The Execution of Boyce, Duffy Martin and Read 1887

The Mt Rennie Outrage, September 1886, (as the crime became known as) is a Gang Rape incident involving at least 11 young men in 1886. On the 27 November, 1886 nine were found guilty and sentenced to death, reading the newspaper accounts it is easy to get lost in the who’s who of this case so below is the following is a ready reckoner the names are alphabetical with ages in relation to the perpetrators and the single victim(brackets)

With a vast crowd of men committed to trial there was an equally vast number of witnesses for the defence and for the Crown. 100’s of newspaper column inches was devoted  to this trial. Followed by public meetings and petitions to the government and governor.


Mary Jane Hicks (16)   Moved to New Zealand after the case.

Committed to Trail

William Boyce        (24)  Sentenced to death  Hanged   7/1/1887

Michael Donnellan (18)    Senced to death  Reprieved  Darlinghurst 10 years

George Duffy          (18)     Sentenced to death  Hanged   7/1/1887

William Hill            (22)     Sentenced to death  Reprieved  Trail Bay 10 years

George Keegan       (19)      Sentenced to death  Reprieved  Parramatta 10 years

William Newman (18)       Sentenced to death   Reprieved  Darlinghurst 10 years

Michal Mangan      (19)       Acquitted                               

George Martin        (18)      Sentenced to death Hanged   7/1/1887

Hugh Miller            (18)      Sentenced to death  Reprieved  Parramatta 10 years

Thomas Oscroft      (17)     Acquitted                               

Robert George Read (20)  Sentenced to death   Hanged   7/1/1887“

Charles Sweetman  Taxi Driver    Accessory  11 years, served 9

The  Judge

Honour Mr. Justice Windeyer presiding over this matter.

Solicitors for the Accused

Mr. Gannon

Ellis , instructed by Mr. Gannon,

 Scholes, instructed by Mr. Gannon,

Mr. Gibson, instructed by Mr. Gannon,

Mr. O’Mara, instructed by

Mr. Moriarty, instructed by Mr. M. Williamson

Mr. H. Levien

Mr. Edmunds  instructed by Mr. Williamson.

Mr. Canaway for Duffy

 Which Lawyer for Whom    

William Boyce        (24) Hanged   7/1/1887     

Mr. Moriarty, instructed by Mr. M. Williamson


 Michael Donnellan (18)     Reprieved  

Mr. Edmunds instructed by Mr. Williamson


George Duffy         (18)        Hanged   7/1/1887

Mr. Canaway for Duffy


William Hill            (22)       Sentenced to death               

Mr. H. Levien                         


George Keegan       (19)        Reprieved



William Newman (18)         Reprieved  



Michal Mangan      (19)        Acquitted 

Mr. H. Levien                                                         


George Martin        (18)        Sentenced to death



Hugh Miller            (18)        Sentenced to death



Thomas Oscroft      (17)      Acquitted  



Robert George Read (20)   Hanged   7/1/1887 

Mr. O’Mara, /Mr. H. Levien 

Solicitors for the Prosecution (Victim side)

Mr. Williams,         Crown Solicitor

Mr. Teece,              Solicitor

Mr. Pring,                Solicitor


Sydney Morning Herald




Michael Mangan, 19, labourer, was charged at the Water Police Court yesterday, before Mr. M. Marsh, S.M., that he did on the 9th day of September instant, in company with others, outrage one Mary Jane Hicks. The court was again densely crowded when the case was called on .On the application of the police, the prisoner was remanded till Friday next.


Sydney Morning Herald



 At about 4 o’clock on Thursday afternoon a respectable-looking man arrived in a breathless state at the Redfern Police Station, and reported that half an hour previously he had witnessed a horrible scene in Moore Park. He said that he was walking through the scrub in the neighbour-hood of Mount Rennie when his attention was attracted by the piercing screams of a female.

 He rushed towards the direction of the sounds and shortly came upon about a score of men surrounding a girl, whose clothing was in a mutilated condition, and who lay prostrate on the ground. Two or three of the ruffians were holding her down whilst another was criminally assaulting her. He immediately  shouted out to them to stop, and ran forward with the intention of rescuing the unfortunate girl, who screamed for help, but was met by a shower of missiles and emphatic threats that if he attempted to interfere it would cost him his life.

Knowing that it would be worse than useless to attempt to cope with the infuriated wretches he ran away, and made his way with some difficulty across country to the Redfern Police station, where he told his story as stated. As there were no constables available at Redfern  at the time the intelligence was communicated by telephone to the No. 3 station (Darlinghurst), and as soon as practicable police were despatched from both stations to the scene of the outrage. When they came within view of the spot it was apparent that the informant’s story was true, for the sickening scene described by him was still being enacted.

The ruffians, however, were quickly aware of the approach of the officers of the law, and made off with all speed in different directions. Pursuit was given, but, owing to the boggy nature of the ground, and the fact that the police were unacquainted with the locality, the male-    factors succeeded in eluding capture. Their victim was afterwards found in the same spot, in a terribly exhausted condition, with the clothes nearly torn from her body.

As quickly as possible her deliverers got her out of the scrub, and placed her in a cab, by which means she was conveyed to the No. 3 police station. Here she appeared dazed for awhile, but partially regained consciousness at intervals, during which she was able in a disconnected manner to relate how she came to be in such terrible straits.  

She stated that her name was Mary Jane Hicks, and that she was between 16 and 17 years of age. She had gone out to the neighbourhood of Moore Park in a cab, and, afterwards, while walking towards Forsyth’s rope manufactory, which is situated at some distance from Mount Rennie, was accosted by some men whom she did not know. She was thrown down and criminally assaulted by one of them, whilst others held her; and she was assaulted by a dozen men afterwards before the arrival of the police.

She also stated that she was a domestic servant, but where she had been residing is at present uncertain. She was examined by Dr. Marsden on the same night, and that gentleman discovered undoubted signs of her having been brutally outraged. There were also bruises on her body.  

She remained in the care of the police until yesterday evening, when she commenced to vomit blood, and was immediately conveyed to the Sydney Hospital, where she was attended by Dr. Fisher. At a late hour last night her condition was somewhat improved. Since the occurrence the police have succeeded in arresting two men who have been identified by the girl as participants in the assault.

One of these named, Hugh Miller, was arrested about midnight on Thursday, and was brought up at the Water Police Court yesterday and charged with rape. He was remanded till Friday next. Yesterday afternoon George Keegan was also arrested, and will be charged    with the same offence at the Water Police Court this morning when he will probably be remanded till Friday.

Both these men were arrested in Waterloo, and were also recognised by the man who first gave information to the police. The latter are in possession of information which they hope will lead to the detection of the other offenders.  

police museum

Sydney Morning Herald




At the Water Police Court (before Mr. Marsh, S.M.) yesterday, William Hill, 22, engine-fitter, and George Duffy, 18, woolwasher, were charged by warrant with feloniously assaulting Mary Jane Hicks. The court was crowded when the case was called on, as it was anticipated that some of the particulars of the outrage on the girl might be heard by the Bench.Tho police, however, asked that the prisoners should be remanded until Friday next, and the magistrate granted the application. The whole of the men who have been apprehended and charged with being concerned in the assault will be brought before the Court on Friday morning, when it is expected that, the girl will be sufficiently re-covered to be enabled to give evidence regarding the terrible crime which is alleged to have been perpetrated at Moore Park last week.    


Sydney Morning herald



At the Water Police Court yesterday (before Mr Marsh)  

William Newman, 18, of no occupation, was charged with being concerned with others in committing a criminal assault on one Mary Jane Hicks on the 9th instant the accused was remanded until tomorrow morning when the whole of the prisoners will be brought before the bench.


Sydney Morning Herald



Yesterday morning in the Water Police Court, before Mr. G. O’Malley Clarke, S.M., Leslie Douglas, John Fuller, Michael Donnellan, William Hill, George Duffy, Michael Mangan, William Newman, Hugh Miller, George Keegan, and Charles Sweetman, on remand, were charged by warrant for that they did on the 9th September instant, in company with others, without her consent, criminally assault one Mary Jane Hicks.

Mr. Roberts, appeared for the Crown; Mr. Wallace appeared for Miller, Mr. F. Gannon for Fuller and Mangan, Mr. Shorter for Douglas, and Mr. Williamson for Hill  and Duffy.

The Court having been cleared, The Bench said he thought it would defeat the ends of justice if the evidence should be reported from day to day.

Of course he had no power to prevent its publication, but he would suggest to and request the press not to publish the evidence until the case should have been completed, otherwise the ends of justice might be defeated.    

Mr. Roberts asked the Bench to make an order prohibiting the publication of the evidence, as the Bench had power to make that order.

The Bench said that members of the press might remain in court, on condition that they did not report any of the evidence; but if they published the evidence they would be excluded.

Mr. Roberts applied for a remand until Friday morning next, at 10 o’clock.

The Bench granted the application.

Mr. Gannon applied for bail for Fuller and Mangan.

Mr. Roberts said he should oppose the application for bail for any of the accused, and

The Bench said he could not hear of it, and should refuse bail to any of the accused.

The prisoners were then removed.

 water pol court

Sydney Morning Herald




At the Central Criminal Court yesterday, before his Honour Mr. Justice Windeyer, the trial of the prisoners concerned in the Waterloo outrage continued. William Hill, George Duffy, William Newman, Michael Donnellan, Thomas Oscroft, Joseph Martin, William Boyce, Hugh Miller, Robert George Read, George Keegan and Michael Mangan were charged for that they did on the 9th of September at Waterloo, ravish and carnally know Mary Jane Hicks against her consent.          

Mr. Teece, with him Mr. Pring, instructed by Mr. Williams, Crown Solicitor, appeared for the prosecution.      

Messrs. Elles and Scholes, instructed by Mr. Gannon, appeared for Oscroft, Martin, Miller Keegan and Newman.

Mr. Gilson, instructed by Mr. Gannon appeared for Hill and  Mangan; Mr. O’Mara, instructed by Mr. H. Levien,  for Read; Mr. Moriarrty, instructed by Mr. M. Williamson (Williamson and Williamson), for Boyce; Mr. Canaway for Duffy, and Mr Edmund for Donnellan, both instructed by Mr Williamson.  

Mr. O’Mara continued to call evidence on behalf of the prisoner Read. Ann Fahey and Alice O’Brien gave evidence to the effect that they saw the prisoner Read at different times on the 9th September. Henry Harrison deposed that on the day of the outrage he went to the Bread carters’ picnic with Reid, and was in his company up to 2 o’clock.  


John M’Clinchy, bus driver, gave corroborative evidence. Richard O’Donnell also gave evidence.

This concluded the evidence for the defence.  

Mr. Teece then called the complainant, who denied the allegations made against her by the witness Doran and other witnesses were recalled by the Crown to give rebutting evidence.  

Mr Gibson proceeded to address the jury on behalf of Hill and Mangan. He referred briefly to the character of    the charge which had been preferred against the prisoners.    He said the charge was one of rape under most extraordinary circumstances and he thought such an extraordinary case had never before come before a court of justice.    

Very little circumstantial evidence had been given in the case, but the evidence for the most part had been direct evidence. He then reviewed the evidence at great length, and contended that there had been a mistake made with regard to the identification of Hill and    also that there was a great deal of conflict of statements on the part of the Crown witnesses with regard to the movements and actions of the person whom they had taken to be Hill. He contended that it had been clearly shown that Hill had taken no part in the outrage that had been committed.

With regard to the prisoner Mangan, he submitted that a substantial alibi had been proved by  respectable witnesses, including a number of men with whom he was employed on the day of the outrage.    

Mr. Elles, on behalf of the prisoner Newman applied to be allowed to call evidence in defence as the witness had not been in attendance at an earlier stage of the proceedings.

His Honour granted the application.

John Newman, of Walker-street Redfern, stated that the prisoner Newman was his grandson and that after breakfast on the morning of the outrage the prisoner went out for about 10 minutes, and afterwards went out to see about some work, but returned before dinner, about half  past 1 o’clock; the prisoner went out again at half-past 2 and witness did not see him again until about tea time.      

Witness was severely cross-examined by Mr Teece, but adhered to his statement.    


James Henry, conductor of the Strawberry Hills omnibus  stated that he knew the prisoner well; the prisoner got on  the omnibus at the Bakers’ picnic at Botany, and got off the bus at half past 4 o’clock on the afternoon of the outrage near Christ Church.

Cross examined by Mr. Teece; He stated he had been convicted of duck stealing; had never spoken a word to the witness Newman about this case.        

William Bogus, 17 years, stated he was at work at Rockdale on the day of the outrage and left work at 17 minutes past 4, reaching Sydney by tram at a quarter to 5 on the  afternoon of the date of the outrage; when he left the Redfern station he went down George-street and saw the  prisoner Newman whom he knew at Christ Church, at 10 minutes to 5; they stopped and spoke for about three minutes, and witness then went down George Street.      

Cross examined by Mr. Teece; witness stated he had known the witness Newman about 12 months, but had never spoken to him about this case; witness had been fined at the Police Court for playing “bonanza;” witness could not name anybody who had seen him at Rockdale on          that particular day; when he was served with the subpoena, he told Constable Meyers that he had not seen the prisoner that day.  

His Honor said that he would require all the witnesses in this case to attend until they were discharged. Constable Meyers, called by the Crown, stated that when he served the subpoena upon Bogus he said he had been working at Rockdale all the day and had not any opportunity of seeing, the prisoner Newman.  

Mr. Canaway, representing the prisoner Duffy, addressed the jury for the defence. He contended that his client’s life was in danger by the evidence of one witness for the Crown but he asked them whether she was a credible witness. He had brought evidence to show that she was not. Her statement that she had been    forced into a cab was on the face of it most improbable, and he traversed her evidence to show how unlikely her story was, and in what points she had contradicted herself. He contended that her statements as to the order of the assault differed, and that in one she had omitted to name one of her alleged assailants.

Moreover he maintained that she was a consenting party so far as his client was concerned, and on these grounds he claimed an acquittal at their hands.  

Mr. Elles, addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoners  Newman, Oscroft, Martin, Miller and Keegan He did not intend to rest his defence upon any hypothesis as his learned friend had done, but to rest it upon the difficulty, almost impossibility, of identification by a  woman who had been assaulted by so many men.  He contended that the evidence respecting identification on the part of the complainant was very unsatisfactory. He pointed out that before the jury could convict they would have to be satisfied that the prisoners either perpetrated the  offence or aided those by whom it was committed. The case was one in which there must be no doubt or balancing of probabilities. He contended that it would be very dangerous for the jury to rely upon any evidence of identification given by the girl Hicks. He then went through the evidence and called attention to what he considered were discrepancies in the statements made by the witnesses for the Crown.    

Mr. Edmunds then addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner Donnellan. He said no one would dispute the fact that an outrage had been committed upon the complainant Mary Jane Hicks, but t was for the jury to say which of the prisoners were concerned in it. He commented upon the different statements made by the girl, and asserted that she had made distinct statements, viz., the one before the  arrest of the prisoners, another to the Water Police Court and the third to the jury, and contended that she had made such dangerous discrepancies that the jury would not  be justified in accepting her testimony.

He contended that she did not say a word about Donnellan until after she had named seven or eight others. He referred to the evidence given by the witnesses Smith and Brown and pointed out that the witnesses had made different statements, and therefore their evidence could not be relied upon. In conclusion, he called attention to the evidence which had been given on behalf of his client, and contended that a substantial alibi had been made out on his behalf.      

Mr. Moriarty then addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner Boyce. He pointed out that although a number of witnesses had mentioned Boyce’s name, only one had sworn to his having assaulted the complainant and that was the complainant herself. He contended that she was        in such an excited state when called upon to identify the prisoners that her word could not be relied upon. He    submitted that they could not rely upon the evidence of the lad Colley, nor of two of the other witnesses, because they declared they recognised some of the men at a distance of 190 yards. The evidence of Smith, an intelligent witness, who deposed to having seen the crime committed, went to show that the prisoner Boyce was not one of the perpetrators.  A statement made by Duffy, one of the prisoners, had been read, but the jury must discard it altogether so far as it referred in any way whatever to any one of the other prisoners.    

Mr. O’Mara spoke at length in defence of the prisoner Read.

The Court was still sitting when we went to press. It is understood that his Honour will commence to sum up at 9 o’clock this morning.


The Trial Result

Sydney Morning Herald



The Judge commenced to sum up at 9 o’clock on Saturday morning.                        

His Honour, in committing his address, said he regretted very much that he had found it necessary to keep the gentlemen of the jury sitting for so many hours at a time, but as some of them were not in good health, he thought it desirable to push the business on, looking at the great importance of the case with which they were dealing.

It was desirable that the case, when once begun, should be brought to a conclusion in the ordinary way. He was afraid he did put some pressure upon the counsel in the case, and he could not sufficiently thank them for the able manner in which they had defended the prisoners.

Although one of them complained of having been called upon to address the jury at 3 o’clock in the morning, he thought they would agree that it was not probable that he would have made a better speech at the present time than he made when called upon to address the jury, and he was sure he would not think that any more pressure had been put upon  him than upon any other counsel. He (his Honour) knew what the responsibility of counsel was, and the course he adopted was one which had been followed over and over again. The jury could not be too careful in weighing the evidence which had been given, and in giving a cool and collected decision.

The jury had already been told in most expressive terms how great their responsibility in the case was. They had been told on the one hand that the case was one of the utmost importance to the prisoners, but it was no less  the fact that on the other hand it was one of the greatest importance to society. He need not urge upon them the necessity of  dismissing from their minds anything they may have read  or heard respecting the case with which they had to deal, nor could he sufficiently impress upon them the necessity of considering the horrible facts which had been given in evidence before them with all the coolness they could command.

The facts of the case were calculated to disturb the calmest and best balanced minds. They were of an character not only calculated to enlist the sympathy    of everyone present for the victim of the  outrage, but were also calculated to raise a feeling of disgust, and he might be permitted tosay hatred, towards those who could be considered capable of committing such a crime. The jury, however, should not allow any such prejudice to act on their minds in weighing the evidence that had been produced.

They must as far as possible dismiss all feeling in the matter. It was of momentous importance, not only to the prisoners, who had at stake everything that was dear in this world; but it was of the greatest importance to the State and to society that the truth should be arrived at boldly and fearlessly. There was no doubt a horrible crime had been committed, and those guilty of it should be brought to justice.

In this case, as in every other case, the jury must get beyond suspicion. His Honour, then repeated the facts of the case according to the statement of the girl, Mary Jane Hicks. The case for the  Crown was that those who took part in the assault upon the  man Stanley were acting with the common design, their design being to commit rape upon the complainant.


He then defined the offence with which the prisoners were  charged, and pointed out that with only one exception the  learned counsel for the defence had not attempted to set up  the question of consent on the part of the unfortunate girl Hicks. The facts showed that the girl screamed time after time, and resisted the assaults made upon her.

He pointed out that the horrible assaults made upon the girl precluded the idea of consent, and, with one exception, the learned counsel had honourably acquitted her of any such horrible immorality. There were circum-stances in this case which would cause them to dismiss any idea of consent from their minds.

His Honour then went on to explain that the law protected even the  very worst character from assaults such as   had been made upon this unfortunate girl. His Honour then proceeded to deal with the alibi proved on Mangan’s behalf. He considered the evidence worthy of the gravest consideration. The witnesses were respect-able working men in the municipality of Waterloo, who said they had seen him working during the time he was alleged to have been concerned in the outrage on the girl.

The case of Oscroft was the next one dealt with by his Honour, who read portions of the evidence, showing that the prisoner was on the ground at the time the assaults were committed,  even if he did not participate in the outrage itself. The girl mentioned the name of Oscroft several times, but appeared to have entertained some doubt on one occasion at the police station as to whether he was the man, and on another occasion she expressed herself sure that Oscroft was one of the set engaged in assaulting her. It appeared that the girl had been assaulted by two different sets of four each, and Oscroft was named by her as being concerned with the second set. There was also  evidence to show that he had set out for and returned from his usual business at the usual time that day, and that he did his usual work, or at any rate made his usual wage.

On the other hand, it was quite possible that the evidence bearing on this point, which was not very strong, must have been given in mistake, the witness, perhaps, confusing his recollections of one day with those of another. The next case dealt with by his Honour was that of William Hill  who was accused of having prevented the witness Stanley from coming to the girl’s assistance at the time of the outrage by dragging him away by the arm. The prosecutrix corroborated the evidence of Stanley in this particular, and further charged Hill with having taken her into the bush.

The question for the jury to decide  was whether Hill’s object in taking the girl away from Stanley was, if not to ravish her himself, at any rate to enable the others to ravish her. Both Stanley and the girl swore to Hill’s having taken the girl in the direction of the swamp, and then went away, leaving her with four others who, she alleged, outraged her. She stated that she did not see Hill again till she was sitting with two men by the drain. It was proved beyond a doubt that the girl was taken by someone to the swamp.  

Hill admitted himself, that he was present on the occasion, and if the jury believed what the girl said of him, whether he actually outraged her or not, then he was the main cause of the outrage having taken place, and therefore guilty accordingly; and if he carried her off for  the purpose of being outraged by the others, then he was just as guilty as the rest, for without his interference the outrage would in all probability not had taken place. The girl herself did not accuse Hill of having  actually outraged her, but another witness averred    that Hill had his arms around her waist, the girl not appearing unwilling, although she had just uttered a scream, when one of the others threw her down and effected an assault.

She then got up by herself and was walking away, when Hill, it is said, went after and brought her back. He is even alleged to have thrown her down himself, although he does not appear to have succeeded in effecting any further assault. One witness—Stanley—was positive in asserting that Hill had called to three others to come up and assault the girl the very moment after he had told the girl to rely on his protection. The prisoners were armed with knives and sticks, while Stanley had no weapon, so that he was unable, single-handed, to rescue the girl.

His Honour next referred to the case of Miller, and read the evidence relative to his identification by the girl. When she first saw him she was in a half-fainting condition, and said she did not think he was there. Soon after she was confronted with him, and said he was one of the men. In her deposition she positively declared that Miller was one of the men who assaulted her, and that it was he who at one time put his hand over her mouth. The witness, Smith, identified Miller, as one of the men who took part in the outrage.

 The weight of Smith’s evidence depended upon the reliance they placed upon it, and it was for them to weigh the evidence with the rest that was offered.

The evidence of Denny against Miller was read, and then his Honour read the evidence against Keegan, which showed that the girl at once recognised Keegan when he was placed before her, and about a week after she identified him amongst a number of men, and afterwards recognised several of the prisoners. She recognised Keegan by his pale face. She identified Miller as the man having his handover her mouth, and Keegan as the man who held her legs.

His Honour then proceeded to deal with the evidence with respect to Duffy. When Duffy was arrested he denied having been connected with the outrage. His Honour then read the evidence of the complainant, in which she asserted that Duffy was one of the first four who criminally assaulted her, and that it was Duffy who threw her down.  

According to the complainant’s evidence it was Duffy who made her take off her boots and stockings, and with New-man lighted a fire in the bush to dry her clothes. His Honour read the statement which was made by Duffy whilst in gaol.

 It was quite clear from the prisoner’s statement  that he did criminally assault the girl, and it was equally  clear that the girl was not, as he attempted to make out, a consenting party.

He was identified by a number of the Crown witnesses as one who was present and took part in the outrage. His Honour then referred to the evidence called by Duffy in de-fence, and read the evidence given by the witness, Matthew Doran, which was to the effect that at one time he had been on terms of intimacy with the complainant, while on the other hand the complainant denied the allegations made, and had stated that she had never seen Doran in her life before.

The girl was nothing more than a wreck at the present time, in consequence of the treat-ment she had received, and no sane person could believe that she consented to what had taken place. His Honour then passed on to the case of Newman, reading portions of the evidence, including the prisoner’s statement when arrested, and also the evidence given in defence. With regard to the evidence called to prove an alibi on behalf of Donnellan, the jury would have to decide whether the alibi was not supported by witnesses of such question-able character that they could not be believed. The question was, did their evidence outweigh the evidence given on behalf of tho Crown.

The next prisoner was Martin, who, when arrested, said that on the day of the outrage he was out at Botany all day fishing by himself. He was identified by Mary Jane Hicks as one of the four who were present at the time she threw herself into the drain. One of the witnesses who had identified Martin said he had known him for four years. There had been no attempt to prove an alibi in this case, and the prisoner had been sworn to in a positive manner.

That being so could there be any doubt as to Martin having been present when the outrage was committed? Was there anything whatever to upset the positive testimony which had been given against him? His Honour then dealt with the case of the prisoner Boyce. The evidence of the witnesses Smith and Brown went to show that the prisoner Boyce was present; and also, that he assaulted the complainant.

The evidence of Constable Bell showed that the prisoners Read and Boyce were arrested whilst travelling  beyond the Queensland border under assumed names, and in reply to the charge both refused to state where they were on the day of the outrage. The complainant had identified Boyce as one of the first four men who had assaulted her. The prisoner was also identified byother witnesses for the Crown, including Kane, Smith, and Stanley, who had sworn positively to having seen him taking part in the outrage.

His Honour having read the evidence given on behalf of Boyce, proceeded  to deal with the case against the prisoner Read. He stated that Read had been identified by the complainant, and also by Smith. In reviewing the evidence given, his Honour pointed out that Read up to the date of the outrage had borne an excellent character.

He referred to the fact that read when arrested was several hundred miles from Sydney, and travelling with the prisoner Boyce under a false name. How could his action in this respect be accounted for? The matter was one which would have to be considered by the jury. His Honour then read the greater portion of the evidence which had been taken and concluded by reminding  to establish the case that they should be satisfied in what order the prisoners assaulted the girl, so long as they found that some had outraged her whilst some were present aiding and abetting. They were all equally guilty whether they outraged her or not, and that explanation might relieve them of some difficulty. The young woman might have been almost in a state of oblivion when she was being outraged, but there were other intelligent witnesses who told clearly what took place.

It was for the jury to look at the whole case, and to say how far  they considered the Crown had made out its case, and it  was for them, divesting themselves of all other considerations, to consider the matter solely in the light of the evidence they had heard, and to carefully weigh the whole of the evidence in this case remembering the heavy  responsibility that rested upon them, but at the  same time not shrinking from the conscientious discharge of their duty. They could only be expected to act upon the evidence to the best of human judgment and human capacity.

The prisoners had been defended with very great ability, and speeches had been made which were a credit to the court; but he reminded them that they were not to be determined in a decision by speeches, however valuable they might have been, but by the evidence itself. If in the case of one, or any, or all of the prisoners they felt an honest reasonable doubt, they must give the prisoners the benefit of that doubt.

The responsibility of the verdict was theirs, not his. He had endeavoured to place the    matter plainly before them, and it was for them, after weighing the evidence, to say where the truth lay. He would leave the case entirely in their hands, and with them must rest the responsibility of saying whether the prisoners were guilty or not.

They had a difficult task to perform, but he was sure they would do it fearlessly and faithfully. He said to them in conclusion, with all earnestness and sincerity, and with a due knowledge of the terrible responsibility which rested upon them, that it was they and not him upon whom the responsibility of the verdict rested.

 He again and again would say to them that if they felt any reasonable possible doubt in favour of one, of any, or all of the prisoners it was their duty to give them, the benefit of such doubt.

But if, on the contrary, they deemed the evidence to have been sufficiently strong against one, or any, or all of the prisoners it rested with them to do their duty fearlessly and impartially, no matter what the consequences might be to one, or any, or all of them. He then asked them to consider their verdict.    

The address of his Honour was concluded at 20 minutes past 8 o’clock, and the jury retired at 21 minutes past 8 to consider their verdict.  

The jury returned into court at five minutes to 11 o’clock with a verdict of guilty against the prisoners William Hill, Hugh Miller, George Keegan, George Duffy, William Newman, Michael Donnellan, Joseph Martin, William Boyce, and George Read. The accused persons Michael Mangan and Thomas Oscroft were found not guilty, and were discharged.  

The jury recommended the prisoners to mercy on account of their youth.

In reply to the usual question,

The prisoner William Hill said : “Although the jury  have found me guilty of a crime for which I am to suffer death, I am perfectly innocent, and that girl and the witnesses for the Crown have sworn my life away. I saw the girl that day, and I acted the man to her. My friends and relations outside know I am innocent,   can go to the scaffold as an innocent man.”

The prisoner George Duffy said he had nothing to say. The prisoner Michael Donnellan said: “Gentlemen of the jury, you have found me guilty, but I am innocent of the charge. Although the gentlemen defending me did their best, Dr. Marsden’s evidence condemned me straight. I have nothing more to say. I am not afraid to face death in twelve hours. I am innocent of the charge.”

The prisoner Joseph Martin said : “What I did to that  girl was with her consent. That is as true as God’s in  Heaven.”    

The prisoner William Boyce said: “Although I am found guilty of this charge I am innocent of it.”

The prisoner Hugh Miller said: “I am quite innocent of    the serious charge made against me. The first time I saw that girl was on the night of the 9th September, and the witnesses in this case have been prompted by the police to swear my life away. I am innocent.”

The prisoner George Read said: “Although I am found  guilty of this terrible crime I am innocent. I hope God above will forgive those who have sworn my soul and my life away. I have no more to say.”

The prisoner George Keegan said: “I wish to say I am    not guilty of this dastardly outrage. If the death sentences not executed upon me, and I hope it won’t be, I will have the honour to bring before you my innocence in the future.”


His HONOR said: Prisoners, you have been convicted of a most atrocious crime, a crime so horrible that every lover of his country must feel that it is a disgrace to our civilisation. I am glad to find that this case has been tried by a jury that has had the intelligence to see through the perjury  upon perjury that has been committed on your behalf, and the courage to declare the truth as they see it. It is terrible to think that we should have amongst us in this city a class worse than savages, lower in their instincts than the brutes below us.

No language could express the abhorrence of right-thinking men of a scene such as that described by witness after witness in this case, as this poor defenceless girl, friendless and alone, is, like some wild animal, hunted down by a set of savages, who spring upon her and outrage her until she lies a lifeless thing before them, and then, when returning consciousness brings with it the terror of further outrage, she, in frenzy, seeks in such opportunity of death as seems to present itself a refuge from the horrors of her life. I warn you to prepare for death. No hope of mercy can I extend to you.

Be sure no weakness of the Executive, no maudlin feeling of pity, will save you from the death you so richly deserve.

 Those who are charged with the administration of our affairs, to whose keeping is confided the safety of the public, will remember there are things more precious to society than life itself the honour of our women and the safety of our families, compared with which the wretched lives of criminals such as  you are of no account.

It is true that you are young, but the remembrance of that fact is coupled with the recollection that not twice nor thrice only has public feeling been horrified by the perpetration of similar crimes by young men like yourselves. The present outrage is, I believe, the outcome of the past, and I solemnly express my belief that this culminating atrocity has been brought about by the immunity from the death penalty which your class has so long enjoyed upon the ground of your youth. I hold in my hand a list of crimes similar to these which have been perpetrated during the last few years.

The first is an outrage that was committed by a number of young men upon a girl in the neighbourhood, of Parramatta-street, but by some mischance a gross miscarriage of justice, as l believe, took place in the acquittal of the men. The difficulty of proving such cases is often great, and false evidence is always ready, too ready, at hand to throw its protecting  shield around criminals of your class.

This out-rage was followed by an outrage upon a young woman at North Shore, and the perpetrators escaped the death penalty on account of their youth. After this an outrage took place upon an old woman in the neighbourhood of Ultimo, and I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that a miscarriage of justice took place there in the acquittal of the prisoners, young men like yourselves—an acquittal which amazed me, as the evidence was of the clearest kind. This was followed by another, where the wretched woman was done to death somewhere in the neighbourhood of the locality now made infamous by this crime; and again, as I believe, a miscarriage of justice took place in the entire acquittal of all concerned.

This was followed up by another frightful outrage in Woolloomooloo, where the wretched creature was found lying dead, like a dog, naked in the street, under circumstances of outrage too  horrible to mention. Only one of the ruffians who outraged her was brought to justice, but escaped with his life.  Again, last year I tried eight men for a concerted outrage of this kind upon an old woman under circumstances too disgusting to refer to.

They escaped the death penalty, too, and the outcome of all this mistaken leniency, and failure to convict, is this culminating horror. You cannot expect that those who are charged with the execution of the law will hesitate under all these circumstances in handing you over to the death which you    most righteously deserve. Outrages such as this  are not committed upon the children of the rich, the surroundings of whose life give their children protection, but upon the daughters of the people, who in the pursuit of their honest avocations are compelled to go about alone, exposed to the attacks of such gangs of ruffians as choose to assault them.

Under all these circumstances be sure no  pity will be extended to you; our pity must be reserved for the homes that are desolated and the victims who are wrecked for life by outrages such as these.

I warn you not to waste your time in idle protestations of your innocence. I advise you to prepare to meet your Maker; and if you are capable of understanding the position in which you stand, remember that your time is short.

The recommendation to mercy which the jury have  made in your favour it will be my duty to convey to the Executive. Your fate rests with them, not with me; but I can hold out no hope that this recommendation  will be acted upon after all that has taken place of late years in this country. The time has come when a terrible example must be made of those who seem to be restrained by no pity for their victims, no sense of shame, no dread of the loathing of their fellows. Crimes such as yours it  is too clear can only be restrained by the fear of death, the fate which awaits you, I have now but one duty to discharge, and that is to pass upon you the last dread sentence of the law.

Silence having been called, His Honour, naming each of the prisoners, said: The  sentence of the Court is that you be taken hence to the place from whence you came, and thence, on a day hereafter to be named by the Governor in Council, to the place of execution and that there you be severally hanged by the neck until your bodies be dead. God help you to repent of this crime.      

The prisoners, who appeared unmoved by the sentence,    were then conducted from the Court to Darlinghurst gaol, and the Court was adjourned until 10 o’clock this (Monday) morning.        


The Hanging

Sydney Morning Herald




The sentence of death passed on George Duffy, George Martin, William Boyce, and Robert George Read, in connection with the Mount Ronnie outrage was carried into effect yesterday morning within the walls of Darlinghurst Gaol, and in the presence of an unusually large number of spectators, the execution, in fact, being more of a public than a private nature a fact which could not but be regarded as most undesirable.

The simultaneous execution of so many criminals concerned in the one crime has happily but few parallels in this colony. The first instance of which we have record dates as far back as 1834, when six assigned servants were executed for taking part in an insurrection on an upcountry station.

The men it is stated acknowledged their offence, but stated that it was owing to the tyranny of the treatment they had received. They, however, did not escape the gallows, though a commission was appointed to inquire into the matter, with the result that the owner of the station, a justice of the peace, was struck off the role.

darlo gaol aerial

On March the 18th, 1841, seven members of a band of bushrangers common known as the “Jew Boys Gang,” who held a greater portion of the Hunter district in a state of terrorism by outrage and murder were executed in Sydney.

Since the passing of sentence of death upon the culprits they were zealously attended and instructed by the ministers of their, respective denominations. On the  night previous to the execution several hours were spent in prayer and exhortation, and at 6 o’clock  in the morning Mass was celebrated in one of the cells and the Roman Catholic prisoners received those consolations of religion reserved for such as are in extremus.

From an early hour in the morning the Presbyterian chaplain and the Rev. T. J. Curtis attended upon the prisoner Read, who, the latter states “bore himself consistently throughout as an innocent man.”Breakfast was served to the condemned men at an early hour, but they only took a little tea.

There are at present on a rough computation about 700 prisoners in gaol and these were permitted to leave their cells at about 6 o’clock, when they washed and had breakfast. At 7 o’clock sharp they re-entered the cells and were kept under lock and key until after the execution. They were, on the whole, very well behaved, only one or two cries being heard.  From about 7 o’clock in the morning, a crowd commenced to assemble at the great gates of the gaol.

It was composed of all classes but chiefly of young men, some of unmistakable larrikin stamp; and there were also a number of women included in it. On the outskirts of the crowd, which must have numbered two thousand persons or more, a number of carts and drays were drawn up. The crowd was at its largest at 9 o’clock, but scores loitered about the gaol for hours after the execution had been carried out.

These having cards of admission met in the principal court, where an unseemly scramble occurred    among the large crowd with regard to signing the visitor’s book a duty required for each present. Communication between  the court and the gaol yard is by means of an underground passage, and through this those present filed, the general, visitors being sent first, and the members of the medical and other professions, the representatives of the press and officials headed by the Sheriff (Mr. C. Cowper) and the governor of the gaol (Mr. J.C. Read) following. On ascending the steps leading from the underground passage the visitors found themselves in a well kept garden, and winding their way along the path turned the corner of a stone building and reached the lawn near the Governors’ private residence.

Here a halt was called, and the press representatives, separating from the main body, went on to the wing where the gallows had been erected, and took up a position in the first gallery, the one above being occupied by the general spectators, and the members of the medical profession being upon the ground floor, where they had the best opportunity of viewing the bodies. It was just upon the stroke of 9 o’clock at the time, when those entitled to be present were finally gathered within the section of the wing when the execution took place. It may serve to convey some idea of the spot where the scaffold was erected, to be described as a central space from which long corridors lined with cells radiate.

There are three stories of corridors, and it was from the corridor on the second floor, that the condemned men passed on to the scaffold. The customary formula by the Sheriff of demanding the bodies of the prisoners was gone through, and they were brought from the cells to have their irons removed and be pinioned. The hangman and his assistant performed    the latter operation speedily, and as mercifully as possible, and the procession then moved along the corridor, and ascending the three steps, the prisoners reached the platform of the scaffold.

The space opposite to the massive and ungainly structure was in the shape of a crescent, against the wall being two galleries. These were lined with spectators the greater portion of the ground space being also occupied by so that a ghastly thought of the theatre was suggested. Altogether, including doctors, reporters, and general visitors there must have been quite 120 present. In addition to those were officials of various grades, warders, and policeman.  

Upon first entering the wing there had been a buzz of conversation, and the Sheriff demanded silence, the governor of the gaol reminding those present of the solemn occasion upon which they were present. There was no need for a second admonition, for with entrance of the prisoners, absolute silence fell upon all. After the gaol officials followed the first of the condemned youths two were 19 and two of 17years of age Martin. He was followed by Boyce and Duffy, and then Read. They were placed upon the trap in the following order: Boyce to the extreme left, then Martin,    Duffy and Read. Boyce was attended by the Rev. Father Coonan, Martin by the Rev. Father Dr. Murphy.

Each of these prisoners had a crucifix hung round his neck. Read was attended by the Rev. T. J. Curtis—who throughout has been unremitting in his attention to the prisoner—by the    acting-chaplain, the Rev. J. F. Henderson, and by the Rev. Jas. McNeil. For a few seconds the prisoners stood beneath the beam. Boyce was exceedingly pale and throughout kept his eyes firmly turned upward, Martin was   less pale and somewhat more stolid looking, Duffy was flushed and his lips moving incessantly, repeated words of prayer, whilst Read stood with his eyes closed and face turned skyward.

In the midst of most painful suspense and solemn silence the Rev. Mr. Curtis in a broken voice said “On behalf of Robert Read, I desire to say that he has made a long written statement, which he has placed in my hands, to be held sacred until after his execution. In this statement he declares his innocence and says that he will enter into the presence of God trusting only in the Lord Jesus Christ his Saviour, with a clear conscience, knowing that he is innocent in this matter—[Here Read turned his head and spoke to the rev. gentleman]. Robert Read wishes me also to say

that so far as his small knowledge of the affair extends, and from all he has gathered from the other condemned men, he believes that those who have been reprieved—save Donnellan— that is to say, Hill, Miller, Keegan and Newman are innocent.

The executioner and his assistant then produced the white caps.

Mr. Curtis kissed Read, and, burying his face in his hands, stepped aside. The halters were quickly adjusted, and in a second the bolt was drawn. A scene too painful to describe followed. It was evident that the weight of the prisoners and the drop had not been properly calculated. One, struggled for about six minutes, the others for a less time, and when at 25 minutes to 10 o’clock Drs. O’Connor and Brownless felt the bodies, it was quite plain to them that death had not at all been instantaneous.

Of the four, only one—Duffy—had his spinal column fractured. The others were strangled to death. It was stated by a medical man present, that in the case of Martin, respiration did not cease till the expiration of 10 minutes. By a mischance, the rope got partly caught by one of his pinioned arms and this no doubt checked his fall. So far as those present could judge, the knots of the nooses did not in at least two cases, appear to have been drawn sufficently tight. After hanging for some time, after the medical examinations had been made, the bodies were lowered and subsequently the City Coroner (Mr.Shiel) presided at an inquest, where formal evidence was given, the statement of Dr. O’Connor, medical officer of the gaol, being that in the case of Duffy death had been caused by dislocation of the vertebrae of the spinal column, and in the cases of Read, Martin and Boyce by strangulation.

In accordance with a provision contained in the Criminal Law Consolidation Act passed a few sessions ago, it is imperitave that “the body of the person executed shall not be buried, or be removed from the gaol, within eight hours next after such execution, nor until an inquest has been held.”It is found that the provision with regard to the eight hours is a source of very considerable inconvenience to the gaol  authorities. Under the old law, which in its principle was adopted into the legislation of the mother country, the body could be at once handed over to relatives or friends of the prisoner and could be buried that day. As the law now stands the authorities cannot, even if an order of removal be granted    to the friends, permit the body to leave the gaol precincts till the hours have elapsed. It is then too late in the day to inter the corpse, and it has to be detained till the following morning.

A meeting of the Executive Council was held at Government House yesterday morning to consider an application from the    friends of the executed prisoners praying that the bodies should be handed over to them for interment. It was determined to grant the request but with the condition attached that arrangements should be made for the burial under the    supervision of a gaol official. In connection with this sad matter it is desirable to mention that all the clergymen in attendance on the prisoners, speak in terms of warm gratitude of the  courtesy shown to them by the Governor of the gaol and the facilities he placed in their way for carrying out the duties of their sacred office.

The principal visiting clergy were the Rev. Mr. Rich, Father Byrne, the Rev T.J.Curtis and the Rev. Mr. Henderson. Other persons also including several Sisters of Mercy were frequent visitors to the condemned men. We have been requested to state that a rumour having been spread about the city that the prisoner Hill was in some way connected with an old and respected family of that name in Sydney, there is no foundation in fact for such a statement. He is in no way related to the family referred to.

parra gaol gates 1

The Aftermath

Sydney Morning  Herald

27 /11/1896



The last chapter in the history of the remarkable Mount Rennie case, which has not ceased to occupy the attention of a large number of the people since the day upon which the crime was committed, was  brought to a close by the release of the imprisoned men yesterday-the tenth anniversary of the day upon which the death sentence was passed by Judge Windeyer on nine lads who had been adjudged guilty of participation in the crime The facts in connection with the crime  are doubtless still fresh in the minds of many of our readers On the 9th of September, 1886, the victim, a girl named Mary Jane Hicks, was driven from the city to the scene of the crime by a cabman named Charles Sweetman, who, it was alleged, had offered to drive her to a registry office, in order that she might  obtain employment.

Upon arrival on the scene, according to the statement made by the girl, her screams attracted a number of young men Acting under the impression that they were protecting her from the designs of the cabman, she consented to accompany them into the bush, and the woman was ultimately left in a semi-conscious condition. Among those who assembled upon hearing the girl’s screams were two men named Stanley and Smith, who after unsuccessfully attempting to rescue the woman gave information to the police, and subsequently became, with the victim, the principal witnesses for the Crown.

There were eleven arrests effected in connection with the affair, and the preliminary trial was heard at the Water Police Court.      

The names of the accused who were charged with a capital offence all of whom were committed for trial, were Joseph Martin, 17, a labourer, arrested 21st September, 1886, Thomas Oscroft, 17, a labourer, arrested 24th September William Newman, 18, no occupation, arrested 15th September, Michael Mangan, 19, a labourer, arrested 13th September, William Hill, 22, arrested 11th September, George Duffy, 17, woolwasher, Michael Donnellan, 18, no occupation, arrested 11th September, Hugh Miller, 18, cleaner, arrested 10th September George Keegan, 19, a labourer, arrested  10th September, Robert George Read, 20, a labourer, arrested 24th September and William Boyce, 24, a labourer. The last two named were arrested a fortnight after the deed beyond Bourke. The trial at the Central Criminal Court commenced on the 22nd November, and lasted for five days. The jury acquitted Oscroft and Mangan, and the other nine prisoners, who were found guilty, were sentenced to death.

The excitement, which had been intense through-out the trial, increased, and for many weeks the verdict of the jury was the principal topic of conversation. Public opinion as to the part played by  some of the prisoner, in connection with the crime was then, as it remains to-day, divided. Apart altogether from that section of the community which generally sympathises with criminals, serious doubts as to the guilt of several of the youths were entertained by many, and, consequently, agitation ensued.

Many even of those who were satisfied with the verdict recorded by the jury were of opinion that there were circumstances connected with the case which would justify the reprieve of the prisoners. Whilst the agitation was going on throughout the city and country the Cabinet met frequency to consider the matter. Public meetings were held and petitions were presented imploring an extension    of mercy, whilst counter meetings and petitions asked that the death penalty might be carried out.

The Cabinet during its series of meetings reprieved, Dounellan, Miller, and Keegan, but held out no hope for the remaining six, and fixed the 7th January, 1887, as the day of execution.

All effort to induce the Government of the day to reconsider the matter having failed, the then Governor, Lord Carrington, was several times approached by deputations, including many prominent men, among whom may be mentioned-the late Mr. Henry Parkes, the late Hon. W. B. Dalley, the then Primate of Australia(Bishop Barry) and Cardinal Moran. Even these interviews had not the effect desired, and the authorities experienced a most anxious time.

On the day preceding the day of execution, however, one of the prisoners confided certain information to the Mother Superior of St Vincent’s, which partly exonerated two of the accused She immediately made known these new facts to Lord Carrington, and a Cabinet meeting was hastily called, the outcome of which was that Hill and Newman were reprieved. On the following morning four of those said to have participated in the outrage paid the penalty of death-George Duffy,18, Robert George Read, 20 , William Boyce, 24 ,and Joseph Martin, 21

The sentences on the remaining five prisoners re-leased yesterday were commuted to penal servitude for life. Almost from the moment of their incarceration attempts were made to obtain the release of some of them. Each successive Government from that day up to the present has been waited upon and petitioned for remission of the sentences, but refusals have been consistently given.

 Before Lord Carrington finally left the colony he was in receipt of petitions from several of the prisoners but he declined to take any further action. Lord Carrington, it will be remembered, had an anxious time, and regarded the Mount Rennie case as the most painful he had in connection with his administration here.

The present Government has been approached on numerous occasions, and owing, it is said, principally to the exertions of Mr Anderson, M. L. A. , the whole case was again thoroughly investigated.

Some six months ago, after repeated inquiries, the announcement was made that the Government had decided to release the men upon the completion of 10 years of their life sentences, and this decision was fulfilled yesterday Keegan and Miller were liberated from the Parramatta Gaol, Newman and Donnellan from Darlinghurst, and Hill from Trial Bay.

trial bay gate

All the men have learned trades whilst under-going their terms of imprisonment, and their education has not been neglected. From what can be ascertained they have determined to endeavour to live down the stigma attaching to their names, and all of them will probably remain in Sydney. Two of the released prisoners have inherited a considerable amount of property, and one of them will be the proprietor of a hotel.

It should I be mentioned that the cabman Sweetman was convicted as an accessory to the crime, and was sentenced to 11 years’ penal servitude. He was, however, at the conclusion of nine years of his sentence, liberated on the 28th of November, 1895, and is still in Sydney.

Shortly after the conclusion of the memorable trial funds were raised on behalf of the victim, audit is understood that the Government of the day granted a sufficient sum to convey her to New Zealand. Since her arrival in that colony nothing so  far as can be ascertained has been heard of her.

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