ON THIS DAY – December 21, 1890


The adjourned inquest into the circumstances attending the death of William Hughes on December 21, last year was held at the Morgue by Dr Youl. The two men implicated were present in custody. Their names are Patrick M’Ginley and John Harmer, and they are at present undergoing sentences of imprisonment at Pentridge for an assault committed by them upon Hughes on the 27th September. The circumstances of the case, according to the evidence at the previous trial, are briefly these Harmer and M’Giniey attacked Hughes, whom they suspected of giving information to the police, at Swanston street. A man named John O’Neil interfered, and the assailants made off as the police appeared. O’Neil escorted Hughes to his home, in Little Lonsdale street, and afterwards went out with him again, when the same two men rushed at them, and Harmer struck Hughes a violent blow on the head with a slingshot, while O’Neil was also severely maltreated the assailants were afterwards arrested by Constable Lowry and Constable M’Leod, and were found guilty at the Criminal Sessions of an assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. M’Ginley was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, and Harmer to two years Hughes never recovered from the injuries which he received, and died on the 21st ult. from an abscess on the brain brought about by fracture of the skull. The men who had inflicted the injuries upon him were therefore arraigned on the capital charge. Mr. Finlayson conducted the examination for the Crown, and the prisoners were not represented by counsel. John O’Neil, who was with Hughes on the evening of the 27th of September, described the circumstances of the assault, and identified the convicts Harmer and M’Ginley as the men who had committed it, evidence relating to the previous trial at the Criminal Court was tendered by Mr Daniel Berriman, of the Crown Law department Dr. Stirling, Dr Syme, and Dr Rudall supplied the medical evidence, which went to show that death was due to an abscess on the brain, produced by a fracture of the skull. Witnesses were also called to show that the deceased had not suffered any subsequent injuries to the head. The Coroner, in summing up to the jury, stated that if they believed the evidence which had been adduced it was their duty to find the prisoners guilty of the capital charge. After an absence of a few minutes a verdict was returned to the effect that both convicts were guilty of wilful murder. They were removed in custody, and will be brought up at the criminal sittings of the Supreme Court in February.