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

R. v. Reading [1822] NSWKR 22; [1822] NSWSupC 22

R. v. Reading

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction

Wylde J.A., 11 March 1822

Source: Sydney Gazette, 15 March 1822

            Henry Reading was indicted for stopping and robbing Thomas Trotter, on the Kings Highway on the 14th of September last. The prosecutor in this case proposed, that he was travelling homewards on the Liverpool-road, on the evening of the 14th of September and when about nine miles from Sydney, twilight having almost disappeared, he was suddenly accosted by a villain, who gave him a blow on the head with a bludgeon, which was followed by two others ere he fell. In the act of prostration he handed over his watch to the assailants, entreating to be spared further violence, when another voice exclaimed "Let us kill him." They then fell to again, and nearly completed their sanguinary purpose. When the unfortunate man was so dreadfully beaten as to be incapable of resistance, the thieves ripped him of his clothing (trowsers and shirt excepted), which latter article was partly on and partly off, covered with gore. They then left him (Mr Trotter) to his fate. He succeeded in crawling a short distance further on the road, when he became discovered, and the necessary aid was promptly afforded. In a few days after, as soon as the prosecutor became sufficiently recovered, he proceeded with two constables from Sydney to the nearest road-gang stationed in the vicinity of the robbery and attempted murder, which was known by the name of "McAuley's gang." The men, 37 in number, were mustered, and the prisoner at the bar immediately was recognized to be one of the highway men. Of course, he was taken into custody, and committed to take his trial for the offence. Mr Trotter was particularly questioned by the Court as to the reasons he had for his firm identity to the prisoner; and he stated, that a full view of the prisoners countenance was afforded him at the time he delivered up his watch and that he (the prisoner) was the man that received it. The awful possibility and consequences of swearing the life of an innocent man away, was energetically depicted by His Honor the Judge Advocate to the witness; but the more he was called upon to exercise caution, firmer became his testimony; and he solemnly and repeatedly declared, that the prisoner was one of the men. As to his associate, he was described as much smaller in size, but whose person it would be impossible for him to know, and he had no side of his face.

            It was proved by the Deputy overseer of the gang to which the prisoner belonged, that he was absent from muster on the evening of the robbery, and was also missing from his hut. Strict enquiry was made of the witness as to the certainty of the prisoner being positively absent in the night in question, which was rendered perfectly satisfactory to the Court.

            A police officer also testified that the prosecutor, upon the first glance the prisoner, declared he was one of them.

            The prosecution here terminated, and the prisoner was called on for his defence, but had nothing to offer that could successfully oppose a clear statement against him; he denied his absence on the night of the robbery, and that was all. Before now it has been known as a fact, that prisoners have even retired after the muster-roll has been called from their huts, gone and effected a robbery, of the most direful consequences, and have been found safe in their huts the following morning. Guilty was the verdict. Remanded.

Sydney Gazette, 22 March 1822

The following remanded prisoners that had been convicted received sentence as follow:... Henry Reading... DEATH !

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University