(Launceston Advertiser, 6 April 1837)
“Mr. Joseph Edward Wilson, eldest son of Mrs. Thomas, of this town, left his home last Saturday afternoon on horseback, on his way to Hobart Town, and had reached within a mile of Perth, when a man rushed suddenly out of the bush, and discharged a piece at him, the contents of which entered and lodged in his body. The suddenness of the attack frightened the horse, from which Mr. Wilson fell, and was instantly attacked by the ruffian with the butt-end of the gun, and beaten about the head in a most shocking manner, until he supposed him dead, when he rifled his pockets of the money he had in them, and retired.
“A short time afterwards, about half-past eight o’clock, two men, accompanying a cart on its way to Perth, discovered him and assisted him to the house of Mr. Heaney, where every attention was paid to him, and medical aid obtained, but, it was unavailing. The blood-thirsty villain who had so dastardly attacked him, had applied his weapon with such merciless barbarity, that no chance remained of saving, the poor fellow’s life. Independent of the gun-shot wound, his skull was fractured, and he was otherwise dreadfully lacerated.
“To the wisdom of an unerring Providence must be attributed the singular fact, that Mr. Wilson recovered his senses, as soon as relieved by the men who discovered him, and retained the full possession of them until death terminated his sufferings at 4 o’clock on Sunday morning. But for this circumstance, the assassin would not have been known, probably until the forfeiture of his life for some other crime urged him to acknowledge himself the perpetrator of this. The description given of his person and his dress by the unfortunate victim, cannot fail to lead to his apprehension, to effect which, we understand, several parties are on the alert.”
Cornwall Chronicle, 8 April 1837
“MEMORANDUM. The Murderer came out of the bush on the right hand side of the road cording.’ from Launceston to Perth, just where the branch road to Longford strikes off, and about three-quarters of a mile from the Township of Perth. He was dressed in a blue jacket, cloth cap, and fustian or drab trousers; slight made, and about five feet five inches in height. Near the spot where the murder was perpetrated was found the lock of a gun broken off, with some small pieces of the stock attached to it. The lock was in good condition, had been recently oiled ; maker’s name ‘Knock,’ or ‘Nock.’ The ramrod, made of a scraped wattle stick, was likewise found at the same place. The murderer took from the person of Mr. Wilson, a Five-Pound Note, on the Tamar Bank, printed in red ink, believed to be numbered 595. together with some silver and copper, &c”
Launceston Advertiser, 6 April 1837 (memorandum to Forster’s notice, at top)
“Apprehension of the Murders of Mr. Wilson–Our readers will rejoice to hear that the wretches who perpetrated this diabolical act (of which we gave an account in our last) have been discovered and secured. Their speedy detection has been entirely owing to the unceasing vigilance and energy of the chief district constable of Norfolk Plains, Mr. James Hortle ; ably seconded by the zeal and activity of Mr. Constable Saltmarsh.
“Two men, one a ticket of leave named Mc’Kay, the other, holding a conditional pardon, named Lamb, were looked upon by Mr. Hortle under very suspicious circumstances, as far as regards the passing of their time upon the night in question ; in consequence of which Mr. Hortle went into Lamb’s hut (which is situated between Mr. Saltmarsh’s and Lieut. Dyballs house), where he saw some shot and asked for the fowling piece, in order to compare the lock with the piece of lock found near the spot where the murder was committed. Lamb prevaricated–first said, he had a gun then that he had lent it–and next that he had been out shooting pigeons, and had left his piece against a tree and that some one had taken it away. Hortle not satisfied with this story, took Lamb Mc’Kay and Mrs. Ward (a woman who having left her husband was cohabiting with Mc’Kay) to the gaol at Longford. After remaining there two or three days, Mrs. Ward, incapable of longer bearing the anguish of a guilty conscience, confessed that Mc’Kay had told her, he had murdered the man ; since which Lamb also has come forward to implicate his once boon companion.”
Hobart Town Courier, 14 April 1837
“SUPREME COURT — CRIMINAL SITTINGS
“Friday, April 28
“John M’Kay, and John Lambe were this morning places at the bar, charged as follows:–
“M’Kay was charged with having wilfully murdered one James Edward Wilson, by shotting him on the 1st of April.
“Lambe was charged with being present, aiding, inciting and assisting in the said murder, another count charged Lambe, as being accessory before the fact.
His Honor was of opinion, that it was not competent for the two offences to be contained in one indictment, and the Solicitor General, who prosecute in this case, consent to abandon the second count.
“He then opened the case to the Jury, laying before them the facts that would be proved in evidence, and in pointing out the nature of the evidence, he was about to offer. He also stated the deceased Mr. Wilton, had before expiring made a statement, but that statement not having been taken on oath, the law would not admit of its being made evidence against the prisoners at the bar. He further said, it had been the wish of the His Excellency, the Lieutenant Governor that this case should have tried on the other side of the Island, so that if the prisoners at the bar were guilty a very speedy end might have been put to their existence, and their Honors the Judges having some doubt about the competency of the Court sitting at the same time at Hobart Town and Launceston, they had been brought over here for trial.”
[Cut. You can read it here if you want all the details. There are many details. It goes on for over a page.]
“His Honor then called on M’Kay for his defence. He stated, his absence on the night in question was occasioned by his being engaged in removing some wheat to his house, which the prisoner and himself had stolen from Frank Field ; he also called Mr. Hortle, who deposed, he saw at Lamb’s house a few bushels of wheat; it was smutty, and very much resembled some he had seen at Mr. Field’s
“His Honor then summed up and put M’Kay’s case to the jury, and they returned a verdict of Guilty.
“The Solicitor General then handed in Lamb’s two statements, which were read.
“The first was to this effect : that on the evening in question he had gone in company with M’Kay, pigeon shooting, and had lost his gun. The second statement was to this effect–“he told Mr. Horne he was very sorry he had made such a statement as the first, but it was all wrong, and he would now tell the truth ; he went on to say, he had, on the night in question, lent his gun to M’Kay; that they went a little way together, when he (Lamb) returned back, and laid himself down in some straw near his house and went to sleep ; after he had been there a short time, he heard a shot fired : he had asked M’Kay previous to their parting, what he was going to do with the gun : he said, what is that to you, d’ont bother yourself about that, or I’ll give you the contents of it: when M’Kay came home, he had not got the gun, and he (Lamb) asked him what he had done with it–he (M’Kay) told him he had shot a man, and broke the gun : that the lock and ramrod were left on the road, and that he had buried the barrel where no one could find it : he (Lamb) asked him if he had got any money-M’Kay said, “no, not any.” Lamb, in his defence, told a third story, and said he and M’Kay went out to shoot some steers, and they had provided salt to pickle them ; he called one of the constables, who deposed lo finding a few pounds of salt at his house.
“His Honor then summed up at considerable length, and the Jury returned a verdict of guilty. His Honor then proceeded to pass the following sentence, viz. “o be severally hanged on Monday morning next, and when dead, their bodies to be banged in chains. The particular spot where they were to be hanged in chains was to be described in the execution warrant.”
Colonial Times, 2 May 1837
“M’KAY, the murderer was executed on Monday, at Hobart Town. In pursuance of the sentence, directing that the body should be exposed in chains, an officer left Hobart Town, in charge of the corpse, on Tuesday morning; and it is expected that the sentence will he carried into effect to-morrow. We understand that the body is to be gibbetted as near as convenient to the spot where the murder was committed, on the public road between Launceston and Perth.”
Launceston Advertiser, 4 May 1937
“THE GIBBETTING—The body of McKay, hung at Hobart Town, arrived at Perth, at two o’clock yesterday afternoon, under charge of Lyons the Sheriff’s Bailiff, and a constable, arranged in the usual iron casing, and ready for exhibition on the gibbet, agreeable to the terms of the sentence of the Judge. The Under Sheriff of this town had previously received instructions to cause the body of the malefactor to Be gibbetted, as near to the spot at which he committed the murder, as possible, and had prepared ready for its arrival, a gibbett, 20 feet high. at about 40 yards from the main road, to which the body was securely attached about 4 o’clock, in the presence of that Officer, the Commandant, and a number of spectators.
“With that promptitude to benefit the inhabitants or this town, for which our Commandant has been distinguished during his residence among us, he did not permit the awful ceremony to pass over, with-out rendering it serviceable, by way of example, to the unhappy members of the chain-gangs and road-parties stationed along the Perth road. They were present, and after the termination of it, were ad-dressed by the Revd. J. Manton, in a very appropriate and feeling manner.”
Cornwall Chronicle, 5 May 1837
“GIBBETTING. — On Sunday the road from Launceston to the place where M’Kay was hung in chains, for the murder of Mr. WILSON, was occupied by numerous travellers of every grade. Amongst the many, two men–one free, the other ticket-of- leave— solaced themselves with a quantity of rum under the gibbet, until as they state they were intoxicated, and senseless. On their return they committed offences for which they have been brought to the Police Office, and their lives are in jeopardy. So much for this revival of a disgusting relic we hoped had ceased with the barbarous age in which it originated. Sabbath-breaking to a fearful extent, and at least constructive burglary are two of the consequent evils. Where shall we find proof of any beneficial result?— Correspondent.”
Launceston Advertiser, 11 May 1837
“Orders were received on Saturday last by Mr Sheriff Sams, and Captain Tew, Commandant of Launceston pro. tem., to remove the body of the murderer, Mackay, for Interment. gibbeted on the Perth road. On Monday last, towards evening, Captain Tew, with the Sheriff Sams, proceeded to Perth, and had the body taken down, which was interred in the spot, after the head had been taken off by Dr.de Dassel and Dr. Grant, to prepare it for phrenological examination. – CORRESPONDENT.”
Cornwall Chronicle, 23 September 1837
“THE body of M’Kay, the murderer of Mr. Wilson, has been removed from (he gibbet on the Perth road, by the direction of the Lieutenant-Governor. A hole was dug under the gibbet, into which the remains were lowered and inferred. The gibbet will be left in its present position.”
Launceston Advertiser, 21 September 1837
And if you’re wondering about Lamb:
“The whole of the inhabitants of the town were yesterday astonished to find that Lamb was not executed with the other murderer, M’Kay. We are at a loss to conceive why mercy was shown to the villain-and the general impression is, that the wrong man was executed. No mercy ought to be shewn to such wretches; and it is the general opinion that justice has not been satisfied – how ever as a reprieve was granted, we trust the punishment, of Lamb will be of that extreme severity that it may he really worse than death, and a real example to others.”
Colonial Times, 2 May 1837