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1899, Ernest Wilkins - Unfit For Publication
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The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, Wed 30 Nov 1898 1

Saturday, Nov. 26.
(Before Mr LS Donaldson, PM.)


    Ernest J Wilkins was before the Court on the charge of committing an unnatural offence at Belarbigal. Mr Booth appeared for accused.

    Constable Stear deposed to receiving accused at noon on previous day from Sergeant McDonnell on the charge stated; asked for a remand till Tuesday.

    Accused was remanded accordingly. Mr Booth applied for bail. The police opposed the application, stating that accused had been arrested in consequence of the results of further investigation.

    His Worship said that if he allowed bail it would have to be very substantial, say in £200.

    The police (Sergeant Butler) said that if bail were allowed it would probably lead to further action on the part of the police, and the formulation of further charges. After further argument, the Police Magistrate said that in view of the representations made by the police he should refuse bail.

Tuesday, Nov, 29.
(Before Mr LS Donaldson, PM.)


    Ernest J Wilkins was charged, on remand, with committing an unnatural offence.

    Mr Booth appeared for the defence.

    Sergeant McDonnell deposed that about 10 pm on 23rd November he and Constable Keogh proceeded to accused’s residence at Belarbigal; Constable Keogh explained to accused who he (witness) was; they went to the schoolroom, and on the way witness cautioned him; on reaching the schoolroom witness called in a boy and said “Is this the school teacher you mentioned?”; he replied “yes”; then said that the boy charged him with committing on 21st March and twice since and offence on him; accused replied, “Great God, this is a terrible thing”—and after a pause added “It’s a lie”; called in a second boy and asked him if accused was the teacher mentioned in his statement; he replied “yes”; then told accused that boy had also made a charge against him; for a while accused said nothing, then he said “I would rather die a thousand times.”

    Mr Booth asked if the charges related to the same offence—if not, it seemed to be importing other matter.

    His Worship decided that the stage of a distinct charge by the police had not been reached.

    Witness, continuing, said he then had another boy called in, and asked him in accused’s presence if that was the teacher referred to in his statement; he said “Yes;” then told accused that the boy charged him with committing several offences on him during the past nine or ten months; accused replied, “It’s a lie—this is a conspiracy against me;” witness then called in another boy and put a similar question to him as to identification of accused; witness then said that that lad also charged him with the offence; accused again replied, “It’s a lie;” then cautioned accused and charged him with attempting to commit the offence on the four boys; he made no reply; then removed accused to the Dubbo lock-up; he was liberated on bail on the next day; on the 25th he saw accused at Minore and said, “You’re on bail now—I arrest you for committing an unnatural offence on a number of boys at Belarbigal;” after a pause accused said, “What was it—attempting?” witness said “Yes;” they walked on a little and accused said, “How is it they mixed it up?” witness said, I’m not going to tell you; that is a matter for the police;” removed him to the Dubbo lock-up.

    Cross-examined: Accused was partially undressed when witness called at the house; there were lights in some of the rooms; witness’s reference to the first boy was the first made to the offence by himself or the other officer in accused’s presence; accused seemed to completely collapse on hearing the first charge; witness and Constable Keogh arrived in Belarbigal during the afternoon of 23rd; saw the respective boys in the order they were referred to in his evidence; saw the boys separately no one was present in any case except the individual boy and Constable Keogh; some of the statements were read over in the presence of the fathers of the boys concerned; each boy was at or near his own home; charged accused with attempting in view of the gravity of imputing the major offence and the youth of the boys; Belarbigal is a farming district, and everyone seemed employed farming that day.

    Re-examined: On the day following the first arrest witness made further enquiry, and in view of information obtained he then charged accused with the actual offence; named no boys on that occasion.

    Albert Druitt, a lad of 15 years of age, residing with his father near Belarbigal, deposed that accused, whom he identified, was teacher of the public school at Belarbigal; witness had been attending the school for four years; accused boarded at witness’s father’s place for about two years; he slept in the room shared by the witness, but in a separate bed—–

    Sub-Inspector Cameron was proceeding to examine witness as to any act of accused towards him.

    Mr Booth raised the objection that witness was not referred to in the charge.

    His Worship said he should allow the examination.

    Witness deposed to a criminal assault being committed on some four years ago at night in the bedroom; it had been repeated scores of times; it was last perpetrated seven weeks ago; had seen other boys called in by accused during play hour—they were called one at a time, and accused closed the windows and doors; accused and witness’s father were on good terms.

    Cross-examined: Accused later had a room specially put up for him at the back of the house; never complained to his father about accused’s conduct; knew it was wrong, and often felt he should do so, but never liked to speak of it; did tell another boy of it a few weeks ago.

    Thos Wunderlich, a lad 15 years of age, residing with his mother at Belarbigal, identified accused as teacher of a school which he (witness) attended up to a short time ago; he deposed that about six months ago he had occasion to go to accused’s house; they stopped up till about 10.30 pm reading; accused got into bed with him and assaulted him; had been attending the school for four years; the offence had not been repeated.

    Cross-examined: Had been at accused’s place before and since; had never told any one of the circumstances except the police, but did speak to another boy after accused’s arrest.

    Albert Wunderlich, a lad of 12 years, was next called and gave evidence of a similar assault under circumstances of the same kind while he (witness) was staying for the night at accused’s house; a second offence on him was perpetrated in the schoolroom; other things of same nature happened at later dates; did t3ll some of the other boys, but did not tell his mother; accused told him to tell no one.

    Markwell Mangan, 15 years of age, in attendance at Belarbigal school during the past four years, deposed on being assaulted by accused on 21st March, and on subsequent occasions; accused told him not to tell anyone; the last offence took place a fortnight ago; told his father last Tuesday.

    Cecil Dugan, residing at Minore, also gave evidence of a similar assault, in the school; it was repeated later.

    Sidney J Beasley gave evidence of similar assaults.

    George Harvey and George Druitt gave evidence of similar assaults.

    The accused, in reply to the charge, said he had nothing to say, and reserved his defence.

    He was then committed for trial at next Court of Quarter Sessions, to be held at Dubbo in January next.

    Mr Booth applied for bail. Bail was allowed, self in £300 and two sureties of £150 each.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The National Advocate, Thu 1 Dec 1898 2


Dubbo, Wednesday.

    At Dubbo Police Court yesterday, Ernest J Wilkins, school teacher at Belarbigal, was committed for trial at the next Court of Quarter Sessions at Dubbo on a charge of committing an unnatural offence. The evidence tendered in connection with the offence indicated shocking depravity on the part of the accused and a number of boys, ranging in age from 15 downward, and that the horrible conduct complained of had been going on for four years. No less than eight boys testified to having been victims to the accused.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, Sat 28 Jan 1899 3


The sittings of the Quarter Sessions, to commence on Monday next before Judge Docker, are likely to be unusually heavy. The criminal list embraces over twenty cases. The following prisoners are now in Dubbo Gaol awaiting trial:—
    William Ryan, assault and robbery.
    Ernest Wilkins, unnatural offence.
    John Abbott, stealing in company.
    Frederick Edwards and Edward Cain, assault and robbery.
    Samuel Gannon, false pretences (two cases).
    James Ward and William Ward, assault and robbery.
    John O’Shannessy, forgery and uttering.
    Martin Hickey, larceny of a bailee.
    James Fearnley, breaking and entering.
    James Watts, assault and robbery.
    Samuel Johnston, maliciously wounding.

In addition, cases against the following accused persons on bail will be heard:—
    Herbert Tanner, embezzlement.
    W Davis, perjury.
    Henrietta Ingram and Jane Hughes, larceny.
    Annie Campbell, forgery and uttering.
    Joseph Cullen, stealing in company.
    Frederick John Scherf, forgery and uttering.
    Thos Gaunt, larceny.
    WR Macintosh, stealing from the person.
    William Rowley, indecent assault.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, Wed 1 Feb 1899 4


THE Quarter Sessions were opened at the Court House on Monday before His Honor Judge Docker. Mr LS Donaldson, PM, acted as Deputy Sheriff, Mr DR Jamieson acted as Clerk of the Peace, and Mr JHP Murray as Crown Prosecutor.


    Ernest Jas Wilkins was before the Court on a charge of committing an unnatural offence on Sydney D Beasley at Belarbigill. Mr W Edmunds, instructed by Mr R Booth, appeared for the defence.

    His Honor said the case was an extremely painful one. He ordered the exclusion of youths and females, and expressed a hope that all other persons whose avocations did not call for their presence, would leave the precincts.

    The accused challenged one juror.

    The lad Beasley was examined at great length.

    Dr HI Tresidder was sworn.

    Mr Edmunds, on behalf of accused, applied at this stage that Dr du Moulin be allowed to conduct an examination of the boy Beasley.

    After some hesitation, his Honor acceded to the application.

    Dr [Harry Innis] Tresidder then gave medical evidence as to the physical condition of the boy, which was in his (witness’s) opinion quite compatible with the representations made by the witness.

    Sergeant McDonnell gave evidence of his arrest of accused, first on the minor charge, and later on the major charge.

    For the defence,

    Dr EJB du Moulin deposed to the physical condition of accused. In witness’s opinion it was not possible for him to have committed the offence alleged. Had examined the boy Beasley. He did not show any indications of such assault as he had deposed to.

    The accused, Ernest J Wilkins, deposed that he was, prior to the charge, teacher in charge of Belarbigill school. Produced plan of premises. In order to keep out the glare, flies, etc, chaff-bags were fastened across the windows—they had been there for the past two years. Witness’s sister lived with him. A young man named Dollisson, who assisted at the school, was studying at the house for a position as teacher. The house was of wood, and any noises made in one room could be heard all over the house. Positively, denied at any time doing anything of the nature alleged, or anything of an immodest nature. Had been in delicate health for the last twelve months—suffering from asthma. The evidence of Dr du Moulin was correct as to himself. There was no truth whatever in the story told by Beasley. Had had occasion to punish the boy for misconduct.

    Cross-examined: Could not say exactly when he had to deal most severely with him. The 11 o’clock interval was from 10 to 15 minutes long. Might have been in the schoolroom with the doors shut. Might have gone up to the house with the boy Beasley, who had sometimes stayed there at night. One of witness’s sisters had lived at the house since Easter, 1896, the other came at the following Easter. The nearest house to the school was a quarter of a mile. Mr Dollisson occupied the same room as himself (accused); on most occasions during the 11 o’clock interval Dollisson would be in the schoolroom.

    By permission of his Honor the Crown Prosecutor questioned accused as to character.

    Witness stated that he could not conceive why the boy should have a spite against him. It was a fact that other boys made similar charges —

    Mr Edmunds objected.

    His Honor overruled the objection, but at Mr Edmund’s request noted it.

    Witness examined: Albert Druitt was not called in on the night when he (witness) was arrested. It was a fact that witness stayed at Mr Druitt’s for some months. Denied that he had at any time assaulted Albert Druitt.

    Ven Archdeacon Wilson deposed he had known accused for about three and a half years. Had had opportunities of observing his character. Had met him in Dubbo and at Belarbigill. Always had the very highest opinion of him. Had always considered him an upright honourable man, and had never heard anything whatever objectionable in his conversation.

    To his Honor: Had never had the relationship of father confessor to accused.

    Mr Edmunds desired to put in the certificates signed by the Inspectors of Schools.

    His Honor said he could not vary his practice. The Crown could admit the good character of any accused.

    Mr Edmunds said the Crown had tacitly consented by not objecting.

    His Honor said the responsibility of admitting or not admitting the documents rested with him. He declined to admit them.

    Mr Edmunds asked his Honor to make a note that he (the Judge) had overruled the application without objection from the Crown.

    The Crown Prosecutor: I do object.

    Alfred James Dollison deposed he resided at Minore; had boarded at the residence of the accused at Belarbigill for two years and eight months; usually stayed from Monday morning till Friday night; used to help in teaching; was studying for a position as teacher; the school doors were shut in windy weather only; even if shut they could be easily opened; had never seen accused with Beasley in the schoolroom early in the morning; the doors were never locked except during windy weather, and there was nothing to prevent a child from coming in.

    Cross-examined: Accused and he occasionally played cricket or football with the boys; they (he and accused) were together every morning from 9 to 9.30; admitted he had spoken to the lad Druitt while accused was out on bail; asked him if the police had been there and he said “No—and they would not get anything if they did;” did not know then whether Druitt was or was not mixed up in the matter; did not tell him not to tell the police anything if they came; was in the court on the day accused was remanded—that was the day he saw Druitt; had a bicycle outside the Court; did not at once go out to Belarbigill; was at Druitt’s before coming into Dubbo.

    Eleanor [ Wilkins] and Ida Wilkins, sisters of accused, gave evidence that they lived with him at Belarbigill for some years. Had never known any impropriety on his part.

    Accused was at this stage remanded, to allow of medical examination. He said he could not agree with the deductions arrived at by Dr du Moulin.

    In rebuttal, Albert Druitt was recalled. The Crown Prosecutor was questioning him as to his conversation with Dollison, when Mr Edmunds objected. Ultimately the Crown Prosecutor said he would not press the evidence, and the witness retired.

    Counsel addressed the jury

    His Honor, in commencing his address, said the alleged crime was most revolting; it must be offensive to any proper-minded person to have to listen to the investigation of any such charge. Such details were no doubt gratifying to filthy minds. And that there were in that district a large number of persons who delighted in details of that kind was quite apparent, as a glance at the gallery of the Court would show. All present not engaged in the case, it had been suggested, would do well to leave, if the nature of their avocations did not compel them to stay. But instead of that one saw an intense crowd, all eyes and ears, sucking in this filth. That was one of the most significant signs of corruption in this district. That such corruption existed in regard to that particular school they could have no doubt. The case for the Crown was that the boys referred to during the case, and a number of other boys attending the school, had been corrupted by the accused. The case for the accused was that they had been corrupted by some other cause. And unfortunately the evidence went to show that the corruption did not extend merely to the boys, but included the girls also. These were facts that deserved the greatest consideration on the part of all who had the welfare of their country at heart. There were those who wished to see our people grow into a great and noble nation, but it was impossible for this to come to pass if the very fountain-head—the boyhood and girlhood of the nation—were thus corrupted.

    He then summed up. He said that there were nominally three courses open to the jury, but as a matter of fact these resolved themselves in that case into two—guilty on the major count, or not guilty at all. He reviewed the medical evidence, contending that Dr du Moulin’s testimony referred to an examination of the boy made so long after the date of the alleged commission of the offence that, despite his disagreement with Dr Tresidder as to the boy’s physical condition, a contradiction could not be said to have been established. He then said that the defence was of a two-fold character, first that opportunities had never been afforded of committing the offence, and next that accused was morally incapable of committing it. Considering the gravity of the offence—the punishment and loss of social status that it carried with it—the accused’s point-blank denial was really only to be expected; and no great weight could attach to it. As to the testimony of the sisters and Dollison, and without attributing direct misrepresentation to them, it was obvious they could not have been incessantly in accused’s company. Their evidence really proved too much, and conflicted with accused’s own evidence. The evidence of character only by Archdeacon Wilson, referred to certain and stated periods. On the evidence of accused himself he (accused) was an unchaste man. The representation on his behalf that it was physically impossible for him to commit the offence was demolished by his own admissions. There was no sound basis for the charge of spite. In a case of conspiracy on the part of the boys, there would no doubt have been something “invented” in the way of corroboration by one or more of their number, but such was absolutely lacking in that case. That the boy Beasley was fairly truthful might be inferred from his damaging admissions respecting himself—if he had been capable of lying to convict accused, he would have lied to shield himself. On the other hand he was the sole direct evidence against accused; and the jury’s verdict would be as they believed or disbelieved his story.

    After a short retirement the jury returned with a verdict of guilty. Prisoner was remanded for sentence.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Thu 2 Feb 1899 5

(From Our Correspondent.)


Dubbo, Wednesday.

    Ernest J Wilkins, a school teacher at Belarbigal, [sic] appeared at the Dubbo Quarter Sessions yesterday, charged with a shocking offence on a schoolboy, aged 10 years. Medical evidence was called for the defence to show that the accused was incapable of the crime. The jury returned a verdict of guilty. Seven other similar charges against the accused will probably be withdrawn. The evidence disclosed terrible depravity on the part of the scholars. The Judge complained strongly of the number prurient minded persons remaining in the court during the trial, and said that it showed the depraved taste of the people. The prisoner was remanded for sentence.

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Dubbo Dispatch and Wellington Independent, Fri 3 Feb 1899 6

Monday, January 30, 1999. [sic]
(Before His Honour Judge Docker).

THE Quarter Sessions opened on Monday before Judge Docker. Mr Hubert Murray prosecuted, and Mr Jamieson acted as Deputy Clerk of the Peace, and the Deputy Sheriff was Mr LS Donaldson, PM.


Ernest James Wilkins [aka Ernest Wilkins] was before the court on a charge of committing an unnatural offence on Sydney Beasley at Belarbigill.

    Mr Edmunds, instructed by Mr R Booth, appeared for the defence.
    His Honor asked that all children and women leave the court.
    After the jury was empanelled, he suggested that all those who were not interested in the case should leave.
    Not one in the packed court adopted the suggestion.
    The case is entirely unfit for publication.
    The jury, after a short retirement, brought in a verdict of guilty.

Wednesday, February 1.


Earnest Charles [sic] Wilkins (who was found guilty on the previous day) pleaded not guilty to two other charges. The Crown Prosecutor said there were four other charges, but it was not intended to proceed with them.


    The Court was opened at 9 o’clock, and His Honour said he was prepared to deal with the case of Annie Campbell

    Earnest [sic] James Wilkins was brought up for sentence. Mr Edmunds made an eloquent appeal in his favour.

    His Honour said the maximum penalty provided by the law for the heinous crime was penal servitude for life, and the minimum five years’ penal servitude. Considering the position of prisoner—and his relation as a schoolmaster—to the fact that he had betrayed his trust to the pupils who were under his control, he would not take the responsibility of passing less than the maximum sentence. It would be for the Executive to afterwards remit the sentence if it was wise. The sentence of the Court was that prisoner be kept in penal servitude for life.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, Sat 4 Feb 1899 7

Tuesday, January 31.

Wednesday, February 1.



    Ernest J Wilkins, who had been convicted of an unnatural offence on the previous day, was on Wednesday arraigned on two other charges, to which he pleaded not guilty. On those other charges in the list, the Crown signified that it would not proceed against defendant. He was remanded for sentence.

    Prisoner was brought up for sentence on Thursday morning.

    Mr Edmunds addressed His Honor in mitigation of sentence, pointing out that prisoner had greatly assisted his parents and sisters up to that date, had been studying very hard and was excited over an examination, and had made good progress in his profession. He hoped that His Honor would not absolutely remove hope from the prisoner.
His Honor, addressing the prisoner, said the jury had found him guilty of one of the most abominable crime known to the law, for which not many years ago the punishment was death. This provision, however, had been repealed. The law as it now stood was that whoever should commit the said crime should be liable to penal servitude for life, or any term not less than five years. Counsel had appealed to him (the Judge) to make the sentence as lenient as possible; but even he knew that it must be a heavy punishment. It was his (the Judge’s) duty to look at all the facts of the case. He had to assume that the evidence that satisfied the jury was true. In that case it was shown that in the case of the boy concerned, prisoner had habitually practised the crime upon him. The evidence showed that three offences were committed on him. But it appeared from the depositions that it had been committed many more times. The depositions showed that no fewer than eight boys in all alleged that he had committed the offence on them, in most cases habitually. His Honor said that he should like to know how the matter first came to be disclosed.

    Sub-Inspector Cameron said that one of the resident farmers in the district made a complaint. Other farmers got together and the case was talked over, and one of their number volunteered to come in to the police. It seemed that the case had arisen out of a boy’s reluctance to attend school—that on his being pressed for reasons for such reluctance, ceratin statements were made.

    Prisoner asked if he could desire the Sub-Inspector to say who the boy was.

    Sub-Inspector Cameron declined to give the name. (He was upheld in so doing by His Honor.) He added that the informant said that he wished his name kept secret, and that they all looked upon accused as a most respectable man—that they considered him a good man, and would be very sorry to lose him, and they take no steps against him unless the facts were proved.

    His Honor said it appeared from the surroundings that prisoner had habitually practised this offence on these boys for a long period—in fact during the time that in the estimation of his friends and superiors he appears to have borne a very high character as a schoolmaster. The boys were pupils entrusted to his charge, and he knew it his duty was to train them in habits of morality. But notwithstanding this, he had been all this time corrupting them in this horrible way. Instead of training them to be good upright members of society, and a credit to the district, he had dealt with them in such a way as to ruin them possibly for life. He had made them a possible menace to society instead of being a credit to it. This was a terrible breach of duty, and it meant one of the worst offences known. The boys were under his influence, and one of the worst things was that they had seemed to acquiesce in the proceedings, though they knew it was wrong. The law provided a special and extra punishment for a teacher who corrupted girls under his charge; and the same principle applied to boys in a matter of that kind. In fact it was possibly an offence of a more serious kind, as opposed to ordinary nature, and from its very relationship to the future of the boys on whom it was committed. The law contemplated that there were cases in which it was necessary to deprive perpetrators of offences of this class of their liberty for life. He (the Judge) was very happy to say that in so far as his practice in the Courts was concerned it was very rarely if ever that he was called on to pass the maximum sentence. When he could, he liked to pass a light sentence. But it seemed impossible to conceive a worse instance of the offence than that of prisoner’s. Sorry as he (the Judge) might be for the resdectable [sic] family with which prisoner was connected—and he was very glad that prisoner had no wife to feel the hardship of the case—he (the Judge) could not allow consideration for them to interfere with the sentence which the prisoner had deserved. He had been appealed to allow prisoner some hope and opportunity to retrieve his character, and some degree of liberty again. All he (the Judge) could say as to that was that he could not undertake to do what he was asked to do in letting the prisoner out at liberty in any less period than the maximum that the law required. The responsibility for that must rest with the Governor and Executive Council. In a case of that kind—of those horrible circumstances—he (the Judge) seemed to have only one duty to perform, which was to pass upon prisoner the sentence which the law provided for the worst cases of the kind. Of this he was convinced, and therefore, sorry as he might be, he was compelled to sentence prisoner to be kept to penal servitude for life. It was a terrible sentence. He did not, however, say that prisoner should have no hope. The Executive might possibly, when they saw it safe to do so, make some remission. The sentence would be on each count.

    The prisoner, who appeared much depressed, was then removed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ernest James Wilkins, Gaol photo sheet 8

SRNSW: NRS2232, [3/5972], Goulburn Gaol photographic description book, 13 Dec1896-28 Jun 1899, No. 1293, p. 184, R5120.

Gaol Photo Sheet - 
Transcribed Details

No. 1293

Date when Portrait was taken: 21-3-1899


Name: Ernest James Wilkins

Native place: Cudgegong

Year of birth: 1879

Arrived       Ship:
in Colony }   Year:

Trade or occupation
previous to conviction  } School Teacher

Religion: C of E

Education, degree of: R. W.

Height: 5' 5"

Weight     On committal: 125
in lbs     } On discharge:

Colour of hair: Dark brown

Colour of eyes: Grey

Marks or special features: Scar right forearm

(No. of previous Portrait ... ) 


Where and When Offence. Sentence

Dubbo Q.S




Sodomy (3 counts)

Life PS


1     The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, Wed 30 Nov 1898, p. 3. Emphasis added.

2     The National Advocate, Thu 1 Dec 1898, p. 2.

3     The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, Sat 28 Jan 1899, p. 5. Emphasis added.

4     The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, Wed 1 Feb 1899, p. 2. Emphasis added.

5     The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Thu 2 Feb 1899, p. 3.

6     Dubbo Dispatch and Wellington Independent, Fri 3 Feb 1899, p. 6.

7     The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, Sat 4 Feb 1899, pp. 2, 6.

8     SRNSW: NRS2232, [3/5972], Goulburn Gaol photographic description book, 13 Dec1896-28 Jun 1899, No. 1293, p. 184, R5120.