Skip to Content

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

R. v. Barke and Knowles [1822] NSWKR 12; [1822] NSWSupC 12

approver, evidence of - burglary

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction

Wylde J.A., 12 June 1822

Source: Sydney Gazette, 14 June 1822

           George Barke and Joseph Knowles, were indicted for burglariously breaking and entering the dwelling house of John Price, at the toll-house on the Great Western-road, near Parramatta, on the night of the 29th of May, and taking therefrom upwards of £60 in notes and cash, a chest of tea, a quantity of soap and sugar, and all the wearing apparel that could be mustered. The prosecutor stated, that his house was entered at midnight by three men; one of them, whom he positively swore to be the prisoner Knowles, brought him to the ground with two blows of a pistol or bludgeon and forced him under the bed. The robbers then lighted two lamps to enable them to ransack the house, in which they continued upwards of an hour, occasionally threatening to blow the brains out of the first that would attempt to move. He, the witness, informed the Court, that the prisoner Knowles had much disfigured his face for the purpose of securing his features from recognition, but that his ingenuity had been unavailing, as he had no hesitation or doubt in swearing him to be one of the men. Joseph Warren, government servant to the foregoing witness, deposed, that he was alarmed about midnight by a voice at the gate, as if requiring in the usual way to obtain an entrance, and he accordingly went out, but could see no one; but, on his return, after having latched the door, in the act of securing the bolt, it was violently burst in by 3 men, 1 of whom felled him to the ground with two severe blows on the head, which were given, he positively affirmed again and again, by the prisoner Barke, who is a foreigner; and who had been in the habit, together with the prisoner Knowels, of occasionally frequenting the house; and thus the voice of Barke had became familiar to the witness, so well known in fact, to use the words of the man himself, he would have known his voice even if underground. The third man (the approver) seemed to be stationed as a guard; and the witness said, that he had also been compelled to roll himself under the bedstead which he is bleeding master.

            Mrs Price deposed, that the tall man (Knowels), to prevent the screens being heard, enveloped her in a blanket, threatening to commit murder if her cries ceased not. A poor little child, of only three years old, was told her brains would be blown out, if she also did not desist from giving alarm. The testimony of Mrs Price, who is far advanced in pregnancy, pourtrayed the conduct of the robbers in the blackest and most abhorrent colouring. The poor woman begged to be allowed a petticoat to put on, when the prisoner Barke exclaimed, he would not leave an article of clothing in the house. Their manner was brutal in the extreme. Mrs Price positively identified the prisoners at the bar to the two of the burglars. Dennis Donovan, an approver, confirmed the identity of the prisoners, acknowledging himself to have been the third man who had committed the robbery in company with the prisoners at the bar. Guilty. Remanded.

            Sydney Gazette, 21 June1822

            The following prisoners receive sentence of Death:... George Barke and Joseph Knowles.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University