Gravesites Of Tasmania




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This afternoon an inquest was opened at Mr. James Cousins” Bull’s head, Goulburn Street before A.B. Jones Esq. Coroner, to enquire into the death of John Coghlan, milkman, who was found murdered (as alleged) in his bed at an early hour on the morning of the 6th.iInstant, with his throat cut, and with severe wounds on his head.

The wife of the deceased was taken into custody, charged as the perpetrator of the deed, and brought up before the Mayor, at the Police Office, when she was remanded till the 13th instant, awaiting the result of the Coroner’s inquest.  As will be seen by our report in todays issue, she solemnly declared her innocence.  Mr. Boyd, Superintendent of Police was present.

The following jury was sworn – D. Murphy, (foreman) T.Weare, C.J.Hayward, Joseph Byfield, Isaac Pear, John Turner and John Asbury. 

The Coroner briefly addressed the jury, and said that he could state little more than

That a most foul and brutal murder had been committed but by whom he could not say.

The body was lying in the house, and it would be seen, he thought, that the deceased had been killed while lying in his bed undressed, and probably while asleep.  Suspicion pointed to his wife who was now in custody, but it would be fore the jury to decide from the evidence which would be adduced how far she was guilty or not.  The Coroner then pointed out the appearance of the deceased as he lay in his bed, and as we have described below on the view of the body.

The Coroner, jury, witnesses then proceeded to view the body which presented a horrible appearance, the head being encrusted with blood, and with a wide gash on the right side of the throat, and a deep cut on the forehead, over the right eye.  In the left hand of the deceased, gently grasped between the thumb and the fore finger, was a razor, but without any stains of blood upon it, but a water jug, and another bedroom utensil, were stained with blood, and on the back of the hand which still held the razor there was the impression of a finger and thumb stained with blood.

The Coroner and Jury having returned to the jury-room, the following witness was examined.

Lawrence Benson, who stated that he was employed by the Corporation to look after some lamps, and that he lived in Bathurst Street, he had seen the body of the deceased in the presence of the Jury and witnesses and Constable Waller, who is in charge of the body.  Seeing the body he knew it to be that of John Coghlan, and he knew that the house in Goulburn Street belonged to him.  Witness had known  him for 14 years, he was a milkman, and about sixty years of age; witness saw him alive on Sunday night about eleven o’clock, he was coming from this house (the Bull’s Head) towards his own house, there was no one in his company, but he went into some woman’s house and witness saw him in the kitchen of that house, this was about a quarter before eleven o’clock, the woman’s name was Eliza Hooley, there was no one present but the deceased and Eliza Hooley, there was a light in the kitchen and witness could see that no one else was there, witness never saw deceased again, until he saw him dead this morning, witness afterwards went into Melville Street, the deceased went first into the Hooley house, and she followed him.  Hooley asked Coghlan in the street for some money for grog; she said “if you will give me some money, I will get you some grog”.  Witness believed he gave her some money, and she went up the street towards the St Patrick public house, witness did not see the woman afterwards, she left her door open and a light burning in the house, witness then went away, the deceased was not sober, he was groggy, he was not sober at eight o’clock.  Mrs. Hooley appeared to be sober, witness knew Mrs. Coghlan but did not know her christian name, he saw her at three o’clock this morning when he was putting out his lamps, she was then inside her own door, she was walking up and down in her garden, she said nothing to witness then, but she was calling “Ellen” to a woman on the other side of the street.  Mrs. Coghlan did not appear to be sober.  Witness was removing some stones, when Coghlan told him not to mind them, as they had been thrown there.  Mrs. Coghlan said that her husband was at “Blind Thomas” and the woman Ellen was wanting to go to the blind man’s house, this was about half past twelve, and witness remained in the street for an hour after this, between Coghlan’s house and the “Black Bull”.  Before witness left, Mrs. Coghlan went going in and out of the house, and when witness went away, about half past 6 o’clock, he heard Mrs. Coghlan say “I will murder him, I will have satisfaction”, she also said that he had been ill using her, and that she was running away, and fell against the gate, and cut herself, witness said, she must not say such things as something bad might happen.  She said she did not care, her name was not Mrs. Coghlan.  She was not sober then.  Witness returned about three o’clock in the morning and saw Mrs. Coghlan again, she went over to “Blind Tom’s” and said to him “Take this, it is the first thing I have given you” and he told her to go home, she went home and witness went away.  To the best of witness’s belief she had the same dress on all the time but he took no particular notice, he took no notice of her hands, sometimes she had a hood on, and sometimes not, and then her hair was disordered.

A man named Thomas Arnold was here brought into the room, and identified by the witness as “Blind Tom”.  Examination continued.  Whenever Mrs. Coghlan’s hood was off her hair was disordered.

By the Jury-I first went to Melville Street at half past eleven, and I went a second time.

Before I went the second time I saw Mrs. Coghlan go to “Old Tom’s”, this might have been about two o’clock.  I was never a servant to Coghlan, but I slept there for two or three nights about 13 or 14 years ago. While I was speaking to Mrs. Coghlan, I did not go within the fence, I heard Mrs. Coghlan say that her husband was away at some of the brothels.  I saw Constable Cleary, I think, about three o’clock this morning at the corner of Harrington and Goulburn Streets, I did not hear any noise in the house

The inquest was then adjourned till ten o’clock on Wednesday (tomorrow).


Constable William Waller, City Police stated that he knew the deceased.  Witness was on duty in Goulburn Street on Sunday night and about a quarter past 9 o’clock he saw Mr. and Mrs Coghlan, the deceased was inside his fence and his wife outside on the footpath.  Witness said to Mrs Coghlan “What, have you been shut out again?” She replied “Yes, Constable, he has shut me out again.  Witness interceded between the pair and they went in together peaceably.  Witness heard Mrs. Coghlan say “Now John, if you give me another chance, I will not drink again for twelve months.  She went on her knees, and called God to witness what she had said.  Witness then went on his beat, and did not see the deceased again, not Mr. Coghlan till about 11 o’clock, when he saw the deceased going up the opposite street from his own house and go to Mr. Cousens’ private door.  He knocked two or three times and then looked round and came to witness.  He said “constable, can we get a glass of grog anywhere.”  Witness said it was rather difficult to get gtrop at that time of the night, as the publicans were all gone to bed.  Witness asked deceased if his wife had gone to bed?” He said no, she was at home in the kitchen.  He went away and went to a woman named Hooley, who was standing at her door.  He said something to her, when she said “If you will give me the money, I will get it”  Mrs. Hooley then went up the street towards Barrack Street .  Witness then went down the street to Harrington Street , and on returning saw the deceased and Mrs. Hooley at her door.  The deceased went into the house, and she after him, he returned in about a minute or so, and went down the street towards his home, he was drunk.  Witness then passed on to his beat, up the street, when he came back there was a light in Coghlan’s house in the kitchen, this was close upon 12 o’clock.  Witness then went on his beat as far as Barrack street and turned back again, when he saw Mrs. Coghlan with Constable Cleary.  Mrs. Coghlan was inside the fence and Cleary was on the footpath.  Cleary was asking witness if he had seen Laurence Benson and Cleary told witness that Mrs. Coghlan had told him that she had given Laurence Benson half a sovereign to get her some grog.  Witness said he had not seen Benson since 12 o’clock, but if he should see him he would send him to her.  Witness advised Mrs. Coghlan to go in, and go to bed, as he was astonished to see her out at that time in the morning.  She told witness she was waiting for the old man to come home, as he was over the way, at a brothel, at “Old Blind Tom’s” Witness asked her if her husband was not at home.  She replied no, there was not a soul in the house but herself, and that was the way he always spent his nights.  Witness said he did not believe her, when she asked him to go in and look, but witness declined to do so.  Witness then went away and afterwards on returning from his beat that the female, Catherine Lowe, coming up from the direction of Liverpool Street , it was then between two and three o’clock in the morning, and she said that she lived at Blind Tom’s and was going home.  Mrs. Coghlan called out “Nelly” to the female, and said she would find her a bed.  Witness saw them both together in the middle of the street, and went again on his beat.  On returning about three o’clock he saw Mrs. Coghlan standing by her fence, and said to her “Dear me, have you not yet gone to bed”.  She replied “No, hold your tongue, go and get me a glass of grog” at the same time handing him what appeared to be a pound note.  Witness said “No, do you go to be, I’ll have nothing to do with you”.  Witness stood there for some minutes advising her to go to bed, and then went to the bottom of the street, where he met Constable Cleary, and told him he had noticed something strange about Mrs. Coghlan, saying he should stop and watch her.  Witness afterwards saw Mrs. Coghlan open the shutters of the windows and immediately she came out clapping her hands saying “Oh! My God, what shall I do, what will become of me?”  This was between 3 and 4 o’clock.  She kept on repeating these words several times till she saw witness, when she stopped.  Witness said to her “What are you saying?”.  She replied “Me? I am saying nothing” She then went into the house and witness went down to the corner, when Mrs. Coghlan came out again, clapping her hands and saying several times “Oh! My God, Coghlan has cut his throat.”  Witness then ran up to her, when she said “Oh, constable, he has just come home, and cut his throat.  She then took witness into the room and showed him the deceased lying dead on his bed in the room where the jury saw the body.  Witness said to Mrs. Coghlan “Dear me, have you been in and out all night without noticing this before.  She said “Oh no constable, he has just come home and cut his throat.”  Witness said “That could not be, as it had been done some time.”  Mrs. Coghlan then said down on a chair and began clapping her hands.  Witness then went to the door and whistled for a constable, when Cleary and Sergeant Smith came up.  Witness then went for Dr. Carns who came back with him while Sergeant Smith remained with the body.  After that Mr. Boyd, Detective Vickers and others of the police came to the house, neither the body or anything in the room was disturbed.  There was a good deal of blood on the face which was dry, the body was cold.  There was some blood on the edge of the bed, which was not dry.  Witness noticed two or three cuts on the forehead and a gash in the throat, there was also a razor in the left hand, it appeared to lie loose between the thumb and forefinger of the hand.  When witness saw Coghlan at 11 o’clock he was dressed in a brown suit and that was on a chair by the bedside.  Mrs. Coghlan had on a buff dress the same as that now produced.  It was a little past 8 o’clock

in the morning when Mrs. Coghlan opened the shutters.

By a juror There appeared to be some blood on the sleeve of Mrs. Coghlan’s night dress, there was some water in a wash hand basin in the room, but it was not bloody.  I did not notice any blood on Mrs. Coghlan’s hands

Constable Cleary, City Police, gave corroborative evidence.  He stated that Mrs. Coghlan told him her husband was sleeping with a female, and after that she asked him to get her some drink.  This witness confirmed the testimony of Constable Waller in reference to the conduct of Mrs. Coghlan, by clapping her hands and using the exclamations deposed by the previous witness.  He also stated he was forcibly struck by Mrs. Coghlan’s appearance, she was as pale as death, and her eyes were glittering in a very remarkable manner.  She said to witness “Do you pity me?”  Witness replied that he was very sorry to see her in that condition, when she said it was his fault.  Witness made answer that he thought it was both their fault.  She then said, he was over at Blind Tom’s sleeping with a woman, and if witness waited, he would see him come out.  Witness then went on his beat down Harrington Street but had not gone far when he heard the whistle, and then he immediately returned to Goulburn street , and when he reached Coghlan’s door, constable Waller told him that Coghlan’s throat was cut.  Witness then proceeded to the chief station to report the murder.  Not more than three minutes could have elapsed before witness heard the whistle.  Witness had not seen Coghlan at all that night, nor for weeks before.

Dr. Carns, who made a post mortem examination of the body deposed to the injuries inflicted on the deceased.

He first saw the deceased about half past four on Monday last, he was lying in bed and perfectly dead, but the body was warm, although his left hand was cold.  There were various wounds on the head, with extensive fractures of the skull, the throat was cut on the right side and the face was covered with blood.  There was a large wound over the right eye, and others extending in various directions over the skull, as if inflicted by some blunt instrument, there was also a severe contusion on the right side of the head bursting the eyeball, and extending to the ear, and fracturing the bones of the nose, in fact, nearly all the bones of the head were frightfully smashed.  The cheek bone on the right side and the lower jaw were also fractured.  The wound in the throat, which did not divide either the carotid artery or the jugular vein, must have been inflicted with a sharp cutting instrument which had severed the trachea (windpipe) and some of the smaller blood vessels.  All the wounds were on the right side of the head except one, which extended across the frontal bone to the left temporal bone, and this must have been inflicted on the right side of the head.  The cut in the throat had been inflicted while there was life in the body, because air exuded after death in the shape of frothy mucus.  From the quantity of blood in the brain witness was of opinion that the injuries to the skull had been inflicted before the wound in the throat; had the throat been cut first there would not have been so much blood in the brain.  In witness’ opinion the deceased was most probably asleep or insensible, when the wounds were inflicted.  It is very unlikely that the wound in the throat could have been inflicted by the deceased himself, but the fractures on the skull could not have been so inflicted, that would have been quite impossible.  All the wounds were not necessarily mortal, but several were sufficient to cause death;  three of the wounds were necessarily mortal.  Witness could not say that death under such circumstances would be instantaneous, but the wounds inflicted on the deceased were calculated to hasten death,.  Witness thought the deceased had been dead about two or three hours when he first saw him, the blood on the face was moist, and the body was warm.  The pillow and blanket on the bed were sprinkled with blood, and there was blood also on the ceiling and on the floor.  The blows must have been given with great force, and with some very heavy blunt instrument.  The iron bar now produced marked with blood, might produce some of the wounds.

Detective Vickers here produced the flannel dress which Mr. Coghlin had worn at the time and which was stained in several places with blood, and which Dr. Carns stated was quite recent, when he saw it on Monday morning.

Mrs. Coghlan stated that the blood on the dress was caused by a wound on her elbow, which she exhibited to the jury, but which the appearance of the dress did not warrant.

Examination continued – Dr. Carns said that he saw the dress taken off at the police office on Monday morning.  He examined it before it was taken off and immediately afterwards.  There was a large patch of blood on the right sleeve, with spots or splotches all over the dress, which looked recent when witness saw them.  On examining the chamber utensil witness found some hair adhering to the bottom, which corresponded with that of the deceased.  There was blood on the razor now produced and the wound on the throat might have been inflicted by that weapon, but he did not think the deceased had cut his own throat.

Detective Vickers here produced the shirts worn by the deceased which were literally saturated with blood, and so offensive from the smell, as to cause their quick removal from the room.

Examination continued – The attention of witness was directed by Mrs. Coghlan to a wound on her right elbow, and one on her right brow, he examined her hands but didn not find any marks of blood upon them.  Then wounds on the elbow and eyebrow were slight wounds.  When witness saw Mrs. Coghlan at the Police Office the sleeve of her flannel dress was tucked up close under her arm, but afterwards it was drawn down.  Witness examined Mrs. Coghlan at the house, and also her hands.

Detective Vickers stated that on Monday morning last, constable Cleary reported at the station that John Coghlan had committed suicide.  Witness immediately proceeded to the house, where he saw Mrs. Coghlan, Dr. Carns and Sergeant Smith in the kitchen.  As soon as witness entered Mrs. Coghlan said “I have not done it”  Witness then went into the bedroom, where he saw the deceased quite dead, with a large cut in his throat, several cuts on his head, and his face smothered in blood.  Some of the blood was dry, and some moist, and there was a great quantity on the bed clothes and pillow, and spots on the wall, floor and ceiling.  Witness also saw in the left hand of the deceased this razor now produced.  He found the chamber utensil (produced) under the bed, with more blood on it than now appears, the blood was quite fresh.  He also found a water jug (produced) on a wash hand stand, likewise marked with blood in the same state as it is now, there was also a bloody rim on the wash stand corresponding to the bottom of the jug.  From what witness saw in the bedroom he went into the kitchen and told Mrs. Coghlan that she must consider herself in his custody for the willful murder of her husband.  Witness also produced a table cover on which it appeared that some person had wiped bloody hands.  Mrs. Coghlan said “I am innocent, and God knows I have not done it”  Witness then went into another room, and after some trouble woke up Catherine Lowe, and took her also into custody, she seemed stupefied with drink and said she knew nothing at all about it.  Witness then took them both to the chief station, where he saw the dress and flannel shirt taken from Mrs. Coghlan, and Dr. Carns examined them.  Witness received from Dr. Carns the razor now produced, which has been in witnesses possession ever since, witness saw Dr. Carns take the razor from the deceased’s left hand, it had not been previously disturbed.  On Monday, Mrs Coghlan said, as she was going to the factory, that she had murdered her husband with an iron bar, which he had thrown at her and that the bar was now in the closet on her own premises.  In consequence of this statement witness searched for the iron bar, and found it in the place described by Mrs. Coghlan and now produced it.  She said this in the presence of Mr. Boyd and Detective Morley, and of her own accord.  She also said the woman, Catherine Lowe, knew nothing about it; she had told her that her husband was away from the house, while at the same time he had been dead for some hours.  When she got to the Factory she repeated the statement in the presence of several persons.  In consequence of this statement, as witness has already stated, the closet was searched, and the bar discovered.  Witness washed it as carefully as he could and saw the spots of blood when pointed out by Cr Carns at the General Hospital this morning.

Sergeant Smith was called to prove that he was called to Coghlan’s house about twenty minutes before four o’clock on Sunday morning by Constable Cleary, and that he remained there until Dr. Carns, Mr. Boyd and Detective Vickers came there.  Nothing had been disturbed before Dr. Carns came.

The evidence now being exhausted, the Coroner summed up the evidence.  He thought there was some discrepancy as to the time with the evidence of the first witness, but this was not perhaps very material as it did not affect the main features of the case, and especially after the statement made by Mrs. Coghlan to Vickers, in the presence of Mr Boyd and several others. The Coroner now recapitulated a portion of the evidence, pointing out some discrepancies in the evidence of the witness Arnold as to the time when the blows were struck, with other leading points for the testimony of the other witnesses.

 Mrs. Coghlan wished to make a true statement of the whole affair, as she was deeply grieved for what she had done.  She would, she said, tell the truth before Al might God and all present.  She then stated that before breakfast on Sunday morning her husband fetched home some rum and they had a glass apiece.  When breakfast was over he brought in two pots of beer and between dinner getting ready he went out twice and brought in a black bottle with rum, but how much she couldn’t say.  She drank a glass out of each bottle, and at dinner time the deceased brought in a pot of beer.  They had dinner by themselves.  After dinner a woman named Hall, and her husband came in and a Mrs. Callaghan was also there.  Mrs. Hall and Coghlan tossed for half a pint of rum and Coghlan won it, when Mrs. Hall gave him a shilling and he went and got the rum, which was drunk amongst them.  When Mrs. Hall went away she slipped a shilling into deponent’s hand, which she showed to her husband, he asked for it, and because she would not give it to him, he rushed her out into the yard, and struck her several times, and knocked her head against the fence, cutting her eye.  When she went in she gave him the shilling and he fetched another half pint of rum.  Mrs. Callaghan went away with Mrs Hall and the deceased and deponent drank the rum.  At half past 8 o’clock the deceased quarreled with deponent again, and pushed her out of the gate, and locked it.  Before he pushed her out he struck her on the elbow with a piece of wood, and struck her right and left across the thighs and knees, with the same piece of wood.  Between 9 and 10 Constable Waller interfered in deponent’s behalf for the deceased to let her in.  When deponent went in she went to bed and as soon as she was asleep the deceased went out and locked the door and gate, but where he went the deponent did not know.  When the deponent awoke, about a quarter past 12, Coghlan was in the kitchen staggering and making motions with his hands, as if laying down the law.  He had a little black bottle with him, from which he poured some liquor into a tea cup and drank it.  Depon ent coaxed him into bed and went to bed herself.  She was not long in bed before he dragged her out by the hair of the head.  He got into bed again, and deponent was coming into the bedroom for some matches, when Coghlan using a very bad word said “What brings you here again, making a noise” Deponent said she was making no noise.  He then took up the iron bar and threw it at deponent, it did not strike her, but struck against the door, and deponent being the worse for drink, turned back in a passion and took up the bar and struck him on the head.  This is the truth, so help her God!  She saw he was dying so hard and felt so sorry, that she got the razor and cut his throat.  That was between 12 and 1 o’clock.  She had no more to say, except that she threw the iron bar into the water closet, as she had told Mr. Vickers.

The Coroner now read over the statement, when the unfortunate woman confirmed its correctness, declaring it was true in the face of God, and the truth she would have to tell before her Maker.  She then affixed her mark to the statement, and was removed from the room in a fainting condition.

The Jury without hesitation found a verdict of Wilful Murder against Margaret Coghlan, who was accordingly committed on the Coroner’s warrant

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