On This Day – September 5, 1876
A shocking case of homicide, which appears to have been premeditated murder, occurred on September 5 at Emerald-hill. About half-past 3 o’clock Constables M’Cormack and Ryan were attracted to the north end of Cecil-street by the noise of voices in loud dispute, and repeated cries for the police. They found that the scene of the disturbance was a small weatherboard house, tenanted by Robert Davis, a wharf labourer, and a woman named Mary Heggarty, who lived together as man and wife. A woman named Ellen Francis, about 30 years of age, was standing outside the door, and Davis was standing inside, clothed only in his shirt, and bleeding from a wound on the right side of bis chest. The woman Heggarty was also inside the door, and with her Ellen Francis was still carrying on an angry altercation. Davis was able to say, with reference to Francis, ‘She has stabbed me,’ and then becoming unable to support himself from the rapid loss of blood he was suffering, he sank down upon the floor. The police then arrested the woman Francis, and in doing so discovered that she was attempting to conceal a knife in her dress. Constable M’Cormack took possession of the knife — which was a shoemaker’s one— and, showing it to Davis, asked if that were the weapon with which be had been stabbed, and received a reply in the affirmative from the dying man. The woman then admitted having stabbed him, and said she hoped he would not die, as she did not mean to kill him Constable Ryan, in the meantime, had gone for medical assistance, and in about 15 minutes returned with Dr. Molloy, who, however, found that it was impossible to save the life of the wounded man. The knife had entered a vital part, and Davis died in about 25 minutes after he was stabbed. Ellen Francis was lodged in the local watchhouse, and on being brought before the magistrate, was remanded until next day. The characters connected with this tragedy are all of bad repute. Davis, the murdered man, was also known by the names of Noah Smart and John Taylor, and he was discharged from Pentridge in April last, after doing a sentence of five years for house-breaking. Francis came out of gaol only a fortnight ago, having been sentenced by the Kew Bench to a term of imprisonment for disorderly behaviour. On his release Davis went to live with Francis and a man named Billy Lancaster, inEmerald-hill. A few weeks ago Mary Heggarty came out of prison, to which she had been rent for a period for wilful damage to property, and Davis immediately separated from Lancaster and Francis., and took up his abode with her in Cecil-street. This seemed to have excited a great deal of jealousy on the part of Francis, and as a consequence quarrels between them were frequent. Heggarty states that about 2 o’clock on the morning of the day of the murder, Billy Lancaster came to their door and kicked it violently, saying that he wanted trousers which belonged to him, and which Davis had possession of. Without getting satisfaction, however, Lancaster had to desist, and leave. A little after 3 o’clock they were again alarmed by Ellen Francis, who created another disturbance at the door, and demanded admission saying, ‘ Open the door, or I’ll open you.’ Davis, at the request of Heggarty, then opened the door, and as soon as he did so received the stab in the chest. The only causes known for the action of the woman Francis are that the deceased took 3s. from her man’s pocket on the previous night, and the allegation as to the detention of Lancaster’s trousers. The house in which the tragedy occurred conflicts of two small apartment, entirely destitute of furniture, with the exception of a mattress and a chair. An inquest was held by Dr. Youl on the following day. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against the woman Francis, who was committed for trial. The trial took place on September 16, when the prisoner was convicted and sentenced to death.