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

R. v. Lyons [1822] NSWKR 3; [1822] NSWSupC 3

murder - evidence, medical

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction

Wylde J.A., 18 March 1822

Source: Sydney Gazette, 22 March 1822 [1]

            Mary Ann Lyons was indicted for the wilful murder of Thomas Clark. From the evidence it appeared, that the prisoner at the bar had cohabited with the deceased for five years past; that, on the 6th of January last, in the evening, some words occurred between them, an event far from being unusual, when the prisoner seized the opportunity, wilfully and deliberately, and evidently with malice aforethought, of striking the deceased, her miserable associates, with a hammer on the head, which, in six days after, terminated his earthly career. It was clearly proved, that the blow was not given in the moment when excuse might have been offered for exasperation, but after passion should have long subsided. Circumstances also came out on the trial that evinced the ill-fated woman had an eye to the property of the deceased, with whom she was then criminally living. The case was made out to the satisfaction of the Court, and the prisoner was pronounced Guilty of Murder, and immediately received sentence of death.

            It would be a departure from justice were we to omit affording publicity to the following circumstance, which came out of the above trial: Mr William Walker, who stated himself to be a professional man, was called upon to inform the Court (having been with Thomas Clark before and after his death) as to the actual cause of the demise of the deceased. He affirmed that it had wholly arisen from intensity of drinking, which had produced internal inflammation; and that the blow, supposed by him to have been given by the hammer, was not the cause, neither could such a blow occasion death. Well did it happen for the ends of public justice, and highly to the credit of William Howe, Esquire the Magistrate for Upper Minto, that the body was sent from that neighbourhood down to Liverpool, the nearest place where proper surgical experience (upon which alone depended the issue of a most critical investigation) could be obtained. The body was examined by Dr Hill, R. N. Assistant Colonial Surgeon. This Gentleman was enabled satisfactorily to state to the anxious Court, that the wound occasioned by the hammer was sufficient to produce death - the skull having thereby been seriously fractured; and that he (Dr Hill) could have no hesitation in saying, that it was his decided opinion the deceased had just met with his death. William Walker, who was a professional man, practising in this Colony for the last twelve years, and had passed through (or by, probably ) the Colleges of Edinburgh, London, Paris, &c. upon the contrary, said, that it was only a small wound quite unimportant, had not affected the skull, and could not have been followed by death. Dr Hill also declared, that the life of the man would most certainly have been saved, had proper treatment been timely administered; it only required the bone depressed by the violence of the blow, to have been elevated, whereby prompt relief would have naturally ensued, and that the deceased had now been in existence. This circumstance is mentioned for the express purpose of preventing persons from being egregiously, and perhaps fatally deceived, by such impudent and wretched professionalists.


[1] See also Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, Informations, Depositions and Related Papers, 1816-1824, State Records N.S.W., SZ796, p. 63 (no. 67).

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University