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

R v Williams [1835] NSWSupC 95

murder, drunken victim - manslaughter - Bathurst

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Forbes C.J., 17 November 1835

Source: Sydney Gazette, 19 November 1835[ 1]

(Before His Honor the Chief Justice and a Civil Jury.)

Edward Williams was indicted for the wilful murder of Ann Forster, at Bathurst, on the 6th of August last.

The prisoner lived at Bathurst, a short distance from the deceased's house; on the day laid in the information the prisoner was robbed of £10 in money, a saddle and bridle, and having reason to suspect that the robbery had been committed by some of the persons who frequented the deceased's house, he went thither and accused the deceased of having advised the robbery; a scuffle ensued between them, and the prisoner shoved deceased down, and went out; a short time afterwards he returned to the house, and  second quarrel took place deceased saying to the prisoner, ``get out you sweep," and using other abusive language to him; deceased took a knife, and attempted to stab the prisoner, who seized her by the arm, and pushed her against the wall, and she fell a second time; prisoner struck deceased several times; after the first scuffle ensued, deceased took a tumbler, with about three glasses of rum in it, and drank it off, and at another period of the quarrel, she filled a tumbler with rum, and drank it off all but a glass and a half, after which prisoner and deceased commenced quarrelling again, calling each other abusive names, and prisoner knocked deceased down a third time, her head falling against a stool; she was much hurt, and prisoner went away for a doctor, and a man named Crossley, who, with his son, lived in the deceased's house, lifted her up, and laid her down by the side of the bed, not liking to put a woman to bed; some time after a man named Stephens, who was also drunk, went into the bed room, lifted her from the floor, and threw her carelessly on the bed; after the third knock down, and when deceased complained, the prisoner went away to get a doctor; at a very late hour at night, or early in the morning, the younger Crossley said he was sleepy, and told his father that he would go to bed; his father said that they would go and see how Mrs. Foster was before they retired for the night, and having lit a candle, they went into her room, and saw her lying on her face on the bed, in the opinion of the younger Crossley, in a position that was likely to smother her; her face was black, but it recovered its natural hue by the morning; when Crossley went into her, the body was warm, and having lifted her, and placed her in a convenient position, the younger Crossley felt her pulse, which had stopped beating; he then lifted the eyelid, and touched the pupil of the eye, which remained motionless; finding that she was dead, they gave information in the proper quarter; when the doctor arrived, deceased was dead.  The Surgeon deposed to having examined the body of the deceased, and found a contused wound on the back part of the head; the bone was not at all fractured; a quantity of extravasated blood was on the brain immediately under the wound on the head, which from its pressure on the brain produced the death of the deceased; was of opinion that death did not ensue from suffocation.

His Honor summed up at length, and read through the whole of his notes.

The jury retired for a quarter of an hour, when they returned into Court, and informed His Honor, through their foreman, that there was no probability of their agreeing on the verdict; they acquitted the prisoner on the charge of murder, the difference of opinion was on the minor offence.

His Honor directed the Jury that they were not bound to find the prisoner guilty of manslaughter, although it was usual to find a verdict of manslaughter when a case of excusable or justifiable homicide was not deducible from the evidence.  It however was a matter of fact, which it was for them to decide.  His Honor would state that the present appeared to him a clear case of manslaughter - this was only his opinion, and the Jury were not to be controlled by it.

The Jury again retired for ten minutes, and retuned a verdict of Not guilty.

The prisoner was remanded.



[1 ] See also Sydney Herald, 23 November 1835.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University