Henry Leaker

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On Saturday, 11th, and Monday, 13th instant, an inquest was held at Ballaarat on the body of Henry Powell, who had been killed by the troopers on the Sunday when the diggers' camp was attacked. The witnesses examined were Dr. Wills, who attended the deceased; William Cox, a digger, in whose tent he had slept the night before; Wm. Cox, jun.; Joseph Ash, Henry Leaker, George Popjoy, all of whom saw him killed ; and Arthur Purcell Akehurst, one of the accused, Inspector Evans, Sub-Inspector Furnell, and George King, sergeant of police. Dr. Wills said that there were four principal wounds, any one of which would have caused death, besides many other cuts, and that any one of the wounds on the head must have brought him to the ground. From the whole evidence it appeared that on Saturday, 2nd inst., the deceased, Henry Powell, went from Creswick's Creek to Ballaarat, and stopped that night in the tent adjoining that of William Cox, who had known him for two years, and had been a mate of his for about seventeen months. About a quarter of an hour after the firing had commenced, deceased went into the tent of Cox, and asked him to get up and see what was going on, and then went out. About four or five minutes after Cox heard a man praying for his life; he got up, and about eighty or a hundred yards from the tent he saw six or eight troopers galloping about, and cutting and thrusting at a man with their swords, who rolled over and over for a distance of twenty yards, and was repeatedly trampled on by the horses; they fired upwards of twenty shots at this man; he then heard another man praying to have his life spared, and saw the troopers fire at and slash this man with their swords repeatedly; this latter individual he found to be Henry Powell. Two other witnesses, [Joseph Ash] and George Popjoy, saw the troopers cut and fire at Henry Powell, and were certain that it was the deceased, as they had assisted to remove him to the Albion Hotel, where he died. George Cox, jun., with whom Powell slept, knew that Powell had been in no way mixed up with the disturbances, and had no arms or weapons whatever. After he was wounded Powell told the younger Cox repeatedly that it was Akehurst, clerk of the bench, that had cut him down; on one occasion he said " Do you know Akehurst, the man that attends to the oaths in the police court, he struck the blow with the sabre;" and on another occasion he said that one of of them as the last ball was fired, said, " There, that slews you." Powell had frequently been with the younger Cox at the police court. Dr. Wills likewise stated that at different times Powell had told him that the party of troopers was headed by a young man about twenty-one years of age, of light complexion, and whom he knew as clerk of the bench, as be always sat in front of the magistrates; by him he had been told to "stand," and he answered "very good;" this man then cut at him and the troopers rode over him repeatedly and fired at him. Dr. Wills was present when Powell's deposition was taken by Inspector Evans; he gave his evidence perfectly clear, and was quite sensible just before he expired. Inspector Evans went at the request of a friend of Powell's, in his capacity as magistrate, to take down his statement; at times he was delirious, and at times sensible ; his deposition was taken during his lucid intervals ; he could not take down any more as Powell became delirious, rallied for a moment from a stimulant given by the medical man, and soon after expired; the doctor told him that he was delirious. Powell's dying statement was as follows :-" My name is Henry Powell. I am a digger residing at Creswick's Creek. I left Creswick's Creek about noon on Saturday, December 2nd. I said to my mates, 'You will get the slabs ready; I will just go over and see Cox and his family at Ballaarat.' I arrived at Ballaarat about half-past four or thereabouts. Saw armed men walking about in parties of twenty or thirty. Went to Cox's tent, put on another pair of trousers, and walked down the diggings. Looked into the ring. After that went home. Went to bed in the tent at the back of Cox's tent, about half past nine. On Sunday morning, about four or half-past, was awoke by the noise of firing. Got up soon after, and walked about twenty yards, when some troopers rode up to me. The foremost one was a young man whom I knew as the Clerk of the Peace. He was a
Dr D. J. and Jane Williams, with children, Ethel Mary, at Isabella Jane, at home, 26 Mercer St., Queenscliff. 1864. Courtesy Queenscliffe Historical Museum (PH3961)
light, fair complexion, with reddish hair. He told me to 'Stand, in the Queen's name.' 'You are my prisoner.' I said, 'Very good, sir.' Up came more troopers. I cannot say how many. Believe about twenty or thirty. I said, 'Very well, gentlemen, don't be in a hurry, there are plenty of you,' and then the young man struck me on the head with a crooked knife, about three feet and a half long, in a sheath. I fell to the ground. They then fired at me, and rode over me several times. I never had any hand in the disturbance. There, that's all." Mr. Inspector Evans, at one part of his examination, volunteered to the jury the information that the deposition was of no avail as evidence, not having been sworn to by deceased. Arthur Purcell Akehurst, one of accused, said that he was at Eureka on the morning in question; had only a pair of pistols in his holsters, but no other arms, and might have challenged half a dozen to "stand;" and was in the habit of sitting in the police court in a chair in front of the magistrates. The foreman of the jury suggested that under the circumstances Akehurst had better not leave the place, but the coroner said he had his duties to attend to, and could be got if required. Sub-Inspector Furnell had Mr. Akehurst under his orders on the morning of the 3rd, but he had no sword. Sergeant King gave similar evidence. The verdict of the jury was as follows: " That the death of deceased was caused by sabre cuts and gun-shot wounds, wilfully and feloniously, and of their malice afore-thought, inflicted and fired by Arthur Purcell Akehurst and other persons unknown. The jury return a verdict of wilful murder against Arthur Purcell Akehurst and other persons unknown. The jury trust that his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor will see the justice of offering a large reward for such evidence as will lead to the conviction of the murderers. The jury express their condemnation of the conduct of Captain Evans in not swearing deceased at the time of taking his statement, after having been cautioned by Dr. Wills of his immediate danger, The jury view with extreme horror the brutal conduct of the mounted police, in firing at and cutting down 'unarmed and innocent persons of both sexes at a distance from the scene of disturbance on Dec. 3, 1854." The jury also expressed their appreciation of the impartial manner in which Dr. Williams had discharged his duty as coroner.[1]
  1. Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 23 December 1854.
  2. Retrieved from "http://www.eurekapedia.org/index.php?title=Henry_Leaker&oldid=14333"