Ballina, Mayo, Ireland
Wednesday, March 20, 1850
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT - Saturday
TRIAL AND MURDER
Matthew and William Gavin were indicted for assaulting John Ryan at
Cappamore on the 8th Sept. last; and in a second count that they did kill
and murder him with reaping hooks. The prisoners appeared to be aged 20 to
23 years, severally.
Mr. Sergeant O'Brien stated the case for the prosecution.
Denis Murphy examined - Recollects the night of Ryan's murder; met
Garrett and Ryan on the road that night; was going from Gavin's house to the
widow Ryan, to accompany the son home; went along with young Ryan into a
haggard and left John Ryan there, and went towards the widow Ryan's house;
saw the prisoners in a field on his way; they had reaping hooks; when in
the widow Ryan's house young John Ryan called him (witness) out; went
towards home, and on the way heard a voice call out "mercy, mercy, Mat,
don't, don't"; heard the voice from the direction he parted John Ryan; then
went into a house belonging to Fitzgerald, who came out with his two
sisters; he then went towards the widow Gavan's house; when witness came up
to William he asked him did he hear any noise on the path and William said
not; they then asked him where was Mat, and he said he went to William
Murphy's for his horse; witness went back to widow Ryan's house; did not see
the dead body next day; then went home to Gavin's and did not see Mat Gavin
all that night; he was at home the night before the murder; did not see Mat
Gavin the day after the murder; heard him saying he would be up to John Ryan
for canting his cow;" before the death of the deceased saw the lace where
John Ryan was murdered, it was towards that spot that he saw the Gavins.
John Ryan (son of the deceased) was next examined - Recollects when his
father was killed; was getting turnips that evening; heard a cry from the
direction where the body was found of 'Denny, Denny, Murphy;' went then to
his brother's house and told Denis Murphy he was called; Murphy's son was
working with witness that day; Murphy then ran to Fitzgerald's house.
To Mr. O'Hea - Did not hear the cry of 'Mat, Mat.'
Honora Fitzgerald sworn - Saw Denis Murphy going towards the Widow
Ryan's house; is sister of John Fitzgerald; heard a cry from the direction
of where the deceased was found of "Denny, Denny Murphy;" went into her
house; Denis Murphy came in a short time after; and her brother John went
with him out; when Denis Murphy came in he said "there is something over the
way;" they went two or three fields and saw nothing.
Cross-examined - Did not hear the call "mercy, Mat, Mat;" it was a fine
night but darkish.
John Fitzgerald examined - Corroborated the evidence of Murphy - and in
addition said he saw the two prisoners standing near their own house, which
is not far from where the body was found; when witness and Murphy went to
Garvin's house, William Gavin asked did witness see his brother Mat? -
witness said he did not; witness asked was it not his brother Mat that was
with him, that he (witness) saw on the field? William Gavin said it was not.
Bridget Fitzgerald corroborated the testimony of her sister, Honoria
and her brother John Fitzgerald.
Patrick Cormack deposed to having been working for Wm. Murphy the day
of the evening John Ryan was murdered; was walking home after super and met
the prisoners with reaping hooks going towards where the body was found;
heard a cry of "Denny, Denny" coming from the place; after going home to Wm.
Murphy's, Wm. Gavin came to demand Mat's wages; that was a quarter of an
hour after he saw the two Gavins.
Cross-examined - Often saw the prisoners before with reaping hooks;
when witness saw them they were going home; never heard the cry "Mat, Mat,
mercy;" heard the cry of "Denny, Denny;" was in the army; deserted once but
was arrested; was discharged in consequence of a burnt leg; was married;
witness deserted from his wife; was not married but once, but would get
married to 14 if he could; knows Judy Connors; her husband is gone to
America; when leaving the table he said to counsel, "Mr. O'Hea, you're done
Judith Connors examined - Knew John Ryan; recollects well the night he
was killed; was out that evening minding a piece of land and heard a shout;
there was one garden between her and where the body was found; heard persons
calling, "Denny, Denny;" went towards where the shout came from and saw the
two prisoners beating John Ryan with reaping hooks, and she then hid herself
in a stook of oats, being a little afraid; knew the prisoners since they
were boys; the stook was not far from where the body was found, and saw them
throw Ryan into a dyke; before she saw him fall, heard deceased crying,
"Denny, Denny;" heard one of the prisoners say "come away, we have revenge
enough;" it was Mat said it, because she heard "Billy, come away, &c;" when
the prisoners went away witness went home, and in the morning told John
Hayes of the murder, and he told witness to hold her tongue.
Cross-examined - Her husband is dead, Lord have mercy on him; told a
little of what happened to her employer, Michael Gleeson; told him there
were four men killing John Ryan; has three children in America; did not hear
the cry "Mat, Mat;" don't know how far she was from the murder; the surveyor
knows the distance; will go to America; heard persons would be sent to
America for giving evidence. [ Mr. O'Hea read witness's informations by
which discrepancies with her present evidence were apparent.]
Michael Connell, aged about 14 years, sworn - Lived with his aunt,
widow Ryan; the morning after the murder was sent of a message and saw blood
on the road, and then saw John Ryan dead in a ditch; ran home and told about
Bridget Ryan, wife of deceased, deposed to her business going out with
John Garrett the night he was murdered, and to having found her husband dead
in the ditch the next day.
Thomas Bartley, deposed to having found deceased in a ditch, and
brought him home with Bridget Ryan.
Head Constable Sunderson sworn - Thomas Bartley called and told him
about the murder; arrested Wm .Gavin the same day reaping in a field; he
wore a clean shirt; thee were marks of blood on his trowsers and coat, and a
little blood on his hands; searched Gavin's house, and found a spirt steeped
in dirty water, which had marks of blood on the breast and sleeves;
deceased's throat and hands were cut; Mat Gavin was arrested in Cashel in
three days after examined his shoes and saw marks of blood on them.
John Lyons, police constable, deposed to having arrested Mathew Gavin;
the trowsers he wore appeared washed from the knees down recently.
Michael Gleeson deposed to having employed Judy Connors as a
Cross-examined - Judy Connors told him she saw four men killing John
Ryan; said she knew two of them; did not tell her not to disclose the
murder - partly guessed herself would tell it.
Dr. Patrick Arthur deposed to having examined the body of deceased;
there were several wounds; one up on the neck, which cut the windpipe; the
hands were cut and a mark under the left eye; the cuts appeared to have been
inflicted with a reaping hook.
Dr. James Heffernan corroborated Dr. Arthur's evidence; the wounds on
the hands appeared as if a reaping hook had been drawn through them.
The crown closed at a quarter to six o'clock, and Mr. O'Hea proceeded
to address the jury for the defence. He said that a very strong case was
entered on his lordship's notes against the two prisoners at bar, but taking
the discrepancies of the witnesses produced into consideration he hoped the
jury would bear in mind that the lives of the unfortunate men rested on
His lordship summed up the evidence, pointing out the several links of
corroborative testimony which clearly substantiated the case against the
prisoners, and it was with the jury to say whether they would believe the
evidence of Judith Connor, who swore she saw the prisoners actually killing
the deceased John Ryan, and which was circumstantially borne out by the
other witnesses produced by the crown.
The Jury retired and in half an hour returned with a verdict of GUILTY.
The Foreman and the Jury recommended the prisoners to mercy on account
of their youth.
His Lordship said it was impossible to take the recommendation.
The Court adjourned at 7 o'clock.
Cathy Joynt Labath
Ireland Old News