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

R v Lewis and others [1832] NSWSupC 34

Wentworth, W.C., theft from - Vaucluse House - larceny - women defendants in crime

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., 18 May 1832

Source: Sydney Gazette, 19 May 1832[1 ]

William Lewis, James Ward, William Lockhart, and Elizabeth Smith, were indicted for stealing a quantity of wine, spirits, tobacco, and other property, the goods of William Charles Wentworth, Esq., at Vaucluse, near Sydney, on the 5th of May last.

The Attorney General conducted the prosecution.

W. C. Wentworth, Esq. - I reside at Vaucluse near Sydney; on Saturday 5th of May last, I went out on a boating party with some of my family and Mr. Campbell, leaving the prisoners, Ward and Smith, in charge of the house; the other prisoners were also in my service, aad [sic] were on the premises; on my return in the evening, I learnt from Mrs. Wentworth who preceded me, that my store had been robbed, and on going round to the back door, near the kitchen, I found the prisoner Lewis lying near the kitchen door, speechless drunk, where he, being employed as a quarryman, had no business to be; Elizabeth Smith was also drunk; after some difficulty, we got Lewis to the hut where he ought to have been, and I then went to see what other of the people were drunk; I called Lockhart who answered that he was in bed; I desired him to come out, and found that he also was drunk, and had been fighting; his face was much cut, and disfigured with blood; on examination I found the door of the store open, and missed eleven bottles of claret, some shrub, a quantity of brandy, gin, and other articles; I also found in the store a rule belonging to Lockhart, who was employed by me as a quarry-man; on being asked how it came there, he said he supposed he had left it there the evening before, when he was assisting I weighing out the rations; several empty bottles were found about the store; the store was part of the dwelling-house; the key was not left in charge of either of the prisoners; the door was opened with the key, which was not found for several days after; I discovered, after some time, that the key of what is called the nursery in my house, opened the door of my bed-room in which the key of the store was locked up; one of the bottles of shrub was found the same day in the pantry; some of the wine and a bottle of a castor oil was also found in a creek near the house; the female prisoner absconded that day, but was afterwards picked up in Sydney; there is a sly-grog shop near my residence at which the prisoner might have obtained spirits to make them drunk.

Honora Curtain, a free woman, in the service of Mr. Wentworth, said that she went on the water excursion with her master's family ou [sic] the 5th of May; previous to leaving the house, the store was locked, and the key placed on the mantel-piece in Mr. Wentworth's room; on returning in the evening, the door of the store was found open, and the key missing from where it had been left in the morning; the door of the bed-room in which the key was left was still locked, but it was afterwards discovered that the key of the nursery opened it; a quantity of colonial gin was found spilled about the floor of the store, and a case of claret, some rum-shrub, brandy, tobacco, and castor-oil missing; a three-foot rule was found in the store; the same evening, a bottle store, a bottle of wine, and a bottle of castor-oil were afterwards found near a water-hole, at some evening, I saw Lewis, Ward, and Betsy Smith in any spirits with them; Lewis was lying across the table; Ward was sitting by the kitchen-table drinking his tea; I found the rule of which I have spoken in a sugar-cask in the store; I had left that cask covered when I left the store in the morning; it had not been uncovered for some days before, but, on this occasion, I found the lid had been knocked in, and the rule in the cask.

John Hall - I am a mason in the employment of Mr. Wentworth; I remember the day the store was said to have been robbed; on the evening of that day Mr. Wentworth showed me a rule in the store; that rule was mine, which I had lent to the prisoner, Lockhart, about three weeks before; during Mr. Wentworth's absence that evening, I saw the four prisoners near the house; I heard them very merry; they were singing at one time and after that some of them began to quarrel; the three male prisoners appeared to be fighting on the green at one time; they seemed to be endeavouring to strike each other, but whether they did or not I can't say.

John Roach - I am a carpenter in the service of Mr. Wentworth; I remember Saturday the 5th of May, when my master was absent; I was employed out of doors, and when I came to my dinner I saw the four prisoners, who appeared to have been drinking, but I saw no liquor; at four o'clock the same day I returned to my tea, and again saw the prisoners; they were then drunk and fighting.

This was the case for the prosecution.

The prisoners severally denied the charge.

The prisoner, Lockhart, called

Patrick Bresnihin, who said, I am in the service of Mr. Wentworth, at Vaucluse; I saw Lockhart borrow a rule of John Hall on the forenoon of the 5th of May; I asked him then where my rule was, which Hall had lent him before, and he said he did not know; I was employed near the kitchen, and did not see any of the prisoners there that day, except the female prisoner, in the afternoon when I heard her asking for Roach; I do not think Lockhart and the other prisoners could have been fighting that day near the house without my seeing it.

Cross-examined - I was not up at the house that day; I heard some merriment and singing among the prisoners in the afternoon; they were tipsey; I saw Ward and Lockhart fighting on the green near the house in the evening.

The learned Judge summed up, leaving the case to the Jury as one of circumstances, from which they were to say whether they were satisfied that the prisoners, or either of them, were guilty of the offence charged against them: bearing in mind that, in cases of this nature, it was not necessary that all the prisoners should have actually entered the store and carried away the property; because it they were all acting in one common designed, though one only entered the story, they were all equally guilty.

The Jury found the prisoners guilty. Remanded.[2 ]



[1 ] See also Sydney Herald, 21 May 1832; Australian, 25 May 1832.

[2 ] Lewis, Ward and Lockhart were sentenced to be worked on the public roads, in irons, for 12 months, and Smith to be imprisoned in the female factory, third class, for 12 months: Sydney Gazette, 5 June 1832; Sydney Herald, 4 June 1832.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University