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1-233 (Text)

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author,male,Sydney Gazette,un addressee
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Decisions of NSW Supreme Court
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Petty Treason and Murder. - James Stack and John Hand were indicted for feloniously, wilfully, and traitorously assaulting their master, Michael Minton, in the district of Evan, on the night of the 8th of August last, from the wounds of which he died. The information comprised four counts, severally charging the prisoners with having perpetrated the deed by means of a knife, an axe, a hammer, or a musket.
In opening this terrific case, the Attorney General observed, that the relation in which the prisoners stood with the deceased would have to be proved; but, should the testimony of two witnesses to that fact, as regarded the crime of petty treason, be wanting, then it would be competent for the Jury to judge of the evidence as affecting the prisoners for the crime of murder. The confession of one of the prisoners, the Attorney General informed the Court, would be offered in evidence. By this admission it must appear that the prisoners were present aiding and assisting in the crime; and that, were it urged to have been perpetrated by others, it would be manifest that the premises were too well guarded, by dogs at that season of the night, to allow of a silent or uninterrupted intrusion. That the prisoners were in a condition to execute this fatal mischief, was also to be proved; and that it was totally improbable, as well as impossible, that any one else but them could have effected the deed. It would be shewn that the prisoner Stack had a part of the property in his possession; and, moreover, that the death was occasioned by arms, and other deadly weapons, in the house.
Dr. West, Resident Surgeon at Windsor, deposed, that he was called on to examine the body of Michael Minton, the deceased, at his house in the district of Evan, on the morning of the 10th instant. It was lying on a bed. He ascertained that a pistol ball had penetrated the back, but had not entered far, owing to the circumstance of an interception by the bedding. A musket shot had perforated the fleshy part of the left arm. The throat was cut almost from ear to ear - the jugular vein, and all the larger vessels were divided. Several fractures were observable upon the head. One was just above the left eye, which had the appearance of infliction by a hammer. Three or four other fractures evidently were perpetrated by blows from an axe, or some similar implement. From the nature and complication of these wounds, Dr. West was most decidedly of opinion that the poor old man could not have survived over five minutes. - Mr. Rowe, who appeared for the prisoner Hand, made some enquiry of Dr. West as to the circumstance of his client having been under his medical care in the Windsor Hospital; but as this case appeared totally irrelevant to the case in point, it is not entitled to further consideration.
Thomas Jones was next called. - He lived in the service of the deceased 11 months, and was a fellow-servant with the prisoners at the bar. His master's farm was in the district of Evan, and there are several houses near to, and in a line with that of the deceased, his late master. The Nepean river is half-a-mile distant from the house. Leary's house lies between Minton's and the river. His deceased master came home from Richmond upon the evening of the murder, about sun-set. When he supped, the deceased retired to the inner room to bed: there were only two rooms in the house, with the exception of a passage about 3 feet wide. At the time his master went to bed there were the following persons in the house, viz. Mrs. Minton (the wife); two children; Catherine Spalding (the wife's sister); the two prisoners at the bar; one John Wright, and the witness. In the whole, there were four crown servants on the farm, who had been variously occupied during the day. Between 8 and 9 o'clock when his master was in bed, his mistress despatched him, the witness, to the house of one Mary Peckham, at the distance of half-a-mile with a sheet and shift to be made. These articles were delivered to him by the prisoner Stack through a skilling-window; who told him, that in the event of his master waking, he would report him as being in the barn; and accompanied him a short distance on the road. When he arrived at Mary Peckham's, some conversation took place between her, the witness, and one James Danks. He had not been in the house more than three minutes when the report of a gun was heard. The woman remarked, that that was "Old Minton" firing; which the witness denied, as he had left his master in bed; but the sound coming in that direction, he thought it best to return, not having remained on his errand, in the house, above five minutes. When he left home his fellow-servant, John Wright, was not in the house. When within 6 or 7 rods of a large tree that stands contiguous to the deceased's house, he saw the prisoner James Stack, and a woman whom he supposed to be Mrs. Minton, his mistress, in company, going towards a drain at the foot of the hill, which lies between the dwelling and the river. He swore it was Stack, but could not so clearly identify the person of his mistress, though he was pretty conscious it could be no stranger, as his master was particularly strict against allowing people to go across his farm. For the space of three minutes they were lost sight of; but, on the witness continuing to make for the house, he overheard some inaudible conversation - the parties spoke very low. Suddenly the prisoner Stack came up the side of the hill, and observing the witness, enquired "who was there?" "Jones," was the reply. He then ran up, clasping his hands, and loudly exclaiming, "My God - my God! my master killed!" In answer to some questions put by the astonished witness, the prisoner (Stack) replied, that five men rushed into the house, and killed their master. He said that the mistress and children were safe; and that Mrs. Minton was gone to a neighbour's house to make an alarm. All this time the witness had not seen the other prisoner (John Hand), of whom Stack seemed to know nothing. Accompanied with Stack, the witness proceeded to the house; he wished the former to enter, but excessive agitation apparently prevented him from a compliance in this instance. The witness glanced in at the front room, and conjectured he saw a man stretched out by the right side of the fire-place, who appeared to be on fire. Stack told the witness he should know two of the murderers. There were two good-sized dogs on the farm; he never knew them to bite any one; but they invariably barked at strangers. That evening he did not hear these animals give any alarm, only when the gun fired, and that was but momentary. His master kept a fowling piece or musket, and two pistols in the house. About the premises there were also two axes and a hammer. The axe, which was most commonly in use, could not be found up to the night of the murder, as it was sought after for the purpose of keeping up a fire. He, the witness, saw no strangers, or bush-rangers, about the premises, either prior or subsequent to the dreadful transaction. Several of the neighbours flocked in upon the alarm becoming general. His master was habituated to visit the fields in the evening to ascertain whether the cattle and horses were safe. The prisoner Stack, who was the overseer of the other men, was not very much esteemed till of late by his mistress, Mrs. Minton; but, latterly, her familiarity with this man (Stack) was obvious. At one time she was in the habit of continually expressing a dislike of him to his master, her husband. The two prisoners at the bar were not the most friendly till recently. The witness stated that the prisoner Stack was a faithful overseer, and that he had no personal animosity against him. He was not more than half-an-hour gone to Peckham's, during which short interim the bloody deed had been accomplished. His master was accustomed to discharge a pistol every night. The axe and gun produced to the witness in Court, he verily believed to be the property of the deceased.
John Wright, in the same service with last deponent, deposed, that his master went to bed immediately after supper; he saw him undress, and close the bed-room door. The men, that were in the house, consisted of the two prisoners at the bar, Thomas Jones, and the witness, together with Mrs. Minton, her sister (Catherine Spalding), aud