By Irma Walter, 2022.
The crime of garrotting reached fever pitch in England in the 1860s. Small groups of two or three rogues would approach a likely victim on the street at night, with one grabbing him around the neck to cut off his breathing, while another rifled through his pockets. A third was often employed to keep watch. These attacks sometimes resulted in the death of the victim.
Outrage was expressed in various newspapers after one particularly violent robbery which took place in Sheffield, the victim being coal agent Matthew Coulson Burnby, who was found close to death, lying on the ground near his home in Broomhall Park, on the evening of 23 December 1864. He later gave evidence that he had been approached from behind and grabbed around the throat by Edward Hall, while another, later identified as Dennis Carr, struck him with a heavy instrument. When arrested, Carr was in possession of a ‘life-preserver’, and was seen dropping a ‘knuckle-duster’ on his way to the police station. A third man, whom Burnby identified as Henry Smith, was employed in keeping watch. The thieves took a silver watch, an amethyst pin, and £2 or £3 pounds in coins from his pockets. Burnby later told the Court that he wasn’t carrying as much money as usual.
Edward Hall escaped through a window when police went to arrest him. Dressed only in a shirt, he persuaded a publican to give him clothes after concocting a story of having been robbed and beaten in a house of ill-fame. Hall was described in one paper as ‘a very powerful man, a pugilist and a wrestler’. He was finally captured in a nearby village, brought down by an equally strong policeman named Wynn, who hit him over the head with his truncheon when attempting to escape.
At their trial for the garrotting crime, a watch-maker named Cooper confessed to having received the watch and pin from the three men. It was revealed that when police searched Carr’s house, Mrs Carr was found in possession of property identified as the proceeds of a different robbery in Birmingham. Carr, who had a trial pending for this robbery of around £300, confessed to the crime for which another man had been arrested –
Leeds Intelligencer, 1 April 1865
With the worst record of the three villains, Dennis Carr was sentenced to transportation for life for the garrotting crime. Edward Hall, with a record of four previous crimes, was sentenced to 20 years’ penal servitude, while Henry Smith, convicted of the lesser offence of assisting in the crime and aiding the other two in hiding their plunder, received a five-year term. [Note – It appears that Dennis Carr was an associate of Edward Hall in an earlier robbery, along with a George Kitson, for which there was insufficient evidence against them, of stealing £25 from a club house.]
Dennis Carr’s Background
Dennis Carr was born in 1835 to parents Henry Carr, shoemaker, and his wife Frances Dignum, and was christened in a Roman Catholic Church.
At the time of the 1851 Census, the family was living at 4 Grindle Gate, Hollis Croft, in Sheffield. Henry (42), a cordwainer (shoemaker), was born in Middlesex, his wife Fanny (Frances) aged 39, was born in Ireland, and their children Dennis (15), Julia (11), Ralph (3) and Henry (1) were all born at Sheffield in Yorkshire.
Dennis was apprenticed to his father as a shoemaker. How long he worked for him is not known. His life of crime commenced at an early age. Records of his age varied in court records. In 1855 he was jailed for two months as a juvenile offender for stealing a pair of trousers. On 8 April 1856 at the Pontefract Sessions, Dennis Carr and John Delaney, both aged 16, were sentenced to nine months and six months respectively, for breaking into a house and stealing £2 and 36 postage stamps. At this time Dennis was described as a shoemaker, aged 16, education none, religion Romanist, his height 5’1”, with a sallow complexion, black hair, brown eyes, a small scar near his right eye and a small mole on the right side of his chin. He was discharged on 6 January 1857.
On 6 July 1857 Carr served one month for causing damage to a premises. In October 1858 he was tried for breaking into a house with intent to steal and was sentenced to six months.
In the last quarter of 1860 Dennis married Mary Ann Simpson. In the March quarter of 1861 the birth of their daughter Emily Fanny was registered. At the time of the 1861 Census, Dennis Carr, shoe and bootmaker, aged 24, boarder, was living at Court 1, Bailey Street, St George’s Ward, Sheffield, with his wife Mary Ann, (21), and their daughter Emily, aged one, all registered as born in Sheffield, Yorkshire.
On 1 March 1861, Dennis Carr, aged 21, was arrested for breaking into a country house and stealing some goods. Due to one previous conviction and three summary convictions (as a juvenile?), he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. His wife Mary Ann Carr of Paradise Square, Sheffield, was listed as his next of kin. On his entry into prison his religion was initially recorded as none, but was later changed to C. of E. He served time in Millbank, Pentonville and then Portland Prison, incarcerated in one of the convict hulks. He was sent from there to Broadmore Lunatic Asylum on 30 March 1863. Dennis Carr, Prisoner No 57752, was released from there on license on 31 August 1863.
On 23 March 1865 Dennis was arrested in Leeds for a far more serious crime, that of garrotting.
By this time three children had been born to Mary Ann Carr –
William Henry Carr born 1861, died 1940.
Fanny Carr born 1864, died 1897.
Transportation for Life
Found guilty of the garrotting crime and sentenced to transportation for life, Dennis Carr was taken from Portland to the convict ship Corona on 12 October 1866, bound for Western Australia, along with his co-offender, Edward Hall (Reg. No. 9176).
The ship arrived at Fremantle on 26 December 1866, after a fast voyage of just 66 days.
At the time of arrival Dennis Carr (Reg. No. 9112), was described as aged 28, married with one (?) child, his height 5’6½”, with black hair, brown eyes, sallow complexion and middling stout in build. His distinguishing marks were missing teeth and a wound on his right eyebrow. [Note: A later record confirms Dennis Car as the father of three children.]
Dennis Carr’s record after arrival in Western Australia indicates that he took advantage of the opportunity for a new start in life. He took advantage of the incentive system in place at that time for rewarding good conduct –
11/5/71 – Special remission, 22 days gang labour.
5/6/72 – Special remission six months.
16/3/73 – Remission two months.
22/8/73 – Remission six months.
25/10/73 – Remission three days.
21/11/73 – Remission 51 days.
20/1/74 – Remission seven days.
3/8/74 – Remission four months.
29/10/74 – To be released to Ticket of Leave 1 April ’75 (Vide 13896/14)
7/12/74 – Remission one month.
19/1/75 – Remission one month.
1/2/75 – Discharged to Ticket of Leave.
Following his release, Dennis was in employment as a shoemaker, occasionally in trouble with the law –
17/7/76 – At Champion Bay – out after hours.
15/9/77 – Convicted at Champion Bay of stealing £16 from a person (Aaron Britton) – three months’ hard labour.
15/12/77 – Ticket of Leave re-issued.
7/10/78 – Loitering about a Public House – fined 10/-.
1/1/79 – Drunk, creating a disturbance – fined 5/-.
12/6/79 – Stealing a box of tea – six months’ hard labour. (New Reg. No. 5483)
12/12/79 – Ticket of Leave re-issued.
19/6/84 – Drunk in town – fined 10/-.
[Note: It is of interest that Dennis Carr was associating with his former co-offender Edward Hall in Geraldton, when in September 1878 they were suspected of stealing money and bank notes, the property of T. McKissock, while he was drunk.]
Dennis was a good worker, in regular employment –
11/2/75 – Shoemaker, Champion Bay District, employer William Voiles, at Geraldton.
31/12/75 – Ditto.
31/12/76 – Ditto.
26/5/77 – Shoemaker 120/- per month, James Osborne, Geraldton.
30/6/77 – Ditto, wages not stated.
31/12/77 – Ditto, £6 per month.
11/12/78 – Employed as a labourer, £6 per month, James Osborne, Geraldton.
31/12/79 – Shoemaker, piece work at Fremantle, W. White.
6/1/80 – Ditto, piece work, employer J. Matthews, Fremantle.
10/11/80 – Shoemaker, 33/- per week, W. White at Fremantle.
30/6/81 – Shoemaker, piece work, W. White, Fremantle.
21/9/81 – Ditto, employer indecipherable.
31/12/81 – Shoemaker, Fremantle, own account.
31/12/82 – Shoemaker, own account, 10/- per day, Jarrahdale.
30/6/83 – Ditto, 8/- per day.
31/12/83 – Ditto, £2 per week.
31/12/84 – Ditto.
31/12/85 – Ditto.
A Second Marriage
Dennis re-married in Western Australia, his second wife being Martha Osborne, daughter of James and Eliza Osborne. They were married in Geraldton on 19 July 1876 and had six children –
Henry Carr, b.1877 at Geraldton.
Eliza Carr, b.1879 at Fremantle.
Dennis Carr (jnr), b.1882 at Fremantle. Died aged 10 months 1883.
Clara Carr, b. 1884 at Jarrahdale.
George Alfred Carr, b.1886 at Jarrahdale.
Frank Freeman Carr, b.1888 at Geraldton.
In 1887 Dennis was suspected of being involved with another robbery from Henry Gray’s emporium in Geraldton, along with an Edward Hughes, alias Peter McCarthy. This time a wide variety of goods were stolen –
Victorian Express, 16 July 1887.
Dennis admitted knowing McCarthy but denied having any dealings with him. He claimed to have been drinking at the Freemasons Hotel with several associates on that night, and they gave evidence confirming his statement. One of the men involved was his old associate, Edward Hall, who swore that he had accompanied a drunken Dennis Carr back to his house. Only McCarthy was convicted –
Victorian Express, 24 September 1887.
Dennis’s wife Martha Carr died aged 33 in 1891, leaving behind a young family. Dennis expressed his sadness at her death in a notice placed in the local paper –
THE undersigned wishes to tender his
sincere thanks to the ladies, gentlemen
and children who kindly followed in proces-
sion at the funeral of his deeply lamented and
beloved wife on Sunday last, May 10th, 1891;
likewise to the Rev. Father Brereton, the
Sisters of Mercy, and the “Children of Mary”
for their kind services at the grave.
Geraldton, May 16, 1891.
At the end of an eventful life Dennis Carr died, aged around 60 in 1895 –
Mr. Dennis Carr, a well-known resident of Geraldton for many years past, died on Thursday, the 26th instant. Mr. Carr has been ailing for a long while, but his end was not so soon expected. The funeral took place on Friday, says the Geraldton Telegraph, and the friends of the deceased, in good number, followed the remains to their resting place in the Catholic Cemetery, the burial service being conducted by the Rev. E. Brereton. Mr. Carr leaves behind a wife, a son, who is a young man and a family of small children, who must sadly miss their loss. Deceased was about 53 years of age. The cause of death was heart disease.
[This obituary has errors with regard to Dennis’s age and family. Further details of his death and burial can be found on the Midwest Convict Register, at Search Convict Register – Midwest of Western Australian Heritage (midwestwaheritage.com)]
 Sheffield Independent, 11 February 1865.
 Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 25 Nov 1864.
 England and Wales Non-Conformist Record Indexes (RG4-8), 1588-1977, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FQG1-Y4K, Dennis Carr, 07 Jun 1835, Baptism; citing p. 57, Sheffield, Yorkshire, record group RG4, Public Record Office, London.
 Calendar of Trials, Wakefield Gaol, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 412.
 Wakefield Gaol Register of Prisoners, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 411.
 Wakefield Gaol, Calendar of Trials, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 413.
 England & Wales Marriage Index, Reg. No.9c383
 Ibid, Reg. No. 9c262
 Convict Hulks Register of Prisoners, Series HO8, Piece No. 168.
 Portland Prison, Registers of Prisoners, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 389.
 Home Office & Prison Commission: Male Licenses, Series PCOM3, Piece No. 129.
 England & Wales Birth Index, Sheffield, 9c262
 England & Wales Death Index, 9c179
 England & Wales Birth Index, Sheffield, 9c290
 Ibid, 9c278
 Perth Gazette, 4 January 1867.
 Convict Department Registers (128/40-43)
 Convict Department Registers, General Register (R15)
 Fremantle Prison Correspondence Registers, Reg. of Prisoners (F2b)
 Convict Department Registers, General Register (R15)
 Convict Department Registers, General Register (R15)
 WA Department of Justice Registers, https://bdm.justice.wa.gov.au/_apps/pioneersindex
 Victorian Express, 7 July 1893.
 Geraldton Advertiser, 29 October, 1894.
 Inquirer, 3 May 1895.