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Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts

R. v. Amon [1836]

stealing, sheep - stealing, actus reus

Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land

Montagu J., 15 August 1836

Source: Cornwall Chronicle, 20 August 1836[1]



                Richard Amon, formerly of Launceston, labourer, a servant in the employ of Mr. Somerville, stood charged with feloniously stealing, driving, and taking away one sheep, of the value of thirty shillings, the property of George Whitcomb, Esq., of Launceston.

            Robert Samuel, sworn - is a constable; remembers the evening of the 11th May; was stationed in Launceston; heard some people calling out "stop him! - stop him!" - ran towards Mr. Whitcomb's house, saw a man running down the street; thinks prisoner at the bar is the man, cannot exactly swear he is the man; does not recollect seeing a person of the name of Wales - gave the prisoner into the custody of Bagly, the watchouse-keeper, he had no cap or handkerchief on.

            By the Prisoner - said he had been robbed - it might have been 200 yards from Mr. Whitcomb's house in the street.

            Alexander Ainslie, sworn - is a constable; was on the evening of the 11th May, in the watch-house; when the prisoner was brought in by constable Robert Samuel; prisoner had no hat or handkerchief on; it was about half an hour after the prisoner was brought in that Mr. Whitcomb, accompanied by Gray and his own man, came to the watchouse, opened the cell door, and took the shoes off prisoner's feet, and went to Mr. Whitcomb's house, came to the place where the prisoner was supposed to have jumped over near Mr. Lawrence's gate, and found that the shoes corresponded with the marks all through the garden; from the spot traced the footsteps to the fowl house down the garden walk - there was no animal near. When the prisoner came to the watchouse he had L2 12s. 4½d. on his person.

            James Byde, sworn - is a constable; was in the watchouse on the evening of the 11th May, he is a shipmate of the prisoner's; conversed with him - he had hat on - said he had lost his hat, and that he had been robbed of thirty shillings - should have thoughts from his appearance he was not worth it.

                James Jones, William Johnson, Joseph Perry, and George Frost, were severally called - it appeared there was some mistake as to these witnesses not being in attendance. Mr. Friend was called in to explain, when Mr. Whitcomb came and told the Court he had received a subpoena, but did not imagine the trial would come on before Tuesday - after some desultory conversation, this Gentlemen was sworn - recollects the evening of the evening of the 11th of May; was at home about 8 o'clock, heard a noise in the yard, went out to see what was the matter - went to the fowl-house and found a sheep there - the seeep [sic] was his - it was worth about thirty shillings - it had been in the yard for some time before - saw it within two hours before; about an hour after the first alarm, saw the prisoner at the watchouse; took his shoes up to my house, and compared them with the foot marks in the garden, they appeared to correspond exactly - there were large nails in the shoes, the marks in tracks agreed exactly with them.

            George Frost sworn - is in the service of last witness; was at home on the evening of the 11th May; went to the stack-yard to the mare and foal[?] heard some groaning; said something was the matter with the sheep, Mr. Whitcomb said the mare had most likely kicked her - found the sheep in the fowl-house with three legs tied with a silk handkerchief, and her head fast between two posts - heard a noise - saw a man dropping off the fence from the fowl-house into Mr. Lawrence's garden - could not know the man again - it was very dark - he was not quite so tall as myself - saw shoes compared with the marks in the garden, the impress corresponded exactly.

            By the Prisoner - the sheep was tied - was not present at the taking - remained at home.

            James Jones sworn - is in the service of Mr Whitcomb, remembers the evening of the 11th May - was sitting in the kitchen between 7 and 8 o'clock - had been in the fowl-house about 6 o'clock, there was no sheep in then - did not go in after - did not see a sheep with its legs tied - did not see a person in the garden, but saw a person jump over the fence into Mr. Lawrence's garden - I jumped after him, and from thence he went by Mr. Weles kitchen - heard a constable call out - cannot say if the prisoner is the man - saw this man in the custody of the constable, but cannot say if he is the man who jumped the fence.

            By the Prisoner - the kitchen is about 13 or 14 rods from the hay-rick.

            William Johnson, sworn. - By his Honor - no other sheep about the premises - cannot tell how it got into the situation.

            George Frost was recalled. By His Honor. - I took the sheep out of the fowl-house, and untied it - it was laying down - its head was pushed between two posts - it was a ewe sheep - cannot say if the door was opened - never saw the prisoner in my life before - the sheep used to come to me - it was very easily caught - it was a pet sheep. The yard is a square, about eight or ten yards long. Never saw the handkerchief before. A person could not have got out of the yard without my seeing it - the gate was shut, but not locked - there is a hole in the back of the fowl-house, so that a man might get through.

            By the prisoner. - My fellow servant was after the man - cannot say if the fowl-house door was shut - there are two fences to get over before reaching the main road.

            By his Honor. - The sheep never used to go to sleep in the fowl-house.

            Mr. Whitcomb was recalled. - By his Honor - The boots were very old; they had very large nails in them; there was a singularity on the outer side - a space was missing - that space in every one of the tracks tallied - some of the nails were missing - they were nearly worn out - they were given to the constable - (here the boots were produced); this is the one of which I more particularly speak - they were just as they are now, cut and worn.

            By the prisoner - think it impossible for other boots to be like these. (The prisoner here said - "then your opinion is different from mine."

            This closed the case for the prosecution.


            His Honor asked the prisoner if he had any thing to say in his defence before calling his witnesses.

The prisoner said - I was in Launceston on the 10th May - I had come in to get some iron-work done to part of a plough, which had been broken - the overseer sent me in preference to any other man on the farm. I intended to buy some tea, sugar, and tobacco, for myself - I had been measured some time back for a pair of shoes, by a shoemaker living in the Brick-fields - I went down there to see him, and the people told me the man had removed to somewhere near the Flagstaff. It was dusk in the evening - two men set upon me, and knocked me down - they took thirty shillings from me - the other money I kept separate. I screamed out, and the men ran away - a constable came up and said - "You have been up on the garden." I asked him to take me before the chief constable, as the most proper person to see if there was anything wrong. He said - "You must come to the watch-house." I had half-a-pound of tobacco in my pocket when I was taken. I would ask your Honor, is it a likely thing, if I had been inclined to do a thing of the sort, that I should leave a farm where there is a run of sheep, and a better opportunity for committing such an act, to come into town, and try to take a single sheep away? I am innocent, you Honor, as the child unborn. Another fellow servant had a pair of boots the same day as myself.

            His Honor demanded if he had any witnesses.

            A fellow-servant was called, who assigned as a reason for the prisoner's being sent into town, that there were no other men on the farm.

            His Honor, in summing up said, he should not allude to the evidence of the case, but merely tell the Jury that the information against the prisoner charged him with feloniously stealing, driving, with the intension of taking away, a sheep; if they felt satisfied that he did drive the animal, no matter how small the distance - if only an inch - they could not but find the prisoner guilty: on the other hand, did any doubt exist in their minds, they would give him the benefit of that doubt.

            The Jury consulted for a few minutes, and returned a verdict of - Guilty.


[1]             On 19 August 1836, Amon was sentenced to be transported beyond the seas for his natural life:Cornwall Chronicle, 27 August 1836.


Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University and the School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania