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1-128 (Raw)

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author,male,Sydney Gazette,un addressee
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Webby, 1989
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Yesterday the Court of Criminal Jurisdiction assembled at 10 in the forenoon; and proceeded to the trial of John Donne alias Dun, a foreigner; Thos. Welch, and Ann Wilson, for the wilful murder of Mary Rowe, at Parramatta, on Sunday the 25th of August ultimo. The indictment charged Donne as the perpetrator of the crime, and under three counts charged Welch and Wilson as accessories to, before, and after the fact.
Several witnesses proved the state in which the body of the deceased was found on Monday morning the 26th, and stated generally, that the deceased lived with one Charles Wright, whose dwelling is situated between the back of Mr Ward's premises, at Paramatta, and the stone quarry, a situation lonely, retired, and obscure; that on Monday morning, a child of Mr Parrott's went into Charles Wright's to purchase milk, as was her custom; and returning homewards, related, that Mrs Rowe was lying dead and mangled on her own floor: that the alarm immediately reached Mr Chief Constable Ward's, who exerted himself in a manner becoming his office in the development that followed; that the body and limbs of the deceased were dreadfully mangled; a part of the flesh of her right thigh brutally cut and torn away; her cloaths rent piecemeal, and that the murdered body was found on the floor in a doorway, her legs in the front room and her head and body in the back room, where she had always slept. That Mr Surgeon Luttrill was called in to examine the body; who deposed to the following effect, viz; that at 9 on Monday morning he was called upon to view the body, and immediately obeyed the summons; [365] that upon entering the house he found her lying as above described, and that her face was much bruised and disfigured by blows; that a shawl was twisted about her neck, as if designed to strangle her; beneath which, when taken off, there appeared a livid circle round the neck, about two fingers in breadth; that the breast was a good deal scratched and lacerated; and that a most ghastly wound extended from the upper part of the thigh down to the knee, which was not merely an incision, but that evidently a part of the flesh had been cut or torn away, and the bone left bare; that her death had proceeded from strangulation, and not from this ghastly wound, which though sufficient to have occasioned death, independent of any other cause, yet had undoubtedly been inflicted after death, as little or no blood had issued, whereas the infliction of such a wound upon a living subject would have produced a very large emulgence. This Gentleman also gave it as his opinion, that the body had been lifeless 12 or 14 hours before he viewed it, which was about 9 in the morning.
John Welch, a boy about 14 years of age, son of the prisoner at the bar Thomas Welch, was then called as an Evidence for the Crown, and seriously admonished by the Judge Advocate on the critical position in which he stood; as upon his truth and candour depended not only his present enlargement, but his salvation in a future state. - This evidence being then sworn deposed, that he lived at Parramatta with his father, with whom the prisoner at the bar Ann Wilson co-habited, and that the other prisoner at the bar, John Donne, lodged in the same house when in Parramatta, he being employed on the roads by Mr Harrex, the Road Contractor. - The deponent knew the deceased very well, as she was his father's next door neighbour; and proceeded to state, that about ten on Sunday morning Donne went home to his the deponent's father's, with half-a-gallon of spirits, having two women in his company, whose names were Catherine Murphy and Bridget Bryan, all parties sober; that the prisoners Welch and Wilson were absent from home, having gone to Mr Martin's farm at Seven Hills, a distance of about 7 miles from Parramatta; - That Donne, the two women, and the deponent drank the whole of the spirits, and about two o'clock the women went, Donne shortly after following, but returning at half past three, asked in a familiar way if the deponent thought their neighbour, Mary Rowe, who lived not more than 18 or 20 yards distant, was possessed of money? To which the deponent answering that he could not judge, Donne rejoined that he would see; and added, that he had given her a pint of rum, which had operated powerfully upon her; that she might be robbed without danger, and that he would kill her if she did not immediately give her money up: - That the deponent attempted to advise him against the crime, but finding him inflexibly bent upon the project, bade him take his own course, for that he would have no part in it; dissatisfied with which resolution, he assured the deponent that unless he assisted in the robbery he would serve him in the same way; [366] that he again absented himself, and returned at 4 o'clock, by which time John Welch and Ann Wilson had also returned home; that deponent did not acquaint either of the two latter with Donne's project, or with his menaces towards himself; that Donne told him, privily, that Charles Wright, with whom the deceased lived, was not at home, that he, Donne, shortly afterwards called Thomas Welch, deponent's father, towards the threshold, and wanted to borrow his axe, which was behind the door of his own house, saying to him also, that he had been trying to open Mary Rowe's box, but could not effect it, for which purpose he wanted the axe and that his father, Thomas Welch, answered that he should not have it, asking at the same time if he was tired of his life, and wanted to be hanged? to which Donne made answer that there was no danger. Donne took up the axe accordingly, but Welch the father took it from him; that they all sat down to supper between 7 and 8, during which Mrs Rowe knocked at the door, which being opened by Donne, she exclaimed My good man, how dare you take the liberty to break my bedroom window open? if Wright had been at home you would have had a blunderbuss blown through you? to which Donne made no reply, but followed the woman, she going directly homewards, and he desiring deponent Welch to accompany him, which he did at a small distance. That Donne was nearly close to Mary Rowe when she entered the house, near to the inner door of which deponent saw him grasp her round the neck with both his hands, and after choaking her for about ten minutes she fell, without a struggle, lifeless! That Donne then proceeded to plunder the house; and with an axe he found therein broke open a box, from whence he took, in presence of deponent, a tea-kettle full of copper coin, a bag, and a piece of cloth containing coppers likewise; deponent could neither account for the shawl being twined round the neck of the deceased, nor how her cloaths became torn, as he did not see Donne do either. That both returned to Welch's house, Donne taking thither the plunder, and found Welch up, and Ann Wilson abed, and asleep, as he believed. That as soon as they entered the house, Welch, who either heard or saw the spoil brought in, ordered John Donne to go and take the same away and secrete it, as it would not be advisable to leave any part in the house. That Donne attended by deponent, took away the kettle, bag, and cloth that held the money, and buried the whole in the sand near the quarry (where by the deponent's information they were next day found): That they returned home, and at Donne's wish went to procure a pint of spirits at the house of one Clowers, who having none, Donne paid to him two half-crown bills on a former account, and they next went to Mr Beldon's, where they drank two pints, of which several other persons partook, and a third they took home. [367] That they were admitted by Welch, who had gone to bed, from which he arose, and afterwards drank of the spirits: Ann Wilson was awakened by Donne, to partake of it likewise, but she refusing, Donne threw part of it over her. That Donne and deponent again went to the house of Charles Wright, from whence D. conveyed the dead body to the bottom of the garden, and there left it, having first made the dreadful incision down the thigh with his knife, from an apprehension that she might not yet be dead. That they then went back to Welch's: he was up: Donne told him what he had done with the body, and Welch objecting to its being out of the house, advised D. to take it back: to accomplish which they all three went to the spot, from whence Donne reconveyed the lifeless body into the house she had scarce an hour before been mistress of. That deponent went in with Donne, and Welch the elder remained outside. That they searched for further spoil, and found two books, containing bills, which they took home; D. searched the books in presence of deponent and his father, took out the bills, and burnt the books: That Donne and deponent after this went back to pillage the place, namely about 11 o'clock, and finding a few more bills, went home, and went to bed! The deponent, having thus ended his narrative of the horrible night's adventures, added that Donne left his father's house before sun-rise: he, the deponent, went out at 8 to tend a herd of cattle, which was his avocation; and at about half past 12 he was apprehended on suspicion, half a mile from Parramatta, very much intoxicated, as had been declared by Mr Ward, to whom he first disclosed his knowledge of the murder.
The testimony of the Crown Evidence was closely corroborated by witnesses to the minor facts, which tended to connect the chain of circumstances, and stamp his evidence with a degree of credit, to which, divest of such auxiliary support, it might not have appeared entitled.
Thomas Clowers, who in his evidence to the Coroner produced the two half-crown bills paid to him by Donne, and one of which had been deposed to by Charles Wright as making part of the sum stolen from his house on the night of the murder, could not now identify the bill, but stated that Donne & Welch the younger were together, and that it was about 8 at night.
Mr Beldon, a publican of Parramatta, in his evidence corresponded with the boy's; namely, that they went together to his house, drank two pints of spirits there in company with persons who were already there, and took a third away, for which Donne settled: - this deponent adding, that in part payment he had tendered two bills, one for 2s. 6d. the other for 5s. both which being somewhat scrupled by Mrs Beldon, were instantly committed to the flames by Donne, to whom the boy remarked that he had no need to pay in bills as he had plenty of coppers at home; to proceed whither he went out, and returned in ten minutes with 10s. 3d. of copper coin. [368] At nine they left deponent's house.
Mr Owen Martin proved, that the prisoners Thos. Welch and Ann Wilson were at his farm that day, and staid there till he supposed to be about three o'clock.
The two women who had been with Donne at Welch's house in the forenoon of Sunday, and partook of the half gallon of spirits, both substantiated that part of the evidence; and Mr Harrex stated that he that morning gave half a gallon of spirits to Donne; together with 7s. 6d. in bills, he being a labourer in his employ; and that his character was that of an industrious, mild, deserving man.
The whole of the evidence being gone through, the prisoners were put upon their defence.
John Donne denied the accusation generally, and stated that he had gone alone to his master's (Mr Harrex) between five and six in the evening, and was absent half an hour or more; that upon his return to Welch's, it being then about dark, he found the house shut up, the place in darkness, and an entire silence prevailing; that he cast his eyes around, and saw the boy John Welch hovering in silence about the house in which the deceased resided; and on enquiring what he was about, received for answer that he was looking for him. At that juncture he was persuaded the murder had been effected; both as to any circumstance that took place after his conversation with the boy; how they passed the evening and night; or what became of the prisoners Welch and Wilson, in whose hut, which is represented as a single apartment less than 12 feet square, he slept, he gave no account; nor did he account for the money he had spent; but admitted that he had burnt the bills, because he had been informed that they were bad.
Thomas Welch also declared himself innocent, and accused his unhappy son of having advanced falsehoods to his prejudice, and "sworn HIS life away!!!". . . . He solemnly protested, that when the deceased came to his door and challenged Donne with the breaking open of her window, he was totally unacquainted with the nature of the fact; that the boy followed Donne from a signal he must have given, as he did not hear him speak at the time, nor did the woman, though the boy sat between the two; that after Donne and his son had been away a length of time, he went to bed - the woman had done so likewise; that what Donne and his son were about he knew not, as he had never arose from bed from the time of his going in to that of his rising in the morning, or until he let them in - which of the two was the assertion we did not distinctly hear.
Ann Wilson rested her defence upon her original plea, not guilty, and threw herself upon the opinion of her impartial Judges. - [369] 
The Court was directed to be cleared, and after an hour and a quarter's exclusion, the prisoners were recalled to the bar, and the auditory re-admitted.
The crisis of expectancy being arrived, the Judge Advocate communicated to the prisoners severally the Verdict of the Court, which without a shadow of doubt had convicted the prisoner Donne of wilful murder, and the prisoner Thos. Welch of being an accessory after the fact, which extended to him the Benefit of Clergy. Ann Wilson was pronounced Not Guilty.
The Judge Advocate finally proceeded to the awful Sentence of the Law against John Donne, otherwise Dunne, which doomed him to suffer Death on Monday the 16th of August instant, and his body to be afterwards dissected and anatomised.
And as Thomas Welch was already a prisoner for life, and the nature of the offence of which he had been convicted differed in its shadowing but little from that of the condemned culprit, the Court had thought proper to sentence him to 7 years confinement to hard labour wheresoever it should be the pleasure of His Excellency the Governor in Chief to direct.
The Trial lasted from ten to five, at which hour the Court adjourned sine die.