Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Hunter Valley Bushrangers

Stephen Toole and Thomas Collins

Stephen Toole, Thomas Collins and Michael Kenny were all sent to Sydney Gaol from Newcastle Gaol on 1st January 1831 charged with stealing in a dwelling house.

Stephen Toole arrived on the Henry Porcher in 1825

Thomas Collins arrived on the Mariner in 1827

Michael Kenny arrived on the Ferguson in 1829

They were sent for trial on 5th January 1831.


The Sydney Gazette reported the details of their trial......

Stephen Toole, Thomas Collins and Michael Kenny were indicted for stealing in the dwelling house of James Reid, Esq., at Nelson's Plains and putting a person therein in bodily fear, on the 5th May 1830.

William Gilbert - I am a shepherd; in May last, I was in the service of Mr. Samuel Wright at Nelson's Plains and lived in a hut belonging to Mr. Reid, who had the care of Mr. Wright's sheep; on the 5th May about 10 o'clock in the morning, three armed men came into the hut, two of whom were Toole and Collins, but I cannot swear to the third.

Toole was armed with a double barrelled gun, and Collins with two pistols, one on each hand, and the other man, I believe, had a musket; Toole presented the piece at me, and commanded me to lie down with my face to the ground or he'd blow my brains out; I asked him for what, and he said to Collins, 'come forward Jem, and let the b...g.r see we are well armed;'

I then yielded to them, and Toole knelt on my neck, while Collins tied my hands behind me; Toole then took from my person a £1 note, 3 half crowns, 1 shilling, 1 sixpence and, all my money, which my master had given me; Collins said I had more money, and told Toole to blow my brains out, if I did not give it up; Toole then searched the hut, and told Collins that he could find no more, but Collins still insisted that there was more, and frequently told Toole, to blow my brains out for a b...dy villain; they also took away some articles of wearing apparel, and blankets, belonging to me and to the other men, who lived in the hut with me.

Cross-examined by Mr. Williams for the prisoner Collins; I swear to Collins by his voice, for I did not see his face; I was a little alarmed, but I stood to them till I was overpowered. I never saw Collins before; I never saw Mr. Reid exercise any ownership over the hut; I was servant to Captain Wright, and so were the other men who were in the hut with me; we were all assigned servants to him.

Mr. Williams here submitted that the present information, stating the hut in which the robbery was committed to be the dwelling house of Mr. Reid, must fall to the ground, as there was no evidence that he inhabited it either by himself or by his servants, or that he exercised any ownership over it. The learned Judge directed the case to proceed, and said he would save the point.

Nicholas Nearney said, I know the prisoners; on the 5th May last, I saw Toole and Collins on Mr. Hudson's farm, about 3 o'clock in the day, when I was looking for some cows, which had gone astray; they were disputing about the division of some money; after a while Collins went away leaving Toole with me but shortly after returned and said to Toole 'Make haste, for Christy Harper's wife is going to spring the plant and is going into Sydney next day with the swag.'

Toole bid me stop till he came back and went away with Collins; about an hour after, he came back with a bundle, which I saw him open, and which contained wearing apparel; he said they were not half the things he had got; he said he had got them at Mr. Adair's; I did not see Kenny at all.

Cross examined - I am aware that Toole was implicated in Mr. Adair's robbery, and that a reward was offered for his apprehension; at the time I spoke to him I knew he was keeping out of the way on that account; I had given information about Toole before, but he was not found; I had known Collins before; I do not know where the hut in which Gilbert lived is situated..

William Bartlett - I was formerly a corporal in the mounted police; on the 5th May in consequence of information, I went to look for Toole at the place where I was informed he was secreted; I found him drinking in company with the other two prisoners; they were in a barn, where I found a double barrelled gun which I had been previously informed was in possession of Toole; next day I proceeded, on other information, to a dry creek in the neighbourhood, where I found several articles of wearing apparel. This was the case for the prosecution.

The learned Judge charged the Jury, telling them that the evidence in this case did not support that part of the information which laid the robbery to have been committed in the dwelling house of Mr. Reid. The prisoners Toole and Collins however or either of them might be convicted of the larceny stated in the information; but, with respect to Kenny, he did not think the evidence sufficient to warrant a conclusion that he was one of the party who robbed the hut of Gilbert.

The Jury found Toole and Collins guilty and acquitted the other prisoner. - Sydney Gazette 6 January 1831


For the above robbery and for stealing in the dwelling house of Stephen Barker at Patterson's Plains on 25th October 1829, Stephen Toole received a sentence of Death. He was executed on 14th February 1831 -

Stephen Toole, who, our readers will remember, was convicted with four others at the late sitting of the Criminal Court, of a robbery at Hunter's River, underwent the extreme penalty of the law at the rear of the gaol yesterday morning. He received the religious consolation of the Rev. J.J. Therry, but did not appear so well prepared to meet his awful end as his companions who suffered a short time back. Previous to the drop falling he obtained permission to speak, and declared his innocence of the crime for which he was about to die; acknowledging himself guilty however of many others, and begging the by-standers to pray for his soul. The fatal bolt was then withdrawn, and the unhappy man launched into an awful eternity with scarcely a struggle
. - Sydney Gazette 15 February 1831

**To spring the plant was to discover a bushranger's plant or recover articles from the plant. More slang here