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

R. v. Tabee [1841] NSWSupC 37

murder - ship's crew - insanity, act done during dream

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Burton J., 13 April 1841

Source: Sydney Herald, 14 April 1841[1]

            Gregory Tabee, a Malay native of Manilla, was indicted for the wilful murder of Peter Anderson, on board the ship Susan, on the 22nd of March last, she being then on the high seas, off Jarvis Bay, on her passage to this Colony, with emigrants. From the evidence given for the prosecution, it appeared that the prisoner and the deceased were seamen and messmates on board the said ship, and during the voyage it had been a general remark by those on board that the prisoner and the deceased were on very friendly terms, On the night of the 22nd March last the prisoner went below to the berth of the deceased, said "Good bye, chummy," and instantly stabbed him in the belly, of which would the deceased died in seventeen hours. It also appeared that two others of the ship's crew were seriously wounded about the same time by the prisoner. In defence the prisoner denied all knowledge of having committed the act, and could only account for his having committed it when in a dream, but admitted that he had observed that it was the intention of the passengers to throw him overboard. It was also elicited by the Judge that the prisoner joked and laughed about the affair, that although he appeared sensible that he had done wrong, the only excuse he offered for it was that he was foolish or mad when he wounded thedeceasd.

In putting the case to the jury. His Honor remarked that the present case was one of the most extraordinary cases that had ever been brought before a jury, as there was no evidence of any exciting cause, nor of any provocation given by the deceased to the prisoner; that the offence being committed on board a British ship, on a British subject, brought the case within the jurisdiction of the Court. With respect to the dream, His Honor called the attention of the jury to the fact, that there was no evidence that the prisoner was under the influence of any delusion, even that of a dream, as it was proved that the prisoner was awake for at least five minutes before he wounded the deceased. He left it to the jury to say, first, whether the prisoner had been guilty of murder or manslaughter. The jury without retiring from the box, returned a verdict of Guilty of murder against the prisoner. Sentence of death was passed upon him.


[1]              See also Sydney Gazette, 15 April 1841.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University