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

R. v. Geary [1821] NSWKR 10; [1821] NSWSupC 10

R. v. Smith

R. v. Young

R. v. Whiteman

R. v. Cochrane (alias Cockling)

R. v. Becket

R. v. Hilson

R. v. Baker

R. v. Mills

R. v. Lloyd 

highway robbery, housebreaking, harbouring, secreting, countenancing, bushrangers, capital punishment

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction

Wylde J.A., 16 August 1821

Source: Sydney Gazette, 18 August 1821 [1]

            William Geary, Thomas Smith, Charles Young, William Whiteman, John Cochrane alias Cockling, Samuel Becket, Peter Hilson, Wm. Baker, John Mills, and John Lloyd, were conjointly and severally indicted for having perpetrated various highway robberies, and felonious entries of dwelling houses; and Charles Franklin and Robert Allan, were also indicted for receiving the proceeds of the said felonies, knowing them to be stolen; and also, upon a second count, these latter prisoners were charged with harbouring, secreting, and countenancing the above-named prisoners. The information being read, the prisoners were severally called on to plead, and they pleaded Not Guilty, with the exception of William Geary, who declared himself Guilty of the charges exhibited to the Court.

In behalf of the prosecution, the first witness called was Mary Young, who deposed, that at the commencement of the present year she was on her return home from the Sydney market, in a cart, on the Windsor road, on a Saturday evening, in company with the man who was driving the vehicle, and had reached as far as the district of Baulkham hills, about twilight, when their progress was suddenly retarded by an unlooked for visit of a gang of plunderers; the foremost of whom commanded the man to desist driving, under the penalty of having his brains blown out. They proceeded to divest the cart of its contents, of which a small barrel of porter was the chief, and then began to regale themselves with what small share of provisions they thus obtained, and drank the porter; in the interim of doing which, some of the party were very inquisitive as to those cuts that were supposed to be on the road. The witness deposed, that, as nearly as she could call to recollection, they detained her two hours, when another car was heard to approach; and the already plundered one was then permitted to proceed. Geary had pleaded guilty, and this witness swore positively to the person of the prisoner Mills; but as to any of the others she had not obtained a sufficiency of observation to enable her to identify them.

William Clayton deposed, that he was only a short distance from the cart of Mary Young, the former prosecutrix, which he stated to be about the 3d or 4th of February, when he was in like manner accosted, by being desired to stop, or else be laid low. Only two of these marauders appeared first in view, but four others quickly presented themselves, and the prosecutor was immediately secured, by having his arms tied behind him; that effected, the cart was rifled of all its valuables, such as rum, calico, nankeens, &c. The only prisoners that he could identify as being part of the gang were Geary and Mills; the latter of whom he particularly recognized, and solemnly and repeatedly swore to.

William Widget deposed, that he was returning to the interior, from the Sydney market, on the morning of Saturday, the 3rd of February, and was the foremost of three carts a few miles on the other side of Parramatta, when they were stopped by four armed bushrangers; and that three of the prisoners at the bar were of the number, the fourth being dead, whose name was Butler. [The circumstances of this deluded and infatuated creature meeting with a premature destiny, in being shot some short time since, was reported in our present on the 21st ultimo.] The three carts were driven a short distance from the road, and then plundered. The names of the prisoners identified by this witness were Geary, Young, and Cochrane. Young was armed with a musket, and Cochrane had a brace of pistols pendant to his waist. Wm. Madgett, who was in the cart with the above witness, corroborated, in every particular, the circumstances already related.

Thomas Thompson deposed, but his house, at Pennant hills, was forcibly entered on Tuesday the 20th of March last, by a gang of bushrangers, of whom the prisoner Geary was the ringleader; that they remained on the premises till the Thursday following, living all the time in the family and compelling the prosecutors wife to prepare provisions for them as often as required. Having provided themselves with some tea and sugar, and a pistol, the family became liberated from the incumbrance of these unwelcome visitors, who decamped, taking with them the prisoners at the bar, William Smith, government-servant to the prosecutor; who wish to make it appear that he was impressed, as it were, into this dreadful employ; but in this point, that prisoner failed. Strange as it may seem to be recorded, still it was sworn to by this witness, and firmly adhered to, that, notwithstanding this gang was on the farm from the Tuesday to the following Thursday, he (the prosecutor) was unable to identify anyone else, save William Geary.

James Bellamy deposed, that on the 23rd of March, the following prisoners came to his house; viz. Geary, Young, Cochrane, Whiteman, Smith, and the deceased Butler; and feloniously and forcibly took from his dwelling, a musket, bayonet, cutlass, and a powder horn. Geary, and most of the other prisoners, endeavoured to invalidate the testimony of this witness, by acknowledging their guilt, and proclaiming him to the Court and auditory, as one that had harboured and encouraged them in their various spoliations; and participated, to a great extent, in such nefarious and hazardous speculations; but, however, he (the witness) solemnly and readily averred that the assertions of the prisoners were wholly false, and without foundation.

Mrs Matilda Fish deposed, that her residence at Lane cove was twice feloniously entered and robbed; that the last felony was perpetrated in the month of March last, between the hours of four and five in the afternoon. The prisoners at the bar; viz. Geary, Cochrane, Whiteman, Smith, and Young, Mrs Fish positively swore to be of the number. They remained in the house about 20 minutes, and took away with them two watches, a gun, sextant, and some other property. The miserable Butler was also of the party.

Thomas Best, a settler, deposed, that on the 25th of March last, the prisoners Geary, Cochrane, Smith, Whiteman, Young, and the deceased Butler, paid a depredating visit to his house, and forcibly took from thence a gun and some wearing apparel. The gang remained there the whole day, and in the evening went off. The prisoner Hilson declared to witness that he had been impelled, from apprehension of serious consequences in case of refusal, to join them, the number and strength of the party being supposed sufficient to carry all before them. This was on the 25th of March last, and they (the prisoners) returned on the following day, with bundles, &c. the contents of which the witness declared he was totally ignorant.

Esther Harley deposed, that the house of Hugh Kelly, on the Windsor-road, was burglariously entered at midnight on the 26th of March last, and property to the value of £100 was taken therefrom. The number of plunderers were nine; eight entered the dwelling, and the other remained as centinnel at the door. The witness swore to the persons of Geary, Smith, Young, Whiteman, and Cochrane. She also stated her belief only, that the prisoner Baker was the man stationed at the door.

Evidence was now adduced against the prisoners Franklin and Allan, to support the counts in the indictment against them, as receivers and accessories after the fact; which only went to criminate the latter, and exculpated the former from any implication whatever.

The prisoners were put on their defence, and what they severally urged in their remarks, only tended to engulph those that were actually guilty the deeper in the many crimes that had been brought against them. Geary was determined on criminating himself in every charge, not only in the onset by pleading guilty, but also in every question that he unnecessarily put invariably to all the witnesses. Some of the others, particularly Young, also managed to further the ends of public justice, in his wishing to exculpate his associates, and thus subjecting himself to the judgement of Guilty. Mills endeavoured to prove an alibi, which failed in its concerted design. Smith, Whiteman, and Cochrane, abstracted from the evidence brought forward, manifested their atrocity and participation in all the charges enumerated in the information.

Against Becket, Hilson, Baker, Lloyd, and Franklin, nothing sufficiently transpired to evince any actual guilt on their part, although suspicion and inattention to the personal security, and the happiness of the domestic state, were but too apparent in some of them. The prisoners being heard with attention and patience in all they had to say in their defence, the Court retired. In about 20 minutes the Members resumed their seats, and His Honor the Judge Advocate remarked, with energy and perspicuity, on the alarming and fearful combination of prisoners, that had been, fortunately for the community at large, that broken up and dissolved, and the offenders brought to justice. It was true (His Honor observed), then in all the cases ellucidated, no violence was proved to have been resorted to; which had been, by the prisoner Geary, held up as a prominent feature of his humanity, and of the feeling of that gang which he had headed; and when no doubt was done with a view of operating in extenuation of the crimes proved. But it was also worthy of consideration, that had violence in the most distant way been used, it would have been brutality inhumanity indeed! The numbers of the party were sufficient to intimidate the most fearless and courageous into awe and obedience; for, it must be recollected, in distant wilds, or solitary dwellings, how could a poor man guard his wife, children, and little property, from the well-armed, determined, and the lawless ruffian, much less a gang of 4, 6, 8, 9, and even 12, if not more. Had resistance been evinced in any one case, there could be little doubt as to the hapless consequences that would, inevitably, have ensued.

But was there not violence sufficiently demonstrated, in presenting a loaded piece at an unprotected head? Samuel Becket, Peter Hilson, William Baker, John Lloyd, and Charles Franklin were acquitted. William Geary, Thomas Smith, Charles Young, Wm. Whiteman, and John Cochrane, were found Guilty of all the various counts and were pathetically besought to reflect on the awfulness of eternity. Robert Allan was found guilty of harbouring and encouraging bushrangers, and also remanded for sentence.

Wylde J.A., 18 August 1821

Sydney Gazette, 18 August 1821

This morning an awful portraiture of the determined depravity of man was exhibited to a crowded auditory, a circumstance unprecedented in our colonial jurisprudence, that of no less than 23 fellow creatures placed, by reiterated crimes, at the bar of justice, to be visited with its heaviest penalty, death! William Williams, Gilbert Brown, John McGuire, John Whalan, John Read, William Geary, Thomas Smith, Charles Young, William Whiteman, John Cochrane, John Mills, William Kennedy, Francis Pasco, Pasco Haddycott, George Grover, Robert Maggs, Thomas Fitzsimons, John Squires, Peter Burns, John Brown, Edward Farrell, John Ryan, and Miles Jordan, severally received Sentence of Death. Our particularly confined limits will not permit remarking on the excellent and judicious speech with which His Honor the Judge Advocate addressed twenty-three dying men! It was delivered with that energy and pathos so peculiar to the Mind from whence pure sympathy flows; and seemed to have that impression on some of the culprits, which, it is fondly trusted, will inspire them the well-grounded hope of seeking that benignant boon of mercy in another world, which the offended laws, and the justice of the country, necessarily precluded in this.

William Tunicliffe, Robert Allan, and Barbara Styles - transportation for life.

Sydney Gazette, 25 August 1821

Executions. On Wednesday morning [22 August 1821] last were executed, pursuant to their sentence, the following unfortunate men, condemned to die at the present criminal sessions; viz. Francis Pasco, Pasco Haddycott, Miles Jordan, and John Ryan. Also, yesterday morning, the following started the awful sentence: William Geary, Thomas Smith, John Whiteman, John Cochrane, Charles Young, John Mills, and William Kennedy.

On the verge of eternity, Geary solemnly exculpated George Bowerman (one of the three brothers that were executed some months since for a robbery on the Windsor-road) from all knowledge of the transaction for which he had innocently paid the forfeit of his life. He (Geary) declared himself to have been the man, in company with the other Bowermans that had perpetrated the robbery; and that George Bowerman was the unhappy man identified in the place of Geary. We must leave the Public to judgement, at so awful a period; but, it may be remembered, that the deceased George Bowerman positively asserted his innocence to the last moment of existence. During his trial, Geary alleged, and in fact it was proved, that he had committed no violence, no act of inhumanity; but at the place of execution, he declared that he had committed an innocent man (the father of a family) to become a sacrifice to his wanton rapacity!


[1] See also Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, Informations, Depositions and Related Papers, 1816-1824, State Records N.S.W., SZ793, p. 338 (no. 40), p. 360 (no. 42); SZ794, p. 370 (no. 85).

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University