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 John Jarvis and Joseph Stephenson

John Jarvis the husband of Hannah Clarke died in Cooma Hospital on 27 September 1923 as the result of an assault by his friend Joseph Stephenson at his house on the Bega road at Nimmitabel on 21 September. Joseph Stephenson, a returned serviceman called the police to the scene at about 4 pm. When the police entered the house they found John Jarvis lying on the floor in a corner. He was breathing heavily and his face was covered with blood which flowed from a wound on the forehead just over the left eye. When asked what had happened, Stephenson said 'he came at me with a knife and I hit him on the head with the axe'. Stephenson then picked up the axe again and said 'I'll finish the ? ? ?.' Stephenson was taken to the cells and later asked 'Is is dead; did I finish him? - I hope so'.

Stephenson was employed around Nimmitabel and would come into town every three weeks or so. He used to drink continuously when in town and when he gets a certain amount he would sit and sing. Stephenson and Jarvis were friendly, whenever Stephenson was in town he would stay at Jarvis' hut. John Jarvis was about 6 ft tall, a pensioner aged about 70 years and did occasional jobs at carpentry. Stephenson was about 5 ft 6 in. Jarvis and Stephenson were taken to Cooma. John Jarvis was admitted to the hospital, he was unconscious, paralysed on the right side of the face; he had a compound depressed fracture in the left temple region; his nose was broken and he had a black eye. Following his death a post mortem revealed he had died from injury to the brain, caused by a fracture of the skull which had broken into thirteen pieces.

The day after the attack Stephenson said to the police "Well it's all his own fault, he called me a pommy mongrel and made to hit me with the axe. I caught the axe and threw it at him. He was very cranky and no one could work with him; I am the only man he ever got on with. I went straight and told the Sergeant. At the Coronial Inquiry held at Cooma on Friday 28 September, the Coroner found that John Jarvis was willfully and maliciously murdered by Joseph Stephenson and committed him for trial.

The trial was held in the Central Criminal Court, Sydney on 26 November 1923. In giving evidence Stephenson said Jarvis had come at him with an axe and struck him on the hand. He took the axe from Jarvis who then attacked him with a knife. He threw the axe at Jarvis with the intent to hit his arm but it struck his head instead. The charge of murder failed, the jury brought in a verdict of manslaughter, with a strong recommendation for mercy. Stephenson was sentenced on 29 November 1923 to four years penal servitude. The Judge was satisfied that the crime was the result of a drunken brawl and hoped the sentence would have some effect in causing recovery of prisoner's self control and self restraint, and lead to a change of habit.

The Cooma Express 1 Oct 1923
Daily Telegraph 27 Nov 1923
Sydney Morning Herald 30 Nov 1923

Submitted by Kevin Browning <brownink@ideal.net.au>


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