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

R v Jeffries [1835] NSWSupC 89

murder - Port Macquarie - convicts, work gangs

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Dowling J., 6 November 1835

Source: Sydney Gazette, 10 November 1835[ 1]

Before Mr. Justice Dowling and a Military Jury.

William Jeffries was indicted for the wilful murder of Richard Somerville, at Port Macquarie, on the 24th of August last.

The prisoner was attached to one of the government gangs at Port Macquarie, and on the day in question was at work with the deceased and two other men, named Wilkes and Taylor, splitting posts and rails.  Prisoner and deceased worked together at one log; Taylor and Wilkes at another, a short distance away.  A short time after they had been at work, Wilkes, looking in the direction of the prisoner's log, saw the deceased extended on the ground, with his face downwards, and called the prisoner, who was standing unconcernedly by, to enquire what ailed deceased.  The prisoner said he did not know, and Wilkes continued splitting the log on which he and Taylor were at work, until they had driven the wedges home.  Wilkes then went over the deceased, Taylor followed him, and raised his head from the ground, when he saw a stream of blood flowing from a deep cut on the back part of the head.  Wilkes called out to Taylor that deceased was dead, and Taylor went forward quickly, felt deceased's pulse, and replied, ``No, he is not yet dead, but appears to be very near gone."  The prisoner stood by during this scene, and when Taylor said that deceased was still living, said, `Not dead - let me come to him, and I'll b--y soon finish him."  At this time prisoner had a double headed axe in his hand.  Wilkes and Taylor procured some water and bathed the deceased's temples without effect.  He ceased to breath shortly after.  Wilkes then turned to prisoner, saying, ``You surely cannot have done this;" to which the prisoner replied, ``I have, and I must die for it."  When he was asked what motive had induced him to commit the murder, he replied, ``he drove me to it, and I must die for it."  Prisoner then said he must go to the lake, meaning a lake at a short distance from where they were working, and where there there [sic] was a station, at which he had left some cloaths [sic].  Wilkes and Taylor advised him to go direct to the settlement and give himself up, but, as he was determined, they would not oppose him.  Taylor accompanied him to the lake.  On their journey thither, prisoner said he wanted a hat from the station to be hung in; and on his arrival, he got a hat and some things from a friend of his, as he had represented to Taylor and Wilkes.  Upon being questioned by the man at the hut, relative to his visit, prisoner related the circumstance of the murder, and said that he would then go to the settlement.  Taylor procured assistance, and conveyed the prisoner to the settlement, where he was delivered over to the custody of the police.

The prisoner cross-examined the witnesses, but could not alter the consistency of their evidence.

His Honor summed up at length, and the jury found the prisoner guilty.  When the proclamation was made - previous to passing the sentence of death, the prisoner in the most hardened manner turned his back to the judge, and resisted the constables who endeavoured to keep him to the bar.  His Honor ordered the constables to desist, and passed the sentence of death on the prisoner, who heard it without the least concern.



[1 ] See also Australian, 13 November 1835.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University