18th March 1846
Female murderer is a court sensation
The court was full when 40-year-old Mary le Gendre answered the charge of murder. She pleaded not guilty of stabbing Centenier George le Cronier to death.
Evidence presented in court outlined how le Gendre was the keeper of Mulberry Cottage, which was termed “a house of ill fame” and the site of fights and a menace to its neighbours. Following several complaints, le Cronier was instructed to go there and arrest as many women as he could find (it was likely a brothel). He arrested 11 women and was subsequently instructed to return to the cottage and take both le Gendre and her husband into custody.
An eye witness
It seems they were not prepared to go quietly and, on 27 February, Mary le Gendre stabbed the Centenier, witnessed by a second police officer, towards whom she thrust the knife for a second time. The second man fled the house, with le Cronier staggering behind and Mary le Gendre in pursuit, shouting warnings that if anyone else came to take her away she would “be their butcher”.
Unsurprisingly, with an eye witness to call on, a dead body, and the knife, which had been recovered from where she’d thrown it over a wall, the case against her was conclusive.
Le Gendre was found guilty of murder twice over – once by the petty jury that sat through her first trial, and again, the following day, by the grand jury to which she appealed the verdict. However, she escaped the death penalty, instead being sentenced to transportation to Australia for life.
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