ON THIS DAY – July 9, 1870

In Bailie-street, Hotham, for the last three or four years, there has been residing a fisherman, named Patrick Smith, a married man, with one child— aged fourteen years of age. Both husband and wife, since they have resided in the locality, have been addicted to drink, and continued scenes of debauchery have been witnessed by the neighbours. On one occasion he is known to have stripped her naked on a bleak wintry night, and then placed her under the water-tap until she was almost perished with cold. At other times brutal beatings have been inflicted; but with the weakness of most women, the wife refused to take any proceedings against her husband, although she has expressed to her neighbours the conviction that he would murder her sometime or other. Of Smith’s character beyond his having been twice locked up for drunkenness, and these repented ill-usages of his wife, the police have no previous cognisance. He worked as a fisherman in the Yarra and Saltwater rivers, and has told neighbours that he could make £1 per day with the set lines and other appliances he possessed. The lad, who was the son of that unfortunate pair, was, until lately, employed at a soap factory, but the father took him away from that in order to benefit by his assistance in his fishery operations. These then are the antecedents of the persons connected with the brutal tragedy perpetrated on Saturday.

On Friday one of the usual scenes of debauchery commenced, and continued until night, when the parties seem to have gone to bed. In the morning the quarrel was resumed, and a Mrs Jane Sloane, a widow residing next door, states that it continued ‘on and off’ all day. She saw Mary Smith about 5 o’clock in the evening getting water at the tap, and when she went in Mrs. Sloane heard a heavy fall and some blows struck. Mrs. Smith did not utter a word, and Mrs. Sloane then heard Smith say, ‘ Get up you , or I will murder you. He must then have become sensible of what he had done, for Mrs. Sloane heard a, noise as if he were shaking his wife, and then he cried, ‘Mary, Mary, do get up.’ There was no one in the house at the time, and Mrs. Sloane had previously heard Smith go in by the front door, and lock it after him. Poor Mrs. Smith was never seen alive again after these blows were struck, but on account of the previous continual quarrelling, the neighbours took very little notice of what was going on.

On Saturday night, Smith went to the Hotham police-station, and informed Sergeant McCreig that his wife was dead and bleeding, but he did not know how it occurred. He was then to all appearance perfectly sober, and must have occupied the time between 6 o’clock and 10 o’clock in recovering his senses. The officer went with him to the house, and there found the unfortunate Mary Smith dead and nearly cold, weltering on the floor in her own blood, and with a horrible gash right across the forehead. The face, arms, and all the upper part of the body were tearfully bruised and mangled. The miserable murderer appears to have tried to remedy the evil he had done, for the body was lying on its side with a, pillow under the head, the right hand across the chest, and the legs drawn up. On the wound across the forehead was a quantity of bread, apparently put there with a view of stopping the bleeding. The room presented a fearful appearance. Of furniture there was but very little, and that of the most miserable description. The floor and the walls were covered with blood, and the body of the poor woman seemed to have been dragged from where she fell alongside the wall into the middle of the room. In one corner was a saucepan with the handle broken off and this handle was found elsewhere in the room, covered with gore, hair, and skin. It was most probably the instrument used in the commission of the fearful deed. About the room were also about a dozen pieces of wood, which had at one time apparently been but two pieces, but had been broken up by the man striking the deceased with them. Like the iron saucepan handle, they were covered with blood, hair and skin.  Altogether a more awful picture could hardly be imagined; and it was evident that before the last fatal wound was inflicted, the murdered woman was beaten about in a horrible manner. Sergeant McCreig having examined the room at once arrested the husband Smith for the murder of his wife; and on examination found that his trousers and other garments were besmeared with blood. The wretched murderer having recovered his senses seemed stunned by his crime, but persistently states he remembers nothing about it.