On the 15th September 1904, an accident occurred in Elizabeth Street where Sarah Ann
Robins, her husband James and her 27 year old daughter, Rosina Hubbard, who was
described as a dwarf, were thrown from a cart. This accident set in a motion a series of
events that would leave only James still alive 12 months later.
Nursed by her Daughter
Sarah required attention for her injuries, and was nursed at home by her daughter,
Rosina. However doctors became concerned by her unusual symptoms and engaged a
nurse to assist the family in caring for her. Sarah continued to decline and was admitted
to the Melbourne Hospital.
Nurse Flower, who had been engaged to look after Sarah before she was admitted to
hospital, deposed at the inquest that she witnessed Rosina administer some medicine to
her mother. When the nurse rinsed the glass it turned her rings black. Sarah was heard
to remark “they won’t prosecute my Rosie will they?” after doctors accused her of
poisoning her mother. Rosina maintained that her mother wanted to commit suicide
which was why she had given her the arsenic and quicksilver.
Sarah died in the Melbourne Hospital on September 30, 1904. Doctors asked Sarah
before she died whether she had taken anything, which she denied but doctors felt she
was holding something back. After her death, analysis showed arsenic in every organ that
Rosina on her arrest for the wilful murder of her mother, Sarah, was heard to
exclaim “me murder my mother!” And then swooned. When she recovered, Rosina stated
that she did not murder her mother, that Sarah had asked for it. During the inquest,
Rosina was described as a “cunning shrewd little woman” but it was not certain she had
her “wits” about her. However, evidence was brought that it was James Robins who
had purchased the arsenic to poison a dog who had bitten someone. The inquest concluded
with a verdict of wilful murder due to arsenic poisoning, wilfully and maliciously
administered by Rosina Hubbard.
During the murder trial, it was revealed that James Robins had also buried his two
previous wives! One wife died in Launceston about 15 years previously and the second
wife in Melbourne about 16 years previous. It was also alleged that James had fed his
wife oysters sprinkled with white powder. This was denied by James which caused an
outburst by Rosina, screaming that he did! It was also revealed that James did not have
much money to his name when he married Sarah, who herself owned properties. James
would gain the money from these properties on his wife’s death. It was also alleged that
James was the father of Rosina’s infant and that there had been improper relations
between the two.
In March, 1905, the Government was unhappy that Rosina had been acquitted for the
matricide of her mother Sarah. They deputised Detective McManamny to make further
inquiries in to the case. On re-interviewing, Rosina admitted that she had poisoned her
mother using quicksilver and arsenic. Her reasoning was that her mother knocked her
about and had accused her of relations with her stepfather. However, she also admitted
to the detective that James Robins was the father of her child. As Rosina had been
acquitted of the murder, she could not be retried!
Rosina was not to enjoy her freedom for very long. She died in the Melbourne Hospital on
the 24th May 1905, after being hospitalised since the 5th. Her inquest was again
sensational, as it was originally suspected that Rosina had killed herself by taking the
same poisons as she had administered to her mother! Dr Mollison, the coroner described
Rosina as a congenital dwarf whose arms and legs were considerably smaller than the
rest of her body. She was 3 feet 10 inches in height and her head measured 22 inches.
there were no marks of violence and samples of her organs, muscles and bones were
taken for further analysis. After analysis, the official cause of death was exhaustion due
to ulceration of the intestines.
You would think that would be the end of the story! But there was one more twist!
Rosina’s will was contested on the grounds of her sanity when it went to probate.
Evidence was brought to court on how James Robins held a magnetic influence over
Rosina. It was stated that Robins banned anyone from seeing her in hospital especially
the “black fellow”, who was her half sister, Isabella Webster, Indian husband. Isabella
had described her father as a “brute”. The Chief Justice was to dismiss the content
stating there were no grounds on which to contest.