Convict Histories

Samuel Stanley (c1830 – 1855) (Reg. No. 1075)

By Irma Walter, 2020

Samuel Stanley, aged 22, labourer, single, was received from Millbank Prison on 2 February 1852 and taken onboard HMCS Marion. Nature of offence – killing a sheep to steal, convicted 10 December 1850, at York. He was in the company of two others in 1849 when apprehended and charged with sheep-stealing, an offence which attracted harsh penalties.[1] A brief record of their court case reads as follows:


John Wilson (18), Samuel Stanley and Edmund Martin, (both 22), were indicted on 13 July last, at Egton, (North Yorkshire) having stolen and killed a sheep, the property of George Prudem. Not defended – guilty – ten years’ transportation.[2]

Stanley arrived in WA on 30 January 1852. Surgeon Superintendent Frederick W. Le Grand recorded his conduct on the journey as very good.[3] He was described as aged 23, tall, with height 6’ 0½”, light brown hair, blue eyes, round face, fair complexion, healthy, right arm marked, single with no children, Protestant.[4]

In Western Australia Stanley was given his Ticket of Leave on 1 August 1853.[5] In 1854 he was employed by Marshall Waller Clifton at Australind, who made a note (perhaps added later) in the margin of his journal, that Stanley had come into his service on 27 February 1854. There are several mentions of Samuel Stanley in the journal, including records of him driving Clifton’s cart and delivering potatoes and supplies to workers employed during the planting season at Rosamel. Stanley joined the workers in planting potatoes on 19 and 20 April 1854, the last time he was mentioned.[6]

Clifton would have dismissed him in July 1854, after Stanley assaulted a female servant who rejected his advances, yet there is no record of this occurrence in Clifton’s journal.[7] However, it was recorded the following year in the Inquirer newspaper, following Stanley’s arrest at York for the murder of Catherine Dayley, that Samuel Stanley had earlier displayed an instance of jealous rage while in the employ of MW Clifton. The name of the woman involved is not known, as Stanley’s convict records are sparse:

It is somewhat remarkable that the murderer, Samuel Stanley, was in Mr Clifton’s service at Australind till July last, when, having struck and threatened to murder a female servant in the family who had rejected intentions from him, he was instantly taken before the Bench at Bunbury, by whom he was convicted and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, and he was bound over to keep the peace for twelve months. Who became this man’s sureties? or was he set at liberty without such security being given? This should be inquired into, while the man is alive, because he is fully entitled to the benefit of anything in his favour which may have been brought about by the negligence of the authorities, I shall look out to have this matter cleared up.[8]

Accounts of the attack on Irish immigrant Catherine Dayley were widely reported:

Attempt At Murder

One of the most outrageous attacks that has ever occurred in this colony, was committed on Saturday morning last at Mr Hayes’ public house on the York road, on a poor girl, an Irish immigrant, who formerly lived servant at Mr Okely’s, baker, Perth. It appears that after leaving Perth, she engaged herself to Mr Hayes, where she has been living about three months. About a fortnight since she left for Perth, and the day before the assault came back to the lakes in Mr Burges’s cart, for the purpose of going to live as servant with Mrs Horton.

The assailant, who is a ticket-of leave man named Samuel Stanley, met her there, and as there had been an attachment existing between him and the girl, he appeared jealous, and threatened to kill Mr Thomas Burgess, who was driving her up; some men who were near prevented his doing that gentleman any injury, but it appears that Stanley accompanied the dray up to Hayes’, where he arrived about 9 o’clock in the morning. Mr Burges, after feeding his horses, started, leaving the unfortunate girl behind, who was waiting the arrival of Mr Horton’s team to take her up to York.

About a quarter of an hour after he left, Stanley came into the house, and asked her to deliver up some things he had presented to her some time before; she gave him some, which he burnt. He afterwards asked her to make friends with him and to shake hands, which she refused to do. He then rose from the chair and kicked her off a box on which she was sitting; he then shut the door, and, with a small shingling axe, gave her several blows on the head. He then opened the back door and left the house, locking the door of the room. Miss Hayes then went into the room, and saw the unfortunate women in a sitting posture; she could not speak. In two or three minutes Stanley returned with a piece of quartering, about two inches square, and inflicted several more blows on her head, cutting the left ear nearly off. In fact the whole left side of the head is one mass of bruises and wounds. She has been insensible ever since the occurrence, and there is not the least sign of her recovery.

Mr Cowan and Mr R. Viveash were sent for, who immediately attended, Mr Cowan taking all the circumstances relating to the outrage and returning on Sunday morning to York. Mr Viveash has been up two nights with her, and will not leave her so long as there is the least sign of life. It is satisfactory to state that the prisoner is now in York Gaol, and has made a confession. He was perfectly sober when he committed the outrage. Mr Hayes was absent from home at the time of the occurrence.

We have since heard a few additional particulars connected with this most horrid and melancholy outrage. It appears that the assassin (for in no other light can he be looked upon), after leaving the house of Mr Hayes, proceeded to the saw pits, where he related the circumstances of the horrible deed which he had committed to a man of the name of Dilly, and expressed a wish to be furnished with a razor to cut his (Stanley’s) throat. On Dilly’s return to the sawpits Stanley was escorted by two sworn-in policemen to York, at which place an examination into the case was to have taken place yesterday. Much credit is due to Mr C. Wittenoom, who, on arriving at Perth from York, represented the possible, though improbable, chance of the unfortunate girl’s life being saved by means of skilful medical treatment. Dr. Jones left Perth yesterday, with an escort of two policemen, in order to afford all human and medical succour in his power to the unfortunate sufferer.[9]

Poor Catherine Dayley died of her terrible wounds a few days later. An account in the Perth Gazette on 9 March gives further details of the lead-up to the event:


One of the most horrible and cowardly murders we ever remember to have heard of, was committed in this colony on Saturday last at Hayes’ public house on the York road, the victim being a poor girl on her way to a situation, the fiendlike assassin, being a ticket-of-leave holder, named Stanley, one of a gang of men employed by Government in sawing in that neighborhood the timber for the bridge at York. The girl it appears had until about a fortnight since been living as servant at Hayes’ for three months, during which she got engaged to Stanley, and left Hayes to come to Perth to purchase some articles, the funds for which were furnished by him, and he accompanied her as far as Green Mount on her journey. While in Perth it appears she changed her mind, and agreed to marry a person named Drewett, at York. On Thursday last, she went to Mr Thomas Burges and requested him to give her a seat in his dray as far as Hayes’, where Horton’s cart was to come for her, to which he consented. The dray arrived at Duncan’s, about 9 miles from Hayes’ on Friday evening, here they found Stanley to whom the girl would not speak. Early on Saturday morning they pursued their journey in company with some other teams, Stanley following Mr Burges’ dray and abusing the girl all the way to Hayes’, where the girl stopped, but never spoke to Mr Burges; and Mr Burges after breakfasting started for home, but when about six miles on the road was overtaken by a man who told him Stanley had murdered the girl.

By the depositions it appears that about a quarter of an hour after the dray left Hayes’, Stanley, who had previously had three glasses of grog, and been refused a fourth, went into the room where the girl was, which had two doors, and asked her to give him the things she had purchased, and on her doing so he burnt them, and then asked her to shake hands with him and be friends. This she refused, when he immediately kicked her off a box on which she was sitting, breaking one of her ribs; this was seen by Miss Hayes who screamed out, on which the ruffian threatened her, and shut the door; he then took from his coat pocket a small axe with which he struck his victim on the forehead, and stunned her; the head of the axe coming off with the blow, he again struck her several times with the handle until that split up, when he went out of the room by the back door, which he locked behind him; Miss Hayes then went in by the other and found the poor creature in a sitting posture but speechless; Stanley returned in a minute or two with a piece of quartering with which he again struck the girl several times on the head, until the left side was but a mass of broken bones and flesh, the ear being nearly cut off. Stanley then left the house and went to the hut of a man named Dilly and asked for a razor, Mrs Dilly gave one to him, but took it away again, asking him what he wanted with it, he then told her he had murdered the girl, and wanted to cut his own throat, which so horrified the woman, that she ran away; after this he went to Dilly at a sawpit and told him what he had done, and that he gave himself up to him, but asked to be allowed to go and speak with some of his mates; instead of doing so he went back, to Hayes’ and very coolly asked if his victim was dead, when fearing another attack upon her, he was told she was, on this he said it was all right and asked for a drink of water.

He was then placed in charge of two men to be taken to York, to which intelligence of the horrible event had been immediately sent. On the way to York he told his escort he had intended murdering Mr Burges on the road between Duncan’s and Hayes’ but was prevented by wanting his knife, which Duncan had taken from him in payment of a glass of grog, he said he expected to overtake Mr Burges at St. Roman’s Well when he intended to do for him requesting the two men not to interfere. However fortunately Mr Burges had taken another more direct road home, or otherwise doubtless some struggle would have taken place. Mr Burges reports that while he was at breakfast at Hayes’, Stanley came into the room and looked so vicious that Mr Burges ordered him to go away, which he did.

It appears Stanley was perfectly sober all the time, having only had a single glass of grog before starting from Duncan’s, the three he had of Hayes’s doubtless excited him, still there can be no question the murder had been determined on by him before he left Duncan’s, as in his own statement which suggests to his intention that before Duncan took his knife he had meant first to cut Mr Burges’ throat, then that of the girl, and afterwards his own. On intelligence reaching York Mr Cowan and Mr R. Viveash went to Hayes’, where they found the girl totally senseless, in which state she remained until two o’clock on Tuesday morning, when death put a period to her sufferings. Mr Viveash never leaving her during the whole time.

Some vague reports of the murder reached Perth on Monday evening, but nothing certain was known until the arrival of Mr C. Wittenoom on Tuesday morning, when it being known that the poor creature still lived, Dr. Jones, accompanied by two policemen immediately started for Hayes’, in hopes of being in time for a possibility of saving her life, however all was over before he arrived.

Stanley has been committed for trial, and arrived at Guildford yesterday on his way to Perth Gaol. Previous to leaving York he was allowed to see the body of his victim, when he shed a few tears, but otherwise manifests the utmost indifference, only regretting that he had not been able to murder Mr Burges, of whom it appears he was jealous.[10]

As was the custom in the early colonial days, executions were a public event and full descriptions were published. Samuel Stanley was executed on the same day as an aboriginal named ‘Jacob’, who had been found guilty of killing another aboriginal man at Gingin:


On Wednesday last the executions of Samuel Stanley and the aboriginal native Jacob took place a little distance from the Perth Causeway, on the Guildford road. The procession had been arranged to leave the lock-up between six and seven o’clock in the morning, and exactly at the latter hour it was in motion. The precaution of covering the carts, in which the unfortunate men were conveyed, was taken, and by these means the excessive publicity, which has hitherto attended such proceedings, was very properly done away with. A military and police escort were given, and the greatest order and decorum were observed. There was not so large a concourse of persons as we have seen on similar occasions. The European was executed first, and after the body had been suspended a sufficient time, the native was led to the scaffold, and, after a few struggles, he ceased to exist. The Rev. Mr Powhill and Mr Trigg attended Stanley, who appeared fully awake to his position, and sensible of the justice of his sentence. Both parties were buried at the place of execution, although it has been generally considered advisable that the native offender should be hung in chains amongst the tribe where his crime was committed.

While on this subject, we cannot help expressing a hope that a portion of the new Perth Gaol may be appropriated to a fitting place of execution. If such an arrangement were carried out, such spectacles as we have here recorded would soon cease.[11]

Convict records show that Samuel Stanley, ticket-of-leave, was convicted on 6 March 1855, of murder at Wootating, on the York Road and was sentenced to death. Mundane details of the costs of the trial and execution were recorded as follows:

Five witnesses costs, £13.16.10: Transport / jury, £ 9 Days’ rations, £1.9.0: Expenses of execution £2.0.0: Total £20.15.1.[12]


[1]Note: Details of the other two persons cannot be found in the WA convict registers.

[2] Leeds Mercury, 14 December 1850.

[3] Convict Dept. Registers, Character Book, 1850-1857 (R17).

[4] Convict Department Registers, (128/40-43).

[5] Convict Dept. Registers, Character Book, 1850-1857 (R17).

[6] Barnes, Cameron et al, The Australind Journals of Marshall Waller Clifton 1840 – 1861, Hesperian Press, Victoria Park, WA, 2010.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Inquirer, 28 March 1855.

[9] Inquirer, 7 March 1855.

[10] Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 9 March 1855.

[11] Inquirer, 25 April 1855.

[12] Convict Department, Convict Lists, Memoranda & Indexes, (128/33-37)