Spotlight: Execution of Bradley and O’Connor (02/01/1854)

Tasmanian Colonist (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1851 – 1855), Monday 2 January 1854, page 4


VICTORIA.

[…]

Return of Persons Tried and Convicted of Capital Offences in the Colony, of Victoria, and Executed at Melbourne in the year 1853: — George Whitfield Pinkerton, tried at Melbourne, free, for murder; Aaron Durant, Castlemaine, free, robbery with violence with fire-arms and wounding; Henry Turner and John Smith, Castlemaine, bond, robbery and shooting and wounding with intent to murder; George Wilson, George Melville, and William Atkyus, Melbourne, bond, robbery, and shooting and wounding with intent to murder; Patrick O’Connor and Henry Bradley, Melbourne, bond, shooting and wounding with intent to murder; Alexander Ram, Melbourne, bond, murder; Michael Fetuiessey, Melbourne, bond, murder; John Smith, Melbourne, bond, rape. — Totals — free 2, bond, 10. One prisoner sentenced to death for rape, awaits execution. — Argus,

Spotlight: The Melbourne Private Escort Robbery (03/09/1853)

Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer (NSW : 1845 – 1860), Saturday 3 September 1853, page 1


THE MELBOURNE PRIVATE ESCORT ROBBERY

From our Melbourne exchanges we extract the following, having reference to the progress of the investigation pending before thc authorities:—

SUICIDE OF FRANCIS, THE APPROVER.— Intelligence reached Melbourne, yesterday of the self-destruction of John Francis, the approver in the Escort robbery. The affair occurred yesterday morning at the Rocky Water Holes, a few miles from Melbourne, and from what can be as yet ascertained, it appears that Francis and the other persons in custody on their way to Melbourne, stopped at the Water Holes on Monday night. About eleven o’clock yesterday morning, Francis, by some means not yet ascertained, picked up a razor at the lock-up, which he appears to have secreted on his person, and having occasion to visit the water-closet, got in behind it, and there cut his throat. Two constables were supposed to have charge of him at the time, and the first intimation they had of the occurrence (though they were within a few paces of him at the time), was suddenly hearing a gurgling in the throat, and on running to ascertain what was the matter, found Francis with his throat cut almost from ear to ear. He walked about 12 paces and then dropped dead. How his death will affect the prosecutions for the Crown, is more than we are at present in a position to say. — Melbourne Herald, August 25th.

EXAMINATION OF THE PRISONERS. — Yesterday at the District Police Court, the following prisoners charged with being concerned in the robbery of the Private Escort Company, were brought up handcuffed for examination:— George Elston, Robert Harding, Edward McEvoy, George Wilson, George Melville, and William Atkyns. Agnes Atkyns, his wife, was also accused of being an accessary after the fact. The female prisoner was greatly excited, and was accommodated with a seat under the Bench. She frequently interrupted the proceedings by her sobs, when the evidence was such as to affect her husband.

Mr. Read appeared for the prisoners, and applied to have their handcuffs removed, which was immediately done. He then stated that he had been refused all intercourse with his clients, and prayed for permission to put himself in communication with them, which was granted.

John Francis, brother to the suicide-approver, was admitted as evidence on the part of the Crown, and after a long examination, the Bench remanded the three prisoners Harding, McEvoy, and Elston, for one week, but would allow them bail, themselves in £200, and two sureties in £100 each. The rest of the prisoners the Bench did not feel the least hesitation in committing to take their trial in a higher Court.

When the prisoners were about to be removed, the wretched woman made an attempt to reach her husband, but was prevented by the constables. She pleaded hard to be allowed to speak to him for one moment, saying she would then go where they liked, but the indulgence was not allowed her.

THE PRIVATE ESCORT ROBBERY. — There is something extraordinary connected with this affair, as it now turns out that all the information given by the suicide approver (George Francis), proves to be pure fabrication, and the four men arrested by the detective police at the diggings are supposed to be quite innocent of the crime imputed to them. We may, however, state that Francis’s brother (John) has now, in his turn, become informer, and by means of his evidence it is supposed five men will be convicted. Four of them are now in custody in Melbourne, and the fifth, named Sam Grey, is reported to have been arrested in Portland where he was committed for another offence, but confessed his participation in the Escort robbery. It is now ascertained that the gang originally consisted of only six persons, and should such be the case, the five men above mentioned and the informer will be found to make the whole. — Melbourne Herald, August 26th.

THE PRIVATE ESCORT. — We regret to learn that this enterprising little company is about to be wound up, in consequence of a want of a sufficient support from the public. By the way, the £6,000 in hard cash found upon the men in custody for robbing the Escort, will, it is supposed, in the event of their conviction, (of which, we are glad to hear, there can be little or no doubt,) be handed over to the Company, who would rateably divide it among the parties who had sent their gold down on the occasion of this robbery. — Ibid.

Spotlight: The Private Escort Robbery. Examination of the Prisoners. (30/08/1853)

Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (Vic. : 1851 – 1856), Tuesday 30 August 1853, page 1


THE PRIVATE ESCORT ROBBERY.

EXAMINATION OF THE PRISONERS.

The following prisoners (handcuffed) were placed at the bar, viz.:—George Elston, George Melville, George Wilson. William Atkins, Edward McEvoy, and Robert Harding. Agnes Atkins, charged as an accessory, was allowed a chair. Mr. Read complained to the court that his clients were placed at the bar in shackles, which was a breach of the constitutional laws of England. The bench declined to make any order with reference to Mr Read’s remarks.

Mr. James Ashley, sworn — From information I received, I proceeded on board the barque Collooney, and I made a search in one of the cabin’s, where I found a leather trunk which contained two parcels of sovereigns, viz.:— one containing £103 10s in gold; the other containing 720 sovereigns; amongst other things I found several papers and receipts, bearing the name of George Melville; on the 12th August, I went to the house of a man named John Atkins, where I saw the prisoner, William Atkins; I arrested him and told him the nature of the charge against him; searching him I found a draft on the Bank of Australia (Sydney) for £400; we went into an adjoining room, where we saw the female prisoner; I asked if she had any money, and she admitted having some, and I took from her pocket a parcel containing £81 10s. in gold and a dress lying over a barrel. I took hold of it, when she snatched it out of my hand; I snatched back the dress, and on searching I found, in the lining, a draft on the New South Wales Bank, (Sydney) for £700, payable to Agnes Mclaughlin; on searching Atkins, the male prisoner, I found on him a receipt for money paid for cabin passages of Mr. and Mrs. Atkins, in the Hellespont, steamer, to Sydney; about eight o’clock the same evening I went to the North Star Hotel, where I arrested George Melville.

Hindle Thompson sworn — I am a detective policeman; and on the 11th August, I was aboard the ship Madagascar where I arrested prisoner George Wilson; I found 302 sovereigns on his person.

Samuel Davis, sworn — I am a trooper in the Private Escort; yesterday, the 24th August, I went to the Melbourne gaol, I recognized two men whom I believe to have been amongst the parties who attacked us; the prisoner Melville, and the second approver.

Mr. McMahon, deposed as follows — On or about the 12th August, I sent for the younger Francis, in order to hold some private conversation with him; when he came to my office, I told him, as he might see by the notices posted on the gates, that one of the parties concerned in the outrage would receive a free pardon, a passage out of the colony, and £500, on turning approver; after considerable hesitation he admitted that he was one of the party who attacked the Private Escort, and also informed me of the names of the others who were his companions on that occasion, and he assisted in their apprehension; the names of the whole party, as he gave them, were:— George Francis (himself), John Francis. Joe Grey alias another named Billy, Bob Harding, George Elton, George Melville, George Wilson, two others, names unknown; I promised him that I would not use his evidence against his brother.

At this stage of the proceedings, the second approver was introduced into the court, and as may be expected, was an object of universal attention. Dark and bitter were the scowls of hate and vengeance darted at him by some of the prisoners; but he appeared comparatively unmoved, and gave the following evidence in a calm and firm, though low tone of voice.

My name is John Francis, and I arrived in Van Diemen’s Land under a sentence of ten years’ transportation. My sentence has not yet expired, but will in September. On the 20th July last, I left the McIvor in company with my brother, George Wilson, George Melville, William Atkins, and Joseph Grey. Of these I now recognise Melville, Wilson, and Atkins, as three of the party named. We went through the bush towards the Mia Mia Inn, and stopped on the side of the road a few miles from the inn. We soon after heard the Private Escort coming up, and it was now between ten and eleven in the morning. The Escort troop was coming up from McIvor, and (I believe) going towards Kyneton. Previous to this we arranged a few branches of trees, and placed two men behind, the rest of them (and I) being stationied behind trees about thirty yards higher up the road. I heard some person of the Escort cry halt; and on looking out, I saw some of the troopers firing at the two men behind the branches. We then, the rest of us, rushed down to their assistance. We all challenged the Escort men to stand, when they refused, and fired on us, when a general fight commenced. I fired at the Escort troop, and observed four of the troopers wounded; two of the latter escaped, and were followed by two of us. viz., myself and the prisoner Wilson, calling upon them to surrender. They replied by shooting at us, and galloping away. I and Wilson then went down the road, and gathering up all the fire-arms we could see, we followed Atkins, Melville, Grey, and George Francis, who preceded us in the bush, whither the boxes of gold had been carried, and we then took the gold out of the boxes. It was whilst I and Wilson were after the two men that the gold had been removed from the dray. Where the gold was taken out of the boxes was some 20 yards from off the road, in the bush; and after doing so, we travelled about seven miles through the country that day, and camped in the bush. We resumed our route on the following morning, having first divided the gold. We passed the second night by a river’s side, on Mollison’s run, and continued our route in the same direction, always keeping the bush and avoiding the road. The next night we passed in the bush, near Kilmore, and then, on the Sunday morning, we all left together for Melbourne, but separated on coming to the Rocky Water Holes, Grey and George Francis accompanying me into Melbourne. That night we reached town, and proceeded to my house, at Collingwood Flat, where I saw Wilson and Atkins, it being previously arranged that we were to meet there. They remained at my house all night, and on the Tuesday after Atkins left for the digging, Grey and Wilson remaining with me. On the day before I was apprehended, I saw the prisoner Melville in Melbourne, when he told me he was going to the Mauritius; about seven days after leaving town, Atkins returned from the diggings, and I saw him in town; he told me that he had been to the McIvor; the last time I saw Grey he said he was going to Adelaide; the prisoner, I, and my brother were to have started for England in the Madagascar, and we had accordingly engaged passages in that vessel; I was soon after apprehended on a charge of stealing a pistol, and was subsequently remanded for robbing the Escort; the last time I saw George Francis was in this court; since which time I have had no communication with him; I sent a message to Captain McMahon, from the gaol; and I subsequently told him all the proceedings; the confession was voluntary on my part, and there was no inducement held out to me: after the confession, Captain McMahon told me that he would send me a free man from the colony, with my wife; on arranging for this attack we had resolved, if possible, not to take human life; for we thought we could get the gold without firing; I did not see any of our party shoot at the men in advance; the first firing was commenced by the escort party.

Mr. Read submitted that there was no case whatever against Mrs. Atkins; then, as to the prisoners McEvoy, Elson, and Harding, that there was not a particle of proof against them.

Captain McMahon was informed that the man Grey had been arrested in Portland, and confessed the crime; as to Harding, Elson, and McEvoy, he thought there must be some mistake; they had been taken into custody on the statement of the former Francis, and he (Capt. M.) did not believe them to have been implicated in the robbery. The Bench decided upon remanding the prisoners, McEvoy, Elson, and Harding, for one week; and committed Melville, Wilson, and Atkins, to take their trial for shooting at and robbing the private escort, and Atkins’ wife as an accessory after the fact. The prisoners were then removed in custody. — Herald.

Spotlight: COUNTY OF BOURKE POLICE COURT (26/08/1853)

Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Friday 26 August 1853, page 6


COUNTY OF BOURKE POLICE COURT

Thursday, August 25th.

(Before C. Payne, N. A Fenwick, R. A. Balsirnie, A.F.A. Greeves, William Thomas, and Charles Vaughan, Esqrs., J.P.’s.)

THE PRIVATE ESCORT ROBBERY — EXAMINATION OF THE PRISONERS. — It being generally understood that the examination of witnesses would be today proceeded with in this long-pending and highly-interesting case, the Court was densely crowded, and very many could not be accommodated with even standing room. About eleven o’clock the following prisoners (handcuffed) were placed at the bar, viz,. George Elston, George Melville, George Wilson, William Atkins, Edward McEvoy, and Robert Harding.

Agnes Atkins, the wife of the male prisoner of that name, charged as an accessory, was allowed a chair on the floor of the Court. Mr. Read appeared for the prisoners.

Mr. Read complained to the Court that his clients were placed at the bar in shackles, which was a breach of the constitutional law of England. The accused should be allowed to come up free in mind and in body, and he hoped the bench would not permit such a violation of what was the privilege of every man previous to conviction. He also com-plained of being prevented from communi-cating with his clients, as otherwise he could not undertake to do justice to their defence.

The bench declined to make any order with reference to the first portion of Mr. Read’s remarks, but allowed him to hold communication with the prisoners. The Inspector of police conducted the prosecution.

Mr. James Ashley sworn. From information I received, I proceeded, accompanied by detectives Murray and Simcock, on the 11th of August on board the barque Collooney, then lying in Hobson’s Bay, and from further information I there received, I made a search in one of the cabins, where I found a leather trunk, which I opened. It contained two parcels of sovereigns, viz., one was a small leathern bag, containing £403 10s in gold; the other was a sort of reticule, containing 720 sovereigns. Amongst other things in the trunk, I found several papers and receipts, bearing the name of George Melville. I took possession of the property, and left the vessel. On the 12th August, with the same officers and a man named George Francis, I went to the house of a man named John Harris, hay and corn dealer, in Little Bourke-street, where I saw the prisoner, William Atkins, who was immediately pointed out to me by Francis as one of the men who made the attack on and robbed the Private Escort. I arrested him, and told him the nature of the charge against him. Searching him, I found on his person £3 10s in gold, and a draft on the Bank of Australasia (Sydney) in favour of William Atkins, for £100. We went into an adjoining room, where we saw the female prisoner, and asking her name she told me “she was Agnes Atkins, the wife of the man whom we had in custody.” I intimated to her that I should arrest her, on suspicion of being implicated in the same charge; and I did so. I asked if she had any money, and she admitted having some, and I took from her pocket a parcel containing £81 10s., in gold. I questioned her closely if she had anymore money, and she replied she had not. I then left the room for a very short time, leaving her and Francis together. In about two minutes the latter came out, and told me to go in and search a plaid dress of Mrs. Atkins, that I should find in the room. I did so, and finding the dress in question lying over a barrel, I took hold of it, when she snatched it out of my hand.

(The female prisoner here burst out crying, and it was some time before she could be quieted.)

Examination resumed. I snatched back the dress, and on searching I found in the body lining, a draft on the New South Wales Bank (Sydney), for £700, payable to Agnes McLaughlin. I omitted to mention that on searching Atkins, the male prisoner, I found on him a receipt for £24 for money paid for cabin passages for Mr. and Mrs. Atkins in the Hellespont steamer to Sydney. I then had the parties removed to the lock-up. About 8 o’clock the same evening I went with the same two officers and Francis to the North Star Hotel, where I arrested George Melville. I told him the nature of my charge against him, and on searching found on him £100 10s. in gold, silver and notes, a silver watch and guard, a six-barrelled revolver and an American gold dollar. Him I also confined in the watchhouse. I should have said that when we first entered Harris’s house, Francis pointed to Atkins and exclaimed, “he is one of the men, seize him.”

Cross-examined by Mr Read: I arrested three other men after Atkins was taken, on information received from Francis. The latter is now dead. Two of the men so arrested are now before the Court, and the other was discharged yesterday. Melville’s wife was possessed of some property when she married him, and they then resided opposite to me, when they carried on the business of a fruit and oyster shop in Little Bourke-street, near the Theatre. They were married about twelve months ago.

Hindle Thompson sworn — I am a detective policeman; and on the 11th August I was aboard the ship Madagascar, then lying in Hobson’s Bay, where I arrested prisoner George Wilson on suspicion of being one of the Escort robbers. I informed him of the charge against him, and then took him into the captain’s cabin, where I searched him. I found 302 sovereigns on his person. Going below with him into his cabin, the prisoner got hold of a pair of trowsers, in which I found 56 sovereigns, and then bringing him ashore, I confined him.

Mr. Read intimated that he had no questions to ask.

Samuel Davis sworn — I am a trooper in the Private Escort. On the 20th July last, our party left the McIvor Diggings about 9 a.m. The party consisted of a superintendent, a sergeant, three troopers (including myself), and the cart driver. We were escorting gold and specie from McIvor to Kyneton, via the road to Melbourne. When we reached about four miles on McIvor side of the Mia Mia Inn, I saw Sergeant Duins, who was then riding in advance, motion with his hand to the right side of the road. I followed his motion, and that moment we received a volley of shots from a sort of Mia Mia on the side of the road. I was not shot down in the first instance, and drawing my pistol, fired at a man, who fired at me at the same time. I received his discharge in the neck, jaw, and nose, and tumbled from my horse. When on the ground I noticed two men, one on each wheel; they drew the boxes (containing the gold and specie) out of the cart, when some other men lifted them up and conveyed them into the bush. Looking around I saw Fooks, the driver, and trooper Froaswater lying on the ground. I asked them whether they were hurt, when Fooks replied, “I am a dead man.” The other asked me “if I could get up to get a knife and cut his trousers, as he was shot through the thigh.” Not having a knife on my person, I looked round to see if I could find one, and immediately beheld a blue coat near me on the ground. It did not belong to our party, and on searching the pockets found the knife produced. Whilst cutting the trowsers from Froaswater, I saw Morton, another of the troopers, stretched on the ground, and his horse dead and lying on him. He begged me either to remove or shift the horse off him, but I found I could not do so. Considering what I had best do, I walked some distance along the road, towards the Mia Mia Inn, and met a man coming up as if making for McIvor. I asked him to lend us assistance as we had been stuck up, and he did so, and lifted the wounded men into the cart. I mounted one horse, leading two others, and proceeded towards the McIvor. After going about a quarter of a mile, we met Mr. Warner (the Superintendent), returning from the direction of McIvor, with a party of men. He took my horse from me, and mounted

man who was on foot. I then walked on to Patterson’s Station, where I was placed upon a horse, and taken to the Government camp. Yesterday, the 24th August, I went to the Melbourne jail, where a number of men were in a line before me, and in them I recognized two men whom I believe to have been amongst the parties who attacked us. (The witness was here directed to look towards the dock, and point out the two men referred to if he could, which he did, and immediately identified the prisoner Melville; the second he declared he did not see; for a very good reason, because, being the second approver John Francis, he was not arraigned.) I swear to Melville, to the best of my belief.

Cross-examined — I should imagine that the party attacking us consisted of nine or ten men.

Captain McMahon, the Inspector of Police, tendered his evidence as to a statement made to him by Francis, the suicide approver, to which Mr. Read objected, as it was not a dying deposition, or made in the presence of the prisoners.

Captain McMahon, in reply to a question from the Bench, said the statement in question was made to him in his own office after the discharge of Francis from the Police Court. His reason for wishing to make it public was to explain certain circumstances which induced the arrest of certain of the prisoners, for which he had been threatened by Mr. John Stephen with an action for false imprisonment.

The Bench, under such circumstances, decided on hearing the statement, and Mr. McMahon deposed as follows. On or about the 12th August I sent for the younger Francis, then a prisoner in the Swanston-street watchhouse, in order to hold some private conversation with him. When he came to my office, I told him, as he might see by the notices posted on the gates, that one of the parties concerned in the outrage would receive a free pardon, a passage out of the colony, and £500, on turning approver. After considerable hesitation he admitted —

Mr. Read. — Capt. McMahon, were the prisoners present?

Capt. McMahon. — No, they were not.

Mr. Read should now very strongly press his objection, which was founded on every principle of law. Statements could only be given and received in evidence when a party was in extremis, and fully sensible of his approaching death, and even then it should be properly reduced to writing.

The Bench overruled the objection, and on the application of Mr. Read, the clerk was directed to note the objection on the margin of the deposition.

Captain McMahon. — After considerable hesitation, Francis admitted that he was one of the party who attacked the Private Escort near McIvor, and also informed me of the names of the others who were his companions on that occasion, and he assisted in their apprehension. The names of the whole party, as he gave them, were thus:— George Francis (himself), John Francis, Joe Grey alias McNutty (who could be found at Tommy Coulon’s house, in Little Bourke-street), another named Dilly, boarding at the house of the brother of the proprietor of the Bush Inn; Bob Harding (at McEvoy’s tent, opposite the Private Escort Company, McIvor); George Elston, (a fighting man, with one tooth out, to be found at McIvor); George Melville, George Wilson, two others, names unknown (one of them very much pockmarked, dark-brown hair, 5ft. 7 or 8 in. in height, and about 30 years of age); the other man, with light brown hair, 5 ft. 6in., about 27 years of age, and went by the name of “Little Billy,” who lived with a woman called Kitty, down the road on the left hand side near the Bald Hill, McIvor. I then handed over the prisoner (Francis) to the chief detective officer, and desired the latter to take Francis about with him for the purpose of assisting in the apprehension of the remainder. I also promised him that I would not use his evidence against his brother, and would exert myself to have him included in the pardon.

At this stage of the proceedings, the second approver was introduced into the court, and, as may be expected, was an object of universal attention. Dark and bitter were the scowls of hate and vengeance darted at him by some of the prisoners; but he appeared comparatively unmoved, and gave the following evidence in a calm and firm, though low tone of voice:—

My name is John Francis, and I arrived in Van Diemen’s Land under a sentence of ten years’ transportation. My sentence has not yet expired, but will in September. On the 20th July last, I left the McIvor in company with George Francis (my brother), George Wilson, George Melville, William Atkins, and Joseph Grey. Of those I now recognise Melville, Wilson, and Atkins, as three of the party named. We went through the bush from the McIvor towards the Mia Mia Inn, and stopped on the side of the road a few miles from the inn alluded to. We soon after heard the Private Escort coming up, and it was now between ten and eleven in the morning. The Escort troop was coming from McIvor, and (I believe) going towards Kyneton. Previous to this we arranged a few branches of trees, and placed two men behind, the rest of them (and I) being stationed behind trees about 30 yards higher up the road. I heard some person of the Escort cry halt, and on looking out, I saw some of the troopers firing at the two men behind the branches. We then, the rest of us, rushed down to their assistance. We all challenged the Escort men to stand, when they refused, and fired on us, when a general fight commenced. I fired at the Escort troop and observed four of the troopers wounded; two of the latter escaped, and were followed by two of us, viz., myself and the prisoner Wilson followed them, calling upon them to surrender. They replied by shooting at us and galloping away. I and Wilson then went down the road, and gathering up all the fire arms we could see, we followed Atkins, Melville, Grey, and George Francis, who proceded us into the bush, whither the boxes of gold had been carried, and we then took the gold out of the boxes. It was whilst I and Wilson were after the two men that the gold had been removed from the dray. Where the gold was taken out of the boxes was some 200 yards from off the road in the bush, and after doing so, we travelled about seven miles through the country that day, and camped in the bush. We resumed our route on the following morning; having first divided the gold. We passed the second night by a river’s side, (I believe) on Mollison’s run, and continued our route in the same direction, (always keeping the bush and avoiding the road. The next night we passed in the bush near Kilmore, and then on the Sunday morning we all left together for Melbourne, but separated on coming to the Rocky Water Holes, Grey and George Francis accompanying me into Melbourne. That night we reached town, and proceeded to my house at Collingwood Flat, where I saw Wilson and Atkins, it being previously arranged that we were to meet there. They remained at my house all night, and on the Tuesday after Atkins left for the diggings, Grey and Wilson remaining with me. On the day before I was apprehended I saw the prisoner Melville in Melbourne, when he told me he was going to the Mauritius. About seven days after leaving town, Atkins returned from the diggings, and I saw him in town. He told me he had been to the McIvor. The last time I saw Grey, he said he was going to Adelaide. The prisoner Wilson, I, and my brother were to have started for England in the Madagascar, and we had accordingly engaged passages in that vessel. My wife and George Francis’s wife were to go with us. I gave my share of the gold to George Francis and he had it in his box; I was soon after apprehended on board the Madagascar on a charge of stealing a pistol, and was subsequently remanded for robbing the Escort. The last time I saw George Francis was in this Court, since which time I have had no communication with him. I sent a message to you (Captain McMahon) from the jail —.

Mr. Read objected to the reception of this evidence, but was overruled.

Examination resumed — I sent a message to Capt. McMahon from the jail, and I subsequently told him all the proceedings.

To Mr. Read — The prisoners were not then present.

Examination resumed. — The confession was voluntary on my part, and there was no inducement held out to me. After the con-fession, Captain McMahon told me that he would send me a free man from the Colony, with my wife. On arranging for this attack, we had resolved, if possible, not to take human life; for we thought we could get the gold without firing. I did not see any of our party shoot at the men in advance. The first firing was commenced by the Escort party.

Mr. Read said he should not ask the witness a single question, as he was satisfied that the magistrates might take the statement for what it was worth.

Trooper Davis recalled and re-examined:

I now recognise the second man I saw in the jail here (pointing to Francis). The firing I am certain commenced on the part of the robbers. I swear there was not a shot fired until the volley came from the Mia Mia. I was the first of our men, I think, who fired; and before I did so, I saw three of the latter shot down on the road.

The approver (Francis) was now recalled: I believe what led to the attack on the part of the Escort was their seeing the two men behind the bushes. The latter were placed in ambuscade, to allow the troop to pass, and then block up their way at the rear. I believe, however, that the troopers saw the guns of the two men through the bushes, and then fired on them. I was about thirty yards from the bushes at the time.

Alexander Eason, sworn: I belong to the Detective Police; on Wednesday the 10th August, I went with Detective Thompson, on board the Madagascar, for the purpose of apprehending two men named Francis on warrant. I accordingly arrested John Francis, George Francis not being there. Incoming from the ship to the beach, John Francis re-quested me to allow him to steer the boat, and I did so. His wife was in the boat with us at the time, and Francis brought us along side the barque Collooney, and whilst along side, the prisoner Melville came down the ship’s side, and sat for some time in the boat with us, Melville offered to come ashore and bail Francis out, but the latter declined the offer, and requested Melville to return on board the vessel with his (Francis) wife, who went on board, and remained there. Melville did so; I brought Francis ashore. He was charged next day with stealing a pistol, but was discharged, and subsequently re-arrested for the Escort robbery. (We may here remark, that the issue of a warrant, for the apprehen-sion of the Francises, on a charge of pistol-stealing, was a mere ruse to get hold of them on suspicion of the greater offence.)

William Symons, a cadet in the Mounted Police, deposed: On Friday last, the 19th inst., I apprehended George Francis, in the station of Mr. Jefferies, on the Campaspe. I last saw him in the Rocky Water Holes when he was dead.

Captain McMahon said this was all the evidence he was then prepared with.

Mr Read submitted that there was no case whatever against Mrs. Atkins, and endeavoured to show that the Bank draft found sewed up in her dress had been put there by the deceased approver (George Francis). Then as to the prisoners McEvoy, Elson, and Harding, there was not a particle of proof against them.

Captain McMahon was informed that the man Grey had been arrested in Portland, and confessed the crime. This he could scarcely believe, but if so, it might in some way alter the case. As to the men Harding, Elson, and McEvoy, he thought there must be some mistake. They had been taken into custody on the statement of the former Francis, and he (Capt. McM.) did not believe them to have been implicated in the robbery.

Mr. Read remarked that the three men last referred to, had already been apprehended at the McIvor, confronted there with the Escort troopers, and discharged.

The Bench, through Mr. Fenwick, the chair-man, decided upon remanding the prisoners McEvoy, Elson, and Harding, for one week; and as to the course they ought to pursue with reference to Melville, Wilson, Atkins, and the latter’s wife, they entertained no doubt. They should therefore commit Melville, Wilson, and Atkins, to take their trial for shooting at and robbing the Private Escort, and Atkins’s wife as an accessory after the fact. As soon as this decision was made known, some of the prisoners cried out shame, and the female rushed for-ward to speak to her husband, but was pre-vented by the police from doing so.

Mr. Read hinted something about bail, to which, as far as the remanded prisoners were concerned, Captain McMahon had no great objection; but in the case of those committed, it would not be listened to.

The prisoners were then removed, in custody.

Spotlight: The Escort Robbery – Examination of the Prisoners (26/08/1853)

Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), Friday 26 August 1853, page 5


THE ESCORT ROBBERY.

EXAMINATION OF THE PRISONERS.

Yesterday, at the District Police Court, the following prisoners charged with being concerned in the robbery of the Private Escort Company, were brought up handcuffed for examination:— George Elston, Robert Harding, Edward McEvoy, George Wilson, George Melville, and William Atkyns. Agnes Atkyns, his wife, was also accused of being an accessary after the fact. The female prisoner was greatly excited, and was accommodated with a seat under the Bench. She frequently interrupted the proceedings by her sobs, when the evidence was such as to affect her husband.

Mr. Read appeared for the prisoners, and applied to have their handcuffs removed, which was immediately done. He then stated that he had been refused all intercourse with his clients, and prayed for permission to put himself in communication with them, which was granted.

The first witness called was Chief Detective Ashley, who, being sworn, deposed as follows:— From information received, I proceeded on the 11th instant with Sergeant Simcock and Detective Murray on board the barque Collooney, then lying in Hobson’s Bay, and having made search, found a leather trunk in one of the cabins, containing two parcels of sovereigns, one a small bag containing £403 10s., the other a reticule, containing £720; the trunk also contained several papers and receipts bearing the name of George Melville. I took possession of the whole. On the day following I went with the same officers and George Francis to the house of John Harris, hay and corn dealer in Little Bourke Street, where I saw the prisoner William Atkyns, who was immediately pointed out by Francis as one of the robbers of the escort. I arrested him, and on his person found £3 10s in gold, and a draft on the Sydney branch of the Bank of Australasia in favor of Atkyns for £100. He said nothing. In an adjoining room I found the female prisoner, who said she was the wife of Atkyns. On my telling her I should arrest her on suspicion, and asking if she had any money, she said she had, and took from her pocket a parcel containing £81 10s in gold. She said she had no more money, but having left her alone with Francis for a few minutes, Francis came out to me and told me to go in and search a plaid dress, which was hanging in the room. On my taking hold of it the female prisoner snatched it from me, saying, that there was nothing in it. On searching it I found in the lining a draft on the Sydney Branch of the Bank of New South Wales, in favor of Agnes McLachlan for £700. On Atkyns I found also two cabin passage receipts for £24 for Mr. and Mrs. Atkyns, per Hellespont, for Sydney. I conveyed both prisoners to the watchhouse. On the same evening, at about eight o’clock, I went with the same officers and George Francis to the North Star Hotel, and arrested George Melville, telling him he was suspected of being concerned in the escort robbery. I found on him £100 10s. in gold, silver, and notes; also a silver watch and guard, a six-barrel revolver, and an American gold dollar. I conveyed him to the watchhouse.

Mr. Read inquired of the witness whether it was from Francis he had received the information, but the question was disallowed.

Cross-examined by Mr. Read:— I arrested three men on the information of Francis, after taking Atkyns; two are now before the Court, and the other was discharged yesterday. Melville’s wife had property before she was married to Melville. They kept a fruit and oyster shop in Little Bourke-street opposite to my late residence. They have been married about twelve months.

The second witness was Hindle Thomson, who deposed as follows:— I am a constable in the detective force. On the 11th inst. I went on board the ship Madagascar, in Hobson’s Bay, where I arrested the prisoner, George Wilson, on suspicion of being one of the escort robbers. I took him into the captain’s cabin, and, on searching him, found £302 in gold on his person. I then took him into his own cabin, where he took hold of a pair of trousers in which I found 88 sovereigns. I brought him to Melbourne and confined him.

Samuel Beauchamp Davis was then called and gave evidence as follows:— I was a trooper in the Melbourne Private Escort Company’s service. On the 20th of July last, I left the McIvor diggings at about nine o’clock in the morning, in company with one superintendent, one sergeant, two troopers, and a driver, six in all. We were escorting gold and specie to Kyneton. When we had got within about four miles of the Mia Mia Inn, I saw Seargent Duins who was in advance motion with his hand towards the right side of the road, and immmediately we received a volley of shot and bullets from a mia-mia on the side of the road. I drew my pistol and fired at a man, who fired at me at the same time. The shot took effect in my neck, jaw, and nose. I fell from my horse. When lying on the ground, I saw two men, one at each wheel of our cart, from which they drew out the boxes containing the gold and specie. Other men came and carried away the boxes into the bush. On looking round I saw Fookes the driver and trooper Prosswetter lying on the ground. I asked them whether they were hurt. Fookes said he was a dead man. Prosswetter asked me to get a knife to cut his trousers off, as he was shot through the thigh. Not having one, I looked round and saw a blue coat lying on the ground, not belonging to our party, in the pocket of which I found the knife now produced. Before cutting the trousers, I saw Morton, the other trooper, lying on the ground, with his horse dead, lying upon him; he begged me to get the horse off him. I tried, but could not. Reflecting what was to be done, I walked a little way along the road and met a man going towards McIvor. I asked him to assist us, which he did by helping the wounded men into the cart. I mounted one horse myself, leading two others, and proceeded towards McIvor. After going about a quarter of a mile, I met the Superintendent, Mr. Warner, coming towards the scene of the attack, in company with others. He took my horse, and gave it to one of those who were with him. I then walked on as far as Patterson’s station, where a horse was given to me, and I went to the Government camp at McIvor. On the 24th instant I went to the Melbourne Gaol, where a number of men (about fifteen) were shown to me, and I recognised two, whom I believe to have been among the robbers. I see one now in court; that is the man (pointing to Melville). I do not see the other.

Cross examined by Mr. Read:— I can’t say exactly how many men there were in the party who attacked us. I should think about nine or ten.

Captain McMahon here enquired whether the Bench would wish to hear what had passed between himself and George Francis before his death, as it had been taken down in writing.

Mr. Read objected, but after some discussion it was decided to hear the statement of Captain McMahon, who deposed as follows:— I am Chief Inspector of Police. On or about the 12th of August I sent for the younger Francis, then a prisoner in the Swanston-Street watchhouse, in order to have some private conversation with him. I told him that, as he might see by the notice posted on the gates, any one of the party concerned in the outrage would receive a free pardon, a passage out of the colony, and [£500], if he would consent to become an approver. After considerable hesitation, he admitted —

Mr. Read here interrupted objecting that as the prisoners were not present during the conversation, the evidence could not be allowed: such testimony was only admissible in extremis.

The Bench again overruled the objection.

The witness continued:— Francis admitted that he was one of the party that attacked the private escort. He also gave me the names of his companions on that occasion, and assisted in their apprehension. The names were John Francis, George Francis —

Mr. Read again interposed, and said that whether the Bench agreed with him or not, he was bound to object to the reception of such evidence. The witness was, however, desired to go on, and proceeded as follows:—

Joe Gray, alias Nutty, to be found at Tommy Condon’s, in Little Bourke street; one named Billy, boarding at the house of the brother of the proprietor of the Bush Inn; Bob Harding, at McEvoy’s tent, opposite the commissioner’s, at McIvor ; Neil McEvoy, opposite the Private Escort Company, at McIvor; George Elston, a fighting man, with one tooth out, keeper of a grog shop at the McIvor; George Melville, Wilson, and two others, names unknown; one very much pock-marked, dark brown hair, 5 feet 7 or 8 inches, about 30 years of age; the other man light brown hair, 5 feet 6 inches, about 27 years of age, goes by the name of Little Billy, living with a woman called Kitty, down the road on the left hand side, near the Bald Hill, at McIvor. I then handed Francis over to the chief detective officer, and desired him to take him about with him to assist in the apprehension of the remainder. I also promised him that I would not use his evidence against his brother, but would exert myself to have them both included in the pardon.

At the close of Captain McMahon’s evidence there was a pause in the proceedings for the production of John Francis, the approver, and brother of George Francis, the first approver, who lately committed suicide after a vain attempt to escape. This witness looked exceedingly pale on coming into Court, but he gave his evidence in a clear manner, though not showing a disposition to say anything more than was necessary to the questions put to him by Captain McMahon who elicited the following evidence:—

I was sent as a prisoner of the Crown to Van Diemen’s land for ten years: the time will expire next December. On the 20th July last I left McIvor in company with George Francis, George Wilson, George Melville, William Atkyns, and Joseph Gray. The prisoners Melville, Atkyns, and Wilson, now in the dock, are three of the men. We went through the bush towards the Mia Mia Inn, and stopped on the side of the road at a few miles distance from the inn. We heard the escort coming up at about ten or eleven o’clock, from the direction of McIvor towards Kyneton. We arranged a few branches of trees to put two men behind: the rest of us went about thirty yards higher up the road, and hid behind some trees. I heard some person in charge of the escort cry Halt! and saw some of the troopers firing at the two men behind the branches. We rushed to their assistance, and challenged the troop to stand; they refused, and fired on us, when we fired and a general fight com-menced. I saw four of the troop wounded, and found that two had escaped. Two of us (myself and Wilson) followed them, and told them to surrender; they shot at us and galloped away. Wilson and I went down the road and picked up all the firearms we could see, and then followed Francis, Melville, Atkyns, and Gray into the bush. I did not see the gold taken out of the cart. We went about two hundred yards into the bush, and took the gold out of the boxes. We went about seven miles through the bush that day, and the day after continued in the same direction, keeping off the road, and stopped that night on a riverside, I believe on Mollison’s run. Next morning we divided the gold, and started again, going in the same direction, and arrived near Kilmore, stopping in the bush. On Sunday we started all together for Melbourne, and on coming near the Rocky Water Holes we separated, Francis and Gray accompanying me to Melbourne, which we reached that night. We went to my house in Collingwood Flat, where I found Wilson and Atkyns, having previously arranged to meet them there. They remained all night. On the Tuesday following, Atkyns left for the diggings, Gray and Wilson staying with me. I saw Melville in town two or three days before I was apprehended; he told me he was going to the Mauritius. I saw Atkyns in town again about a week after he had left for the diggings; he said he had been to McIvor, and was going back again. The last time I saw Gray, he said he was going to Adelaide. Wilson was going to England with me and George Francis: we took our passages in the Madagascar. My wife and the wife of George Francis were going with us: our things were all on board. I gave my share of the gold to George Francis, who put it in his box. While on board the ship I was apprehended for stealing a pistol, and was discharged. I was arrested again on a charge of robbing the escort. I last saw George Francis in this room; have had no communication with him since. I sent a message to Capt McMahon from the gaol. —

Mr. Read again interposed, and was again overruled. He requested the objection to be written on the margin of the deposition. The same thing occurred several times afterwards.

Examination continued: I sent to Capt. McMahon to say I would tell all I knew. I did do so. The prisoners were not present. My confession was voluntary. No inducement was held out by Capt. McMahon. After my confession he told me he would send me a free man out of the colony with my wife. Our party had determined before the attack not to take human life if it could be avoided. We expected to get the gold without firing. I did not see any of our party shoot at a fallen man. The firing commenced on the part of the escort.

Samuel Beauchamp Davis, recalled. —I now see the second man I recognised in the gaol. That is he (pointing to Francis). Our troop did not fire until we had received a volley from the attacking party. Three of our men were lying in the road when the first shot from us was fired, I believe by myself.

John Francis, recalled. — I believe the firing of the escort troop was caused by seeing two of our party behind the branches. Those two men were put there to let the troop pass, and then close in and prevent their retreat. They made no attempt to attack, nor did they raise their guns.

Alexander Eason, being sworn, deposed as follows:— I am a constable in the Detective force. On Wednesday, 10th August, I accompanied detective Thomson on board the ship Madagascar, lying in Hobson’s Bay, to apprehend two prisoners named Francis on warrant, charged with stealing a pistol. I arrested John Francis. George Francis was not there. Coming from the ship to the beach, John Francis requested me to allow him to steer the boat. I did so. He brought us alongside the barque Collooney, his wife being in the boat with us. When we were alongside, the prisoner Melville came from the vessel into the boat and sat down. He offered to come and bail Francis out, but Francis objected, and told him to stay on board, and take care of his (Francis’s) win. I brought Francis ashore, and confined him. He was tried and discharged. He was again apprehended on the charge of robbing the Private Escort.

William Symons was then called, and deposed. — I am a cadet in the mounted police, stationed at Heathcote, near McIvor. On or about the 19th instant, I arrested George Francis, on Mr. Jeffrey’s station, on the Campaspie. I saw him last at the Rocky Water Holes — dead.

This closed the case for the Crown, and Mr. Read, having declined to ask any questions, applied for the discharge of the four prisoners Harding, McEvoy, Elston, and Agnes, saying that there was no evidence against them. He suspected that the draft found in the plaid dress must have been put there by George Francis himself, and that its presence there could not possibly be accounted for on any other supposition; but the Bench were of a different opinion, and could not think of listening to the application, as far as the female prisoner was concerned. They seemed disposed to discharge the other three, when Capt. McMahon stated that he had just heard a report that the other man mentioned by John Francis, namely, Joseph Gray, had been taken near Portland, and had confirmed his crime. He said that he did not attach much weight to the rumor, but that it was just possible such an apprehension might be the means of implicating the three prisoners. He would not apply for a further remand, but merely threw out the suggestion. The Bench, under the circumstances, remanded the three prisoners Harding, McEvoy, and Elston, for one week, but would allow bail, themselves in £300, and two sureties in £100 each. The rest of the prisoners the Bench did not feel the least hesitation in committing to take their trial in a higher Court.

When the prisoners were about to be removed, the wretched woman made an attempt to reach her husband, but was prevented by the constables. She pleaded hard to be allowed to speak to him for one moment, saying she would then go where they liked, but the indulgence was not allowed her.

Spotlight: Local Intelligence (Launceston, 09/08/1855)

People’s Advocate or True Friend of Tasmania (Launceston, Tas. : 1855 – 1856), Thursday 9 August 1855, page 2


LOCAL INTELLIGENCE.

DIDO, AND HIS MATE.— The following is a description of these two individuals from the Government Gazette :— William Driscoll, per Norfolk, tried at Middlesex, 17th June, 1833, 14 years; again at Hobart Supreme Court, 24th October 1843; life; and again at Launceston Supreme Court, 7th April 1847, life, sawyer, 5 feet 2, complexion florid, hair brown, eyes blue; native place St. Giles’s, London, two pigeons, compasses rose shamrock thistle McDonnor fish wreath of laurels bust of a woman on right arm; a full rigged ship on left arm, ring second finger on right hand. — George King, per Hindoston, tried at Leicester Boro’ Q. S., 27th February 1840, 10 years; again at Oatlands Supreme Court, 28th June 1818, life, sweep, about 5 feet, age 32, complexion rather dark, hair brown, eyes black, native place Leicester, small scar on forehead. Parties of constabulary both from Hobart Town and Launceston being out in search of these desperadoes, we expect soon to hear they are laid by the heels,

THE LATE ROCKY WHELAN. — The Governor has directed that fifty pounds be paid to Constable John Mulrennon for his meritorious conduct in capturing the notorious Whelan. Constable Mulrennon has Also received £15 from the Richmond reward of Fifty Poutids, and £40 from the friends. of the late Messrs. Axford and Dunn.

LONGFORD GAOL.— We noticed in our last issue, the escape of a notorious bushranger, named Padfield from Longford Gaol, and hinted that great negligence at least was exhibited in the supervision of the prisoners in confinement there. We are confirmed in this, opinion, now ; for since Padfield’s. escape, the irons of three prisoners, under sentence of transportation have been found cut through, and an examination of the cells has discovered the blankets cut up into strips with a brick attached to the end, showing a deliberate, and determined attempt to escape from the gaol. We trust the affair will be strictly investigated, as Padfield has been again secured.

Spotlight: Victoria – The Escort Robbery (03/08/1853)

Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 – 1859), Wednesday 3 August 1853, page 2


VICTORIA.

THE ESCORT ROBBERY.

From the Melbourne papers which have come to hand, we glean the following particulars:—

It will be some gratification (says the Herald of the 28th ultimo), to leam that the leader of the gang who attempted the wholesale and cold-blooded slaughter of the Private Escort yesterday week has been captured and recognised, and that he admits himself to have been one of the party. The wretch was taken in bed on the following Saturday at McIvor Diggings, where he was lying, booted and spurred, with a female as abandoned as himself. He is an ill looking fellow, named Christie, about twenty-six years of age, and whose life has been one scene of crime from first to last. He had not long escaped from Pentridge Stockade, and it was the look-out for him as a run-away convict which led to his detection as one of the would-be murderers. Christie is said to be a native of Sydney, but this is not certain. A great many other parties have been taken on suspicion, and discharged for want of identification, but it is to be hoped and expected that the large rewards offered by the Government and the Company for the apprehension of the gang will cause a “split” among the villains, and ultimately lead to the detection of all the culprits. As yet none of the gold or the money has been recovered.

Intelligence was received in town yesterday, 28th ultimo, of the death of Mr. Morton, a fine young man, one of the Escort guard, who was shot near the region of the lungs. It was also reported that Flooks, the driver, was no more; but this, we are informed, is premature, though he is in a very weak condition. The prisoner Henry Hazel, apprehended on suspicion at Kalkallo, will be brought up for examination at the District Court to-day, but it is supposed that a further remand will be the consequence, as the witnesses have not had time to come to town. Yesterday afternoon the detective police arrested a man named McQuinn on suspicion of being one of the murderers, and he is now in the watch-house. This person was charged at the police-office yesterday with vagrancy, but was discharged, and immediately after found himself in the hands of the police under more serious circumstances. At the present moment it would be improper to state more than the mere mention of the charge against him. The Escort troop started for Melbourne yesterday in a very respectable style. Their number has been increased, and their “turn out” was very creditable.

Spotlight: The Escort Robbery (25/07/1853)

Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (Vic. : 1851 – 1856), Monday 25 July 1853, page 2


THE ESCORT ROBBERY.

The Melbourne newspapers of Saturday contained statements that the Private Escort had been attacked and robbed, but no particulars had been ascertained. The Argus says, “The most diligent inquiry enables us to state nothing further for certain than that the attack has taken place,” and the Herald simply states that the rumour “seems” to be too true.

We are enabled to supply a more reliable account than has reached Melbourne, the following letter from Forest Creek, having been delivered at our office yesterday. It will be perceived that although several of the Escort were wounded, there is no reason to believe that any deaths have taken place:—

FOREST CREEK.

Thursday Morning, 21st July, 1853.

The Melbourne Gold Escort Company was robbed last night. I have just been speaking to the manager; he says that the Escort left McIvor yesterday evening, to proceed to Kyneton, meeting there the Forest Creek Escort, belonging to the same Company; that about half way between McIvor and Kyneton, the Escort was fired on from some rocks, close to the track, the leading horse shot, and one of the mounted men in charge of the Escort, and others were wounded; the Gold, amounting to over three thousand ounces, was then carried off; it does not appear that the Escort Guard returned the shots.

The public mind is greatly agitated. About 20 mounted men formed the robbing party. All are sorry here for the outrage, as the Company is very popular.

I have written this on the stump of a fallen gum tree.

Spotlight: Death of Gipsy Smith, the Bushranger (13/07/1852)

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), Tuesday 13 July 1852, page 2


DEATH OF GIPSY SMITH, THE BUSHRANGER.

The particulars of this occurrence have been communicated to us by Mr. Weymouth, of Kensington, who arrived in Adelaide on Saturday last, overland from the Diggings. Mr. Weymouth left the Loddon on June 21st, and met inspector Alford and his party on the 3rd inst. about five miles beyond the border. The party were proceeding most satisfactorily, and Mr. Weymouth noticed that the horses were in good condition. Inspector Alford was endeavouring to fall in with Gipsy Smith, who with his gang had lately committed several outrages on travellers and persons residing near the overland road, and Mr. Weymouth had the satisfaction of informing him of the death of the Bushranger. It appears that Smith and two of his companions, by name Bailey and Sullivan, had taken possession of a dray, belonging to a man from Adelaide, who with his wife were proceeding to the Diggings. Smith, having previously separated the man from his wife, arrived with his companions at Roston’s Station. It is stated that whilst camped there, and when Smith on one occasion was washing himself, one of several pistols that he always carried in his jacket went off accidentally, and killed him almost instantly. Considerable suspicion, however, attaches to one of his companions, Sullivan, who immediately after the event took Smith’s horse and rode away. This man Mr. Weymouth met on the evening of the occurrence. Sullivan asked two or three questions of Mr. Weymouth’s party, and then proceeded in the direction of the Diggings. The man and his wife who were with the dray taken possession of by Smith, are now residing at Roston’s Station, having taken service there. The number of persons on the road is stated to be still very considerable; so that the death of Gipsy Smith, and it is to be hoped, the consequent dispersion of his gang, will tend very considerably to allay the apprehensions of travellers. Two of the Mounted Police remain at the midway station which has been formed at Scott’s woolshed, about fifteen miles beyond the desert, and eleven miles this side the border line.

Spotlight: The Man Whelan and Convict Discipline (28 May 1855)

Tasmanian Colonist (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1851 – 1855), Monday 28 May 1855, page 2


THE MAN WHELAN AND CONVICT DISCIPLINE.

This celebrated man will be put upon his trial for not only absconding, but for robbery with force and violence. An offence for which in this colony, if convicted, his life is forfeited. We have seen Whelan before to-day, or before his apprehension, and we cannot accord with those who would represent him as a ferocious looking man, whose very appearance would strike terror into the mind of the way farer. If he were one of those blood-thirsty beings which some would represent him, he would not have been apprehended as easily as he was. We do not regard him as a man of ordinary courage. We would put the term courage out of the question when speaking of such a man. He is the mere creature of a system, which never ought to obtain in any country, where pretensions to civilisation have been made. He has been for years the play-thing and sport of officials, who scarcely deserve the name of men. Many years ago he was sentenced to transportation beyond the seas for a limited period. That sentence did not say one word about the petty tyranny which has been practised upon him and upon his fellows, under the name of prison discipline. Those who are conversant with the history of Botany Bay, at the time when Whelan was sent there, will be free to acknowledge, that it was not a convict paradise. We have conversed with many men who were transported to New South Wales, and although some of the convicts became wealthy, others had to endure great hardships, and the most downright tyranny which could be practised. When this tyranny was exercised by the master to whom the convict was assigned, there was no redress for the unfortunate. The magistracy always upheld the masters in their cruelty. If a prisoner happened to get into good employment and turned out successful, this fact was blazoned forth in England, and transportation was thus held out as a boon to the young thief at home, to induce him to become bolder and more expert in his profession. This operated differently in the colonies. Whelan like others, saw that some of his copartners in crime got on well, while he was enduring tyranny. His uncontrolled spirit rebelled against such a state of things. Some of his comrades escaped to the bush, and remained away from the townships until their periods of transportation had expired, and then returned to claim their freedom and to settle down quietly to the ordinary business of life. Whelan made his escape in Sydney, and was taken sentenced, and sent to Norfolk Island. He was there in the days of Captain Maconochy, and any person who knows anything about convictism must know that if that excellent man was allowed to exercise his own judgment in the management of the prisoners, he would have carried out a system reformatory in its nature; but he was not permitted to do it, so far as Sydney prisoners were concerned. Whelan was in Norfolk Island in the days of Major Child, who was no more fit for the situation in which he was placed, than a child of ten years old, if what we have learned respecting him was true. Whelan was in Norfolk Island in the days of John Price. In a word he was there in the days of the Spread Eagle, the period of diurnal flogging, and of repeated gagging. He was there when those scenes occurred, to which the Rev. Mr. Rogers referred, and for doing which, that poor man endured a fearful amount of persecution from all parties in this colony who were in the receipt of large government salaries. There was not, to the best of our belief, any description of punishment practised on Norfolk Island from which Whelan escaped. He must be a very bad fellow indeed! is the exclamation of those who know nothing about discipline at a penal settlement. We have ourselves seen men sentenced to two or three months’ imprisonment to hard labour in chains, for having in their possession a bit of tobacco, not one-fourth of a fig. We know that convict constables have been instructed to open the mouths of the men working in chains, to ascertain whether they had been chewing tobacco, and if they could scrape a bit off a man’s tooth, that was a good charge against him. When once we begin to think over this system, we feel indignant at the men who carry it out, and at the parties, whoever they are, who can in any way sanction such refined cruelty. When we see men like Whelan and Driscol take to the bush, we do not wonder at it. We only wonder the number of bushrangers is not larger. When we see a man like Whelan easily arrested, we do not wonder at it. Tyranny and slavery make men cowards; they do not reform them. The system of discipline adopted by the present convict authorities cannot be known in England; it is such, that if we were to return and lecture there on it, we are confident we should raise such a storm of indignation against the government which could tolerate it, as would be astounding, in any country where the English language is understood. By facts and figures we have proved that convict labour is the dearest that can be obtained, and we are prepared to prove that convict discipline is a tissue of cruelty from beginning to end; yea, that the most refined cruelties have heen practised in the name of the late Lieutenant-Governor, whether with or without his consent we will not pretend to say. We mention this to put Sir H. F. Young on his guard.