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

R. v. Glennie [1840] NSWSupC 38

murder, manslaughter, domestic violence

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Willis J., 5 August 1840

Source: Sydney Herald, 7 August 1840[1]

James Glennie, a freed man was indicted for having at Sydney, on the first day of June last, murdered one Mary Glennie alias Mary Macnamara, by beating her with a blunt instrument on the head and body in consequence of which she expired.  From the evidence it appeared that the deceased cohabited with the prisoner, her husband being in the interior; that on the day charged in the indictment, during the absence of the prisoner, the deceased became intoxicated and when he returned, he commenced illusing her by throwing several pails full of cold water about her until the neighbours interfered, when both of them went into their skillion, the female being in a very weak state.  She was laid down and the prisoner lay down with her, being then himself intoxicated.  After it became dark some of the neighbours went in, and enquired how the woman was, and were told by the prisoner, that she was doing well enough, she being asleep in is arms.  A short time after some of them again went in, and found that she was dead.  On examining the body of the deceased, it appeared that there were some scratches, together with something like finger marks about the throat, and on examining her head two incisions were found on the upper part of the back which Mr. Arthur A'Beckett certified had been the cause of death, as they had caused compression on the brain.  This evidence Mr. A'Beckett was also corroborated by Mr. McKeller and both agreed as to the debilitated state of the deceased induced by intemperate habits.  For the defence Mr. Surgeon Russell who had, in consequence of a dispute with the coroner at the inquest, been rejected as the Medical witness, gave evidence of such a character to that supplied by the other two witnesses, that His Honor, in summing up remarked, that if Mr. Russell had come to give his testimony in order to forward the ends of public justice he was entitled to commendation, but if he had come forward from any sinister motive arising out of his dispute with the Coroner, his conduct appeared in a very different light.  His Honor also pointed out those parts of the other evidence which corroborated the evidence of Mr. A'Beckett, whose testimony he thought was entitled to all credence from the Jury.  The prisoner's witnesses proved that the marks on the throat had been observed before the time the prisoner was seen illusing her on the day when she died.  It also appeared that the cuts on the head, might have been produced by falling on an iron pot, which was the only instrument in the house, capable of inflicting such wounds, but the axe was found lying in the adjoining shed.  His Honor summed up and commented at considerable length on the law of circumstantial evidence, and told the Jury that it was not necessary to prove previous malice, in order to constitute murder.  The Jury retired for about half an hour, and returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter.  His Honor sentenced the prisoner to transportation for life, with a recommendation that no commutation should ever be granted.


[1]              See also Australian, 4 and 8 August 1840.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University