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

R. v Crowley [1838] NSWSupC 102

murder - domestic violence - drunkenness - contempt of court, drunk witness

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Willis J., 7 November 1838

Source: Sydney Gazette, 10 November 1838[ 1]

John Crowley was indicted for the wilful murder of Johanna Crowley, on the 4th of October.  The indictment set forth on the first count that the prisoner inflicted with a stick various blows and bruises on the head of deceased, of which she died on the 6th of the same month.  The second count set forth that the prisoner on the 4th of October threw her on the ground, and gave her various kicks on and about the head, back, and sides, of which blows she died on the 6th of the same month.

John Keif. - I am brother of deceased: I live at Penrith, on the Sunday night preceding her death prisoner and the deceased, his wife, were neither of them sober; I saw prisoner pull her out of bed twice, and beat her; I saw them again on Tuesday morning; he again pulled her out of bed, and beat her; on Wednesday Power, myself, and Mrs. Power, were going up to Crowley's; they heard we were coming, and when we left she came away with us for protection; she would not remain with her husband; prisoner came to Power's on Thursday morning, October 4; Mrs. Power gave me 2s. 6d. and told me to get a bottle of rum; prisoner gave another shilling to get more; it was about ten o'clock; witness went for the rum; when I returned Power had just come home, having been out on business; while I was away I heard a row; a screaming; when I came to Power's place I saw Johanna Crowley lying outside the door, which was shut, and the prisoner kicking her; before I reached the door prisoner entered, and the door was shut; deceased could not speak; her face was black; I scarcely knew her; I had left the rum in the house before; deceased was sober when I left the house; I did not speak to her, she was in bed; I had not been absent a quarter of an hour; her face was disfigured; her eyes blacked, and as big as my fist; one eye was entirely closed; when I saw what a state she was in I kicked the door open, and saw Crowley sitting across a stool; I asked him why he had treated the woman in such a way; he rushed at me, and after a short struggle, he perceived a knife near the door; I then ran away; he threw it after me; he was sober; I was sober also; he called me a coward; I then went to the Chief Constable and informed him that deceased was murdered; he said it was no affair of his, that the Bench sat every day, and I might go and tell them; I saw her afterwards, but she was in such a state that she could not speak to me; she was taken to prisoner's house in a cart; she lived till Saturday morning; I was afraid to go to Crowley's house after he had threatened my life; I saw prisoner afterwards at his own house; I also saw my sister after her death; I went to Power's two or three hours after the beating; I saw a short stick with blood on it; I did not observe any blood about my sister's face; the inquest was held on Saturday; she was buried on Sunday; the prisoner was apprehended after the inquest.

Cross-examined by Mr. Windeyer - I was paid by prisoner for making up tobacco for him, four or five months.  I have seen my sister drunk.  I was frequently drunk.  I never head Crowley complain that I was encouraging his wife.  I never made my sister drunk without prisoner's permission.  I never told any one that prisoner complained of my making my sister drunk.  I know Kerwin; but I never told him I struck prisoner once.  I do not know that his arm was broken; he never went to the doctor.  I was present when my brother was killed; I was not drunk then.  The man was executed for the murder.  I was sober on the night that I slept at Kerwin's; it was the 4th of October.  It was not for the benefit of getting drunk that I went to Power's on Wednesday night.  There had been several rows between prisoner and his wife; I never saw him strike her when sober, except this time.  I never took her home from any place, when she had got drunk.  She was sober when I fetched her from Cashin's; I have had a bottle of rum there; I took it there to drink with Cashin and his wife.  Prisoner sent me for her; I do not know his reason.  She was sober; she had slept there that night.  During 10 days that Prisoner was in Sydney, she never tasted liquor; we never got drunk together while he was away.  I left prisoner's house with my sister on Wednesday evening.  I slept at prisoner's house on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday - I swear I did.  The half-a-crown which Power's wife gave me was not enough for a bottle; prisoner gave me a shilling to make it up.  I had not gone for rum before the prisoner came.  I do not think Power brought any rum home; he told me he had brought some wine.  On the Wednesday we had all been drinking; on the Thursday Power went out on business, and brought home some wine, and prisoner sent for rum.  Power's house is on the other side of Penrith.  I went to Mr. Wilson's, Emu Ford, for the rum; I was back before Power.  I helped the things out of the cart; I saw nothing but meat and sugar.  I did not hear that he had gone to fetch the doctor (rum).  Power is here.  Mrs. Crowley and the prisoner sent me for some flour; when I came back prisoner's dauughter [sic] came into the garden to pull some chalots.  The daughter could see the beatings.  The constable did say it was no business of his.  I was sober at the time.  I went to prisoner's house for the flour.  I did not see any liquor in prisoners house at that time.  I watched the cart in which deceased was taken home.  I did not see her fall out of the cart; she could not fall out without my seeing her.

John Power.  I am a settler on Wilson's land; so is Crowley.  I recollect Mrs. Crowley coming on Wednesday evening, in the first week in October.  I was at Crowley's on Wednesday; I was coming away in the evening.  I had been drunk on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I think I was sober when before the Coroner.  I partly recollect what I swore.  I do not know whether I swore that there was a row.  They had a few words on Monday evening; there were a few blows too, I believe.  Crowley brought her in and asked her to stand up; I believe she could not.

Mr Therry said he would not examine this witness any more until the Crown Solicitor came, as this man's evidence must be taken down.

One of the Jury though the man was not sober now.

Mr. Justice Willis was of the same opinion.

I was sober on Thursday morning, the day after she came to my house; deceased's daughter accompanied her; I went to Penrith for some meat, and returned between one and two o'clock; when I came back Crowley was there, and Mrs. Crowley was on my bed, but removed as I wanted to lie down; I do not know whether she was sober or not; she had a black eye; I was tired, and sober enough to hold on by the mare's head coming from Penrith; shortly after I had laid down the door was kicked open and Keif walked in; when I got up Mrs. Crowley was lying outside the door, apparently drunk; she had a black eye and her face was a little scratched; I went and lay down again; Crowley said ``our Saviour lay three days, but she is lying the fourth;" he then struck her, and said get up you -- and go home to cook the victuals for the men; he also said take her out of my sight; after he had done beating her he told my wife to come out and see her now; I did not hear him say ``I'll murder you;" I heard her say ``you murdering dog, I'll die content if you hang for it;" I did hear him say he would murder her.

Mr. Justice Willis, and in fact the whole Court, loudly expressed their disgust at the manner in which this gave his evidence, and His Honor expressed his sorrow that a man's life should be exposed on such evidence.

Witness continued - On Friday morning I saw Mrs. Crowley very bad; I told Crowley to come and see his wife; I told him I thought his wife would die, that she was very much injured about the head; he went with me, but said he had not beat her about the head, but a[b]out a part of the person which she could not expose; I did not hear Keif speak to Crowley after Thursday; when Keif broke in the door he said ``well, you've killed her at last;" Crowley did not answer; the moment the door was opened they began to fight, I did not hear any answer; I do not recollect swearing that Crowley said he would murder Keif also.

Mr. Windeyer submitted that Mr. Therry's examination was not according to rule.

Mr. Justice Willis said that the present proceeding was to see whether witness would corroborate his former statements on oath, or whether it would be necessary to institute further proceedings against him.  His Honor said he thought he might use the power vested in him by summarily dealing with him.

Mr. Windeyer said he wished to get one fact from the witness before His Honor sent him to the place to which he deserved to go.

Mr. Justice Willis then committed witness to gaol for six months, for contempt of Court and prevaricating in his evidence.

Margaret Dacey - knew the deceased; I was in the house with Crowley when she died; I slept with her at Power's on the Wednesday night; he sent his daughter for her on Thursday; she said she would not come; he then came himself and asked for her, and was told she was in bed; he then went and dragged her out of bed, and put her outside the door; she then got up and went to the back of the house; he went to her and told her to go home, and commenced beating her; I head the blows; was sitting with her daughter at a little distance from her; I heard her scream at first, but not afterwards; I did not hear anything about dying; the day after she was taken home in Powers' cart; she asked for a Priest once, that was all she said till four o'clock on Saturday morning when she died; Crowley took great care of her; she had nothing to say against her husband.

Cross-examined - Crowley did not beat his wife after she got home; he nursed her very kindly.  Crowley here said it was no use to ask her any more questions as she would say nothing more.  Witness - ``it is not my business to watch my neighbours;" I was in Crowley's house 3 weeks; the witness again said she would not answer any thing to Mr. Windeyer, that she was talking to the Judge and Jury, and not to him .

The Crown Solicitor had himself given her in charge two hours ago, a publican having turned her out of his house (``the Dog and Duck,") for being drunk.

This witness was committed to gaol on bread and water for one month.

The Landlord of the ``Dog and Duck" stated that Power had paid for the drink at his house.

Mrs. Power examined. - No one has advanced any money to pay our expenses; what has been paid we have paid ourselves; I saw Johanna Crowley for the last time on the Friday when we took her home in the cart; the first thing in the morning I went to Crowley, told him to come and see his wife; he came; I wished him to send for the doctor; nothing occurred between them; he spoke a few words to her; I was at Crowley's on the Wednesday before; I think they had a few words; I do not know that I did see any blows on Wednesday; on Thursday he struck her; same day deceased's brother brought some run; I paid half-a-crown, and Crowley paid a shilling; we drank it between us; he wanted to get her home; she could not stand up; he laid hold of her by the arm; he struck her with a bit of a stick or a faggot; I do not know whether from the blow she fell; I cannot say how often he struck her; he might have struck her ten times; I do not know; I saw the stick at the inquest with blood on it, but I did not take notice of it in the house; I heard her scream a little; she was able to scream as well as I am; I have a son seven years of age; I do not recollect whether I told my son to take care of the stick; Crowley was aggravated at her not going home; there was something abut murdering; I did not hear Crowley say it; he said, I think, that she should be murdered some time or other; I was never in her house after she went home till after her death, but I believe she was able to speak.

Cross examined. - This witness had been sent out of Court while another person was being examined; there was testimony that she had been three times in Court, and turned out as often.

Mr. Windeyer said, it was left to the discretion of the Judge whether the testimony of the witness should be received at all.

Witness. - I was always able to do my business, getting the money to get drunk among other things; I was not drunk for a whole week; I was not drunk the whole time we were at Crowley's; they might have been drunk; there was drink, and I partook of it; she must have been drunk, or she would not have left her good home to come to my bad one; I saw her brother bring half a gallon of rum to her, and her husband did blame her; I was not drunk at the time; off and on I was; there is a tea chest in my room; I rather think that it was on a washing tub she fell; when Keif came she was laying outside the door; I took her outside; I believe her daughter helped me; my husband wanted to lie down, and I had no other bed; she did not know whether she was getting off or on; Mrs. Crowley's daughter is about twelve years of age; I dare say she was sober; prisoner was very much displeased; she fell several times side the house, and likewise outside; I do not know whether it was a stick or a tobacco stalk that Crowley struck her with.

Re-examined. - I did not say anything about tea-chest or washing tub before; I saw him strike her several times; he said that if she were not taken out of his sight, he would smash her head.

John French, about 10 years of age. - I am a son of Mrs. Power.  I recollect Mrs. Crowley, I saw her at our house; I saw Crowley kick her.  The brother came up and asked Crowley if he had killed her.  Crowley then struck Kief ran away, and Crowley threw an axe after him.  I saw him kick her in the house first; I saw him beat her with a short stick, about the thickness of my arm.  I saw two or three other sticks.  I saw strike her on the head.  He gave her one kick on the cheek; I did not see any blood on her face.  There was blood on the stick; it came from her head.  My father and mother told me to take care of the sticks.  Mother afterwards desired me to burn them.

Dr. Clarke. - I examined the body of the late Johanna Crowley very particularly.  I found external marks of injury about the breech; also some slight marks about the face - one a black eye, which had apparently been in existence some time; the other eye appeared to have been struck more recently, not very violently.  I found a slight cut on the outside of the scalp; there was very little blood about the hair.  I should think the wound was inflicted by a blunt instrument.  On turning back the scalp from the cranium, I found a discolouration of the internal membrane of the scalp.  I opened the head; I examined the brain and found it surcharged with blood, presenting the appearance of a person dying from the effect of poison, or excessive use of ardent liquor.  There was no injury of the brain, nor was the skull fractured.  I do not think that any blow given while in a state of intoxication accelerates the evil influence of the spirits.

Cross-examined. - I should say that those wounds and bruises would not cause death alone, but still would accelerate the progress of death.  The appearance of the brain presented that of a person dying from habitual drunkenness.

His Honor then stated the substance of the evidence of the boy, which appeared the most important; there was very little in Keif's evidence which criminated the prisoner; he had a very convenient memory and could remember or forget as he pleased.  The question for the Jury was whether the prisoner intended to kill his wife, or whether she died from habitual drunkenness.

The jury retired, and in a few minutes returned a verdict of - ``Not guilty."



[ 1]See also Sydney Herald, 9 November 1838.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University