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

R. v. Anderson and others [1816] NSWKR 5; [1816] NSWSupC 5

murder - capital punishment, dissection

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction
Garling A.J.A., 17 June 1816
Source: Sydney Gazette, 22 June 1816

The Court re-assembled on Monday morning, and proceeded to the trial of Elizabeth Anderson, James Stock, and John Rawlins, for the wilful murder of John Anderson, a settler, at Pitt Town, on the evening of the 26th of February last.
The first witness called in support of the accused.
Ralph Melkins, who deposed, that two days previous to the death of the deceased he had entered into his employ as a farm servant; that upon the evening of the murder the deceased went early to bed apparently indisposed; that he, the witness, went from the farm about seven in the evening, and returning without loss of time, he saw his mistress and the two other prisoners at the bar in company; that the two male prisoners at the bar soon afterwards went away, saying that they were going to bed, and witness did the same, leaving Mrs Anderson at the door of her bedroom seated; that he, the witness, did not find Stock in his apartment (in which they used to sleep together), and which was between 20 and 30 yards distant from their masters dwelling; and that the witness went to bed, and was in about half an hour afterwards disturbed by Mrs Anderson, who said she had been alarmed by some person who had attempted to break into the house; to which the witness replied, it could be no stranger otherwise the dogs, which were several in number, and all furious, would have made a noise. That she then went to the prisoner Rawlins, and to the like declaration received a similar answer; that she then went away, and returning in a quarter of an hour, declared she had been robbed, and desired the prisoner Rawlins to go with her to the house, with which he immediately complied, witness following them; that they found the prisoner Stock near the house without any hat, whom Mrs Anderson immediately accused of having robbed her; that they all went into the bedroom, in which was a light family burning; the witness saw a watch on a table, and secured it, as he had lent it to the deceased, and believing the alarm about the robbery of a house to be true, was glad to find it had escaped. The ears of the witness were now assailed by a loud declaration from the prisoner Rawlins, that his master had been murdered: To which Mrs Anderson replied, "that she hoped they would not suppose she had murdered her husband." The witness, seeing that his master was not in bed, and considering his own safety as precarious, secured a musket, which he loaded unperceived, as Stock and Rawlins were employed in searching for their master Stock in a very short time called out, informing that he had found the body of his master, which upon examination was still a little warm, but without any symptom of remaining life. It lay extended on the back, with an apron about the head, and a rope passed doubly round the neck. The witness dispatched Rawlins with information of the fact to Thomas Arndell, Esq. who presided half a mile distant, whilst he, being armed, remained on the alert to prevent any persons escaping until assistance should arrive. Stock requested to be allowed to wash his hands, which were stained with blood and this appearing highly suspicious to the witness, he demanded the cause, and was answered that the stains came from the apron which he had taken off the head of the deceased. The prisoner Rawlins exhibited no symptom of embarrassment, but appeared upon the contrary to be sensibly affected by the horrible event: Stock, upon the contrary, betrayed a degree of apprehension which the witness could not avoid remarking; and at length, begging that he would not shoot him, proffered a voluntary declaration of his own guilt, at the same time implicating his mistress as a principal in the murder, by a declaration that she had killed him, and promised to give him 30l. for removing the body - which declaration was made by Stock in Mrs Anderson's hearing. In less than half an hour assistance arrived, and the witness resigned his charge to a peace officer and his attendants, with whose assistance he examined the house, and found that the alarm about the premises being robbed must have been an invention to give a colouring to the murder that had been perpetrated. The witness during the time of the examination of the premises picked up a bat in the space between the house and the spot where the body was found. This hat was quite flattened and exhibited every appearance of having been recently ill used, which the witness attributed to the body of his master passing over it when the murderers, whoever they might be, were dragging him from his bedroom: the direction that he had been drawn in led towards a creek. It was Stock's hat, who immediately claimed it. A quantity of blood was found by her bedroom door which appeared to have flowed from a wound under the right ear, occasioning a small incision; and the witness knew the ropes that had entwined his master's neck to be part of a tether rope which he had the same evening seen in the kitchen, adjoining the premises, when getting his supper.
John Trowell, a man employed on a farm contiguous to that of the deceased, deposed to his knowledge of him and the prisoner, Elizabeth Anderson, who, he stated, did not live together upon good terms; but on the contrary, that he had himself interposed a few months before the demise of the husband, to prevent the woman from stabbing him with a knife. The witness further stated that he was one of the persons who went to the house immediately after the murder was made known by Rawlins to Mr Arndell, and described the situation of the body, as already done in the foregoing testimony. The prisoner, Elizabeth Anderson, at that time accused Stock of the murder - and the latter retorted the accusation. Stock then also said, that his absence from the farm on the previous part of the evening had been occasioned by his going to one Crabtree's, a neighbouring settler, to receive some money, and that upon his return he met the first witness (Melkin) and the prisoner at the bar, Rawlins (both his fellow servants), near the house; the witness described the dogs as being very furious, and was clear that if any stranger had been about the house it would have occasioned a great alarm, whereas no such alarm was made, or must have heard it.
James Mileham Esq Magistrate, and resident Assistant Surgeon at Windsor, gave evidence to his examination of the body of the deceased on the morning after his death; an incision appeared under the right ear, which he had no doubt was the effect of a blow; but he was clearly of opinion that strangulation was the cause of death.
W. Douglas, a district Constable resident at Pitt Town, deposed to his having gone with others to the farm of the deceased on the night of the murder: whence he dispatched the prisoner Rawlins to Windsor to render information of the circumstances to the Magistrates; but that he was there detained on suspicion of his being in some way concerned in the barbarous transaction. The evidence also described the state of the body when found.
Thomas White deposed, that he went to the house on the night of the murder with the Constable and others, conducted by the prisoner Rawlins; and that but for the protection afforded by the presence of the latter, he considered the dogs would have torn him piecemeal, for they were so extremely furious that he considered it impossible any stranger should approach the place without the most imminent danger.
Thomas Arndell, Esquire gave evidence, but from the immediate contiguity of he's resistance with that of the deceased, it was not possible that any noise or alarm could have escaped his hearing the more especially as the night was very serene and fine. He had often heard the deceased and his wife, Elizabeth Anderson, quarrelling; and had heard her call out murder, but on that night he heard no noise whatever.
The evidence for the prosecution here closed; and the prisoners were put upon their defence; which consisted chiefly in calling witnesses to character: Here concluding, the Court retired between four and five in the afternoon; and after an hour's absence returned a verdict - Guilty, against Elizabeth Anderson and James Stock; John Rawlins acquitted, and discharged.
Sentence of death was accordingly pronounced on Elizabeth Anderson and James Stock, who were thereby doomed to be executed on such day and place as should be appointed by His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief; and their bodies to be afterwards given up to be dissected and anatomized.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University