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4 February 1862 Murder at Government House

 4 February 1862    Murder at Government House

On 4 February 1862 an auction was held in the ballroom of Government House. The Governor, Sir Richard MacDonnell, was returning to England and the sale was of some of the household's effects. Late in the afternoon a man entered the house, approached Inspector Richard Pettinger, who was in the lobby, and shot him in the head from short range with a pistol he had concealed under a black cloth. The Inspector, aged 32, died within a few minutes. The man was arrested outside the house shortly after; his wife was also charged with being an accessory before the fact.

An inquest was conducted that evening in a room at Government House, with the body lying in an adjoining room, and was concluded the next day at the Gresham Hotel. At the trial, the following week, it was revealed that the accused had been in the police force for a period but had left and, at the time of the murder, both he and his wife were employed at Government House. The man obviously held a grudge against the Inspector and had visited his home, behind the Police Barracks on North Terrace, earlier on the day of the murder, but finding he was not there had gone to Government House.

The jury found the wife not guilty of any offence and she was acquitted. The man was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was hanged at Adelaide Gaol on 11 March 1862. Inspector Pettinger was buried at St Matthew's at Kensington.

Adelaide Observer, 8 February 1862, p. 2, 22 February 1862, p. 3, 15 March 1862

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