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

R v Dasey [1836] NSWSupC 36

bushranger, murder of - murder - Cassilis - Bushranging Act - confession

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Dowling A.C.J., 14 May 1836

Source: Sydney Gazette, 17 May 1836[ 1]

Before the Acting Chief Justice and a Military Jury.

William Dasey alias Casey stood indicted for the wilful murder of Peter Hanns, at Ballantyne Creek, in the district of Cassillis, on the 12th February, by beating him with a stick.  It appeared from the evidence that prisoner was assigned to a Mr. Vincent, and that deceased was a runaway living in the neighbouring bush; both parties were well acquainted with each other; on the day charged in the indictment prisoner invited the deceased into his hut, and after giving him some victuals, produced some run, of which the latter drank until he became intoxicated; he then bound his arms behind his back, and with a thick stick beat him about the head and body in such a dreadful manner as caused the death of Hanns two days afterwards; after this prisoner absconded, but was subsequently taken about 80 miles from his master's station; when taken into custody, and coming along the road with the constable, he asked the latter if it would not be better for him to tell the truth; the constable answered in the affirmative; when prisoner said that he and deceased had been drinking together, and when he struck the latter he did not mean to hurt him, but was quite willing to die for it.  The fact of prisoner having so maltreated deceased was clearly established by evidence independent of prisoner's confession.

Prisoner in defence put in a written statement, which was to the effect that deceased had entered his hut and robbed him, and also threatened to shoot him - a few days before the assault was committed, on the day charged, he met with him and made him drunk in order that he (prisoner) might the more easily secure him, and by that means compel the deceased to disclose where he had ``planted" the things stolen.

His Honor, in putting the case to the Jury, said - The case was involved in some degree of uncertainty, obscurity, and doubt; inasmuch as many parts were substantiated only by the statement of the prisoner himself.  He further observed that by a necessary and salutary local law, all constables and free men were authorised to detain any person whom they had reasonable grounds to suspect were transported felons, or offenders illegally at large; this they might do without warrant, but they were bound to take them before the nearest Justice of the Peace.[ 2]  But the man at the bar being himself a prisoner of the Crown, was not under the local ordnance empowered to take the deceased into custody.  But if they believed the evidence, even supposing he had been empowered to take the man, the law did not justify him in beating the deceased in so barbarous a manner when both his arms and feet were tied.  If a constable had done so, he would have been responsible for the consequences.  Prisoner by law had no right to take the man into custody, and if by blows (when he had such illegal custody) death ensued, it was to all intent and meaning - murder.

The Jury, having a retired a few minutes, returned a verdict of Guilty.

Mr. Carter prayed judgment.  Proclamation for silence being made, His Honor, addressing the prisoner, said:- William Dacey, although you might suppose that you were justified in apprehending the deceased, yet the whole of your conduct shows that you were influenced by an unexampled malignity.  He was a prisoner of the Crown, you are a prisoner yourself, and might easily have secured him, whatever motive you had for maltreating him in the manner you afterwards did; first seducing him to your hut under pretence of being a friend and protector, yon debauch him, make him a prisoner, and treat him in such a manner as shows you to be devoid of all feelings of humanity; when he applied to you to be allowed to answer a call of nature; when his back was turned towards you, then you maltreated him, first striking him to the ground, and afterwards kicking him in a vital part, which showed a malignant and bloody desire.  You now stand convicted before you country of a most dreadful murder, the time of your life draws to a close, in a few hours you must expiate your crime upon the public scaffold.  During the short time which yet remains I entreat you by every means to make your peace with God.  He then passed the usual sentence of death, and ordered him for execution on Monday morning.  Prisoner, who heard his awful doom with apparent indifference, then said he wished to say a few words - he did the murder, but was not guilty of doing it intentionally; he did not take the deceased into custody for the purpose of delivering him up to his master, but merely to get his own things from him.  He was then removed from the dock.


Source: Sydney Gazette, 17 May 1836

The soldier Ryan, convicted on Friday of the wilful murder at Liverpool, and William D'Arcy, alias Dasey, convicted on Saturday for the same offence, at Vincent's Station, district of Cassilliss, who were order for execution yesterday morning, have been respited (we believe) until to-morrow morning (Wednesday.)



[1 ] See also Sydney Herald, 19 May 1836.

[ 2] The Sydney Herald, 19 May 1836, recorded this passage as follows: ``His Honor, in putting the case to the Jury, observed that the evidence was not quite clear as to the circumstances charged against the prisoner.  The Jury must consider that the deceased was a bushranger, and a local ordinance empowered constables and free men to capture suspicious characters who could not account for themselves; the prisoner, however, being a convict, was not empowered to act, and if he had been, no person was empowered to use unnecessary violence, for which a free man or a constable would be held accountable, much more the prisoner."  The Bushranging Act was renewed for a further two years in 1836: 6 Wm 4 No. 17.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University