The Trial of Luke Dillon for the Rape and Seduction of Anne Frizell, 1831

Ruth Cannon Bl barrister Luke Dillon image
Image of Luke Dillon at the time of the trial, via National Library of Ireland.

From the Chester Courant, 26 April 1831


(Abridged from the Dublin Papers)

At five minutes to ten o’clock, the prisoner, Dillon, was removed from Newgate into the dock, when, without stopping for a moment, he at once advanced to the bar with an air, if not of callous, certainly of unblushing confidence.  His hair was dressed in the most fashionable style – the ringlets adjusted with the most studied attention to effect, and his toilette altogether such as might have graced a far different occasion than that in which he was now placed.  He was dressed in a suit of full black, and white kid gloves; his person was highly prepossessing, and his age might be about 23 years.

Miss Anne Frizell was the first witness called – I am 20 years old… I was at school in a convent in York, and then in a convent in France.  I returned to Ireland from France, in the year 1828, with my father.  He resides at Stapolin, near Howth.

Here Miss Frizell was asked to look round and see if she could recognize Mr. Dillon.  With some difficulty and persuasion, she was prevailed on to turn towards the dock.  In consequence of being somewhat near-sighted, she said she occasionally wore glasses, and was requested to put the on when about to identify prisoner  She then moved her eyes slowly round, and when at length they rested on the prisoner, she broke out into a hysteric exclamation of ‘Oh’ and precipitately turned round to the bench, as if terrified, raising her hand, as if pushing some object from her presence. 

The examination of the witness was resumed – Abut two years ago I became acquainted with Mr. Dillon.  I am related to Mrs. O’Reardon, the wife of Dr O’Reardon, of Molesworth Street.  I was in the habit of meeting Mr. Dillon at Dr O’Reardon’s.  In October, I went with the Dr and Mrs. O’Reardon to an evening party at Mrs. MacDonnell’s at Stephen’s Green.  I met Mr. Dillon there on that occasion.  His manner appeared to be respectful and rather affectionate towards me.  There was something very particular in his manner towards me that night.  He appeared to be very fond of me.

Ruth Cannon BL barrister Molesworth Street image
Molesworth Street, Dublin, where Miss Frizell met Luke Dillon at the house of Dr and Mrs O’Reardon. Image via

I saw him on Thursday the 4th November at Dr O’Reardon’s, and, upon the invitation of Mrs O’Reardon, he remained to dinner that day.  I had a conversation that evening with Mr Dillon, and he asked me to walk out with him at one o’clock the next day, as he had something particular to say to me. 

I accordingly met Mr Dillon on the next day, Friday 5th November, in Kildare Street, near Clare Street, and walked towards the country from Mount Street. It was not a wet day when we set out, but afterwards it turned out very wet.  We took shelter in a cottage near Mount-Street.  The people in the house were in the cottage.  We remained there two or three hours; it rained the whole time. 

Before we came to the cottage, we had talked a good deal, in the course of which Mr. Dillon asked me to marry him; I said if papa consented, I would feel very happy.  I told him if money was his object, papa could not afford to give me any considerable portion, as he had a large family; he replied that money was not his object, that the attainment of my affections was the sole object of his wishes – that he had enough to support him and me, and very considerable expectations from an uncle in London. 

Ruth Cannon BL barrister Anna Frizell image
Image of Anne Frizell at the time of the trial, via National Library of Ireland.

The conversation was before we came to the cottage for shelter, and while there it was renewed.  We were in a room in the cottage, in which there was no person present.  Mr. Dillon kissed me twice in the cottage.  As it was still raining , Mr. Dillon sent for a carriage, and while in it he again renewed the subject of the marriage, and begged me to marry him privately, and then go to England with him, as he was sure, he said, that my father would not give his consent to the marriage. 

I thought the carriage was going to Molesworth Street and did not know it was going anywhere else.  The carriage stopped at a house, and he asked me if I would take some refreshments, but I said I would rather go home.  To which he said, as it was past dinner time then, I had better go in and take something to eat.  I said if he promised to bring me home immediately afterwards, I would, and he promised faithfully to do so.  It was then about five o’clock.  I was shown into a back room upstairs. 

Mr. Dillon ordered some fish and port wine.   He said I should take some wine with water and begged me to take it.  He held it up to my mouth, putting his hand to the back of my head.  I told him I would take it if it pleased him, and not to spill it on me.  His manner on this occasion was very affectionate indeed.  I drank about half of the tumbler. Mr. Dillon said that the wine was very bad, that it had a sweet taste, and asked did I not perceive it. 

The next thing that occurred to me after drinking the wine and water was feeling quite sick.  I got up when I felt sick but was so very unwell as to be obliged to list down again, and became quite faint.  I then lost all consciousness of where I was or what had become of me.  It might have been none or two o’clock at night before I recovered my consciousness and found myself laid upon a bed in a room above that in which I was sitting.  I found Mr. Dillon was in bed with me (Here witness became greatly agitated). I asked Mr. Dillon where I was and jumped out of bed.  He caught me by both arms, and said it was all over and I might as well be quiet.  I screamed as loud as I could.

 When I jumped out of bed, I had one petticoat on.  My stays were off.  The only dress I had on was my petticoat, chemise and the cap I wore the day before.  Mr. Dillon dragged me away from the door and threw me on the bed.  I resisted as strongly as possible.  He was not dressed (here the witness described, with great reluctance, particulars which are unfit to publish).  I jumped from the bed again, when he followed me, and said if I would not scream, he would marry me in the morning, and bring me to Mr. Kenrick, the parish priest of his parish, and swore he would do so.  He dragged me to bed again, and afterwards came into bed, and there renewed his violence. 

Ruth Cannon BL barrister St George's Church Hardwicke Street image
St George’s Church, Hardwicke Street, as depicted in the Dublin Penny Journal of 1832, via Library Ireland.

When morning came, I went downstairs and found Mr. Dillon reading a newspaper in the room in which we had been in the evening before.  He said he would take me to the priest.  We walked up Dorset Street.  He called a coach, and we proceeded to Hardwicke Street, where we stopped at the house, at which he knocked and returned saying it was very unfortunate, Mr. Kenrick was gone to the country but that he would call that evening and arranged everything with him for our marriage the next day.   He promised to meet me the next day Sunday at 12 o clock in Clarendon Street chapel, and said he would marry me there and not to tell what had occurred.

On arriving at Dr Reardon’s, I told Mrs. O’Reardon that I had been married and that there had been violence used to me.  Mrs. O’Reardon fainted.  On Sunday I went to Clarendon Street Chapel, accompanied by Dr and Mrs. O’Reardon, but did not see Mr. Dillon.  After returning I wrote to Mr. Dillon at Home’s Hotel but did not get any answer.  I sent it by penny-post.  On Monday morning I went again to Home’s Hotel, inquired about Mr. Dillon, but did not see him, I never saw him again until this day.  Went on the Sunday with Mr. Mahony to a house in Hardwicke Street and did not find any such person as Mr. Kenrick, a clergyman.

Ruth Cannon BL Barrister Usher's Quay Home's Hotel
Home’s Hotel, Dublin, just up from the Four Courts on Usher’s Quay, is visible on the left of this image. Via Wikimedia.

The witness was cross-examined at great length, by Mr. Serjeant O’Loghlen, in the course of which she admitted having written the following letter the day after the atrocities described in her evidence in chief.

‘My dearest Dillon – I was wishing to see you, so I went to Home’s, but you were out.  I cannot tell you what torture I have been in since I parted with you.  You may imagine I am nothing better; you may guess the rest.  If you value my life, my honour; everything depends upon you.  I have thought of something that will, I think, do.  I will see you tomorrow.  When I see you, I will -.  I was obliged to tell Maria (Mrs. O’Reardon) we were married.  She is exceedingly ill.  The Doctor thinks I was at a lady in Gardiner Street, – a Mrs. Dwyer’s.  He went to Mrs. Callaghan’s himself, so I could not say I was there.  For God’s sake meet me tomorrow, about 12 o’clock, at the end of the street in Dawson Street, and I will, at least be a little happier; for I am miserable now.  Buy me a ring, and for Heaven’s sake arrange everything.  Recollect who you had (these words were scratched out).  I am not to be trifled with.  I am sure papa would blow my brains out were he to know it.  I therefore rely on your solemn promise last night; and once more, be punctual to the hour tomorrow.  Really, I am almost dead with grief.  Indeed, my dearest Dillon, on you depends on my future happiness for life.

Yours Anna

Saturday night

Luke Dillon, Esq, Home’s Hotel, Usher’s-island.’

In her further cross-examination she affirmed that she wrote to him in these affectionate terms, because Mrs. O’Reardon told her that if she called him a villain or a wretch, he would never come back to her, that that she wrote the letter for the purpose of bringing him back.  After she had been under examination and cross-examination for upwards of five hours, her mother, Mrs. Frizell, and Mrs. O’Reardon were examined, and they corroborated her testimony as far as they had any knowledge of the facts.

For the defence, the keeper and servant at the hotel, or house where the outrage took place, were called, and their evidence went to show that no outrage had been committed, but that the lady was a consenting party.  In their cross-examination, however, they prevaricated a good deal, and admitted that they had visited the prisoner in Newgate. 

The defence having been closed, Mr. Richard Morrison was called, and he deposed that the principal witness for the defence had robbed him whilst in his employ and was not to be believed on his oath.

This closed the evidence on both sides. Judge Torrens charged the Jury in a most comprehensive and luminous manner.  And, after remaining shut up in their room for one hour and three quarters, they returned a verdict, finding the prisoner guilty, but strongly recommending him to mercy on account of his youth. 

Ruth Cannon Bl barrister Mr Justice Torrens
Mr Justice Torrens, via

Judge Vandeleur, without making any observations on the nature of the recommendation, said it should be taken into consideration, but his Lordship did not hold out any hope of mercy.

On the following morning, the prisoner was placed at the bar.  He was dressed in black, as before; and on being asked by the Clerk of the Crown the customary question why judgment of death and execution should not pass against him, he replied in a low, but rather firm, voice, that standing in the awful situation in which he did, it was not for him to arraign the verdict of twelve men on their oaths, and he should therefore bow with submission to the sentence of the Court. 

Judge Torrens then proceeded in a most impressive manner to address the prisoner.  His lordship began by remarking that he was glad the prisoner had not attempted to arraign the verdict of the jury,  for a more respectable, a more painstaking or a more intelligent Jury he had never seen; and he was bound in justice to them to declare that their verdict met with the entire concurrence of the court.  They had accompanied their verdict by recommending the prisoner for mercy on account of his youth.  They had given his case the anxious consideration, and the result was, that consistently with its duty the Court could not attend to the recommendation of the Jury. 

His Lordship then proceeded to comment on the conduct of the prisoner, and the disgrace he had brought on the eldest born of the children of such respectable parents.  From the deep-laid plan and ingenuity he evinced in the perpetration of the foul crime, in which he added fraud and seduction to that of violation, it was quite impossible for the Court could hold out to him any hope of mercy.  And after exhorting him to use he short time he had to live in prayers to the Almighty, and in attending to the instructions of the excellent ministers of religion by whom he would be attended, his lordship proceeded in tremulous accents to pronounce the awful sentence of the law, fixing Saturday the 7th May for his execution.

Mr. Dillon is only 22 years of age.  He belongs to a highly respectable family in the county Roscommon, and would, in a few years, by the death of a wealthy relative, have become possessed of a handsome property.  During the judge’s address, he firmly grasped the iron bars in front of the dock, and after its termination he appeared anxious to address the court; but after looking up for a few moments, until he caught the eye of the Judge, he made a low bow, and silently retired into the dock.  The Court appeared to be crowded with many of his friends, several of whom wept bitterly during the progress of the learned judge’s affecting address.”

The following month, shortly before the date set for his execution, Luke Dillon’s sentence was commuted to transportation for life to Botany Bay, and he was removed from Newgate to Kingstown, for the hulks.

Ruth Cannon BL Barrister ship in Sydney Harbour.
Ship in Sydney Harbour, via Wikimedia

When Dillon arrived in New South Wales in December 1831 on board the Bussora Merchant, he received a visit from Irish lawyer Richard Therry, who had gone out to Sydney in 1829.  Therry had been asked to meet Dillon by a former colleague, Richard Farrell, Chief Commissioner of the Insolvent Court in Ireland, who had doubts as to the propriety of Dillon’s conviction.

Possibly with Therry’s assistance, a conditional pardon was granted giving Dillon liberty within limits of New South Wales, and a full pardon might ultimately have issued, but, according to Therry,

‘impatient of the restriction to reside in the Colony, he escaped and made his way to Dieppe, in France where he married the daughter of one of the principal innkeepers of the town under a fictitious name.  After a few years there his career became known to the innkeeper, who took his daughter, and their children from him and dismissed him from the house.  Soon afterwards he became insane, was confined to a French lunatic asylum, and there died some years ago in the prime of life.’

In July 1831, some months after the trial, the following report of Anne Frizell’s death appeared in many newspapers:

‘Those who are able to appreciate the strength of women’s feelings, and the nature of woman’s delicacy and sensitiveness, will be grieved but not surprised, to learn that Miss Frizell, the victim of Luke Dillon saved from death by her intercession, has been unable to survive the misery of her situation.  Those who saw nothing but levity and forwardness in her unsuspecting innocence, and the tricks of a wanton, in her devoted affection, may learn, from such termination, to do justice to her memory, and to amend their opinion of the sex.’

The report subsequently proved false.  It transpired that Anne Frizell had entered a nunnery.

Dillon’s trial for the rape of Anne Frizell transfixed Dublin to a degree not seen again until, a generation later, cabman John Curran was charged with indecent assault on his passenger Louisa Jolly at the Bloody Fields in Milltown.   You can go back in time to the Green Street Courthouse of 1861 to watch Curran’s trial unfold here.

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

4 thoughts on “The Trial of Luke Dillon for the Rape and Seduction of Anne Frizell, 1831”

  1. Hello,
    Thank you for the interesting summary of the Luke Dillon case. Anna is my Great-Grand Aunt x2 and I have done quite a bit of research into the Frizelle family. Her father Charles Robert Frizell wrote a plea in favour of commuting Luke’s death sentence. Anna was married in 1833 to Michael Hayes and had children – so she did appear to find some domestic happiness after all.

    Charles Robert Frizell’s father was Charles Fraser Frizell (CFF), an Irish Barrister who seemed to get up to all kinds of mischief – there is a reported case of his acquittal of a charge of attempted murder of a parish priest. The case is very amusing. The defence closing address to the jury (of his Protestant peers) was something like “surely my client could not had intended to kill this jolly rolly-polly priest”.

    Henry Loftus Frizell (CFF’s) brother was a survivor of the events at Scullabogue during the 1798 Rebellion and was murdered in 1816 by a disgruntled tenant. His murder was solved by an early example of firearms forensics. A part of the attacker’s firearm fell off and was left at the scene of the crime. Years later, while investigating a sheep theft, the officer noticed a firearm in the suspect’s home which was missing that very part. Solomon Dolan was hanged for the murder shortly thereafter.

    The family has many ties to the four courts, but there is one mystery that I have not been able to solve yet. Gustavus Nicholas Frizell was an apprentice to the lawyer Michael Lewis in Dublin. He was killed in 1792, in a duel in London, involving Lincoln’s Inn students. He is clearly related to my Frizells, but I can’t figure out who his parents are. Michael Lewis was married to CFF’s sister. Gustavus is not listed in the book of the Kings Inn Admission papers ( but I understand that many of the older documents were lost. If you have any hints as to how I could dig into more information about Gustavus or Michael Lewis I would be grateful.

    I am Canadian but visit Ireland from time to time, and I am wondering if the Kings Inn or other archives might have some records to assist. For example, might there be any diaries, or journals or other contemporaneous documents that might be worth checking? I would be grateful for any advice. And please don’t hesitate to contact my if you have any interest in any of the research that I have done into the Frizell’s.

    1. Janet, that is amazing information, thank you so much. I think the King’s Inns Library would be a great place for you to contact. They have a lot of documents on 18th and 19th century barristers. Their email is I get most of my information from old news stories at and Stay in touch and if I find out anything more about the Frizell barristers I will let you know. Thanks again so much for sharing.

    2. Hi Janet,

      I too have been researching this tie and believe my 3x ggrandfather is one of the children of Michael and Anne.

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