Appendix 4 ~ The South Australian Register of 5 August 1850
The Police Court
James Yates was charged with the wilful murder of John Mansforth, at Skillogolee Creek on the 24th ultimo.
Charles Houtten Webb, surgeon, stated that on the 26th instant he attended an inquest at John Hoile's public-house, on the body of John Mansforth, or as he was more commonly called, the Sergeant. The head and face had been smashed in by a stone or some other blunt instrument. Not a vestige remained of the eyes, the nose, the left cheek, or the forehead. Several portions of the skull were missing, and there were contused wounds on the right cheek, The upper and lower jaws were both broken, and the teeth gone; stabs on the upper and lower lips, and the latter being completely severed. The throat was cut form ear to ear, dividing the arteries and vertebrae.
Contused wounds on both hands and arms, the back part of the hands more particularly; a stab on the left side of the abdomen, about half an inch in width and three inches deep. On the right arm was a T.M. in Indian Ink, apparently done some years ago. There were cuts in deceased guernsey, drawers, and trousers corresponding to the wound in the abdomen. The groin also was much bruised. The stone produced is bloody and has grey hair adhering to it, and would produce such wounds as those on the head and face. There is blood, and hair, both grey and black, on the different pieces of stick in Court. Would not swear that the marks on the knife he held in his hand were blood but at the time of the inquest there was no mistaking it.
When witness saw deceased he was dressed, and he undressed him. There is no blood on the scarf produced, but a slight cut, which would correspond to that on the right angle of the deceased's lower jaw. Took the trousers off, by cutting them down the sides, The left-hand pocket has been torn out, and the pocket produced fits exactly, and is of the same material. There is blood on both the pocket, the trousers, and the brace attached to them. Could not find the cut in the trousers which he saw at the inquest. Supposed he must have cut it through when taking them off. The stab was on the left side of the stomach. Took out of the waistcoat pocket a tinderbox and steel, a few shoestrings, a broken pipe, and piece of tobacco. Took the blue shirt produced off the body; it was also covered with blood, and there was a stab on the left side. It had been torn by witness in taking it off. Had considered very carefully the stab in it with the wound on deceased's abdomen, and they exactly corresponded. There was also another blue shirt on the deceased, which also was bloody. Could not say which he wore outside, but that one was torn about the back and left shoulder as if in a struggle. From the marks on the one he was now examining, he thought that was the outside one.
His worship asked the prisoner if he had any lawyer to defend him.
Prisoner - No, Sir, I know nothing about any murder, I'm perfectly innocent of it.
His worship - Then do you wish to ask the witnesses and questions?
Prisoner - No. What he stated is a perfect mystery to me.
Examination continued - Life had been extinct about two hours when witness examined the body. Deceased could not have inflicted most of the wounds upon himself, though he might have a few of them. The pocket-book produced and 5s. Burra Burra order inside, were both stained with blood. Neither were produced at the inquest. Saw blood on the hands of the deceased. Did not know the prisoner. There is a mark of blood on both arms of the guernsey which the deceased wore next his skin. There was no cut in it except that caused by the witness in taking them off. The drawers had a stab on them corresponding to those on the trousers. The striped cotton shirt which the deceased wore is covered with blood but had no stab on it; it had been since cut down the side by the witness in taking it off. The waistcoat was one mass of blood. The handkerchief he held in his hand was found between the two frocks of deceased, and was slightly stained with blood.
James Henderson, examined, stated that he was at Hoile's public-house on the afternoon of the 25th ultimo. After he had been there some time, about 4 o'clock, the landlord came into the room where he was sitting, and told him that a man had been murdered close by. Went in company with Mr Warriner to where the body was lying, but could not first see the face, as the head appeared severed from the body, and to by lying on the ground. The body presented the appearance detailed by the last witness, and was surrounded by a pool of blood. It appeared to have been dragged some distance by the appearance of the clothes. There were a great many footprints all around, as if a struggle had taken place. The hands were extended from the body, the left one being closed and bruised very much at the back, the right being half open and stained with blood.
The clothes did not appear torn, and the only mark of violence they evinced were that the trousers had been torn open, but folded over again. The scarf produced was lying about three yards from the body, folded up as if taken off the neck. The knife produced was lying in the pool of blood. It was bloody at the time, but could not say whether the marks on it now were rust or blood. Some sticks were lying about covered with blood and hair. They were now produced. The stone before him was lying in the pool of blood, and had hair adhering to it. There was an empty pocket close to the knife. The straw had produced was lying near the body, and was stained with blood. Did not find a bottle. The body was then put into a cart and taken to Hoile's public-house, which was about half a mile off.
There was a kangaroo bitch, with two pups, lying close to the body and she growled at their approach. Witness having heard that she belonged to deceased, though she had remained there from fidelity to her master, but on return with the cart, he found that the lower jaw had disappeared during the interval of his absence, though not above a quarter of an hour, and he therefore came to the conclusion that she had been feeding upon the mangled remains of her master. (A thrill of horror here ran through the court.) Did not know the deceased though he saw a man at the public-house on the 24th ult. Did not touch the pockets. The hair on the stone corresponded in colour with deceased's being grey.
John Hawkesworth, barman at John Hoile's public-house on the Port Wakefield Arm, near Skillogolee Creek, stated that on the 24th ultimo, deceased, who was generally known by the name of Sergeant, came to their house alone, about four o'clock in the afternoon, and asked witness for some dinner and a pint of ale, which he gave him. Previous to this the prisoner had been there, and said he was waiting for the Sergeant to some, and waited for him at a butcher's named Titcombe, next door. While the deceased was having in his dinner the prisoner came in, and they began to converse, and the deceased gave him a glass of rum. The prisoner said he had been afraid that deceased would disappoint him, and not meet him. Deceased answered that he had been asleep on the run, and ordered another pint of ale for himself, and a glass of rum for prisoner, and poured a glass of ale out, leaving the remainder in the pint pot, The prisoner then put a drop of rum in it, and tendered it to deceased, who refused to drink it, as he did not like to mix his liquors, and it was put away. Another pint of ale was brought, an the two began conversing about the prisoner's going to the head-station.
Deceased said that he had better return with him that night, and go in the morning. The prisoner replied, "What's the use of my going back, you've sent me away; I must go." Witness then left the room, and on his return in about ten minutes deceased asked him to fill him a bottle of whisky, which he did, pouring it into an ale bottle. Deceased paid for it with an order for £4, and witness gave him £3 10s. change, in notes, Burra orders, and copper. While witness was giving deceased the change, the prisoner came forward and looked intently at it. Deceased was then going, when the prisoner laid hold of his arm. He said immediately, "What do you want with me?" "Nothing," replied the prisoner. Deceased then threw up his arms and said, "Let me go then." the prisoner then loosed his hold and went into the parlour. Deceased then got the bottle from witness and went away.
Mrs Hoile ordered the prisoner to leave the parlour, as he had insulted a young woman who was there. He replied that one man had as much right there as another, so long as he paid his way. He then came to witness and asked where the deceased had gone, and showed him. the prisoner then left the house, running after deceased. About twenty minutes after prisoner had left the house deceased returned very much excited and said, "That blackguard has insulted me and taken the whisky from me." He then left his money in witness's charge and departed. Heard nothing more until next afternoon when his body was found. About six o'clock on the morning of the 25th the witness was awoke by the prisoner knocking at the door. He was let in and asked for a glass of something to drink. Witness replied that he could not give him any till he got the keys from his mistress. He sat sown by the fire and began talking to witness, who at last gave him a glass of ale.
The young woman named Clare, who had been previously mentioned, came and sat by the prisoner, and remarked to the witness that he was all over blood. He noticed it and spoke to the prisoner about it, who accounted for it by saying that he had cut his thumb the day before, and added that he wished Mr Titcombe would get up that he might borrow a bag from him, as he wished to go over to the deceased's hut. Witness went out of the house to get some wood, and on his coming back told the prisoner that Mr Titcombe was up. Mr Hoile asked the prisoner to stay breakfast, but he refused, alleging that he was in a hurry. Witness had not seen him from that day till now. When the prisoner first entered the house witness spoke to him about his conduct to the female the previous day, and also of his treatment of deceased, and the theft of the bottle of whisky. He expressed his sorrow and apologised to Miss Clare when she got up.
Deceased had a pocket-book from which he took the £4 order with which he paid witness. The pocket-book produced resembled it. Burra order for 5s. produced was not given deceased by witness. The broken bottle produced was similar to the one into which he had poured the whisky. While deceased and prisoner were together the former paid for everything. On the morning of the 25th prisoner paid for two glasses of ale. He had money on the 24th, as Mr Hoile gave him change for a crown piece in witness's presence. Had never seen the prisoner before the 24th, but knew deceased very well, as he was in the habit of bringing sheep there nearly every day. When the prisoner first came to the house he remarked to witness that some people could not live with the Sergeant, but that he had always been on the best of terms with him.
By the Court - The prisoner did not press deceased to drink, but asked him to pay for some more for him, and deceased replied that he would treat him to anything that would do him any good. He was in the employ of Mr Slater, and on leaving the public-house went in a straight line towards his hut. There was no other strangers about the public-house that day. The scarf produced belonged to the deceased, and was worn by him on the 24th. The prisoner smoked several times during the day, but witness did not see him cut up the tobacco. Witness lent deceased a knife to cut up his dinner on that day, although he generally brought his own knife to eat his dinner with. That was when he brought it from home. Did not see any knife on deceased that day. Could not identify the knife produced (a small white handled one) as belonging to deceased.
By the prisoner - It's a usual thing to bring a knife and fork when a dinner is served to anyone. Did not hear you ask on the 28th if the deceased had stayed there that night. You did not say that you should inquire of the deceased about his charging you with stealing the whisky, but asked for a bag to take over some fat.
The prisoner vehemently protested that he had told the witness that he should go to the deceased.
Witness by prisoner - Did not say that he supposed the bottle had cut your hand. It was dusk at the time. Did not say that he had fallen down running after the Sergeant.
The prisoner said that Mr Adams could prove it was day light at the time, and that he fell down over some mounds of earth running after deceased, when he first left the public-house.
By the Court - The body was found about half a mile from the public-house, in the direction which both deceased and the prisoner took. There was a hill between the spot and the public-house. The prisoner did not say how he had cut his thumb. Took the notes from deceased, as he thought that the prisoner having taken the whisky might take them also. He did not seem confused when told that he was covered with blood. Could not say whether he went to Titcombe's.
By the prisoner - you said, when told that the deceased had left, "Dear me, I'll fetch him back again," and started.
William Titcombe stated that he was a butcher, living next door to the "Port Henry Arms" near Skillogolee Creek, about 60 miles north of Adelaide. Saw the prisoner about 9 or 10 o'clock on the morning of the 24th, he came to witness with some fat for sale in a bag, which he bought, and gave him 3s. 9d. for it. Witness paid for it with two shillings, three sixpencees, and three penny worth of coppers. While weighing the fat, prisoner asked him if he had seen the old Sergeant, meaning deceased. Witness replied that her had not.
The prisoner remained some time talking to witness about Van Dieman's Land, and reaping, and mentioned that he was going in to the head station to make brush yards, and added that he had agreed very well with the old Sergeant. He asked witness to give the bag the was brought in to him when he came. About 4 o'clock witness's wife said the deceased had come to Hoile's, and the prisoner went there. About 7 o'clock in the evening he returned, and went to the fire to light his pipe. Witness said to prisoner, "Hallo, you are not at the head station;" and his wife suddenly exclaimed, "Why, master you are all bleeding." The prisoner denied that he was, but witness's wife repeated her assertion, and asked him to move from the fire, or he would stain some bread which was there. He made no answer, but went further back.
She then charged him with having been fighting with the Sergeant, which he denied, saying that the Sergeant had returned to the public-house. She repeated the charge, and he said "Those who saw nothing could say nothing, and who did see could say very little." She got him a piece of rag to tie up his left hand thumb, which was cut between the first and second joints. He then washed his hands and asked witness to again tie up his thumb, which he did, and remarked to prisoner that he would lose his thumb, and that it appeared as if cut with a knife. He replied that the old man did take out a knife, and that it might have been done in a row. Witness said, "You must have had a deuce of a row with the Sergeant for him to use the knife." He replied those who did not see could not say, and that those who did see he would take b-y good care should not say.
Witness told him that if he had been fighting he had better go to the head station, and he left for that purpose. Saw him again about seven the next morning, when he asked for the bag he had left. Witness gave it him, and he said, "I'll go and see how the old Sergeant and his sheep are getting on." Had not seen him from then till now. In the evening Mrs Adams, a native woman, came and told him that she had found a dead body in the bush. Went, in company with the last witness, to the place where the body was lying. It presented the appearance detailed by Mr Webb. It was under some grass trees, which partially hid it, so that it could only be seen a few yards off. The articles produced were found near it. Did not touch the body till Mr Henderson came up. The ground in the neighbourhood presented the appearance of having been the scene of a severe struggle. Took the body in a cart to the stable of Hoile's public-house, where it remained till the inquest. Had often seen deceased with a small white-handled knife, similar to the one produced when witness was overseer with Mr Slater. He never seen the prisoner before the morning of the 24th.
By the Court - The prisoner appeared to have been drinking on the evening in question, but was apparently getting over the effects. There was blood on both his hands, and his face. He took his bundle with him on that evening. Did not notice what trousers he had on the morning of the 25th.
By the prisoner - You took the bundle away on the evening of the 24th.
While the deposition was being read over to this witness, he added that, after the prisoner had said "those who did see would take b-y good care they did not say," be muttered something, which seemed to witness like "the old b-r, let him lay," but he would not swear to those words.
The surgeon recalled - The throat of deceased was jagged as if done by several cuts with a very blunt knife. It was impossible to say whether it was cut from the left to the right, or vice versa. Could not say what had caused the wound on the prisoner's thumb; it might have been a knife, a bottle, or a sharp stone.
The prisoner said that it was done by the latter, if he were to die that minute.
The surgeon continued - If a man cut another's throat from behind, holding the chin in the left hand, and the knife in the right, he would be very likely to cut his own thumb in the way that prisoner's was cut.
Prisoner - It is feasible that a man should cut another's throat in that manner? Would a person have any power over another if he held him in that position?
The Surgeon - Very probable indeed. In his opinion deceased's throat had not been cut till he was senseless. He thought that the wound in the stomach was the first inflicted.
His worship - Would that alone have caused death?
The Surgeon - It would probably have induced a disease called peritonitis, of which he would most likely have died in four days. He could not have lived many seconds after the throat was cut. The knife produced was not very sharp.
Mary Ann Adams, a Christian aboriginal native, married to Thomas Adams, stated she had been in the native school, but did not often say her prayers. She found the dead man in the bush, and saw the prisoner there.
On her husband coming forward and asking where she saw the prisoner, she said it was in Mr Titcombe's house.
Witness continued - While she was out with the sheep, about a mile from the public-house, she saw the deceased's bitch and her two pups, and going up found a man lying down. Did not know it was a dead body till she saw the blood. it was lying under some bushes. Told Mrs Titcombe of what she had seen, and three or four men went the way she pointed out. She did not accompany them, but told them they would see the dog. The prisoner had slept at her house the night before.
His thumb was then bleeding, and her husband tied it up with some white rag. Saw that his trousers were covered with blood. He had a bundle with him, which he opened, but witness did not see the contents. The prisoner said that he felt very ill, and asked to lay down, which was granted. He did not sleep, for witness heard him walking about the greater portion of the night. She had been to Titcombe's that evening, and saw the prisoner there. The next morning as soon as it was daylight, the prisoner went in the direction of Hoile's public-house, taking his bundle with him. When he untied the bundle in the evening, he swore very much and looked very cross. he did not say anything about the Sergeant.
Constable Gors stated that on the 27th instant he was on duty in the station-house, when the prisoner was brought in by Inspector Alford and Sergeant Soper. Searched the prisoner, and found two half-crowns and a a fourpennypiece in silver, six half-pence, a small knife, a tinder box, a pipe, two handkerchiefs, and a piece of steel. There was a bundle containing a pair of blankets, a pair of trousers, a pair of braces, a shirt, a razor, a cotton bag, a tin box, a comb, some tobacco, a shaving brush, a piece of blue stuff, and a parchment, signed by Sir William Denison, and dated 5th October 1849, giving conditional pardon, to James Yates, who was sentenced at Lancaster in the year 1837 to fourteen years transportation, and arrived per ship Neptune. The shirt and trousers were spotted with blood.
Thomas Adams, labourer, living at Skillogolee Creek, stated that he was lawfully married to the native woman who had just given her evidence. About 7 o'clock on the evening of the 24th ultimo, the prisoner came to his place, and asked for a light to his pipe. Witness told him to walk in and get one. He put his bundle down by the door, and walking up to the fire, said, "Don't you know me?" Witness, on looking at him, said, "Yes, you were hut-keeper for the Sergeant." He replied that he had been. After some little time, the witness noticed a mark on his face, and asked him if he had been drinking or fighting with any one, as he had a cut on his face. He put up his hand to feel, and witness found out that the mark on the face was only a spot or two of blood and not a cut. The prisoner said that the Sergeant and he had been having a few words, and that the former carried a big stick. Witness remarked that he supposed it was through drink and the prisoner replied "We always agreed very well together, too, though he has had many living with him who would not stay."
He then asked permission to stay the night, and witness assented. The prisoner then put his bundle on sofa, and went to sleep. Witness heard nothing during the night, and got up at daylight, and the prisoner did the same, tied up his bundle, and said that he would go up as far as Mr Hoile's public-house, and see it he could get a glass of something, as his head was bad. Witness told him he had better stop and get a cup of tea, but he refused, and went away. Witness never saw him from that time till he saw him in Court. He had shown witness the cut on his thumb, and he assisted him to bind it up, and said that he did not think he would lose his thumb in consequence. Believed that he said the Sergeant had cut it in the scuffle.
By the prisoner - You did not say "God forbid that I should accuse the Sergeant wrongfully of cutting my thumb."
John Hughes, coachman, in the employ of Mr Chambers, driving the mail between Adelaide and the Gawler Plains, deposed that on the 26th ult. the prisoner came in the cart which he drove, from the Gawler Plains to Dry Creek, where he left though witness brought the bundle on into town.
By the prisoner - The man who drove the cart from Clare to Gawler was named Philip Bergin.
The prisoner requested that he might be summoned on his behalf, as it was through his persuasion that he had come to town.
Mr Slater, the employer of both the prisoner and deceased, and who found the pocket-book, not being in attendance, the case was remanded till tomorrow.
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