Elizabeth Patterson

Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
15 July 1841


TUESDAY, JULY 13—Before Chief Justice Sir JAMES DOWLING.

ELIZABETH PATTERSON, arrained [sic] on Monday, was put on her trial for the murder of her child, aged five months; one count in the information charged the prisoner with starving the child, and another with administering improper and poisonous food.

After addressing a few observations to the Jury the Attorney General called the witness for the prosecution.

SOPHIA BUCKLEY deposed that the prisoner and herself were brought up together; that prisoner had had two children, one of which, five months old, was dead; prisoner was given to drinking and to bad company, and frequently neglected the child; she often wished it dead; and on one occasion witness saw the prisoner while drunk carrying it with its head downwards; about three weeks before the child’s death, prisoner was from it almost all day; the child was always very thin and would not eat well.

The witness was cross-examined by Mr. PUREFOY, but nothing was elicited to shake her evidence.

GEORGE BUCKLEY deposed that he had known the prisoner many years; he also knew the child; prisoner was much given to drinking and bad company, and often neglected the child day and night; witness had often seen her drunk and asked her if the child was dead; she had replied no, but that it soon would be.

This witness was also cross-examined, but without effect.

MARY BUCKLEY, being examined, corroberated [sic] the evidence of the previous witness.

MARY GRIFFITHS, deposed that she saw the prisoner drunk, about a fortnight before the child died; prisoner said she would poison it.

Cross-examined—The prisoner was drunk at the time, and witness was not aware how she treated the child in general.

GORDON GWYNNE, Surgeon, described the appearance of the child after death, and gave it as his opinion, that the child died from starvation; the witness also deposed that the excessive use of ardent spirits, would materially injure a woman’s milk, both in quantity and quality.

This was the case for the prosecution.

Mr. PUREFOY submitted that there was no evidence to support the charge of manslaughter, but his honour the Judge was of opinion that there was evidence sufficent to send the case to a jury.

Mr. PUREFOY then commented at some length upon the evidence, and called Dr. HILL, Colonial Surgeon, at Parramatta.

Dr. HILL, deposed that the prisoner was under his care for two months in the factory with the child, and during that time, the child was properly attended to; this was all he knew of the matter.

WILLIAM COSTON, deposed that he knew the prisoner, and had seen her always given the child what she had to give it.

The Judge them summed up the case to the jury, who found the prisoner guilty of manslaughter on the first count.

The prisoner was sentenced to be imprisoned for two years in H. M. gaol, Sydney, his honor remarking that the present state of the law did not allow him to transport her, notwithstanding the enormity of the crime she had been convicted of.


Female Factory Online, (femalefactoryonline.org), “Law Report of ELIZABETH PATTERSON,” https://femalefactoryonline.org/law-reports/p18410715/, accessed [insert current date].

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