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Colonial Cases


British Chronicle, 8 April 1779
SALISBURY, ARIL 5. Last Tuesday a clothier of Bemister, in Dorsetshire, was found in a covert at Fern Ditch, near Woodyates, all bloody and speechless, with his throat cut in a desperate manner; near him was found a  clasp knife stained with blood, with which it is supposed he committed the rash action.  The same evening he was brought to the Salisbury Infirmary, but died in the nigh-time.  The next day the Coroner's inquest sat on the body, and brought in their verdict lunacy.


The Observer, 11 August 1792

Extract of a letter from Poole, August 4.

   A most horrid murder was committed by a man on his wife and two children, of about five or six years of age. - The circumstances of the murder, &c. are nearly as follows:- The man, who is a native of America, about eight or nine months ago married the deceased, who was then a widow; after they had been married some time, he declared that he would murder her and the two children. Which she had by a former husband, in consequence of which he was confined in a place that is appropriated for the use of lunatics, &c. in the Poor-house, where he remained until yesterday morning, when by some means, he contrived to get home to his wife and with whom he remained the whole day, as he was quiet and composed, and appeared to be perfectly restored to his senses.  In the course of the day his wife borrowed a carpenter's axe to cleave some wood with, which he did as well as any person could do.  In the evening they went to bed together, as he intended going in a ship that was to sail in the morning for America; but about four o'clock he arose, and with the axe that the poor woman borrowed, he perpetrated the horrid crime, by cleaving this skulls of all of them quite open; and what is still worse, the woman was far gone in pregnancy.

   He would also have murdered a man that lodged in the house, had he not made his escape, and gave the alarm to his neighbours.

   As soon as he had competed this bloody scene, he endeavoured to make his escape, by running through several of the streets, and jumping into the sea, in order to swim to the opposite shore, where he was taken, and immediately acknowledged the crime he had committed, and  said he knew perfectly well what he was about to do, and had for this seven months past.


The Observer, 11 March 1798

   A baker, named Bartlett, last week died at Dorchester in consequence of excessive drinking; for the last six weeks he had not a sober interval.


The Observer, 19 August 1798

   Sunday night last, as one of the Prince of Wales's Dragoon Guards, in Dorchester barracks, was cleaning his horse, he received a kick in his side, and died in consequence on Tuesday morning; ...


The Observer, 3 March 1799

   A storm of uncommon violence and extent, on Thursday last. occasioned considerable damage in Dorsetshire. ... At Branston (Mr. Portman's), Spettisbury (Mr. F. Fane), Compton Clifton, and many other places, trees, barns, &c. were destroyed, and two men killed. ...


The Observer, 25 August  1799

   Hannah Hayes, spinster, of Milbourne Wyke, in Dorset, last week swallowed a quantity of white arsenic, and died some days after.  She was pregnant, and shame prompted to suicide.  Her body was buried in the cross road between Osborn and Melborne.


The Observer, 13 February 1803

   A newly born infant was last week found in Weymouth harbour, with evident marks of having been strangled.  The wretched mother has been committed to the work-house until she is sufficiently recovered to be removed to Dorchester gaol.


The Times, 13 April 1803
  The Crooner has held an inquest at Weymouth, on the three persons who lost their lives in endeavouring to rescue a seaman, (who had been impressed) from a party of his Majesty's ship L'Argle.  The Jury returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against Captain WOLFE, the officers, and men, employed under his orders on that occasion.
  The following account of the above affair was published in one of yesterday's Papers, under the head of Weymouth:-  "A terrible affair happened on Saturday se'nnight:- A press-gang from a frigate, lying in Portland-roads, consisting of the captain and his Lieutenant, with the Lieutenant of Marines, and 27 Marines, and about as many sailors, came on shore at Portland castle, and proceeded to the first village, called Cheselton.  They impressed Henry Wiggot and Richard Way, without any interruption whatever.  The people of the island took the alarm, and fled to the village of Eason, which is situated about the centre of the island, where the people made a stand at the pond.  The gang came up, and the Captain took a man by the collar.  The man pulled back, on which the captain fired his pistol; at which signal the Lieutenant of Marines ordered his men to fire, which being done, three men fell dead, being all shot through the head, viz. Richard Flann, aged 42 years; Alex. Andrews, 47 years; and William Lang, 26 years, all married men, two of them quarry-men, and one a blacksmith. - One man was shot through the thigh, and a young woman in the back; the ball is still in her body, and but little hopes are entertained of her recovery.  Poor Lang, the blacksmith, was at his shop-door, and there fell dead."


The Observer, 17 April 1803

   The Coroner's Inquest, at Weymouth, has returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against Capt. Wolfe and the Officers and men employed by him, in the impress service, in the late fatal affair, occasioned by an attempt to rescue a seaman who had been impressed.


Cambrian, 31 March 1810


On Thursday morning, Mr. Gutteridge, master of the Portal Arms, Troy Town [Dor] with a clasp knife, stabbed himself in four places, but none of them being fatal, with a fixed determination to destroy himself, he drew the knife from the ribs of the left side, across the navel, towards the bottom of the abdomen, then thrusting his left hand through the wound, a drew out some of the intestines, together with a part of the omentum, which he cut off; surgical assistance having been procured, he lingered 24 hours, but died on Friday.  Family misfortunes are supposed to have led to the melancholy catastrophe.


Carmarthen Journal, 13 April 1811

   On the 31st ult. a truly dreadful accident happened at Bradford Abbas, near Sherborne: The only daughter of Mr. Custard, schoolmaster, of that place, by some accident got entangled in the wheel of a flax-mill there, and her head was literally torn to pieces.


Cambrian, 9 July 1814

A most extraordinary Case.

An astonishing circumstance has recently occurred in Sherborne, which has excited no common degree of interest: A young man, 15 years of age, has lately died on that town, from whom has been extracted a female foetus!  The boy was perfectly formed in every respect, and continued without interruption his labours in agriculture until a few weeks ago, when he complained of uneasy sensations in his bowels, which of course was difficult to be understood by the faculty consulted; but his sallow complexion and emaciated appearance induced them to ascribe the pains to the effect of worms; and athelmintic medicines were accordingly administered; but the boy's life could not be preserved.  Soon after his death, Mr. Highmore, an eminent surgeon of the town, opened the body, and found a large tumour in the jejunum, and when he came to examine it more closely, found a human female foetus, sufficiently distinctly formed to show what it was.


The Cambrian, 21 August 1824

MURDER. - A most extraordinary case of murder took place on Saturday last at Uploders.  A young woman named Ann Budon, about 25 years of age, in an advanced state of pregnancy by her sweetheart, was persuaded by him to put an end to her existence by drowning herself, as he said he had no intention of marrying her.  Search was mad for her on Saturday and Sunday, and by the evening of the latter day she was found dead in about 18 inches of water, close to the field where the said sweetheart was working on Saturday.  The body, on examination, was found to be much bruised on different parts; it had evidently received some very violent blows, especially upon the head.  A coroner's jury sat two days on the inquest, and returned a verdict of - Willful murder against some person or persons unknown.  Great alarm exists in the neighborhood, and certainly some grounds for suspicion, as the young man by whom the deceased was pregnant had made an engagement to meet her friends at Bridport on the same day (Saturday last), for the purpose of making some settlement on the girl.  They attended, but he did not. An active investigation is still going on, by Sir M. H. Nepean, a Magistrate in the immediate neighborhood, assisted by some other gentlemen, and great hopes are entertained that the murderer will yet be found. -  Dorset County Chronicle.


North Wales Gazette (Bangor), 30 September 1824


SHERBORNE, Sept. 15. - A considerable sensation prevailed in this town on Saturday last, in consequence of the sudden and extraordinary death of Mr. Russell, a respectable maltster, of Milborne Port, who, on his journey home on Saturday evening, expired at Oborne Mill, under circumstances sufficiently suspicious to warrant the detention of his son till the result of the coroner's inquest was known.  On Monday morning at ten o'clock, the Coroner (Thomas Fooks, Esq.) and a respectable jury, attended at Oborne Mill, inspected the body of the deceased, and then adjourned to the Town-hall, Sherborne, where the Coroner, in open court, proceeded to examine witnesses.

   It appeared from the testimony of George Foot, his wife, and John Brett, that they were at Oborne Mill, which is occupied by the said George Foot; that about three quarters after eight o'clock in the evening they were alarmed by the cry of "murder !" repeated several times; they went towards the turnpike-road, whence the cry proceeded, and saw the deceased and his son near a horse and gig in a scuffle.  One of the witnesses saw the son strike his father; and on him and George Foot, getting near, the deceased called on him and claimed his protection.  The son, said his father was drunk; but the father denied it, and said he would go no further that night, if the miller would allow him to remain; that he would go into the house and convince them that he was not intoxicated, and show them where he was beat, placing his hand on his head: he added "That villain there !" pointing to  his son.  Foot and Brett then proceeded to open the yard-gate, to secure the horse and gig, when a further altercation took place between the deceased and his son, who cut the reins, and would also have cut the traces, but the interference of the tithingman, John Brett, who took the son into custody by order of the deceased.  Whilst Foot was securing the gig, he saw the deceased sinking behind it; he spoke to him, but received no answer; he removed his neckhandkerchief; the deceased snored, looked dark in the face, and in a few minutes shuck on the ground, and died in the arms of Foot.  On the son being informed that his father was dead, he appeared frantic, threw himself across the body, kissed it, and exclaimed, "O my father ! my dear father !"

   John Parsons confirmed this testimony, and added, that he arrived as the deceased was sinking, his face appeared very dark, his mouth was drawn a little on one side, and spittle was oozing from it.

   Foot and his wife being recalled confirmed this testimony.

   Mr. Millard, a gentleman who lived near, came just as the deceased sunk on the ground; he found the action of the hearty had ceased.  His evidence tended to confirm the above. He added, that the son was obliged to be taken away by violence from the body, and in addition to the exclamation of "Oh, my father !" he also said, "Oh Christ ! what a night ?"

   William Genge, Isaac Bishop, and ---- Condon innkeepers in Sherborne, and the ostler of Wm. Genge, who took out deceased's gig and horse, and saw him and his son proceeded towards home in it, stated that they appeared very friendly on leaving; that the deceased complained to them several times lately that he was unwell.

   Dr. Bradley, and Messrs. Gray and Simmonds, surgeons, deposed, that they examined the deceased; the only mark of external violence was on the left eyebrow and that was so slight as to render it extremely improbable to have caused death.  The contents of the cranium were examined; the vessels, superficial and deep-seated, were extremely full, and the medullary matter contained blood; the lungs and intestines were perfect, except the pleura, on investing membrane of the lungs, on the left side, which was diseased, and in part ossified.  There could be no doubt but that the deceased died of apoplexy, brought on by violent passion aided, perhaps, in some slight degree by the blow, which although trifling in its effect was not likely to produce injury in the generality of mankind, yet on a subject predisposed to apoplexy, with an impeded circulation by the disease in the pleura, it might have been an aiding cause.

   The Coroner, after an investigation which lasted till 12 o'clock at night, recapitulated the evidence, and stated the law to the jury, who consulted about two hours, and returned their verdict as follows:- "That the deceased came by his death from apoplexy, induced by agitation of mind, arising from the violent and unnatural conduct of his son."


Carmarthen Journal, 17 October 1828

DISTRESSING SUICIDE.- A case of distressing suicide occurred on Wednesday afternoon.  A young man was proceeding with his Father by the canal at Kingsland, when some dispute arose, and he instantly exclaimed - "Well, then, you shall see just how I can swim." He then plunged into the water and instantly sunk. - Dorset Chronicle.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 26 September 1829

   On Wednesday se'nnight two workmen employed on the banks of the Exe were left in a boat by a party of their fellow labourers, and after waiting some time for the return of their companions, they rowed towards a brig which was discharging a  cargo at a short distance.  Being in a river they, without fear of the consequences, laid themselves down to sleep, and on waking some time after, found themselves drifting out to sea, with a strong north-east wind. In this distressing situation they continued the y continued the whole of the night, and during Thursday and Friday, gradually drifting out of sight of land.  One of the men had been extremely sick, and had drank large quantities of sea water, and at length became so ill, from sickness and hunger, that he died on Saturday morning.

   The other, whose name is Wiltshire, sustained life by chewing some tea, a  small paper of which he providentially had in his pocket, till Sunday morning, when he was again driven towards the land, and reached a ledge of rocks a little to the west of Lyme Regis.  Here he abandoned his boat, and was nearly drowned in reaching the cliffs, which he climbed in search of assistance, not observing the  centinel of the coastal blockade, who hastened to secure the boat, and felt equal surprise and horror at observing nothing in it but a dead body.  He conducted Wiltshire to the watch-house at the Cobb, and he is now doing  well.  A coroner's inquest was held on the body of his unfortunate companion, and a verdict "Died of want" was returned. - Sherborne Mercury..

Carmarthen Journal, 26 February 1830

      A few days ago, a young man of the name of George Jeanes, residing in the village of Fordington, near Dorchester, left his home, and proceeded on the Weymouth road in search of plunder, and when within a few miles of Dorchester, he entered a farm-yard, where a roguish inclination was soon gratified by stealing a turkey, with which he decamped.  After committing the theft, it appears, from the manner in which he was discovered the next morning, that conscience convinced him he had done wrong, and when in the act of making a speedy retreat towards his house, he stumbled, and his head came in contact with a stone, which, from the bruise apparent on his temple, must have caused instant death.  The scene that presented itself on the discovery of the body was truly frightful, the coldness of the night had actually frozen the victim and his prey together, by the blood that issued from the turkey, and also from the fracture which had deprived he ill-fated youth of life. - Hants. Advertiser.

Monmouthshire Merlin, 30 July 1831

   In the Dorchester Assizes, on Friday, an old man named Job Nobbs was found guilty of administering laudanum in a cup to ihs own infant child, with the view of poisoning it.  He was sentenced to be hanged.  It appeared his wife was dying at the time of the attempt, and the prisoner had suspicions of her fidelity.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 14 July 1832
FATAL AFFRAY. - On Thursday, the 28th ult., as Lieut. Knight, of the Lulworth Preventive Station, was going, accompanied by one of his men, named Duke, to meet his men on duty, he fell in with a party of smugglers, who, he moment they discovered him, threatened him in a most menacing manner, being all armed with swingels, if he advanced, to kill him.  Lieut. Knight halted, and, after consulting with his man, advanced, when the party immediately surrounded him, and fell on them.  Lieut, Knight fired a short over their heads, and afterwards in his own defence amidst them; his man Duke also fired amongst them.  Lieut. Knight and Duke, placing themselves back to back, continued to contend with them, but at length were overpowered by numbers of ruffians, and beaten most unmercifully; after which they dragged Lieut. Knight a short distance and threw him over the cliff, leaving Duke for dead.  Lieut. Knight died the same evening, - Dorset Country Chronicle.


Glamorgan Gazette, 30 November 1833
INTEMPERANCE. - An inquest was held at Weymouth a few days since on the body of John Talbot, aged 129, who having found a tub of brandy that had been washed ashore, killed himself by excessive drinking, - Verdict accordingly.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School