Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The murder of Rowland Edwards

In 1814, Rowland Edwards was murdered. While Rowland was unlucky, we are lucky that his murder captured the attention of the Sydney Gazette, and an entire edition of the Gazette was dedicated to the trial of his accused murderers. Coverage was further extended when it was discovered that the two men sentenced to hang for the murder were in fact innocent, all thanks to a gallows confession of one of the two real assailants.

The first article appeared in the Gazette on Saturday 4th June 1814 under the header 'SHOCKING MURDER'. The article is detailed and covers the events thoroughly:


Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser
Saturday 4th June 1814
"SHOCKING MURDER. Early on Sunday morning last an account was received in Town of the murder of Mr. William Jenkins, a dealer of Sydney, and Mr. Rowland Jenkins Edwards, a settler of Hawkesbury, who were both shot at the Parramatta Toll-gate (kept by Eward Edward Mayne), between ten and eleven the preceding night; of which melancholy fact the following are particulars:- Mr Jenkins, coming towards Sydney, and Mr. Edwards, proceeding for Hawkesbury, met at the Toll house, and not inclining to pursue their different journeys journies further, received the proffer of such accommodation as the place afforded. At an early hour they went to bed, as likewise did their host:; who being some time afterwards disturbed by a voice requiring that the toll-gate should be opened, arose and went out to obey the summons; but on opening the door saw two men armed with muskets, ready to burst into the house, one of them much taller than the other, and both wearing handkerchiefs over their faces. The shortest man's gun he immediately seized hold of, and a scuffle ensued; during which he endeavoured and partly and succeeded in unmasking both the villains, exclaiming at the same time "Oh, save me! save me!" The lamentable appeal aroused his sleeping guests; and they, with a moment's pause, sprang to his relief; but, fata fatal to both the effort proved! for they had scarcely crossed the threshold, when the taller ruffian, levelling his musket at the foremost, who happened to be Edwards, fired, & both fell on the explosion. - Jenkins was killed on the spot, and the unhappy partner in his destiny survived four painful hours - then followed him to the shades of death! So near was the assassin when he fired, that the whole contents are supposed to have entered his right side, in which 15 shot and slugs were found; and two others, which proved the instantaneous death of Jenkins, one entering the lungs, and the other the groin, are supposd supposed to have passed through the body of the former. - Mayne, the gate-keeper, still struggled with the shorter assailant, who finding himself likely to be overpowered, repeatedly demanded of the other to knock him down, which he effected by a blow with the butt of his musket on the head, and carious various parts of the body; when, either from a supposition he was dead, or possibly becoming too anxious for their own security to hazard delay, they made off precipitately. As soon as Mayne had sufficiently recovered from his blows, he made the best of his way into Parramatta where he acquainted the Rev. Mr. Marsden, resident Magistrate, with the dreadful occurence occurrence, naming at the same time his suspicion that the assassins were two labourers employed in the construction of the Liverpool road, who inhabited huts about two and a quarter miles from Parramatta, their names Michael Woollaghan, and Alexander Suitar. A party of the military detachment with several constables, went to the place, and found four men in their beds or hammocks, in two huts nearly contiguous, Wollaghan Woollaghan and Suitar in one hut, and two others, whose names are Bond and Day, in the other. They were all apprehended, and taken into Parramatta, where they appeared before the Coroner's Inquest, which sat on Sunday and Monday; in the course of which days, in addition to the circumstances above detailed, it appeared that the men who had attacked the gate house left behind them two handkerchiefs, (supposed to be those theu had worn over their faces), and a hat; which if clearly recognized by any disinterested person may afford considerable strength to any evidence to the fact that may have already been obtained. - A Verdict of Wilful Murder was returned by the Jury against Wollaghan and Suitar, who were accordingly fully committed by the Coroner to for trial; and Bond and Day were desired to be held in custody until legal advice should be obtained relative to them. The body of Mr. Edwards was buried at Parramatta on Monday, and the remains of W. Jenkins were brought to Sydney by his relations, and interred on Tuesday. - We are further concerned to state, that they both leave families to deplore their dismal

Note that the National Library copy of the paper has a handwritten note in the margin stating the other issues covering the trial: "Trials June 4, June 29, July 23".

I have not yet obtained Rowland's burial transcript so am not sure where precisely in Parramatta he was buried.

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