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Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts

R. v. Davis [1838]

rape, identity - Launceston

Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land

Montagu J., 5 January 1838

Source: Cornwall Chronicle, 6 January 1838[1]

James Davis, was capitally indicted for a rape on the person of Mary Bradley, on the 2nd of March last, but little of the evidence in this case can, be detailed.

The Prosecutrix is the wife of a labouring man, residing near the Mill on Dr. Cameron's Estate, and she stated, that on the night of the 2nd of March last, some person knocked at her door, after she had retired for the night, her husband being absent in Launceston; the intruder whoever he was, threatened to break the door if she did not open it, and when she did he rushed upon her and committed the offence, he had his hat pulled over his eyes, and disguised his voice, so as to speak like a foreigner; on her husband's return, she informed him of the circumstance, and shortly after the prisoner absconded from the service of Mr. John Cox to whom he was assigned.

From the evidence of two other witnesses, fellow servants of the accused, it was elicited that both of them had separately been taxed by the Prosecutrix as the perpetrators of the crime, though she subsequently, and after one of them had been apprehended at her instigation, reversed her charge, on account of the dissimilarity of voice between them and the person who ill used her. Finally, on the capture of Davis, who had been wounded by a gun shot, in the back, and was bleeding profusely at the time; she no longer heard his voice than she declared him to be the man who committed the offence. She was repeatedly cross questioned, and examined by the Court, as to her certainty of the prisoner's identity, which, she, however, persisted in saying, that she could swear on him by his voice any where, although she did not see his face. After a most elaborate charge from the Judge, the Jury retired and found the prisoner guilty. The prisoner earnestly begged that his Honor would make inquiries into the character of Mrs. Bradley before passing sentence, as he would find it to be most infamous. His Honor promised he would do so.

Montagu J., 7 January 1838

Source: Cornwall Chronicle, 13 January 1838

            James Davis, convicted of Rape, was informed by his Honor, that his request for enquiring into the character of the Prosecutrix had been complied with, and the result was such as to justify a suspension of judgement in his case, which would be referred for the consideration of his Excellency.1


[1] According to AOT MM 71/10, Judge's Report, p. 81-17, the Judge was surprised at the guilty verdict and regtreeted that he did not submit her to 'rigid cross-examination, which would have 'detected the truth'.  Her testimony was 'unworthy of credit'.  Enquiries confirmed her 'loose character' and that she had made accusations of rape against other men.  That her husband was an associate of bushrangers and that £37 had been stolen from their house but was not mentioned,  further undermiend her credibility.  See also Launceston Advertiser, 11 January 1838.

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