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

R. v. Farrel [1834] NSWSupC 56

murder - domestic violence - Brisbane Water - dying declaration

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Trial, 9 May 1834

Source: Sydney Herald, 15 May 1834[1 ]

Friday.  Patrick Farrel was indicted for the wilful murder of Charlotte Farrel his wife, at Brisbane Water, on the 25th of  December last, by striking her on the head and various parts of her body with a bludgeon, inflicting divers wounds and contusions, of which she languished until the 28th December, when she died.  Mr. Therry appeared on behalf of the prisoner.

Robert Chitty examined. - I am a constable at Brisbane Water, Broken Bay; I knew the late Charlotte Farrel; she was the wife of the prisoner; she lived with him at Brisbane Water; I saw her dead on the 28th of December last; I saw her about two o'clock on that day, she was lying on her back, with her hands by her side; there was a lump on her breast, she had the remains of a black eye, and her nose appeared to have been broken; she was not dead then but speechless; I reported the condition in which I had seen her, to Mr. Donnison, the Magistrate, who sent me back again in the evening to see if any person had been ill-using here, and to report he facts to him; when I went to the prisoner's house the second time, she was dead; I examined her person as far as decency would permit; I found a cut of about an inch and a half long on her right arm; her hair was wet and much matted; I tried to examine her head but could not; I cannot say whether it were wet with blood, it might have been water with which her face had been washed; I saw her on the 22nd, the Sunday before Christmas day, she then had two black eyes, and the bridge of her nose had then the appearance of having been broken; she appeared to be at that time in general good health, but seemed to have been beaten.  The prisoner is a sawyer.

Cross-examined. - Deceased was not sensible on Saturday while I was there; I did not hear her complain of a sick stomach; I head that a man named Stewart had given her a beating; I head him say himself that he had struck her, and would rather take seven years transportation, than face the Court for what he had done to her; I never heard the deceased say she had been bled in Sydney for any disease in her chest; deceased did not open her mouth; I thought she tried to do so; I thought she had a locked jaw; I cannot say that it struck me as being the cause of her death.

Mary Ann Pierce. - I live at Brisbane Water; I knew the late Charlotte Farrel, the wife of the prisoner; he sent for me on the 28th December last, to lay her out; it was on the Saturday after Christmas day; I stopped there all night, and washed her on Sunday morning; I examined her person, and found a lump on the side of her head, about the size of a hen's egg; there was a cut on her left arm; I cannot say whether it were a cut or a scratch; it was very deep for a scratch; there was no blood in her hair; her shins appeared bruised; I know that she had a bad leg of long standing; there was a lump on her chest about the size of an egg when I first saw it, but it decreased; I heard deceased complain of a pain in her side on the Sunday before Christmas day; she then had two black eyes, which she said her husband had given to her; [this latter statement was objected to by Mr. Therry, as being no evidence.] about six months before her death she complained of a pain in her chest, and I went with her to Sydney, where she got bled for it, I think at Dr. Hosking's; when I laid her out I saw her bleed [a good deal] from her nose; she was a pleasant corpse, that is, she did not appear like a person who had been murdered, but looked as if she had died a natural death; I do not know at what hour she died on Saturday; I saw her in her coffin on Monday morning; I lifted up the corner of the sheet but I saw nothing but her forehead; I could not then examine her; I had observed marks of violence in laying her out; I washed her clothes after death; there were marks of blood on a great many of her things which lay under her bed; I head Steward say that he had bled her; as far as I know the prisoner evinced all the natural kindness and attention of a husband towards her; he seemed in no way agitated, but appeared to feel very much for her condition; when I first went on Saturday night, he desired me not to mind the body until the following morning, but to wash a few things to lay her out in; I have seen Steward since her death; I have heard him say that he had beaten her, but he did not say it was on her head; I have heard him say that rather than face the Court for what he had done to her, he would take seven years transportation; I though it a strange expression.  I should think no innocent man would say so; I have frequently heard her complain of a pain in her side; I was not very frequently in her company; I have heard her say she had been bled three or four times for a pain in her chest; I am not aware that such pains are accompanied with swellings.

James Smith. - I am in the occupation of Mr. Robert Cox's Estate, at Brisbane Water; I knew the late Charlotte Farrell; I remember the 25th December last; I saw her on that day; she came to may house for protection against the violence of her husband; she expressed apprehensions that he would kill her if he could; the prisoner when excited is a most violent man, and loses all controul over himself; I have heard them frequently quarrel before; I cannot say whether the prisoner and her had any words or not on that occasion, he might have been at the distance of 15 to 20 paces; she appeared to be very ill or very frightened; she could not speak very loud; she came in the direction of her own hut; I took her under my protection and fastened the door to keep the prisoner out; she went into a back room where there was an empty bed place and sat down; a man named Ackroyd, and a female named Eleanor Logan were in my house at the time, the deceased trembled very much, and had sat but a few seconds when she fell backwards as if in a fit; I thought she was dying; the female Logan said, she was fainting; the prisoner came to the door and demanded admittance which was refused, when he broke the door open; he had a bludgeon in his hand which had been the leg of a table, with which he had wrenched off the upper sill of the door when it fell in; I took the club out of his hand and threw it in a store; he then seized a broom handle and commenced an attack upon the deceased as she lay on her back; he struck her three or four times but I cannot say where the blows fell; I then stooped to pick the door up; the blows appeared to be severe and were given in a longitudinal direction; on our interference the prisoner desisted, and after some time deceased got up and went out; I requested her to go to her own hut, hoping by retaining, the prisoner in my house for a time to overcome his excitement.  I stood between him and the door; he remained a minute or two and then followed her; after he went out I almost instantly heard her call out again; I heard several persons' voices, they were the voices of contention; I heard the voice of a man named John Price, and I looked out and saw the deceased lying on the ground; I heard Price tell the prisoner he should not strike her any more in his presence; the prisoner stood close to her at the time; he had a stick in his hand, I think it was the same broom stick with which he struck her in my hut; the prisoner asked Price if he could not do what he liked with his own?  Price answered, not in his presence; I then took the prisoner in my arms and rushed him into my house; the deceased was then led away by Price and a lad named Duncan; I heard deceased complain on the following day that she had a stiff neck and a locked jaw, and that she could not open her mouth; I saw her on Friday, she appeared to be severely suffering under paroxyms of pain; she was in bed when I first saw her, she was reclining on a bed place in the front room with a blanket over her; the prisoner appeared to be rendering her every assistance in his power, she complained of a pain on the upper part of her chest; there was a large lump under her breast bone: she said she felt the pain move downwards towards the pit of her stomach; I sat up with her all Friday night in consequence of her illness; the pain finally settled in the region of the lower part of the stomach and a swelling arose about the size of a small saucer; she begged met to press upon the swelling as it gave her ease; with the pressure the protuberance sunk inwards and seemed to be dissipated, relieving her from pain, but when the pressure was removed the protuberance returned, and with it the pain; I saw her on Saturday; she complained principally of the pain and the swelling at the pit of the stomach; she died on Saturday evening; I have no doubt whatever of the cause of her death; it is hard for me to say that she died from the effect of blows given by the prisoner as I did not see them struck, but I am of opinion she died from the effect of blows inflicted by some person; there is no surgeon in that district.

Cross-examined. -  I heard of another person having struck the deceased; the lump I have spoken of did not appear until Friday when it arose gradually; was soft, and when pressed went inwards; I attribute it to a suffusion of blood inwardly determining to that particular part; it appeared to give her the greatest agony; I have no pretensions to surgical knowledge; the prisoner was very attentive and exhibited that solicitude natural to a husband; he seemed to feel a great deal of distress on her account; I never heard her complain of inflammation of the bowels; soon after her death prisoner asked me to write to her mother, and acquaint her that deceased had died from a pain in her bowels, stating as a reason that he did not wish to shock her feelings by stating the manner of her death; deceased was about twenty-five years of age and had no children; I know a man named Steward; I have imagined he has felt uneasy since the death of the deceased; he was accused of having struck her; every one on the establishment was ordered before the Magistrate, but he was not called in; he was suspected of having caused the death of the deceased; sufficient evidence could not be adduced to warrant his apprehension; he seemed very uneasy and wanted to give information; he told me that he had seen the whole transaction at the time Price was defending her, but I have ascertained most satisfactorily that he was asleep at the time and knew nothing of it; I have heard that he had been tampering with the men to conceal what they knew of the transaction at regarding him; he has been very quarrelsome with all the men in the establishment; I don't know of my own knowledge of Steward's having struck deceased; if I had I should have sent him to the watch-house; the broom alluded to was of the ordinary size; the deceased did not return again to my house; there was a little rum drank in the establishment but not much; there was some rum stolen from the prisoner and he went to a hut in search of it but could not find it, the people were all sober; the Magistrate ordered if sufficient evidence could be obtained, that Steward would be apprehended; I did not hear Steward say anything about suffering transportation rather than face the Court on account of the deceased.

Joseph Arkwright corroborated that part of the testimony of the last witness which related to the assault that took place in the house; the cause of the prisoner's excitement on this occasion was, as stated by this witness, that the deceased had fallen asleep and a keg of rum had been stolen out of the hut; during the time witness worked with Steward, has heard him express a wish to be admitted evidence against the prisoner, he could state the whole transaction; did hear the deceased say that she feared she would have a locked jaw from blows inflicted to this line of cross-examination, as it was going into a charge against a person not before the Court; His Honor said it was certainly competent for the prisoner to shew in the best manner he could that another person had been in a capacity to commit the offence of which he was charged.

Allan Duncan - I am an assigned servant to Mr. Robert Cox; I reside at Brisbane Water; I remember Christmas day last; I saw the deceased on that day, she asked me to cook a bit of dinner for her; I heard her and the prisoner quarrelling together; I saw him strike her twice on the back of her head, and once on her arm with the leg of a stool; she ran up to the overseer's hut, and prisoner followed her with the stick in his hand, which was a large one, as much as I could grasp, and about a yard long; I followed them and saw her go into Smith's house; after she got in the door was fastened; the prisoner had the stick in his hand, and he desired the overseer to send his wife out, or he would break the door open; the door not being opened, he forced it with the stick; this is the stick to the best of my belief; the prisoner went in and I followed; the deceased and prisoner came out shortly after, and went towards their own hut; when I went out the deceased was lying on the ground; Price asked me to assist him in taking the woman to her hut; she asked me for a drink of water, which I gave her; the blows which I saw the prisoner give her were severe; I did not see her knocked down; the blows were given between their own hut and that of the overseer; she did not run very fast.

Cross-examined. - Nothing occurred after I went in; I saw Mr. Smith there, Arkwright, and a woman; I did not see any marks on her arm.

John Price. - I am a sawyer, residing at Black Head, at the base of the Illawarra Mountains; I knew that late Mrs. Farrel; I remember Christmas day; I saw her run out of Mr. Smith's hut, and the prisoner followed her; he had a stick in his hand, it was a small walking stick; it might be a broom stick; I saw the prisoner strike the deceased on the head or arm, will not be positive; he struck her once across the loins, in consequence of which she fell backwards; I ran up and prevented him from striking her any more; the overseer came up and pushed the prisoner away; I lifted her up, and the blood fell from her head on my arms and on my trowsers; she complained of her arm as I was lifting her up, and begged me not to hurt it; I called the witness Duncan to assist me, and we carried her to bed; she complained of her head, and asked me to look at it; she said Steward had given her a blow on her arm, and it was very sore; she was a very active young woman, and had challenged me to run a race with her; the prisoner strove to get to her to ill-use her, when I prevented him; I have known prisoner and his wife a long time, I thought they lived on good terms with each other; I do not know Steward, I heard that he was suspected of beating the deceased; I did not hear deceased complain of Steward on the evening before she died; the Attorney-General again objected to these questions, and appealed to His Honor, who said that he could not stop them, they were relevant questions; Mr. Therry contended that he had a right to shew that the deceased, when under the apprehension of death, at a time when the mind is relieved from all human influence, attributed the injuries she had received, to Steward, and not to the prisoner, whose conduct in her last moments were most becoming his situation as a husband, and evincing the warmest sympathy man is capable of.

His Honor enquired if the Attorney-General had deemed it prudent to invite the attendance of some gentleman of the medical profession, in order that the Court might have the benefit of his opinion as to the symptoms spoken of by the witnesses, and how far they might have a connexion with the violence attributed to the prisoner; the Attorney-General said he had not, but would send for one; after waiting some time, however, the gentleman sent for did not attend, and the case proceeded.

William Smith - I am senior constable at Brisbane Water; I heard of the death of Charlotte Farrel; it was reported to me on the Sunday after Christmas day, by constable Chitty; I went round to the inhabitants to institute an inquiry into the cause of her death; I went to the prisoner's house on the Monday; when I saw him I said it was a bad accident, and that it was reported she had died by violence, he answered that persons were fond of carrying stories, and that they lost nothing in carrying; he expressed a wish to have her buried, but I informed him that the body could not be buried till the Inquest sat; he said he would have the body interred if it cost him his life, as it was impossible to keep it any longer in the house; persons had left the house in consequence of the bad smell; the body was in a very advanced stage of decomposition; the weather was very hot at the time; three persons only assembled, only one of whom would look at the body; the prisoner asked me to inspect the body; his anxiety to have it buried I consider to have proceeded from its bad state, and not from a wish to prevent an examination; when I found the Inquest did not attend, I consented to its interment.  This closed the case for the prosecution.

Peter Alcock examined. - I live at Brisbane Water; I remember Christmas Day last; I saw the deceased, Charlotte Farrel, on that day; I heard a man named Charles Steward ask her for some clothes which she had in her possession belonging to him; she said that she would not give them up until he paid her what he owed her; he said he would have them or the black wh--`s life, meaning deceased, that very day; he had a piece of rough edging in his hand, with which he gave her one severe blow; this was about six o'clock in the morning; I saw her afterwards; she had a lump on the left side of her head, about the size of a pullet's egg.  Several other witnesses, on behalf of the prisoner, spoke of the circumstance of the ill usage she had received from Steward.  On the objection of the Attorney General to these questions, His Honor again repeated that the prisoner was perfectly at liberty to shew that deceased had received her injuries at other hand than his.

A respectable witness was put in, who spoke of the prisoner as a kind, indulgent husband, he had been employed under him for some time and lived in the same neighbourhood; he admitted however, that he had never seen him in liquor, nor in any way excited.

Mr. Robert Cox spoke of him as being a hard-working man; he had never heard any thing prejudicial to his character; but he was rather irritable.

His Honor recapitulating the evidence, regretted the absence of medical testimony and put the case to the Jury as it stood.  The Jury retired for about half an hour and returned a verdict of Not Guilty, observing, that they had come to that conclusion as a consequence of the absence of medical testimony.



[1 ] See also Sydney Gazette, 13 May 1834; Australian, 13 May 1834.  For commentary, see Australian, 13 May 1834, which argued that Farrel should have been charged with assault after being acquitted of murder, and that a medical man should be brought in for all cases of suspicious death.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University