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THE WATT MURDER TRIAL

Transcribed and submitted by Margaret Bradford
Originally published in the Perth Courier, Friday April 15th 1864.

Pulished in the LCGS Newsletter, March through October, 1999.


The Watt Murder Case!
Acquittal of Prisoner!

This was an indictment against George Watt, Jr, for the murder of his grandmother, Jane Campbell, an old woman living, at the time of her death, with George Watt, Sen, the father of the prisoner.
The circumstances tending to establish the guilt of the prisoner being of a purely circumstantial nature, every effort was made on the part of the Crown, both by D. Fraser Esq, the County Crown Attorney, at the preliminary examination, and by J. Deacon, Jr, Esq, the Crown Counsel, on the trial, to supply all the links necessary in the chain of evidence to afford a fair presumption of the guilt of the accused. Plans showing the section of the country in which the alleged murder took place, and of the spot in which the body was found, were prepared from actual survey, and produced at the trial. The trial, from the large number of witnesses examined, occupied more than two days, but the ingenuity and ability displayed in the examinations of the witnesses by the Crown Counsel, as well as in the searching cross-examinations of W. M. Shaw Esq, Counsel for the prisoner, rendered it anything but tedious or uninteresting, while the addresses of both Counsel were masterly in the comprehensive manner of dealing with the long train of circumstances given in evidence on each side. Seldom has a trial of this nature presented greater difficulties and seldom have such difficulties been handled with equal skill and ingenuity. The jury, after a very able and impartial charge from the learned judge, retired to consider their verdict, and after some hours brought in the verdict of "Not Guilty". The following is as brief a statement as can be given of the evidence.
Alexander Campbell, sworn -- Live on east half of lot 1, in 2nd Con of Dalhousie, deceased was my mother; Neil Campbell was my father, he was drowned 5 years ago. At time of death he owned east half of lot 6 in 1st Con of Dalhousie; after his death, my mother lived on that lot; daughter of deceased married George Watt, prisoner was son of these. George Watt Sen and his family came to live with my mother in April 1863; last time I saw her alive was on Monday preceding death; she died on Wednesday the 29th October 1863; saw her on Thursday evening after death; saw injuries on her head, hands, legs, sides and breast; some of them very serious; some appeared to be caused by the heel of a boot; the skin of the back was ruffled as if drawn over the ground and the hair of the head was matted with grass, strawberry leaves, &c; deceased was 78 years of age, but quite hale and hearty; the property on which she lived was her own; she used to come to my place frequently & sometimes stayed over night, but generally returned the same day; told witness that she could not stay longer at Watt's, and spoke of selling the place; can't say if prisoner knew of this; knew of unpleasant feeling between deceased and prisoner; prisoner said to the deceased 8 or 10 days before her death that he "would kick her d----d guts out"; deceased had a gold ring and a little pocket book, which she generally carried in her bosom; last saw ring on Monday preceding death; saw pocket book in July last; she carried a receipt of Livingstone and Robinson's in this pocket book; the father of the prisoner, on finding the body, suggested that she had been killed by a ram; don't know where prisoner was on Thursday and Friday after death -- was not at home -- (ring is produced) . Can't say without spectacles whether this is the ring; pocket book was of a brownish color, fastened with a loop.
Cross-examined -- Prisoner is my nephew; went on Wednesday morning to work at a neighbor's named Morrison, going in a contrary direction from where body was found; stayed there about an hour then went home; was at home all day, chopping; am one of the heirs of the deceased; suspected Geo. Watt and son were the murderers and swore that I thought so; the grounds for my suspicion were respecting the farm and from words used by the father, who said that I was not to blame George (the son) for he could prove that he had no hand in it; conversation in which prisoner used the language above-mentioned to the deceased took place about 10 or 15 yards from his father's door; did not see deceased until after post-mortem examination; Watt's daughter, Christina, told me on Thursday that she feared Granny had been killed by a ram, for she was not at home the night before, and had not stopped at my place; this was before dinner on Thursday; I finished my dinner, and then started towards Watt's; I called at Roger's and finding she had not been there, I ran to Bateson's and finding she had not been there either, I knew something was wrong.
John Morris, sworn -- Live in Perth; am a Provincial Land Surveyor; Plans produced were prepared by me from actual survey.
Alex Shanks, sworn -- Live in Dalhousie; knew Jane Campbell; in Oct last, I found her dead body in a field on a lot adjoining mine; old Mr Watt told me the body was there; I went with him and found her lying on her side about 10 feet from the path usually trod; she was lying in a hollow, her head being a little raised out of it; her shawl, handkerchief, cap and walking stick were scattered about in different places; her hair and general appearance were confused; after seeing her, went to Rogers' place; Rogers returned immediately after us; she lay on the right arm, the left arm thrown over the breast; she had on boots; Wednesday and Thursday were both clear days -- night cold.
Cross-examined -- Had a ram but it was generally in my own yard; was not vicious; never heard of a vicious ram in that part.
Michael Rogers, sworn -- Live in Dalhousie in east half of lot 3 in 2nd Concession; knew Jane Campbell; first heard of her death on Thursday afternoon; old Mr Watt and Mr Shanks came to my place; I went to see the body; the body was in a hollow -- the head lay up out of the hole, the clothes appeared to be pretty smooth; the dress was drawn below the knees and was torn near the foot; had boots on I think and light colored woollen stockings; the body lay straight; I hardly think a ram could have done it; a ram will not strike anyone lying down; never heard of any vicious ram in the neighbourhood; the body received no injury in lifting it into the waggon.
Simon Alcorn, sworn -- It was about a mile from where the body was found to her house; no injury was done to body in taking it home; no beast could touch the body where it was lying.
Alex Munro M.D., sworn -- knew Jane Campbell; I saw and felt the body after death; five or six of the ribs were fractured close to the sternum; the ribs on the other side were fractured half way between the spine and sternum; the injuries sustained by breaking the sternum and ribs would cause death instantly; steady pressure would not cause the effusion of blood visible on the breast; it might have been caused by a heavy person falling upon the body on his knees.
Janet Bateson, sworn -- am wife of Wm. Bateson; knew Jane Campbell; saw her last alive on Wednesday preceding death; saw her on Saturday after her death; I assisted in laying the body out; I tried to comb the hair but could not do so on the back of the head; it was matted with grass, strawberry leaves &c; deceased always had a little money about her; my husband kept her money for her; I gave her one dollar the last day I saw her all in ten cent pieces;
Cross-examined -- I cut her hair on the back of her head to make her present a more decent appearance; I saw ring on her hand the last time I saw her.
Ann Alcorn, sworn -- I knew Jane Campbell; the ring produced is like one she wore; she had a ring on the Monday before her death; I rubbed her hands to make them warm and remember seeing the ring on that day.
William Robertson, sworn -- Have seen deceased; know prisoner; saw deceased after death; one of hands and the legs below the knees were much discolored as if pounded by a hard substance; the ribs were broken; there was a slight mark on the right cheek; the belly was much bruised; examined place where body was found; found hair, resembling that of deceased, sticking to a raspberry bush and in several places on the grass between the path and place where body was said to be found; think ram could not touch body where it was found; my opinion is that body was injured after death as well as before.
John McLellan, sworn -- live in Dalhousie; knew Jane Campbell; knew field where she was found; last saw her a week or ten days before death; have known her since 1820; knew that ring produced was her ring; live about 15 acres from where body was found; was present at the inquest; examined body particularly; right arm was much swollen and black -- left arm a little swollen; her face was a little ruffled; the breast-bone was broken, also the ribs; all ribs were broken off the back bone; one heavy blow appeared to have been given to the right leg with some hard substance; think injuries were caused by a human being; know how ram strikes; anything done in field could not be seen from any adjoining house; there is a small track passing onto lot 3, in the direction of Lanark Village.
Cross-examined -- Injuries might be caused by kicks or blows.
Patrick Mullen, sworn -- Live in Lanark; knew Jane Campbell; last saw her in her own house the morning of the day she was killed; was on one of the inquests; a great deal of violence displayed on her person; saw prisoner at house that morning, he was completely dressed; had on an old drab hat and greyish home-made coat; he said nothing to us but disappeared round the corner of the house; deceased said she was coming to buy tobacco from me; can't say that prisoner heard her say this; went from Watt's to Braiden's with Braiden and then home; would likely have seen anyone passing in the direction of the Village after leaving Braiden's; from Braiden's I passed through Alcorn's lot on the public road and then to Lanark; I never knew anyone to strike off on Gemmell's lot, and cross the Clyde at Caldwell's Mill and come in on the South side of Lamonts by the English church, for in doing so, part of a swamp would have to be crossed; there is a passage over the top of the dam at Caldwell's Mill for foot passengers; deceased had a ring on that morning -- I think a common gold ring.
Cross-examined -- Prisoner left Watt's about 8 that morning; deceased conversed with me about 10 minutes; can't say that the ring was gold, it may have been brass.
William Robertson, recalled -- there is no road from the Manse between the village lots, nor from the bridge to Lamont's coming out on the South side of the English church; no path this way; it is out of the way to come by Caldwell's dam or Robertson's bridge.
John McLellan, recalled -- Gives evidence as to roads leading into Lanark.
Henry Braiden, sworn -- Live on Lot 5 in 1st Con of Lanark; was with Mullen in October last at Mrs. Campbell's about 8 o'clock in the morning of the day she was killed; saw Jane Campbell then; did not notice a ring on her finger; saw prisoner too; he was looking through the fence at us -- stooping down; I live close to the Watts; never knew of any disagreement between prisoner and deceased; never knew about anything being said about deceased having money in presence of prisoner; don't know whether prisoner heard deceased say she was going to Lanark that morning; she spoke distinctly;
Cross-examined -- It was not likely that prisoner heard remarks of deceased that morning.
William Miller, sworn -- Live in Dalhousie; father's name is James Miller; knew prisoner; father lives about ¼ of a mile from Watts; knew deceased; saw her on Wednesday 28th October last, on the road going into Sandy Campbell's old lot, about a ¼ of a mile from Watt's, about one acre from young Widow Campbell's house, nearly into my father's lot; she had on a black dress spotted with white spots and a shawl like that produced; she was about 3 or 4 acres from me; I only saw her for a few yards as she then passed behind some trees; I could see the white spots in her dress; this was about 9 o'clock in the morning; have always lived on that lot; never knew of any vicious ram about there.
Cross-examined -- Never heard anyone say what kind of a dress she wore; could see the spots in the dress and the shawl; have seen her pass our home on the way to Lanark -- never seen her going in that direction before; was standing on a knoll and looking after my father's sheep; saw her about 15 minutes after leaving the house; I left the house either 20 or 25 minutes to 9; don't know if clock was with village bell or not.
Re-examined -- Went to school that morning; school is about 2 miles from home; it opens at 10; got there a little before the school opened; might be mistaken as to the distance deceased passed from me.
James Miller, sworn -- Am father of last witness; I recollect giving my son some directions about the sheep that morning; went away after breakfast and remained about an hour; children had not started for school when I returned; I know knoll spoken of by last witness; that knoll is about 3 acres distant from where path enters my land.
William Miller, recalled -- Did not go to collect the sheep immediately after my father told me.
Andrew Gemmell, sworn -- Live in township Lot 3 in 2nd Con of Lanark; when there is no crop, people usually cross my land near the northwest corner and go almost straight east towards the village, north of my house between the travelled road and my house, but people coming from Skiffingtons might go south of my house; I knew the prisoner; that morning about 10 I spoke to him at my barn door; I saw him coming towards my house across the Widow Robinson's land, near the swamp; there is a path in that direction used by Skiffington and persons in that direction; anyone coming from old clearing where body was found could come that way; prisoner was walking at an ordinary rate; think prisoner saw me first; we passed the time of day; the path south of my house leads through my barn yard ; Skiffington and Melville were coming down the line driving cattle; prisoner said "What noise is that on the line?" I said some boys driving cattle; prisoner said nothing more; I saw nothing more of him; I did not want to say anything to prisoner; a person going from Watts to the Village would not take that route as there is more fence, bush and swamp and ¾ of a mile further than the usual route; think prisoner had boots on; is more than 2 miles from my place to old clearing.
Cross-examined -- Think it would take a man one hour to travel from where body was found to my place; think deceased could not walk one mile in less than half an hour.
Robert Gemmell, sworn -- Am a brother of last witness; live in village about a mile from my brother; know path coming from Campbell's to village; know prisoner; saw him on 28th October last between village and my brothers; not on regular path; he was coming in direction of Caldwell's Mill; met him on north side of Andrew's lot near swamp; prisoner spoke first and said "What time of day is it?"; I told him; prisoner pulled out some money all in ten cent pieces, one piece of American money -- he asked what that was worth; said he had more money; he pulled out pocket book and took 4 or 5 pieces of money out of it (the money spoke of before); it was a leather pocket book, had been used a good deal; never saw old lady's pocket book; did not say where he had got pocket book; did not see any ring on his hand; he went towards Caldwell's mill; when I saw him first he was coming from my brother's; I did not think it strange to meet him there; it was between 10 and 11 am, I saw him.
Cross-examined -- Think prisoner saw me first; he was coming towards me; it was not exactly in direction of village; prisoner got a bottle from me to go and get liquor; asked me where he would get it nearest; I said at Culross'; he said he had the money to get it himself and would get it some place; nearest to Lamont's would be over Robertson's bridge and up the hill.
John Skiffington, sworn -- Live on lot 3 in 1st Con of Dalhousie; know old clearing; remember 28th October last; was in village that day; drove cattle from my own lot to Mrs. Lamont's; came on road between McLellan's and Robinson's and Gemmell's and Watt's lots; John Melville was driving with me; had to go through some bush; there is some bush between my house and the road; it would not take more than half an hour to go from old clearing down to Gemmell's; people generally go through McLellan's and north of A. Gemmell's; perhaps Prentice and McIntyre living on lots 1 and 2 in 1st Con Lanark might take that swamp path, but others are not accustomed to do so; have seen Jane Campbell going on the path from her place towards Alex Campbell's; the old clearing is a lonely place; never heard of a vicious ram in the neighbourhood.
John Melville, sworn -- If I wanted to go to village from old clearing without being seen, I'd take the swamp path; never heard of a vicious ram there.
George Corry, sworn -- Knew prisoner; am a constable of these counties; I arrested prisoner in bed in the latter part of October or beginning of November last; prisoner said to me that he was not guilty and that all that could be said against him was about the pocket book which he took from the old lady's chest; he said he had come out by that path and that when at the corner of Skiffington's lot he heard some noise and hid from them in the bush; he said he had had difficulty with one of the Skiffingtons and afraid of him; he said he was a smart runner and had run a good deal that morning as he was cold.
James Miller, sworn -- Am father of last witness; I recollect giving my son some directions about the sheep that morning; went away after breakfast and remained about an hour; children had not started for school when I returned; I know knoll spoken of by last witness; that knoll is about 3 acres distant from where path enters my land.
John Skiffington, recalled -- Had trouble with prisoner 3 or 4 years ago, but had met him frequently afterwards; prisoner had no reason to apprehend any trouble from me.
John Melville, recalled -- Had some trouble with prisoner about a fishing line but prisoner had no reason to fear any threshing from me.
John Buffam, sworn -- Live in Lanark; knew prisoner; remember 28th October last; saw prisoner in forenoon of that day coming down the hill between the English church and Mrs Lamont's stable; he said nothing to me but jumped back and hid himself for a little while and then came forward and whispered to me to know who were in the shed next the road; I told him they were Skiffington's boys; he then went on; he made no remark but appeared to be frightened; he was trembling when he spoke to me; he went in and got a bottle of liquor, then back up the hill, round the Church, then to the left hand on the Drummond road. This was nearly 11 am; his manner struck me a singular, especially the trembling; he was not in long for the liquor, and coming out moved away smartly; the whole time taken up there was not more than 15 minutes; he might have gone on to the Perth road without going back up the hill.
Margaret Gillespie, sworn -- Live above 3 acres from the Mississippi bridge -- two miles from Lanark on the Perth side; prisoner has been in my house several times; remember 28th October last; prisoner was in my house that day about 11.25 am by my clock; he did not appear agitated, but seemed warm with fast walking; I gave him a chair; he told me he was going to Dennison's Shanty; said he come from his mother's; he did not appear to be in a great hurry; he asked me for a piece of bread, which I gave him; he would not wait for dinner; he showed me a brown pocket book; he had a ring on, which he took off and showed me; he said he had bought the ring from his grandmother, giving her 150 lbs. of flour; he said his grandmother was well; he went towards Perth.
Cross-examined -- I regulate my time by the village bell but can't say the clock was right then.
James Jack McDonald, sworn -- Live at Balderson's Corners; know prisoner; remember seeing him in October last during the week Mrs Campbell was killed; I was in Weart's Hotel talking to Mrs Weart about Mrs Campbell's death; prisoner was present but did not say anything for some time; I told Mrs. Weart that it was said that the death was caused by a ram; prisoner asked the name and said it must be his grandmother as there was no other old woman up there of that name; he appeared quite careless about it; he said there were some parties up there had a cross ram; he said there would be something up now, for likely his grandmother had died without a will, and that there had been so much quarrelling about the land that he could not stay at home; he told me that deceased used to go between her son's and his father's house; he said he had done a thing last night for which he was sorry; I asked him what it was; he said that he had sold his grandmother's ring and that he had bought it three months before for $3; his grandmother being hard up; said he had sold it to Code for a jackknife and eight plugs of tobacco; said he was sorry he hadn't the ring.
James Code, sworn -- Live at Balderson's; know prisoner; he met me at Weart's Hotel; Weart and I were throwing dice on the counter and prisoner came up and laid the ring on the counter and asked if we would not throw for it; I asked him what he would want for the ring; he said he would not take 2s 6d from each of us; Weart would not throw for it but wanted to trade with him for a pipe; [this?] would not do it; I took a fancy to the ring and gave him 8 plugs of tobacco a jackknife and a treat; he appeared anxious to get rid of the ring; said nothing as to how he got it; I gave ring to James Young the magistrate.
Malcolm McCallum, sworn -- Live at Balderson's; saw prisoner about 2 pm on Wednesday the 28th October last; he hired with me at $8 per month; I saw a pocket book with him the night of the day he came to me; it was an old worn thing of dark colored leather with a loop; he was talking to my servant girl and showing her a gold ring, which he said belonged to his grandmother and that he had bought it from her some time before for $3; up to Friday evening I had not heard of her death, nor had he mentioned it to me.
Cross-examined -- Can't say whether prisoner left on Friday or Saturday at noon; I saw him at the Corners the evening of the day he left me about sundown.
George Blair, sworn -- Live on lot 8 in 1st Con Dalhousie; knew Jane Campbell for 43 years, also Neil Campbell her husband; saw her during the week preceding death, perhaps 3 or 4 times; know prisoner; on Thursday old Mr. Watt came over and told me of her death; on Friday my man and I went to Perth with a load; on Saturday we left Perth for home and met prisoner at Balderson's about 2 pm; he said he had been working there; he rode home with me; I saw a pocket book in his hands on the way home; on Monday after getting home I asked him for the pocket book; he said he had lost the money, pocket book and his cap; I asked him where he had got the pocket book; he said from a son of John McLellan's and that he gave six pence for it; I asked him where he got the receipt that was in the pocket book; he said he got it in the house to wrap up the six pence in; am satisfied that the pocket book was that owned by Jane Campbell; in my opinion her death was caused by a ram -- witness went on to give his reasons for thinking so.
Thomas Kilso, sworn -- Live in Lanark near Blair's; have known deceased over 30 years; last time I saw her alive was during week before her death; she was at my house after that; did not know of any ill-feeling in the family; she had on a ring when I last saw her; she carried her pocket book in her bosom; know that deceased for some time before her death was under apprehensions of harm.
Elizabeth Campbell, sworn -- Am wife of Alexander Campbell; remember 28th October last and following day; John and Christina Watt came on Thursday morning between 9 and 10; John came to draw wood; Christina came to inquire for her grandmother; deceased did sometimes stay overnight at my house.
Ann Campbell, sworn -- Live in Dalhousie; am widow of the late James Campbell; knew Jane Campbell; did not see her for a week before her death; don't know on what terms she was with the prisoner and Watt's family; she always spoke well of old Mr. Watt; don't remember seeing any ring on her finger during last summer; saw her once attacked by a ram; my husband drove off the ram but not until he had hurt her a good deal; this was in February 1861.
John McLellan, recalled -- I was a Juryman at both inquests; she was a little marked on the right temple; saw no holes or marks such as have been spoken of by Mr. Blair.
Cross-examined -- Shanks might have heard her calling from the old clearing; it is about six acres off.
William Robertson, recalled -- Saw no mark on face except on right cheek; could not have failed to see marks spoken of by Mr. Blair, had there been such.
FOR THE DEFENCE
Wm M. Shaw, Esq. calls:

Robert Corry M.D. -- I was present at the post mortem examination of the deceased; was called on to make an examination by the late Dr Nichol; made examination after dark on Friday night; examined body externally; on the right cheek and right side of forehead there was a slight abrasion; this was all on the face; around the neck there were several contusions, also on abdomen and on lower part of the legs; examined chest; the ribs on the right side were broken half way between the spine and sternum; the ribs on the left side were broken off at the spine; the sternum was broken in two places; a blow on the sternum might have broken the ribs on both sides but a blow on the side would not in my opinion have broken the ribs of both sides; think a blow of a ram might have broken the ribs on both sides, but could not by one blow have caused all the contusions on the breast; the marks on the face I think would not have been caused by the trampling of a ram; as far as the wounds were concerned they might have been caused by the head of a ram; I have seen a strong healthy man have his sternum and ribs fractured as badly as this woman and walk a step or two afterwards.
Cross-examined -- It is possible that the ribs may have been fractured as they were and death not ensue immediately; there were 6 or 7 distinct blows on the chest.
Christina Watt, sworn -- Am sister of prisoner; was examined at inquest; recollect Wednesday 28th October last; father went away that morning to Gillies' Mills; I got up shortly after daybreak; saw Mullan and Braiden; didn't hear them conversing with grandmother; saw prisoner about 8 that morning; saw him when Mullan was catching sheep, standing at the door; he left at that time; grandmother came back from barn with me, and asked where prisoner was; she spoke of going to Lanark that day to buy tobacco; she then took breakfast, then went to get her pocket book; she said it was no wonder that George had slipped away that morning as he had taken her pocket book; she said she didn't care so much for the pocket book as for the ring she had had for 50 years and which was in the pocket book; she had no ring on that morning; she started for Campbell's and this was about 10 o'clock; she always looked at the timepiece on going away and this time I heard her say "dear me, it is about 10 o'clock"; grandmother could not walk very fast.
Mary Watt, sworn -- Am another sister of prisoner; when we were preparing the breakfast, Mullan came in and it was then about 8 o'clock; he stayed about fifteen minutes; saw brother George then; did not see anything in his hands; I washed grandmother's hands that morning and saw no ring on her finger; this was after breakfast; she often told me to go and get her pocket book for her, and always knew where to find it; don't think it would be fifteen minutes from the time Mullan left until the washing of her hands; think it would be 2 hours from the leaving of Mullan until Granny started for Campbell's.
Jane Watt, The Younger, sworn -- Knew of a vicious ram at Shanks'; he knocked me down; I was sitting milking when he knocked me down; a little girl hunted him off with a stick; he was a middling sized ram; had no horns; haven't seen ring on grandmother for a good while; kept it in her pocket book; told Mr. Shanks, my mother and my grandmother of the ram striking me; Mr. Shanks' daughter said he would have killed her only for her father; he chased Mrs. Shanks; they blindfolded the ram so that he could not see; have had no conversation with father since; Mr. Shanks killed the ram about a month ago; have seen Shanks' sheep in the old clearing at different times.
William Miller, -- Confirmed testimony previously given.
Christina Watt, recalled -- Contradicted testimony of her sister as to time of breakfasting that morning.
Jane Watt, sworn -- Didn't see prisoner after 7½ that Wednesday morning; I rose before 6; Mullan and Braiden came between 6 and 7 and went away about 8; went down to barn with them; it was 9 o'clock before my mother and I had breakfast; had no ring on that morning; I think prisoner had boots on that morning.
George Watt, Sr., sworn -- Am father of prisoner; I examined the hand of deceased on the Monday morning before her death and she had no ring on then.
After the verdict was rendered, the learned Judge inquired whether there was anything further against the prisoner, and on request of the Crown Counsel, detained him in custody to answer to the charge of stealing the pocket book and ring referred to in the evidence.

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