Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Murder of Mary Legge

The Murder of Mary Legge

150 Hindley Street

“Lord save me” were the dying words of Mary Legge, laying on the floor of Gasons Lodging House, Hindley Street. Above her, as she breathed her last breath, stood her husband, enraged, with knife in hand. He threw his knife at her as he calmly walked out the door, the only witness, a man named Roskilley who had fought against Legge, but had backed away when threatened with the knife.

 Legge hastily left the premises and headed down Hindley street. Roskilley also left, and found P.C. Irwin on the corner of Hindley and King William street, and told him of the murder. Legge, upon realising he had been identified, sprinted away from the Constable, the two men running full pace west along Hindley Street.

 Another Constable, P.C. Allen, saw what was going on, and tackled Legge to the ground. Legge then stated to the two officers that he had stabbed his wife three times. The two Constables then escorted Legge back to the Police Station, and left him with the officer in charge, before heading back to Gason’s to evaluate the scene.

Mary Legge was lying in a pool of her blood, she had three stab wounds in her left shoulder blade, made by an ordinary bread and butter knife. One stab had punctured her left lung and another had pierced her heart, causing her to bleed out and die very quickly.

William Legge, was well known to Adelaide police as a habitual drunkard, but he hadn’t always been a heavy drinker. Only months prior he had run a successful painting business from Clarendon, and every mail from England (monthly) He received a hefty 16 pounds’ remittance from his wealthy parents.

 Legge and his wife, Mary, a “pleasant looking young woman”, who had only been in South Australia for nine months, had been renting a room in Gason’s Lodging House. In the few months, they had been living in Adelaide, they had both become drunkards and were prone to physical altercations with each other. Mary was often heard swearing at William, and only a week previously had hit him in the head with a bottle, leaving a deep cut.

When the trial proceeded, the defence applied the “Temporary insanity” clause, and pointed out the constant beratement of William by Mary. It was pointed out that both were very drunk, and that William had quite calmly asked Mary to go to bed, and she had flatly refused then started abusing him. William had then stated, “If you don’t go to bed I will put an end to you”, Mary, again refused, and this was when William became so enraged (and according to the defence, temporarily insane) that he stabbed his wife to death.

William Legge’s charges were downgraded from murder, to manslaughter, due to the temporary insanity defence, and instead of facing being hung for the wilful murder of his wife, he was sentenced to just ten years’ imprisonment.

Researched and written by Allen Tiller.

© 2018 Allen Tiller


1870 'LAW COURTS.', The Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA : 1867 - 1922), 18 May, p. 2. (SECOND EDITION.), viewed 02 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207720976

1870 'SHOCKING MURDER IN ADELAIDE.', Northern Argus (Clare, SA : 1869 - 1954), 25 March, p. 3. , viewed 02 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92777632

1920 'FIFTY YEARS AGO.', The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), 22 March, p. 6. , viewed 02 Jan 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article62618178