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

R. v. McCormack [1834] NSWSupC 119

murder - domestic violence - law reporting - alcohol, attitude towards

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Dowling J., 7 November 1834

Source: Sydney Herald, 10 November 1834[1 ]

Before His Honour Mr. Justice Dowling, and a Civil Jury.

Patrick McCormack stood indicted for the wilful murder of Maria McCormack his wife, by beating her on the head and various parts of her body, thereby inflicting divers mortal wounds and contusions, of which she then and there died, at Sydney.

The Jury, after a consultation of half an hour, returned a verdict of guilty of wilful murder.  His Honor the learned Judge, in addressing the prisoner preparatory to passing sentence, was moved even to tears at the enormity of the offence, - that of dipping his hand in the blood of the partner of his bosom, whom, by a most solemn obligation he had bound himself to comfort and protect.  At the conclusion of the address, which was one of the most affecting we had heard for many years; the prisoner was sentenced to be executed on Monday morning next, and his body to be given to the Surgeons for dissection.  During the trial, the Court was thronged with females, such was the excitement which the case had produced on the female sex.  This was the case in which the prisoner was set at liberty by the verdict of seven Jurors, who were assembled at the Inquest held on the occasion, the remaining five feeling warranted in persisting in a verdict of guilty of wilful murder; and for which act of their consciences they were subjected to the reproachful animadversions of a reporter to one of the Sydney Newspapers, who figured very conspicuously on that occasion.  Colonel Wilson however felt induced to take the matter into his own hands, warranted by the very ample body of evidence which had been adduced, and the prisoner was committed.  His conduct was arraigned for performing this act of his duty, and severely reprobated by the reporter, with how much justice the public will be able to determine.  The practice of immoderate spirit drinking, and assaults with loss of life consequent upon it, has arrived at such a pitch, that public Justice demands some sacrifice, as a means of giving a check to the horrid scenes of depravity and crime, which present themselves with frightful aspects on all sides; and we trust that the example of the wretched man Patrick McCormock will stamp an impression on the minds of the votaries of intemperance not to be effaced.[2 ]



[1 ] The trial notes are in Dowling, Proceedings of the Supreme Court, State Records of New South Wales, 2/3288, vol. 105, p. 9.  At p. 59, after Dowling J. recorded the verdict, he wrote ``qu. Murder or manslaughter".

For commentary, see Australian, 11 November 1834.

[ 2] The prisoner was hanged on 10 November 1834: Australian, 11 November 1834.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University