Skip to Content

Colonial Cases


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Sunday 15 January 1804

On Saturday the 7th Instant an Inquest was held on the body of an infant daughter of Richard Grimshaw, taken up after interment in consequence of a suspicion that her death had been occasioned by the merciless treatment of the said Richard Grimshaw.  The opinion of a medical Gentleman confirmed the supposition; and from the evidence that appeared before the Coroner, a verdict of Wilful Murder was returned against the father of the child, who was in consequence fully committed to His Majesty's Gaol at Sydney, to take his trial for the offence before a Court of Criminal Jurisdiction.

On Friday the 6th instant, an Inspection was held on the body of Ann May, wife of Lawrence May of Hawkesbury, who died suddenly, and, as the Coroner's verdict declared, from excessive drinking.  She has left two children, both of whom are infants. A report highly prejudicial to her husband had been industriously circulated throughout Sydney on Sunday last and the preceding evening, relative to the circumstances of the above death, which was said to have been occasioned by violence on his part; but on the contrary it appeared, that the poor woman had not received any blow whatever, nor did any mark of violence appear on the body except a small incision on the upper lip, supposed to proceed from an accidental fall.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, II/66, 3 Jun 1804/2c

On Thursday .... Same day a male infant fell into a well at the upper end of Chapel Row, and was some minutes after taken out lifeless.

3 Jun 1804/3a  On Tuesday last a child fifteen Months old was drowned in a duck pond at Parramatta, into which it had accidentally fallen.

On Wednesday another child little better than a twelvemonth old, also fell into a well on the Rocks, but having been providentially seen to fall in, was saved, but with extreme difficulty.  3b  Editorial comment on fatal accidents in wells.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Sunday 10 June 1804


On  Monday night died suddenly when going down a dance at Government House, VERNICOURT DE CLAMB, Esq. of Castle Hill.  The day following an Inquest was held, at which the medical Gentlemen who attended the deceased at the approach of death, gave it as their opinion, that the event was occasioned by an apoplexy; the verdict of the Jury was, Death by the visitation of God.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, II/70, 1 Jul 1804/3a

On Wednesday last an infant about two years old was taken to the General Hospital in the most dismal plight that can be imagined, owing to a severe scald.  The little creature had to all appearances plunged headlong into a pail or kettle of boiling water, as the head, neck, and breast exhibited a shocking spectacle.

   On Wednesday last STAFFORD LETT,  a carpenter, fell from the roof of a building, and was severely bruised.

1 Jul 1804/3c  EXAMINATION BEFORE THE MAGISTRATES:  STAFFORD LETT, for purloining shingles that belonged to Government was sentenced to the gaol gang till further orders; ....


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, II/72; 15 Jul 1804/2a

MURDER.   Early on Sunday Morning last the body of STEPHEN BOYLIN [alias STEPHEN DOYLEN] [buried as BOILING 10 JUL] was found immersed in water in a cavity nearly at the Northern extremity of the Rocks, and when taken out a quantity of blood gushed from an aperture on the right temple, which being examined by JOHN HARRIS, Esq. Surgeon of the New South Wales Corps, was declared to have proceeded from a heavy blow with a pointed instrument.  The violence of the stroke had been such as to occasion a fissure on the skull; and which Mr. HARRIS had no doubt had been the cause of the unfortunate man's death.  At nine in the evening an Inquest assembled on the body before whom the testimony of a number of witnesses were taken, and at half-past nine at night the Jury found a Verdict - Wilful Murder against several persons taken into custody on suspicion.  Two weeks before his death, the deceased arrived from Wreck Reef in the Marcia; and it was supposed, had gone in quest of an acquaintance who formerly resided near the spot where the body was found: - It was conveyed to the General Hospital, and interred on Tuesday.

15 Jul 1804/3a,b and c  Account of the Trial:  Accused, TIMOTHY REARDON, THOMAS LYNCH and MARGARET MACKNIGHT; witnesses, DANIEL MAKAY, Gaoler, JOHN WINTER, Night Watchman, WILLIAM BLUE, a resident, and his co-habitant, ELIZABETH WILLIAMS.  THOMAS JAMIESON appeared as a character witness.  All acquitted.

It is remarkable that Major White and Nabbin, the two Natives lately killed at Richmond Hill, were the two identical persons who between four and five years since inhumanly and treacherously murdered Hoskinson and Wimbo, the game-keeper and settler, on the second ridge of the Mountains, whither they had unfortunately straggled in search of the Kangaroo.  They always discovered a rancour to an European, and never lost an occasion to repay their favours with hostility and ingratitude.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, II/73, 22 Jul 1804/2c & 3a

About a fortnight since a fine boy between two and three years old, strayed from his father's farm at Prospect, and was supposed to have found his way to the house of a neighbouring settler, as he had frequently gone before, in which conjecture the mother of the child remained undistressed until the following day, when being given to understand the infant had not been seen by anyone, she rushed into the bush attended by several friends and neighbours, and about three miles distant from the house near to a pool of water, found the scattered remains of the boy, whose body had apparently become a prey to native dogs, and was more than half devoured.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, II/75, 5 Aug 1804/3c

The report that prevailed about Parramatta, and by which we were misled, stating that the unfortunate infant that strayed from Prospect had been partly devoured by native dogs, was unfounded; but we are extremely sorry to learn that the only fallability of that account consisted in the circumstances of its death: The body of the little creature having been last week found at the verge of a pond in the neighbourhood of Toongabbee, where it had doubtless perished through want and fatigue.

5 Aug 1804/3b  Some days since a child was severely burnt at Parramatta, by the explosion of some gunpowder, which accidentally took fire in a loft in which the infant was diverting itself.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, II/79, 2 Sep 1804/3a

On Wednesday last a labouring man who was employed in falling on Livingston's Hill, near Parramatta, was unfortunately killed by a tree which fell in a direction probably contrary to the poor man's expectation.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, II/80, 9 Sep 1804/2b

NORFOLK ISLAND.  A settler of the name of CHARLES WOOD was unfortunately killed by the fall of a tree upon his ground, by which he was crushed.  He was a young man of extreme good character, and was universally lamented by all who knew him.  Being of the Masonic Order, his funeral was one of the most respectful that had been witnessed for a length of time, being followed by a numerous procession of the fraternity.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, II/82, 23 Sep 1804/2a

Child burnt not fatal Parramatta.


On Monday last an infant of Sarah Pearce, in the brickfield's experienced a fate the most distressing that can possible be imagined.  The mother on returning home with the little creature in her arms, placed it on the bed, in order that she might herself go in search of two other children, but unhappily after which she closed the door, and secured a young oping also within the house.

After a short interval she returned and supposing the child to be asleep, paid no immediate attention to it.  Some moments after, to her utter astonishment and horror, she accidentally approached the bed, and there witnessed a spectacle, the horrors of which are not to be conceived.  The pig had by some means mounted the bed, and was then in the very act of devouring the child. The mother's shrieks brought the neighbours to bear witness of the calamity, but alas! too late to render assistance to the babe; whose face was torn to pieces and devoured; the hands of the ill-fated innocent were also mangled and destroyed, owing, it is probable, to its incompetent resistance.

The same day a Coroner's Inquest was held on the body of the Child, whose Verdict was dictated by the terrible circumstances of its death, and acquitted the distracted parents of any blame whatever.

The voracious animal was shot immediately that the accident was discovered; and was afterwards burnt by order of the Coroner.---It had been given to the poor child by a sponsor on the day of its baptism. [Also 2b editorial comment.]


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, II/85, 14 Oct 1804/4a

The following lamentable circumstance occurred last week in the district of Hawkesbury:-  A fine boy, the eldest son of Mr JOHN HOWORTH  of that place, was employed in tending his father's flock; and in the course of the unfortunate day alluded to was bit in the left arm by a large black snake.  Growing sick and faint soon after, the poor little fellow went home, to chill with horror the hearts of his afflicted parents, who had to witness his almost immediate dissolution.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, II/86, 21 Oct 1804/2a and 3b as above with editorial comments; 3b body in woods.  Also: On Monday last a sawyer expired suddenly at the Hawkesbury, while employed in his profession.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, II/87, 28 Oct 1804/2c

Yesterday se'nnight between the hours of 11 and 12 at noon the dead body of Mrs. MARY NICHOLLS, wife of Mr. ISAAC NICHOLLS, was perceived floating on the water near Goat Island, and picked up by two labourers employed in grass-cutting.  She was brought to the Hospital Wharf; was removed to her house, from which she had absented herself about two in the morning; and an inquest was held upon the body, whose Verdict was, "Accidental Death, by Insanity." - She had visited the house of an intimate acquaintance the preceding evening, when an extravagant conduct left no doubt of a mental derangement.  [Buried 22 Oct.]

On Sunday night last the wife [ANN] of THOMAS BOXLEY, of the Brickfields, was suddenly seized with violent pain in the stomach, and observing to her husband that she thought she was struck with death, requested his endeavouring to procure medical assistance; but expired in a few minutes after.  [Buried 23 Oct.]


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, II/93, 9 Dec 1804/2b

ACCIDENT.    On Tuesday last a shocking accident happened at the yard of ISAAC NICHOLLS near the Hospital Wharf, by which WILLIAM COLLINS, a labouring servant of the Crown, was crushed to death.  Mr. Nicholl's men being engaged in rolling a log of immense size and weight onto a raised sawpit, and requiring assistance, the deceased voluntarily tendered his aid. - when the piece of timber was raised about breast high, the weight became too excessive to be supported without ropes or parbuckles; these Mr. Nicholls was himself gone into the house to procure, but in the mean time the people were overpowered, and with irresistible force thrown backwards.  The above unfortunate man fell at the bottom of the skids, the log resting on his head and breast, the former of which was so dreadfully fractured, as to occasion his instantaneous death.  Three others were shockingly bruised; Mr Nicholl's domestic servant having been jammed across the loins and thighs between one of the ends and a stancheon; another, that had fallen beneath the log during its rapid descent, was also excessively hurt; and a third miraculously escaped a fate equally dreadful with that of the deceased; having received a severe contusion on the left eye and the whole side of his face, owing to its rolling exactly over his head, which very fortunately escaped resting, on a small billet that received his neck.  [Buried 6 Dec.]

The only relative that Collins ever had in the country was an old man of the name of CORDUROY, an uncle, who also met a violent death, having been killed by the natives during one of their former excesses at Mr. Smyth's farm.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Sunday 23 December 1804




Between 10 and 11 in the forenoon of Wednesday last an express was received in town, stating the almost sudden death of Mr. THOMAS SMYTH, Provost Marshal.  On Thursday morning the body of the deceased arrived in Sydney; and by HIS EXCELLENCY'S Order an Inquest assembled to enquire into the circumstances that occasioned the above Gentleman's death; Mr. THOMAS MOORE appointed at act as Coroner.

At 11 in the forenoon the Inquest was convened; when from the most respectable and undoubted testimony it appeared the deceased had gone to the house of Mr. WILLIAM BAKER of Hawkesbury, storekeeper, on Sunday last, and appeared to enjoy a much better state of health than he had for some months past; but that between two and three on Tuesday afternoon he was seized suddenly with a convulsion, which rendered it necessary to call in the assistance of THOMAS ARNDELL, Esq. Magistrate and Residentary Surgeon at the above Settlement, by whom he was attended accordingly; that during his illness, which lasted until between the hours of twelve and one on Wednesday morning every possible attention was paid to him, as well by Mr. Arndell as by Mr. Baker, and Family; but that every appearance of life then disappeared.  ... [continues with details of his burial.]

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