The Fremantle Herald
SATURDAY, 11TH JULY 1885
It is not without regret that we see a certain portion of the press insinuate that the unfortunate men who have by a verdict of “not guilty” just been released from an imprisonment of six months, are probably guilty, and the manifestation of public feeling on the announcement of the verdict was in no way due to sympathy for the men themselves.
Even had public opinion been against them it would be most ungenerous not to accept the verdict of the jury as meaning “not guilty” in the largest sense, and so far more comprehensive than the Scotch verdict of “not proven”. But in the present instance, the outside public after hearing the evidence were unanimous in their opinion not only as to its inclusiveness but as to its utter worthlessness, while there was an almost equally unanimous opinion that the character of the murder had been completely mistaken.
The public ridicule the idea of the crime being committed for the sake of robbing the bank. The bank was not robbed – not robbed that is, of such things as are of value to the common thief. Even the valuables on the persons of the murdered men were left untouched. Something may have been taken but if so, it was something which was only valuable to those who took it.
One theory of the prosecution was that the perpetrators of the crime were disturbed in the work. But what evidence was there of this being the case? None. On the contrary, they seem to have conducted their operations in the coolest manner imaginable and as if they had the fullest confidence in their security. One of their victims they turned off the bed on which he was lying, laid his keys on his breast and covered him over with his bedding.
An alternative theory was, that the men were delayed beginning till the morning by Mr. Anketell’s late return? But, if their object was to ransack the bank safe, why should they wait for Mr. Anketell’s return? Or, if he returned a day earlier than they anticipated what occasion was there for hurry? A robhery of an ordinary kind could have been as well committed a week or a month afterwards as then. To the persons by whom the bloody work was done it would seem to have been of importance that it should be done that very morning. But thieves, according to all that we read, are content to wait for weeks and months or even years. The idea of such men waiting till the dawn was breaking to commence a task which might be expected to occupy no considerable time, is absurd. It is contrary to all probability.
Equally contrary to all probability is the alleged conspiracy between two white men and a Chinaman? What white men would unite them selves quite needlessly with a Chinaman for the perpetration of a crime which would inevitably lead to the offer of a great reward for the discovery of the perpetrators and to their being as inevitably betrayed. It is said there is no honor among thieves and every one must be able to see how very small it must be in amount and how very little to be trusted, even where the thieves they are of the same race and have some sympathy with each other. But what sympathy is is there between a Chinaman and a European, especially where both belong to the uneducated working classes? None. There is antipathy and for the two white men to have allied themselves with a coolie would have been to invite their own destruction? Was he necessary to them? Not in any way. According to the theory of the Crown he was enlisted to cart over a miscellaneous collection of tools, cleavers, and tomahawke, and picks and axes and knives – in short a whole armory. But what an improbable, not to say, ridiculous story ? The two men were enough by themselves, and a tomahawk was sufficient for all which had to be done – what then did they want with a Chinaman? Never before was there such a concatenation of improbabilities.
The police officer who had charge of the case got himself laughed at for saying that on a certain occasion the Chinaman – whose face was the color of a tarnished copper kettle – changed “all colors,” and a superstitious scotchman, rejoicing in the historic name of ” Robert Burns,” was no less laughed at for saying that on another occasion this “extraordinary man” changed from “yellow to black.”
But there was scarcely a piece of evidence given which was not equally beside the mark. The very stains of blood on the boots – if blood it was – was utterly without meaning. It obtained notice because the judge who tried the case was evidently not conversant with the ways of working men living in or near the wild bush. But, as a matter of fact, such men have always blood about them. They are always killing something and are careless of their clothes. Thus even the most serious looking evidence was worthless.
There were thirty witnesses and there was not one of them who said anything which – except in his own mind connected the accused with the murder. The evidence reminds as of that which used to be given in the trials for witchcraft where, all the diseases of man and beast were regarded as in themselves conclusive evidence of the evil influence exercised by the accused.
Hence the public at large has for some days past ridiculed the idea of the crime having been perpetrated by any such men as those who were put on their trial. It is perceived that the object was not robbery, but murder, and that the two unfortunate gentleman who were so savagely butchered met their deaths at the hands of one or more persons in their own class of life.
A contemporary says that the perpetration of so fearful a deed, and the inability of the police to discover the perpetrators is a stain on the colony. But we say it is more. It is a most cruel and unjust stain upon the higher classes of the community and that for the honor of their colony and of the best blood in it, measures should even now be taken to discover the right man – not such means as the police department adopted when it sent up to the locality of the crime a well known inspector and trumpeted his approach, but means likely to get at the horrible secret.