,000, the highest price ever paid for a ram). In the process he gained infamy as an ill-tempered, volatile, cruel man who would stop at nothing to win.
Despite his fearsome reputation, Wettenhall could also be generous. Locals say that when the National Wool Museum approached him with a request for a taxidermied wether (a castrated male), Wettenhall replied, “Darling, the wethers are the non-entities of the sheep world. What you need is a ram.” He then donated the body of Stanbury Jacko—estimated to have been worth about AUD$50,000—for display.
On March 17, 1992, the bodies of Wettenhall, his 23-year-old son Guy, and 81-year-old cousin Janet, were found brutally shot to death inside their family home. A day later, police apprehended Stanbury farmhand, Wayne Walton, driving a stolen car filled with cash and items belonging to the Wettenhall’s. Walton–rumored to be a former lover of Darcy’s, whose own sexuality wasn’t known until his death–was charged with their murder. Questioned about his motive, Walton claimed that before opening fire on the Wettenhall’s, he and Darcy had gotten into a heated argument. When asked what thoughts were going through his mind at the time, Walton responded only, “Red.” He committed suicide in jail before going to trial.
In a single night, three generations of Wettenhalls meet their untimely demise, and the famed Stanbury stud came to a bitter and tragic end.
Know Before You Go
The National Wool Museum is open Monday to Friday, 9:30 am to 5 pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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