Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The murder of Rowland Edwards (4)

The next development in the trial of the murderers of Rowland Edwards was a more dramatic one. In the previous three articles, the parallel trial of the bushranger and murderer Dennis Donovan - we will deal wth his crimes at a later point. However, at his hanging two weeks after the sentencing of Hoolaghan and Suitar, Dennis Donovan confessing himself as accessory to murder, but would not say who had committed the murder. Furthermore, a man named John White had since come forward and confessed also! The two men who plead their innocence in court indeed appeared to be innocent:

Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser
Saturday 16th July 1814, page 2

"On Tuesday Dennis Donovan and John Turner were executed pursuant to their several sentences and their bodies afterwards given for dissection. The latter behaved in a manner becoming his unhappy condition ; but the other, with a degree of obduracy scarcely if ever before witnessed, was as uncandid in his dying declarations as he had been atrocious in his living acts. It has, however, happened well for society, that his declarations while under sentence, though pregnant with evasion, now and then gave rise to expressions implicating himself in at least a knowledge of those who were the murderers of Jenkins and Edwards, at the Toll-gate of Parramatta, for which two unhappy men were condemned to die, and hourly expected to suffer when he went to the place of execution. At this last gaol of his worldly career, he confessed his guilt as accessory to the murder at Hawkesbury, for which he suffered. There had always existed a strong wish to be satisfied whether he had been connected in to the Toll-bar murder or not. Discoveries had been made subsequent to the condemnation of Hoollaghan and Suitar for that horrible crime, which could not possibly fail of producing a belief that Donovan was himself a principal in this atrocious act ; and a stay of execution had taken place, for the purpose of developing, if possible, a mystery upon which the lives of the two fellow creatures depended, whose innocence was not altogether impossible, however strongly connected, and to all moral appearances indissoluble the chain of evidence that had produced their conviction.

Donovan at the place of execution denied that he was the perpetrator of this murder, but said he knew who the persons were by whom it had been committed ; and died as he had lived, remorseless and unpenitent. The prisoners Hoollaghan and Suitar have in the mean time, from an almost wonderful interposition of extraordinary, yet concurring circumstances, highly favourable to the opinion of their possible innocence, have been reprieved from death, until the existing doubt should be removed, which from the great, indefatigable, and incessant exertions of our worthy POLICE MAGISTRATE, leaves the question considerably in favour of the presumed innocence of the convicted parties.

Since Donovan’s execution, new discoveries have taken place, and John White, a servant of Mrs Burne, at George’s River, stands now fully committed for the murder, on his own confession, strengthened by the testimony of others ; and his trial is fixed for Wednesday next."

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