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Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts

R. v. Routley [1830]

murder - Carlton River - bushranging

Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land
Pedder C.J., 14 September 1830
Source: Colonial Times, 17 September 1830 [1]

Charles Routley was indicted for the wilful murder of John Buckly, in the month of July, 1825.
The first count charged the prisoner with burning the said John Buckly, by which means he met his death; in the second he was charged with wrapping him in a hide, and suffocating him; and in the third with striking him in divers parts of the body, after which he was wrapped in a bullock hide, being still alive, and thrust into a fire and suffocated.
The Attorney-General opened the case on the part of the Crown, and detailed to the Jury the circumstances under which the prisoner was brought before them. The Learned Gentleman briefly stated the nature of the evidence he should bring forward in support of the prosecution, and proceeded to call the following witnesses:--
Hugh McGinnis, jun., examined by the Attorney General. - I have resided at the Carlton about 12 or 13 years, am well acquainted with the country round about there. [The Attorney-General handed him a plan of that part of the country, which he thought to be a correct representation of the situation generally.] In July 1825, my brother John lived on an adjoining farm, my father also had one adjoining on the other side. Remembers some bullocks were lost about that time; I went in search for them - my brother went with me - I think it was on a Monday or Tuesday, about the 18th or 19th. Bartholomew Reardon lived at the Green Hills, about 4 or 5 miles from my house; I know the prisoner, but do not know where he was living at that time. I went towards the Carlton; after travelling a mile and half or so, we found a place where there had been a very large fire, I should think as large as the table before me; the ashes appeared to have been scraped up together; I raked the fire about, it was so hot that I could scarcely bear my hand in the ashes. The fire was on the top of a hill, near a deep scrub, so as a person might soon disappear from view. We found some bones in the fire - we did not take any particular notice at that time of what sort of bones, but concluded some cattle had been burnt. I saw marks of feet travelling round the fire, as though persons had been picking up wood. We then endeavoured to find the bullocks, by tracing the steps along some sandy land; the tracks where we first found them were about 100 yards from the fire; we followed them to the lower settlement of Pitt-water, as also the footsteps of two men, who, it seemed by the marks, had been driving them. I thought the traces of the men's steps were the same as I had seen at the fire. [I] traced the steps to a house close to Harry Aiton's; I followed them further on till they became lost with those of other cattle. We went to Constable Kettle, and told him what we had seen. In going back to the fire, we traced the tracks of three men going towards the fire; we fell in with the tracks about a mile from Kettle's - we did not follow them close up to the fire. I noticed the foot marks - one was of a very large and broad foot; I saw them at intervals all the way to the fire, and when I got there the ground was quite soft, there having been rain just before. The steps at the fire seemed to shew that they had been backwards and forwards for wood; saw the foot marks in several places about the fire. We then again raked the fire about, and examined the bones that were there; we found some short bits of bone, similar to those of a human being; a large bone appeared to be a hip-bone, and the upper jaw-bone with one or two teeth. We found also a button or two, and bits of a steel and knife, and likewise a flint; and upon the ground, under the ashes, there was something in a cake something like blood, and under that there were the remains of something that had been wove, thought it was cloth, and when we touched it, it crumbled away. I am sure it was blood that was in a cake; every thing we found we took to Mr. Gordon's, the Magistrate; he was at home - we gave them to Mr. Gordon. - Next day returned with Mr. Gordon - Kettle and my brother John were with us; I then saw several more buttons and bits of bones. We traced the footsteps to the ground where my father's cattle fed generally, within half a mile of my father's house. - The shoe marks I there saw, I am sure are marks of the same shoes that I saw about the fire. As I was going home, I traced the bullock tracks, they came directly from my father's place; I did not particularly trace them, but saw them at different places. I also saw the traces of two men and followed them; I compared the foot marks that followed the bullocks with those at the fire, and they corresponded both in length and width - one of the shoes appeared to have been worn at the toe; I think the marks must have been made within two days. The bullock tracks were not nearer the fire than about 100 yards; the men's steps were visible all the way from the fire to those of the bullocks. Knew a man of the name of "Pretty Jack;" when I knew him, he resided about Pitt-water; I had heard him say his name was John Buckly - he worked for me in January 1825; I remarked he had very large feet. The nearest road from my house to Reardon's was over the Green Hills - it was the most secluded road that could have been taken; never knew any cattle drove that way before. Knew a man named William Griffiths in 1825; he is just become free - he is a labouring man. Cannot say whether the prisoner ever knew "Pretty Jack" - never saw them together. I went with my brother to a place where there was another fire. One of the bullocks lost was a coal black, the other was of a leopard colour, and had very rough long hair; I never saw any bullock like it either before or since. It was about a mile and a half from Reardon's house where I lost the tracks of the bullocks; the other fire was about half a mile from Reardon's house. We found there some skins of beasts and some entrails burnt. It did not appear to have been more than five or six days since the fire was alight - it was then quite cold out. Mr. father, Smith, and my brother John were with me when I saw the fire; I there saw two large pieces of skin, one was black and the other a leopard colour - there was no brand mark on the black one; the other was scorched and shrivelled up. From the knowledge I have of my brother's bullocks, I think this was part of the skin of one of them; I saw some bits of marrow, fat, and bones, about a bushel, lay down upon the ground and a little blood was about the bushes; the pieces of marrow and fat were quite fresh. By the bones of the back and other bits, I think it was beef. The cart track went from here towards Reardon's brewery; I followed the track till I came within about 30 yards of the brewery - the brewery was about 100 or 150 yards from Reardon's house. I could see by the bullock traces, that the cart went from the fire to the Bluff; I do not think there were more than two bullocks. The second fire was on the side of a hill by a creek near the road; I saw some traces of other beasts about 5 or 600 yards from the fire. I did not see any marks of any struggling of the bullocks or lying down; I have no doubt that the piece of leopard colour hide belonged to my brother's bullock. I did not like to go to Reardon's. I thought it was useless.
By the Court. - I measured the tracks as I was going from the fire when they followed the bullocks. I thought the second fire had been alight about five days, by the state of the entrails and pieces of meat that were about, but not less than two or three. From the place where the first fire was to where my father's bullock run in, is about half a mile. The place where the second fire was, to where the bullocks were turned out, was about five miles.
Cross-examined by the Prisoner. - Many strange bullocks came on the same ground my father's fed on.
James Gordon, J. P., examined by the Attorney-General. - I am a Magistrate, and reside at Pitt-water, and did so in 1825, and many years previously. In the month of July - I think the 18th, 1825, in the evening about 7 o'clock, the last witness and Constable Kettle came to my house, about 7 o'clock in the evening, and produced to me a common clasp knife, a piece of a skull, and a lower jaw-bone with one tooth in it, part of the back-bone, one or two bones of human fingers, and two or three other small pieces of bone. The jawbone was that of a full-grown person. It was by its size. So were the bones of the fingers. I measured them by my own hand, and they were nearly as long. They also produced to me some buttons, covered with cloth. It was blue cloth. Four buttons were produced. I laid them by in my bed-room. I gave them two years ago to a servant of mine to bury. The bones were very much scorched, and I could crumble them with my fingers. The other articles were burnt. The handle of the knife was burnt away, and the cloth on the buttons singed. I have no doubt but the finger bones and jaw-bone, were those of a human being. On the following morning, I accompanied Kettle and the two McGinnis's, to the place where they said they found them. There had been a large fire, and the ashes had been strewed about, in a very sequestered spot, half [w]ay from the lower settlement to the Carlton River. When we came there, it was on high land, but so situated that a fire could not have been see[n] any great way, though high land. It was in a valley. It was very barren ground, and scrubby all round. We raked amongst the ashes, and found more bones. I found two finger-bones. It was still hot. There was also part of a butcher's steel found, and some buttons. I took them all home, and placed them with the others. They were buried with the others, after keeping them three years. The bones of the finger were similar to those brought that night before. The traces of bullocks and men were pointed out to me. They were in the direction of Pitt-water from the Carlton.
By the Judge. - I knew "Pretty Jack," had often seen him. Had known him for three or four years. He wandered about wherever he could get employ. Few would employ him. He bore a bad character. I believe he had no settled place of residence. He had lived about a month on Mr. Lakeland's farm, about a mile from house. I had seen him about three months previous to July, 1825, at Aiton's house. He was once on a charge of felony before me. He told me his name was John Buckley. He had a very disagreeable face, pockpitted, a very clumsy man. The prisoner had a house near the Lower Ferry, but chiefly resided at Reardon's. There were warrants out against Buckley, but he could not be found. I have never seen him since July, 1825. It was generally reported that he was lost between the Carlton and Pitt-water. Smith, and some one else, brought some pieces of hide to me. McGinnis had a very peculiar coloured bullock, which I had often noticed. I understood from him that it was that bullock that he had lost. It was a bullock of a white colour, spotted about the size of my hand all over of a leopard colour. I do not think any of the spots were larger than my hand. The piece of hide brought to me, was spotted with no fewer than five spots. After lying about my house for three years, they were thrown away.
Cross-examined by the Prisoner. - It is customary to set the dogs at cattle which go through the feeding ground. They then get scattered about in the bush. I will not swear that "Pretty Jack" has not left the country. It strikes me I never did see all the bullocks in Van Diemen's Land. I believe that it was McGinnis's by no other reason than the peculiarity of the spots. Would not swear there is not another bullock in Van Diemen's Land of the same description.
Hugh McGinnis, senior, examined by the Attorney-General. - In June, 1825, I resided at the Carlton. Remember my son John lending me a pair of bullocks for the seed time. The last time I saw them was at my own house on a Saturday, at 8 o'clock. I turned out eight bullocks at that time. The feeding ground was about 60 or 70 rods from my house, towards the Carlton. It was then uninclosed Government ground. It is now belonging to my son John. There were no cattle belonging to any body else there. I went to look for the bullocks on Sunday morning. I found all but three, namely, two of my sons, and one other. One was a leopard-coloured bullock, with down hair. I never saw one like it in the country. The other was a black one. The other five I found all together. My cattle generally fed down by the banks of the river. I remember my sons, Hugh and John, going in search of them, on the Monday after the one bullock was brought back. I remember going with Smith and my sons to a place near Reardon's brewery. I remember seeing a place where fire had been. I saw some pieces of skin. I have been a number of years in the Colony. I never saw one like the leopard-coloured bullock of my son's. One piece of skin resembled that of the leopard-coloured bullock. There was a piece of a black hide. It might have been a cow's hide for all I know. The skins were singed with the fire. It was about half a mile from my house.
Cross-examined by the Prisoner. - I cannot say there were no other bullocks on the ground when I turned mine out, on the Saturday. But I saw none. From my house to the settlement, it is feeding ground all the way. The whole settlement turn their bullocks out on this ground. The bullock that was brought to me, said to have been found at the Bluff, had his eyes shot out. Will not swear that my bullocks were not stolen from the Bluff. It is a mile and a half to the Bluff from my house. The farthest place I have been up the country, is Prosser's Plains. Smith was a Government man of mine. I did not have him apprehended for stealing. I did not suspect him of stealing, but only of giving them away. I do not call giving away my property stealing the property.
Re-examined by the Attorney-General. - I fed the bullock upon grass, and about the farm-yard. Many bull[o]cks were at that time fed in the farm-yards.
John McGinnis examined by the Attorney-General. - Corroborated the evidence of the former witnesses.
Ralph Dodge examined by the Attorney-General. - I knew John Buckly or "pretty Jack," heard that he is missing. I heard it first about July, 1825. I have not heard that he was ever seen since.
By the Court. - The broadest of the three feet marks was not the longest. The shortest was the narrowest.
William Sale Smith examined by the Attorney-General. - In 1825 I lived at Pitt-water. I heard that John McGinnis had lost some bullocks. My son-in-law, John McGinnis, came to me and asked me to assist him in searching for them. A few days after I was splitting shingles at a place called Bullock-hill. I found where a fire had been - the ashes were very fresh, but the fire was out. I found two pieces of bullock hide sticking to a log which was not burnt through. I took the two pieces of hide, which I thought belonged to my son's bullocks, and placed them under a tree; one piece was full of small spots, and the other black. I believed at the time they were part of my son-in-law's bullock, and I believe so now. There was the paunches of two beasts in the middle of the fire, which I opened and found to contain several grains of wheat among the dung. I found some pieces of bone; they were very small, and I could not tell to what animal they might have belonged. The hide and paunches were fresh. I saw the track of a cart, about two or three rod off the fire, I traced it to the bridge against Reardon's brewery, both backwards and forwards. The track was very fresh, and with a rod or two of the bridge. I saw some bits of meat and bones, as if a beast had been chopped up. I went with McGinnis the next morning to the spot where I had hid the pieces of hide, and shewed them to him, and placed them on the logs as when I first found them. I took them to Mr. Gordon's. It was near two miles from Mr. Lakeland's where I was splitting shingles. It was a quarter of mile from where I spit the singles to the fire.
By the Court. - It was a large fire. The fire was out. It had rained between my first finding the fire and going again - the ashes were damp.
Richard Green examined by the Attorney-General. - In July, 1825, I lived at B. Reardon's, and had been there since May, 1823, when I first came into the country. I was employed in Shoemaking and tanning. I knew a man named "Pretty Jack," and had for some time before. I had seen him often at Reardon's, in company with Charles Routley and James Hanaway. He was doing no work. The last time I saw him was a week before the robbery of Mr. Minett, in Pitt-water. The last time I saw him was at the Eastern Marshes, at Reardon's run. I was living at Reardon's house all July, 1825. Routley, Hanaway, and another were at the house one Saturday, about two or three o'clock. Hanaway went out first, Routley followed, and I saw no more of them that day. I saw Hanaway on Sunday afternoon, he came to Reardon's place and yoked four bullocks, filled a keg of beer, took a cart, and said he was going to the lower ferry. I saw the cart and Hanaway about two or three o'clock on Monday. I got up, and saw a cart coming from the brewery by the road-way - the night was moon light. I heard the cart and Hanaway at the door. It was Reardon's cart and Hanaway was driving it. The bullocks also were Reardon's. It was the same cart I saw go on Sunday afternoon. It was loaded with meat above the sides. It appear[ed] to be a large bullock. I cannot exactly say what sort of meat it was, but it was fresh killed meat. I got up next day at day-break - say six o'clock. I saw Charles Routley standing at the end of the house; as soon as he saw me he walked down the paddock. I went about my work until Routley was gone out of sight. I went to the front yard and saw the cart covered with blood. I knew Routley was in the bush a run-away. There was several of my fellow servants saw him. He came armed with a gun. I was with him the night he took the bush, in Reardon's brewery. I saw him contriving to get ammunition to go at that time. He was afraid of being taken upon a warrant. I saw him get the ammunition, and knew he went into the bush. I saw him at Rearden's two or three months after this - it was on a Sunday night, in the parlour - there was a wedding there that night - Thomas Miller was married. I heard Routley talking in Reardon's bed-room. Hanaway, Reardon, and his wife were in the room. I heard Routley say, that when he put "Pretty Jack" into the fire he turned his head round and grinned at him. I know that Routley said it. They were all talking and joking in the room. I went away to my lodging, and have never seen "Pretty Jack" since. I had been at the door about two minutes when I heard Routley say it. I went up to the door, and just as I got there I heard Routley say those words. I will swear he mentioned "Pretty Jack's" name. I did not hear him say I put him. I was in the passage only two minutes. I did not see Routley that night. I never swore that I saw him that night. I have have[sic] left Reardon's four years. I do not recollect how long I lived at Reardon's after Rutley was in the bed-room. I was an assigned servant. I had heard that "Pretty Jack" was missing when I heard this, but did not go to the Magistrate at that time. I did not tell of it until I had got my liberty from Reardon two or three years afterwards. I first gave the information to Captain Glover. I went voluntarily.
Cross-examined by the Prisoner. - I did not say on a former trial that you was in Reardon's bed-room. I said you would settle any person who said any thing about you. [Examination read as taken before Mr. Spode.] I did not say before in the Court that I first saw the cart from the window. I did see the cart as I passed the window, after it was gone into the yard. In answer to a question as to how many days after McGinnis lost the bullocks he saw the prisoner at Reardon's? -- It was not after, but before.
Re-examined by the Attorney-General, -- I saw "Pretty Jack" in the Eastern Marshes about a week before Mr. Minett's robbery, and about three weeks or a month before the bullocks were lost. I saw Routley at Reardon's, in the parlour, on the day of the wedding. I said so before. The moment I was out of bondage I thought it my duty to bring these things forward. I was never before the Magistrate till I made the statement.
Robert Cockburn, examined by the Attorney-General. - In April, 1829, I resided at Kangaroo Point. I lived at Bailey's house, and Jones lived there at the same time. The second time, Dec. 1, 1828, it was about from 9 to 11 o'clock, a voice asked was Bailey at home? Bailey went out, and Routley followed him in. He was dressed in coarse cloth trowsers, a sort of blue jacket without sleeves, skin cap, and half-boots. He complained of having been chased through the Bagdad Tier by a party of men. Bailey told me to make him some tea, and I did. He then laid down alongside me in bed. After going to bed we talked of Macquarie Harbour. I said, when I was there, I heard you burnt "Pretty Jack" alive, what did you do it for? He said, we had been in so many concerns together, that he was afraid when he was apprehended he would tell of all. I said it was a cruel death, I would sooner have shot him, or knocked his brains out. I told him it had been said he forced Jack to carry the wood. He said yes, you would have carried it had you been there. I then said, how did he take it, when you threw him upon the fire? he said the b----r turned his face and grinned at us as if he had been laughing. He said Perkins was with him when he did it. I asked him how it ended? He said, by rousing up the fire and breaking the bones, so that they should not be discovered from any other bones. I asked him no more questions. I had known him more than seven years. I got up soon after day-light, and gave information the same morning in Hobart Town. I knew "Pretty Jack." I asked him no more questions - I was afraid, as he had a large knife, like a butcher's knife. It was in his jacket pocket. When I was a prisoner, in Mr. Simpon's house drinking, I was introduced to Routley by a man named Edwards, as a fit person to be trusted to join in such a robbery, as Mr. Simpen's. I said when all is ready let me know, but I was removed from Pitt-water to the Coal River, and had no opportunity of seeing Routley afterwards. The first time he came to Bailey's house, I heard a voice call Bailey, he said come in. Bailey went out and came in again, and opened the bed-room window, and let Charles Routley in that way. I saw Charles Carter and Chief District Constable Robertson leave the Police-office. A few minutes before they left, I saw Buckly go away. Buckly and me came over together. I did not tell him I was going to give information against Routley. We were warned to go by Mr. Lascelles.
Cross-examined by the Prisoner. - There were several persons in the same room with us. There was myself, you, and a child. Jones did not sleep with us, under the same blanket. Mr. John Lord, a Magistrate, did not live there. His house was some way by land.
Margaret Donovan examined by the Attorney-General. - I was not a servant to Reardon, but used to stop there now and then. I remember the time when Reardon came to town to be tried here. It was a Monday. I remember in the morning, in the kitchen, hearing conversation about the cart. I went to the front of the house. I saw the cart near the front door. It was bloody and had straw in it. I heard of some bullocks of McGinnis's being stolen. After this. But cannot say at what time. I believe it was within seven days after.
W. Webb, examined by the Attorney-General. - I live at the Carlton, and lived with McGinnis as a servant in 1825; I remember his bullocks being stolen, I was minding bullocks at the same time; I knew the bullocks were missing on Sunday. I knew "Pretty Jack" for nine years; he had worked at the Carlton the harvest before. I am a shoe maker; I made a pair of shoes for him, he had a middling sized foot, but very broad, it was wider across the instep than the length; I have no seen him since. The Thursday previous to the Sunday when the bullocks were missing he came to [me] near the barn, asking me for one Shea; I understood[d] [t]here was a warrant against him - he had been living for one or two harvests at the settlements of the Carlton and Pitt-water.
Cross-examined by the prisoner. - I have made other shoes [f]rom the [?] last, but have made them longer than "Pretty Jacks." It was on the Thursday or Friday before McGinnis's bullocks were stolen, that I saw him.
James Shelby, examined by the Attorney-General. - I am a constable, and have been for three or four years. I remember In December 1828, going out in search of prisoner; had a warrant for felony. We watched Dalton's house, on Bagdad Tier; got there before sun rise, and planted ourselves in the bottom opposite to the house, but could not see it. Before the sun rose, some one from Dalton's house went up the tier, and I went after him; he got away from us - a short time after we found him again. Sewell had him in custody; I asked him what he had done with his arms, and he said if he had arms he would have dropped one of us; he was in a miserable state as to clothing; said he had torn his clothes in getting away from Mr. Robertson and Carter. I took him to Mr. Armytage's; he wanted Mr. Armytage to give him a character. He said he was more afraid of Charles Carter than any other man; he said that he thought Cockburn was the only enemy he had, and if he was out of the way he could get out of all his troubles.
Cross-examined by the prisoner. - I was a good distance from Sewell when he took me. I will not swear, I saw Sewell take you. There were three constables in the party; I was down in a gully below the house. I had not heard you were working at Dalton's in ploughing and sowing; I did search you, I found nothing about you.
_____Tripp, examined by the Attorney-General. - I was a servant to Mr. Gordon, the Magistrate, for four years. Mr. Gordon gave me some things; I saw bones, a knife, and a steel. I buried them, and have since looked for them, but cannot find them.
Charles Carter, examined by the Attorney-General. - I was a constable in December 1828, attached to the Richmond Police. I was in Hobart Town, and went over the water to apprehend Routley; I went over to Kangaroo Point. As soon as we landed, we ran up the side of a hill; saw Routley jump out of a window from Bayley's house, and run away. I chased him two or three miles; I came up within 50 yards of him, when he jumped into a scrub and disappeared. I searched the scrub, but could not find him; he had nothing on but his shirt, and a small parcel under his arm, like a pair of shoes. I know Robert Cockburn, saw him in Hobart Town, I did not learn that there was a Sheriff's warrant after him for debt.
This was the case for the prosecution.
The prisoner then addressed the Court to the following effect:--
Your Honor and Gentlemen of the Jury.
I need not trouble the Court with any observations, as I have a clear conscience, that I am innocent of this charge. I am charged with killing a man, whom it is not proved is dead, or has been murdered; -- it is not proved that "Pretty Jack" has not left the country.
At 1 o'clock on Wednesday morning, the Chief Justice proceeded to sum up the evidence, and to deliver his charge to the Jury. His Honor pointed out in the most clear and distinct manner the law as applicable to the various counts in the indictment, and dwelt at very considerable length upon every point that could be favourable to the prisoner, admitting to the Jury, that if they did not believe the evidence of Green and Cockburn, there really was no count upon which to identify Routley with the murder charged against him; but if gave credit to the testimony of those witnesses, then that part of the case which, without such belief remained unimportant, would in consequence become collateral and important evidence for the Crown; so that in point of fact, the decision as to the guilt or innocence of the prisoner must depend upon the fact of those persons being the witnesses of truth, or the inventors of that which they had sworn to have heard from the mouth of Routley.
After a most patient and luminous explanation of the evidence as it affected the prisoner, and giving to him the full benefit of every thing that would bear a favourable complexion, the Jury retired, and in about a quarter of an hour returned a verdict of - Guilty.
The Judge proceeded to pass the dreadful sentence of the law, pointing out to the prisoner the enormity, and more than inhuman barbarity that had been exemplified in this atrocious case, and at the same time shewing him how clearly the finger of Providence might be traced in putting an end to his long career of crime, and at the same time holding him up as an example, that the perpetrators of such horrible outrages become their own accusers, and furnish out of the very excess of their depravity, the clue that may be followed to their final condemnation. After exhorting him to avail himself of the few hours that remained to make an atonement to his God and his country, by making every confession that lay in his power, he sentenced him to be executed on Friday morning.
Through the whole of this very extraordinary trial, which lasted from 10 o'clock on Tuesday to nearly 4 o'clock on Wednesday morning, the prisoner conducted himself with a propriety that could scarcely be expected from a person of his class in life, standing in such a situation.

Source: Hobart Town Courier, 18 September 1830


Yesterday morning Charles Routley suffered the ignominious penalty of his crimes agreeably to his sentence passed two days before. A more than usual concourse of people was collected to witness the last end of a man who had so long kept the inhabitants of Pittwater, the Coal river and Bagdad in a state of alarm, from the well known audacious robberies and his recklessness of human life.
This wretched man appears to have been one of the most horrid and blood thirsty monsters that have yet disgraced the annals of humanity. Long before his trial he had wished to hold converse with the learned Mr. Bedford, in order to declare his perfect innocence of the charges brought against him, but Mr. Bedford very prudently and humanely would listen to nothing from him of the kind until after his trial. No sooner, however, was the verdict pronounced, and he found himself on the awful verge of eternity, than his constant cry was, "Oh, Mr. Bedford, what will become of me," and his whole deportment betrayed the harrowing, dreadful condition of his mind. Though before the Court he had strongly asserted his innocence of this horrid murder of which he was found guilty, in the face of the strong circumstance of evidence, [?] completely satisfied the jury he now truly confessed the part he took in it. The unhappy murdered man, upon that occasion, after being shot, was actually well up in a bullocks hide and placed upon a large fire, and the body burned in[?]. Altogether this horrible wretch confessed the perpetration of no less than six more cruel, unprovoked and cold blooded murders. He had lost his left jaw and a part of the arm, which he [?] part supplied with a piece of wood, neatly fitted out with iron bark. With the help of this he used in support of his gun, and being a powerful athletic man, he took a sure and unerring aim, never missing his shot.
He stated that, formerly he was partner in a firm at Pittwater with a person named Butler, with whom he went out for some time with the greatest amity and good faith, until at last conceiving under the circumstances that if Butler were to die he should become possessed of all his property, he took an opportunity one morning when they were together in some remote part of the bush, to shoot him. The ill-gotten gains upon that occasion, however, he declared, lasted him but [a?] short period, for he immediately plunged into the greatest dissipation, and squandered the whole in a few days among abandoned women and on the rum bottles.
His confession of the prominent part he took in the appalling murder of the late Mr. Simpson at Pittwater must be a melancholy satisfaction to the surviving friends of that gentleman. The man Smith and two others who were lately tried for the offence and convicted, he said, suffered most justly, which we believe they confessed at the time of execution. Routley declared that he went with Smith to Mr. Simpson's house, and that on the unfortunate man's refusing to deliver up his money, or to tell them where any was secreted, they most barbarously put a rope round his neck and strangled him, and Routley afterwards cut off his head with his own hand, and they then together dragged the body to the water, where they cast it into the sea.
Another brutal murder which he confessed was that of a man named Dixon, a sawyer at Pittwater. This man having become acquainted with many of his crimes, Routley, apprehensive of his making disclosures, first administered poison to him, but afterwards in case that it might not have the intended fatal effect, he took the surer method of shooting him, like his other victims.
Latterly, and immediately before his final capture, he had lived in a cave in the Bagdad tier of hills, with a companion, known by the name of Peppin. To this place they used to convey the plunder they obtained in their occasional robberies on the neighbouring settlers, and frequently levied contributions on the sheep and cattle that strayed near them. On one occasion however, they had driven away about a dozen sheep from the block of Mr. Armstage, which being missed by the shepherd, the poor man named Lawson, traced their footsteps until they brought him to the very cave where Routley and his companion with the sheep were assembled. The two ruffians then held a consultation together, and concluded that the cave was of too great importance to them to be given up, which it must unavoidably be, if they allowed Lawson to return alive to his master with or without the sheep. They therefore resolved to kill him, and having tied his hands behind his back and desire him to say his prayers, which the poor man did, though not to his Maker, but to them not to commit the deed. Routley discharged his firelock upon him at the back, the ball passing between his shoulders and through his breast so as to occasion instant death.
But here we have a most powerful lesson to all participators in crime, for close as the league of wickedness is, the perpetrators having none but themselves in whom they can place the slightest confidence, still the occasion in which they may betray each other are so many, that sooner or later they either prove traitors or murderers among themselves. Soon after this dreadful murder of poor Lawson, which on this occasion was generally said to be the charge of the blacks [had] about that time had made their appearance on the same day but Routley becoming distrustful of his companion, watched his opportunity, and shot him dead before the wretched man was aware of his intention.
Soon after this transaction he was captured, and has remained in gaol ever since. The robberies he committed were almost without number, and he himself stated that it would be impossible for him to reckon or recollect the sheep he had from time to time stolen from the different settlers. He confessed the leading part he took in Mr. Minnett's robbery at Pittwater about 4 years ago, as well as many others of an equally heinous character.
The constant awe under which he and his associates were kept of Mr. Gordon, the police magistrate at Richmond, who they were well aware had good reason to suspect their proceedings, induced him at one time to make an attempt upon that gentleman's life, -- and he actually lay concealed for more than half an hour behind a tree on the road side at Breakneck hill, where he expected Mr. Gordon was about to pass, until at last he began to ask himself what harm he had ever received at his hands, and finding none, he desisted from his horrid purpose. Some compunction of this indeed seemed to touch him at the moment of execution, for in his last prayer, he implored blessings on the head of his near neighbour and friend the magistrate, meaning Mr. Gordon.
When the sheriff arrived, and Mr. Bedford conducted him into the press room to have his arms pinioned, he declared before the people assembled that the written statement and confession which he had given Mr. Bedford, and which that gentleman then held in his hand, was every word true and if any one offered any contradiction of it, that contradiction must be false. He had been led by the exertion of Mr. Bedford to a sense of the awful situation in which he was placed and attempted leave to kneel down and pray for a few minutes before ascending the scaffold. Mr. Bedford then in a short but most impressive extempore supplication prayed for mercy on the wretched man, who he emphatically described as having dragged sin upon his as it were with [?] cart ropes. Routley [?] then uttered a long and fervent prayer, which he delivered in a loud voice both energetically and correctly, shewing that he must have had a good education in his youth. He confessed at that awful moment the enormous extent of his crimes, and he sought most touchingly the intercession of our blessed Saviour: he prayed also for the King and the Lieutenant Governor by name, and as we have mentioned for his neighbour Mr. Gordon. He implored all those who heard him to set its due price on the gospel, and not undervalue its glad tidings as he had done, and he besought them, if they would avoid his awful end, immediately to forsake all wicked and dissipated courses of life, for he said the beginnings of crime though at first small, and often committed without discovery, gradually led to offences more and more deep, until at last robberies and murders like his would be committed.
Charles Routley had a young appearance, considering his age, which was about 48. He was strong and powerfully made, and his countenance forcibly reminded us of the miniatures we have seen of the notorious Pa[t]ch, whose murder of his partner some years ago made so great a noise in England. He had a florid aspect, and his hands and ankles which were uncovered, had even a sort of swelled and livid appearance. He continued praying for the few remaining minutes that elapsed during the last awful ceremony, and when the fatal bolt was withdrawn he died almost instantly.


[1] Routley was found guilty of the first count, but not guilty on the rest. He was sentenced to be hanged and dissected, AOT SC 41/1, p. 154. See also Hobart Town Courier, 18 September 1830. On the same day, theHobart Town Courier gave an account of his execution, stating that he was "one of the most horrid, and blood-thirsty monsters that have yet disgraded the annals of humanity." He confessed to the crime, and to other murders. He lived in a cave in the Bagdad hills with a man named Peppin. Routley was about 48 years old, and had a florid aspect to his appearance.
Numerous other trials were reported in the Colonial Times, 24 September, 1 October, and see 12 November 1830; Hobart Town Courier, 18 September 1830; and see Tasmanian and Austral-Asiatic Review, 12 November 1830. For a detailed account of a sentencing hearing, see Colonial Times, 10 December 1830.

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