27th September 1836

Local priests campaign to declare a man insane

Bootmaker Francois Caillot shot his wife, Mary, and was convicted of murder by 20 members of the 24-member jury that heard his case.

The only sentence available to the courts was death, but a petition raised by Reverend Gallichan, chaplain of the jail, and several other members of the local clergy, called for him to be declared insane so he might escape the noose.

A quiet, unrepentant prisoner

One of the petition’s motivations seems to have been a lack of interest on the part of the prisoner to seek forgiveness through the church. Rather, he sat very quietly in his cell, in solitary, doing and saying very little.

The Jersey Paper, which supported the abolition of the death penalty, nonetheless saw very little chance of the petition being effective. It noted that the court didn’t see him as fit for royal clemency and that the despite also being against capital punishment the king was unlikely to go against the views of his advisers.

A royal petition

Despite this, the court postponed his execution for three weeks to give him a chance to petition the king. Shortly thereafter, it was put off for another fortnight which, said The Globe, “is generally followed either by a pardon or a commutation”. This duly occurred. His sentence was commuted to transportation but, detailed the Liverpool Mail, “the whig official who penned the document forgot to state to what hulks, whether at Portsmouth or another place, he was to be transmitted as a preliminary step to transportation, in consequence of which this murderer must still be retained in prison…”

Eventually, Caillot found himself on a boat and became one of 254 transported to Australia on the Sarah, on 29 November 1836. He was put ashore at Van Diemen’s Land, Tasmania, after a crossing that lasted four months, to the day.


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