On This Day – November 26, 1857

George Dyer, self-accused, after the lapse of 13 years of a murder committed in 1857 on George Wilson, was tried at the Castlemaine Circuit on Tuesday, on the capital charge. Although the prisoner retracted his confession made in England, shortly after he had made it, there can be little doubt of the truth of the main portion of it but one part of it left it doubtful whether he had killed Wilson in self-defence or not. Taking his own statement and the other evidence, the facts were that in November 1857, Dyer and Wilson were mates at the Mia-Mia diggings. Wilson was suddenly missed, and soon afterwards prisoner left the place, taking with him the tent. He then went to live at a place now called Vaughan, about seven or eight miles from Newstead. To a person named Sinclair there he said he had just come from the Mia-mia and besides his own statement, this was the only evidence that Wilson was ever at Mia-mia, one of the witnesses who proved this at the Police Court and who was to prove it on Tuesday, had disappeared since the Police Court investigation, and could not be found. A few days after Dyer left the Mia-mia a body was found in a waterhole about 60 yards from where it was supposed his tent was pitched. It was not then identified. But an examination of it showed that the jaw had been fractured as if by a spade or axe handle, and in the back part of the skull were several large holes, as if caused by a pick. It was these, and not the fracture of the jaw, that caused death. The inference, therefore, was that Wilson had been first stunned by the blow on the jaw, and then killed by such an instrument as a pick. The body, it was contended, need not be identified as Wilson’s for the confession and the other evidence were sufficient to justify an inference that it was. The prisoner defended himself, and asserted that he must have been labouring under an hallucination when he made the confession; that he never was at Mia-Mia. He had a recollection of being partner with George Wilson for a short time, but he denied having quarrelled with him. The judge left it to the jury whether the prisoner, even if he committed the act, was guilty of murder or manslaughter, and the jury after deliberating an hour and a half, found him “Guilty” of the lesser offence. He was sentenced to eight years hard labour.