West Briton, 20 October 1837
MICHAELMAS QUARTER SESSIONS
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