West Briton, 20 October 1837


John COLLINS, 23, Robert COLLINS, 26, and Thomas COLLINS, 38, brothers, were charged with maliciously destroying and killing one gelding, the property of Richard and Joel MATTHEWS, of Calstock. There was also a second indictment charging the same prisoners with maliciously destroying a mare, the property of Richard Matthews. Mr. B. LYNE appeared on behalf of the prosecution, and the prisoners were defended by Mr. MORGAN.

Mr. Lyne opened with a statement that this was a case of much cruelty. It would be proved that the prosecutors were two brothers, who lived with their mother, who was a poor woman, possessed of two acres of land, which the sons used for maintaining their aged parent, by keeping two horses, which they used for working on the roads.  The prisoners lived in an adjoining house, and it would be proved that after some quarrel they used expressions in which they stated their determination to gratify their revenge.

Richard MATTHEWS was called; lives in Calstock with Joel Matthews, and their mother. Witness went in search of the two horses, which he owned with his brother, and which they kept on the Calstock common. Witness met James CALLOWAY, who accompanied witness to a spot they wanted to search. Another person who went with them was Robert TRETHEWEY. Witness went down the shaft himself, where he saw the gelding lying in five or six feet of water. The horse was lying on its left side, with its head and legs tied. There was a string tied to under his jaw and fastened to his left foot.
The eye had been removed. After removing the gelding up to grass, witness went down into the shaft again, and found the second horse, also dead. Previous to this, witness had argued with John and Thomas Collins, regarding their goats entering into the Matthew's garden. Robert Collins came after. The sister of the witness said "John, your goats have been into our garden." He replied "I donít care if they have". She said he should keep them out, or she would tell her brother, and he would shoot at them. Collins then said "he may shoot them if he will, but the horses are out on the common, and I will shoot them. If I cannot shot them by one way I will be another". Witness said "John
Collins, as sure as you are alive, if anything of mine is injured or wanting you shall stand and answer for them." He said "no catch ye, no have ye", and nothing more passed concerning it. Since that day, witness had not spoken to the Collins regarding the horses. Cross-examination: had quarreled with prisoners many times, never tied up horses by the fore legs; saw the mare in pit, with both eyes removed.

Joel Matthews, sworn. Witness proved that he had worked with Robert Collins about 19th of September, and stated by way of "a lark" Robert Collins had burnt a piece of Indian shag with a red-hot poker in two places. The shag Robert Collins used for tying up his mining clothes, and was the same piece that witness saw tied up the horse's leg and jaw.

Mary Ann Matthews sworn. Sister to the prosecutors, and lives with them. On the 8th of October, because of her suspicions, she went to the windows of the prisoners' house. John Collins went into the house, and they talked about the horses. One said "how came us to poke out the eyes of 'em?" The mother said "I have been trembling like an aspen leaf ever since." One of the sons said "Who would have thought that those little devils would have gone and found them there, we never meant when we throwed them there for them to find them anymore?" When witness went in, she told her brothers of it. Cross-examined: nothing was adduced to change her testimony.

Several other witnesses were called, who proved the finding the horse and mare in the shaft, in a state of considerable decomposition.

Mr. Morgan then addressed the jury, and called several witnesses to disprove the statements made by the witnesses for the prosecution.

The chairman summed up, and the jury, after more than an hour's anxious deliberation, returned the following verdict - "we find them guilty of pricking and maiming, and we agree to say nothing at all about the killing!". The delivery of this sensible decision excited considerable merriment in court. The case lasted several hours.

[NOTE: a letter appears in next week's issue, from the chairman of the jury, stating that this was NOT the verdict they gave. The editor said this report was not taken by their reporter, but was told to him by others who had been in the courtroom, and they apologized for any inaccuracy. The men were found guilty on all charges.]

Contributed by Julia Mosman