Text Size

The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Wed 11 Apr 1855 1


    This Court opened on Monday, before the Chairman, assisted by the following magistrates:– Major Crummer and Charles McCarthy King, Esq.
    The barristers present were Mr Callaghan, the Crown Prosecutor, and Mr Purefoy.


    John Barrett  was indicted for assaulting and ill treating Patrick Leahy, with intent to commit an unnatural crime, at Wollombi, on 19th March.

    The prisoner was undefended.
    The witnesses called were David Willis, Benjamin Thomas, and James McKay, constable.
    The evidence was of a character altogether unfitted for publication
    The jury retired for a quarter of an hour, and returned a verdict of not guilty. The prisoner was discharged.


    We have much pleasure in being able to state, on the morning fixed for this man’s execution, that his life has been spared, and although the sentence he has now to undergo is long, being fifteen years on the roads with hard labor; still, considering the doubts which had been thrown on the case, almost every individual at all conversant with the facts brought out in evidence hoped for a commutation, and we are satisfied now feels the highest pleasure in knowing that the Governor General has given the prisoner the benefit of the doubts felt. We believe that there was not a single individual who signed the petition in favour of the unfortunate man, who had not at least the idea that it might possibly be the fact that Shephard did not load the gun, and did not know that it was loaded. We are also aware that the unfortunate man has all along persisted in the statement that he put no shot in the gun, and therefore we rejoice that, consistently with the ends of justice, the Governor General has been enabled in this case to exercise the royal prerogative of mercy.

    On Wednesday morning, the 4th, as stated in our issue of that day, the Rev Mr Purves left Maitland for Sydney, with the inhabitants’ petition, and on Thursday morning, accompanied by Mr Nott, he went to the Supreme Court, where the Chief Justice was then engaged in trying a case. The Chief Justice immediately gave them an audience in the private room, and stated that he had already sent a letter to the Governor, and he recommended them to proceed at once to Government House. This they did, and the petition was most favorably entertained, and we have no doubt that both Mr Purves and Mr Nott retired overjoyed with the success of their efforts. Next forenoon (Good Friday) the Governor, after attending divine service, went to the Chief Justice, and on his return to Government House, he immediately despatched the following letter to Mr Purves, by his own son:—

Government House, 6th April.

    MY DEAR SIR I have this instant returned from the Chief Justice, and am happy to be able to inform you that his Honor is of opinion that there has been so much of doubt thrown upon the case of the unfortunate man Shephard as to justify a recommendation on his part that his life should be spared. I need not say that I am most happy to accede to this recommendation, and I take the earliest opportunity of setting your mind at rest on the subject.

        I have written to the Colonial Secretary to expedite the usual official intelligence to Maitland.—I am, with every feeling of respect, your obedient servant,

WT Denison.

    The Reverend Mr Purves, &c, &c.

    On Friday evening, Mr Purves, with his missive of mercy, left for Maitland, and on Saturday, shortly after the arrival of the mail, the inhabitants knowing that he had arrived, a general feeling prevailed that a commutation of sentence had been obtained. Perhaps nothing  more thoroughly manifested the nearly universal desire of the people in Maitland that the prisoner’s life should be saved than their wish to know certainly what had been the result of the mission of the Rev Mr Purves, and we believe he was glad when he got to his own home. At four o’clock, in accordance with previous arrangements, the Rev Messrs Rusden and Purves, accompanied by Mr Minter, who has all along manifested so deep an interest in this unfortunate man’s fate, went to the gaol to communicate the gratifying intelligence. On the entrance of the deputation into the cell, Shepherd [sic], who was reading the Bible, turned very pale, and then his face got quite flushed. Some conversation then ensued between Mr Rusden and him, after which the real object of the visit was stated. On hearing that his life was saved, his whole body was in a tremor, as if affected with nervous disease, which found relief in a flood of tears. The party then all knelt down, and engaged in a prayer of thanksgiving for his deliverance, Mr Rusden leading the devotional exercises; after which Mr Purves addressed him in a very feeling manner, trusting that he would improve this dispensation of God’s providence for the said everlasting benefit. The unfortunate man said that he was unable to express his thanks for the kindness his friends had shewn to him, at the same time adding that he had always believed that his life would be spared, and that he had spent many happy hours in that cell. Mr Wallace having read the Colonial Secretary’s letter, which had been received that morning, conveying the information of a commutation of punishment, the deputation left the gaol.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 13 Apr 1855 2


THIS Court opened on Monday, before the Chairman, assisted the following magistrates::—Major Crummer, and Charles McCarthy King, Esq.

    John Barrett was indicted for assaulting and illtreating Patrick Leahy, with intent to commit an unnatural crime at Wollombi, on 19th March.—Not guilty.

1  The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Wed 11 Apr 1855, p. 6. Emphasis added.

2  The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 13 Apr 1855, p. 5.