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

R. v. May [1822] NSWKR 21; [1822] NSWSupC 21

attempted murder - shooting

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction

Wylde J.A., 11 March 1822

Source: Sydney Gazette, 15 March 1822

            Lawrence May, the younger, was indicted for feloniously and maliciously shooting at and wounding with intent to kill and murder, on the 11th of  December last, Thomas Smith, a settler at Hawkesbury.

            It appeared, by the testimony or Thomas Smith, that the prisoner and himself had long been friendly neighbours, their farms being adjoining; but a trifling dispute arose as to the proprietorship of part of the land which had been located to Smith by the Deputy Surveyor; and, in consequence, cultivated by the latter. Smith, on the evening previous to the unhappy transaction, told the prisoner he should send his men in the morning, and reap the wheat; whereupon he (the prisoner) declared he would shoot the person that would make the attempt. Accordingly, two of the servants of Smith went on the 11th to reap; when they were commanded by the prisoner to desist, upon pain of being shot. This was reported to the prosecutor, who proceeded to the spot at which the prisoner was, and began to reap himself. The prisoner (May) then retired somewhere about 20 yards, and fired at the prosecutor, who immediately fell, being wounded in several places. These are the key features of this transaction, at once so lamentable and so much to be deplored. Smith was dangerously ill for some days, but has now sufficiently recovered to walk about with a good deal of exertion.

            William Dean, a servant to the prosecutor, deposed to the above facts, but said he did not see the prisoner level the muskets; and, that after his master fell wounded the prisoner began and continued reaping.

            Nicholas Dukes also bore testimony to the events before stated; adding also, that he saw the prisoner actually level the musket; and, after he discharged its contents, commenced reaping.

            Henry Bach corroborated the evidence of the above witnesses; and here the prosecution ended.

            Respectable persons were called on behalf of the prisoner as to the mildness and nature of his general character; which went to say, that he had been considered as a humane and ineffusive young man. As to evidence being called to rebut a serious charge, none was forthcoming. The Court retired for a few minutes; and, upon the Members resuming their seats, the verdict of Guilty was returned.  Remanded.


            The following remanded prisoners that had been convicted received sentence as follow:... Lawrence May... life, to such part of the territory as His Excellency the Governor may think proper and direct.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University