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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

R. v. Bacon [1827] NSWSupC 68

murder, manslaughter, mens rea, provocation, Parramatta

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., 24 November 1827

Source: Sydney Gazette, 28 November 1827

William Bacon was indicted for the wilful murder of Richard Harris, by stabbing him with a knife, at Parramatta, on the 15th of October last.[1 ]

It appeared in evidence, that the prisoner, and two others, met at the house of one Jones, a butcher, in Parramatta, for the purpose of slaughtering a bu[l]lock.  They had just commenced skinning the animal when one of the party, a man named Cheevers, who had a knife belonging to the deceased in his hand, refused to give it up when it was asked of him by the latter, in consequence of which an altercation arose, and the deceased knocked Cheevers down, and possessed himself of the knife.  The whole party were more or less intoxicated, and on Cheevers rising from the ground, he appealed to the prisoner to take his part, in consequence of which he interfered, and requested the deceased to go away, and not annoy them any farther.  The deceased refused, and struck the prisoner a violent blow on the nose, which made the blood gush out, and felled him to the ground, upon which the prisoner immediately started up, and with the knife which he still held in his hand stabbed the deceased in the side, and wounded his intestines, which protruded through the wound.  The deceased was removed to the Hospital where he lingered for two days and died.  Previous to his death, he stated, that he had received the wound from the prisoner, but declared that no malice whatever had existed, as they had lived on the most friendly terms for some time past.

The CHIEF JUSTICE summed up the evidence, and minutely pointed out to the Jury the necessary ingredients to constitute the crime of murder.  In the present case, it should be borne in mind, that the weapon with which the fatal blow had been struck, had not been sought for.  The prisoner was in the act of skinning a bullock, and had the knife in his hand when he received a blow with considerable force, and of a character to produce a strong excitement; and though His Honor was not prepared to say that a man would be justified in using a weapon of that description on such an occasion, yet if the Jury were of opinion, from the circumstances, that the passions were excited from the provocation received, and bearing in mind also, that the weapon was not sought for, but in the prisoner's hand at the time, then His Honor felt himself bound to tell them, that the case wanted that malice aforethought which the law deemed essential to constitute murder, and the case only amounted to manslaughter. - The Jury found the prisoner guilty of manslaughter.  Remanded.[2]


[1] See also Monitor, 26 November 1827 for a report of this trial.

[2] Bacon was sentenced to two years in an iron gang: see Sydney Gazette, 3 December 1827; Australian, 6 December 1827.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University