Patrick Kennedy - Murderer


Brutal Murder at Mount Rouse.  (See part 1)

Patrick Kennedy was a native of Galway and he had arrived in Australia aboard the immigrant ship “Emily” in 1841. He married Mary Costelloe in 1843 and they had four children. Winifred in 1844, Ann in 1845, Mary in 1847 and Patrick 1849.

On the 30th April 1851 Patrick Kennedy murdered his wife.  The newspapers of the time carried detailed stories of the court proceedings.  This report covered his appearance before the General Criminal Sittings in Geelong. 

The story continues .... 

Dr John Creelman, surgeon, deposed that he was called upon to examine the body of the deceased. A magistrate pointed out to him the body of a female in a hut on the station of Mr. Cameron; this was on the 1st of May; the body was lying upon a bed; the deceased appeared to have been recently confined; she appeared about 36 years of age; the hair was clotted and hanging dishevelled down her back; the lobe of one of her ears was cut through; marks of the print of nails were upon her face and body, which marks correspond with the nails in the prisoner's boots; there was not two inches of the whole body free from bruises and marks: a deep cut was over both temples; examined the brain and found a large quantity of fluid pressing upon both ventricles; a shepherd's crook was found in the room and produced. which witness believes to be the instrument by which the wounds upon the head were effected; the cause of death was owing to the injuries inflicted upon the brain, and a dreadful contusion upon the lower part of the abdomen, which was sufficient to cause death, the injuries to the brain might have resulted from kicks, or by a person jumping upon the deceased. 


Mr. Williams then addressed the Jury on behalf of the prisoner. He observed that in all cases of this kind there was some clue to trace the cause of such melancholy affairs. In this there appeared to be none nothing but the instigation of the devil there had been no quarrel, no instigation for the horrid deed. Here was a father with four young children, possessing an amiable and young wife, and in the fury of a moment's anger, without the slightest provocation, he launched her into eternity! In a frenzy of passion produced by the overnight's excess, he destroys the object of his most tender affection without cause or provocation. If a doubt, or a passing doubt, came across their minds, as to the sobriety of the prisoner in his most ungovernable moment, he entreated them, he implored them as fathers and brothers, to extend their clemency to the life of the unfortunate man in the dock, even if only for the sake and protection of his four orphan children. His Honour then summed up, by observing that they all had their duty to perform; and upon the evidence heard that day, it became their duty to take the facts into consideration. He should not draw any inferences from these facts; but he must disabuse their minds from one point dwelt upon by the learned Counsel for the prisoner. He had stated that no excuse should be held out for

any minor offences on the score of drunkenness but that in cases of this nature, a very wide difference should obtain. He had to inform the Jury that the Law did not recognize any such difference. The witnesses had all stated that they were not aware of any grounds for jealousy or suspicion or quarrelling, whatever, on the part of the prisoner towards his wife. The crime stands, then, without any conceivable cause. God alone can pierce to the bottom of men's hearts; and we could not, without admitting a most dangerous doctrine, excuse the deed by reason of the prisoner placing himself, by his own acts, beyond the control of reason. The motives of men were so unaccountable, so mysterious, that it became useless in him to endeavour to point out any reason for the deed.

The learned counsel very truly observed that some cause or another was invariably given for such deplorable deeds; but in the absence of any assignable cause, it did not take away what the law most justly visited with condign punishment, namely, malice afore thought. Neither did the crime admit of its being considered as effected in a moment of passion, so as to constitute man- slaughter. He regretted there was no portion of the evidence which could justify him (the Judge) in attributing the tragedy to the momentary effect of passion, anger, or provocation. He regretted this, and should feel most happy if any portion of the evidence could induce him so to direct their minds. In the absence of any other immediate cause, they were bound to think that the prisoner had been rendered into a state of frenzy by drink, and that in that condition had committed the murder for which he stood now arraigned. His Honour then went over the whole of the evidence, remarking upon such parts as were necessary for the guidance of the jury.

The jury retired for two hours, having been locked up from a quarter-past 3 to a quarter-past 5, when they entered the Court, and the foreman returned a verdict of 'guilty' against the prisoner. Nine of the jury recommended him to the merciful consideration of the Court. Mr Williams moved for an arrest of judgment, first because the venue had been changed from Geelong to Melbourne, the word Geelong having been erased upon the record. The other objection was that the information upon the record did not show that the Attorney General appeared as the Attorney-General for the colony of Victoria. The Attorney General only holds his commission for office for the colony of Victoria, so that he could not prosecute in cases occurring in the district of Port Phillip, colony of New South Wales. His Honour replied that the question was whether the Attorney-General was the proper person to prosecute cases in the colony of Victoria, formerly known as the district of Port Phillip, New South Wales; he should reserve the point.

His Honour then proceeded to pass sentence Patrick Kennedy— murder under any circumstances is horrible—but this was grossly aggravated by the victim being your wife. It is to the future I wish to direct your serious attention. I am utterly at a loss to find any mitigating circumstance that would induce me to exercise mercy. You had been in a state of drunkenness and afterwards of frenzy, produced by such excess. So far as your words are concerned, you appear to have been rational. It. was no excuse either before God or the laws of man that drunkenness should be any mitigation for such violence. I am sorry to observe that society here for the most part look down with comparative indifference upon the actions of drunkards. It only shows a vitiated and morbid state. Almost every serious affair sprung from this source—indeed I cannot remember a single crime of any magnitude but what could be traced to drunkenness. The sentence of the Court is, that you be taken hence to the place from whence you came, and thence to the place of execution, and then hung by the neck until such time as you are dead, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul. The Court then adjourned "sine die."
The Hanging.

1st November 1951

The Execution of Patrick Kennedy for Murder.

(From the Melbourne Daily News.)

The last penalty of the law was carried into effect on Saturday morning on the body of Patrick Kennedy, who had been convicted of the murder of his wife at the criminal session of the Supreme Court, held in August. The evidence adduced on the trial convinced all present that the murder was committed under circumstances of appalling barbarity never, perhaps, exceeded in the annals of crime. Kennedy, with his wife and two other men, occupied a hut on an out- station. On the day preceding the murder, spirits had been conveyed to the hut, and a carousal was held in the evening, but it was not made manifest that any of the parties had got very drunk, and although it was proved that Kennedy had partaken of some spirits next day, he was not disqualified from looking after his flock, which he had tended for some time, and then came home to his dinner. After dinner he made an attack upon his wife, for which it would be impossible to assign any motive, and did not desist until he had deprived her of life. On examining the body the prints of the nails of his shoes were so thickly indented in many places of it as to induce the belief that the unfortunate victim of his demoniac violence had been literally kicked and trodden to death. His counsel urged nothing in extenuation of an offence which the evidence disclosed as being one of the most horrible die. He was apparently dumbfounded on being made acquainted with the full extent of his client's atrocity, and at such a dead pinch he had recourse to the singular expedient of easing Kennedy's shoulders of the guilt and rolling it over upon those of the devil, the patron of all mischief and acknowledged abettor of every crime. His counsel, however, did not allow his humanity, or the transient operation of any qualmish feeling to mitigate against the interests of his client. He soon assumed the true bearing of a lawyer, and in a spirit of bull-dog pertinacity moved certain exceptions in arrest of judgment. They mainly referred to the relevancy of the proceedings, on the grounds, first, that the venue had been improperly changed from Geelong to Melbourne; and, second, that the appointment of the Attorney-General, in whose name, and by whom the prosecution had been initiated and conducted, had been made in violation of the Constitutional Act. The Court expressed an opinion that these several objections were not tenable, but consented to weave them into a special case for the consideration of the Sydney Judges, and passed sentence of death on the prisoner.


The Sydney Judges having intimated their concurrence with the opinion of the Court; it then became the duty of the Executive to decide upon the fate of the murderer, and they, after mature deliberation, but not without considerable discussion and difference of opinion (as we have heard, but hope erroneously being willing to believe the utmost unanimity prevailed on the occasion, and that, if such were not the case, it was a great fault to let the circumstance become publicly known, which, if repeated, may place the administration of the Government in a position of extreme embarrassment) came to the resolution of allowing the law to take its course, of which the criminal had intimation last Tuesday. The intelligence was not received without suffering, as indicated by the slight and momentary colouring that overspread his checks; but he remained silent, and with an air of indifference acquiesced in the arrangements, it was deemed necessary to make, in order that the limited time allotted to him in this world might be passed with some additional attention to his comfort. The turnkeys in rotation passed their watches in his cell since then. He was not communicative, but always cheerful, and never cast down. He slept and ate well, and seemed to be labouring under no mental disquietude.

The night before his execution he went to bed about eight o'clock, and requested that he might be awoke about five o'clock next morning. Having apparently slept well, he was aroused at the wished for time, when he put on his clothes and washed his face in silence. He then commenced his devotions, which he continued with great earnestness for more than a quarter of an hour. He was soon after joined by the Rev. Mr Geoghegan 

(the Vicar-General's relative), with whom he joined in religious exercises. The Rev. Mr Bundell and the Rev. Mr Maddan visited him about six o'clock, and devotional exercises being again performed in the cell, situated on the ground floor, he was, about a quarter to seven, removed to a cell in the middle tier, facing the corridor, which had been temporarily fitted up as a confessional where the last religious rites of his church were administered to him. About half-past seven the sheriff, accompanied by the gaoler, entered this cell, and read to him he warrant for his execution, but he seemed unconscious of their presence, and paid no heed to their communication. He was in a few minutes afterwards supplied with a breakfast, which consisted of a basin of tea and a few small slices of bread and butter, which he partook of but sparingly. The members of the press, and about half a-dozen gentlemen, who were visitors, were then requested to leave the corridor, and repair to the yard in which the scaffold was erected. This they entered by a passage between the lower tier of cells leading to the yard on the north side of the gaol, where the scaffold appeared before them in all its hideousness, and with all its terror-inspiring accompaniments, like a huge and insatiable monster, open-jawed, and yawning for its victim.

At eight o'clock precisely, the criminal emerged from the passage, and made direct to the scaffold, followed by two clergymen, the sheriff, gaoler, and several turnkeys. He was dressed in a white shirt, surmounted by one of blue cloth, and a pair of dirty white trousers, while that well-known emblem of at once the justice and majesty of the law a white night cap covered his head. He halted for a short space at the bottom of the steps, where he was joined by the executioner, and then ascended to the platform with a firm step and composed air, followed by the executioner, the two clergymen, and old Harris, who seemed to be acting a superintendent hangman on this occasion.

Arrived on the scaffold, Kennedy cast a furtive glance at the crowd beneath him, but the spectacle did not excite any apparent emotion, as he quickly turned round and commenced his devotions. He had not been placed exactly as he should have been under the fatal beam, and Mr. Wintle issued the necessary orders for repairing the omission, which was soon accomplished; and in placing him in the desired position, he again faced the mob, whom, however, he did not look at. The rope (an unusually large one, we should say more than an inch in diameter) was adjusted round his neck, the cap was drawn over his head, the clergymen retired, the officiating executioner repaired to his proper place, and the superintending one gave orders for withdrawing the fatal bolt, which were promptly obeyed, and the wretched man was dangling in the air in the agonies of death. He fell to the depth of nearly seven feet, but no convulsive movement indicated the intense severity of the shock. It was not till about a minute afterwards that a slight convulsive twitching or uprearing of the whole body testified to the struggle still maintained between life and death, and this being continued at intervals for two minutes longer, it then became apparent that the triumph of the grim tyrant was complete. The sight was harrowing to the feelings beyond description, and, what greatly added to the horror of the scene, was the conduct of Harris, the head hangman, who remarked to several bystanders, in a tone of high glee, and evidently pluming himself on the profundity of his professional knowledge, "I knew he would not take more than three minutes, I said so."

The crowd consisted of perhaps between six and eight hundred persons, and was not near so great as might have been expected, and but for being composed of a considerable number of females, we should have felt disposed to congratulate ourselves on the marked improvement in public taste, less than in public morals, to which such a limited attendance bore testimony, but so many of the softer sex being present; and when we also take into consideration the great number of the other sex absent at the diggings, we were forced to confess that there still exists to a wide extent, a low and grovel- ling disposition to draw pleasure or enjoyment, or gratify a curiosity of questionable propriety, and also indulge in the idle, unfeeling, debased, and profligate by gloating over the suffering of an erring fellow creature, of like passions, failings, and infirmities with themselves, and whose tate, but for the restraints of a gracious Providence, might also be theirs.

Having described this judicious tragedy with the woeful train of horrible incidents upon which it is founded, it will now be necessary to direct attention to other matters of much higher moment. That the crime of which Kennedy was undoubtedly guilty, was one of the blackest dye, and that his life was justly forfeited to the offended laws of his country, it is presumed no one acquainted with the harrowing details of the case will be disposed to question. But it may with great propriety be questioned whether in this instance the vengeance of the law only has been fulfilled, and its vain requirements evaded; whether the severity of punishment measured out produced sincere repentance of the crime or only a dodged and hardened indifference of the consequences. Kennedy's mind was deeply tinged, and his past life strongly influenced by the dangerous and heaven-dishonouring doctrine of fatalism. All the evil he committed he firmly believed was the result of inevitable necessity. He was only a passive instrument impelled by a power uncontrollable to perpetrate the crime for which he paid the forfeiture of his life. Fatalism is a species of monomania, exercising demoniac sway over every rational and intelligent power of the mind. It may not show its effects in continued acts of violence and madness, but it may exist in a modified form, and produce upon occasions equally injurious consequences. A lunatic has his sane moments, but a fatalist has not, the poison has taken deadly effect upon every faculty, and must be rooted out with care, otherwise he meditates the commission of high crime, against himself or others, and instead of being a proper object for the laws vengeance, claims its humane assistance which should be equally extended to him as to the obviously violent or the palpably imbecile and idiotic.

The mind of the unhappy Kennedy was strongly impregnated with the dangerous doctrine of fatalism, and hence the zest with which he applied himself to hunt up evil omens, auguries, and striking coincidences, from his experience during his moments of solitude. He never, while in gaol, so far as the officers of that establishment were aware, alluded to the crime for which he was doomed to suffer death with any sentiment approaching to sorrow or repentance. Mr Wintle, the gaoler, seldom communicated with him, and the turnkeys carefully abstained from obtruding unpleasant conversations or questions upon his notice; but he occasionally relaxed from that apathetic stiffness which usually distinguished his conduct, and especially during the last few days of his existence, of his own accord, made revelations strongly confirmatory of the state of mind attributed to him. In speaking of the murder, he said, "drink did it all, but if it had not been done by drink, something else would have done it, as it was decreed to be done. Of his wife, he once said, "she was an excellent woman and a good mother to her children." He also more than once referred to the circumstance of having been married exactly nine years to his wife on the day of her murder which he considered a remarkable coincidence. He had a favourite child called Mickey, which, when it began to prattle and talk, often repeated in rhyme those words "mammy dead and daddy gone" which he considered prophetic of the catastrophe that occurred, and said that he had often since reflected with astonishment on the circumstance, and prayed to God for the death of that child which had taken place since his imprisonment, at which he expressed his unfeigned gratification.

Kennedy was a native of Galway, and arrived in this colony by the immigrant ship Emily in 1841. He stated on his arrival in gaol that he was born in 1821, so that his age at death would be 30, but he has since stated that he would be 28 years of age next St Patrick's day. His height was 5 feet 6¼ in., strongly and firmly made, of a rather pleasing cast of countenance furnishing, indications beyond ordinary of vicious propensities and tendencies. He leaves behind him three young children, two of whom have been adopted by his late wife's brother and the third by another relative.

by Ron Heffernan, Mount Rouse & District Historical Society Inc. May 2015

© Copyright 2022 Mt Rouse & District Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.

Made with ‌