Assault with Intent to Rape in 1846

Event Dates:

8 April 1846

John Carney was indicted for assaulting Martha Price on 8 April, with intent to commit a rape. The prisoner pleaded Not Guilty. The Advocate-General stated that the indictment charged the prisoner with an assault, with intent to commit a rape. The second count charged a common assault; and he briefly detailed the facts as afterwards proved in evidence, and concluded by remarking, it might be contended on the part of the prisoner the great improbability of a person seeking the bed of a female when another party was sleeping there; there was nothing, however, to prove the prisoner was aware of that fact.

Martha Price, a girl of about twelve years of age, servant of  Mr. John Snoswell, of the Old Bush Inn, Willunga, deposed that she went to bed with Louisa Hayman, on the night in question, about ten o’clock; after she had been to sleep, was awoke by finding a man lying on her, with nothing on but a shirt; felt his naked person; and immediately screamed for her master. By the Court – Called out because she was frightened, was afraid he was going to do her some harm. Examination continued – Mrs. Snoswell came to her assistance and the prisoner ran out; certain it was the prisoner; saw his face by the light of a lamp in her mistresses’ room, the door being partly open; there was a passage between the rooms; Mr. Snoswell asked prisoner what he did there; prisoner said he had mistaken the way.

Cross examined by Mr. Fisher – The prisoner came to the Bush Inn about tea time; had seen the prisoner about 12 months ago; did not know he lived in the neighbourhood; be got some tea and some grog, and afterwards played at cards with a man; was doing so when she went to bed; had no conversation with the prisoner; she slept on a sofa on the ground floor; generally went through the bar to get up stairs where the prisoner slept; there was another way to the bedrooms, but the most usual way was through the bar; when she awoke, she felt something beside her and thought it was Louisa Hayman who slept at the foot of the bed; was awoke the second time by finding someone on her, and immediately called out for Mr. Snoswell; a child was at her right hand; the bed was two mattresses placed on a sofa; did not find the clothes moved; prisoner did not hurt her; that is, he did not strike her; felt the prisoner’s legs; was not aware that he injured her in any way; Louisa Hayman said, when she awoke she saw a black head, and was frightened; directly she called out, the prisoner ran out of the door; Mrs. Snoswell told them to go to sleep; saw the prisoner next morning; they all sat together at breakfast; prisoner went up to the police station, and returned to the house.

John Snoswell stated, that Martha Price was his servant; the prisoner came to the house about tea time; had several glasses of gin, and went to bed about 11 o’clock; witness was awoke about two hours afterwards, hearing the prosecutrix calling out; told his wife to go and see what was the matter; saw the prisoner come out of the room; ran after him and asked him whether he knew what he had been about; there was no necessity to go through the bedroom to get outside the house; another man slept with the prisoner; in the morning prisoner said he would rather give five pounds than anything should be said.

Cross examined – It was about half-past twelve when he heard the girl scream; whilst his wife was going to the room, prisoner ran out; followed him, and asked him what he had been about; he said he wanted to go to bed; I told him if he did not, he (witness) would put him somewhere else; in the morning, prisoner had his breakfast, and he went to the police station; witness had previously been there, and found the policeman had gone to Town. By the Court – lt was after breakfast the prisoner went to the police station. Cross examination resumed – Was certain he told the prisoner if he didn’t go to bed he would be put somewhere else; might not have stated before the Police Magistrate; had seen the prisoner about twelve months previous; the prisoner had about three glasses of gin; he was playing cards during the evening; could not remember who was present at Breakfast the next morning; Mrs. Snoswell was there; could not say whether Louisa Hayman and the prosecutor were also there.

Elisabeth Snoswell – Remembered the prisoner being at the Bush Inn, Willunga, in April last; met him coming out of the servant’s room about twelve o’clock’ in his shirt; asked the prosecutrix what was the matter, and heard a man had been in bed with her; she was crying; told her to go to sleep. Cross examined- Went into the servants room; but did not find any of the prisoner’s clothes; did not send for the doctor, but her husband spoke to the police the next morning. Louisa Hayman, a girl of about twelve years of age confirmed the evidence of the prosecutrix. Mr Fisher addressed the jury, and called several parties, who stated the general character and conduct of the prisoner had been respectable. His Honor summed up at great length, and the jury, having retired, in half an hour returned into Court, finding the prisoner guilty, who was sentenced to six calendar months imprisonment, with hard labor.

Martha Price (1833-1849) was the daughter of Edward Price, farmer of Onkaparinga, In 1846, aged about 12 years, she was working as a servant for John Snoswell at the Bush Inn at Willunga. On 8 April 1846 John Carney assaulted her with intent to rape at the Bush Inn. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to six calendar months imprisonment with hard labour. Three years later in 1849, aged 16 years, she drowned herself in the Onkaparinga River “not being in a sound state of mind at the time.”


1846 ‘BEFORE S. T. FINNISS, ESQ., COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, AND THOMAS GILBERT, ESQ.’, South Australian 24 April, p. 3. , viewed 31 Jan 2024,
1846 ‘ASSAULT WITH INTENT‘, South Australian 12 June, p. 2. , viewed 31 Jan 2024,
1849 ‘LOCAL INTELLIGENCE‘, Adelaide Observer 6 October, p. 2. , viewed 31 Jan 2024

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