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Colonial Cases

Naval Deaths

The Cambrian, 19 June 1827

   At the Admiralty Sessions, Joseph Bragg, a commander in the merchant service, was tried fort the wilful murder of Francis Williams, a black seaman, in August last, near the Isle of France. - The prisoner pleaded not guilty. - The facts of the case, as disclosed by the principal witnesses for the prosecution, were precisely the same as appeared in the account of it at the time that Captain Bragg was brought before the Thames Police-office, on the 11th of April last.  There was one evidence, however, which completely turned the scale in Captain Bragg's favour.  This was Mr. Hunter, the chief mate, who swore most positively that the deceased cook was a person of very sulky temper and manners; that when the body was committed to the sea, there was not a bruise or mark of any kind on any part of it; and that, to the best of his belief, he died a natural death.  Lord Stowell summed up at considerable length, and was proceeding to read the evidence to the Jury, when they informed his Lordship, that they were perfectly satisfied, and immediately pronounced the prisoner Not Guilty.  - There was a great crowd outside, and Captain Bragg was obliged to return into Newgate for protection.


The Cambrian, 19 June 1827

   At the same Session [Admiralty], Jacob Irving, engineer of the Graham steam-packet of Hull, was found guilty of gross negligence in leaving the vessel without taking proper precautions to let off the steam, and the safety valve being accidentally stopped by a passenger putting a trunk on the lever, the boiler burst, whereby two persons were killed.  The prisoner having already suffered three months' imprisonment, he was adjudged to enter into his own recognisances of 500l. to appear when called on to receive judgment. -


The Cambrian, 19 June 1827

   [Admiralty.]  Hannibal Marchant, indicted for the manslaughter of Robert Gates, off the coast of Holland, by repeatedly drenching him with water, in consequence of dirty habits, and on one occasion, when the boy resisted, by throwing a tub at him, which struck him, and he dies eight days later, was acquitted, two surgeons giving it as their opinion that death did not result from the blow, but from a cold.  The Judge told the prisoner such washings must on no account be practised.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 18 July 1829

ADMIRALTY SESSIONS. - On Wednesday last, Sampson Bragge, master of the ship Frances Watson, and Peter Miller, the chief mate, were tried for the willful murder of Lewis Sinclair, a mariner, upon the high seas, and acquitted, the jury stating it as their unanimous opinion that both parties left the dock without the least imputation of their characters.


The Cambrian, 25 June 1831

   Capt. Hewett late of the Irene, the particulars of whose committal to Haverfordwest Gaol for the ill-treatment and alleged death of three if his crew, we noticed some three months ago, was tried at the Admiralty Sessions on Friday last.  The four surviving crew appeared against him as evidence, but he was acquitted, not sufficient proof of the Murder having been adduced.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School