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Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts

R. v. Edwards [1833]

women defendants in crime - assault - attempted murder - Old Beach - capital punishment

Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land

Pedder C.J., 22 June 1833

Source: Tasmanian, 28 June 1833

Ann Edwards, a young woman of about 25 years of age, stood charged with assaulting, cutting, and maiming, with intent to kill, her husband, George Edwards.

George Edwards deposed, that, on the 27th April last, he had been to Hobart Town, and returned to his hut at the Old Beach, where he met his wife, who asked him where the things were which he had brought for her from Hobart Town. He said they were coming. He had been drinking, but dud not think he was so drunk as to be insensible of what passed. He had no recollection of receiving any blow, but laid himself down by the side of his wife, and went to sleep. When he awoke, he found several people in the hut, and felt very sore all over him.

Edward Wilson Hodson deposed, that he saw the prisoner on the night in question at a small hut, near Mr. Hobbs's, at the Ferry, when she said, she and young Cobb had murdered her husband, and that they would both be hanged. When he saw her, there was some blood on her right arm, near the wrist, as if she had been grasped by a bloody hand. He asked her who her husband was; and on her telling him, he went immediately in Edwards's hut, and found him lying on the bed bleeding from head to foot; he observed a large wound on his head, and also another on his cheek; he was quite insensible.

John Jones corroborated the evidence of the last witness. He also saw a spade covered with blood, shown him by a man named Fox.

[The spade was here produced, and appeared stained with dry blood.]

William Hollingsworth Fowler, surgeon, deposed to seeing the prisoner on the evening of the 27th April; she said her husband was stone dead, and that she had killed him. On the 29th, he went to the hut, and saw her husband in bed; he examined him, and found a large wound on the side of the head, cut to the bone, and two smaller ones near it; the wounds were of a dangerous nature, and appeared to have been inflicted with a spade.

By the Judge. - The words the prisoner made use of were - "I and Bill Cobb did it."

William Steward and Thomas Downing, both constables, corroborated the evidence of the witnesses, especially as regarded the spade.

The prisoner being asked for her defence, replied that she did not recollect anything about it.

His Honor then summed up the evidence at some length, intimating to the Jury, that the question for them to consider was, whether the prisoner inflicted the wounds with her own hand, or whether she consented to, and aided in the act at the instigation of another; in either case, she was equally culpable in the eye of the law.

The Jury retired for a few minutes and returned a verdict of Guilty.

* * *

Ann Edwards was brought up for judgment, and on being placed at the bar, His Honor, after a most feeling address, proceeded to pass the awful sentence of death. He held out no hopes whatever of mercy towards the wretched young woman, who had, he said, been most probably led to the commission of this dreadful crime by a long indulgence in a course of habitual wickedness. He hoped that her untimely fate would prove a warning to other young women, who were pursuing a similar evil course of life. His Honor was considerably affected, and the unfortunate prisoner filled the Court with her screams and lamentations.

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