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5 Res Judicatae 29 (1951)
Somnambulistic Homicide: Ghosts, Spiders, and North Koreans

handle is hein.journals/rsjud5 and id is 33 raw text is: SOI NAMBULISTIC HOMICIDE:
By NORVAL MORRIS, LL.M. (Melb.), Ph.D. (London), Senior Lecturer
in Law in the University of Melbourne.
The unreported case of The King v. Cogdon, heard in the Supreme
Court of Victoria before Mr. Justice Smith in December, 1950, though
clear as to its facts and unchallengeable in law, compels consideration
of some of our basic premises of responsibility for criminal actions.
Mrs. Cogdon was charged with the murder of her only child, a
daughter called Pat, aged nineteen. Pat had for some time been re-
ceiving psychiatric treatment for a relatively minor neurotic condition
of which, in her psychiatrist's opinion, she was now cured. Despite
this, Mrs. Cogdon continued to worry unduly about her.. Describing
the relationship between Pat and her mother, Mr. Cogdon testified:
 I don't think a mother could have thought any more of her daughter.
I think she absolutely adored her. On the conscious level, at least,
there was no reason to doubt Mrs. Cogdon's deep attachment to her
To the charge of murdering Pat, Mrs. Cogdon pleaded not guilty.
Her story, though somewhat bizarre, was not seriously challenged by
the Crown, and led to her acquittal. She told how, on the night before
her daughter's death, she had dreamt that their house was full of spiders
and that these spiders were crawling all over Pat. In her sleep, Mrs.
Cogdon left the bed she shared with her husband, went into Pat's room,
and awakened to find herself violently brushing at Pat's face, presumably
to remove the spiders. This woke Pat. Mrs. Cogdon told her she was
just tucking her in. At the trial, she testified that she still believed,
as she had been told, that the occupants of a nearby house bred spiders
as a hobby, preparing nests for them behind the pictures on their walls.
It was these spiders which in her dreams had invaded their home and
attacked Pat. There had also been a previous dream in which ghosts
had sat at the end of Mrs. Cogdon's bed and she had said to them,
 Well, you have come to take Pattie, It does not seem fanciful to
accept the psychological explanation of these spiders and ghosts as the
projections of Mrs. Cogdon's subconscious hostility towards her daughter;
a hostility which was itself rooted in Mrs. Cogdon's own early life and
marital relationship.
The morning after the spider dream she told her doctor of it. He
gave her a sedative and, because of the dream and certain previous
difficulties she had reported, discussed the possibility of psychiatric
treatment. That evening Mrs. Cogdon suggested to her husband that
he attend his lodge meeting, and asked Pat to come with her to the
cinema. After he had gone Pat looked through the paper, not unusually
found no tolerable programme, and said that as she was going out the
next evening she thought she would rather go to bed early. Later,
while Pat was having a bath preparatory to retiring, Mrs. Cogdon went
into her room, put a hot water bottle in the bed, turned back the bed-
clothes, and placed a glass of hot milk beside the bed ready for Pat.
She then went to bed herself. There was some desultory conversation

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