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1-248 (Raw)

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Martin Benson, James Cogan, John Sprole, Anthony Rodney, and Eliza Campbell, stood indicted for the wilful murder of their late master, John Brackfield, of South Creek. There were two counts in the indictment; the first charging Martin Benson as principal, and the others as accessaries. The second count charged all as principals. In the indictment the date of the murder was laid on the fifth day of November, 1824. The first evidence called on the part of the prosecution, was Mr. Pat Hill, R.N. surgeon examined the body of the deceased, on the 13th of November, being the morning after the murder; found the body lying near the bed side, on the floor. The face was black and swoln; and blood issued from the nose and mouth. The right leg and thigh were forcibly contracted, and the left perfectly straight. The arms were in an inverted position. There was also a contused wound on the head, above the ear considered that the deceased met his death by strangulation was present at the confession of Nich. Kaine --- - had in consequence of some information therein contained, examined the person of Martin Benson, and found a wound in his knee; the body, when he examined it, could not have been long dead.
John Attwood, constable of the district of Cabramatta, lives at South Creek, about 130 rods from the house of the deceased --- - the land is clear, could hear distinctly the dogs of Mr. Brackfield, bark. Mr. B. kept 5 or 6 --- - one was remarkably ferocious. Though a near neighbour, he could not approach the house without calling for some person to pacify the dogs --- on the night of the murder, and all the day previous, heard no noise; saw the deceased in a field with his wife in the afternoon; the next morning was called up by Benson and Kaine; the former said in reply to a question, "he hardly knew what had been the matter; the house had been robbed, the doors had been broken open, and the trunks all tossed about; did not know where his master was, but supposed he was murdered." He requested Kaine to stop at his house, while he went to the house of the deceased. Benson told him, that at eleven o'clock the night previous, the hut was attacked by bushrangers; two of whom stood at the door and window, presenting loaded muskets at them, and threatening them with death if they moved. When within 20 yards of the house, met Eliza Campbell; asked her what was the matter, she answered she did not know. He then went into the house, and found the deceased in the position described by the last witness; the body was quite cold. The female prisoner said she had been dragged from her bed into her mistress's room; upon whose bed she was thrown, and forcibly held there by a man who burst the front door open, and was followed by another --- - she heard a noise in her master's room.
This witness had a horse running in a paddock, about 30 rods from the house of the deceased, on the evening of the murder, in good order and fit for work; on looking at him the morning following, he found him much injured; his head, knee, and shoulder were wounded; and his back swoln, and very tender --- - evidently from the effects of hard riding, and an overload. Knows Jones and Chittenden; they live about 7 miles from the deceased's; Jones is married examined the door, was of opinion the injury it received was effected after the door had been opened employed some black men to search the grounds contiguous but could at the time discover no traces of footsteps. Several days after, at the bottom of the garden several tracks were visible; as of persons jumping over the railings; but went no further than that spot; went in company with Nicholas Kaine and a black, to a water hole distant from the house, 200 yards; and, agreeable to the statement made by Kaine, 2 guns and a hammer were found by the black; knows one of the guns belonged to the deceased; had frequently borrowed it himself. The men said that the bushrangers staid at the hut two hours; saw the deceased alive on the 12th, on the 13th saw him dead.
John Hutchins, is a carpenter and fencer; knows Brackfield's house; examined it the following Sunday; is of opinion that the violence used to the door, was done while open; knows all the prisoners; went with a constable on the Thursday following, to Eliza Campbell; she was in bed, but got up, and sent for some beer; she said she had no hand in the murder, but knew who had; she asked him to take care of a small bundle for her; he desired her to throw it among the potatoes; but saw no more of it.
Nicholas Kaine, one of the accomplices, having been cautioned against any deviation from the truth, on either side, proceeded to give his testimony as follows --- 
I was in Mr. Brackfield's employ at the time of his death; and all the prisoners, in number seven. On leaving their work on the night of the 12th of November, Anthony Rodney told the men in the hut he had seen Eliza Campbell, at the back door, and told her, if she should hear a noise in the night, not to make an alarm, to which she assented: but would render no assistance; she came to the hut in half an hour, and asked what they were going to do: Rodney told her they were going to rob the house, and kill their master; she then went into the house, and returned after dark in her chemise; he heard her say to Benson and Rodney, who were standing outside the door, that she was going to bed with her master, and they might come in and do what they thought fit; they expressed surprise that she should sleep with her master; she replied that he had threatened to send her to the Factory for two pieces of tobacco he had found in her pocket; she then went into the house, saying she would leave the back door open for them. Wright was also present. Martin Benson immediately fetched Attwood's mare; Sprole, Rodney, and witness, went to catch their master's two horses, but returned without them; witness went into the hut, and sat down; the other two went again to the field, and caught the horses, and tied them to the railing; heard Benson ask them what was the best thing to put the master to death with; one of them replied "choke him;" Benson said his silk handkerchief would do the business well; he immediately went to his box, and took it out; went towards the house, followed by Cogan, Sprole, and Rodney; witness went and hid himself behind the pig-stye contiguous to the house; in two minutes after, saw Eliza Campbell run out in her shift; she went into the hut, came out quickly, and ran towards the road; in about 12 or 13 minutes Rodney followed her; then Benson came out, and went to the hut; Rodney and the woman returned from the road, and also went into the hut; while he was standing behind the pig-stye, he heard a groan, as of a person being strangled; saw one of them come out of the hut with a lamp in his hand, and was followed by Rodney and Eliza Campbell; shortly after they came out, and went to the storehouse; cannot say who opened the door; brought some beer out and drank --- Eliza Campbell then discovering him there, asked him what he was doing; and requested him to drink; he at first refused, but afterwards complied; Benson and Rodney brought out three sacks, which they afterwards filled with tea, sugar, and wearing apparel, and a saddle and bridle; Benson loaded the constable's mare, and rode away; the other two, Sprole and Rodney, followed with the other horses; after they were gone Cogan and Eliza Campbell brought a dish full of papers, and burned them; he did not enter the house, himself, that night; the men with the horses returned an hour before day break; they put two of the horses in the stable; and the constable's mare was left in her own paddock; heard them returning very fast; they brought no bag with them back; they went into the house, and brought out some victuals; Benson said they had left the property at "Long Tom's" (Chittenden's); and that Jones was not at home; he also said, that Attwood's mare fell, and that he had cut his knee across her head; Sprole and Benson asked him to throw two guns and a hammer into the creek, which he did; he afterwards pointed out the spot to the constable; about ten in the morning Eliza Campbell asked him to draw her a bucket of water, and gave him two other hammers to throw in; they were dry and clean; usually hung over the fire in the back kitchen; heard Benson say they had taken 34lbs. of tea, and 31lbs. of sugar; went for a constable with Benson; should know the handkerchief used to strangle his master; had often seen it before.
Cross examined.
Has been confined in gaol with Wright by himself; never talked of making up a story to tell the Court; did not go into the house that night, himself, at all; was confined from Tuesday till Sunday, and did not communicate what he knew all that time; denied to Mr. Throsby, that he had any knowledge of the transaction; afterwards said if he could have his clergy, he would tell; does not expect either pardon or reward; was promised both by Mr. Throsby; expects he may yet be tried himself; leaves all to the goodness of the Court; heard Eliza Campbell say, in the morning, it was time to put her in her mistress's room; and desired one of them to give her a blow to mark her; one of them replied, he had not the heart to do that; washed nothing the next morning.
Lewis Solomon, is a carpenter and undertaker, was called on to inter the deceased; his suspicions were excited by Eliza Campbell refusing to put the shroud on the corpse; when he insisted on her doing it, she turned pale, and trembled very much; said to constable, "that woman's guilty."
Matilda Jones is the wife of Stephen Jones, lives on the Orphan School Farm, about 3 miles from Liverpool; knows Long Tom; also Martin Benson; saw the latter on the night of the 12th, about eleven o'clock; he came on horseback; she said to him "For God's sake what brings you here at this time of the night," and desired him to go away; is positive he is the man.
David O'Hara and John Knoblett, belonging to clearing parties at Cabramatta, saw three men on horseback, riding very fast, on the night of the 13th, in the direction from the Orphan School Farm, to South Creek; mentioned it the next morning, when they heard of the murder; do not know either of the prisoners.
Mr. Ikin, chief constable of Liverpool, and George Greenhill, a constable, deposed to finding the property now produced; part on the premises of Chittenden, alias Long Tom; and part concealed in the ground adjoining.
Mr. Henry Marr, of Sydney, proved having sold several of the articles now produced, and found concealed at "Long Tom's," to Mr. Brackfield.
Mrs. Brackfield, widow of the deceased, identified the property so found, as belonging to her husband.
This witness has been for many years in a state of mental derangement; but at this time was lucid and sensible.
Samuel Wright, the other approver, corroborated all the statement of Nicholas Kaine; he farther added, that he heard Sprole say, that he and Rodney had hit him on the head with a hammer; and Benson said, he had tied the handkerchief, and strangled him; heard them say that Long Tom's wife weighed the tea and sugar; while they were gone, Cogan and Eliza Campbell burnt a shirt, because it was bloody; Sprole also, on his return, burned another, for the same reason; saw a hammer lying on the dresser, in the kitchen, next morning; Eliza Campbell said that was the hammer they killed the master with; it was very bloody; she took a cloth and wiped it off; he was in bed while the murder was perpetrated; shortly after they went out to kill the master. Eliza Campbell ran into the hut, and said, "Lord have mercy, they are killing the master;" she then went out; he did not go into the house till next morning.
Joseph Leon, a prisoner in the gaol, was employed by Sprole to write a letter to Eliza Campbell; saying, therein, that the property had been left at Jones's; that he was the putter up of this business; and was clearing himself at their expense; that he had received £6, all but a dump, for some of the property.
This was the case on the part of the prosecution. No evidence was called on behalf of the prisoners. The Chief Justice, in summing up, expressed a strong opinion of the guilt of the prisoners. The Jury retired for about ten minutes, and then returned with a Verdict of guilty against all.
On behalf of the prisoners an arrest of judgment was moved, on the ground of its having been laid in the indictment that the murder was committed on the 5th, and proved in evidence that it was committed on the 12th of the month. The Court adjourned till Saturday, when the Attorney and the Solicitor-General, on the authority of Lord Hale's pleas of the Crown, contended that the objection was groundless, which was the opinion of the Court; and the Chief Justice, therefore, proceeded to pass sentence of death upon the prisoners. 
The Chief Justice observed, that it was not his intention to wound the feelings of the unfortunate persons, or to aggravate their sufferings by entering into the details of the evidence; it was his duty to tell them that no recommendation for mercy could with justice be forwarded to His Excellency on their behalf.
They were ordered for execution on Monday the 24th inst. and their bodies to be delivered to the surgeons for dissection. 
The male prisoners were very little affected when their awful doom was communicated to them; the female, on the contrary, appeared deeply sensible of her unfortunate situation.
During the whole of the trial the prisoners manifested perfect apathy; they heard the evidence of Kaine, particularly describing the perpetration of the horrid deed, with hardened indifference they made no defence when the verdict was pronounced. The woman, for the first time, betrayed a slight agitation; exclaiming "she was innocent." The men said their lives had been sworn away by two vagabonds; and Rodney observed, "that he would haunt them as long as God Almighty would give him liberty."
They were all young men; the oldest, Sprole, not appearing more than 30. Mar[t] in Benson, who is represented as being the most active, looks about 22. The countenance of Rodney was dark and forbidding.
The unfortunate convicts were attended to the place of execution on Monday by the Rev. Mr. Cowper and the Rev. Mr. Therry, Roman Catholic Clergyman. After the usual devotions in which they all joined, were ended, the culprits ascended the fatal scaffold, where they were again joined by the Rev. Clergymen; they acknowledged the justice of their sentence; one of them sung two hymns, and the whole of them evinced the utmost penitence for their crime --- - they were then launched into eternity.