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

R. v. Teagle [1857] NSWSupCMB 23

murder, domestic violence - evidence, dying declaration

Supreme Court of New South Wales, Moreton Bay

Milford J., 29 April 1857

Source: Moreton Bay Courier, 2 May 1857, p. 2

The Court met, as usual, at ten o'clock. There was no judicial business this day.


His Honor, referring to the report in the Free Press , that morning, of the magisterial investigation at Drayton Swamp into the alleged murder of the woman Teagle, said he would suggest to the Press the propriety of abstaining as much as possible from making comments upon cases which were investigated by the Magistrates, and which were likely to be brought on for trial before that court. The comments in the report he referred to were of a very exaggerated description; the language used in speaking of the prisoner was mist abusive; and the insinuation that he was a habitual drunkard was scarcely supported by the evidence adduced at the examination. Such language was very unfair to the accused. There could of course be no objection to evidence being reported in the newspapers; he only objected to the comments, as they might have a tendency to prejudice the minds of the jurors before the cases came on for trial. He said it might be well if this suggestion were made known through the medium of one of the papers.

Milford J., 20 May 1857

Source: Moreton Bay Courier, 23 May 1857


William Teagle was indicted for that he, on the 16th April, at Drayton Swamp, feloniously, wilfully, and of malice-aforethought, did kill one Mary Leighton, alias Mary Teagle.

The prisoner pleaded not guilty, and was defended, at the request of the Judge, by Mr. Milford.

Sixteen jurymen were challenged by the prisoner, and two by the Crown, so that the formation of a pannel occupied some little time.

The jury having been sworn.

The Crown Prosecutor proceeded to state the case to them in a remarkably lucid and perspicuous, yet temperate manner. He besought the jury, above all else, to dispel from their minds everything that they had previously heard of the case, and only to judge of the guilt or innocence of the prisoner by what was brought before them that day.

The following evidence was then taken:-

Mark M'Carthy, sworn: I know the prisoner at the bar. I keep an inn at Drayton Swamp, I. know a person named Mary Teagle or Mary Leighton; saw her last on Sunday the 19th April, I think. She was then dead. On the forenoon of the 16th I saw her in good health, and in the afternoon. In the evening of that day, about 9o'clock or after, I heard cries of "murder," as I stood in my kitchen, and when I heard them I left the kitchen and went towards the place where I heard the cries. On opening my tap-room door, the woman Mary Teagle rushed in with a babe in her arms. I saw that she was covered with blood, and I sat her down on a farm. I took a knife from her hand, which she handed to me. I did not see where she got it from. The knife was a "cutting knife," and had two blades in it. I gave it to my wife. The large blade was open, and wet with blood. I afterwards removed the body from where she then sat, and put her in my parlor on a sofa. I then sent for Dr. Liepermaun, and went in company with Mr. Charles Bell to the nearest magistrate, Mr. Taylor, and reported the occurrence. Mr. Taylor returned to my house with me. The prisoner was brought to my house at ten o'clock in custody; he did not appear to me to be drunk, but appeared as though he had been drinking. I saw him before that at 5 o'clock perfectly sober, with a child in his arms. He had been at my place during the day. I did not see the deceased at that time. He bought a bottle of rum at my house at about 5 o'clock, but nothing else. I saw the deceased in the forenoon of that day in the prisoner's company; they seemed on very good terms at that time. I searched the prisoner when he was brought in, and found an old knife in his pocket which I handed over to the bench.

Cross-examined: It was early on the morning of the 16th that I first saw the prisoner. His face was then much knocked about; he had two black eyes. He was in and out during the day, but I do not think that he had many glasses during that day. There is a barman in my employ, but I do not think he was employed during that day. I do not remember that the prisoner had as many as twelve glasses that day. He did not have twelve glasses; not eight. In the evening, he had a bottle of rum from me, and that would hold about twelve glasses. It was four hours after I gave the bottle of rum to Teagle that his wife came to me wounded. The prisoner asked me for a bottle of wine for his wife. I refused it, but gave him a glass of wine. The deceased was in the yard when Teagle asked for the wine. As soon as he got the wine, he and I went into the yard where his wife was. I went first. Mrs. Teagle had a broken bottle in her hand. I asked her to give it to me, or to throw it away. The woman was about 15 or 20 yards from the door, but I cannot swear that Teagle heard me speak to her. He might have heard me, for I spoke loud, and took the bottle from her hand and threw it away. I said that to her because one of my servants had called me out before Teagle and I went into the yard, and asked whether there was a man by the name of Teagle in the house. I asked the servant what she wanted Teagle for. She said there was a woman in the yard who wanted to see him;-she supposed it was his wife. I then went into the yard and saw Mrs. Teagle with a portion of a bottle in her hand, and she asked me "Is Teagle in your place?" I said "Yes, he is somewhere about here." She said, "If he does not give me money to feed my starving children, I'll knock his brains out." It was because of this that I took the bottle from her. When we went out to her Teagle gave her an order for £2 in my presence.

Re-examined: The prisoner was not present when the deceased said she would knock his brains out, nor did I tell him of it. I did not observe anyone else present at the time.

James Taylor, sworn: My name is James Taylor; I am a magistrate of the territory. I know the prisoner at the bar. In the beginning of April, about nine o'clock in the evening, in consequence of M'Carthy and Bell coming to me, I went with them to the Separation Hotel, kept by M'Carthy; I there saw the woman Mary Teagle lying on a sofa. There was blood about her, and she was groaning as if very ill. There were a great many people there. I saw a knife lying on the table, which I handed to the constable. I should know the knife again, it was a "castrating knife." It had a round-pointed blade, and had blood on the blade, and handle as well. I saw the prisoner about an hour after I got to M'Carthy's. I sent out two men to take him into custody, and they brought him in. He was neither drunk nor sober at the time. I should say that he had all his faculties about him. Had not seen him before during the day. I had some conversation with the deceased woman; she said that she thought she should die.

Mr. Milford objected, and the witness withdrew while the point was argued. It was not a dying declaration on the part of the woman.

Mr. Pring argued that it was. The only way in which it could be proved was by establishing the fact that the woman believed she was about to die.

The Judge thought that the dying declaration should be first put in.

Mr. Pring then put it in, and Mr. Milford objected; but his Honor ruled that the questions might be put by.

Mr. Taylor recalled: The woman said she thought she should die. I spoke to her first. She was groaning and I asked her if she was very bad. She said "I am so bad that I shall die." I then took down her deposition in writing immediately, and she touched the pen in signature.

I attested it.

Mr. Pring: I now put in the deposition, and it is for your Honor to say whether it is admissible.

The point was reserved.

Witness cross-examined: Dr. Liepermaun was attending her when I took the deposition. At daylight next morning I was walking round the village, and met Dr. Liepermaun going to M'Carthy's; I went with him, and we found the woman in a dreadful state. I asked Dr. Liepermaun whether I should send for another doctor and he said yes. I went home and wrote a note for Dr. Armstrong. About an hour afterwards Dr. Liepermaun came to me.

A point was here raised as to the admissibility or necessity of this evidence, but after hearing the counsel, the Judge ruled the evidence to be admissible.

Witness continued: My opinion as to the woman's state of mind was that she thought she should die. The woman was groaning all the time, and spoke in a whisper.

Dr. Frederick Ludwig Liepermaun sworn, and examined by Mr. Milford : I remember attending Mrs. Teagle on the 16th of April, from the Thursday to the Sunday. She improved on the Saturday morning. She said she was better, and breathed freer than she breathed before.

By Mr. Pring; I told her that her wounds were dangerous, and that I was not sure she would recover. She said "I think not," but told me from the first moment "I must die." I encouraged her by saying "You shall not die." She replied, "All people about say I must die." I said "Do not believe all the people about, you must every time think you will recover."

By Mr. Milford: She had hope on Saturday morning, but in the afternoon she said again "I must die."

By Mr. Pring: Her words were when she expressed hope "I am easier now," and I found that she breathed freer.

Mr. Milford then proceeded to argue the point as to the admissibility of the dying declaration. The woman was not certain of death at the time, and expressed hope for herself afterwards.

Mr. Pring replied, and quoted from a late case (Regina v. Mooney, Cox's Criminal Cases) in support of his arguments.

The Judge decided that the evidence was not admissible.

Mr. Taylor, recalled and examined by Mr. Pring; Dr. Armstrong made a post mortem examination of the body.

By Mr. Milford : I do not know the woman Annie Wise, nor anything as to her character.

Annie Wise, sworn: My name is Annie Wise. I am a married woman, and resided at Drayton Swamp. I know the prisoner and also Mary Teagle. I saw her on the 18th or 19th of April; before that on the 11th, when she came to my place. She stayed there till the 15th when she left, but came back on the 16th about twelve o'clock in the day. She was partly at my place and partly at M'Carthy's during the afternoon. In the evening she came back from the public house, and the prisoner immediately followed; it was not dark, but was about 5 o'clock. The prisoner asked her to go home, and she said she would if he would put some flour, tea, and sugar in the hut. As near as I can guess it was between four and five. He took the youngest child but one in his arms and went to Mr. Birkman's store to buy, as he said, flour, tea, and sugar. He came back without any, and was away a quarter of an hour. The deceased was in my place when he came back. They were talking together and I left the hut for a short time, remaining near the door. On going in again the prisoner and deceased were both sitting together and seemed to be the best of friends. He remained there till about seven o'clock or a little later when they were both sitting together. A man culled "Sam" came in with him and was sitting there at the time. The prisoner got up and walked about the floor cutting up tobacco, still keeping the knife open in his hand, and I beckoned to her (while his back was towards me) that he had the knife in his hand under his shirt. The deceased then got up and walked towards the door, when Teagle stopped her, and they sat down again, and he began conversing with her about the flour, &c. The man "Sam" was there and must have seen the whole of it. They had been talking about the flour for ten minutes. It was dark at this time, and there was a candle in the room. He was sitting close to her. I saw him hit her in the face; they were not quarrelling. He then stabbed her in the back, saying "This goes to your heart. How do you like it!" I saw a knife in his hand and it was that hand he put behind her. The woman rushed out of the place, and the prisoner remained. I went after her to bring her back. Sam remained in the hut. When I was going after the deceased, the prisoner ran after me and unclasped a knife. Teagle had been drinking but they talked rationally together. I went down to M'Carthy's about a quarter of an hour after and saw her there.

By Mr. Milford: The man Sam is the man who was examined before the Bench under the name of William Samuels. He goes by the name of "Horton Sam." I am a married woman, but my husband has gone overland to Melbourne with sheep. I was married about nine months ago at Drayton. Before I was married I went by the name of Annie Gobert, I believe my first husband is dead. I never went by the name of Pinnock. I once lived at Ipswich, where Mr. Pinnock allowed me money. I was married to Mr. Gobert. My husband lived with me at Drayton Swamp, for a short time. When I was at Ipswich another female lived with me; do not know if anyone gave her money. No one has allowed me money since my husband left me at Drayton; I worked for Mrs. M'Carthy part of the time. I can't say exactly what time it got dark that evening. We had grog in the hut between 5 and 7.It was not rum but brandy. I only remember seeing the prisoner drink one glass; the deceased had two. The liquor was in a bottle. There was no two-gallon keg of liquor in the house. When prisoner first struck the woman he got up. He was sitting with Mrs. Teagle on his left side. Before he stabbed her the second time he sat down. His left hand was next to her, and he stabbed her with that hand. It was in his right at first, but he changed it. I heard Teagle say" Mary, if you had acted like the girl I had once, when I cut her throat, you would have acted like a woman." The deceased made him no answer, but looked at me. "Sam" stayed about ten minutes after the affair. The prisoner jumped the paddock fence and went towards home. A man named Gilbert was there, I do not know him well. He has been to my hut frequently; he stayed there one night when he was groggy. I never saw Mrs. Teagle strike the prisoner in the face with a saucepan or any other article. I have seen a man named "Buck jumping Jack." He was there on the 16th, and I was drunk at the time. He came in with Sam. I have seen a man named James Smith, but he was not there that day.

By Mr. Pring: Buck-jumping Jack was there at the time the affair occurred, but was groggy and lying on the floor. There were five of us and the prisoner's four children. Sam was groggy too. They brought the brandy with them; it was in a bottle. The prisoner only drank one glass that I saw. It was about five o'clock when they came to my place. The deceased drank two glasses. I had about three glasses during the day. There was no quarrelling during the day amongst us.

By the Judge: The night before the prisoner came before my hut, and asked if "Mary was there." I told him "No," and he said he would search and see. He had a bottle in his hand and held it up at me in a threatening posture. I said, laughing, "Teagle, I know you are treacherous, if you miss me with the bottle, I won't miss you," or words to that effect. I was bouncing him. He took out a knife and opened it, and put it under his shirt, and I then left the hut.

Edward Dolan sworn: My name is Edward Dolan, and was chief constable at Drayton. I took these articles produced [a chemise, frock, and stays, all blood-stained] from under the deceased. The mark of a stab is through all the three articles, I produce two knives which I received from Mr. Taylor; one of them was covered with blood, which is now dry. The other knife is smaller.

By Mr. Milford- I know Mrs. Wise. I never heard anything against the woman's character, and I know nothing personally.

Mr. Taylor re-called: This knife [the larger one] is the one which I took off a table in M'Carthy's house.

M'Carthy re-called: This is the knife Mrs. Teagle handed me. It is a castrating knife.

Frederick Ludwig Liepermaun sworn: I am a duly qualified medical practitioner, but have not passed the Medical Board in Sydney.

Mr. Milford objected on the latter ground to the receipt of Dr. Liepermaun's evidence.

Ultimately, Mr. Pring withdrew the witness, not from any personal objection to Dr. Liepermaun, but, as he (Mr. Pring) stated, to avoid running the risk of such legal reservations.

William Armstrong was next sworn: I am Member of the College of Surgeons of England, a Bachelor of Medicine, and a Member of the New South Wales Medical Board. I made a post mortem examination on the body of a female, on the 19th April, at the Separation Hotel, Drayton Swamp. On examining the body I found three incised wounds and five bruises. [The witness here requested permission to refer to original notes of the examination, taken at the time which was granted.] Of the bruises, one was just below the last rib on the right side,-the skin was not broken; one below the hip on the right side; one above the kneecap on the right leg;one near the anus on the lower part of the bowels, and one on the ileum on left side. These bruises had not been given immediately before death, and appeared to have been inflicted by a kick or with some blunt instrument. There were three incised wounds. One under the left eye; one under the lobe of the left ear; one near the left wrig of the nose; and on examining the body still further, I found a punctured wound behind the right cavity of the thorax, about an inch from the vertebr ? , just below the shoulder blade, and between the seventh and eighth ribs. I opened the cavity of the thorax, and on looking into the right cavity, I found it gorged with blood, and the lung, although not wounded, was collapsed and useless. I found also that the seventh rib was broken, and that the intercostil artery and muscle were cut. Extensive extravasation of blood would be produced by cutting that artery. I think that death was caused by loss of blood and partial suffocation, and do not doubt but that the wound caused death.

Cross-examined: The wounds in the face were done with a sharp instrument and rapidly. There had been no attempt made to plug the wound or take up the artery, on the contrary, the wound was covered with sticking plaster when I first examined it. The best and most proper treatment would have been, either to take up the artery, plug the wound, or press the artery for a length of time, supposing that the operator were sure of hemorrhage. I could not find out by the expectoration of a patient whether the intercostals artery was cut, unless the lung had been wounded. The plura costulis was cut through, but not the lung. If the proper remedies had been taken, the woman might have recovered, although the probabilities were against it. The mere placement of a piece of sticking plaster over such a wound was very bad medical treatment, in my opinion.

Re-examined: Wounds of that kind almost invariably prove fatal. I merely say that the woman might have recovered if the artery had been taken up. Such a knife as the one produced would inflict the wound.

Mr. Taylor was re-called to prove the identity of the body on which the examination had been held.

Mr. Milford then made an able address to the jury on behalf of the prisoner. He felt a solemn awe, the responsibility which had devolved upon him, but he would endeavour to discharge his duty faithfully. The learned counsel animadverted strongly upon the manner in which the press had reported the inquest, and particularly denounced that account of it which appeared in the columns of the Free Press, beseeching the jury - on this awful question of life and death - to act with unprejudiced and unbiased minds. He next went on to impute discredit to the evidence of Annie Wise, the only witness who saw the deed, and therefore the sole witness as to the charge of positive murder. Several apparent discrepancies in this woman's evidence were ably commented upon, and after a short but very impressive speech, Mr. Milford called the only witness for the defence.

William Samuels, who deposed as follows:- I go by the name of Horton Sam. I remember the16th April. I know Anne Wise as a woman living at the Swamp. Betwixt 3 and 4 o'clock I was talking to Mrs. Teagle. I went home just after, and did not see her again 'till I saw her lying stabbed on a sofa in Mr. M'Carthy's house. Between the two periods I was at home all the time, nor did I see Teagle between the intervals.

Cross-examined by Mr. Pring: It was not five o'clock when I saw Mrs. Teagle. I went home just after by myself; I swear it. I was not in Mrs. Wise's house on the 16th April drinking. I heard the neighbours crying out that Mrs. Teagle was stabbed, and I came out. I went to look for the prisoner with James Smith. I went to his house. I would look for my own brother if he stabbed a woman. It was out of regard for the woman and her children that I went to look for him, and because I liked her. I was examined before Mr. Manning and Mr. Isaac, and I put my cross to that document.

Mr. Pring put in the deposition, which was then read. It was to the effect that the witness was requested by Mr. Taylor to go and look for the prisoner.

Witness continued: I now say that I went to look for Teagle because he had done the murder. I was in my house the whole time between four o'clock and the time the neighbours cried out.

This closed the case for the defence.

Mr. Pring re-called M'Carthy, who said:-I saw a person named William Samuels on the 16th April. He was at my house on that day in company with William Teagle about five o'clock. They came and asked me for liquor. I gave Teagle a bottle of rum, and they went away with it. I don't think it was dark at the time. Five o'clock is the time as nearly as I can remember.

By Mr. Milford: I am quite certain that I saw Samuels at my house about 5 o'dock, as near to time as I can remember. I am sure it was a bottle of rum they had, and not a bottle of brandy.

Mr. Pring replied to the rebutting arguments and evidence in a masterly and eloquent address, following the objections taken by the learned counsel for the prisoner one by one, and explaining the apparent discrepancies which had been pointed out in the evidence.

His Honor the Judge then proceeded to sum up. After making a few general remarks upon the case, he went carefully through the evidence, combatting the various points as they arose, and placing the whole case in a lucid manner before the jury.

The jury retired to consider their verdict and returned into  court  in quarter-of-an-hour with a verdict of guilty.

On being asked if he had anything to say why the judgment of the  court  should not be passed upon him, the prisoner merely said "I was as innocent of all intention to do the deed as a babe unborn."

The Judge (dispensing with the usual practice of putting on the black cap) then passed the sentence of death in the usual form, holding out no hope to the prisoner of a long continuance in this world, and recommending him to make good use of the short period which would be allotted to him.

The prisoner heard the sentence without change of countenance or demeanour, and was immediately removed from the dock.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University