Elizabeth SMITH

Hector, 1835

By Helen Ménard



​There are many missing pieces in the jigsaw of Elizabeth’s life. The pieces we do have tell the story of a somewhat recalcitrant yet often resourceful woman who married several times and moved throughout the states in the colony masquerading under her different identities at will. At times she also demonstrated a propensity to manipulate reality and for the years under sentence posed a challenge for those for whom she worked and who had authority over her.

Like many of her contemporaries, details on Elizabeth’s early life are sketchy and her ultimate demise appears to be unrecorded. Again, as with many others, she grew up during a particularly difficult and unpleasant period in English history which undoubtedly shaped the life she was forced to lead and the decisions she made. Ultimately, her transportation to a foreign colony for a relatively minor crime may well have been the result of a decision to seek a better life. For those with links to the criminal justice system, few would have been unaware of the relative ease with which removal to another country could be achieved. With a partner and brother already transported was it Elizabeth’s plan to follow them?

 Life in England

Records suggest Elizabeth was born in Cambridge around 1810[1] and grew up during the height of the industrial revolution in Britain.[2] While Cambridge itself was not an industrialised town and was more known for its universities, colleges, churches and cathedrals, it was a prosperous town in the midst of the agricultural county of Cambridgeshire.[3] As society transitioned from an agrarian and handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing, the effects were widespread.[4] Over the years debate raged as to whether the industrial transformation led to real increases in income for the working classes or, in fact, exacerbated already existing levels of poverty.

The critics, or pessimists, saw nineteenth-century England as Charles Dickens’s Coketown or poet William Blake’s “dark, satanic mills,” with capitalists squeezing more surplus value out of the working class with each passing year. The defenders, or optimists, saw nineteenth-century England as the birthplace of a consumer revolution that made more and more consumer goods available to ordinary people with each passing year.[5] 

Nonetheless, as the agrarian industry diminished, displaced workers poured into the urban areas desperately seeking work in the factories. However, the lack of housing and social services created overcrowding, appalling living conditions, contaminated water supplies, serious public health issues, rampant disease, occupational hazards within the factories, exploitation of child labour and horrendously low life expectancy.[6] As a young socially disadvantaged woman trying to survive in this environment, is it any wonder that Elizabeth had been ‘on the town’ for about eight years.[7]

The family in England

Records suggest that Elizabeth (Smith alias Gray and aka Betsy Gray) was at least in a de facto relationship with William Smith[8] and had one child, although there are no records of this child accompanying her to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL).[9] The only confirmed record of any other family member is Elizabeth’s brother William Gray.[10]

Both William Smith and William Gray were transported to Australia several years before Elizabeth – her partner William Smith in 1830 to VDL and her brother William Gray in 1833 to New South Wales (NSW).

William Gray

Records suggest William Gray was born in Rutlandshire,[11] only 65 miles from Cambridge. Aged 25, he was tried before the Cambridge Assizes[12] in August 1833 for assaulting and robbing one Richard Fromant, a blacksmith from Little Swaffham on 27 March 1833. His case was reported as follows:

He was driving his cart which was loaded with beer, iron and sugar and was stopped at 9 in the evening by 3 men. They jumped into the cart and took his purse, a scuffle broke out and the cart turned over. There was bright moonlight and the prosecutor was able to describe William including his distinctive clothing and a silk purse and money was found in his possession. In addition he attempted bribery. [13]

William was found guilty and death was recorded[14] but, as no act of cruelty had been committed, he was sentenced to transportation for life.[15] He was discharged to the convict transport Fairlie which departed England for NSW on 9 October 1833.[16] After several years in NSW William was granted tickets of leave from 1842-1845 and a conditional pardon in December 1848.[17] William eventually turned up in Hobart around 1853 as an hotelier at the Union Hotel and the same year was involved in a legal dispute with his sister.[18]

William Smith

Elizabeth’s transportation records state that William (Smith) was ‘transported 5 years ago, sentence life’.[19] Over time, there were 3,277 male convicts named Smith transported to Australia and 374 William Smiths to VDL alone.[20] The most likely contender is William Smith who was tried at the Cambridge Assizes on 2 April 1830 for housebreaking and stealing and sentenced to transportation for life.[21] Born in Leeds, Yorkshire, a joiner and carpenter, single and aged 24, William arrived in VDL in December 1830 aboard the convict ship Clyde.[22] From 1831 to 1834 he committed a series of minor conduct offences consisting largely of absenteeism, drunkenness and profane language.[23] In September 1834 he appeared before the Hobart Supreme Court charged with breaking and entering the dwelling house of John Shepherd and Henry Bartlett and stealing one silk handkerchief and other articles.[24] He was convicted and sentenced to a further 7 years’ transportation and consequently spent some time at Port Arthur up until at least January 1838.[25] His conduct offences continued until he was finally granted a ticket of leave in 1846 which was later revoked in 1852 for being absent from muster.[26] Did William have any contact with Elizabeth while he was in VDL? He would have been at Port Arthur when she arrived in 1835 and she was married a short time later.

William had several admissions to the Brickfield Infirmary in 1878 and later the New Town Invalid Depot (New Town Pauper Institution) from 1879 – 1881[27] where he died on 27 March 1881 aged 74 from senilis.[28] A carpenter, born in England he was buried in a pauper’s grave at Cornelian Bay.[29]

Elizabeth’s journey across the seas

Elizabeth’s transportation records suggest that she had been imprisoned previously but there are no details of an offence.[30] She had also allegedly been convicted of assault and fined.[31] On 18 March 1835 Elizabeth, together with six other accomplices, appeared before the Cambridge Assizes[32] charged with stealing 4 shillings from the pocket of ‘another unfortunate girl Mary Ann Patterson’.[33] The case was reported as follows:

Elizabeth Smith alias Gray 24, John Farrant 18, John Stearn 17, John Watson 19, Nicholas Lane 17, Joseph Johnson 18 and Frances Warner alias Wright 17 were charged with feloniously stealing money and a pocket from the person of Sarah Parkinson. Sarah arrived in Cambridge on the evening of 13 March and was accosted by Elizabeth and Frances who insisted she pay them on some pretext. She refused and they followed her and were joined by the rest of the group who surrounded her. Elizabeth snatched her pocket and the gang then ran off.

They were all found guilty and the judge stated he was satisfied that the elder female prisoner had long been leading such a life and needed to be sent from the country. Smith alias Betsy Gray, Farrant and Watson to be transported 14 years. The others received a variety of sentences.[34]

Elizabeth was transported aboard the convict ship Hector arriving in VDL on 20 October 1835 during the assignment period. Her first assignment was to a Mr McDougall who, within a short period of time in December 1835, reported her for improper conduct for which she was sent to the female factory to work on the wash tub for one month.[35] Over the next year Elizabeth was assigned to four different ‘masters’ and was reported on four occasions for being absent without leave and once for leaving a public house with a pint of brandy. Her punishments ranged from 6 days in a cell on bread and water to wash tub for one month to crime class for one month and then assigned to the interior.[36] Cleary, she presented a challenge for her ‘masters’ – or did she have just cause to repeatedly absent herself from their service?

Elizabeth and Henry

On 29 September 1836, less than a year into her sentence, Elizabeth was refused permission to marry Henry Beadle (free).[37] The same day she was sent to crime class for a month for being absent from her master’s premises without leave. Was she out drowning her sorrows with Henry? Although no reason was given for the refusal, it is likely that insufficient time had elapsed since the commission of her last offence – usually a year was recommended. However, after six months of good behaviour permission was granted on 27 May 1837 [38] and Elizabeth and Henry were married in St John’s Church of England, Hobart on 26 June 1837.[39] Did marriage bring contentment for Elizabeth? Seemingly not! In fact, from here on Elizabeth’s offending took on a more upbeat tone and ultimately saw her banished from Hobart.

In February 1838, while in the service of her husband, she was reprimanded for being out after hours[40] but, a month later, despite being acquitted of stealing a silk handkerchief worth 5 shillings – allegedly the property of her husband - she was sent to the female factory on probation for 2 months.[41] On the assumption her husband was the prosecutor on this occasion why was she acquitted? Was it at her husband’s request that she undergo probation?[42]

There was a lull in the proceedings for about three years and Elizabeth received her first ticket of leave in December 1840.[43] But in March 1841 she was again reprimanded for being out after hours and five months later in August she was charged with being in a public house drinking and being away from her husband. For this she was admonished and told to leave town.[44] Was her departure to be with or without her husband? In any event, it seems she didn’t go as two months later in October 1841 she was charged with misconduct, sentenced to 14 days hard labour in the house of corrections and again, advised to leave Hobart.[45] Again, this didn’t happen! In January 1842 Elizabeth was once more charged with misconduct, this time ‘in being found in the bush with a boy (under 15 years of age) for improper purposes’.[46] For her indiscretion she was sentenced to ‘14 days’ solitary confinement, to leave the district immediately and never be allowed to reside within 20 miles of New Norfolk’. This was officially approved by the Lieutenant Governor on 7 January 1842.[47] Presumably it was enforced but what about Henry? Had he had enough by this time or was he the cause of her intransigence?

Elizabeth was recommended for a conditional pardon in December 1843 which was approved in January 1845 and extended to the Australian colonies in August 1845. She received her certificate of freedom in April 1854.[48]

So, what about Henry? Henry Beadle was tried at the Middlesex Gaol Delivery in England and sentenced to transportation for 7 years. He arrived in VDL aboard the Lady Castlereagh on 11 June 1818.[49] There are a number of possible departures for a Henry Beadle from Hobart to Port Phillip aboard the Adelaide in 1839 and the Flying Fish in 1844 and from Hobart to Geelong aboard the Gertrude in 1853.[50] Yet, in 1842 he was in Hobart when a fellow convict James (aka John) Cross was convicted of burglary and stealing 2 silk handkerchiefs the property of Henry Beadle and transported for life.[51] Henry Beadle, a buckmaker,[52] died on 6 August 1855 aged 64 at Hobart from natural decay.[53]

Elizabeth and William

While there are no records of Elizabeth leaving VDL, on 6 November 1848 as Elizabeth Smith, she married William Jackson at Adelaide.[54] Clearly, once she received her conditional pardon extended to the Australia colonies in 1845,[55] Elizabeth wasted no time in leaving VDL. At some stage Elizabeth and William moved from South Australia to the goldfields in Ballarat where Elizabeth alleges she was ultimately abandoned by William.[56] A series of local newspaper notices in December 1852 might suggest otherwise.


NOTICE. I hereby caution Mr. CHAMPION, master of a trading schooner between Geelong and Melbourne, that if he does not immediately give me an account of what he has done with the goods which he had in his possession, belonging to me, delivered to him by my wife, I will enter legal proceedings against him.

December 7th.                                                                                      WM. JACKSON.[57]

NOTICE. I hereby prohibit any person from giving my wife, ELIZABETH JACKSON, any credit, as I will not, from this date, be responsible for any debt she may incur, or, from harbouring her, she having left me without any just cause or provocation.

December 9th.                                                                                      WM. JACKSON.[58]

Mr Champion obviously did not appreciate being accused of theft and suggested the aggrieved Mr Jackson should consult his wife as to the whereabouts of the purportedly missing goods.


NOTICE. An advertisement appears in the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer of the 7th Instant, signed W. Jackson, calling upon me to give an account of what I have done with Goods belonging to him, delivered to me by his wife. I hereby inform him that I delivered the Goods to the party who entrusted me with them, that was his own wife, and if he inquires of her, she will probably tell him what she has done with the goods. I further state that I would not know W. Jackson although I met him on the street. I never injured him to my knowledge, and I think it very unfair to me, instead of asking me privately of the matter, he should do so through the medium of a public journal. I can only view it as an attempt to injure me without a cause.                                              

                                                                                                         JOHN CHAMPION.[59]

NOTICE. MY WIFE, ELIZABETH JACKSON, having absconded with goods and property belonging to me, and delivered to her through the agency of John Champion, master of a schooner trading between this place and Melbourne, I hereby offer a Reward of Ten Pounds to any person who will enable me to recover the above property. Application may be made to William Jackson, Ashby, or by letter addressed to him at the Office of this Paper.

                                                                                                             WM. JACKSON.[60]

Clearly, with no love lost between them, Elizabeth was back in Tasmania by August 1853 when she placed the following notice in the paper:


I HEREBY contradict the foregoing advertisement signed "William Jackson," who is my lawful husband, having been married in him at St John's Church, Adelaide, about eight years ago, and ever lived with him since, until March last, when he abandoned me, on the Diggings at Ballarat, Victoria. I beg further to state that I am fully prepared to substantiate this statement any day I am called upon to do so, at my present residence, Montpellier street; having not "absconded to evade the law," as falsely stated by my husband.




August 29, 1853.[61]


The series of advertisements that preceded this one was as follows:


WHEREAS, I have received information that WILLIAM JACKSON, Carpenter, is going to be married, I hereby caution any Woman from marrying him, or any person from granting him a license, for he is a married man.



25th August, 1853.[62]


I THE UNDERSIGNED deny the foregoing Advertisement in toto as it is as false as malicious; her husband now being in this town, and she has absconded to evade the law.

WM. JACKSON.        


Henry x Beadle, Witness.




WHEREAS the person representing herself in the above advertisement to be Elizabeth Jackson is my wife, married to me in this colony, the witnesses are in this town, and further I give notice that I will not be answerable for any debts she may contract from this date.






August 29. [64]

So, what on earth was going on here?

It seems that Elizabeth left VDL sometime after 1845 - still married to Henry Beadle - and married William Jackson in Adelaide in 1848. They later moved to Victoria where it seems their relationship came asunder. Although who left who and when is somewhat contentious! Nonetheless, when Elizabeth returned to Tasmania, allegedly having been abandoned by William on the Victorian gold fields, she appeared to be most indignant to learn that William was going to remarry claiming he was still married – to her! Rather ironic given that Elizabeth was still married to Henry when she left VDL and married William in Adelaide!

William’s notice, witnessed by Henry, suggests that Elizabeth’s claims to being married to William were false and that her husband (presumably Henry) was in town (Hobart) and she had left to evade the law – seemingly the law of matrimony.

Henry’s notice asserts that Elizabeth Jackson was actually his wife who he had married in the colony and he would no longer be responsible for any of her debts.

In the final notice Elizabeth insists that she was legally married to William Jackson and denied she had absconded as alleged by her husband (William) as she was living in Montpelier Street (Hobart).

So, it is more than likely that sometime after 1845 Elizabeth left VDL – still married to Henry - and then married William in Adelaide 1848. At some point they moved to Victoria when, in 1852, William refused financial responsibility for her debts due to her ‘having left me without any just cause or provocation’.[65] Upon returning to Tasmania, Elizabeth, alleging William deserted her on the Victorian goldfields and masquerading as Elizabeth Jackson, tried to prevent his remarriage – quite possibly as payback. Henry appears to support William’s denial of marriage to Elizabeth by confirming he (Henry) was still her legal husband. Henry was to die two years later.[66]

But it doesn’t end there!

A family dispute

When Elizabeth (Jackson) returned to Tasmania from Victoria in August 1853 aboard the Oceanica,[67] as we have seen, she was clearly unhappy to find that her ‘husband’ William was planning to remarry.[68] Several months later, possibly having accepted her fate, she appeared before the Supreme Court in Hobart - now as Elizabeth Beadle - in an action against her brother William Gray reported as follows:

… that in the month of August last, Elizabeth Beadle, the said plaintiff had been long separated from her husband, returned by the barque Oceanica from Port Phillip, where she had been a resident for some months. That on that occasion, she brought with her a sum of £140 in sovereigns, and on landing took up her abode with the defendant, who is her brother, and keeps the Tap of the Union Hotel.

On learning the amount in her possession, the latter expressed some apprehension at such a sum being left in the house, and advised the plaintiff to bank it, adding, at the same time, that if that were done in her own her husband might lay claim to and obtain possession of the property; he therefore, recommended that it should be deposited in his (Gray's). The plaintiff consented, but from that moment had never received the slightest account of a shilling of the property.
Mr. MacDowell … for the defence called several witnesses to prove, that the plaintiff on landing had no such sum in her possession. On receiving her effects from the Oceanica, she asserted that she had been robbed of three £50 notes; upon which the defendant advised her immediately to go back to the ship, which the plaintiff did and on her return told her brother that two of the seamen had been apprehended, and two of the stolen notes found upon them.[69]

The court obviously did not consider Elizabeth’s version of events sufficiently convincing and found for the defendant William Gray.[70]

The last word on Elizabeth

Elizabeth’s public record appears to end with her fraternal dispute. There are no matching deaths for Elizabeth Gray, Smith, Beadle or Jackson in Tasmania.[71] Should Elizabeth have returned to Victoria, there are no recorded deaths under Beadle, several possibilities under Gray and Jackson and many under Smith.[72]

Elizabeth’s life did not appear to be one of peace and harmony. Separated from her first husband who was transported before her and ostracised by her second and third, she then ‘waged war’ with her only family member left in the colony – her brother William.  Although records suggest she left one child behind in England there is no evidence of her having any other children in the colonies. Her early years in VDL were unsettled and littered with minor conduct offences across a multitude of employers. Marriage failed to temper her transgressions. Having travelled between several different colonies, where she spent her last days remains a mystery.                                                                                              


[1] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 p138 DI 142; CON19/1/13 p192 DI 210

[2] 1760-1840; https://www.britannica.com/event/Industrial-Revolution

[3] https://localhistories.org/a-history-of-cambridge/

[4] https://www.britannica.com/event/Industrial-Revolution


[6] https://sphweb.bumc.bu.edu/otlt/mph-modules/ep/ep713_history/ep713_history4.html

[7] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 p138 DI 142

[8] Cambridge Chronicle 27 March 1835; findmypast.co.uk; although CON40/1/9 p138 DI 142 records her as single.

[9] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 p138 DI 142; https://www.orphanschool.org.au/

[10] There are multiple records for Elizabeth and William Gray but none that identifies matching parents for both. See findmypast.co.uk

[11] https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/archives/collections-and-research/guides-and-indexes/node/1616/browse

[12] The Assizes was a regional court circuit held twice-yearly at Lent (March/April) and Trinity (July/August). They could also be held in winter if there were a large number of cases. On the whole, Assizes dealt with the more serious offences such as murder, rape, infanticide, felonies, highway robbery, coining, forgery, vagrancy and witchcraft. However, just like the Quarter Sessions, they were also places where civil actions, often relating to issues around land or money, were heard. Most of the counties of England were grouped together into six Assizes circuits, which included Home, Midland, Norfolk, Northern, Oxford and Western. The exceptions were London and Middlesex, where trials were held at the Old Bailey or Middlesex Sessions House, and Cheshire, Durham and Lancashire, who did not join the Assizes circuit until the 19th century. https://ourcriminalancestors.org/assizes

[13] Cambridge Chronicle 02 August 1833; findmypast.co.uk

[14] In nineteenth-century British law many crimes were punishable by death, but from 1823, the term "death recorded" was used in cases where the judge wished to record a sentence of death – as legally required – while at the same time indicating his intention to pardon the convict or commute the sentence.  (Shoemaker, Bob (29 May 2019). "Why Naomi Wolf misinterpreted evidence from the Old Bailey Online". History Matters. Retrieved 26 December 2019.)

[15] Cambridge Chronicle 02 August 1833; findmypast.co.uk

[16] Hulk Prison Register; findmypast.co.uk

[17] https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/archives/collections-and-research/guides-and-indexes/node/1616/browse; there are no other details available while under sentence in NSW.

[18] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Courier (Hobart, Tas.: 1840-1859) Thu 15 December 1853, p2 Supreme Court. There is a possible death for a William George Gray in 1856, farmer aged 50 (est. dob 1806) at Hobart.

[19] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 p138 DI 142

[20] https://www.nla.gov.au/research-guides/convicts/transportation-arrival

[21] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/39 p81 DI 173; CON32/1/4 p346 DI 173; CON34/1/2 p700 DI 704

[22] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON18/1/2/p34 DI 19

[23] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/39 p81 DI 173; CON34/1/2 p700 DI 704

[24] Ibid; there is no record of this case under Tasmanian Supreme Court cases on AustLII.

[25] Ibid

[26] Ibid

[27] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON34/1/2 p700 DI 704

[28] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/9 N3053 DI 346

[29] LIB TAS: Names Index: AF70-1-7 (BU 3303) Cornelian Bay, Pauper, Section A, Number 321

[30] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 p138 DI 142

[31] Ibid

[32] See footnote 12 above.

[33] Ibid; the report of this case in the Cambridge Chronicle has the victim as Sarah Parkinson.

[34] Cambridge Chronicle 27 March 1835; findmypast.co.uk

[35] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 p138 DI 142

[36] Ibid

[37] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON52/1/1 p14

[38] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON52/1/1 p16

[39] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD36/1/3 N3787 DI 92

[40] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 p138 DI 142

[41] Ibid; the records state the item was the property of her husband John Dugdale which is clearly incorrect. It was either the property of her husband or John Dugdale. There are no lower court records available for Hobart for 1838 to clarify the issue.

[42] There are no lower court records available for Hobart for 1838 that would clarify the issue.

[43] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 p138 DI 142

[44] Ibid

[45] Ibid

[46] Ibid

[47] Ibid

[48] Ibid

[49] convictrecords.com.au; there are no details available regarding offence, date of trial, previous criminal history etc. There are no aliases recorded on the convict records site and no CON records available under this name (or similar) in the LIB TAS records or the DHT male database.


[51] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON34/1/1 p565 DI 576; James (John) Cross came to VDL via the Medina in 1825 having been tried in Lancaster QS in 1824 and sentenced to transportation for life. He was again transported for 7 years after a conviction in the Hobart Supreme Court in 1833. convictrecords.com.au; LIB TAS: Names Index: CON34/1/1 p565 DI 576

[52] Buckram Maker: produced buckram, a stiffening agent commonly glue-based, used like starch on fabric prior to embroidery. See https://www.familyresearcher.co.uk/glossary/Dictionary-of-Old-Occupations-jobs-beginning-B8.html#Buckram-Maker

[53] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/5/N124 DI 15

[54] Australia, Marriage Index, 1788-1950 marriage & divorce
South Australia-Marriages 1842-1916 ancestry.com

[55] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 p138 DI 142

[56] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Hobart Town Advertiser (Tas.: 1839-1861) Fri 2 Sep 1853, p1, Advertising

[57] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (VIC.: 1851-1856), Tue Dec 14, 1852, P1, Advertising

[58] Ibid

[59] Ibid

[60] Ibid

[61] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Hobart Town Advertiser (Tas.: 1839-1861) Fri 2 Sep 1853, p1, Advertising

[62] Ibid

[63] Ibid

[64] Ibid

[65] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (VIC.: 1851-1856), Tue Dec 14, 1852, P1, Advertising

[66] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/5/N124 DI 15; There are multiple deaths for a Willam Jackson in Tasmania between 1855 and 1880 none of which can be confirmed as Elizabeth’s William. LIB TAS: Names Index.

[67] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Courier (Hobart, Tas.: 1840-1859) Thu 15 December 1853, p2 Supreme Court.

[68] There is a possible marriage for a William Jackson in 1853: William Jackson, 30, laborer, widower, to Mary Ann Higgins, 19 at Hobart on 6 Sept 1853; LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/12 N607 DI 234 

[69] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Courier (Hobart, Tas.: 1840-1859) Thu 15 December 1853, p2 Supreme Court; there is no report of this case under Supreme Court cases on AustLII.

[70] Ibid

[71] LIB TAS: Names Index.

[72] VIC BDM.



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