The Trial as Reported by The Inquirer Newspaper
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MONDAY, JULY 6, 1885
The Court re-opened at ten o’Clock.
Robert Burns deposed: I am a carpenter and builder, living at Roebourne; I know the three prisoners at the bar. I remember the day of the murder, on that morning I met San Qui in front of the Bank, and spoke to him; there was a great crowd of people around. I saw Harry Smith called to pick up the tracks; I then went to my house, and San Qui accompanied me. When I got to my house he said “I was up at Bevan’s last night, we had such fine fun up there. We were dancing and singing up to ten o’clock.” I said “Dancing and singing! Who was there?” I understood him to reply “Bevan, Mrs Bevan, and a lot of them.” He said referring to the crowd of people who were around the Bank that morning, “What for do people go on like that. In Singapore plenty people killed, and they no go on like that.” He was in my house all that time. As he was leaving my place he said, “I suppose we shall all get a summons.” Afterwards I saw him at McRae’s store at about half-past nine; a man drew my attention to him as being greatly changed in appearance. Formerly he appeared to be a quiet pleasant fellow, but then he looked more like a wild and ferocious native who was going to spear somebody. Afterwards I went to Mr. Ashton’s store, and in a few minutes San Qui came in followed by Gilroy. I then went home, and San Qui went with me; he appeared to be very agitated. When I got to my house my wife remarked as to the cruelty of any person committing such cruel acts San Qui replied, “No one man did it, but two or three.” This was about ten o’clock, then my little boy came in, and said, “Mr Burrup has been shot through the head.” San Qui said, “No shoot um, pick.” He then made a pause of about two seconds and added, “So me hear em.” I took it that he was thinking what to say; up to that time I had never heard a pick mentioned in connection with the murder. San Qui then left my place but returned again before dinner time; meanwhile my wife and I had a conversation about him. When San Qui returned my wife said, “I hear the murderers have got a lot of money.” He replied, “They got em no money, but there were cheques there, but they didn’t take em.” He then paused again, and added, “So me hear em.” Then my little girl asked him which way they went. He replied, “What make you think me know?” He frequently asked me if I thought they would catch the murderers. I replied, “Yes, there is no doubt about that.” He said, “Me think they don’t know em.” He went away, and he came to my house between half-past six or seven, just after I returned, from the funeral; he sat down, and two other men came in and went away. San Qui then said “I’ll go home.” I said, “You are in a hurry.” He replied, “Yes, me think the police will lock me up.” The next time I saw him was about eight o’clock on Wednesday morning, when he told me that Roderick McRae had taken him up to his store and offered him fifty sovereigns if he would tell who had done it. He then told me that he had not been able to sleep the previous night, as whenever he dozed off he thought he saw Mr. Anketell coming. He said he wished Mr. Eaton (his master) would return, then he would return to Singapore, as the other Chinamen did not like him; that if Mr Eaton would let him go, he (San Qui) would let him (his master) have his (San Qui’s) house for his passage to Singapore. I believe that persons used to go to Bevan’s house of an evening during his absence. San Qui speaks English very well; there is not one man in twenty but can understand him. When he talked about “the fun” in Bevan’s house, he used the name “Bevan” twice.
Cross-examined by Mr Stevens: The murder caused a great excitement, and the reward offered was well known. Mrs. Platt is my next door neighbour; she is quiet with me as I never speak to her; she is not a woman whose company I care for. She took an offence to me about eighteen months ago, because I heard her abusing her husband to some people. I said I did not think much of a woman who would talk about her husband’s faults to everyone. About a week before the arrival of the “Flowerdale” the special messenger from the telegraph line stated that the Bank would offer another reward; at least I heard so.
By Mr Harper: The clocks in Roebourne do not all mark the same time. When the people were looking at the bodies suggestions were made that the criminals might escape by sea, and that probably the crime had been committed by Chinamen. In common with others I felt very excited about the event. I first noticed the change in San Qui’s manner when I saw him at the Bank. Afterwards I told Mr. Ashton, at his store, I felt sure San Qui knew something about it, although I did not think he was the culprit. He changed from his ordinary yellow colour and became blacker in the face.
Mr Harper: Is that the way Chinamen turn pale? (Laughter).
Witness: I don’t say that, for I never saw another Chinaman change colour like that before. I never heard on the day of this murder that a number of cheques had been found lying upon the Bank floor; it was not until two or three days afterwards that I heard of that. I did not mention to the police what San Qui had told me about the cheques until a couple of days after the murder. After the funeral the one burning question in Roebourne was – whether the police would catch the murderers or not. There is a “dream book” in my house, but I never knew of any conversation occurring between my wife and San Qui about it. I have spoken to my wife about it, but she said she did not remember any such conversation. I have never dreamt about the murder, and if any other Chinaman than San Qui had told me he had done so I should not have taken much notice of it.
By the Attorney General: I began to act as an “amateur detective: only in consequence of the change I had noticed in San Qui’s manner.
By His Honor: As soon as the bodies were first seen, suspicion without rhyme or reason at once rested upon the Chinamen, and they were therefore suspected. San Qui had walked home with me about half a dozen times before. The road from the Bank to my house is not in the same direction as the road to San Qui’s place.
Francis Smith deposed: I am a sawyer and live in a tent about half a mile out of Roebourne. I know the three prisoners. I remember the night of the murder. On the previous Sunday I saw San Qui and Bevan at Bevan’s house with Gilroy about eight o’clock at night. Shortly after I went to the house San Qui went out to the back of the house behind a shed in which the cooking is done; Bevan followed him, and they talked together in a low tone of voice for about twenty minutes. The next time I saw Bevan again was at about eight o’clock; he was standing outside his house, close to the door, with Warburton; San Qui was sitting in the house at the time. Bevan asked me if I was going to join the Good Templars, and I replied “No.” I did not mention this fact until some time in the following April, simply because I did not think that the evidence was of any importance; I thought that they had gone out to their camp after eight o’clock that night. When I gave evidence before the Magistrate at Roebourne I was not aware of Bevan having then made a statement; I was not asked at the Police Court if I had seen the prisoners at eight o’clock on Monday evening.
Cross examined by Mr Stevens: Of course I heard that a reward was offered on the day of the murder, and afterwards another one by the Bank; but I never knew what the amounts were. I never noticed the reward being posted up on the door of Mr. McRae’s store. Sergeant O’Connell, in speaking to me about the case in April, said “They say they left the town for their camp at four o’clock on Monday afternoon.” I replied, “Well, I don’t know how that can be, as I saw them at Bevan’s house at eight o’clock that night, and Bevan spoke to me.” I did not know till then that what I knew about it was of any importance. I have never been in a madhouse, neither have I ever been treated for lunacy; I consider myself to be a reasonable man. I’ll swear that it was on the night of Monday, the 13th January, that I saw Bevan and Warburton together at Bevan’s house; I am positive it was not Tuesday as I was not in town that day. If Tuesday was the 13th January I was not aware of the fact, I was always under the impression that Monday was the 13th. I do not expect to have any part of any reward. I’m giving my evidence all I want to do is to speak the truth.
By Mr. Harper: It was just about dusk when I saw Bevan and Warburton on the Monday evening. When I gave my evidence at the Police Court I did not think it was of any importance. I was examined twice at the Roebourne Police Court; the first time about Gilroy, and next time about Bevan, Warburton, and San Qui. I did not think anything of the conversation I saw Bevan hold with San Qui on the Sunday evening until about a month or six weeks after the murder, and then, after I had heard other people talking about it, I began to think it looked very black against Bevan and San Qui.
His Honor: They must most certainly either conduct such cases at Roebourne in a most extraordinary manner, or else have a very peculiar kind of witnesses there.
Witness: I have seen San Qui at Bevan’s house on several occasions; Bevan sells ginger-beer, and I have been at his place to buy it.
Re-examined: When I gave my evidence in the Police Court for the first time Gilroy was in the dock with the other three prisoners. When I was examined by the Magistrate all I did was to answer the questions he asked me, and all of them were about Gilroy; that is the reason why I did not speak about seeing Bevan and Warburton talking together at dusk on the Monday night because Gilroy was not there.
By His Honor: The Magistrate did not ask me anything about Warburton, Bevan and San Qui. He said “What do you know about Gilroy?” I do not know upon what night the Good Templars hold their meetings at Roebourne.
Robert Burns recalled: The Good Templars always hold their meetings in Roebourne on Monday nights. I have known them for years, but have never known them to hold their meetings on any other night.
By Mr. Stevens: I am a member of the Order. Eighteen months ago we held our meeting every week, but since then we have held them on the first Monday in the month, but sometimes it is postponed until the following Monday. I do not remember whether anything special occurred in January last to cause the annual meeting to be postponed.
By the Attorney: Postponed meetings are not of uncommon occurrence, owing to the frequent absence of the President and Chairman. I cannot recollect whether a meeting was held on the 12th January last or not.
Chow Ah Hong being a Christian was sworn and deposed: I remember the time of the murder and was in the town at that time, though I am Mr. Lockyer’s cook. The night of the murder I slept in San Qui’s house. We had supper there, and after supper San Qui went out. Ah Pang had supper there too; there was also there Li Lin and Ah Hoh. San Qui returned about ten o’clock; the house consists of three rooms, one of which San Qui kept to himself; I saw him go into his room. I then laid down on the bed, and Ah Hoh and I smoked opium together. San Qui had a light burning in his room after his return. The opium put me sound asleep, and I didn’t wake until about six o’clock the sun had been up about an hour. I saw Ah Pang making tea; I walked to the front door and saw San Qui in the butcher’s house. I had breakfast there at about eight o’clock, when Ah Ping came in and told us that some persons had been murdered at the Bank. About an hour afterwards San Qui came in, and Ah Hing said to him, “Do you know somebody has killed the Bank master.” He made no reply, but remained standing there. It was about half-past six when I saw San Qui in the butcher’s shop, I don’t know when he left it; the next time I saw him was just about breakfast time coming down the road; then it was that Ah Ping spoke to him about the murder. San Qui then went straight off towards, the Bank, although I told him it was breakfast time. He said, “You had better get ours first.” He returned at about nine o’clock, when I told him his breakfast was ready for him to eat he said he could not. I asked him what he has seen, and he replied, “Only some blood on the floor.” I asked him, “How do they kill it?” He replied, “I not know, blanket cover it up.” He then went away, had some dinner, went out again, and returned, when he laid down and slept about two hours; then he got up and killed some sheep just behind his house. He slept at home that night. On Wednesday morning policeman Thomas came at about half-past six o’clock; he came into the house and asked San Qui where I had slept; he replied, “Here in my house.” Thomas then said to me “Here, I want you.” I went out with him, and he talked with me not far from the house for about ten minutes; he then went away. I went back to the house, and at about half-past ten Bevan came into the house by the back-door. Bevan asked Ah Pang, “Where’s San Qui?” He replied, “San Qui’s gone out.” Bevan stopped there for about ten minutes time; he was just going away when he saw San Qui coming, and the two of them went into San Qui’s bedroom. They were there for about five minutes, when policeman Thomas looked in at the window; I was lying on a sofa, and he called me out. The house is built of thin boards. I did not hear any conversation in the bedroom; they must have been talking together in a very easy voice. I talked to Thomas for about a quarter of an hour; he asked for my hat; I went into get it, when Bevan (who was still in the bed-room) came to the inner door and said, “What are you doing here while we are talking?” I said, “I am not listening.” Bevan afterwards went away, and Thomas went off after him. San Qui then wanted to know who had called me out, and when I told him it was a policeman he wanted to know what he wanted me for.
Cross-examined by Mr. Harper: Bevan and San Qui are friends; Bevan is often at San Qui’s house, and he built the verandah for him; I think he built the house altogether. I did not know that San Qui was going to build a shed behind his house. I have never been to Bevan’s house.
Lee Wat Sun, having been affirmed, said: At the time of the murder I was living at Noonan’s hotel; I know the three prisoners. I remember the morning of the murder; I saw Bevan at about ten o’clock that morning; I did not look at the clock; it was about three hours after the bodies had been found. I was in my room at Noonan’s when I saw him. He asked me where the last witness was. I replied, “I don’t know Lockyer’s cook.” He asked me that twice, but I said I did not know him. He said to me, “You know too much. You are a liar, Lockyer’s cook came to see you this morning.” He kept on asking me about the man; at last I said, “Don’t you keep messing about me, or I’ll call the police to you.” He replied, “I am the police. I can shoot you or put you in the lock-up.” I saw Warburton; I used to sleep between the kitchen door and the back door. On the Saturday night before the murder I saw Warburton go out of the hotel a little after supper, and come back about ten o’clock. He went to his room, and went out again in about half an hour, returning after midnight. A few nights before the murder he had gone out late at night many a time.
By His Honor: He was in the house on Sunday night; but I did not see him there on Monday morning.
Cross examined by Mr Stevens: I did not see Warburton on Monday until dinner time and he went away. I did not see him on Monday night, nor on Tuesday until dinner time.
By Mr Stevens: I have never been at Bevan’s house. I am quite sure it was at ten o’clock on Tuesday morning when Bevan threatened to lock me up. I am sure it was not on Wednesday morning. Another Chinaman was with me. Mrs. Noonan came in afterwards and spoke to Bevan, but I did not hear what she had said.
Re-examined: I am certain that it was on Tuesday, the morning of the murder, that Bevan spoke to me; it was about two hours after breakfast.
The Court adjourned for an hour. The Court resumed at ten minutes past two o’clock.
Daniel O’Connell, recalled, said: Every well, drain, or anything of the sort, in or around Roebourne, was carefully searched.
William Pollett, examined by the Crown Solicitor, said: I am a police officer, and was living in Roebourne at the time of the murder. I know the three prisoners. I remember them being the lock-up on the 20th March; at that time I was a special constable, and was on night duty at the lock-up. I was at San Qui’s cell door, and Warburton was in the next cell; they could converse together. I heard a conversation between the two prisoners that night; San Qui began it. He said, “No one walk about tonight.” Warburton replied “That’s a good job, we can go to sleep.” San Qui said, “Me no can sleep.” Warburton said “How’s that?” He replied”No!” Warburton rejoined, “You ought to talk um to your god, he make you alright.” The Chinaman remarked, “Bevan no talkee to me like you, Charloi.” After a pause San Qui said, “Me tell um me no stop in lock-up.” Warburton moved in his cell, and twice said, “I’ll go to sleep now.” After another pause San Qui said, “I no tell um, I keep it to myself.” Warburton made no answer, and the conversation dropped.
Cross-examined by Mr. Harper: It was on January 17 that I was sworn in as a special constable; I am now a regular constable since my arrival in Perth, having been recommended by the authorities at Roebourne. I applied at Roebourne in October last for an appointment on the Police Force. I have often listened at the prisoner’s cell doors before, but that was the only conversation I overheard. I have never spoken to San Qui about this trial. Every word of the conversation I have repeated is correct. I took the conversation down on paper with a lead pencil, and gave Sergeant O’Connell a copy of it in the Police Office the next day. Since then I have been made a constable.
Re-examined by the Attorney General: I wrote down the conversation the night I heard it. I was not called as a witness at Roebourne, as the conversation took place the day after the prisoners had been committed for trial.
His Honor: Well, you seem to be a fit and proper person to be in the Police Force; and you have given your evidence very well indeed. That will do.
Ah Pang (or Ping) having been recalled and re-affirmed, said, through an interpreter: Bevan first told me of the murder at eight o’clock on the Tuesday morning, one step inside the door of San Qui’s house; I was inside the house, and Bevan was standing against the door; the two men wee there at the time. Bevan said, “B_______y Chinaman kill whitefellow.” On the Monday night I slept on a sofa. On Monday night I saw San Qui come home and go to bed; I saw him at about six o’clock the next morning; I do not know whether San Qui slept all night or not, as I slept all night. There are four doors in the house; two opening outside,one behind and the other in front; and two inside the house. The knife is like the one I lost, but mine had no sheath. This knife (the one produced) was found in San Qui’s sleeping room.
Cross-examined by Mr Harper: I did not lose my knife, but put it under a box. (At this point the interpreter said, “He don’t want to know what I say – he won’t hear me – I’m no good.” Another interpreter was then brought in and affirmed, when the cross-examination was continued.) I remember being examined here on Saturday, when the then interpreter, Lee Wat Sun, said to him, No say Wednesday, say Tuesday.”
John Cavanagh, recalled said: I know the Church of England Good Templars’ Society in Roebourne, but of my own knowledge I cannot say whether any meeting of the Society was held on the evening of Monday the 12th January, or not.
By Mr Stevens: From my own knowledge I cannot say whether the usual meeting, that ought to have been held on the first Monday in the month was postponed or not.
Ti Gin was affirmed and Charles Djusong was sworn in as interpreter, after which the prisoner said: On the night of the murder I was in the bush; I was working for Mr Noonan. I have known San Qui for four years. After he had been locked up the Governor (Mr Laurence) and Mr. Rowe let me go in to see him, when San Qui wanted to sell me some bracelets for fifteen shillings. I asked San Qui if he knew anything about the murder, and he replied “No!” I told him if he knew anything about the murder, and ought to tell the police about it, and get the £1000 reward. He told me he had written a letter to Lockyer’s cook. The letter was sent to employ a lawyer and get five witnesses, and that then he would be out of gaol, adding that if he could not get out he would speak for himself, by which he meant he would defend himself. I went to see him a second time, when I told him that there were over twenty witness against him San Qui said there were over thirty, but that the first one had died. San qui added they wanted more men in the prison besides the three they had, and that would make five. I asked San Qui who were the other two men; and he replied, “I don’t know.” He told me to ask Mr Rowe to look after a key in his room. He asked me to tell Mr. Rowe and the Magistrate that if it were proved he had killed the men, he would go to the gallows for it; that some boys had come to the butcher’s shop early in the morning for the meat.
Cross-examined by Mr. Harper: San Qui told me he knew that in the long run two more men would have to be locked up.
Daniel O’Connell recalled: When the last witness was speaking to San Qui Gilroy was under arrest.
Thomas Rowe recalled: Gilroy was in charge at the time.
By Mr Stevens: I don’t know whether Ti Gin visited San Qui in the lockup before my arrival at Roebourne.
Edward Lillas deposed: I am a labourer and was living at Bevan’s house about the time of the murder: I cannot say what time he left the house, but I was in the morning; the next time I saw him was at about dinner time the next day, Tuesday. I slept at Bevan’s on Monday night; I had a sleeping draught, and so slept very soundly. At dinner there were present only Bevan, his wife, Gilroy and myself. On the Tuesday evening I saw Bevan, Gilroy and Warburton conversing together. Warburton was telling them about a murder that had been committed in England. They got disputing about the time it had occurred, and Warburton got up and went away in a temper. I used to sleep in the same room as Gilroy, but after the murder I would not continue to do so, and so on Tuesday night I slept on the sofa in the sitting room. On Wednesday afternoon I saw Bevan and Gilroy together, they had both been drinking. On Sunday Bevan was wearing a white shirt and dark trousers, no coat; I do not remember how he was dressed on the Tuesday afternoon when he came into town from the work. Gilroy first came to sleep at Bevan’s the night before the murder. San Qui was at Bevan’s house on the Monday night, but Bevan was not there. I sat with the persons present from about seven till ten at night; they were all taking but there was no drinking.
Cross-examined by Mr Stevens: On the Tuesday night I slept in the same room as Gilroy; he was in the room apparently going to bed. The lamp was burning, and there was plenty of oil and wick for it to last all night. During the course of the night I woke up, when the lamp was not alight; I had not extinguished the lamp. I got out of bed to pick up a pillow which had fallen from under my bad arm. The pillow was lying near the door; I had not placed it there; I don’t think it could have rolled there; it had been removed, or had fallen from underneath my side. At that time Gilroy was not in the room. I went to bed again, and slept till morning. I woke between daylight and sunrise; Gilroy was then standing close to the door, in a stooping position as though he was picking something up. He was dressed, and had his hat on. I did not speak to him, or he to me. He went out directly after that; Gilroy used to sleep on blankets on the floor, and when I went after my pillow in the night I walked over them, by which I knew that he was not sleeping in the room. I did not take any notice of the blankets in the morning.
By Mr. Harper: I did not see Bevan on Monday afternoon or night. I was not in the house all Monday afternoon, but I was in and out. I do not remember Bevan getting any beer at anytime. Mrs. Bevan was accustomed to play upon the accordion, but I don’t remember her having used it on the Monday evening.
Re-examined: There was no one there that could play so far as I know. There was no drinking going on that Monday evening; but I am positive that there was no dancing upon that occasion. I heard of the murder early in the morning, before breakfast.
Jane Noonan recalled: The usual breakfast hour at our house is eight o’clock, dinner at noon. Sometimes we have breakfast earlier than usual, but dinner is always punctual.
The Court then adjourned till 10 a.m. the next day.