The Brisbane Courier Tuesday 2 September 1895
SUPPOSED MYSTERIOUS MURDER. DETAILS DISCOVERED BY THE POLICE.
THE MYSTERY SOLVED. RESULT OF AN ILLEGAL OPERATION.
FOUR ARRESTS MADE. SYDNEY, September 2.
The first impression conveyed by the ghastly discovery of the mutilated body of a woman at Woolloomooloo Bay that a foul murder of
an unusual nature had been committed has been dissipated by later evidence. The story is simply that of a young country girl who had yielded to temptation, and who, with the weight of that one false slip, had left her home to hide her shame. In her plight she had recourse to those whose trade it is to serve those who are thus circumstanced, and two days after she had taken this fatal step her pathetic story was ended by death, for if what has been told, to
the police be true, on Tuesday she entered the place, and on Friday was dead. The method adopted in the disposal of the body was so unusual that details were furnished to the police that put them promptly on the track of the culprits, and early this morning they were in possession of many of the details already stated. They knew that the poor girl's name was Jessie Amelia Nicholls, and that she was the daughter of respectable farming people, who for years
past had lived at Windsor, a town not far from Parramatta.
Mrs. Nicholls had pleaded with her daughter not to leave her home, but without avail. The girl slipped away to the city, where she took refuge with a friend, resisting the artifices employed to induce her once more to place herself under her mother's care. From her friend's house In Paddington she stole away to No. 20 Elizabeth-street.
What happened subsequently is now made clear by willing
First carne the story that three women had been observed dumping a box in Duke street, Woolloomooloo last night from a buggy, which was driven away a moment later at high speed. Then followed the actual finding of the case and the disclosures of its contents, with the subsequent post-mortem examination. The publication of the details of this discovery led to the information being volunteered to the police that residents in Elizabeth-street
last night had their attention drawn to the unusual spectacle of two men lifting a large and apparently heavy case into a buggy during the early hours of the Sunday evening. The house round which suspicion centred was No. 20 Elizabeth-street, which was well known as having been devoted to matrimonial agency purposes, and at a later date of having become the headquarters of a pseudo medical establishment, called the British Medical Institute. The man the
police wanted was the proprietor of this Institute, named Thomas Meredith Sheridan; who had already served a long sentence for, having been concerned in an illegal operation.
By 9 o'clock this morning five officers were waiting at the house to arrest its inmates. The first man pounced upon was Edward Thomas, alias Edwards.
He was quickly despatched to the lockup to be out of the way, and then the police, concealed in different hiding-places, waited
for five long hours for the principal. Finally, at half-past 2 o'clock, Sheridan was observed to enter the premises and make his way towards the back. Fearing that he was armed, four officers threw themselves upon him, but instead of firearms they found his pockets filled with medical instruments, some of which it is alleged could be used for an Illegal purpose. Sheridan was loud In his protestations that he was In no way connected with the death of the
girl Nicholls, and when shown spots of blood on the floor of his room and a large stain, beneath the operating chair, he stated that the spots could be easily explained away. He also accounted for the stain beneath the chair by alleging that he had dropped a bottle of peppermint there. The police, however, refusing to believe this story, at once charged him with murder, and searched his rooms. A further lot of operating instruments were discovered there,
together with a number of letters written by women. These at once disclosed the purpose to which the business of the establishment was devoted, but what was still more singular was the number of women who visited the place while the police were lying in wait.
So far the police had only circumstantial evidence to rely upon, but later on they made a most important arrest by seizing Elizabeth Chapman, caretaker of the house, and charging her with being
accessory to the murder of the girl Nicholls. The woman became alarmed at her association with the crime that she made a clean breast to the police, her story is that on Tuesday Sheridan came to her, and asked her if she could provide accommodation and take charge for a few days of a girl. Though she demurred at first, Chapman yielded to Sheridan's solicitations, and provided a room for the deceased, who entered the house on the following morning,
occupying a room on the first floor of the house. Nothing is known of what happened from the time of the girl's entrance until Friday morning, when Chapman found her lying in her bed cold and rigid. Hurrying to Sheridan she told him what had happened, and, according to her statement, he at once reassured her by saying that it would be all right, and he would see to the rest. She never saw the body again. On Sunday night, however, Sheridan mentioned to her
that he had to take a case of goods away to a friend's house, and then she saw him, with the aid of another man, lift a large case into a buggy, which was standing at the door, and drive away, Chapman also asserted that she had been instructed to make away with the clothing worn by the deceased, and said that she carried them to a registry office near by. To prove that she was telling the truth she took the detectives to the place, and there they found
under a table two bundles of clothing, which have yet to be identified as belonging to the deceased.
Following Chapman's arrest, the police decided also to take in custody a man named John Seawell, who is said to have been living in tho house with Chapman. He is also charged with being accessory after the fact, but he denies all complicity in the affair.
Thomas, the man who was first arrested, was charged with being concerned in the murder. He
asserts that he was merely the occupant of the house, having purchased the business there a short time ago from a man named Lascelles.
The inquest on the body of the deceased was begun to-day, when the body was identified by the girl's mother. The inquiry was then adjourned till the 10th instant.
The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 3 September 1895
HOW THE MYSTERY WAS UNRAVELLED. THE FIRST ARREST.
Never before, perhaps, in the history of the colony has a mysterious crime been run to earth with such celerity as in the case of the death of the young woman whose body has been identified as that of Jessie Amelia Nicholls. Detectives
Goulder, Greaves and Jones, who were specially told off to unravel the mystery, and practically completed their work by 7 o'clock last evening, and deserve great credit for their skill and energy. The clue was obtained early in the morning, and in consequence of the information gathered by the detectives they took possession of premises situated at No 20 Elizabeth-street city, and known as the "British Medical Institute." The detectives effected
an entrance through one of the back windows at about 9.45 am, and upon entering were at once wellnigh overpowered with a sickening smell arising seemingly from the recent presence of a decomposed body or chemicals, or both. There was also a strong smell of carbolic acid and peppermint.
The detectives had not been waiting long before a man, who afterwards gave his name as Edward Thomas, entered tho room, and was astonished upon being confronted by the
police. Upon being questioned he declaimed having had any connection with the establishment, but shortly afterwards he admitted that he was the proprietor of the "Institute," having purchased it about a fortnight ago for the sum of £75 Upon being further interrogated by the police he admitted that his principal assistant was "Dr" Sheridan. The accused seemed extremely agitated. Having been taken by surprise and not being aware of the
extent of the knowledge of the detectives, he was entirely off his guard Thomas was then taken to the detective office, where he was detained pending further inquiry and developments.
THE FOURTH ARREST.
Shortly after 6 o'clock the detectives effected the fourth arrest, that of a Swede named John Seawell, the man who assisted Sheridan to lift the case into the buggy. He was arrested as he entered the premises. He described himself as a sailor, and had
been residing on the premises in Elizabeth street as the husband of the caretaker, Sarah Chapman, also under arrest. He was conveyed to the Water Police station and there charged with being an accessory after the fact to the murder of Jessie Amelia Nicholls.
Tuesday 3 September 1895
TRAGEDY IN SYDNEY. THE MYSTERY UNRAVELLED, THE BODY IDENTIFIED.
FOUR ARRESTS MADE.
What at first blush bore many mysterious and startling features, justifying some in thinking that a deliberately planned murder had been successfully carried out, was put in a very different light yesterday, when the
detective department had finished its work. Whatever may be the sequel to the ghastly find made in Duke-street on Sunday night, it is now beyond doubt that foul play, in its ordinary acceptance, was not the cause. Indeed, save for the gruesome circumstances under which the victim of the tragedy was disposed of, the case differs little, if at all, from many of those tragedies whose last act is played out at the Central Criminal Court.
A young girl fresh
from the country, having yielded to temptation, came to town for the double purpose of hiding her fall and avoiding the after-consequences. In this pitiable pass she had recourse, it seems, to those who make it their trade to minister to sadly-pressed girls who have made a false stop, and, without the power to discriminate, and with no one in whom she would confide, the poor creature placed herself blindly in what proved to be most dangerous hands.
tragic upshot proved her rashness. In rather more than two days from the time she entrusted herself to her "friends " the fatal stop had closed in death, It has been learned now that on Tuesday Jessie Nichols the name of the unfortunate girl-was in comparatively good health, and on Friday evening she was stretched lifeless in a little front room in Elizabeth-street.
The history of the tragedy is a very simple one, and now that the detectives
have completed their prompt efforts, there is no longer any room for mystery or surmise. Indeed, it will be seen that the woman Chapman-one of those arrested in connection with the matter-places the sombre affair in a light there is no mistaking. It seems that Jessie Nicholls left her home at Windsor last Tuesday.
She had been living with her parent, who are highly respectable farmers in that district, and she gave them no warning of her intention to
come to town. Indeed, her excuse for leaving the house was that she intended to post a letter However, she came to Sydney, and first visited the house of a friend in Oxford street. This lady, although as she states, unaware of the girls condition, advised her to return to her home and Miss Nicholls promised to do so. She left the house in Oxford-street and, whether she had been in communication previously or not with those among whom she was so soon to
die, appears to have gone direct to 26 Elizabeth-street. It was here that she underwent the treatment that was to have so terrible an ending.
To understand the pathetic narrative of the girl's visit to town the better, it will be simpler to pass over the discovery of the body in Duke-street and take up the account of the police operations yesterday. It will then be made clear how the time between Tuesday, when she left the house in Oxford-street, till
Friday, the day of her death, was passed. Early yesterday morning the detectives were hard at work hot on every clue that might lead to some result. It was not long before their industry was rewarded, and soon after 9 o'clock four or five men, under Superintendent Larkin, went to 26 Elizabeth-street. At this address there are two smallish rooms on the ground floor, and here what is styled the "British Medical Institute" flourishes. The police
officers laid violent hands on the British Medical Institute, forcing the windows of the back room and concealing themselves, in view of contingencies. Other detectives guarded the back and front entrances. The officers had not long to wait. Towards 10 o'clock a man come briskly up the street, stopped at No. 26, and entered the front room. He was obviously the proprietor or a very familiar visitor, and the detectives lost no time in questioning him. He
gave his name as Edward Thomas, and denied at first any knowledge of the British Medical Institute its business, or proprietor. A few searching inquires led him to retract his first statement, and he admitted that he was a part proprietor in the business, having bought a share in it quite recently. Then he was told the nature of the suspicions against him, and was arrested on the charge of being concerned in the murder of Jessie Nicholls. To this charge he
professed complete ignorance. It was known to the police that a second man, and, as their information led them to believe, the principal mover in the sombre affair was in the habit of coming to the offices daily, they waited anxiously for the time when he should make his appearance. Meanwhile, his house and likely haunts were watched, so that if it were his intention to leave the city it might be frustrated. As the morning passed away, and the man gave no
sign of appearing, the detectives began to grow anxious, but they waited on, and their judgment was soon to be justified. About 2.30 he came into the office with as little hesitancy as his partner, but, unexpectedly confronted by the officers, he betrayed much greater confusion and alarm than the first man indeed, his nerve, from some cause or other, appeared to desert him utterly, and he came near to collapse when the charge was read to him. This man's
name was Thomas Meredith Sheridan he, too, declared his innocence of the charge against him.
When the men had been taken to the watch house the officers returned to Elizabeth-street and made a thorough overhaul of the ground floor. What they found amply convinced them that they were on the right track. About the front room there was that indescribably sickening smell that exhales from nothing but a dead body, on the carpet there were tell tale crimson
splashes which a vigorous scrubbing had not been able to efface, and about the room there were instruments and documents and material that told plainly enough the character of the British Medical Institute. Then this close scrutiny led the police to pursue their inquiries in another part of the building. If the tragedy had actually been consummated in the building someone ought to have valuable evidence to give, and in this belief the detectives visited
the rooms of the housekeeper on the top floor. What they heard from her made the finding of the body in Duke-street plain. This woman, Sarah Chapman, told the detectives all she know of the affair, and they do not doubt the truth of her story, which, indeed, corroborates itself. On Tuesday last the young girl came to the house and Sheridan, she declares, operated on her. At his request she placed the girl in one of her rooms and attended upon her, but Miss
Nicholls rapidly sank and died on Friday. And here she supplied an extraordinary detail in the painful story. It was not, she declared, till after death that Sheridan used his knife upon the girl's body, and that extraordinary statement she explains by the assertion that Sheridan told her that he wished to ascertain the cause of death. However that may be, the rest of the woman's story is straightforward enough. When the girl had breathed her last on
Friday the corpse was carried down to the front room below, and there it remained till Sheridan procured the packing-case on Saturday. Then, once more behind locked doors, the body was left to itself; nor does the fact of such a forbidding burden being in the house appear to have disturbed the peace of the woman or the man Seawell, who lived in the rooms upstairs. At any rate they occupied their portion of the house as usual, and on Sunday evening they let
in Sheridan, who came, by arrangement, with a buggy. Then, according to the woman's statement, she held the horse whilst Sheridan and Seawell placed the package in the trap. It may be mentioned here that John Seawell is also under arrest.
Beyond this there is little more to tell. Sheridan is a man of about 45 years of age, has practised as a chemist in various places for many years, and has once before been arraigned and sentenced on a criminal charge.
He holds no English certificate, but has a French diploma that certifies to his possession of certain qualifications. In his room many letters were taken, and they showed that he has been carrying on an extensive traffic of a certain kind. Thomas, who is supposed to have an alias of Edwards, is a much younger man, and the police know nothing of his past. Seawell is a sailor who has cohabited with the woman Chapman, and those two are only charged with being
accessories after the fact. What was the motive, and what the reason for depositing the case in Duke-street is not known, and it can only be surmised that the intention was to throw it in the bay, When near the water the nerve of the men seems to have deserted them, and the cargo was suddenly placed in the street in the position in which it was found. Whether the fatal operation was commenced at Elizabeth-street is not yet quite clear. It was supposed by
the Darlinghurst police that the operation was commenced at a house in Paddington, and that the girl was afterwards taken to Elizabeth-street. In this belief Sergeant Sawtell caused two women living in Paddington to be placed under arrest, but they were afterwards released.
THE INQUEST. IDENTIFICATION OF THE BODY
The inquest on the remains of the woman was commenced at the South Sydney Morgue yesterday afternoon, before Mr. J. C. Woore, City Coroner.
Mary Ann Nicholls, a married woman, residing with her husband, a poultry and dairy farmer at Mulgrave, about three miles from Windsor, after viewing the
body, identified it as that of her daughter, Jessie Amelia Nicholls, who was 23 years of age on the 15th June last. Witness identified tho body by a deformed finger, but was unable to recognise the features. Deceased was a native of Freeman's Reach, and was a single woman residing with witness. At about 7 am on Tuesday morning last, deceased left her home stating that she was going to the post-office to post a letter. Deceased did not return and
witness did not again see her alive. When deceased left her home she was wearing a valuable ring. Deceased had been engaged in assisting witness in household duties.
At this stage the Coroner adjourned the inquest until 10 o'clock on Tuesday, 10th September, at the Coroner's Court, Chancery-square.
HOW THE MYSTERY WAS UNRAVELLED. THE FIRST ARREST.
Never before, perhaps, in the history of the colony has a mysterious crime been run to
earth with such celerity as in the case of the death of the young woman whose body has been identified as that of Jessie Amelia Nicholls. Detectives Goulder, Greaves and Jones, who were specially told off to unravel the mystery, and practically completed their work by 7 o'clock last evening, and deserve great credit for their skill and energy. The clue was obtained early in the morning, and in consequence of the information gathered by the detectives they
took possession of premises situated at No 20 Elizabeth-street city, and known as the "British Medical Institute." The detectives effected an entrance through one of the back windows at about 9.45 am, and upon entering were at once wellnigh overpowered with a sickening smell arising seemingly from the recent presence of a decomposed body or chemicals, or both. There was also a strong smell of carbolic acid and peppermint.
The detectives had
not been waiting long before a man, who afterwards gave his name as Edward Thomas, entered tho room, and was astonished upon being confronted by the police. Upon being questioned he declaimed having had any connection with the establishment, but shortly afterwards he admitted that he was the proprietor of the "Institute," having purchased it about a fortnight ago for the sum of £75 Upon being further interrogated by the police he admitted that
his principal assistant was "Dr" Sheridan. The accused seemed extremely agitated. Having been taken by surprise and not being aware of the extent of the knowledge of the detectives, he was entirely off his guard Thomas was then taken to the detective office, where he was detained pending further inquiry and developments.
THE ARREST OF THE ALLEGED PRINCIPAL. DISCOVERY OF INSTRUMENTS.
After this the police had a long wait, the three
detectives still holding possession of the premises. Detectives Greaves and Jones remained on the inside of the building, Superintendent Larkins and Detective Goulder being secreted in a place outside the building where every passer-by could be easily seen.
At about 2.30 in the afternoon Sheridan was observed to enter the promises Notwithstanding the fact that the hours of the' Dr " were posted outside as "9 am till 7pm," this was his
first appearance at his place of business Sheridan was first seen to enter the building by the officer stationed on tho outside of it, and they at once rushed after him. By this time Sheridan had been seen by the detectives on the inside to go along the passage to the back, seemingly to the caretaker's quarters, and all four officers made a move to the one centre, thus flanking Sheridan as he was in the act of returning from the yard at the end of the
The detectives, fearing that Sheridan might be provided with firearms, at once proceeded to search him, and found his pockets loaded with a large number of instruments, some of which would undoubtedly be used for illegal purposes. Sheridan at once showed great agitation. Seldom has a man shown. such excitement and fear under arrest as did Sheridan yesterday afternoon when he found himself face to face with four detectives.
being searched and relieved of the possession of his instruments, was escorted to the detectives office, which is situated almost immediately at the rear of the scene of the tragedy. Here again he was spoken to about the affair, but denied all knowledge of or connection with the operation.
THE CHARGE OF MURDER.
After this Sheridan was again taken to the rooms of the " British Medical Institute," and was shown various spots of blood
about the floor, some of which appeared to have been recently cleansed. He was also shown a part of some liquid which had saturated the carpet of the floor.
The detectives also discovered in the room several instruments, which were also shown to Sheridan, who tried to explain their use. Sheridan's attention was also called to certain letters of which the police obtained possession referring to applications from, people in the country for certain things
to be done.
The accused said that the spots of blood were nothing, and could be easily accounted for, and that the pool was caused by a bottle of peppermint having been dropped there some weeks before.
Sheridan and Thomas were then conveyed to the Water Police Station. Sheridan was charged "with having caused the death of Jessie Amelia Nicholls." Thomas was charged "with having been concerned in the murder" of the girl.
WOMAN ARRESTED. AN IMPORTANT STATEMENT.
At about 5 pm, in consequence of certain facts which the detectives had gathered in the course of their investigations, the female caretaker of the premises was interviewed in regard to the mystery, which by this time had been well nigh unravelled. She at first stoutly denied all knowledge of, or any connection with, the tragedy, but afterwards made a lengthy statement.
In this statement made and signed in the
presence of several police officers at the detective office, the woman, who gave her name as Sarah Chapman, said that the girl had been brought to her place by Sheridan about the middle of last week. She at first hesitated about receiving the girl, but afterwards upon Sheridan saying it was only for a few days and would be all right, she consented. The statement further said that a certain operation had been performed there, and that a day or two after, on
Friday morning last, the girl died. She discovered deceased dead in her bed, and upon informing Sheridan of the fact, he went upstairs to see the body. "Dr" Sheridan with the aid of an instrument then ripped up the abdomen, to ascertain, as he said, the cause of death. The statement further went on to say that she did not again see the body, and that on Saturday morning Sheridan told her that he had removed it.
HOW THE BODY WAS REMOVED.
THE MOVEMENTS DETECTED.
The sworn statement of the woman goes on to say that she knew nothing further until Sunday night, when she was requested to hold the head of a horse attached to a buggy which was standing outside the premises in Elizabeth street. Sheridan went inside to get a wooden case which he said he was desirous of taking home. This case was shortly afterwards brought out by Sheridan and another man, and with considerable difficulty was
lifted into the buggy. The woman released the horse's head, and Sheridan and his assistant, who gave the name as Seawell, and who also lived on the premises, rapidly drove away. This was at about 8.20 on Sunday night.
The woman in her statement denies any knowledge of the contents of the box.
It appears, that a number of residents in the vicinity saw the buggy being driven away with a large case on Sunday evening, and the statement of the woman in
regard to the removal of the body from the premises in Elizabeth-street has been confirmed in every particular.
The Sydney Morning Herald Thursday 26 September 1895
ACCUSED BEFORE THE POLICE COURT.
At the Water Police Court yesterday the four persons accused in connection with the death of Jessie Amelia Nicholls were brought up and remanded to the following day on the same bail as formerly. Thomas Meredith Sheridan was charged with the murder
of the girl. Edward Thomas, or Edwards, with being concerned in the murder while Sarah Chapman and John Seawall were accused of being accessories after the fact.
The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 19 November 1895
CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT. (Before Mr. Justice Simpson)
THE CHARGES AGAINST SHERIDAN AND SEAWELL
Thomas Meredith Sheridan was charged with having, at Sydney, on the 10th of August last, feloniously, and maliciously murdered Jessie Amelia Nicholls and, in connection with the same case, John Seawell was charged
with being an accessory after the fact Mr Pollock and Mr Pickburn, instructed by Mr Bums, appeared for Sheridan, and Mr W. J. Hill defended Seawell.
The Crown Prosecutor (Mr C. G. Wade) in opening the case stated that the charge against Sheridan was that he caused tho death of Jessie Amelia Nicholls through performing au illegal act-an act obviously dangerous to human life, and in this case carrying with it the penalty of the girl's death.
regard to Seawell the meaning of the charge of his being an accessory after the fact was that knowing of the offence which Sheridan committed he did some act which helped Sheridan to conceal the crime or prevent it being traced in the ordinary manner by the police authorities, and one of the chief charges against him was that, knowing that Sheridan had caused the death of the girl, he helped him to dispose of the body, and by that act destroyed what would
be the chief evidence of guilt in the matter.
The case of Seawell could not be dealt with till the guilt at Sheridan was proved. Briefly put, the facts were -Sheridan for some time previous to August and September of the present year had been carrying on a kind of business at a place in Elizabeth-street called "The British Medical Institute." He had an office or surgery on the ground-floor, and adjoining it was a waiting-room, presumably for
patients. The upper floor was occupied by a woman named Mrs. Chapman, who was living with the prisoner Seawell. These people were all there during the latter part of August last, when the death of Jessie Nicholls, a young unmarried woman, in a pregnant condition, took place. After detailing the circumstances which led to the discovery of the body and the grounds which led to the arrest and committal of the accused, the Crown Prosecutor proceeded to state
that there was medical evidence to show that the incision in the body had been made obviously with a view to removing something, which would form important evidence in connection with the charge.
The post-mortem examination showed that after the incision had been made the operator had acted in an unskilful and violent manner It would thus appear from the evidence available that having failed to bring about a certain result by his ordinary method the
accused Sheridan resorted to extreme and unlawful measures, and the medical evidence tended to show that the injuries indicted were so serious that death would naturally ensue about 12 hours after they had been inflicted.
Sheridan denied all knowledge of the material circumstances of the death, as also did Seawell With regard to Seawall's assumed connection with the case, the facts were that he had resided on the promises where the death took place,
that he was on intimate terms with Sheridan, and that subsequently when on oath, he admitted certain circumstances which implicated him. The only question was, whether Seawall's part was performed with a knowledge of the offence which had been committed by Sheridan. The jury's duty would be to decide the points that had been set forth on the evidence which would be adduced.
Mrs Nicholls, mother of the deceased, stated that her daughter was 23 years of
age, and was a girl of strong physique. Witness repeated the story of her daughter's departure from home, her (witness's) visit to Sydney and search for the girl, the subsequent identification of the dead body, and the clothing her daughter had worn, the details being substantially the same as those published with the evidence given at the inquest. In answer to a question as to why she objected to her daughter going to Sydney, witness said it was because
deceased was her only help in the house, and also because deceased had been on a visit to Sydney about six weeks previously. Witness had no suspicion as to her daughter's state till the young man May told her on the day that the girl was missed from home.
Herbert William May deposed that he followed the occupation of a farmer in the Windsor district, and was engaged to the deceased. He was aware that deceased was pregnant. She informed witness of her
state about two months prior to her death, and he understood that she had been in that condition about 41/2 months. When he saw Mrs Nicholls on the day her daughter departed for Sydney he informed her of her daughter's state, and also promised to marry her at once. He subsequently proceeded to Sydney with that intention.
Lucy Graham (aunt of the deceased), residing at 208 Oxford street Paddington, deposed that she had known
Sheridan for about two and a half years. He had been at her house twice during that time, and she had also seen him at the house of her daughter (Mrs. Holmes) at 22 Stewart-street, Paddington, where he and his wife had been lodgers for some months. Miss Nicholls, when she called at her house on 27th August, told her that she had quarrelled with her mother. The girl was much depressed and cried as she spoke of her quarrel with her mother.
Holmes, a married daughter of the previous witness, residing at 22 Stewart-street Paddington, stated that the deceased only visited her once before placing herself under Sheridan's treatment. She only remained about 20 minutes when she called, and, though she mentioned her pregnancy to witness, did not say how far she was advanced in that state.
Witness advised deceased to tell her mother of her condition. Shortly afterwards the girl went away, and
witness did not see her alive again.
Sarah Chapman, who was the caretaker of the premises occupied by Sheridan as a business place, repeated the details of the statement she previously made as to the intimation Sheridan first made to her regarding his desire that she would attend to the patient Nicholls, as to the girl's arrival, appearance, and conduct whilst at No 26 Elizabeth-street, and as to the circumstances of the death and the operation
subsequently performed by Sheridan. When Sheridan asked her to take the girl in and attend to her he said she needed careful nourishment. Witness at first demurred about having deceased in the house, but subsequently consented, as Sheridan stated that he wished to have the patient in the house so that he could give her the constant attention she needed. When the girl came she looked pale, but appeared strong and heart, and was apparently in good spirits.
Seawell only saw deceased once while she was in the house at dinner time on the day of the girl's arrival and he went away shortly afterwards.
To Mr Hill: Seawell expressed surprise at finding the girl in the house, as it was a most unusual thing to have a patient there, and he was somewhat displeased about it. Witness slept in the same room as deceased, and during the night preceding the girl's death she (witness) woke about midnight, and the patient,
who then appeared restless, asked for a drink of water. At 5 o'clock in the morning, the girl was moaning and complained of pains. She had a wild look in her eyes, but witness did not then think that her condition was so serious as subsequent of events proved it to have been. When Sheridan made the incision in the body-about six or seven hours after death-he remarked, in answer to some expressed anxiety on the part of witness, "It is my trouble, I
will see to the rest "
Joseph Fleet, cellarman at Bowden's Hotel, repeated his evidence as to Sheridan calling at the hotel on the morning of the 31st August, and witness noticed that there were some blood stains on one of his shirt cuffs. He believed, but would not swear, that Sheridan remarked that he had been performing an operation.
The evidence of Herbert Richards an employee at Cowan and Co 's warehouse, with reference to the
purchase of the case in which the body of the deceased was subsequently found, having been heard, Detective Goulder tendered formal evidence of the arrest, and the Court then adjourned till to-day.
The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday 20 November 1895
CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT.-TUESDAY. (Before Mr. Justice Burrow.)
THE CHARGE AGAINST SHERIDAN AND SEAWELL.
The hearing of the case against Thomas Merideth Sheridan and John Seawell, in connection with the death of Jessie Amelia Nicholls, at 20 Elizabeth street, Sydney, on 30th August last, was resumed.
Pollock and Pickburn, instructed by Mr Burns, appeared for Sheridan Seawell being represented by Mr. W. J. Hill.
Edmund Haines deposed to having seen Sheridan and Seawell drinking together at the Star Hotel, at the intersection of Hunter and Phillip streets, shortly after the death of the girl Nicholls is said to have taken place.
Detective Goulder deposed to having found on Sheridan at the time of arrest, a letter (produced) written from Captain's
Flat bearing date 31st August, 1895 stating the condition of a certain young woman, aged about 17 years, and inquiring what would be the cost of an operation. A reply which had been prepared for the post by Sheridan was also found on him when arrested, and in the letter he undertook to perform the operation at a charge of £10 10s, and £3 is for nursing expenses. Some pamphlets and other printed documents found on the premises occupied by
Sheridan, and implying that operations would be undertaken, were also put in as evidence.
Evidence as to the conversations which took place when Sheridan and Seawell were arrested, as to the statements made by Mrs Chapman when questioned relative to the death and disposal of the body, and as to the suspicious discoveries made when the promises were visited, was circumstantially given by witness. Witness further stated that when a statement made by Sarah
Chapman was read over to her in Seawell's presence, Seawell admitted having assisted Sheridan to take the box containing the dead body and place it in the buggy, and stated that on the morning of Saturday, the 31st August, Sheridan had given him 3s for the purpose of purchasing a box, and had asked him to avoid the principal streets when bringing the case to Sheridan's business place. Evidence similar to that reported when the case was before
the Police Court was given by Catherine Kirchner, Mrs Cody, Constable Griffiths Mr. W. M. Hamlet, James Feeney, John Smith, Detective Greaves, and Dr. Rennie.
The Court adjourned till the usual hour to-day.
The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 26 November 1895
A statement has been made by the condemned man Thomas Meredith Sheridan to his solicitor.
Sheridan says that Edward Thomas, who is under committal for conspiracy, had no knowledge of the circumstances connected with the death of Jessie Amelia Nicholls.
He further declares that Miss Nicholls was the only patient received
at Elizabeth-street for treatment and that Thomas took over the business believing it to be a general medical and dental practice.
NEW SOUTH WALES. SYDNEY, JANUARY 6. 1896
THE CONDEMNED MAN SHERIDAN.
The case of Sheridan, who was sentenced to death for the murder of Jessie Nicholls, formed the subject of an appeal to the Premier to-day by a large number of members of Parliament, who urged that It would be in the interests of society that Sheridan's life should be spared from the hangman.
Premier, in reply, quoted the criminal law, to show that an act should be deemed malicious if it were done without regard for human life, and he said surely the practice of abortion came under that heading.
Sheridan came here in 1884, and began his evil practices, and he was convicted on two charges, while two similar charges were abandoned, and he was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment. He was released at the end of seven years, but he at once
began his evil practices again.
That was the sort of man the Executive had to deal with. However, a special meeting of the Executive would be held to consider the facts placed before him.
A meeting of the Executive took place during the afternoon, and after a long sitting it was decided that there was no reason why the law should not take its course. This decision was communicated to his Excellency the Governor at Bowral, who approved of it. Sheridan
will, therefore, be hanged to-morrow morning at Darlinghurst Gaol.
The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 7 January 1896
THE CONDEMNED MAN SHERIDAN TO BE EXECUTED THIS MORNING.
A TOUCHING FAREWELL.
Thomas Meredith Sheridan, who is lying under sentence of death for the murder of Jessie Amelia Nicholls, will be executed in Darlinghurst Goal at 9 o'clock this morning the condemned man was not informed of the agitation made to obtain a reprieve,
and was not therefore made aware of the final decision arrived at by the Cabinet yesterday afternoon. Ever since the jury returned the verdict of "guilty" Sheridan has shown by his manner that he keenly recognised the serious and hope loss position in which he was placed. He has not displayed that constant lingering hope for a reprieve exhibited to the last by such men when under a sentence of death. Notwithstanding this, however the goal
officials state that he has bravely borne up and his behaviour in the condemned cell for the past few weeks indicates that he will meet his doom without collapsing. His wife has visited him daily and a few of Ins intimate relatives and friends have been admitted by order of the Sheriff. The Roman Catholic chaplain, Father Carey, has been constant in his religious duties and the condemned man throughout has shown great and sincere attention to the rev.
gentleman's advice. The parting scene between the condemned man and his wife last evening was a very touching one Mrs. Sheridan, after the farewell words had been uttered, completely broke down, and left the cell shortly after 1 o'clock.
So overcome with grief was she, that it was necessary for an official to assist her along the pathway leading from the cell to the gates. She wept piteously, her little child three or four years of age, walking by her
side, and between her sobs she was heard to murmur in heart rending tones, "It is cruel-it is cruel." The goal officials who showed every consideration for the terrible situation in which the distracted woman was placed, conducted her to a seat in the room at the entrance gates, and when she had partially recovered she proceeded to her home. The Rev. Father Carey remained in the cell until a late hour in the night and Sheridan appeared to be
perfectly resigned to his fate.
The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday 8 January 1896
EXECUTION OF SHERIDAN. THE JESSIE NICHOLLS MURDER.
(By Telegraph from our Corespondent ) SYDNEY January 7
Thomas M. Sheridan, who was condemned to death some time ago for the murder of Jessie Nicholls, was executed at Darlinghurst Gaol this morning. Last night the prisoner said good-bye to his wife. He passed a very
restless night, but had a good breakfast. Sisters of Charity and the Rev. Father Carey visited him before 7 this morning, the priest being with him until death. There were a small group of visitors, at the prison, and three doctors, in addition to Dr. O'Connor, the gaol doctor. Sheridan was led out a few minutes after 9. He was remarkably cool and composed, and looked firmly at the drop, but never said a word. The execution was carried out without a hitch,
death being instantaneous. No perceivable twitching of the body took place after the bolt was drawn. After the body was allowed to hang the regulation time it was cut down and an inquest held.
The crime for which Sheridan was sentenced to death first came to light through the discovery of the mutilated body of a woman at Woolloomooloo Bay on 1st September. Inquiry proved that the body was that of Jessie Amelia Nicholls, the daughter of a farmer living
at Windsor, near Parramatta. The girl had come to Sydney, and was the victim of an illegal operation. Several arrests were made, including that of Elizabeth Chapman, caretaker of the house where the crime , was committed. She was charged with being accessory to the murder of the girl Nicholls. The woman became so alarmed at her association with the crime that she made a clean breast to the police. Her story was that on Tuesday Sheridan came to her, and
asked her if she could provide accommodation and take charge for a few days of a girl. Though she demurred at first, Chapman yielded to Sheridan's solicitations, and provided a room for the deceased, who entered the house on the following morning, occupying a room on the first floor of the house. Nothing was known of what happened from the time of the girl's entrance until Friday morning, when Chapman found her lying in her bed cold and rigid. Hurrying to
Sheridan, she told him what had happened, and, according to her statement, he at once reassured her by saying that it would be all right, and he would see to the rest. She never saw the body again. On Sunday night, however, Sheridan mentioned to her that he had to take a case of goods away to a friend's house, and then she saw him, with the aid of another man, lift a large case into a buggy, which was standing at the door, and drive away. Chapman also
asserted that she had been instructed to make away with the clothing worn by the deceased, and said that she carried them to a registry follicle near by. To prove that she was telling the truth, she took the detectives to the place, and there they found under a table two bundles of clothing, which have yet to be identified as belonging to the deceased.
In November Sheridan was sentenced to death, and agitations followed for his reprieve, but without
success. On Monday last the Premier of New South Wales was appealed to, and a special meeting of the Executive was held, at which it was finally decided that the law should take its course.
The Sydney Morning Herald Friday 21 February 1896
LAW REPORT. THE CASE OF SHERIDAN
Dr. Sly, instructed by Messrs Sly and Russell, appeared for the defendant in support of a demurrer to the plaintiff s declaration Dr Cullen, instructed by Mr Alfred Mitchell (agent for Mr. George M'Cauley, of Windsor), appeared for plaintiff in support of the declaration. The plaintiff, Mary
Ann Nicholls, ia suing the defendant company as proprietors of the Australian Star for alleged slander. In her declaration she set out that she was a resident of Mulgrave, Windsor, and her daughter, Jessie Amelia Nicholls, prior to her death resided with her.
On the 27th August, 1895, Jessie Amelia Nicholls left her home and came to Sydney, and on the 30th August she died from the effects a of a certain criminal operation and the
defendants, well knowing these facts, falsely and maliciously wrote and published of the plaintiff the words following:- "The deceased young lady resided with her parents at Mulgrave, and lately she confided to her mother that she was enceinte. She then said she would go to Sydney, and have an operation performed by a man named Sheridan, who she stated, was recommended to her by a woman in Sydney upon whom Sheridan had performed a similar operation.
The mother dissuaded her, but she said she was determined, and in order to prevent her as much as possible, the mother locked up nearly all her clothes."
The plaintiff complained that the slanderous innuendo contained in the above statement was that she knew her daughter was pregnant, and that she had come to Sydney to have a criminal operation performed, and that she (plaintiff) did not take steps and precautions to prevent it, as a moral and
reasonable person would have done. This declaration was demurred to by the defendants as being bad in substance, on the ground that the words complained of, in the declaration were not a libel on the plaintiff, and did not support the innuendo alleged or disclose any cause of action.
Dr. Sly opened his argument in opposition to the declaration, but was stopped by the Court, Dr. Cullen being called upon to show how the statement complained of was
defamatory, and how the alleged innuendo was made out.
Dr. Cullen contended that while they would not be bound to pay attention to the construction which an unreasonable man might place upon the words. The question was whether an ordinary reader would not conclude after reading them that they contained an innuendo that the plaintiff had taken no steps to prevent her daughter from lending herself to a criminal operation. There were cases which showed
that an action for libel would he upon something which was insinuated and not expressed, and he submitted that an ordinary person upon reading the words would understand them to convey the innuendo to which he had referred. The question of libel or no libel was for the jury, and he submitted that the prefatory averment was all that was necessary, and that the innuendo was sufficiently supported in the declaration. The words complained of were capable of
bringing plaintiff into blame among her neighbours: but if the Court was of opinion that the words were clearly not defamatory, it would be a very great comfort to the plaintiff to have such an expression of opinion, because he was in a position to state to the Court that the action was brought because plaintiff's neighbours blamed her. It was to clear her character, and if the words were, in the opinion of the Court, not libellous, it would be a mercy to
his client to say so.
The Chief Justice said that if it was the fact that the allegations contained were in point of fact untrue, the case was, no doubt a hard one upon the plaintiff. In his opinion, however, the defendant, on the record as it now stood, was entitled to succeed. It was quite clear that the words read by themselves and assuming that they formed the entire paragraph contained nothing defamatory upon the mother of this unfortunate young
lady. On the contrary the allegations were distinctly to her credit. It alleged that certain information was given to her by her daughter, who also communicated to her an intention to carry out a criminal purpose, and that then the mother not only endeavoured to dissuade her, but in order to present as much as possible the carrying out of such intention she locked up nearly all her daughter's clothes. It was said, however, that there was the allegation in
the prefatory averment that in point of fact the girl left her home on the 27th August and did not die until the 30th of text month. There was no allegation in the paragraph that the mother knew that her daughter had gone to Sydney, nor was there any profitory averment that she went to Sydney.
On the contrary, the fact was that outside the record, and according to the statements which had been made, the mother did not know anything about
this, and did not know that she had gone to Sydney until inquiries had been made and the unfortunate girl was found, to be dead be that there was nothing defamatory in the words, and in the next place there was nothing by way of prefatory averment to show in what way the innuendo might have been arrived at. In the case of Westgarth and another v Muruin, 12 S. C. R, page 1, the plaintiffs, a firm of stockbrokers, brought an action against an individual who
had put an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald and in the name of the plaintiffs, stating :-"For sale, by a party leaving Colony, 400 Peak Down shares at £2 Westgarth and Sons." Clearly there was nothing defamatory in the words themselves, but the prefatory averment was that in point of fact defendant advertised Peak Down shares as worth at that time only £2 per share, whereas they were worth £1 15s more, and that the statement was
utterly false and published for the purpose of injuring plaintiffs as brokers and for a dishonest purpose in endeavouring to bring down the shares in the market. On demurrer to the declaration it was held by the Court, consisting of Sir Alfred Stephen, Mr Justice Hargrave, and Mr Justice Faucett, that looking at the prefatory averment and also the innuendo, the declaration was good, though the Chief Justice had some doubt in coming to that conclusion.
There had been several cases in that court on the matter of demurrers to declarations. It was discussed in the case of Thurston v Hartley and wife. There the declaration was "that the female defendant in conversation with one Mrs. Heron at diverse times falsely and maliciously spoke and published of the plaintiff the words,
'have you heard the news about Mrs Thurston? I was told she had a baby; it is now four days old.' " It was held that the declaration was bad, on the ground that there was nothing defamatory in the words themselves, and that there was no prefatory averment to support the innuendo. In the present case the innuendo clearly was that the plaintiff did not take such steps and precautions between the 27th and 30th August that a moral
and reasonable person would have taken to prevent her daughter carrying out her expressed intention. That innuendo was too wide, and there was no prefatory averment before the Court to which it could attach, nor could it be attached to the paragraph complained of. There was no question that the issue of libel or no libel was for the jury, but it had been held in the English Courts, and also in this colony, that where it was clear on the face of the
declaration that there was no defamation alleged in the case, and no prefatory averment of the kind, it became the duty of the Court to hold that there was no case to go to the jury. He was satisfied that on the allegations in this declaration the words were not defamatory, and there was nothing to show that plaintiff could make it defamatory on the record. That being so, if the case went to a jury and they found for the plaintiff, it would clearly be the
duty of the Court to set the verdict aside judgment on the demurrer therefore must be entered for the defendant, but plaintiff ought to have leave to amend her declaration, in case Dr. Cullen could see that it could be so amended.
Mr. Justice Simpson said he was of the same opinion, but having presided at the trial of the man Sheridan he thought it was only right that he should say that on the evidence before him on that occasion he was perfectly
satisfied that Mrs. Nicholls did not know that her daughter was in the family way, or that she was going to Sydney for the purpose of having an illegal operation performed. It was only after Miss Nicholls had left her home with a wrapper upon her that her mother, upon making inquiries, ascertained from the young man who was engaged to her the position in which her daughter was. The unfortunate mother came to Sydney, and, in a state of distraction, searched
high and low for her, and the first time she saw her daughter in Sydney was when she saw her dead body at the morgue. She did not want her to leave home, and did all she could to prevent her from doing so, but the daughter told her mother she was going to the Mulgrave railway station to post a letter.
Dr. Cullen said that after that expression of opinion he would advise his client not to proceed further with the case. He understood that the whole object
of the action was to clear har character, as her neighbours assumed that she had the knowledge which she, rightly or wrongly, thought was alleged in the article.
Mr. Justice Cohen said he also concluded in the judgment of the Chief Justice.
Judgement on the demurrer entered for defence, and with liberty to plaintiff to amend her declaration if so advised.