Trial – The Enquirer – Day 2

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The Trial as Reported by The Inquirer Newspaper

Day 2

THURSDAY, JULY 2, 1885

The court re-assembled at ten o’clock, when, owing to the absence of Mr. Stevens, through the Fremantle train being late, a delay occurred of twelve minutes.

At the request of the Jury.

George Harrison was recalled, who, in reply to the foreman, said: The two men were sitting down at the bottom of the well talking; they were drilling; the rope was down the well at the time.

Caroline Platt deposed: I am the wife of Frederick Platt, a builder at Roebourne. In January last I was living in a house the back of which looks towards the Bank, from which it is a distance about a hundred and fifty yards, I think. I remember the night of the 12th January last. Between one and two o’clock I heard some footsteps at the side of my house; the house is to the left of Noonan’s; the footsteps seemed, from the sound, to be going from Noonan’s house towards Roe-Street. There is a small space of ground between the two houses, and it was there that I heard the footsteps; the ground is between ten and fifteen yards in width. I was lying awake at the time, and I heard the steps passing about half a dozen times at intervals of about five minutes; the steps seemed to be going and returning; I did not hear any voices, but from the steps I thought more than one person was about. It was a very still, dark night, and my little dog was barking. At about four o’clock in the morning I heard several dogs barking round the place again; I got up and looked out of the bedroom window; day was just breaking at the time; my window looks towards the back. The dogs were barking so furiously that I called to them through the broken panes of glass, and three dogs came to me from behind the blacksmith’s shop which is on the left between my house and the Bank. I then saw an object going up the hill towards the right in the direction of Mt. Welcome from behind the Bank. Afterwards I saw a man going towards Mr. Thompson’s stable, which was to my right; the man appeared to be only about twenty yards from the Bank. I saw also another man going towards the church; he was between Law’s house and the church. While I was waiting for the dogs to come in I saw the object go up the side of the hill, stand up and look round; then I saw it was a man. He then seemed to pass over the top of the hill in the direction of the cemetery. The man who went towards the church crossed by the end of the church, and then disappeared in the direction of the gully, or fall of the ground between the rise on which the church stands and Mt. Welcome; he turned towards the left as I lost sight of him; I cannot say who the persons were, as it was not quite light enough for me to have distinguished them, even if they had been persons I knew well. I got up that morning at about half-past five. I have known Bevan for about two years. I heard of the murder at about half-past seven. I saw Bevan walking towards Noonan’s house at about half-past seven o’clock, shortly before I heard of the murder. I saw him again a few minutes afterwards, he was then going from Noonan’s shop towards the blacksmith’s shop, and again a few minutes afterwards going towards his is own house. I was standing at my backdoor all the time. I am certain the person I saw the three times was Bevan; I saw him stoop down and take up a bit of stick, with which he picked his teeth. On the 12th March I saw Sergt. O’Connell, when I stood at the window out of which I had looked early on the morning of the 13th January; I then saw the Sergeant walking up the hill towards Mt. Welcome; the object I saw more to the left than the track which the Sergeant took, though he went in the same direction; he was about ten or eleven yards from where I saw the object. Before the Sergeant got to the spot where I saw the object stand he turned round and came back. I cannot see the cemetery from my back window because the ground falls towards it. It was between five or ten minutes after I had seen the last of Bevan that I saw the people beginning to collect around the Bank.

Cross-examined by Mr. Stevens: Mr McRae’s house is in a straight line between my place and the Bank, but a little more to the left. I can see the whole of the Bank from my back window. The light early in the morning was very deceptive, and I could not tell whether the man I saw was a blackfellow, a whiteman, or a Chinaman. At first I thought the object was an animal, but saw it was a man when it stood up on the side of the hill.

By Mr Harper: It was not an unusual thing to hear the dogs barking at night. Noonan’s place is a public house, and is much frequented. As I had no time piece in the house I am not quite sure of the time I woke up, but it must have been after midnight, because my brother came in at that time and told me it was midnight. I did not tell the Magistrate that I woke up between one and two. I saw the object and the two men all at the same time. Osborne’s place is a blacksmith’s shop and not a butcher’s shop. I have often heard steps at night before, but never so late as that. At the back of Noonan’s hotel there is a wooden place called a “dead house.”

His Honour: Where they held inquests, I suppose.

Mr. Harper: No, you Honor, it is a special accommodation afforded drunken men.

The Witness: I have heard the police walking about up the town up to about half-past ten at night, but never so late as between one and two o’clock.

Re-examined by the Attorney General: I may be mistaken as to the hour I woke, but the noises continued for half an hour. I do not know up to what time the public houses are kept open in Roebourne.

Lillian Hall, examined by the crown Solicitor, said: My husband’s name is Anderton Hall, and he holds a gallon license at Roebourne. I know the three prisoners. Between seven and eight o’clock on the morning of the 13th January last I saw Bevan, that was before breakfast, he came to me for a gallon of beer, I gave it to him, and booked it, as he did not pay for it. I spoke to him about the murder, and he said “It may have been done by a Chinaman, or one of the old hands.”

To Mr Stevens: I did not see Warburton that day.

By Mr Harper: I live near the church. I served Bevan with the beer myself. I do not know what he meant by “one of the old hands,” nor did I ask him what he meant. I did not ask him his name when I booked the beer to him, as I knew him. I have never noticed anything peculiar in his speech or walk.

To the Attorney General: I have never had occasion to notice him very particularly.

Daniel O’Connell, examined by the Attorney General, said: I am Sergeant of Police at Roebourne. In January last there was a constable under me named David Laurence, he died on the eight of last month. I was present when he was examined before the Government Resident at the hearing of the charge preferred against the three prisoners. The Magistrate took down the deposition, Laurence signed it, and the three prisoners, who were present, had an opportunity of cross-examining him.

(The deceased constable’s deposition was then read by the Master of the Court. It was to the effect that he had, with a native, followed some tracks. That when Warburton was arrested upon the charge of having broken into the Bank, he said “It’s a fine thing to be arrested upon the charge of having broken into the Bank, he said, “It’s a fine thing to be arrested on suspicion of murder, I’ll not forget it.” That Warburton afterwards said he and Bevan never heard of the murder until a teamster came out to where they were at work and told them. That Warburton said the cuts on the back of his left hand had been caused by his knife. That one of the tracks mentioned corresponded with Bevan’s usual tracks, the left foot being very much turned out.)

The witness continued: At seven o’clock in the morning of the 13th January last I went to the Bank, where I found the dead bodies of Messrs. Anketell and Burrup. The building is a wooden one. I saw the stretcher in the front verandah, there was nothing on it, but it was stained with blood at one end. Mr. Anketell’s body was lying on the verandah between the stretcher and the wall, covered with the bedding. On the top of the bedding I found a bunch of keys; there was blood around. I did not move the body before the doctor came; the eyes were closed. I found that Burrup’s body was lying on the stretcher,with a pillow over his head; the pillow was stained with blood; I found a waistcoat hanging up on a peg in the wall, and in one of the pockets I found a safe-key. It was not a duplicate of the one I found on Mr. Anketell’s bunch of keys; they fitted different locks in the safe. Their was blood on the walls of the room. I then went round to the north side of the Bank, where there was a French window looking into the Manager’s office, which communicates by a door into the room in which the safe stands. On the window sash I noticed the mark of a sharp instrument , as though some one had tried to force an entry, but without success. I then went round to a window in front, which looks into the same room. There I found a pane of glass, directly under the catch, was broken, and that the window was partly open. Upon a point of the broken pane of glass I noticed some blood. Inside the room I saw lying on the floor matches which had been struck. On the floor to the left of the safe I noticed some spots of grease, as if a candle had been set down there. i found a large heap of closely packed papers, which had been set on fire, as they were charred. The safe had not been opened. I afterwards opened it with the keys I had found. On the outside front wall, just over Mr. Anketell’s head, I found the mark of a heavy blow, which I took to have been made with either a pick or the back of a tomahawk. I had the boards cut and now produce them; the back of the tomahawk produced fits into the shape of the blow exactly. I should think the blow must have been struck downwards. I found two spots of blood on the floor of the back verandah, just outside Mr. Burrup’s door.

At about one o’clock in the afternoon I went over Mt. Welcome, when I came up on a track about a quarter of a mile from the Bank. It was rather a large boot track, lately made apparently by a person when running. It was not plain at first; I followed the track up to a tree, where the party seemed to have sat down, then got up walked round the tree three or four times and then set off in the direction of Roebourne. At that time it was getting dusk, so I stopped.

On the next day I went and tried to pick it up again at McKay’s paddock, but failed to do so as there were a number tracks about.

On Wednesday I went to San Qui’s place; he lived in a hut at the back of Eaton’s butcher shop; he was Eaton’s assistant. I, with P.C. Thomas searched the place. Thomas handed me a knife which he found in San Qui’s sleeping room, it was tied up in the middle of a bundle of clothing. I noticed that there were stains on it. When San Qui saw it he said it was not his knife, but Ah Pang’s. Ah Pang lives some miles out of Roebourne, but he was in the house at the time; San Qui was present when I asked Ah Pang if the knife found was his; he replied that it was his; he has since made a communication to me about the knife. We found a blouse in the room which appeared to have blood on it. I also took possession of the trousers he was wearing, they too had stains on them; San Qui said they were the stains of sheep’s blood. The prisoner then gave me the key of the butcher’s shop, and I searched there. I found a pick without a handle lying against the wall, it had two spots of blood on it. I found also the small axe and the tomahawk produced, they were lying on a bench; they were perfectly clean, and were very sharp; they appeared to have been recently sharpened. I took the pick back to San Qui and asked him whose it was; he replied, “Charles Zeddi’s, he lent it to me to pick holes.” I then arrested him upon the charge of murder, when he replied, “I know nothing about it.” I showed the pick to Dr. O’Meehan, who picked a hair off it, which is now in Dr. Waylen’s possession.

On Friday, I started with P.C. Lawrence, a blackfellow called Prince Tom, and a half-caste known as Henry Smith, to follow up the tracking. We first went to the “backwash”, where we picked up two tracks between it and the showground; we followed them away from the town for about two miles to the well in McRae’s paddock. One of the tracks was larger than the other. The larger track went up the paddock for about a hundred years and the other for about the same distance up the road. The natives followed up the tracks which brought them back to the well. I then lost sight of the larger track, but the smaller one led us to the prisoners’ camp, about half a mile from the well. When we got to the camp we found Warburton and Bevan there. They were the only two persons who were engaged at quarrying stone there at the time. I asked them if they had been down at the well, and Bevan replied, “Yes, on Monday, for water.” I said, “Did you ever come out by the backwash?” Warburton replied, “No! We always go in and out by the road. “The distance between the well and the backwash is not a road usually frequented; there is no track or road that way. I asked them if anyone had passed by that way, and they replied not that they knew of. On the previous Thursday I noticed at the Victoria Hotel a cut on the back of Warburton’s hand. I did not speak to him about it at the time, but when at the camp I asked him how he did it, he replied “With this knife,” at the same time holding one up in his right hand. I then arrested them upon the charge of having broken into the bank. Warburton said, “It’s a nice thing to be arrested upon suspicion of murder. I’ll not forget it.” He then said, “We came out from Roebourne on Monday, and have been here ever since; we did not hear of the murder until the afternoon, when a teamster came out on Tuesday at dinner-time.” Bevan said, “Yes, and it was his first trip.” They said that no one had seen them at work there so far as they knew.

After having locked the two men up I went to search Bevan’s house; when Mrs. Bevan handed me a white shirt which she said was her husband’s.

I then went on to Warburton’s lodgings at Noonan’s. I went into the room I was told Warburton occupied, where I found the pair of boots produced; I took possession of them, and afterwards showed them to Prince Tom, who at once made a remark to me. The room contained only a portmanteau and a carpet bag, but no bed or furniture of any kind.

We four at once went straight to the tracks near the “backwash”, where we started in the morning. I found that the boots I found at Warburton’s lodging’s corresponded with the tracks on Mt.Welcome side, and the native identified them as being the same as the larger of the two tracks we had found near the “backwash”, the smaller of the two I tracked as far as Zeddie’s house.

On the next day we succeeded in picking up the first track I had found on Mt. Welcome, and the natives succeeded in back tracking it within fifty yards of the bank. On the following Monday I took possession of the boots the prisoners were wearing, and which I now identify. I have noticed that Bevan walks in a peculiar manner – throwing his left foot out. I noticed that in the smaller of the two tracks we found at the “backwash”, the left foot turned out, and gave signs of the foot being turned over on the outer side; the left track also showed that the boot had a heel and toe tips, and the right none, thus agreeing exactly with the boots I took off Bevan’s feet.

On the Thursday I received from P.C. Thomas the shirt produced, it was open when I received it, and it was soaking wet. There was a bone stud in the neckband. There were two similar studs in the front of the shirt I received from Mrs. Bevan. I have carefully measured them, and find that they correspond exactly in size. I noticed a spot on each of Warburton’s boots, I had them cut out, and handed the pieces of leather to Inspector Rowe.

On the 10th March I arranged with Mrs. Platt for her to stand at her back window while I walked along the track we had run back from on Mt. Welcome to within 48 yards of the back of the bank. I kept to the track I had found two months before as closely as I could, but of course could not follow it exactly.

One of the two hats handed to me was the one Warburton was wearing when he was arrested, the third one is Bevan’s. The late constable Laurence handed to me the sock now shown to me.

(The two shirts were then measured in Court, when it was found that there was a marked difference in size, and that they were of a different kind of make.)

The Court then adjourned at half-past one o’clock for an hour for luncheon.

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The Court resumed at half-past two o’clock.

Daniel O’Connell, cross examined by Mr. Stevens, said: I will not swear the larger of the two tracks I saw near the “backwash” having been made by Warburton’s boots, though I have had twenty hears experience in tracking.

His Honor: I shall tell the Jury, Mr. Stevens, that this witness really cannot swear to the track of his own knowledge.

Cross examination continued: I noticed that Warburton had some scratches on his right hand, as well as the cut on the back of his left one across the lowest knuckle of the middle finger. I do not know as a matter of fact whether a teamster did go out to the prisoners’ camp on the day of the murder. The stains on Warburton’s boots were not cut out until after Inspector Rowe had seen them at either the end of February, or the beginning of March; no particular attention was called to the spots in the Roebourne Police Court, until the last hearing, when Inspector Rowe, directed the attention of the Magistrate to them.

The witness George Harrison was not called until after Mr. Rowe arrived at Roebourne, though I had received a statement from him before then. Harrison did not give me his statement until a reward of £150 for the discovery of the murderers had been offered first by the settlers, secondly one of £50 by the Government Resident, and thirdly one off £500 by Mr. Scott, upon his arrival, on behalf of the bank.

Mrs. Platt did not say a word to me about the evidence she has given until after Mr. Scott had offered the reward of £500, quite a month after the commission of the murder.

His Honor: Why did you not ask Mrs. Platt about this in the cross-examination?

Mr Stevens: It came to our knowledge only five minutes before the resumption of the Court, Your Honor.

His Honor: This is dreadful – really dreadful. I can hardly believe it possible – but, there! That only shows how dangerous rewards are.

By Mr. Harper: The first track I found on the morning of the murder was a woman’s. It was Mrs. Law’s track; she was accustomed to take milk over to the Bank and clean up a table on the back verandah at six o’clock every morning. This was the only track I saw close to the Bank, it was between the kitchen and the back verandah; I covered the track with a box. Mrs. Law told me the track was hers.

His Honor: Do you mean to say that she went there with the two bodies lying there in their blood and saw nothing was amiss?

The Witness: Yes, she went only to the back of the building, and not inside of it. She has not been called as a witness, simply because she knew nothing about what had occurred. Mrs. Law’s house is close up on to the road, while the Bank stands further back from it; so that when she crossed over to the back of the Bank from the front of her house she would cross the end of the front verandah of the Bank, and could see it plainly enough; but if she started from the back of her house she would not see the front verandah of the Bank, because he house extends so much further back than the Bank does.

I arrested San Qui because of the blood-stained knife and pick I found in his place and in the shop, although he was a butcher’s assistant. Many Chinamen assemble at San Qui’s place, in fact I look upon it as a gambling den. The small axe and the tomahawk are such instruments as would be used in cutting up a bullock. But probably a butcher would prefer sharp instruments to cut up his meat with. It is usual for the butchers in Roebourne to rise early in the morning, and then to salt down what remains unsold, after which the place is cleaned up. Upon this occasion Eaton’s shop was so very clean that the fact attracted my attention. I believe butchers kill their cattle by shooting them in Roebourne; I am not aware there is a *poleaxe in the town.

I did not notice that either of the prisoners was wearing a new shirt when I arrested them. Bevan’s wife makes ginger-beer for sale; San Qui is the only Chinaman who habitually used to frequent the house. I knew that Harrison was attending to a sick man in November.

Re-examined by the Attorney General: There is no general track used by the people between the “backwash” and the well, excepting so far as the showyard. Warburton’s boots were in my possession for about two months before I forwarded them to Perth; all that time they were kept lock up in a box; the same spots Inspector Rowe saw I also had seen as I took the boots from Warburton.

Harrison was working at a place twenty-four miles from Roebourne at the time of the murder, and as soon as he came into the town he at once made his statement to me; had he come back sooner I would have heard of his return.

Mrs. Law is a woman of most respectable character, and I have satisfied myself that she knows nothing about the case, and that is the reason why she has not been brought down as a witness.

By His Honor: Mrs. Law would pass within eight or nine yards of the front verandah of the Bank when taking the milk to the rear of the premises, but the corner of the Bank would prevent her seeing the body; in fact she has told me that she did not see it.

By the Jury: The reason I suspected San Qui was because when I met him the day of the murder he appeared to be very terrified at my approach; that induced me to search his place. There was no broken glass lying outside the Bank window that had been forced, but it was lying inside the room. The smaller tomahawk belongs to Mr. Eaton.

Caroline Platt recalled by the Attorney General: What I had seen between one and two o’clock on the morning of the murder I mentioned the same morning to my husband and brother. I told my brother that I had seen a man going along at the back of Thompson’s that night, and that I thought it was young Pont from his figure. I told my husband that I thought there must be a good many strangers in town, and I thought they had been on the spree. At that time I did not connect the people I had seen with the murder. I did not make any statement to the authorities, as the young man I had mentioned was in the town.

Cross examined by Mr. Stevens: My brother’s name is James Payne; I heard many persons speaking of the murder, and knew that the police were trying to obtain information. I heard that a reward had been offered; that was after the police had spoken to me about it. The police told me, I believe it was Sergt. O’Connell and Det. Kennedy, they had heard that I knew something about the affair (The witness was subjected to prolonged examination but she maintained a most stolid demeanour, and persisted that she could not remember anything at all about the rewards being offered, and that no one had told her about it until after she had been summoned to appear at the local Police Court.)

Re-examined by the Attorney General: When I saw the object and the two figures at night, I thought they were only drunken men.

Daniel O’Connell recalled: Mrs. Platt gave evidence twice in the Roebourne Police Court, the first time about the end of the second week in February, and the second on the 12th March; the evidence she gave upon each occasion about the object and the two men she had seen at night was quite consistent throughout, the one time with the other. The first time I spoke to her soon after the murder about the case she said she knew nothing about it, but about three weeks after (after Mr. Scott had arrived and the £500 reward had been offered) she told me what she had seen.

At this point the Court adjourned until ten o’clock the next morning. [50]

*A poleaxe is an axe having a hammer face opposite the blade, used to slaughter cattle.