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

R. v. Mills, Chapman and Chapman [1834] NSWSupC 91

murder - Sydney harbour - Birchgrove - women defendants in crime

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., 15 August 1834

Source: Sydney Gazette, 16 August 1834[ 1]

(Before the Chief Justice, and a Jury of Civil 


Henry Mills, and William Chapman, were indicted for the wilful murder of Samuel Priest, otherwise Chapman, near Waterview, on the Parramatta River, in the harbour of Port Jackson, on the 10th November, 1831; and Julia Priest, other Chapman, was charged as an accessary after the fact, in afterwards harbouring, comforting, and maintaining the two first-named prisoners, well knowing them to have committed the said felony and murder.  The information contained four counts, charging the prisoners in the same way; namely, Mills as principal in the first, and Chapman in the second degree in the crime, and the female prisoner as an accessary after the fact; but alleging the deed to have been perpetrated by the different means of striking the deceased on the head with a piece of wood, by drowning him in the river, and by cutting his neck with a knife.

The Solicitor General stated the case for the prosecution; the prisoners were defended by Mr. Williams.

Charles Bayles being sworn, said - I live at the back of the barracks in Clarence-street; I knew Samuel Priest, who was also called Chapman; I saw him alive a few days before his death; I afterwards saw him dead lying by the water side of Darling harbour; I saw the coroner and Mr. Jilks, and two or three hundred people there; I could not identify the body; one of the deceased's legs were shorter than the other in his life time, but I could not distinguish that in the dead body; the body was in a horrid state; the head was off; the neck looked as if the head had been cut off with some sharp instrument; the bone did not seem to have been cut, but the flesh did; the bone appeared to have been wrung off; I cannot swear that it is the body of Samuel Priest; it might or might not be his body; the deceased was a small man, about 5 feet 5 inches in height; the body was that of a smallish man; it was I think about four or five days from the time the deceased was missing, that the body was found.

Cross-examined - I knew the deceased for eight or nine years, but I could not recognise the body as his; part of one of the thighs appeared to have been eaten by fish; it is not impossible but the neck might have been gnawed in the same manner, but it appeared to have been cut; I am a butcher; one man could wrest off the head of a bullock after the neck being previously cut round.

Peter Hosking, Esq., being sworn, said - I am a surgeon; I was called to attend the coroner's inquest on the body of the deceased; I gave a certificate after I had viewed the body; it bear the date of the 23rd November, 1831; the body which was a mere skeleton was contained in a coffin; I examined the neck; the head was taken off at the first vertebrae of the neck in a very smooth manner; the flesh of the neck was nearly all off, I could count every vertebrae; the articulation was very smooth; my impression was that the head had dropped off from putrefaction, or from being bit off by the fish; it was apparent that the bone had not been cut off, but it might have been wrested off; I was told it was the body of a man named Chapman, but I did not know anything of the man.

Cross-examined - If I had not heard of this alleged murder, I should have concluded the man had been drowned, that the flesh had been bitten off the neck and other parts by fish, and that the head had dropped off after putrefaction, but its own gravity; there was nothing apparent however, to rebut the position that the flesh of the neck had been previously cut through; one man could easily wrest off the head of a human being, after the neck being cut through; from the state the body was in, I should say it was impossible to identify it unless it had some peculiar mark.

Joseph Wilks being sworn, said, I am free, and live in Argyle; in 1831, I lived with the deceased, Samuel Chapman, in Clarence-street; he was married to the female prisoner at the bar; I never heard him called Priest; I know the two male prisoners; William Chapman was the reputed brother of the deceased; he lived with the deceased at that time; Mills, I do not think had any regular employment then, but he used to come backwards and forwards to the house; I was the deceased's hired servant; on Thursday the 10th Nov., 1831, I and the deceased went from the Market Wharf in Mr. Anderson's boat to Kissing-point, on the Parramatta river; we set off about 6 o'clock in the morning and arrived at Kissing-point between 9 and 10; we went to serve a law process on a person named Warman who lived there; it was an execution from the Court of Requests; an arrangement was made between deceased and Warman to receive 10 dollars, and take a bill at three months for the remainder and stay proceedings; on the previous day it was arranged at Chapman's that I should be placed in charge of Warman's goods; William Chapman persuaded the deceased not to settle the affair unless Warman paid the whole of the debt, but to sell of his goods; we left Warman's on our return a little before sun-set; we stopped at Mr. Small's, and in presence of Warman had two pots of porter and three gills of rum; the deceased and I then proceeded on our way to Sydney; on reaching the police station at Longnose, which is about six miles, the deceased complained of the effects of the liquor, and I advised him to lay down in the boat, and I would pull the oars by myself; on arriving at Longnose, I was hailed by another boat lying on the shore at Birch grove; it was William Chapman who called out; he said is that you Sam; I said no; I knew his voice; I said it was myself; both boats then met; the male prisoners were the persons in the other boat; they asked me what I had done with the deceased; I told them he was drunk, and lying asleep in the boat; both boats pulled together till we reached the middle of Birch grove bay; I was sober; I could see the house at Birch grove, I do not know that it is called Waterview; it was when we arrived at this place that William Chapman proposed for me to exchange boats, his being a smaller one, and I could more easily pull it by myself; I accordingly got into their boat, and they got into mine, I leaving the deceased with them; I asked what made them come to meet us; they said they did not think the deceased would be able to get the boat home by himself; they did not know I was to come with him; William Chapman then asked why I had returned; I told him how the business had been settled; he said I had d--y disappointed him; I asked how; he said it was not his intention to have let the deceased every return to Sydney; I dissuaded him from doing anything like that threat seemed to convey, telling him it would be sure to be found out; when we arrived at the point were the Rhoenix hulk is now stationed, a bottle of rum was produced by Mills, who asked me if I would have a ball; I said I had no objection; we both stopped rowing, and we all three drank of the rum; I drank out of the bottle, about one glass full; it was just getting dark, between seven and eight o'clock; both boats were close together; Mills was rousing up the deceased, saying Sam, come get up and have a ball; the deceased rose up and asked what the devil brought him there; Mills said they had come to look after him; the deceased leaned over the gunwale of the boat and began scooping some water into his face with his hand to refresh himself; Mills then laid hold of a tree-nail made of iron-bark about a yard in length, which was lying in the boat, and made a blow at the deceased with it, saying he would be d--d if he would be disappointed; the blow struck him on the back of the head and stunned the deceased, who scarcely spoke or moved afterwards; he fell with his head in the water; Mills laid hold of him by the trowsers and threw him into the water, holding him by the legs; he kept him in that position for about five minutes; the boats were drifting at this time quite close in shore towards Birch Grove; in the house I think I have heard called Waterview, but I am not sure; as the deceased was held in the water, I could perceive his arms move in the water like a man swimming, but very gently; I began to scream out as soon as the blow was struck, and threw the bottle overboard; William Chapman called me a chicken-hearted b--r, and asked what I was afraid of no one was going to hurt me; William Chapman then struck the deceased twice with one of the oars, two violent blows between the neck and shoulders as he lay in the water; the prisoners then got out of the boat and dragged the body on shore in Waterview Bay; they unbuttoned his clothes, and in the waistband of his trowsers they found two folds of bank notes, one of which they presented to me; a person could tell what they were if they had them in their hand, but it was not light enough to read them; I said I would have nothing to do with it, as it would get us all in trouble; I did not go ashore, but both boats were aground and lying close together; I was afterwards prevailed upon to accept one note, which in the morning I discovered to be a £5 note; they were not more than ten minutes on the shore; Mills produced a butchers' knife and said he would black him; the male prisoners are both butchers by trade; Mills took the deceased by the hair of his head and cut the neck all round; William Chapman then kneeled on his body, while the other wrung off his head; I was not more than four feet from them at this time; I saw the head taken off; it came off at one twisting; the head was then tied in a yellow silk handkerchief that the deceased had worn round his neck; I then told William Chapman it would be the means of all of us being hanged, as it would be plainly seen the man had been murdered, when the body came to rise; Mills said he would prevent it rising again; with that he shoved his knife into the middle of the stomach, and ripped it up to the breast; he said that would prevent him from every rising; this was before we left the shore; the prisoners then took the painter off the boat, and tied it round the deceased's feet, making it fast to the stern of their boat; the deceased's head in the handkerchief was placed on the bow of my boat, I mean the boat I left Sydney in; we then rowing out into the midst of the stream they towing the body after them; it was then proposed I should make for Sydney and they would follow me; we separated, they pulling for Goat Island, and I for Sydney; they were to let the body go in the stream; they had not left me many minutes when I heard the approach of another boat from the direction of Sydney, upon which I shoved the head off the bow of my boat into the water; this was in the middle of the river; shortly after, the prisoners overtook me in their boat; we had not been apart more than ten minutes; they asked if I had spoken to the boat which passed; I said I had; it was then proposed by William Chapman that on my arrival in Sydney I should report that the deceased had fallen overboard in rising to attempt to make water, and he said nothing could hurt any of us so long as I kept my own counsel; at the same time saying, that if I mentioned it ever so much, nothing could save me, as no one knew they had left Sydney, and that there would be plenty of proof that no one was in company of the deceased but me; I told then not to be afraid of my saying anything about it; William Chapman said if I told nothing about it, he would see that I should have £50; when we got near the Miller's Point the prisoner left me, telling me to mention to the first constable I should meet, the story we had concocted; they wished to be at home first, that no one should be aware of their having been away; they landed in some of the small bays about Jack the Miller's Point; I went considerably lower down, to the Market Wharf, where when I arrived, I saw a constable named Cockrane, to whom I represented that the deceased William Chapman had fell everboard [sic] and was drowned; I asked him what steps I was to take; he requested me to go with him; we went to the Coroner and acquainted him that the deceased was drowned; I said the deceased had accidentally fell overboard in rising to make water; I begged of Cockrane to go with me to the deceased's house to communicate the news to his wife; I went in after Cockrane, the three prisoners and a person named Anderson were sitting together drinking; after I had related what he had agreed upon, the female prisoner seemed a little affected, and walked into the bed room; I think she was weeping; I saw her tears, but she said nothing; she remained in the bed room about half an hour; we all drank together; Cockrane soon went away; the table and glasses were then cleared away, and the neighbours began to assemble; I delivered up the execution and the ten dollars to the deceased's wife in presence of the constable, agreeably to a previous wish of Wm. Chapman's, as I feared that Warman had seen the deceased deliver it over to me; I laid them on the table before the female prisoner went into the bed room, and Wm. Chapman carried them in to her shortly afterwards; I told the same story to the neighbours, as I had told the constable; the prisoners appeared as if they knew nothing about the matter; I think it was on the 25th of the month, I was ordered to attend the Coroner's Inquest; I am not positive as to the precise date, but I think it was about a fortnight after the death of the deceased; I saw the body; I knew it by the shoes on the feet; the deceased was lame in his life time; before I saw the body, the male prisoners came to my lodgings, and told me that a body had been found withnothing [sic] on it but shoes; I said I should know it by the shoes; they said whether it was, or was not the body of the deceased, it would be better for me to say it was his body, and then the subject would soon die away; I then went with the two prisoners to see the body, and I said it was the deceased in presence of many persons; I knew it by the shoes, from the cuts which the deceased had made in the toes of them with a knife which Mr. Warman lent him, as they hurt his feet; the body was lying at the water side near the ``Cat and Mutton," public-house in Kent-street; I attended at the Coroner's Inquest; I saw the body there; I was committed from the Inquest; I saw the prisoners there; Wm. Chapman told me not to be afraid, as nothing could hurt me, if I kept my own secret, and he would take care I should be provided with Counsel at the trial; I was sent to prison, where the prisoners supplied me with provisions; they were brought to me by a person named Robert Hesketh; I lived with the prisoners at the bar in the deceased's house, until I was sent to gaol; I slept at my lodgings, and went to the house in the day time; I was in prison until the month of February following; I received £15 from Wm. Chapman, on the day that the body was found; it was given to me as a part of the £50, that I was to receive; Mr. Rowe, I understood, was paid £10 to defend me at the trial; I was told so by Hesketh; the prisoners did not visit me in gaol; the provisions were brought to me as from Mr. Anderson, the prisoners not wishing to have their names mentioned; I had been about a week in gaol when I wrote to Chapman, saying I was determined to disclose what had happened, and I received a visit from Mr. Anderson in consequence of it; the prisoners were not present at that interview; this letter is in the handwriting of William Chapman, it was sent to me in the month of March last, when I was again in gaol under commitment to take my trial for forgery; it was not connected with the former charge; about a week after I received this note, I wrote to William Chapman, telling him I intended to disclose the particulars of the murder; he afterwards came to see me in gaol, and told me not to be afraid, everything should be done to get me out of trouble, and to make me comfortable afterwards; the deceased and the female prisoner did not live on good terms; they used to quarrel when she got intoxicated; about a month before the murder, the deceased fell out of his cart and pitched on his head; when I told the prisoner, William Chapman of this, he said I wish he had broken his b--y neck; I would not grudge £50 to any one who would make away with him; I have no reason to believe that the female prisoner knew any thing of the murder; she once told me afterwards that she thought there was something very mysterious more than she was aware of in the death of her husband, and pressed me to tell her if I knew anything about it; I desired her not to bother me about it, and did not tell her anything on the subject; I believed then that she did not know anything of the murder, but I thought differently before; I do not know what was done with the deceased's property; when I came out of gaol it was all made away with; I believe, that since the murder William Chapman and the female prisoner cohabited together as man and wife, but I do not know whether they did so immediately after the murder; I believe there was an intimacy between them during the lifetime of the deceased; when I screamed out as the deceased was struck, I made a great noise, such as persons generally make when they are frightened; I cried loud enough to be heard by the people at Waterview; the deceased wore a black beaver hat on the night of the murder; the hat was not missed until we arrived home; I think it was myself who first discovered the loss of the hat; the two male prisoners, myself, and several of the neighbours went on pretence to search for the body; it was at the inquest that I first saw the hat; I know that Mr. Middleton found the hat; the deceased had two small books on his person at the time of the murder, in which he kept some meat accounts; these are them; part of the entries in them are in my handwriting; the deceased always owned William Chapman as his brother; the boat that we borrowed, belonged to Mr. Anderson, the same person who was drinking with the prisoners on the night of the murder, and who afterwards brought me the message from William Chapman to the gaol; when we went pretending to search for the body, they did not separate from me to search in Waterview Bay; the tree-nail with which the deceased was struck, was thrown overboard, or left at the place where the head was taken off.

Cross-examined.  I am still under commitment to to [sic] take my trial for forgery, and I was so when I made the present disclosure; I first disclosed it in the month of May last; I wrote several notes to Chapman after my commitment; I wrote to him for money to obtain a counsel for me and pay for my bail bonds; I signified in my letter that I thought a curse had been hanging over my head ever since the murder; I sent this letter by a messenger in the gaol, the letter I have sworn to as the hand writing of the prisoner William Chapman, I swear to the best of my belief is in his handwriting; I did not know of the two rolls of bank notes being on the deceased's person until I saw them taken by the prisoners; I did not keep the deceased's books; I was in his service for seven weeks; I do not know of the deceased receiving any money the day before his death; I was about the premises all that day; the deceased often said he had more money than his wife or any one suspected; the day before, I was on the Parramatta Road with the deceased selling his meat; on his return home he always gave the silver and copper coin to his wife; William Chapman cut the notes out of the waistband of his trowsers; the money was in between the waistband of the trowsers and the lining; I persuaded the deceased to settle thn [sic] execution rather than distress the man for his few goods; Warman wished to accompany us to Sydney in the boat, but the deceased would not permit him; I did not attempt to prevent his coming; I was sober but the deceased was drunk; Warman had not paid the 10 dollars to the deceased when he arrived at Small's; I was accused of murdering and burning a man once, but I was proved to be innocent; the black natives did it; I was induced to keep the secret so long a time from the promises that were made to me by William Chapman' the tree-nail was brought from Small's place to make handles for the deceased's cleavers and knives; I never gave Mrs. Chapman £12 to keep for me; I returned £6 to William Chapman out of the £15 he gave me at his request, he fearing that if I should be searched at the Inquest, and so great a sum discovered in my possession, it might create suspicion against me; the deceased bled very freely when the head was cut off, and the blood flowed on the ground.

[This witness underwent a lengthened cross-examination, but he remained unshaken in his testimony.]

Re examined - I was not placed on my trial for the murdering and burning of the man I have alluded to; it was merely an investigation before the Magistrates, and I was discharged from the imputation.

William Edney being sworn, said I live in Kent-street; about two years and a half ago I found a human body on Goat Island; an Inquest was held on that body at the ``Cat and Mutton" public-house, and I heard that it was the body of Chapman, a butcher; I never saw the body after it was removed by the Constables from Goat Island; I was fishing at Goat Island with a few friends when I first discovered the body.

Thomas Ryan being sworn, said I am a tailor, and resided in York-street some time ago; I know the prisoner Chapman and the female prisoner; I knew the deceased; I only knew him by the name of Chapman; I saw the body; I cannot swear to its identity, it was so difigured [sic]; I know that the deceased and his wife quarrelled occasionally; when they quarrelled, they abused one another and sometimes fought.

[A long desultory conversation here took place between the Solicitor General, Mr. Williams, and the Court, relative to a question proposed by the former to the witness, respecting a conversation alleged to have taken place between the female prisoner and another person on the expression of her feeling towards the deceased, her husband.  After considerable and renewed argument between the parties, conducted with much legal ingenuity, the Court ruled that the law was imperative in the matter - the female prisoner was charged as an accessary after the fact - her crime could only commence after the deed was perpetrated - and no evidence of any former expression of feeling against the deceased could operate against her as having comforted the murderers after the commission of the crime.  The testimony proposed to be elicited from the witness was therefore rejected as irregular.]

Examination continued - I was understood that the deceased and William Chapman were brothers; I do not know whether William Chapman and the female prisoner cohabited with one another as man and wife, after the murder; I heard that he was lost overboard out of the boat, I think the morning after it was reported to have happened.

Robert Hesketh being sworn, said I am a free man residing in Sussex-street; I know all the prisoners at the bar; I recollect Wilks being in gaol for trial of this murder; I visited him several times there, with provisions from the female prisoner; she said she did not like to go near the gaol; Mills used afterwards to bring provisions to me to take to Wilks; I was on friendly terms with the prisoners; the female prisoner desired me to see Mr. Rowe to procure him to defend Wilks for the murder; I enquired and told her the fee was £10 10s.; she gave me £8 on account of it, and the remaining £2 10s. I gave Mr. R. my note for; Mr. Rowe afterwards sued me for that amount, and I paid it; I have never been repaid it; after the deceased's death, the prisoner William Chapman still continued to manage the business as before; I do not know whether William Chapman cohabited with the female prisoner.

Cross-examined - I never told Wilks in the gaol, that the provisions I took to him there came from Mr. Anderson, neither in gaol nor out of it; for aught I know to the contrary, the £8 Mrs. Chapman gave me, may have belonged to Wilks.

Samuel Hill being sworn, said, I am a prisoner of the crown, and came here from the Phoenix hulk, where I was sent for absconding from my service; I lived with William Chapman and Julia Chapman about a twelve month since; I was out of a situation, and remained with them for about three months; they seemed to cohabit as man and wife; they quarrelled when they used to get in liquor; one evening I recol- [sic] they had a great quarrel; the male prisoner beat her, and while she was on the ground she called him a murdering b---, and said, who cut the man's head off; I have seen Wilks once at the house.

Cross-examined - The female was intoxicated and under much excitement at the time; it was about last August; I thought the words related to the murder which had been committed; it was after the Cornoner's inquest, and when the female prisoner had heard of her husband's head having been cut off; the words were used tauntingly; Chapman made no reply to them.

Edward Chochran being sworn, said, I was a constable in 1831; I recollect a man named Wilks telling me on the Market Whark one evening, about the latter end of November, in that year, between 7 and 8 o'clock, that the deceased Samuel Chapman was accidentally drowned by falling out of a boat in which he and the deceased were coming from Kissing Point; I accompanied Wilks to the Coroner, and afterwards to Chapman's house; Wilks reported the same story he had told me to Mrs. Chapman, in presence of William Chapman, Mr. Anderson, and to the best of my opinion, the prisoner Mills; the female prisoner seemed a little alarmed, but not so much as I think a virtuous woman ought to be for the loss of her husband; Wilks reckoned out some money which he said he had received on account of an execution; she told William Chapman to take it up and he did so; at 12 o'clock that night, I met the female prisoner, I think with Wm. Chapman and Mr. Anderson, in King-street, a very few rods from their own house; the female appeared to be in a state of intoxication; I thought it was rather a surprising circumstance for one in her situation; I was present at the inquest; I saw William Chapman there; Wilks was taken into custody on the day the body was found; after the inquest I saw William Chapman shake hands with Wilks, and say never fear, you shall want for nothing; this was said as I was conducting Wilks to gaol; I brought the body from Goat Island; the Coroner committed Wilks, and I conducted him to prison.

Cross-examined - I did not see the female shed tears when her husband's death was announced; she said, ``Oh, my God! is my Sam gone?"  I am sure it was William Chapman that was with Mrs. Chapman when I met her in King-street on the night of her husband's death.

Peter Hanslow being sworn, said, I live in Clarence-street; I know the prisoners, and also the witness Wilks; I received a letter four or five months ago addressed to Mrs.  Chapman in another letter from Wilks, which I delivered to the female prisoner, and I received another letter from her in return, which she requested I would forward to him; I sent him the letter by my little boy; Mrs. Chapman told me that she had had the bailiffs in her house that week for £10 due for rent, and that she was distressed, and could not assist him.

Arthur Little being sworn, said, I reside in King-street, Sydney; I knew the deceased Samuel Chapman; I also knew him by the name of Priest; at the time of his decease he was a tenant of mine; for a short time afterwards his widow and William Chapman lived there; thoy [sic] have both of them paid me rent.

Cross-examined - I went with several others to try to discover the body of the deceased; William Chapman went also, and appeared as anxious as any one to discover the body; we went in the neighbourhood of Birch Grove and Longnose to search for the deceased, in consequence of the information given of his accidental loss by Wilks; I have heard the deceased called by both the names of Priest and Chapman; I knew him four or five years.

James Warman being sworn, said, I resided at Kissing Point in the month of November, 1831; I am a schoolmaster; I knew the deceased Samuel Chapman; he came to me on the 13th November, 1831, with the witness Wilks, in a small boat; he said he had an execution against me; I paid him some money before he went away; I went with him to Mr. Small's, and left him about 3 or 4 o'clock; I wanted to go to Sydney, and I asked him to give me a passage in order to get the money there from my wife's relatives; the witness Wilks, who seemed to have great influence over the deceased's mind, opposed my going, by offering many frivolous excuses against it; he appeared very desirous that I should not go in the boat; he said I should be neglecting my public duties if I went, and expose myself to the censure of the government by doing so; my wife was very uneasy at the time; she was afraid of my losing my situation through the execution being enforced; I got 10 dollars from Mr. Bray, which I paid to deceased; my impression is that my wife did not wish me to go to Sydney; I am almost positive that she did not tell Wilks that she did not wish me to go to Sydney; I think it very improbable that she did so; the deceased borrowed a knife out of my kitchen to cut one of his shoes which he said hurted him; they had something to drink at Small's, but not to excess; they were both perfectly sober when they left Small's, which was between 3 and 4 o'clock.

Cross-examined - I think they were about an hour in my house; I do not recollect Wilks saying I should be put in gaol if I went to Sydney; if Wilks had allowed me, I should certainly have gone to Sydney; after I heard of the murder, I suspected Wilks for it from his conduct in wishing to prevent my going in the boat; Priest was fresh, but not so much so, as not to be perfectly able to know what he was about; I think I told Wilks that if I were to come to Sydney, I should be able to pay the whole of the money.

Mary Brady being sworn, said, I now live in Kent-street; in the year 1831, I lived with the Reverend Mr. Middleton, at Belmain, which is now called Waterview; I recollect a man being reported to be drowned; on a Wednesday night in November, 1831, before dark, I heard a noise from the direction of Goat Island; it seemed the voice of some person saying oh! oh! in a moaning manner; I do not know the distance, but the voice seemed to come from Goat Island; I took the noise to be made either by some black-fellows, or bushrangers; we had no man about our place at the time; my master returned home that night, and I told him what I had heard; I said I was afraid to stop any more on the farm without there was some man here; I afterwards saw a hat in the kitchen; my master said Mary you are quite right, there has been some row, I have found a gentleman's hat; there were some papers in the hat.

Cross-examined--It was quite light when I heard the noise; I was walking under the verandah with three children, and Miss Middleton; there were only two groans, that I heard; I heard a noise before the groans; it seemed as if two persons were quarrelling.

The Reverend George Augustus Middleton, being sworn, said in November 1831, I lived at Waterview; on the 10th November, in that year, I dined from home; when I came home, my servant, Mary Brady, seemed under great agitation, from having heard a great noise and altercation between two persons at least; one person seemed to be pursuing another, and she heard an exclamation several times repeated; on the second morning after, I observed something dark from my verandah, near the landing place, and on proceeding there, I discovered a hat, and a portion of papers, some in the hat, and some at a little distance from it, which appeared to belong to it also; I am satisfied the papers produced, are those I found in the hat; I have not the most distant doubt of it; I felt satisfied these papers would throw a light upon the noise to which my servant had alluded; on the second morning, after I found the hat, I had reason to believe a person had been drowned there, from a conversation with the male prisoners at the bar; I had previously watched them for some time, evidently looking after some object in the bay of Birch Grove; no individual was present, but the two prisoners at the bar; they told me that they were seeking for the body of a friend of theirs, who had been drowned a few evenings before, as he was coming down the river from Kissing Point; I then enquired what description of hat their lost friend had worn, when they most minutely described the one I had found, so that I was induced to send my son to the house for it; they said nothing whatever about papers in it; I allowed them to examine the hat and they immediately identified it as belonging to their deceased friend; they did not undergo the slightest change of tone or colour, when they saw the hat; they afterwards returned to Sydney, without continuing their search in the rest of the bay; I said nothing whatever to them about the papers, which I had already forwarded into Sydney; I kept the hat in my possession for some time, and then delivered it up to the police; this occurred between 7 and 8 o'clock in the morning; I attended at the Inquest; the hat was produced there.

Crosssexamined [sic] - My servant described the noise, as if made by one person pursing another; the pursued party making a noise, which grew louder, as it seemed to approach her, and then suddenly ceased; there was not any trace of blood, or feet marks, where the hat was found; there was only a very slight portion of the hat wetted, and it seemed to have been thrown upon the shore, by the last effort of the tide.

(A plan of the estate and bay at Waterview, was handed up for the inspection of the bench.)

The Solicitor General, here proposed to read in evidence, the deposition, before the Coroner's Inquest, of a person named Henry Jackson, who he was unable to produce before the Court, on account of his having been since transported to Van Diemen's Land.  This evidence was alleged to be material, in-as-much as Jackson had made the shoes for the deceased, which were found on the feet of the mutilated body.  After much discussion on the subject, the Court felt bound to act strictly under the rule of evidence.  The production in evidence of a deposition, on which an accused party had not enjoyed the benefit of cross-examination, was held to be inadmissible with three exceptions - which were, the death of a witness, his inability to travel for the purpose of giving evidence, or his being kept out of the way by the contrivance of the accused.  In the present instance, none of these causes seemed to exist, and the Court would not therefore be justified in sanctioning a departure from an established rule, where the exceptions were so explicitly laid down.  It was incurring too great a responsibility to establish such a dangerous precedent; a responsibility which the Court was not warranted in using.  The evidence was consequently rejected.

[The letter sent to Wilks, and sworn to as the handwriting of the prisoner William Chapman, was read in evidence, from which it appeared that the writer pleaded distress as the cause of not being able to furnish the witness with any pecuniary assistance; but he promised to do every thing in his power towards his comfort at some future time.]

This was the case for the prosecution

Mr. Williams submitted that there was no evidence affecting the female prisoner sufficiently to place her upon her defence, but this point was overruled by the Court.

Robert Henderson being sworn, said, I am a farmer, and live at Brisbane Water; I recollect the time the decased [sic] disappeared; I knew him when he was alive; I was at his house when the news was bought of his death; I saw William Chapman a few minutes before this at his own door; I had also seen him in the course of the day; Cockrane told the news of his death; the widow seemed very much affected; it was about 9 o'clock when the report was brought; I had been in the house from about 7 o'clock, and I saw William Chapman at home a few minutes before that time; I saw no drinking at the house; Cockrane first, and Wilks afterwards explained to the widow that her husband had been drowned; William Chapman seemed vexed at the deceased's death; he went with me and several others to seek for the body, and every exertion seemed to be made by Chapman to recover it.

Cross-examined - I was at the deceased's house three or four hours on the day the death was reported to have occurred; I knew William Chapman lived at that house for months before; I had also seen Mills there; I used to go frequently to the house; I visit Sydney regularly every week or fortnight; I was at the deceased's house for three hours before the constable came with the report, and I saw William Chapman standing there when I got there; there was no drinking going on there at the time; I went to my lodging in Kent-street soon after Cockran came with the report, and I did not see the female any more during that night; I have no recollection of seeing Cockran afterwards on that night; I did not meet him in King-street, in company with William Chapman and the female prisoner; I swear that I did not see the female prisoner intoxicated on that night.

John Nobblett being sworn, said, I have known William Chapman for several years; I am a barber; (this witness not appearing to know anything of the circumstance, was withdrawn.)

William Bell being sworn, said, I know William Chapman; I recollect the circumstance of Samuel Chapman being reported to be drowned; I was in Sydney that day slaughtering cattle; the prisoner William Chapman was playing skittles with me from 12 to 4 o'clock that day; I did not see Mills that day; we played at skittles next door to Chapman's shop.

Cross-examined - I came from the gaol where I am serving a fine from the magistrates; I am a butcher, and a free man, and was so at the time I am speaking of.

George Martin being sworn, said I live at the corner of Market and York-streets; I lived next door to the deceased; I kept a skittle-ground; (this witness not appearing to know any thing of the matter, was also withdrawn.)

David Anderson being sworn, said I am free, and reside in Kent-street; I recollect the report of Chapman or Priest being drowned; I owned a boat at that time; I lent William Chapman my boat every day from the first day after the deceased was drowned, until the body was found; he paid me a dollar for every day I attended with the boat; he ordered me to use every exertion to find the body, and he seemed to use every exertion himself for the same purpose; we took grappling irons with us to drag for the body.

Mary Brady recalled by Mr. Williams - The noise I heard seemed to increase until it approached near to me, and then suddenly died away.

Edward Cockrane recalled by the Solicitor General - I swear positively I met Robert Henderson with the female prisoner intoxicated, and William Chapman about 12 o'clock on the night the deceased's death was reported; I think it impossible that I should have mistaken Mr. Henderson.

The prisoners severally protested their innocence, and here closed their defence.

The learned Judge summed up the evidence in a manner not less laborious than luminous, of which we regret exceedingly our want of space will not allow us to take any notice, and left the case with the Jury, who after a short consultation, returned a verdict of guilty against the two male prisoners, and acquitted the female prisoner.  Sentence of death in the usual manner was passed upon Mills and William Chapman, awarding execution on Monday morning next; Julia Chapman was discharged by proclamation.  The Court was crowded to excess during the whole day: among the throng we noticed many females, who anxiously assembled to hear the recital of the atrocious and inhuman deed; and the buzz of the crowd increased to such an extent during the latter part of the proceedings, that the learned Judge was obliged to interpose his authority, and threaten to clear the Court, if order was not better observed.  The male prisoners seemed unmoved, and left the dock protesting their innocence.[2 ]


We have devoted a more than usual space in our columns this day, and been necessarily obliged to leave out other matter, in order to make room for the above extraordinary trial for murder.  The Court was densely crowded, and during the day it was surrounded by a multitude of people anxiously awaiting the result.



[1 ] See also Sydney Herald, 18 August 1834; Australian, 19 August 1834.

[2 ] The report in the Australian, 19 August 1834 states that Wilks was committed from the Coroner's inquest, charged with murder, but was subsequently discharged.  It also states that Forbes C.J. commented in his charge to the jury that this was the most horrid murder he had tried: ``The recital was so appalling, it was enough to freeze one's blood, and make one shudder to think there were such monsters in existence."  The same newspaper said that when Julia Chapman got outside after her acquittal, ``she was very roughly handled by the crowd, and was obliged to take shelter in an adjoining house."  The Sydney Gazette, 18 August 1834, said that the trial did not conclude until past eleven o'clock at night, and that it was the most crowded court since the foundation of the colony.

Mills and Chapman were hanged on 18 August 1834, just a few days after the trial.  Before ascending the scaffold, Chapman confessed that he had lived in adultery with the wife of the deceased before his death, but had played no role in the murder.  Mills also denied his liability, which the two of them repeated on the scaffold: Australian, 19 August 1834.

For the trial of Joseph Wilks for forgery, see R. v. Wilks, 1834.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University