Charles Hutchinson Letter Book, 1878-80
page between 697 and 698

Feby 24 1880

J.G. Scott,
Office of Atty Genl, Toronto


Re Donnelly cases

I have the honor to acknowldge your communication of 23d inst, & in reply to your inquiry whether the crown will probably be able to proceed with the trial of the accused parties at the ensuing assizes, I can at present only say, that the prospect is not good of having a strong case prepared within so short of time. I had intended writing you on this subject & as to a change of venue when able to form a reliable opinion as to the amount & value of the evidence likely to be obtained. I shall be able to judge of this better after the conclusion of the preliminary examinations before the magistrates. These commence on Saturday, & will be continued on Thursday next & following days. Probably you have read the report of the examn [examination] of the boy O'Connor, which is very correctly given in the Globe. I shall be able to corroborate his testimony in a few particulars, but not to any great extent. There will be ample proof of motive, & certain facts will be put in evidence pointing to the accused as the guilty parties. The value of these will be better estimated, after the witnesses are heard. The case so far depends entirely upon the evidence of the boy O'Connor. I have no doubt that he tells the truth to the best of his knowledge & that he really recognised Carroll. He had every oppportunity of doing so, but it is possible that he is mistaken as to Ryder & Purtell. He took but a hurried glance from his hiding place, when he saw or thought he saw them, & at a time when he must have been much agitated. The boy is very intelligent, & told his story well, nor was he put out or led into any contradictions by a very lengthy crossexamination. There must be at least 100 people in Biddulph more or less cognizant of these murders, yet it is impossible to get evidence. No one knows anything. The friends even of the Donnellys hang back. The prisoners have said & will say nothing. Time may have some effect, but there will cetainly be no time to work a change between this & next assizes. I would like to recommend that the excitement be allowed to subside as much as possible & that the services of an Irish Roman Catholic detective be obtained from a distance, so as to avoid recognition. He would have to make himself at home in Biddulph for a time, & to use such means as his judgement & experience might suggest to obtain evidence. This might be done in time for the fall assizes. Meanwhile the persons who may be committed for trial, should be detained in close custody. There is always the chance of one or more breaking down during a long imprisonment. As to a change of venue, I would like to consider the question further before expressing an opinion. There are reasons for & against it & as this is a large county, it is likey that with a large pause, an impartial jury might be obtained. At the same time, there can be no question that every device has & will be resorted to, to inflame public opinion against the Donnellys. They have been accused of every undetected crime commited in Biddulph for years past, & the newspapers have been industriously circulating letters & paragraphs full of falsehood, to the detriment of this unhappy family. If the trial is put off until the fall, the question as to the change of venue can, I presume, rest for the present. I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Magee on Sunday, when we spoke of these matters. His views correspond with [mine] as to the advisability of deferring the trial till the fall. Mr. Magee has been confined to the house for some days. I will write you again after the close of the examinations, which will no doubt be reported in the Globe. We shall then be better able to form an opinion as to what should be done.

Your obedt servant,
Charles Hutchinson, Cty Atty

Source: J.J. Talman Regional Collection, University of Western Ontario Archives, Donnelly Family Papers, B4878, File 12, Charles Hutchinson, Charles Hutchinson Letter Book, February 24, 1880.

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