September 1853. (State Library Newspaper Archive).thThe Melbourne Argus Monday 19
September.thExtract from report from Trial conducted on Saturday the 17
‘ By Mr Fellows (Defence attorney) – I (John Francis) came out in the name of Fern- it was for stealing money. My proper name is Francis. No other men besides the three prisoners and my brother were ever brought up with me on the charge of robbing the escort’.
‘By Mr Ireland (Defence attorney) – ‘This is not the first time, I am sorry to say, I have been an approver. I do not know where my brother is – they tell me he is dead. I don’t know that he cut his throat; they told me so amongst other strange stories. I will swear that I never knew of the reward until now. I was not told when I gave information to Captain McMahon that my brother was dead. If he says he did tell me it is false’.
. 1853. State Library Newspaper Archive)thThe Melbourne Argus September 20
‘Mr Justice Williams. – The evidence of the approver Francis, whose testimony must be regarded with abhorrence by every right minded man was supported by that of two other witnesses…’
As we indicated earlier the official court trial notes appear to have been lost and so we only have the newspaper reports to go by.
In this report on the trial we see John Francis identify himself and how the name Fern came to be a part of his identity. We also have confirmation of his approver status and actions.
I believe that he knew about the reward as other evidence indicated that he did and the statement that he had previously been an approver indicates that he was quite expert at the task.