Skip to Content

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

R. v. Venables [1829] NSWSupC 32

murder - manslaughter - domestic violence - Cobbitty

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Stephen J., 29 May 1829

Source: Australian, 2 June 1829


Mr. Justice Stephen having taken his seat at one side of the Court this day, and Mr. Justice Dowling the other,[1 ]

Patrick Venables was indicted before the former Judge, for the wilful murder of his wife, Margaret, on the night of the 5th of May, at Cobberty, Cowpasture River, district of Cook.  Venables is a tall, strong built, thick-set man.  He had been in the employment of Mr. Samuel Terry, of Pitt-street, for sixteen years, during which he had borne the character of a quiet, sober, industrious person.  It appeared in evidence, that on the above day, Venables having procured some wine in the morning, had a few friends to his hut in the evening, who retired at a seasonable hour, leaving Venables alone with his wife and children.  Ere day broke next morning, Venables called in at a neighbour's house, saying his wife was dead.  The news soon spread about -- people visited the dead body, and one person observing the marks of bruises on it, made Mr. Coghill, J.P. cognisant of the circumstance.  Mr. C. proceeded to the hut, and found deceased lying on a bed or berth place, her body completely checquered with bruises, which were more severe about the loins on the left side, as if from kicks of a foot.  The unfortunate woman's hair appeared to be singed off her head -- her left shoulder betrayed the marks of fire.  The body was in an utter state of nudity.  It had all the appearance of having been washed and laid out mechanically, for though the head was mangled, yet no blood was perceptible on the sheet thrown about her.  The ground floor was moist, and every circumstance proved the body had been washed with water.  A broken stick was also found in the house, variegated with spots of blood.  Besides external bruises, on examination of the head and body, a considerable extravasation of blood was discovered on the brain, and the left kidney was found incommoded, and even burst, as if from the infliction of violence outwardly.  It was possible these symptoms might have proceeded from apoplexy, in a heavy fall through intoxication, &c.; however, death, it was evident, had been accelerated, if not caused by weighty blows.

The learned Judge summed up minutely, humanely leaving it to the Jury to say whether the fatal act was the effect of premeditation, which the state the prisoner and his wife, who was rather addicted to drinking, had lived in for many years, as well as the general good character given of the man by his employer, from a sixteen years' experience would seem to deny, or an ebullition of temporary rage, in which latter case the crime of the prisoner should be softened into manslaughter.

The Jury, after being out of Court for about a quarter of an hour, returned, finding the prisoner not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter; upon which the prisoner, whose countenance and figure portrayed all the agony of suspense and doubt, and apprehension, was ordered to be remanded.[2 ]



[1 ] See also Sydney Gazette, 2 June 1829.

[2 ] He was sentenced to transportation for seven years: Sydney Gazette, 9 June 1829; Australian, 9 June 1829.


Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University