Elizabeth Gurner

Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
14 November 1834

Domestic Intelligence

Atrocious Murder and Robbery. — Coroner’s Inquest.

In our last we stated that the body of a man, whose name was ascertained to be WILLIAM FANNON, had been found in the Domain on Sunday, and from the appearance it exhibited, there could not be a doubt that he had been murdered. A Coroner’s Inquest assembled at MR. JENNINGS’S, in Market-street that afternoon but in consequence of the absence of some material witnesses, it was adjourned until the following morning.

On Monday it resumed its sitting, when the following evidence was adduced:—MRS. COOK, residing in Phillip-street deposed that she had occasion to go into the Domain on Tuesday last for the purpose of getting some pipe clay. On her return she met the deceased (whom she knew, he having made shoes for her) along with a woman, and spoke to him; the woman had on a straw or Leghorn bonnet, with blue ribbons on it; did not think she would know the woman again, but perhaps might if she had the same dress on.

MARY STONE living in a house behind the Roman Catholic Chapel, saw a man and- woman on Thursday night, about 10 o’clock, going in the direction of the Domain Gate; when they came near it they went along the wall until they came to a breach in it, by which they entered. She heard the woman call the man WILLIAM and say, “hurry on, you do not know who may be after us;” was almost sure it was Thursday, but could not swear positively; saw two men go in that direction immediately afterwards; they took the same way exactly, and went through the breach in the wall; they then went into her House, and in five or six minutes after she distinctly heard the cries of murder repeated three times, the latter time rather faintly; when she heard the cries, she went to the door, but did not hear any more; she communicated the circumstance to her husband, who said it must be black fellows. The husband of this woman was called to prove the precise evening on which this took place, when he said, the strong impression on his mind was that it was Thursday, but he could not positively swear that that was the evening. MRS. STONE was also further questioned on that point, when she still persisted that to the best of her belief it was Thursday evening. (A very proper suggestion was here made by the Foreman, MR. JENNINGS, that the Jury should again inspect the ground contiguous to where the body was found. The Jury proceeded to the spot, and after searching for about a quarter of an hour, the blade of a knife, covered with blood, was found in the small gully where the body was discovered, at about 40 yards distance from where it lay; also in the same place, distant about a dozen yards, the hat of the deceased, with his name written in the inside; the collar of a check shirt was also found in the scrub by a Reporter, which might have probably been torn off in a scuffle). The Jury afterwards returned to the Inquest room, and proceeded with the examination.

A MR. TOOLE, a miller residing at Woolloomoolloo, proved that he had seen the deceased walking on the Surry Hills about three weeks before in company with a female named BETSY GURNER; he knew that to be her name, from the circumstance of her coming to call upon his wife, they having been in the Female Factory together; but he having discovered that there was something improper going on between her and the deceased, he had latterly forbidden her his house; when he saw deceased walking with the female, the latter had on a Leghorn bonnet with blue ribbons.

CONSTABLE WELDON apprehended BETSY GURNER on Wednesday evening, at twelve o’Clock, in George-street, near the Police Office. He knew her to be an assigned servant to FANNING, and took her into custody. She complained of being very faint, the witness put his hand to her face, which was covered with a cold sweat; she talked a great deal about WILLIAM, and requested him to take particular notice of the hour he apprehended her.

MRS FANNING produced the certificate of her marriage with the deceased. On Monday last her husband went out in the afternoon to go to a funeral; she gave him the key to get his clothes, and he went to go to the funeral, but she understood he did not accompany it; he did not return in the evening, and she had not seen him since till she saw the body in the domain; the witness was not surprised at his absence for the first day or two, as he had been talking of buying a piece of ground at Parramatta, and she thought he had gone to complete the purchase; he was always in the habit of carrying his money about with him; he lately sold a piece of ground to MR. INGLIS for £122, and got a cheque on the Bank for it; ELIZABETH GURNER, assigned to her husband, absconded from her house on the Tuesday; a witness named EARLY deposed that he knew the deceased intended leaving the Colony in the Camilla, and that he informed him that he was in possession of nearly £200.

The Jury waited for some time expecting to have the evidence of ELIZABETH GURNER, who had been sent to the factory on Thursday, by the Police Bench, but she not being forthcoming, the Coroner, addressed them stating that they were a court of enquiry, and only met there to ascertain the cause by which the unfortunate man had met his death, and from the evidence of the Surgeon, their own observations, and other concurrent testimony there could be little doubt that the deceased had met his death by the hands of some assassins. The Jury immediately, returned, a verdict of Wilful Murder against some person or persons unknown. (We learn that ELIZABETH GURNER has since been brought from the factory and is confined by herself, preparatory to her examination before COLONEL WILSON, with strict injunctions not to let her have communication with any body. It is confidently anticipated that a speedy detection of the murderers will take place).


See Original:Domestic Intelligence,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW: 1824 – 1848), Friday 14 November 1834, p.2.