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Leinster Express, December 4th, 1852
Owing to the inquest on Philip Smith, the highwayman, taking place on the eve of our publication, we were prevented giving a report of it in last week’s Express. We do not regret this as we are now enabled to give a full and accurate report of that enquiry. It was held at the Police Barrack, Celbridge, before Mr. Hayes, the Coroner of the Southern Division of the County Kildare. The body of the deceased prisoner lay in an adjoining room. He seemed to be a man about 28 years of age, 5ft. 10in. high, strongly built, and of great muscular power.
The Hon. Edward Lawless, J.P.; N Barton, Esq., J.P; Alexander Kirkpatrick, Esq., J.P.; Counsellor Maunsell, &c., attended, and took great interest in the proceedings.
The Coroner having directed Dr. Mouritz, to make a post mortem examination of the deceased, previous to giving his evidence, proceeded to swear the following respectable jury:-
John Haughton, William Brown, Henry Hobart, William Kirkpatrick, Thomas Henry, William Nixon, John Maunsell, James McManus, Richard Heir, George Buckly, Richard Cooney, Edward Gargan.
The Coroner addressed a few observations to the jury – He said, their duty on this occasion was to try and enquire, when, how, and by what means the deceased Philip Smith, came by his death. From the report that had been made to him, it was clear that a homicide had been committed, he was bound to tell them, that there were three degrees of homicide, viz., murder, manslaughter, and justifiable homicide; it would be for the jury, after hearing the evidence, and maturely weighing every circumstance, to say to which of these classes the present case belonged. The Coroner and jury having proceeded to the next room to view the body, on their return the following evidence was taken:-
Richard Stafford examined – I am a constable of constabulary stationed at Celbridge; the 18th November I was on duty in the country, and on my return I met a man named Thomas Reilly, against whom I had a warrant, signed by Sir Edward Kennedy; I arrested him, and as I came along the road, through Oldtown, with my prisoner, a man came out of a lane and said, “is that Tom,” meaning the prisoner; Reilly answered “yes,” and turned round; I also turned round; the man who came out of the lane fired a pistol at me; the contents took effect in the right side of my head; I was a little stunned for a moment; the man fired another shot at me in about a second of time from the first, and it wounded me in the left arm and the left side of the head; I was greatly stunned by the second shot, and staggered on the road; my walking stick fell from my hand and Reilly picked it up and struck me on the head with it; I had never seen the man who shot me before that evening; I saw the deceased, Philip Smith, after he was brought here, and he was the man who fired at me; he and Reilly beat me on the road.
To the jury – I had been on duty by myself, but not for the purpose of arresting Reilly; I met him by chance.
Mr. Pilkington, the District Inspector, stated that it was contrary to rule for a constable to go out alone for the purpose of executing a warrant for the arrest of a prisoner.
Examination continued – Smith, before firing, said to Reilly, “Guard yourself!” or something of the kind; it happened about five in the evening; when I was knocked down Smith said to Reilly, “lay on him you, while I load the pistol again, and blow it through his ear; Smith struck me with the pistol and split my lip; Reilly kept striking at me on the ground, while Smith began loading the pistol; and as I knew if they loaded again I would be killed, I managed to draw my bayonet, and struck at Reilly with it; it touched his groin, and he drew back; I got on my legs, and ran about a hundred paces into Mr. Booth’s gate; they followed me, and I heard Smith say to Reilly, “You cowardly dog you let him off to prosecute us;” they followed me until I got inside the gate, and then I heard their footsteps going off; when I got into Mr. Booth’s I asked for a loaded gun, intending to pursue them, but Mr. Booth’s gun was not in order, so I had to give up my intention of doing so; Mr. Booth treated me very kindly.
Anne McCann examined – I live in the house of James McCann at Taghadoe; I am his daughter; on last Wednesday morning, about seven o’clock, the deceased came to my father’s house; he was in the habit of frequenting it; he slept there one night after he broke out of the police barrack at Clonee; he slept there again about a month ago; on the second occasion he had a pistol with him; about a fortnight ago he was in my father’s house and had a blunderbuss with him; it was about half-past five in the evening, and he only remained a few minutes; when he came to the house on last Wednesday he said he would shoot any one that would not give him shelter; he sent for bread and butter and tea for his breakfast; he remained all day in the house until about half-past two, when the police came to arrest him; I saw them approaching and told him they were coming; they came up a straight lane to the door; Smith was lying in bed at the time; he said he was sold; he made me shut the door, and then got up and dressed himself; my father was in the house at the time; he took the blunderbuss which he had with him in the bed, and put powder in the pan from a powder horn (identifies a powder horn which was found with the deceased); he then put powder in the pan of the pistol; at this time the door was locked; the police knocked at the door, and demanded admittance, he said he would open it and be out with them shortly; he said he had only one life to lose, and that he would take the life of some of them; he said, “If I knew who sold me –“ and then desired me to open the door; I did so and then retired; he then walked out with the double-barrelled pistol in one hand, and the blunderbuss in the other; (identifies a loaded pistol which was found with the deceased, and a blunderbuss which she said was the one she saw with him); when he went out I heard him tell them to come on now and fire, and take him if they dared; Sub-Constable Adams told him he was the Queen’s prisoner, and called on him to lay down his arms; he said he would not and desired them to lay down theirs; I heard more words pass between them but did not know their purport;’ Smith walked sideways with his fire-arms presented at the police; then he turned round and walked up to them and said, “Come, now, fire;” he had the blunderbuss in one hand presented towards them, and the pistol in the other; he walked about eight perches from the house, the police still following him and calling on him to surrender; Sub-Constable Adams begged of him in a kind tone to surrender, and not to have any blood spilled; in about two minutes afterwards Smith walked towards the police, when Sub-Constable Adams fired, and Smith fell on his knee, and at that moment discharged the blunderbuss at the policeman who was opposite to him; then a second shot was fired by a policeman, but it did not take effect; Sub-Constable Adams then ran in upon him and took the double-barrelled pistol and powder horn from him; when he was down the police did not bayonet him; one of the policemen took the blunderbuss and was going to strike him with it, but Sub-Constable Adams prevented him; he was not assaulted or struck while down; the police got a cart and deceased was put on it and taken away.
To the Jury – When Smith went to bed in the morning he told me to keep watch for him; he was awake when I told him the police were coming, and the door was only latched.
To the Coroner – The night he possessed himself of the blunderbuss he came to my father’s house, and was accompanied by Reilly; he acknowledged that he had taken the blunderbuss from a man named Henry, who lived at Newtown, about a quarter of a mile off; he said to my father that he was after rescuing Reilly from a police sergeant whom he beat; he said he had fired a pistol at the sergeant, but it missed, and that he fired a second time at him, but he thought it did not kill him; on last Wednesday he said to me he had stopped a bread cart on Monday evening, and taken two pounds and something from the baker’s boy; I heard him say that he always fed well.
Christopher Monaghan examined – I am at present in the employment of James McCann, and was threshing for him on Wednesday last, at his house at Taghadoe; I was just after my dinner, and was going from the house to the barn when the police came up to the barn door; they asked me who was within, and I said the old man (McCann), and another boy whose name I did not give them, it was Philip Smith; they asked me could they get into the house for fire, and I said they could; they went to the door, and I heard them knock, but I saw no more until about fifteen minutes afterwards, when I saw Smith coming out of the house with this blunderbuss in one hand, and this pistol in the other; the man that shot him said – “In the name of God lay down your arms;” he said “death before I’ll lay them down;” he kept moving about, holding the fire arms presented at the police, and Sub-Constable Adams called on him five or six times to lay down his arms; Smith ran up to Adams and said that if he did not lay down his arms he would put the contents of the blunderbuss through him; they were then six yards from each other; it was then that Adams fired at him; Smith was just raising the blunderbuss to his shoulder when he did so; Smith fell on one knee and discharged the blunderbuss at a policeman who was within four yards of him and both fell together; just as Smith was falling to the ground another policeman fired at him; the man that fired the last shot took the blunderbuss from Smith, and was about to strike him with the butt end of it when Sub-Constable Adams prevented him; he told him not to mind him; when Smith was shot he cried out, “Adams, you have destroyed me,” and in that way witness learned the name of the policeman who fired; deceased and the wounded policeman were then put in a cart and taken away,
To the Jury – I had seen Smith at McCann’s four or five times; he slept with me one night in the barn about a fortnight ago, and had a double-barrelled pistol with him; he said he carried them lest the police might take him, and that he would shoot them before he would allow himself to be taken; I saw the blunderbuss with him when he came to the house on Wednesday morning.
To the Coroner – He acknowledged that £1 1s which he had that morning, was part of the money which he took from the baker; from Smith’s demeanour, and the way he was armed, I do not think the police could have arrested him without firing on him; he said on one occasion that he would shoot any of the police that came in his way, whether they wanted to take him or not, and particularly a man named Fitzgibbon.
Mr. Pilkington said that Fitzgibbon had once prosecuted Smith for tearing his clothes.
The Coroner asked the jury did they desire to have any of the police constable’s examined, and they replied in the negative.
Henry Brudenell Pilkington, Esq., examined – I am the inspector of constabulary of the district, and am stationed at Leixlip; a proclamation of the Lords Justices, a copy of which I now produce, signed by Mr. Wynne, the Under Secretary, offering a reward of £60 for the apprehension of Thomas Reilly and Philip Smith, the latter of whom had fired at Constable Stafford, was posted previous to the 24th instant, the day on which Smith was shot, and was a sufficient authority to the police to arrest him; independently of it they are authorised to arrest all persons who go armed through the country and commit robberies as he did; on Wednesday, the 24th, I was out in search of Smith, and in the evening I came here and found him lying in a dying state; I went to his bed-side, and he looked at me and said, “It’s well for you Pilkington, that I am here, as I intended to have balled you off (or some such expression), and then I would have died easy.”
The Honourable Mr. Lawless mentioned that he was standing by at the time, and the deceased also said that he might be out of that yet, and then he would put a ball through him.
Dr. Mouritz examined – On the evening of Wednesday last, about four o’clock, I was summoned to the police barrack, and a cart came up in which the deceased and the policeman were lying wounded; I attended to the policeman first, and to Smith afterwards; the policeman was bleeding profusely from the mouth and face, from several wounds caused by shot; I found Smith bleeding from a compound wound made by a bullet through the joint of his right knee; the bone was fractured in pieces; I applied a tourniquet both above and below, and plugged up the wound; I placed him on a bedstead and applied stimulants to try and retain life; both men were cold and in a collapsed state when they arrived on the card; Smith died at 18 minutes to 10 o’clock that evening; his death was the result of haemorrhage from his wound; there was but one wound on his body, viz., that on his knee, of which he died.
The Coroner asked the jury if they required any further evidence, and they expressed themselves perfectly satisfied with that which they had heard.
The Coroner said it was clear that the deceased had committed various offences in the country, and that the police had every right to arrest him. They went to do so, and he met them and evinced a determination to offer all the resistance in his power. He (Mr. Hayes) would read the opinion of Chief Justice Bushe as to how policemen were to act under such circumstances. The Coroner then read the following case from Hayes’s Criminal Law: - “Rex v. Quinerty and Another, tried at Carlow Lent Assizes, 1830.” The prisoners were constables who had a warrant against a man named Watters for felony. They went to his house by night and found it closed. He was inside, and being informed by them of the warrant and called on to surrender, refused to do so “until death.” After being repulsed, in an attempt to escape out of the thatch of the house, he broke out of the door behind his mother and fled. The constables pursued him a few yards, when one of them fired at a distance of 25 yards, after first throwing his stick at him, which missed. The prisoner fell, but immediately rose again and took to flight. The second shot was fired at a distance of 25 yards from where he had fallen, which brought him to the ground, from which he rose no more. Chief Justice Bushe, in charging the jury, said – “The law is simply this: a constable in the execution of his duty is justified in taking away life if it be indispensably necessary, but not otherwise. If he have a warrant for any crime, from the highest to the lowest, whether a felony or a misdemeanour, and the party resists, and the constables have no means of making him amenable except by killing him, he is justified in so doing.” It was quite clear that the police had no other alternative but to fire at this man, and therefore they (the jury) would be justified in finding a verdict to that effect.
Mr. Maunsell, J.P., said he thought it only right that the conduct of the party of police should be brought under the notice of the proper authorities, for he considered that they had acted with a great deal of lenity and forbearance, and deserved a great deal of credit, especially Sub –Constable Adams.
The jury at once found the following verdict:-
“We find that the deceased, Philip Smith, died at Celbridge on Wednesday, the 24th November, 1852, from the effects of a gunshot wound received on the 24th instant, at Taghadoe, in the parish of Taghadoe, barony of North Salt, county Kildare, when resisting being arrested on a charge of firing at and grievously wounding Constable Stafford, near Celbridge, in said county, on the 18th instant. We further find that said shot was fired by Andrew Adams, sub-constable of police, and that he fired it justifiably and of inevitable necessity in the discharge of his duty. We, the jury, cannot separate without bearing testimony to the humane, and at the same time, firm conduct of Sub-Constable Adams, and the party under his command on this occasion, and wish that this, our opinion, should be forwarded by the Coroner to the Inspector-General.”   

The inquest on Philip Smith, the highwayman,which took place in Celbridge, is recounted in the Leinster Express of December 4th, 1852

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