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Butler, Charles (1794–1826)

Charles Butler, who was tried yesterday week and found guilty of murdering a woman named Collins; who was sentenced to pay the forfeit of his life on the following Monday; was in some measure prepared for the awful event, but had it deferred from that day, suffered on Thursday morning. He professed himself a protestant. The Rev. Mr. Cowper attended him assiduously, and endeavoured to bring the unfortunate man to a sense of the enormity of the crime for which justice demanded that he should suffer a premature — and ignominious death — that an open confession of the part which he taken in depriving the hapless woman Collins of existence, would not tend to make his final exit from this world the more painful, nor detract from that show of commisseration which witnesses of his untimely end would naturally feel, and which it was a foolish and a very general idea with many persons unfortunately situated like himself, would not be afforded, when the culprit promptly confessed his crimes, and that his punishment was called for to appease the laws of outraged justice. On Monday, when the fatal warrant was momentarily expected to arrive, Collins appeared firm and composed in his demeanor. He spoke but little, and maintained his innocence of the horrifying crime of murder. Subsequently he admitted having been present when the woman met her death, but denied any participation in it himself. He accused two men, who have since been apprehended and lodged in Gaol, of having been the assassins. That those were the men, who having rowed in a boat with himself, and the woman Collins, to some distance up the Hawkesbury River, satisfied their murderous dispositions by throwing their hapless victim overboard. Whether any violence had been committed on her previously to this taking place, he would not disclose. From the circumstance of a severe gash being discovered on the cheek bone, when the body was found, it was conjectured that some additional violence had been offered. At nine o'clock, or a few minutes after, of Thursday morning, Charles Butler left one of the condemned cells, repaired to the usual place of execution, at the back of the gaol, and, after passing a short time in prayer, with the Rev. Clergyman, ascended to the fatal platform. When the ministers of death had completed their preparations, and when the last sound of retreating footsteps, as the Clergyman and others descended from the scaffold, had died away, the drop was let fall – the criminal became suspended between earth and heaven. His agonies appeared long and painful, and between seven and eight minutes had slowly expired, before the body ceased to exhibit symptoms of animation. This unnecessary prolongation of punishment, at the view of which humanity shudders, was thought to originate in the executioner's negligence. This unhappy man had a wife, she appeared to have scarcely seen 17 winters, and in her manners, exhibited symptoms of strong and unaffected grief.

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'Butler, Charles (1794–1826)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/butler-charles-17398/text29133, accessed 25 September 2017.

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