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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

R. v. Jones [1811] NSWKR 6; [1811] NSWSupC 6

murder - manslaughter - feloniously slay - domestic violence

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction
Bent J.A., 8 May 1811
Source: Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, Minutes of Proceedings, 1810 to 1811, State Records N.S.W., 5/1119 [1]

[150] The court met pursuant to adjournment and proceeded to the trial of the following persons: John Jones, charged by the Judge Advocate's information with the wilful and felonious murder of Elizabeth Massey on the 18th day of March 1811 at Sydney in this territory.

            Plea not guilty.

            Joseph Smith sworn, saith I live in Philip Street. I have known the prisoner John Jones many years. I was acquainted with the deceased Elizabeth Massey. She cohabited and lived with the prisoner. They lived in Phillip Street very near me. About the middle of the day on Sunday the 17th of March I heard a noise at the prisoner's. I suppose it was him and the deceased quarrelling. They used to quarrel a good deal. The deceased was a passionate abuseful kind of woman, very aggravating with her tongue. I never knew the prisoner any ways spiteful and malicious. He is often passionate but it is soon over. Shortly after the noise I saw the deceased come around to my door. Her hand was upon the lower part of her belly. She asked my woman, "where's Poll, where's Poll?" My woman was out of the house and I went and brought her. When I came back with her, the deceased was in my house. I could not perceive that the deceased had been drinking. I went away and saw John Jones in the street near his house. I did not speak to him.

            Mary Brown sworn, says I lived with the last witness. I knew the deceased very well. On Sunday [151] the 17th March I recollect being brought home by Joseph Smith. When I came home I saw the deceased lying down on a sofa in my house. She complained of her stomach. She afterwards laid down on my bed and asked me for some water which I gave her. She retched a good deal. She stayed on the bed until towards the night. I had no conversation with her, nor had the least suspicion in the world that she was wounded. About sun down I went to her house and made her bed. Jones was not there. I returned and told her and she got up by herself and went home. I went to her shortly afterwards. She was sitting on the bedside and she asked me to put her slipp on which I did. She complained only of her stomach. John Jones was then at the door but I had no conversation with him. She was very sick and what came from her stomach smelt strong of liquor. I observed that her clothes were bloody as I undressed. I did not observe it to her as I thought she was unwell. I saw her the next morning before breakfast. She complained of her stomach and still asked for water. She never told me she was wounded at all, nor did I suspect it. At her desire I went for Mr Evans. I saw Jones this morning in the room with her. He was very attentive. I had no conversation with him. The deceased never disclosed to me at all that she was wounded. John Jones and the deceased were in the habit of quarrelling especially lately. The deceased was passionate and abusive especially when she had a drop of liquor. She was in the habit of being tipsy.

            Mary Barker sworn says, I live in Philip Street next door to the prisoner's house. I recollect hearing a little noise at his house on Sunday the 17th March. I heard that it proceeded from the quarrelling of the prisoner and the deceased. On Monday evening the 18th March I was called into the prisoner's house. The prisoner was not then there. The deceased was there. She was lying in the bed. She appeared [152] to me to be in a dying state. She was quite [sore]. At her request I tended the bed clothes and examined her body. I saw a kind of a scratch at the bottom part of her belly. I supposed it to be a scratch. I asked her the reason she did not send for any body. She asked me if it discharged. I said no. She said he was gone for the doctor, and she said also this is what he did. She appeared to me to be sensible that she was dying. She never gave me any further account of the cause of the wound. It was Joseph Dransfield who called me into the prisoner's house. The prisoner was not present during the time I had the above communication with her.

            Joseph Dransfield sworn, says I lodged in the house with the prisoner and the deceased. On Sunday the 17th March I went out at about the time when the people go into church. The deceased was then beginning work on the dinner. I did not return to my house that night. The prisoner and the deceased had not been quarrelling that morning. I believe the deceased had had a glass. I did not see the deceased until about an hour before sun down on the Monday. She was there in bed. I asked her what was the matter. She said she had a pain in her stomach. I did not know that she was wounded. I did not know she was wounded until the doctor came. The prisoner and the deceased quarrelled occasionally. Sometimes they had some words. She was a woman that was often intoxicated in liquor. She was very quarrelsome and abusive at that time. I never saw Jones ill treat her. Jones is a very reasonable and quiet man.

            Elizabeth Legg sworn, says I live in Philip Street about thirty yards from prisoner's house. I had no acquaintance with the deceased. On Sunday the 17th March last I heard the prisoner and deceased quarrelling betwixt 11 and 12 o'clock. I could not distinguish what they said, but they appeared [153] to be quarrelling violently. Shortly after I heard the deceased call Poll Smith. I directly looked and then saw the deceased out of her house with her hands upon the lower part of her belly. She went into Mrs Smith's house and I saw her no more. I saw Jones come out and look at her but he did not follow her. She was considered to be a woman of a very violent disposition and much adapted to liquor. Jones bears the character of a quiet man. The deceased and the prisoner were in the habit of falling out a great deal and when in liquor she made use of very spiteful language.

            Mr John Redman Chief Constable sworn, says in consequence of the information I received I went to the house of John Jones on Monday evening the 18th March. The deceased was then dead. Jones the prisoner was standing outside of the door. I brought him in and Mr Wentworth in my presence questioned him about the death. The prisoner said that the day before in the middle of the day, the deceased and he had been quarrelling about family matters and that she had a smoothing iron in her hand, and was coming up to him with intent to strike him with it. That he had a knife in his hand. Whether it was in keeping her off or how it was he could not tell, but in so doing he had given her the wound. He supposed it must have been that way but he could not tell how. I then showed him a small pointed knife and asked him if that was it. He said he did not know. There were several others about the house. I then took him in charge.

            Mr William Evans sworn, says I am one of the colonial assistant surgeons. Between 8 and 9 o'clock on Monday morning the 18th March, I visited the deceased. She had received a wound in the lower part of the left side of her belly which I examined. I then told her that in 12 hours after that time she would be a corpse. It appeared to have been made with a knife which had penetrated one of the smaller intestines, and I was [154] concerned it would prove mortal. She begged of me to endeavour to cure her privately, otherwise Jack might get into trouble. I said that was impossible for I was ordered to proceed to Newcastle and did not wish to undertake the responsibility. She begged of me again to endeavour to cure her privately for, she said, we were quarrelling yesterday and I was undergoing to strike him with the iron when he gave me the blow but I do not think that he meant to hurt me. I desired her to send to Mr Wentworth or Mr Redfern. First she said cure me privately for I do not think he knew he had hurt me. On Tuesday morning I was present when the body of the deceased was opened. There was a wound in one of the small intestines nearly three quarters of an inch in length. She certainly died of that wound. I have reason to know that she was much addicted to liquor.

            Mr William Redfern sworn, says I am one of the colonial surgeons. I saw the body of the deceased. There was a wound in one of the small intestines three quarters of an inch in length which I have no doubt was the cause of the death.

            The prisoner in his defence states that the accident was the result of a sudden quarrel and the impulse of the moment.

            Thomas Hortin. I was acquainted with the prisoner and the deceased and lived at the next door. At about or nearly 1 o'clock on Sunday the 17th March I was sitting by my fire. I heard a noise and got up. I went to the edge of the paling next prisoner's garden. I heard deceased quarrelling and making use of very bad expressions calling him rogue and rascal and other opprobrious terms. Some time after I heard the prisoner say "are you going to kill me with the iron?" I heard nothing further. The deceased was very quarrelsome and also apt to get on liquor. And I have heard her several times give the prisoner very bad language.

            [155] James Taylor sworn, says I knew the prisoner and the deceased. I am constable and was upon duty at which time and was passing by their house. I went in. The prisoner and deceased were together and appeared to me upon very good terms.

            John Carter sworn, says I know the prisoner and the deceased. I had some conversation with the deceased on the day of her death. She was there in bed. I asked her what was the matter. She said she had hurt herself and asked me if I had seen John. I said not. She sent me for him. I returned with him.

            The court, after having had mature deliberation, do adjudge that the said John Jones is not guilty of murdering the said Elizabeth Massey but they further adjudge that he the said John Jones is guilty of feloniously killing and slaying the said Elizabeth Massey, and that for the said offence he the said John Jones be imprisoned in his Majesties guard at Sydney for the space of six months and pay a fine of ¿5 and be further imprisoned until the same be paid.


[1] See also Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, Indictments, Informations and Related Papers, 1796-1815, State Records N.S.W., 5/1146, p. 359; Sydney Gazette, 11 May 1811.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University