Charles Hutchinson Letter Book, 1878-80
p. 706

London Ont., March 6, 1880

Hon. O. Mowat, Atty Genl

Re Donnelly murder cases

Sir -
[...] But for the prejudice that exists, there would be sufficient to justify the expectation of a verdict for the Crown vs. the 6 persons in custody, viz. Jas. Carroll, John Kennedy, Thos Ryder, John Purtell, Martin McLoughlin & Jas. Ryder. As it is, there does not appear much chance of any such result. The prejudice against the Donnellys & the sympathy in favor of the accused preclude the hope of a fair trial in this county. Mr. Magee & I therefore concur in recommending an application for a change of venue. [...] As regards the county to which the venue should be changed, we would be satisfied to select Elgin or Oxford. It would be convenient to all parties, & an impartial jury could no doubt be obtained. We do not think it will be advisable to go to trial till the fall. We have only 6 persons in custody, charged with murders in which at least 20 were concerned. [...] The case for the Crown depends mainly upon the evidence of the boy O'Connor, & Wm Donnelly. Both require to be corroborated, if possible, to a greater extent than has as yet been accomplished. We are satisfied with the truth of their testimony, but the boy is very young, & Donnlly's character very bad, & a jury would probably hesitate to convict, without their evidence being amply corroborated. [...] So many were concerned in [the] tragedy, that the facts must be known to many, but no one will tell. The Biddulph people generally sympathise with the murderers. The few who do not, are afraid to speak, even if they know anything, which is not likely. The murders were the work of the Vigilance Committee, unless we are much astray, & the Vigilance Committee is the offspring of the Parish Priest, Father Conolly, who has openly, in a published letter, declared his belief in the innocence of the accused, & has taken every opportunity of denouncing the Donnellys, & of inflaming public opinion against them.

[...] The only objection to delay is the danger of young O'Connor being in the meanwhile made away with. I do not suppose any personal injury will be done to him, because that would be bad policy, but a strong effort will be made to get him out of the way & in such a manner as to render his evidence before the Coroner & magistrates as a mischief. [...] I do not think it would be safe to let the boy go back to Lucan. [...]

Your obedient servant,
Charles Hutchinson, County Attorney

Source: J.J. Talman Regional Collection, University of Western Ontario Archives, Donnelly Family Papers, B4878, File 12, Charles Hutchinson, Charles Hutchinson Letter Book, March 6, 1880.

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