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William Fowler, one of 160 convicts transported on the Competitor, 18 March 1823
Name, Aliases & Gender
Birth, Occupation & Death
|Date of Birth:
|Date of Death:
life span was 61 years*
* Median life span based on contributions
Conviction & Transportation
Sentenced to 7 years
||Bristol City Quarter Session
18th March, 1823
3rd August, 1823
|Place of arrival
||Van Diemen's Land
Travelled with 160 other convicts
||Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 88, Class and Piece Number HO11/5, Page Number 1
||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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Maureen Withey on 2nd January, 2020 wrote:
Burial Record in parish of Hobart Town, in the County of Buckingham. 1828. https://stors.tas.gov.au/RGD34-1-1p072j2k
William Fowler, Gaol. Executed for ye murder of Frances Groom aged five years, buried 29 Feb 1828, age 23, ship Competitor, labourer.
On Tuesday Morning, as Arthur Hughes, a Watchman at the Factory, was loading on Stringy Bark hill, about a mile out of town, his wheel-barrow with fire-wood, his eye caught the body of the little child Emma Groom, which had been missing in so mysterious a manner since that day fortnight, lying on its back upon the grass. He had been culling wood for about an hour within a few yards of the spot before he observed it. He immediately informed the Police and the corpse was removed on a litter to the house of its mother. Mr Lascelles the Police Magistrate and several other gentlemen rode to the spot. The child’s brother, about 8 years of age. stated that a little before dark on the Tuesday afternoon on which it was first missed, he, his sister and a little boy named William Cummings or Waters, were accosted by a short thick man with a kangaroo skin cap, yellow trowsers and a grey jacket, who desired them to help him to drive home some sheep and he would give them a penny each. He took them within 500 yards of the spot when the body of the child was found and giving the two boys a penny each, ordered them to stop while he went with the little girl in his arms to fetch the sheep. On its becoming dark and they not returning, the boy called aloud for his sister, when the man came down with a stick in his hand, threatening to beat them if they did not go home. They, accordingly returned and gave information of the circumstance to the mother and the Police, but first, as if directed by an all-seeing Providence, the brother plucked a sprig from a honeysuckle tree that he might recollect the place ; and at a turn of the road, placed a piece of bark in the cleft of a wattle tree. Both these marks were shewn by him on Tuesday, and on being asked the direction, which the man took in carrying off his sister, he pointed towards the spot where the body was found by Hughes. On the evening of the inquest at the Castle Inn, in Harrington-street, each boy pointed out William Fowler, from a room full of prisoners and others, as the man who carried off the child, and they had done the same the week before at the Penitentiary from among the whole inmates of that Barrack. Fowler’s cap was also placed with a number of others on a table, and each boy being separately asked if he knew any of them, pointed it out. The mother, to the discredit of humanity, we are ashamed to say it, was in such a state of intoxication as to be unable to give her evidence at the inquisition. The Surgeons distinctly proved that the nature of the violence which the little innocent had suffered was such, as of itself to have occasioned its death. The body lay on the back, clothed as during life ; the eyes were open, and owing probably to the coolness of the weather and the late raíns, no part had undergone decomposition. The new penny piece which had been given it was found lying under the left hand. The inquest lasted from three till nine o’clock on Tuesday evening. The Coroner, Mr. Lascelles, very clearly pointed out the duty of the jury. Verdict; Emma Groom was wilfully murdered by William Fowler.
Hobart Town Gazette, 14 July 1827
SUPREME COURT, CRIMINAL SIDE.
William Fowler, who has been tried for murdering the female child of Mrs. Sharpleas, after a protracted trial of nearly three days this afternoon has been found Guilty.
The Tasmanian, 1 Feb 1828.
The Criminal Court has been occupied during great part of the week with that most painful trial of Fowler for the assault on the little child Emma Groom, who was found murdered in the precincts of the town in July last, and which trial was postponed until the 4 boys who were chief witnesses should be taught the nature of an oath. He was found guilty.
Hobart Town Courier, 2 Feb 1828.
William Fowler and Henry Williamson, who expiated their lives on the gallows, on Friday last, afforded another striking lesson to many in this community, which it would be a neglect of duty in us as a public journalist, as far as in us lies, not to improve. They had both imbrued their hands in human blood, under aggravated circumstances ; and though during their trials, there was much doubt that sufficient proof could not be brought against them, yet Providence so ordered it, that they were both convicted and both fully confessed their guilt.
Fowler, in particular, had so planned and premeditated his guilty purpose, that as far as human means could be supposed to go, it appeared impossible his crime could ever be discovered. A crowd of circumstances, however, though trifling, taken singly, conspired together and confirmed his guilt. He was by trade a boot-closer from the town of Bristol. It was a profitable business, by which he made a good deal of money ; and being thus furnished with the means of enjoyment, he naturally betook himself to the most obvious one which Hobart-town offers, viz : that of occasionally drinking in public-houses. If such a mode of recreation could be with safety in any case followed, it certainly would have been in his. Here was a man without any charge or family, who earning more than his natural wants required, might be supposed to indulge without risk in an evening glass.
Yet this very indulgence was the cause, as he himself declared over & over again before his death of his committing a murder of the most aggravated kind, of his condemnation and ignominious death. The habit of tippling (for he was not an outrageous drunkard) so gained on him, that while he continued to work at intervals, he himself declared, that he could not be said to be sober for weeks and weeks together. This indulgence in strong drink, however, made him uncomfortable in himself, and excited other desires, (for the drunkard’s is the most unsatisfactory of all propensities,) and he was at last led to commit the horrible crime for which he suffered.
Hobart Town Courier, 8 Mar 1828.