The whole of these persons at the time of their trial for piracy were already convicts; but having been concerned in a mutinous seizure of a vessel, in which they were confined as prisoners, they subjected themselves to a punishment more severe than that to which they had been already sentenced, and were therefore liable to a second trial.
They were indicted at the admiralty sessions of the Old Bailey on Thursday, November 4, 1830, for having, on the 5th September in the previous year, piratically seized the brig Cyprus. And they were also indicted for that they, being convicts, had been found at large in England before the period of the sentence of transportation passed upon them had expired.
The facts proved in evidence were shortly these:-- The prisoners were convicts in Hobart Town, but having been there guilty of second crimes, by which they rendered themselves liable to new punishment, they were tried before the supreme court of judicature there, and sentenced to transportation. The places to which prisoners twice convicted were at this period assigned, were Macquarie Harbour, a place on the northern coast of Van Diemen's Land, and Norfolk Island, which is situated at a distance of about a week's sail from Sydney, in an easterly direction. The prisoners were ordered to be conveyed to Macquarie Harbour, where they well knew they would be subjected to drudgery of the very worst description, in punishment for their offences. The Cyprus, a colonial brig, was chartered to convey them to the place of their destination; and, in the month of August 1829, she sailed, having on board thirty-two convicts, a crew of eight men, a military guard of twelve men, under the command of Lieutenant Carew, whose wife and children were passengers, and a medical gentleman named Williams, under whose superintending care the convicts were placed.
On the 5th of September, Dr. Williams, Lieutenant Carew, the chief mate, a soldier, and a convict named Popjoy, went ashore in Research Bay on a fishing excursion; but when they had left the ship about half-an-hour, they heard a firing on board, which induced a fear that the convicts were striving to overpower the guard and crew. They immediately returned, and on their going alongside found that their anticipations were realised, and that the convicts having risen en masse, had mastered the guard, and were now in possession of the ship. They refused to suffer any one to board except Popjoy; and, having secured him, they thrust him down below. Immediately afterwards the convicts sent the crew and the soldiers and passengers ashore, but without provisions or the means of existence. Popjoy swam ashore the next morning, and was of material assistance afterwards in procuring fish, &c. for his fellow sufferers.
On that evening the Cyprus made off, and Lieutenant Carew and the rest remained in a most forlorn and miserable condition for many days, until they were at length happily delivered from the dangers which surrounded them by the Zebra, a small vessel which was accidentally sailing by, and saw some signals of distress which they made. The Cyprus was never afterwards heard of; but the prisoners were apprehended separately in various parts of Sussex and Essex, whither they had returned to their old haunts.
The evidence of Popjoy, who for his good conduct on this occasion had received a free pardon, and who was now a seaman in the East India Company's service, was procured at the trial, and tended to fix guilt upon all the prisoners; Stevenson and Beveridge, however, he admitted were not so active as many others; and the conduct of Swallow, he said, was quite consistent with the defence which he set up, that he had been forced to act by the other mutineers.
Other witnesses corroborated his testimony, and Swallow was acquitted, while a verdict was returned against the other prisoners, Stevenson and Beveridge being recommended to mercy.
Sentence of death was immediately passed upon the convicts. On the 1st of December following, the cases of the prisoners were reported to His Majesty, by Sir Christopher Robinson, the judge of the Admiralty Court; and His Majesty was pleased to grant a respite to all but Watts, alias Williams, and Davis, alias Huntley.
On Thursday, 9th of December 1830, the sentence of death was carried into execution on these culprits. In the early part of the morning they partook of a slight repast, and at about half-past seven received the sacrament. They then admitted that they were about to die justly, and declared that they were at peace with the world. Davis was neatly and respectably attired in a new suit of blue clothes; and his fellow-sufferer also wore a blue jacket, with a white waistcoat and trousers. They behaved with much decorum, but were both extremely dejected.
Beveridge and Stevenson, who had also been convicted, were transported for life to Norfolk Island; and Swallow having been identified upon the indictment, by which he was charged to be a returned transport, was sentenced to be once more sent back to Macquarie Harbour, to undergo the remainder of the punishment to which he had been already sentenced.