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1-232 (Raw)

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Murder.- The first case that became exhibited to the Court was one of a sanguinary description, in which two fellow creatures were to stand their trial for their lives, on the charge of depriving a fellow mortal of that existence which man can take away, but which none except the Creator can bestow.
Michael Murphy and John Sullivan were indicted for the wilful murder of William Byrne, on the evening of the 7th of March last.
(The prisoners were informed that they had a right to challenge, on the ground of interest or affection, any of the Jury.)
The Attorney General opened the case, in which the learned Gentleman briefly stated such facts as became developed in the course of the evidence. The first witness called on the part of the prosecution was, Dr. Anderson, Assistant Surgeon on the Colonial Establishment, who deposed, that he examined the body of William Byrne, the deceased, on the 8th of March last, in the General Hospital. He found the head considerably injured and swelled by two contused wounds; one of which was much larger than the other - the largest at the back part of the head. That, in cutting down upon the scalp, there appeared a considerable extravasation of blood between the skull and scalp, with an extensive fracture of the occipital bone. So satisfied was Dr. Anderson of the cause of death by these wounds, that he proceeded no further in his examination of the body. The wounds were evidently inflicted by a heavy blunt instrument.
G.M. Slade, Esq. Coroner, deposed, that he convened an Inquest on the melancholy occasion on the 8th of March, the day after the murder, and that the papers now handed into Court were correct copies of the depositions and verdict.
John Thomas Campbell, Esq. proved some additional depositions that were taken before him, and other Justices of the Peace.
Catherine Bruce deposed, that she was acquainted with Byrne, the deceased, as well as the two prisoners at the bar. She lived at the Waterloo Mills, about 3 miles from Sydney on the Botany-road, with her husband. She came into town about 3 in the afternoon of the 7th of March, the day on which the murder was perpetrated; that upon coming to the toll-gate, she saw the prisoners at the bar, who were then apparently proceeding on the Botany-road, on their way to the Mills, of which the prisoner Murphy had then the charge as overseer and clerk. - At or about 8 o'clock in the same evening, she returned through the toll-bar, in her progress homewards, in company with three men, viz. the deceased, John Baxter, and Patrick Haydon. Shortly after their entering upon the Botany-road, the witness beheld four men advance from the bush, who leaped over the fence. Having hold of the arm of the deceased, she exclaimed, "Billy, my lad, see who is coming!" And before the words were scarcely articulated, poor Byrne received a violent blow on the head from one of the four men, which caused the blood to fly over the bonnet and face of the wituess [sic]. The prisoner Murphy gave this blow. The other prisoner, Sullivan, then struck him, was the last that struck him, and was the man that killed him! The other men were engaged in beating Baxter. In behalf of the deceased she vainly implored mercy at the hands of the dire ruffians, when one of them gave her a blow. As soon as the murder was complete, the party seemed to return towards Sydney. The witness dispatched Baxter to Sydney, to give the alarm; and the other man, Haydon, went for her husband to the Waterloo Mills, whilst the witness remained with the body. She laid the head of the deceased in her lap, and rubbed the temples, but there was no sign of life remaining.
Upon the part of the prisoners the witness was cross-examined by Mr. Solicitor Rowe. She still deposed to meeting the prisoners on the way out through the toll-gate, while she was coming into Town. At the time, she added, that one James Purcell accompanied her. She called at the Woolpack public-house, just at the entrance of Sydney, and obtained one pint of beer, which was drank by Purcell and herself. From thence she went to the house of one Wheeler in George-street, but there had nothing to drink. After this she called at the house of Daniel Kelly, where three others and the witness drank a quart of beer. From Kelly's she returned to the Woolpack, where she met with the deceased, Baxter, and Haydon. Here she had nothing to drink. The witness stated that she was perfectly sober, and did not require any assistance home; and that Baxter only went to protect her out of friendship to her husband. She again, most particularly swore to the prisoners; but the other two she had no recollection of, neither would she be able to identify them. The four men were dressed in black, and wore long great coats. The night was sufficiently light to behold the faces of the prisoners at the bar.
John Baxter deposed, that he was out at the Waterloo Mills to see the husband of the last deponent, on the afternoon of the day on which the murder was committed. That Mrs. Bruce left home for Sydney about 3 in the afternoon; and waiting rather late, her husband requested him to come into town for the purpose of seeing her safe home. When within 200 yards of the Woolpack public-house, he could distinguish the voice of Mrs. Bruce. He found her in company with the deceased, and the other man, Haydon. This was between 6 and 7 o'clock. A few minutes after 8, Mrs. Bruce, the deceased, Haydon, and himself set out for the Waterloo Mills. They had just left the toll-bar, and entered upon the Botany-road when Mrs. Bruce desired him to go forward; upon complying with which his eye caught 4 or 5 men coming up, whom he supposed to be constables. One of them gave him a blow on the head, and in recovering from the effects of its violence a second was inflicted, which felled him to the ground, and produced insensibility for some considerable time. He was quite sober, but knew none of the party. He was on the right hand side of the road when assaulted, and the deceased on the left, only a very short distance. The men seemed to have large coats on, that came below the knees, which were all of a dark colour. He recovered in time to perceive the assailants make for Sydney.
In his cross-examination by Mr. Rowe, the witness admitted that Mrs. Bruce had been drinking, and that the two men, Haydon and the deceased, were intoxicated. Mrs. Bruce gave the deponent some beer at the Woolpack. The men were 100 yards off when he first saw them on the Botany-road, and were then in the rear; they walked together on the right hand side of the road. That finding they were all intoxicated, he thought it his duty to conduct Mrs. Bruce home. It was a cloudy night, and so dark, that it was not possible to discern the countenance of any of the parties; but still, had he been intimately acquainted with any of them, he admitted it would have been easy to identify their persons. He would not swear to either of the prisoners.
In answer to a question put by the Attorney General, the witness said, that a very few minutes only could have elapsed from the time he first saw the four men, till the moment he was struck; and that the face of Mrs. Bruce was not turned towards the party, till he, the witness, told her they were coming.
Richard Palmer deposed, that he met Mrs. Bruce, and her party, going towards the Waterloo Mills, on the evening of the murder, between 8 and 9. He was then coming in to town from Botany; and having a knowledge of the deceased Byrne, spoke to him, in passing. None of the party appeared to him in liquor, nor did he think they were. So far from its being a dark and cloudy night, as deposed by Baxter, this witness stated it as a windy and moon-light light, [sic] the moon being within an hour of setting. Upon coming to the bottom, or the commencement, of the Botany-road, he met Sullivan, one of the prisoners at the bar, with whom he was acquainted. He, Sullivan, came across the road from 3 or 4 other men. He enquired of the witness where he was going; he replied, to Sydney. The witness then asked Sullivan who were those men, in great coats, on the other side of the road; and the latter immediately asked if he, the witness, met Mrs. Bruce on the road, and who was with her? He told him, that "Little Bill, the Carpenter," meaning, the deceased, was among the number. The witness then bade Sullivan good night, which salutation was not returned. He stated, that Sullivan was dressed in blue, and that the others wore great coats. Business requiring his return to Botany early the next morning, the witness saw the body of the murdered man; he then gave information of the previous evening's interview with the prisoner Sullivan, but was not aware, at the time, that he was then in custody on suspicion.
Joseph Smith, who lived at the Waterloo Mills, in the same house with the prisoner Murphy, deposed, that the latter came home on the afternoon that the murder was committed, exchanged a white jacket that he had worn all day, for one of a blue colour, and went out saying, that he would endeavour to secure the deceased Byrne, and lodge him in the watch-house, for absence and neglect of duty. Sullivan, the other prisoner, also dressed in blue, accompanied Murphy from home: the latter had a stick, but which he was unable to describe to the Court. Murphy returned in the evening, saying he could not find "Bill," the deceased, and that he would not further perplex himself about him. The witness did not see Sullivan till the constables came to apprehend him at 11 at night.
Patrick Coglan deposed, that he slept in the same room with the prisoner Sullivan. He saw both the prisoners on the 7th March. They were dressed in blue. Sullivan came home some time in the night, and told him he had seen Mrs. Bruce and the deceased on their way home, and that they knew him.
John Bruce, a resident at the Waterloo Mills, deposed, that he saw the prisoner Murphy on the evening of the 7th of March, before sun-set. He was enquiring for the deceased, Byrne, and one M'Coy; both of whom were under the orders of the prisoner Murphy, as the overseer of the Mills.
The case for the prosecution here closed.
Daniel Kelly was the first witness called by Mr. Rowe, in behalf of the prisoners. He deposed that he saw Mrs. Bruce about an hour before sun-set on the evening of the 7th of March last. She was "rolling drunk" past his gate. He then lived in Pitt-street, and Mrs. Bruce being acquainted with his wife, came in. She sent for half-a-pint of rum, giving the witness's wife a silver shilling to procure the same; of which Mrs. Bruce partook one-sixth, or half-a-glass. After remaining here half-an-hour, Mrs. Bruce went into an adjoining public-house, where she continued till sun-set. Upon leaving the public-house, she was so drunk that the witness stated she wished to return to his house to become sober, but which his wife would not allow. A man, who came out with her, conducted her away.
John Cullen, innkeeper in George-street, Sydney, on the Brickfield-hill, deposed, that he recollects the evening of the murder well; that he saw Mrs. Bruce, and two men, going by his house on that evening towards the toll-gate; and that all three appeared to be drunk, as they talked loud, and conducted themselves as intoxicated persons. He had often seen Mrs. Bruce in an inebriated condition.
Florence M'Carthy deposed, that he lived at the toll-gate; that he saw Mrs. Bruce on the evening of the murder returning homewards, with three men; and that she appeared so drunk, that they were holding her up; but cannot positively say she was intoxicated, only coming to such a conclusion from appearances.
John Baxter was here re-called. - He stated, that he saw the man who gave him the second blow; but not him that struck the first. To either of the prisoners he could not swear.
James Dunlevy, a constable at the first round-house, on the Parramatta-road, deposed, that he was in quest of bush-rangers in the vicinity of the Waterloo Mills on the evening and night of the 7th of March; that about 6 o'clock, upon the other side of the Mills, he fell in with the prisoner Murphy, who was driving some bullocks out to pasturage for the night, and he complained, at the time, of the absence of some men from the Mills. They remained in company till 25 minutes before nine o'clock, when they separated at the Waterloo-gate, Murphy going towards the Mills, aud [sic] the witness making a short cut across the country to the round-house, which saved half-a-mile, and avoided the scene of murder. He concluded his testimony by remarking that Murphy wore a blue dress.
Many respectable witnesses were called on the part of the prisoner Murphy, as to character; and one and all agreed as to his sobriety, diligence, and honesty.
The prisoners having closed their defence, the Attorney General rose, and addressed the Court by observing, that he could not do better, for the ends of justice, than leave the case with the Jury.
His Honor the Chief Justice then proceeded to sum up the evidence; and, in his charge to the Jury, His Honor could not avoid remarking on the discrepancy in the evidence, as far as regarded the sobriety of Catherine Bruce - the only witness that ventured on swearing to the prisoners at the bar, and upon whose testimony their destiny seemed to hinge. Her testimony remained unsupported; and several witnesses deposed to her inebriety upon the evening of the murder. His Honor stated the law upon the subject to the Jury; going over the whole of the evidence, and making such comments as the importance of the case, and the intricacy of the circumstances, required.
The Jury retired about half after five, and resumed their seats about six; when the Foreman returned a verdict of Not Guilty against the prisoners, who were directed by His Honor to be immediately discharged.
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