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

R v Chapman [1825] NSWSupC 44

murder - domestic violence - mens rea - intoxication - eggshell skull - manslaughter

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., 30 September 1825

Source: Australian, 6 October 1825


Wm. Chapman was tried for the wilful murder of Sarah Allen.[1 ]

It appeared in evidence that the prisoner, William Chapman had been drinking at the Green Man public house, in George-street, in company with several labouring men assembled there to receive their weekly wages, on the evening of the 20th of May last.  About eight o'clock the deceased, Sarah Allen, entered the room where prisoner and the others were drinking; she appeared ill, and rather inebriated.  On deceased asking prisoner to leave the house and return home, he rose and struck her several blows on the head.  Some of the by-standers succeeded for the time in preventing further violence, but upon deceased leaving the room, the prisoner already sufficiently intoxicated, followed her and repeated his blows.  She fell  upon which prisoner gave her a kick; he then returned into the house.  On coming out again and observing deceased bleeding and unable to stand, prisoner said, "Sally, my dear, what have I done to you?" she replied, "my dear Chapman I am terribly hurt."  A wheel-barrow being procured, deceased was subsequently removed to her home.

The learned Judge in summing up remarked, that this case was involved in much mystery.  No conclusive evidence had been adduced to prove whether the blood stated to have flowed from the unfortunate woman, had proceeded from the bursting of a blood vessel or external injury  in this essential point there was a defect of evidence.  If a man in the heat of ungoverned passion kicks and strikes a weakly female and thereby induces death, the law will consider it murder  though to a person in health the result might not have proved fatal.  It appeared to the learned Judge that the prisoner had no intention to commit murder, that no malice prepense existed.  Indeed, the very affectionate language which passed between the parties, the circumstance of their both being intoxicated, and the prisoners' subsequent conduct were sufficient to rebut this idea.  Intoxication should certainly never excuse a man for committing crimes  however his honor considered the present offence as amounting only to manslaughter.  Guilty of manslaughter.[2 ]



[1 ] Reported by the Sydney Gazette, 3 October 1825.

[2 ] On 14 October 1825, he was sentenced to be transported to Port Macquarie for two years: Sydney Gazette, 17 October 1825; Australian, 20 October 1825.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University