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Abraham Crabtree

Abraham Crabtree, one of 222 convicts transported on the Katherine Stewart Forbes, 21 February 1832

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Abraham Crabtree
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1810
Occupation: Butcher
Date of Death: 17th June, 1878
Age: 68 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 53 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 14 years

Crime: Stealing from the person
Convicted at: York, West Riding Quarter Sessions
Sentence term: 14 years
Ship: Katherine Stewart Forbes
Departure date: 21st February, 1832
Arrival date: 16th July, 1832
Place of arrival Van Diemen's Land
Passenger manifest Travelled with 221 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 89, Class and Piece Number HO11/8, Page Number 274
Source description: This record is one of the entries in the British convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database compiled by State Library of Queensland from British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.

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Community Contributions

Dianne Jones on 10th March, 2021 wrote:

OCCUPATION: He was a wool scourer, butcher and brewer (see https://librariestas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/).

Dianne Jones on 10th April, 2021 wrote:

1832, 5 January: Convicted for stealing money from the person. He had two previous convictions: stealing brass (14 days’ jail) and stealing a hammer and chisel (3 months).

1832: On arrival in VDL, he was 22 and single.

1846, 14 October: Convicted in Launceston Supreme Court for stealing 32 x £5 promisory notes and one £1 promisory note. Sentenced to 7 years, 3 of those years to be served on Norfolk Island (see https://stors.tas.gov.au/CON32-1-3$init=CON32-1-3p21).

This was called “The Golden Fleece Case” in local newspapers, and was reported in detail. Abraham Crabtree, along with William Dimmott, Israel Shaw and Hannah Shaw, were indicted for stealing on 12th June, thirty-two £5 notes, and one £1 note, the property of Thomas Henry Badham. A second count laid the property to Mr. John Atkinson, assignee to Badham’s estate. The events unfolded at the Golden Fleece Inn where Badham was the victim of an elaborate scam in which Crabtree posed as a sheriff’s officer. For more information, see the Launceston Examiner, Sat 17 Oct 1846, pp3-4: Supreme Court.

Dianne Jones on 10th April, 2021 wrote:

1851, 18 November: Granted a Ticket of Leave.

1852, 29 May: “Assault and robbery. — Abraham Crabtree was charged by Edward Layton, with assaulting
and robbing him in the public streets on Saturday night [29 May], at 12 o’clock. Remanded till Friday, to give the police time to get hold of another man concerned in the robbery.” (see The Cornwall Chronicle, Wed 2 Jun 1852, p348)

1852, 16 September: “An Incorrigible. — Abraham Crabtree, a passholder of gigantic mould, in the service of Mr. Rayner, charged with being drunk, disturbing the peace, and assaulting constable Cooper. It appeared that the prisoner was originally transported to the colony twenty-eight years ago, with a sentence of fourteen years’ transportation, since which he has received two similar sentences; he has been at Norfolk Island, and every other penal settlement in the colony, and his
police character occupies two sheets of parchment; in short, as Mr. Carter observed, during the whole period of twenty-eight years, he had scarcely been six months out of trouble. He was remanded till Thursday for enquiry as to whether he was or was not an absentee. We understand that this man would have been free Saturday next.” (see The Tasmanian Colonist, p2)

Dianne Jones on 10th April, 2021 wrote:

1854, 15 April: He is on a list of prisoners granted a Certificate of Freedom (see The Cornwall Chronicle, p8).

1854, 9 August: “A Burglar Detected. — Between the hours of twelve and one o’clock on Tuesday morning, a well-known character in this town, named Abraham Crabtree, effected a burglarious entry into tho shop of Mr. Mitchell, the grocer, Elizabeth-street. Crabtree was detected in the act, and taken into custody by the police before he had time to secure any booty. He is now awaiting examination.” (see The Cornwall Chronicle, p4)

1854, 19 September: Convicted at Launceston for breaking into the dwelling house of HJ Mitchell with intent to steal (burglary) and sentenced to 14 years - to be sent to Port Arthur (see https://stors.tas.gov.au/CON37-1-8$init=CON37-1-8p127).

1858, 18 September: “ABSCONDING.-Abraham Crabtree, a prisoner of the Crown, was charged with absconding from his authorised place of residence on the l1th instant, and remaining illegally at large until 17th instant. The prisoner pleaded guilty, and said that he did not report his residence through ignorance. He had been employed as a constable in the hush, and had lately been taken very ill. He was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment with hard labour, and to be recommended not to reside in town.” (see The Courier (Hobart), p3)

Dianne Jones on 10th April, 2021 wrote:

1860, 4 September: Colonial Conditional Pardon granted (see https://stors.tas.gov.au/CON37-1-8$init=CON37-1-8p127).

1861, 19 July: “The Child Murder.-Abraham Crabtree was charged with having on the night of 13th
July wilfully murdered Sarah Sharpe a little girl of 3 years of age.” (see The Mercury (Hobart), p2)

1861, 23 July: “The Child Murder.-The inquest was resumed yesterday afternoon, and several additional witnesses were examined. Abraham Crabtree, who has been apprehended on suspicion of the crime, was present, and remanded in custody. The inquiry will be resumed on Tuesday, the 30th instant, and in the meantime, at the request of the Coroner we defer the publication of our report.” (see The Mercury (Hobart), p2)

The enquiry in this case was again resumed yesterday afternoon, at the ‘Gordon Castle’, having been adjourned from the previous evening - Mr. Moriarty, as before, was present to watch the proceedings on behalf of Crabtree,and Mr. Superintendent Boyd was also in attendance.

The Coroner stated that there were some witnesses who, he understood, would prove that Crabtree was at other places on the Saturday than those already described, and, if so, the testimony of the witnesses examined yesterday would be contradicted.

Mary Ann Crawley was re-called, and stated that when she saw something burning on the fire on the Monday morning, nothing particular called her attention to the circumstance. She would swear that she saw no embers of rags burning. There was a quantity of rubbish and paper from the yard on the fire. Witness always called her mother’s attention to rubbish burning on the fire, as it might be
dangerous, and she called her mother’s attention on that occasion on this account. The rubbish was not heaped higher than usual.

By the Foreman.-There is always plenty of paper in the yard, newspaper and other paper. We take in the Mercury and the Advertiser. The old man, Fisher, generally makes up the fire.

By the Coroner.-My sister was not up that morning.

By a Juror.-I do not know when the fire was made that morning. Any person could have gained access to the kitchen, and gone out at the back door.

Mary Ann Wright, wife of Mr. Charles Wright, landlord of the ‘Lord Nelson’, Macquarie street, stated that on Saturday fortnight she saw Abraham Crabtree, now present at her house at breakfast time. She saw him again at tea time, about six o’clock, a few minutes before or after. There was no one with him, and he appeared to be sober. Witness could not say how long he staid; it might have been an hour or half an hour, but she did not see him go away. He called for half-a-pint of porter, and that was all he had to drink. Witness could not say how he was dressed, as she took no particular notice. She thought he was dressed as he was now, with a black billy-cock hat on. She did not notice whether he had leggings on. Witness had known him for eight years, ever since he had been in business, as coming backwards and forwards to the house.

By the Foreman. -Crabtree was not talking to any one. To the best of my belief he was in the house from an hour to half-an-hour.

By a Juror.-I do not know a man named Hennessey. I did not see the man, now present, (Hennessey) in the house that evening. I never saw him to my knowledge before.

Hannah Solomon, wife of Saul Solomon, Collins-street, deposed to being at the Lord Nelson on the Saturday evening, from 5 to about 8 o’clock. She recollected Crabtree coming to the house a little after six o’clock, and asking Mrs. Wright for a glass of porter. Witness was busy in the bar assisting Mrs. Wright, and did not see Crabtree after he had the porter. The gas was lit when Crabtree came in. Witness could not say how he was dressed; she had seen him before, when she kept a public house, nearly twelve months ago. Witness did not remember seeing Patrick Hennessey, now present, in the house that evening.

Ann Patterson, an Orphan School girl, in the service of Mr. Wright, stated that she was clearing away the tea things, when her mistress told her to go and get change for half a sovereign, which she got from Abraham Crabtree for a glass of porter. Witness got the change and gave it to her mistress. Crabtree was in the parlour when her mistress sent her for the change. Witness did not see anything more of Crabtree after she returned with the change. She took no notice of his dress.

Mary Ann Robertson, daughter of Mr. James Robertson, Macquarie-Street, who was in the Lord Nelson on the evening in question, also deposed to seeing Crabtree there, sitting by the fire in the little parlor. Witness did not notice how he was dressed. It was about 1/2 past 6, or getting on for 7. Witness knew the time because she looked at the clock before she left home. Witness did not stop long at the Lord Nelson, and when she left Crabtree was still in the parlor. She was quite sure Crabtree was the man.

Mrs. Wright was recalled, and stated that she sent the servant Patterson for change for half-a-sovereign, which she got from a person at the bar, and not from Crabtree.

Patrick Hennessey was re-called and re-examined by the Coroner. He stated that he went on Monday morning to different parts of the town. He got his breakfast at Chamberlain’s, in Liverpool-street, and went to the Commissariat gang about 8 o’clock for a pair of boots he had left there. He spoke to a man named Daniel Collins privately. The other men were not near to hear what was said. Witness told Collins he could get no work in town, and that he was going to Pittwater to see if he could get work at the Causeway, and if he could he would send Collins word. That was the only part of the conversation which witness could recollect. They had a good deal more conversation about different things. There were 3 or 4 other men in the yard. Collins spoke to witness about the murder of the child, and said that Mr. Lee, the gatekeeper, had just told them about it. Witness asked where the
child had been found, and they said by the bridge near Bathurst-street. Witness then said he had heard of it the night before; he might have said something else, but he could not recollect what. Witness said nothing about a shirt of his own. He had two shirts when he left the Barracks, and went to lodge at Mrs. Crawley’s. He only received one shirt from there. He was apprehended on Monday about half-past 3 o’clock.

By the Foreman.-I had only two shirts when I left the Barracks on Saturday, the 13th July, I went to the Old Commodore, where I left my bundle. The shirts were white shirts, I then went to a corner shop in Argyle-street and bought a pair of trowsers, which I have now on, and then bought a shirt, at another shop marked J. M. with some other mark obliterated. The shirts I took to Mrs. Crawley’s
and left them there. The shirt which was not returned to me from Mrs. Crawley’s was very dirty.

By a Juror.-In my conversation with Collins, I did not say that one of my shirts had been torn by the pigs, or by a pig. I never spoke to Collins about any such thing as a shirt.

By the Coroner.-When I went to the Water works for work I did not know any of the men I saw there. I told Collins that a young woman at Mrs. Crawley’s had told me that her gown had been torn by the pigs.

By the Foreman.-When I left Mrs. Crawley’s on Monday morning, I left my bundle under the bed with the two shirts in it.

By a Juror.-I worked three weeks on the roads at Deloraine, and have done fifteen months altogether in the Prisoners’ Barracks under sentence. I knew Crabtree at Port Arthur, but have never had any quarrel with him in my life.

By a Juror: The shirt I lost was one marked J.M. and without a collar.

D. C. Bryan was now called, and stated that he apprehended Patrick Hennessey on Monday the l0th July, in the first instance for murder, but afterwards on suspicion of being an absconder. After witness had apprehended him, he went to Mrs. Crawley’s house in Argyle street, and received from her a bundle containing one white shirt, very dirty indeed, an old pair of trowsers, and a cotton handkerchief, that was all. Witness brought them to the watch-house and when Hennessey went through
to the gaol, witness gave the bundle in charge to the Police Sergeant at the Police Office. The
shirt Hennessey had on was a clean one; it had not been on more than a day. Witness did not
tell Hennessey that he apprehended him on suspicion of the murder of the child, whose body had been found the day before.

By a Juror.-There might have been a towel in the bundle, but I do not recollect seeing one.

The whole of the testimony being now exhausted, the Coroner recapitulated the evidence, commenting upon the leading points, and when that portion was read describing the foot marks near the spot where the body was found, and which were stated to be 11 1/2 inches in length, it was observed that the marks had not been compared with the boots that were worn by Crabtree and Hennessey. Detective
Morley was, therefore, sent for the boots worn by the two men; they were measured and it was found that Crabtree’s sole measured 12 inches and Hennessey’s 11 inches. There were several discrepancies in the evidence of several of the witnesses, which the Coroner pointed out, in reference to the whereabouts of Crabtree on the Saturday night, and especially in that of Messrs. Hartwell and Jarvis. With respect to the witnesses, Mrs. Crawley and Fisher, the Coroner remarked that he thought they knew more of the matter than they had chosen to state, and in this opinion the jury concurred, and in reference to the torn shirt, it was very evident it had never been torn by either a dog or a pig, but by human hands. The only direct evidence against Crabtree was that of Hartwell, the shoemaker, and Hennessey, and the Coroner thought that Crabtree’s friends had done him more harm than good in reference to the alibi. He thought Hennessey’s evidence very doubtful, and to be
taken with great caution, and if the jury threw his evidence on one side, they must consider that Hennessey was in the neighbourhood at the very same time. However, it was for the jury to decide upon the evidence before them, and to their decision he would leave the case. He would observe that the police had used every exertion to find out the miscreant and bethought that every credit was due to them in this respect.

The jury after a short consultation returned a verdict of wilful murder against Abraham Crabtree, at the same time expressing their opinion that the evidence of the witness John Hartwell was not worthy of credit. The jury also wished to express their satisfaction at the pains taken by the police authorities to elucidate the facts concerning the horrible occurrence they have been enquiring into.”

Dianne Jones on 10th April, 2021 wrote:

In a curious twist, the Mercury - after reporting in such detail on the inquest - devoted only six words to the circumstances of Abraham Crabtree’s non-trial before the Supreme Court. It reported:

“Abraham Crabtree was discharged by proclamation. The Court then adjourned to 1O o’clock tomorrow (this day).” (see The Mercury, Wednesday 4 Sep 1861, p3: Supreme Court)

The Launceston Examiner provided a little more context in its p3 story on 11 August:

“City of Hobart Municipality - Sharpe, or Arkwright, Sarah Ann, July 14, 1861, age 2½, female - Abraham Crabtree, was committed for trial on Coroner’s inquisition and warrant, but bill ignored by Attorney-General.”

Dianne Jones on 10th April, 2021 wrote:

What became of Abraham Crabtree? Ten years after the VDL inquest, an Abraham Crabtree was one of two men convicted for murder by the Mudgee Assizes in NSW and sentenced to death. Their sentences were subsequently commuted to imprisonment for life. The Launceston Examiner speculated about the Tasmanian connection in a p3 article on 20 April 1878:

“Abraham Crabtree.— A person of this name was lately condemned to death in a criminal court of New South Wales, but the sentence has been mitigated to penal servitude for life. The name is a very uncommon one, and for this reason we should be curious to know, if he is the same Abraham Crabtree, who some years ago was strongly suspected of bring the inhuman monster who enticed a little girl between three and four years of age away from her parents’ house in this city, and whose dead body was subsequently discovered in the City Creek, so horribly mutilated, as to show that the poor little innocent had been subjected to treatment it would be impossible to describe. Crabtree had just arrived in Hobart Town from Port Arthur, and this fact becoming known, when considered with his previous criminal career, at once pointed to him as the probable perpetrator of tho outrage. He was arrested; but those portions of his clothes which would be certain to bear witness against him had he been the murderer could not be found, and it was therefore found impossible to sheet home the charge against him, as he was known to very few in Hobart Town. He left the colony for other and distant parts, and it is just possible that that condemned “Abraham Crabtree” of New South Wales, may be the suspected monster who disappeared from among us.”

Dianne Jones on 11th April, 2021 wrote:


From the New South Wales Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime (Sydney), Wed 26 June 1878 [Issue No.26], Page 235: Miscellaneous Information:

“Vide Police Gazette, 1878, page 169. Abraham Crabtree, who was convicted, at the last Mudgee Circuit Court, of the murder of William Hutton, died in Berrima Gaol on the 17th instant and at an inquest held in Berrima Gaol on the 17th instant, before the District Coroner, the following verdict was returned:—That the deceased, Abraham Crabtree, died on the 17th June, 1878, at the Gaol at Berrima, from chronic bronchitis.” (see https://trove.nla.gov.au/)

Convict Changes History

Dianne Jones on 10th March, 2021 made the following changes:

gender: m, occupation

Dianne Jones on 10th April, 2021 made the following changes:

date of birth: 1810 (prev. 0000), crime

Dianne Jones on 11th April, 2021 made the following changes:

date of death: 17th June, 1878 (prev. 0000)

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