The glue that held graziers Mervyn and Maree Schwarz and sons Graham and Ross Tighe together, also pulled in all those who knew them.
This magnetic orbit has been repeatedly described by shell-shocked friends and associates after the execution-style killing of three members of the family on their cattle property at Bogie, west of Bowen, this week.
“You won’t find many families as tied together and that work as hard as they did,” Queensland grazier Warren Drynan said.
Mr Schwarz, 71, Mrs Schwarz, 59, and son Graham John Tighe, 35, were shot dead with a rifle, allegedly by their neighbor Darryl Young, 59, at the gate of their property at Shannonvale Rd on Thursday morning.
Police allege they had met to discuss a property dispute.
Sole survivor Ross Tighe, 30, remains in hospital and is recovering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Incredibly, I have managed to escape, getting into a nearby car and driving 40 kilometers to raise the alarm.
Mr Young, a long-term resident, has been charged with three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.
He remains in custody awaiting his first appearance before a magistrate on Monday.
The family had been at the property to muster cattle on the day of the fatal shootings.
The expansive Bogie farm where the tragic shooting happened was only purchased last year for $10 million, according to property records.
It’s located just west of Bowen, halfway to the mining town of Collinsville.
The property, known as Shannonvale Station, was owned by the same family from the 1930s to the early 2000s and then had five previous owners before the Schwarz family came to town just months ago.
The 29,856-hectare Shannonvale Rd cattle property was purchased in equal shares by Mr and Mrs Schwarz and Graham Tighe.
Graham is a father of two young children, one only a few weeks old.
The ABC has been told Graham lived at the Bogie property, while Mr and Mrs Schwarz lived at another large farm at The Gums, closer to the town of Tara.
That address, known as Doonkoona, comprises 1,961 hectares of grazing land on Humbug Rd, which they bought in 2016 for $2.6 million.
Ross Tighe has been living not far from Rome.
It’s understood many family members are now traveling to be with Ross as he recovers.
But with large extended families from previous marriages, Merv and Maree’s children have been left to put together the pieces, with separate family groups joining to support each other.
The family declined to speak to the ABC.
Chilling deaths against gold rush backdrop
Bogie is harsh cattle country.
Many came to the area during the gold rush in the 1800s and some residents still believe their properties could have a jackpot of gold beneath the earth.
Dirt roads and cattle grids connect properties dozens of kilometers apart.
Many boundaries are “give and take” perimeters, locals told the ABC.
Only 37 families call the 3,858 square kilometer locality — the size of Singapore, Samoa and the Maldives combined — home.
It was at the front gate of Shannonvale Station, in dense scrubby bushland an hour-and-a-half down a dirt track off the main road to Collinsville, where tragedy struck on Thursday morning.
Police say it was a request to meet that drew the family to the front gate along with their neighbor Mr Young.
“We understand there was a conversation that occurred the night before, which was the reason why the parties had met at the gate on the property in the morning,” Acting Superintendent Tom Armitt said.
“There was an invitation [from the alleged gunman] for them to go there.”
One local said disputes over boundaries and cattle had been going on in Bogie for “years and years and years”.
“It’s just rotten around there,” he said.
A family unit like no other
Warren Drynan bought his property at Jackson North, east of Roma, from the Schwarz family in 2014.
He said Ross and Graham had helped build some fences on the farm known as Noonga shortly after the sale.
Mr Drynan never forgot Mr and Mrs Schwarz’s hospitality and the boys’ hardworking nature.
He said the tight-knit family had long-held large parcels of farming land throughout Queensland.
Graziers said the family developed properties many thought too difficult to improve before making a profit and moving onto the next project.
“They’d take on anything,” Mr Drynan said.
“Que [Mervyn] liked doing, was finding these rundown places, clearing them, improving pastures.
“He was just that person, Merv, and Maree and the two boys, they were a family unit who worked hard and long hours.”
Even years later, Mr Schwarz would always stop and have a chat if he saw Mr Drynan at cattle meets.
“We weren’t real social friends by any means, but he was just that person that once you knew him, you could always have a yarn,” Mr Drynan said.
Other people called Mr Schwarz a “scallywag”, saying he was a joker and one of his main gags was about his signature one finger and one toe attached to his right hand after a farming accident.
“He’d always make a joke about shaking your hand,” Mr Drynan said.
“Merv was really just so happy go lucky, the sort of bloke who wore his heart on his sleeve,” another grazier from Tara recalled.
Mrs Schwarz is remembered by many as a “lovely person”.
On social media she cradles a new grandbaby with a beaming smile.
“She is beautiful,” she tells a friend in a comment.
While one of Graham’s close friends described the father-of-two as “a top bloke who was a little rough around the edges.”
“He was always up to no good, had some crazy idea and was just a bloody good horseman,” he said.
“I learned more from that family than I could even explain.”
Mr Drynan, like many graziers, was shaken by the killings.
He said the family were “not aggressive” people.
“I just I don’t know how the hell it could happen,” he said.
Mrs Schwarz’s brother-in-law, Greg Austen, said the family had previously lived at Kilcummin, near Clermont in central Queensland, and were much-loved and well-respected members of the community.
“They were terrific, down to earth typical country people,” he said.
“They were typical pumpkin scones and a few beers on a Friday people.”
Mr Austen, a councilor on the Isaac Regional Council, said his children, along with Graham and Ross, would regularly muster cattle together.
“They were very close to them,” he said.
“My family are pretty… in shock. We’ll band together and hold together.”
Sole survivor ‘up and talking’
Mr Austen said it was an “amazing feat of strength and courage” from Ross to flee the scene, which ultimately led to his survival.
“It was very strong of him to do that, to go that far and raise the alarm,” he said.
Ross was flown by helicopter to the Mackay Base Hospital in a serious, but stable condition.
“He’s OK,” Mr Austen said.
“He’s not out of hospital, but he’s out of surgery. He’s up and talking.
“But he’s got a lot of difficulties ahead of him I imagine.”
Angel Flight CEO Marjorie Pagani told ABC the service would assist family members of the shooting victims to return to Mackay, at the request of Bob Katter’s office.
tragic story unravels
Whitsunday Regional Councilor Mike Brunker said the council would assist police in their investigation.
“I think as the story unravels, it’s going to be just a very sad, tragic story,” he said.
Burdekin MP Dale Last, whose electorate takes in Collinsville and Bogie, said nothing like this had happened in the community in recent memory.
“There are a lot of long-term residents and property owners in the area, and to think something like that could happen in their backyard, it just sent a shockwave through the entire area,” he said.
“But places like Collinsville are very resilient.”
He said the community had been through a lot in recent years and they banded together when times were tough.
Mr Brunker said he instantly thought of the United States of America when he heard about the shooting, not his own region.
“The last thing you think of is the Bogie community, the remote properties,” he said.
Bogie grazier Bob Gaadie said the community might be spread out, but the incident hit everyone hard.
“It might be 50 to 60 kilometers away, but it’s still your doorstep,” he said.
The police investigation into the deaths is ongoing and detectives are asking anyone who may have had interactions with the alleged gunman in the past two months to contact them.
Mr Young will appear in the Proserpine Magistrates Court on Monday.