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Colonial Cases


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 8 February 1812

   On Saturday last a Coroner's Inquest was assembled at Liverpool, on the body of Michael Spell, who was drowned in George's River.  Verdict Accidental Death.

   And on Sunday last an Inquisition was taken at Parramatta on the body of Michael Wallace, who died, as was supposed, through excessive intoxication.---Verdict Suffocation.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 22 February 1812

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction.

Thursday.---James Hunt was tried for the wilful murder of Stephen Smith, at the Nepean, on Christmas day last; ands found guilty of manslaughter.---Sentenced 12 months imprisonment.

Friday.---Thomas Allen was indicted for the murder of Hannah Allen, his wife, on the 17th of December last, at Seven Hills; and acquitted:---After which the Court adjourned sine die.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 29 February 1812

On Tuesday morning at day-light a dreadful murder was discovered to have been during the previous night perpetrated at the upper end of Castlereagh-street, on the body of Margaret Fenny, which was found extended at the back of the house in a state too horrible to be either described or conceived, and the evident victim of a depravity scarcely possible to be exceeded.---An Inquest was convened at ten o'clock, and sat till half past two; when a man of the name of Gould was committed by the Coroner to take his trial for the crime of wilful murder.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 7 March 1812


At the Court of Criminal Jurisdiction yesterday assembled, the trial of John Gould for the wilful murder of Margaret Finnie occupied the entire business of the day.---The substance of the evidence on this case of extreme depravity was as follows:

   Samuel Gordon, a private soldier of the 73d regiment, deposed, that on the morning of Tuesday the 25th ultimo, he had occasion to call at the house of the deceased, which was in Castlereagh-street, and going thither at half-past five o'clock, found her lifeless body at the back of the premises, in a mangled state; in consequence whereof he gave the alarm, and finding on enquiry that the prisoner at the bar had been late with her the previous night, he took measures to have him apprehended.

   John Limeburner deposed, that his residence was nearly opposite that of the deceased; that he was acquainted with the deceased and her husband, who was a private in the 73d Regiment, and that he always considered they lived happily and peaceably; that the prisoner at the bar went into deponent's house about 8 at night, and was shortly after followed by the deceased; from whom some familiar behaviour passed; that deponent's wide and another woman were also present, and in company drank three half pints of spirits; that the prisoner and others sung, and the deceased danced, her manners being unusually vivacious:---That the prisoner and the deceased left the house nearly together; the deceased then appearing perfectly sober, and the prisoner almost equally so, which was between 11 and 12:---That instead of going to bed, whither he had some time before conveyed his wife and the other woman, who had drunk too freely, he fell asleep in a chair, and was awakened b y the voice of the deceased near his house, lamentable articulating the words "Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" after which he heard no more; but early in the morning of the 25th missed a piece of cotton handkerchiefs, containing 3 or 4, which were exactly similar to four handkerchiefs produced to him in a piece before the inquest, with the difference, if the same, that when taken out of his house they were not stained, but when they were shewn to him were much stained with blood.  Deponent added further, that the prisoner wore on the night of the 24th, a white jacket and trowsers, which appeared free from stain, nor had he any marks of violence on his face, when he went away.

   Isabella Mansfield deposed, that her habitation was exactly opposite to that of the deceased in Castlereagh-street; and having some needle-work in hand, was up at one in the morning of the 25th, at about which hour she heard the cry of "murder!" thrice vociferated by her, the deceased, which induced deponent to open her own door, for the purpose of learning what had occasioned it; when she saw the deceased standing within her own gateway, and a man standing without; that she heard the deceased say to him "Oh, dear! You have murdered me!" to which the man replied, "See, you -----, how you've scratched my face: That the unhappy woman then went into her house, and the man went away, as deponent imagined;---that the deceased, in a minute or two after came out again, and crossed the street towards Limeburner's, where she had spent the evening, and which was next door to the deponent's:---That in crossing the street she lamentably repeated the ejaculation, "Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord!" after after standing at Limeburner's gate a minute or two, recrossed to her own gate, unto which she went, and thence round the house to a back skillion where she slept:---That the man, whom deponent supposed to have left the place, she now perceived at the distance of two or three houses crossing over as if to follow the deceased; which proved to be the case:---he had then a large paling under his arm, and said loud enough to be heard by deponent, that he either had, or would murder her, meaning Mrs. Finnie.----Deponent further stated, that the man she saw was dressed in a white jacket and trowsers, and a straw hat; that she had known the prisoner at the barf some time, and that from his voice, dress, and general appearance, she had no doubt whatever that he was the identical man she saw; in illustration of which strong conception or rather entire confidence of his being the person, she had inadvertently said to her lodger, William Nichols, "Oh, what a merry beating has Gould been giving to Mrs. Finnie!"  The deponent added, that after the man followed her in she heard them speak rather loudly, but could not distinguish what was said.  Next morning, however, she learnt the melancholy catastrophe that had taken place.

   William Nichols deposed, that he was a lodger in the house of the last witness, that on the night of the 24th he went to bed at 9 o'clock, but could not sleep owing to the noise made at Limeburner's, where among the voices that occasioned the noise he distinguished that of the prisoner as well as that of the deceased;---That about one in the morning he heard the latter cry out "murder!" three times; that he also heard a man's voice, which he then perfectly considered to be that of the prisoner; and of which he had no doubt whatever at the time.---That the deceased went over to Limeburner's gate, which was near to the place where deponent lay, and there moaned lamentable for a minute or two, after which she went away.

   Corporal Ashworth deposed, that the prisoner at the bar lodged in deponent's house near the burial ground; that he saw him about 8 on the night of the 24th, at which time he had no marks of violence about his face; that deponent went to bed at 11, at which hour the prisoner was absent from home; that he did know know at what hour he did return to his lodging; but was present about six next morning, when he was apprehended, and his cloaths, viz. a white jacket and trowsers, and a straw hat were taken away by constables;---That the prisoner appeared to him in the morning as if he had been drinking the night before, and had several scratches and m arks about his face, which he accounted for by saying he had received a fall through intoxication.

   John Wheeler, constable, deposed, that on the morning of the 25th he was informed of the murder between 5 and 6 o'clock, and went to the place accordingly, where he found the dead body of Margaret Finnie about 3 or 4 yards distant from the door of the skillion at the back of the house.  It was extended on the back, the head exhibiting ghastly wounds, which had bled profusely; and close to the body was a long and  weighty paling (one end of which was almost covered with blood).  That deponent upon enquiry hearing the deceased was last seen in company with the prisoner at the bar, he extended the information to the proper officers, and accompanied by Limeburner, went to the prisoner's lodgings, where he found him dressing; that deponent asked for the cloaths he wore the night before; which the prisoner pointed out to him, and on examining which he found blood upon both the jacket and the trowsers, which with his straw hat he exhibited before the Inquest, and being now produced were recognised by deponent to be the same.---That another constable arriving before he left the premises a search was made about the garden ground, and on a spot of fresh earth being turned up, a piece containing four cotton handkerchiefs was found near the prisoner's lodging room, which were stained with blood.  The prisoner was apprehended accordingly, and taken before the Inquest.

   Edward Tutty, constable, corroborated the testimony of the last witness, and added, that the paling found near the body fitted to a place from whence a paling had been newly taken near the house of Isabella Mansfield.

   Joseph Finnie, the husband of the deceased deposed, that he was a private in the 73d Regiment, and was on guard when the melancholy event took place; that he was at home about 8 o'clock on the night of the 24th, and after a short stay left his wife in perfect health, and sobriety; in the room in which he lived with his wife there was a bayonet hanging up, but could not say whether it had been used or not.

   Surgeon MARTIN, of the 73d regiment gave testimony, that on application from the Coroner he had attended the Inquest taken on the morning of the 25th, and inspected the body of the deceased; the state of which this Gentleman described as follows: The body lay extended on the back, with the head a ,little elevated: a long and deep wound extended from the left temple nearly to the nose, at the lower extremity of which was a very deep punctural wound, which passed in to the mouth, on the right side of which was another of the same kind; both eyes were destroyed by punctural wounds, and between the eyes was another wound of the same description; the lower jaw was broken short at the joint, and to the left of the joint on the left side was another deep punctural wound, and the whole face was very much bruised: The punctural wounds Mr. Martin  had no doubt were inflicted with a bayonet, the bruises ands dislocations with a paling or some such heavy weapon , and were evidently the cause of the unfortunate woman's death.

   The evidence for the prosecution being gone through, the prisoner was put upon his defence, which went only to the denial of the charge, and calling several respectable persons to his general character, which in a case less clear and palpable, or of less enormity might have been important.---The Court withdrew into the chamber of consultation, and within an hour returned a Verdict---GUILTY!

   The awful Sentence of the Law then only remained to be pronounced.  This was prefaced by the JUDGE ADVOCATE with a recapitulation of such of the evidence as was actually too strong to be resisted, and from which it was obvious that not only was it impossible the most distant suspicion could alight upon any other person, but as far as possibility in this case went, it was brought home to him, the prisoner at the bar, under circumstances of the most unfeeling hardihood that could possibly debase the human character, from no other provocation that could possible be discerned than a probable resistance against a heinous assault upon an unprotected woman.  After an exhortation calculated to produce contrition in a mind not altogether lost to every sense of feeling, the JUDGE ADVOCATE pronounced the sentence; which doomed the prisoner to be hanged till dead, and his body to be afterwards given up to be dissected and an atomized. 


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 14 March 1812

A poor man who drove Mrs. Wright's horse & cart, of Barco Narrang, was unfortunately drowned in attempting to pass an inundated hollow, and with him perished the horse, from the labours of which the widowed owner derived her chief support.  The body of the unfortunate man was not found yesterday.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 21 March 1812

An Inquest was taken about ten days since on the body of a stockman in the employ of a Gentleman at Prospect, whose sudden death was unhappily occasioned, as from the symptoms appeared are undoubted, by the bite of a snake, on the outer part of the left leg, to which effect the Jury returned their verdict.

   On Thursday last a Coroner's Inquest was assembled at the house of Mr. Edward Redmond, in Essex-lane, on the body of Mary Connor, who died the day before, in consequence as it was presumed of a blow she received from a man of the name of John Hunt; the question arising from which suspicion is reserved fro the opinion of a Court of Criminal Jurisdiction.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 11 April 1812

On Thursday an Inquest was taken at Kissing Point on the body of Mary Jeffries, who died suddenly the day before.  Verdict---Death by the Visitation of God.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 18 April 1812

In consequence of a report being made to the Coroner on Sunday morning last, of the death of Mr. James John Grant having been possibly occasioned by mal-treatment from his own man servant, an Inquest was immediately assembled, to whom it appeared, that notwithstanding the deceased had some days previous to his death been engaged in a scuffle with the servant, yet that his demise was by no means imputable to any hurt he could have received therefrom:---Their verdict was in consequence, Death by the Visitation of God.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 2 May 1812

A fine boy, son of Mr. Barber of Parramatta, was this morning unfortunately killed by a load from a cart that was unexpectedly tilted, falling directly upon him.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 9 May 1812

On Thursday a Court of Criminal Jurisdiction assembled, and proceeded to the trial of John Hunt, for the murder of Mary Connor, on the 17th of March last, in Phillip street.

   Evidence being called for the prosecution, the following proved to be the circumstances of the case: Between 3 and 4 in the afternoon the deceased was in a public house in Phillip street, drinking, when the prisoner entered, much inebriated, and enquired whether any soldiers were in the house, to which he was answered in the negative; and the deceased unnecessarily interfering asked what he wanted with soldiers? whereupon he struck her on the stomach, but without apparent violence, as it was with the hand open, and more in the nature of a push away from him than a blow: the deceased fell, however, and continued very ill till the following day (the 18th), upon which she died; and at the request of the Coroner the body was examined by Dr. Wentworth, Esq. Principal Surgeon, which Gentleman stated in evidence that he had opened the body and found no appearance of hurt whatever that could possibly be conjectured to have occasioned death.  It appeared also, that the deceased was a woman advanced in years, being between 50 and 60, and had habituated herself to excessive drinking.  The prisoner's general character was that of a peaceable and quiet man; nor did it appear that he had ever seen the deceased before, nor considered then that he had given her more than a push out of his way.---Upon all the circumstances of the case the prisoner was acquitted.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 16 May 1812

On Sunday last, between the hours of 7 and 8, an infant daughter of Eleanor Cooper, of the Brickfields, was unhappily burnt to death, owing to her cloathes taking fire.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 13 June 1812

Thomas Finley, Michael; Haynes, and Mary O'Hara were taken into custody at Parramatta on Monday last, on suspicion of the murder of Patrick Bird, with whom the latter co-habited.---The circumstances of the case, as appeared from the examinations taken at the Inquest were, that Finley and Haynes, who resided at a distance from Parramatta, had gone thither on Sunday in company, and having an acquaintance with the deceased, went to his house, where they remained the whole of the night; that after passing away the evening in drinking, partly at the house of the deceased, and partly at that of one Clowers, they went to bed, the deceased and the woman in their usual sleeping-room, and the two others in an adjoining room: That about three of four the next morning the neighbourhood was alarmed by the outcries of the woman, who declared that Bird was dead, and intimated that he had died from suffocation, proceeding from excessive drinking: That on examination of the body several lacerated indentions were discovered on the neck of the deceased, which strongly indicated a death of strangulation, from the marks being obviously those of the finger nails of some person or persons unknown; from which circumstances combined the three persons who were in the house with the deceased at the time of his death, were fully committed by J. W. LEWIN, Esq. Coroner, for wilful murder, and lodged in the county gaol on Wednesday.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 11 July 1812

On Wednesday, between one and two in the afternoon, a beautiful infant daughter of Mr. Rowland Hassall, at Parramatta, fell on her face in a shallow pond of water in the garden 3 or 4 feet in diameter, and was not discovered until respiration had unhappily ceased for ever.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 18 July 1812

On Saturday last two private soldiers of the 73d Regiment, whose names were Cronley and Shocknessy, were unfortunately drowned between Longnose and Goat Island, by the sinking of a wood boat in which they were, owing as is supposed to its being over-burthened.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 25 July 1812

The two soldiers of the 73d Regiment stated last week to have been unfortunately drowned, were ----Cronlan and Michael Coolaghan, and not Shocknessy, as was at first reported.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 1 August 1812

The Boyd, a small colonial vessel, whose bottom was originally the long-boat of the ship Boyd, which was captured at New Zealand, was last week unfortunately lost with a full freight of wheat from Hawkesbury, on a beach between Hunter's River and Port Stevens, commonly called the Sand-hills; two persons drowned, and one saved.  The sufferers were, James Wallis, who belonged to the vessel, and ---- Hubbard, son of a Mr. Hubbard, settler on the River Hawkesbury, whose intention of coming round was to take care of a quantity of wheat belonging to his father, and which of course has perished with the vessel.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 8 August 1812

On Monday last the body of Michael Coolaghan, one of the unfortunate men who was drowned in a wood boat the week before last, was picked up floating near Goat island; an Inquest was convened the same forenoon by J. W. LEWIN, Esq. Coroner, whose Verdict was Accidental Death; and

   On Wednesday the body of ------ Cronlan was found floating near the above place.  An Inquest was also convened thereon, whose Verdict was similar to the foregoing.

   Last Thursday  se'nnight, a man employed at the Salt Works of Mr. Wm. Mason, at Scotland Island, was killed on the spot by the fall of a tree.  We can learn nothing farther than that his Christian name was Dennis.

   A Coroner's Inquest was assembled on Wednesday last, at Parramatta, on the body of William Snead, who died suddenly on Tuesday evening, opposite the house of Mr. Rowland Hassall, while in the act of rolling a cask.  Verdict---Death by the Visitation of God.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 15 August 1812


On Tuesday Mary O'Hara, Thomas Finlane, and Stephen Haynes, were indicted for the murder of Patrick Bird, at Parramatta, on the night or early in the morning of the 8th of June last.---Verdict Manslaughter against all the prisoners at the bar; who already labouring under an unexpired order of transportation, were severally sentenced to be imprisoned twelve kalendar months, to commence on the expiration of their original terms; and on Thursday William Jones was indicted for the murder of Edward Kelly, at Hawkesbury, by striking him with a hoe, on the 17th of march last, which blow occasioned his death six weeks after.---Verdict, Manslaughter.---The prisoner to be confined nine kalendar months, and pay a fine of ten pounds.  These being the only trials, the Court adjourned sine die.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 19 September 1812

On Thursday the dead body of Jeremiah Long, was found floating near Breakfast Point, between Hen and Chicken Bay and Squire's Wharf, and brought into Sydney.  A Coroner's Inquest assembled the day following on the melancholy occasion; whose verdict was, Accidental Death by drowning.  The deceased was one of the persons employed in the Government Boats., from one of which he was missed at Kissing point 9 days prior to the finding of the body, which took place a mile and a half distant from the place where it is ascertained the deceased had fallen overboard.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 26 September 1812

On Monday a Coroner's Inquest assembled at a house in Cockle Bay, on the body of William Fitzgerald, a private of the 73d Regt. who died on an apoplexy on Saturday last, about midnight.---Verdict---Death by the Visitation of God.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 31 October 1812

On Sunday last a young man of the name of James Martin, who had been for some time in the service of ROBERT CAMPBELL, Esq. junior, unfortunately received a kick from a horse, which terminated his existence of Wednesday, during which interval he suffered extreme anguish.  The evening following hew was interred in a manner highly gratifying to the feelings of his master, to whose confidence his fidelity had especially recommended him.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 21 November 1812

On Thursday morning last James Ward, a settler on the Banks of Hawkesbury, nearly opposite to Richmond, died at Windsor in consequence of the bite of a snake which he had unhappily received early the morning before.  The wife of the unfortunate man was near him when the fatal accident occurred, which had an effect on her scarcely to be conceived.  Her mental faculties for a time evidently forsook her; and the despair and horror that in an instant fixed upon her mind broke forth in piercing shrieks and screams which alarmed the neighbourhood, and brought persons to his assistance, who conveyed him in to Windsor for the benefit of medical assistance, which proved ineffectual.  On examination by the Surgeon who attended the deceased, it appeared that he had been twice wounded on the instep by the viper, which was described to be of speckled grey colour on the back, and a yellow belly.  The deceased has left a family of five children dependant on an unfortunate mother; whose power of exertion towards their support my be possible impeded by a reverse of fortune, brought on by an event the most direful to the imagination, and the more distressing in its operation as the mind had not a moment to prepare itself for the melancholy change.

   Another accident of the same dreadful description took place at Bunbary Curran on Saturday last:---An unfortunate woman, Mary Cooksey by name, was that evening bit, and died next morning.  John Patrick, with whom she had long co-habited, endeavoured to save her life by literally externally affected.  This painful task he performed, but vain was the effort---and the unfortunate companion of his toils took leave of the world next morning.  The reptile that inflicted the deadly wound was not seen at the time the deceased complained; but next day, a person propelled towards the spot by a concern for the woman's condition, there found a black snake, coiled round, which he killed, and about the same instant heard that the ill fated object of his solicitude had breathed her last!


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 5 December 1812

On Monday, the 23d ult. an Inquisition was taken of the body of Mrs. Sarah Broadhurst, who died suddenly the preceding evening.  Verdict --- Death by the Visitation of God.

   On Sunday night a seaman belonging to the ship Isabella, named Lawrence Christianson, by birth a Swede, unfortunately fell overboard, and was drowned.  The body of the deceased was found yesterday morning afloat between Dawes's Point and the North Shore, and brought to the wharf, whereat an Inquest was by the Coroner immediately convened.  Verdict, Death by the Visitation of God.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 19 December 1812

On Monday last a fine boy between two and three years old, son of a poor man of the name of Spaniard, on the Brickfield-hill, was taken lifeless out of a pool of water into which he had accidentally fallen.


THE SYDNEY GAZETTE, Saturday 26 December 1812

A Coroner's Inquest assembled at Windsor on Sunday last, on the body of William Allen, servant to Mr. Fitzgerald, who was unfortunately drowned in the South Creek.  Verdict---Accidental Death.

   Another Inquest was the same day held at the same place, on the body of Henry Murray, a settler of general good character, who being nevertheless actuated by an unhappy impulse, had put an end to his own existence about ten in the forenoon of the previous day, by hanging himself with the reins of his bridle, fastened to a beam in a skilling.  Verdict---felo de se.

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