Janet Bell

Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
16 July 1844


FRIDAY, JULY 12.—Before his Honor Mr. Justice STEPHEN.


FRANCIS NICOL, WILLIAM PRITCHARD, and JANET BELL, were severally indicted, the two former with having, about two o’clock in the morning of the 14th day of May last, in Sussex-street, Sydney, broken and entered the dwelling-house of one THOMAS CHAPMAN BREILLAT, and stealing therefrom a number of Bank notes, some cash, and a silver watch, the property of the said T. C. BREILLAT and others, his partners, and the latter prisoner, JANET BELL, with having on the following day received the same, knowing them to have been stolen.

The Solicitor General opened the case on behalf of the Crown.

JOHN PHELPS, who had been admitted an approver, deposed that he was an assigned servant to Mr. KIRK, at Lane Cove; he was also known by the name of JACK FOX; prisoner NICHOLS was a fellow servant of his at Mr. KIRK’s; remembered the flour mills being broken open; came into Sydney the evening before the robbery with NICHOLS, and went to PRITCHARD’s house about a quarter before eight: PRITCHARD was not at home; they met him in the street, in company with SARAH ADAMS; they all four then went to the Dumbarton Castle, public-house, and remained there till near ten o’clock; the prisoner BELL joined them before they left the Dumbarton Castle, after which they went to PRITCHARD’s house, and about half-past eleven prisoner BELL again joined them. PRITCHARD and NICHOLS went out while they were stopping here, and on their return they brought a handful of papers and bills, and a watch and seal; after this, at the request of the last-named parties, witness went with them to the Flour Company’s mills, and assisted in removing an iron safe, but being unable to accomplish this, they went to a blacksmith’s shop; prisoner NICHOLS got in at the window, and stole a sledge hammer; they then went back, and broke the iron safe to pieces, on which some bags of silver, and a quantity of Bank notes, were taken from it; this money was afterwards divided, and witness received £11 18s. for his share; prisoner BELL was not with them, neither was witness aware that he had known any thing about it; witness was taken on his master’s farm at Lane Cove, after which he gave information to the Police.

Cross-examined by the prisoner NICHOL.—The hat produced in Court is not the same prisoner had on the night of the robbery.

By prisoner PRITCHARD.—Had given him twenty half crowns three days after the robbery; at his master’s farm at Lane Cove had given him five afterwards.

By prisoner BELL.—Had seen her with £1 1s: she was present when the watch and seal were brought; gave her £1 5s. the following Sunday, having asked him for some money to pay for some dresses she had making.

JAMES DEVLIN—Was in Mr. KIRK’s employ; knew the prisoner NICHOLS; he lived in the same hut with him: remember the flour mills being broken open; about a week before he heard of it, the last witness and NICHOLS were about nearly all night; they came home about four o’clock in the morning; during the day NICHOLS offered to buy a hat from witness for 10s., which witness had, about a fortnight before, purchased from him for 7s. 6d.; prisoner was in the habit of wearing a cabbage-tree hat, with a black ribbon on it.

SARAH ADAMS—Remembered the night of the robbery of the Flour Company’s Mill; was under the influence of liquor the whole day; was separated from her husband at that time, and living with PRITCHARD; the whole of the prisoners were at their house; she went with them to the “Dumbarton Castle,” and remained there till ten or eleven o’clock; NICHOLS and PHELPS then went home, but returned again in the small boat; NICHOLS and PRITCHARD then went out, and returned in about three-quarters of an hour; NICHOLS, PRITCHARD, and PHELPS, then went out again, and in about an hour returned, bringing a quantity of money—silver and notes—and also a silver watch and seal, without a stone in it; they divided the money; PRITCHARD gave her 30s. to buy a bonnet and shawl; she bought a bonnet, which was spoilt on her being put in the watch-house on a subsequent night, intoxicated.

This witness was severely cross-examined by the three prisoners. She admitted having lived with PRITCHARD, knowing him at the time to be a runaway prisoner of the Crown, from the Botanical Gardens; she had also been a very great drunkard, and been twice confined in the Female Factory since she had been married.

By the prisoner BELL—Witness did not believe that she knew anything of the robbery.

THOMAS CHAPMAN BREILLATT, Esq.—Resided at the Flour Company’s Mills at the same time of the robbery; his house communicated with the mills; remembered the morning after the robbery had been committed; there was an iron safe in the office in the mill, in which was an iron drawer; on going into the office he found that it had been entered, and the safe broken open; there was some money in notes and cash, in the drawer belonging to himself and partners; the watch, which was in a private draw [sic], was his own; the whole had been taken away; the entrance had been made by the front door of the mill; on looking about he found the hat ribbon and piece of rag produced.

A witness named HENSHAW was called, who proved that the piece of rag produced was like a dress her daughter was in the habit of wearing, and both herself and daughter lived in the same house with the prisoner PRITCHARD and the woman ADAMS.

Mr. BREILLATT, examined by his Honor as to the formation of the premises in which the robbery had been committed; it appeared that the house and mill were attached, although under separate roofs, with a partition wall between them, and a door leading from the house to the mill, for the purpose of internal communication; it appeared also that the house, as well as the mill, were the property of Mr. BREILLATT and his partners, and not of Mr. BREILLATT only.

WILLIAM CARRETT, night miller at the Flour Company’s mills, remembered the night of the robbery; between twelve and one, hearing a noise, he went to see what was the matter,  but not observing any thing, went back to this work, and on going round again between three and four o’clock in the morning found the door of the mill broken open, and on turning round saw Mr. BREILLATT’s office door standing open also, which he knew was locked up the night before.

FREDERICK BARTON proved locking up the mills the night before the burglary, and found the door was broken on going in the morning.

JOHN ANDERSON had left a sledge hammer in the blacksmith’s shop in which he was employed in the neighbourhood of the mills the night before the robbery, and on going in the morning at six o’clock missed it, but about breakfast time he found it in the road.

THOMAS BURROWES, Sergeant in the Police, apprehended the prisoner, on the 1st of June; took DEVELIN with them; NICHOLS was a ticket-of-leave holder for Parramatta; had taken witness PHELPS in custody the day previous; had several cuts on his hands when apprehended; he stated that he had done them in the boat; PRITCHARD told witness that if he was allowed to do what witness (PHELPS) was doing, meaning to turn approver, he could tell a better story.

Inspector MOLLOY—Found the female prisoner in the Female Factory at Parramatta, and took her into custody; she knew the witness PHELPS, but only by the name of FOX; she confessed to witness having had money from PHELPS, but knew nothing of the robbery.

JOHN HARRIS, policeman—Apprehended PRITCHARD in Kent-street; he was pointed out to witness by PHELPS; on being taken he endeavoured to strike PHELPS, but was prevented by witness.

This closed the case for the Crown.

His Honor addressed the prisoners and said, that he labored under considerable difficulty as to whether the charges of burglary could be sustained arising from the statement of Mr. BREILLATT, which was that the dwelling was distinct from the premises in which the robbery had been committed; and secondly, that it was not solely the property of Mr. BREILLATT, but of himself and partner—he would, therefore, leave the case for the entire consideration of the Jury, reserving these points (in the event of the prisoners being found guilty) for consideration hereafter, and they should have the benefit of any doubt that might arise therefrom.

The prisoners having been severally called on for their defence, PRITCHARD and NICHOLS produced witnesses as to character, which showed them to have been good; the prisoner BELL called no one on her behalf.

His Honor, after recapitulating the evidence, commented at some length on its nature, and of the distrust with which the testimony of accomplices was to be received, unless corroborated by more reputable evidence; at the same time, such evidence was of great benefit to the community at large, as it not only brought to light crimes of this and other heinous descriptions, but it also caused a fear to arise in the minds of thieves as to having any companions in their evil courses, by which much crime was prevented. His Honor then referred to the remarks he had before made to the prisoners, on the point of law with regard to the question as to whether the office being in the mill, sufficiently carried out the averment in the information that the burglary was committed in a dwelling-house; and, if it did so, in consequence of the mill and dwelling-house being the property of BREILLAT and CO., it was proper to aver it as the property of Mr. BREILLAT solely, his partners having an equal interest in the premises with himself.

The Jury retired for about ten minutes, and found NICHOLS and PRITCHARD guilty; JANET BELL, not guilty.

JANET BELL was ordered to be returned to the Factory; the other prisoners were remanded for sentence.

The Court was then adjourned till ten o’clock the following day.


Female Factory Online, (femalefactoryonline.org), “Law Report of JANET BELL,” https://femalefactoryonline.org/law-reports/p18440716/, accessed [insert current date].

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