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Saturday. - Mary Ann Bradney was indicted for feloniously, maliciously, and traitorously poisoning her husband, John Bradney, between the 21st of March, and the 18th of April, at the Settlement of Port Macquarie.
The peculiar heinousness of this crime was pathetically depicted by the Attorney General, upon the opening of the trial. But, as it is our intention only briefly to give the outlines of a case which occupied the attention of the Court from 11 in the forenoon to 9 at night, we forbear remarking upon the opening of the case by the Attorney General.
The deceased John Bradney was well known in the town of Sydney, about two years since, as a brazier and tinman. Having unfortunately been implicated in the forgery of dollar-notes, he was sentenced to serve the remainder of his original term of transportation at our penal settlement of Port Macquarie. At this settlement, by good conduct, he became introduced to the kind consideration of the Commandant (Captain Allman), and was put into the post of gaoler, in which office he was also enabled to employ his leisure hours in his trade. From the testimony of Dr. Moran, M.D. Assistant Surgeon on the Colonial Establishment, doing duty at Port Macquarie, there was not a more healthy and ruddy-faced man on the settlement, up to March last, in which month he first became ill. On the 20th March, the deceased attended Dr. Moran, who observed a great alteration in his countenance; he said that he had been indisposed from pains in his bowels and loss of appetite. Medicine was then administered, and on the night of the 30th he was hastily called for, Bradney being then pronounced in a dying state. When the Doctor saw him, the deceased appeared terribly agitated, and observed that he should die before morning. His teeth had been locked, but as pulsation was then regular, the Doctor told him not to be alarmed. By next morning, the pains had yielded to the medicines that were administered the previous night; he seemed considerably restored, and the anxiety consequently was abated. He went on tolerably well till the 5th of April, when the Doctor found him bent double in bed, and writhing in agony. He described the pains to be somewhat similar to those which might be produced by a hot poker introduced into the bowels; that he was excessively thirsty, his lips parched, and that, in attempting to allay it, his thirst became increased. Dr. Moran now became apprehensive that poison had been administered, which he confidently related to a Gentleman on the Settlement. A large blister was applied to the affected part; the patient was fomented, and other remedies given. In two days after he was able to walk about again, and gave every hope of a speedy recovery. On the 8th of April, however, Dr. Moran was surprised to find that the disease had returned, accompanied with strong delirium; - as the day previous he was in a convalescent state. The Doctor then expressed his apprehensions to the prisoner (Bradney's wife) that something improper must have taken place; in consequence of which, he, the Surgeon, should direct his immediate removal to the hospital; which was accordingly promptly attended to. For two or three days the poor man appeared to be returning to health rapidly; but, to the astonishment of Dr. Moran, he died on the morning of the 18th of April, having only been four days at the hospital. The body was opened, and dissected, and so far from incertitude being dispelled, it became increased.
Upon the removal of the unfortunate man to the hospital, Dr. Moran had deemed it prudent to issue an order that no provisions, or article of comfort coming from Mrs. Bradney (the prisoner) should be given to her husband; and that admittance was not to be allowed her. It came out, however, in the course of evidence, that the overseer of the hospital sent to the prisoner for a fowl, to make some soup for the patient. One of the hospital attendants (who admitted he had been convicted and punished for perjury in the Colony), was commissioned to go on this errand. Instead of bringing a fowl as directed, he waited for a few minutes, and conveyed a canteen of soup to the hospital. This witness said, that the overseer threw the same away, and ordered that the canteen, which contained a very small portion of the soup, should be deposited in the dispensary, in the event of being applied for. When Bradney died, this transaction was made known to Dr. Moran. The canteen, with the remains of the soup, was brought forward, and the latter underwent a chemical process, with the view of leading to a discovery of the poison, with which it was supposed the soup might be impregnated. After a very laborious investigation, Dr. Moran had reason to believe his former conviction of the man's death by poison, to be tolerably correct - so far as opinion could go. Hence, the prisoner at the bar underwent examination before the Commandant, and was committed to take her trial for the offence.
A good deal was said upon the trial, and attempted to be proved, in reference to arsenic having been seen in the possession of the prisoner. It was stated by some of the witnesses, that arsenic was requisite for the business of a brazier, and that this dangerous ingredient had been in the possession of the deceased, who occasionally made use of it in endeavouring to exterminate rats from the gaol, which was greatly infested by those vermin. It was also proved, that upon one occasion the prisoner at the bar mixed up some poison with a small quantity of flour, for the purpose of killing rats; and that she then threw the residue of a powder into the fire, in the presence of two men.
Two witnesses stated to the Court, that Bradney, during his illness, was subject to occasional fits of insanity, in two of which he attempted to destroy himself; viz. once by threatening to stab himself with a knife; and secondly, by trying to thrust a table spoon into his side, but had been prevented by men who happened to be at hand.
In confirmation of the evidence for the prosecution, the witness, who went for the soup, stated, that Mrs. Bradney never so much as tasted it, to ascertain whether it was palatable, although he allowed only part of the soup was sent to the hospital; whereas another witness, on the defence, declared, that he and another man actually assisted Mrs. Bradney to make the soup, and that the residue was eaten that night for supper by the prisoner and her children; and that next morning, two men, the prisoner at the bar, and her children, breakfasted on the remains of the fowl.
It was attempted to be proved that there was an illicit intercourse maintained between the prisoner and one James Duff; but only one interview, that had the blush of criminality, was manifested throughout the whole trial. Upon the contrary it did appear, that the prisoner conducted herself, generally, as a wife and a mother ever should. It was stated by some one or two of the witnesses for the prosecution, that the prisoner did not evince all that regard which might be expected towards a sick husband; whereas, upon the defence, it was urged that she expressed the utmost joy at the thoughts of his speedy recovery, and dismission from the hospital. In reference to the soup that was sent to the hospital, and stated by one of the witnesses to have been thrown away; it was proved, upon the evidence of a man whose veracity was not to be questioned, when contrasted with that of an avowed perjurer, that so far from the fowl-soup having been thrown away as related, that the overseer, and the witness Light, actually drank the soup, and eat the fowl! That when the canteen was thus emptied of its contents, some hospital soup occupied its place, and that it was then deposited in the dispensary; and this was the soup that had engaged the scientific scrutiny of Dr. Moran. The sides of the canteen, this witness added, were much disfigured by rosin.
His Honor the Chief Justice, in summing up the case, remarked that the crime, with which the prisoner stood charged, was of the most atrocious description; and so horrible had it been considered by the Law, that it was denominated TREASON. His Honor went through all the evidence; and, in charging the Jury observed, that in order to find the prisoner guilty of the offence with which she stood charged, that it would be essential, for the ends of Justice, in the first place, to ascertain that the deceased came by his death, by poison; to which Dr. Moran, and several other Gentlemen of the Faculty, could come to no conclusion; and, in the second instance, it must be proved, that the poison was administered by the prisoner, which had, in no stage of the evidence, been developed.
The Jury retired for about three quarters of an hour, and returned with a verdict of Not Guilty.
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