Trial – The West Australian – Day 3


The Trial as Reported by The West Australian Newspaper

Day 3


(Before His Honor the Chief Justice and a Common Jury.)


The Court re-assembled at the usual hour and the further hearing of the Roebourne murder case was proceeded with.  The Chief Justice said he wanted to see Mrs. Platt again, but, as that witness had not arrived, Mrs. Hall was recalled, and asked by His Honor whether she was certain that it was on the morning of the murder that she served the prisoner Bevan with a gallon of beer. Witness said she was quite sure of the date, because she had made an entry of the sale in her books, as Bevan did not pay for the beer at the time.

Alfred Smith, a teamster in Mr. Platt’s service at Roebourne said that on the morning of the murder he went out with a team to the camp where Bevan and Warburton were quarrying stone and that he reached the camp a little after eleven o’clock. He first saw Bevan, and witness spoke to him about the murder, Warburton at the time being eight or nine yards off”. Bevan made no remark whatever when the subject was mentioned, nor did Warburton, who must have overheard the conversation. While the three of them were afterwards engaged together in lifting a large stone, witness again spoke of the murder, observing what a fearfully cruel business it was. Warburton said, “Yes, the men who did that murder ought to be burnt. It’s a good job I’ve got no money in the bank.” Bevan made no remark, at the time, but afterwards he asked witness whereabouts the men were murdered, and witness told him that one was murdered in the front and the other at the back of the bank. Bevan seemed somewhat scared. He had on a dark striped shirt, and dark tweed trousers. The other (Warburton) wore white moleskin trousers, and a singlet or jersey. Witness remained at the camp about half an hour.  Nothing material was elicited in cross-examination, beyond the fact that Bevan is a little deaf, and that he made no sign of having heard the witness’s remark when he first spoke of the murder ; and that at the magisterial inquiry witness stated that the shirt worn by Bevan was a plaid shirt, and not a striped one.

Mrs. Platt was then recalled, and the Chief Justice addressing her said: When you told us yesterday that on looking out of your bedroom window about 4 o’clock on the morning of the murder, you saw three figures, you led us to believe at first-I dare say not intentionally-that it was not light enough for you to distinguish anything about them except that they were men ; but, afterwards, you said you thought that one of  them was young Pontt,-which of them was  that:

Witness : The one going towards Thompson’s house. . .

His Honor : What made you think it was  Pontt?

Witness : By his figure. He is a tall man rather stoutly built. The object seen on the side of the hill looked to be a short figure, neither stout nor thin. The third man seemed to be a very short figure. I could not distinguish whether they were  black or white.

His Honor (to the witness) ; I cannot let you go away, Mrs. Platt, without saying that you behaved very badly in not telling the police at once about this very important piece of evidence.

The Attorney General said he had now the original depositions of the evidence given by Mrs. Platt and the other witnesses before the Roebourne magistrate on the 7th February (referred to yesterday as not being forthcoming), and that, as stated by Sergeant O’connell yesterday, the evidence given by Mrs. Platt, on both occasions, was substantially the same.

His Honour: I am glad to hear it. But that does not remove the unfavourable impression from my mind that this woman kept back from the police very important  information.

Mr. Roderick McRae, recalled by the Attorney General, said he knew the two brothers Pontt, and that one of them (Auguste) was at Roebourne at the time of the murder, but he was lame, having met with an accident to his foot, three weeks previously, which caused it to fester ; and, on the morning of the murder, witness saw him amongst the crowd at the bank with his foot bandaged. His brother left the town the day before.

The Attorney General said he thought it was only fair towards these men, as their names had been mentioned, that this evidence should come out.

His Honor: Very properly, too. We are much obliged to you, Mr. McRae.

Harry Smith, a half-caste, then gave evidence as to the tracking ; as did also a native called Prince Tom, his evidence, which was very confusing, being interpreted by Mr. Eaton.

John Cavanagh, a shoemaker, at Roebourne, gave evidence as to the pair of boots found at Warburton’s lodgings having been repaired by him about a month before the murder. Witness identified the boots, as also the other prisoner’s boots (Bevan’s). He said that, in his opinion, the boots which Warburton was wearing when he was arrested were a pair which some other person than Warburton had been in the  habit of wearing.

William Joseph Noonan, the publican with whom Warburton lodged, described the room occupied by him. Witness was away from Roebourne at the time of the murder, and did not return until the end of February. Inspector Rowe had then arrived at Roebourne, and, on searching Warburton’s room, witness found a hat behind one of the rafters, which he handed to Mr. Rowe. There were some stains on the hat, but witness could not say what the stains were. He believed the hat to be Warburton’s ; it looked like a hat he used to wear, but he could not swear to it.

To Mr. Stevens : Sometimes another man occupied the room besides Warburton, and the hat may have been there for months for aught I know. The room was not ceiled [sic], and the roof was leaky, and the stains on the hat might very probably have been caused by drippings from the shingles. During the time Warburton lived with me, and since I have known him, I have found him a sober, honest, inoffensive man.

Jane Noonan, wife of the last witness, who was very indistinctly heard, was understood to say that Warburton, while he was quarrying, used to come into town on Saturday night and stay at the hotel until Monday morning. She remembered him leaving to go to work on the Monday morning before the murder, and the next she saw of him was about noon next day. He said he had come in because of the murder, and to attend the funeral. Bevan came there, too, and she heard Warburton ask him if he had bought the shirts. He said he had, but that they were no cheaper than at the other store. Somebody else came in and said that a Chinaman had been arrested for the murder, and Warburton said he would rather it was a Chinaman than an Englishman, and that Chinamen would have a rough time of it at the Nor’ West from that time out. After this, Warburton became changed in his manner ; he was moody, silent, and seemed depressed in spirits. (The rest of the witness’s evidence was given in such an undertone that it was lost to the reporters. She was understood to say that she saw Bevan at her house about seven o’clock on  the morning of the murder, and to make some reference to her Chinaman cook and the prisoner San Qui.)

At the conclusion of her examination, the Court rose and adjourned until ten o’clock this morning. There: are eighteen more witnesses to be examined for the prosecution.