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Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts

R. v. Allan [1824]

murder - Birch's Bay - Macquarie Harbour - convict escape

Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land

Pedder C.J., 22 November 1824

Source: Hobart Town Gazette, 26 November 1824 [1]

William Allan stood charged with the wilful murder of William Saul, at Birch's Bay, on the 1st of September last.  The circumstances of this case were in many respects similar to those of the last. [2]  The prisoner and the deceased had been confined at Macquarie harbour, and had absconded on the 25th of August. - On the 8th of September, the prisoner returned and gave himself up, with some clothes that had been worn by Saul.  Those clothes were pierced as if by spears; and on inquiry being made for the deceased, the prisoner answered that he had been killed by the natives.

Masters Lynn, a prisoner, deposed that he was confined by lameness in the Hospital at Macquarie Harbour, during September last.  The prisoner, after giving himself up, was also a patient in it.  On the 11th he asked witness to cut his hair, and whilst it was being cut, observed ``this is the last time you will cut my hair, -- this is the last time I shall have it cut by any body."  Witness begged to know why he thought so, and he answered ``because I shall be hanged at the next Criminal Court.  I have committed a crime, of which I will tell you all the particulars another time."  On the following day, witness was in the privy, when the prisoner went to him and said ``I am very uneasy in my mind; the Devil terrifies me both night and day, so that I never have a moment's rest."  Witness asked the reason? and the prisoner then made the following confession. - ``I have committed murder!  As I and Saul were wandering by the water side, he caught a snake, which he cooked, and of which he only gave me a very little piece.  I asked him for some more, and on his refusing it, I struck him with my knife above his eye-brows, and then in the cheek.  The blood then ran down his clothes, and he cried out ``Oh!  Allan do not murder me! you may take all my clothes, but don't kill me!"  I then struck my knife into his heart, and ripped his bowels open. - Witness repeated this confession directly to Eldridge, the dispenser of medicines. - Mr. Eldridge, on receiving this information, conveyed it to Mr. Garratt, who immediately entered the Hospital and examined the prisoner.  Mr. Garratt said, Allan, this is a serious case, which you have revealed to Lynn, and the prisoner answered ``yes, but it is true and cannot be helped now. - I am miserable, and would rather die than live."  He then detailed the circumstances, adding that he had wounded Saul's throat, and cut off his -----.  Witness never heard of bodies speared by the natives being mutilated like that of the deceased, when it was found, it lay in a state of nudity - the belly cut open, part of the entrails and the ---- being absent.

Robert Badkins corroborated the state in which the body was found, and after the most impartial investigation of all the circumstances, it became the Jury's indispensible duty to bring in a verdict of Guilty. [3]

Source: Hobart Town Gazette, 25 February 1825

Execution at Macquarie Harbour. - On the 16th instant Thomas Hudson, Francis Oats, andWilliam Allen, who had severally been found guilty of murder under most abhorrent circumstances, underwent the awful sentence which heaven and earth pronounce for their offence, at the penal Settlement, Macquarie Harbour.  The behaviour of Judson was penitent and manly, but we are sorry to add, that his fellow culprits and sufferers displayed to the last, an apathy of conscience quite incorrigible.


[1] See also R. v. Pearce, 1824.

[2] The reference is to R. v. Oats, 1824.

[3] For an account of Allan being sentenced to death, see Hobart Town Gazette, 3 December 1824; and see AOT SC 41/1, 28 January 1825.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University and the School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania