Plot thickens in grave Queensland mystery

The Anglican Church believes the body of Charles Shepherd is buried underneath St Peter’s Church in Proston. Photo: Dafyd Martindale/South Burnett Online St Peter’s in Proston shut its doors last month after more than 70 years. Photo: Dafyd Martindale/South Burnett Online

For close to 80 years, the body of a reclusive Queensland grazier was presumed buried inside a church that was built with his life savings.

It seemed logical to think Charles Shepherd’s final resting place would be inside the church crypt – those were the instructions in his will, and they were reflected in church records.

Last month, the Anglican Church decided to close St Peter’s Church in Proston, located about 280 kilometres from Brisbane in the South Burnett region.

Bishop Cameron Venables, as part of the formalities, headed down to the crypt to locate Mr Shepherd’s casket.

“We opened it to find the crypt was empty, and in fact it must have been empty from day one. The only thing inside were some roof tiles,” Bishop Venables said.

The mystery of the missing grave was the chatter around Proston as locals tried to figure out where Mr Shepherd’s remains could be.

After an article was published on South Burnett Online, Bishop Venables believes the mystery may be close to being solved.

Mr Shepherd, who was a recluse with no current living relatives, was buried in the local cemetery in 1935. His body was dug up two years later and that is where things become a little unclear.

However Bishop Venables said a 100-year-old Proston local had come forward to say he remembered the day the body was shifted to the church.

“In this particular case, it looks like the casket is under the floor of the church in the ground and sufficient time has elapsed for there to be no signs of where that is. The inference seems to be it is under the church,” he said.

It means the Anglican Church will patiently scour underneath the building until, they expect, the casket is found. It could take several months.

Once found, Mr Shepherd’s remains will be shifted back to the same Proston cemetery from where they were disinterred almost eight decades ago.

Bishop Venables said St Peter’s Church had become a victim of the times, with its congregation numbers dropping to one or two each month.

“When it was built Proston was a big and thriving place,” he said.

“There were seven fuel stations and butcher shops, and the railway was built to the town. The church was built with a sense that it was going to continue to thrive and grow. But Proston hasn’t flourished, the demographic situation has changed.”

Indeed, according to the 2011 census, the town’s population was hovering around 500.

Bishop Venables believes St Peter’s Church will either be re-located or used as a local community hall.

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