Trial – The West Australian – Day 4


The Trial as Reported by The West Australian Newspaper

Day 4


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


The Court resumed at 10 a.m., and the trial of the three prisoners Bevan, Warburton, and San Qui for the murder of Mr. Anketell, at Roebourne, was proceeded with, this being the fourth day of the hearing. The Attorney General, instructed by the Crown Solicitor, appeared for the prosecution ; Mr. Stevens appeared for Warburton ; and Mr. Julian Harper for the other two prisoners.

John O’Connell, son of Sergeant O’connell, said that on the Thursday following the murder he was in charge of a party of natives who were employed in diving, in the pool of the river, about 80 yards from Bevan’s house, and in a straight direction ; and that he saw a native named Jack bring up the shirt produced. He gave the shirt to Constable Thomas. To all appearances it was tied up with one of the sleeves when the native brought it to the surface, but the native undid it before it was handed to the witness. It had a bone stud in the neck-band.

To Mr. Harper : There are other houses in the vicinity of the pool besides Bevan’s,-houses all around, in fact. I noticed nothing offensive either to the sense of smell or of sight, about the shirt; but there were some stains on it. No other garment was pulled out of the pool, but a corkscrew, a piece of iron, and a sardine tin were brought up. People used to bathe in this pool.

William Thomas, police constable, said that on Wednesday, after the murder, he saw the prisoner several times about the town, and going in and out Noonan’s public house. He was conversing with a man named Gilroy, in a very low tone of voice, on one occasion when he saw him, and immediately after this conversation Bevan went to the Chinamen’s quarters, where the prisoner San Qui lived. He saw him go to San Qui’s hut, and witness followed him stealthily, and listened at the window, outside, but he could only hear low murmurs of conversation within. He then beckoned out a Chinaman called John (Mr. Lockyer’s cook), and, afterwards on the same day, searched San Qui’s room, and found the sheathed knife (already referred to in Sergeant O’Connell’s evidence). It was tied up in a bundle of clean clothes.

To Mr. Harper : I watched Bevan because I suspected him in my own mind. I suspected him as soon as I heard of the murder and saw the bodies. I did not see Bevan actually enter San Qui’s hut, but I saw him go to it. I only suspected the whisperings which I heard in the hut to be whisperings between Bevan and San Qui, because I fancied that Bevan was inside ; but my suspicions as to his having entered the house turned out to be correct, for five minutes afterwards, I saw him leave the place.

The Chief Justice : You saw him come out of the house but did not see him go into the house, is that what you mean ?

Witness said he never saw him go into the house nor come out of the house.

The Chief Justice : This is inexplicable. “The witness certainly speaks with what lawyers call an abundance of caution.

Witness explained that from the position which he occupied he could not actually see the man entering the door nor emerging again, but that he saw him go to the house and afterwards come away.

Richard Thomas Eaton, the butcher in whose service the prisoner San Qui was employed, said he had occasion to leave Roebourne on the morning of Monday, before the murder was committed, and that when he returned on Wednesday, he noticed that the axes used in the shop for cutting up meat were unusually bright and clean, more carefully polished up than usual. He also saw a pick in the shop, which did not belong to him, but upon which there were some spots, which appeared to be blood. It was lying on the bench. San Qui had the key of the shop, in witness’s absence.

To Mr. Stevens: Had known the prisoner Warburton for about eight years ; he was an honest, quiet, inoffensive man, so far as witness knew him.

To Mr. Harper : San Qui used to kill the meat and cut it up, and it would be a strange thing indeed if his clothes had no stain of blood on them. The axes were cleaned and sharpened almost daily, and it was part of San Qui’s duty to clean them. Had it not have been for the murder, witness probably would not have noticed that the tools were cleaner than usual, on his return.

San Qui at this time was putting up a hut and he would require a pick to dig the post holes. There was nothing unusual in having a pick about the shop. It was San Qui’s duty to open the shop in the morning, and he would have to be there as early as five o’clock for that purpose, at that time of the year. The sheathed knife produced (that found in San Qui’s bundle) was not an ordinary butcher’s knife, nor did it belong to the shop ; at the same time San Qui might have used it for slaughtering purposes, but he never saw him use it, The prisoner had been about twelve months in witness’s employ, and, as a servant, witness had no fault to find with him. He had been in Roebourne about three years.

Charles Zeddie, a carpenter and contractor, said that he lent San Qui a pick to dig some holes, some weeks before the date of the murder, and that the pick was never returned to him. The pick produced (the one found in Eaton’s shop) was not that which he lent San Qui, nor could he say how it came into San Qui’s possession, although this also belonged to witness.

To Mr. Harper : The pick he lent San Qui was worn out at the point, being quite blunt, and probably an inch and a quarter in thickness, having been worn down to a stump. San Qui had been in witness’s service for over two years, and there could not have been a better character than he was during that time. He was particularly kind to the children, and especially so towards the baby. He was always a cheerful, good-natured, merry fellow.

To Mr. Stevens : Had known the prisoner Warburton for seven or eight years, and always found him an honest, straightforward, quiet man.

Dr. O’Meehan, at the request of the foreman of the jury, was then recalled, and, his attention having been directed to what the last witness said about the bluntness of the pick he had lent to San Qui, the Chief Justice asked him whether the wound in Mr. Burrup’s head might have been produced with an instrument of that description. Witness said he did not think it could. The wound was not more than about an inch across.

Mr. Zeddi, upon being re-examined, said that what he meant to have conveyed was that the pick in question was an inch and a-quarter in circumference, not in diameter, measured about an inch from the point. The prisoners’ counsel submitted that evidence bearing upon Mr. Burrup’s murder had nothing to do with the indictment upon which the prisoners were now arraigned-the murder of Mr. Anketell. His Honor ruled otherwise. It was quite impossible to dissociate the two crimes. Anyone concerned in the one murder must also have been concerned in the other.

Dr. Waylen, the Colonial Surgeon, produced the hair found on the pick: discovered in Mr. Eaton’s shop, which he said had been given to him by the police the day before yesterday. He had examined the hair with a microscope, and to the best of his belief it was human hair, out of an eyebrow. He had also examined the pieces of leather cut out of the boots produced (alleged to be Warburton’s). There was a distinct mark or stain on each boot, which he cut out himself, and subjected to a scientific examination. These stained pieces of leather were dissolved, in a solution of glycerine and water, which removed the stains, and he also submitted them to two other different processes, using glycerine alone, and water alone. He then examined the corpuscles found in the solution, and discovered that they were blood corpuscles,-the blood of a mammal. He had likewise submitted portions of a felt hat (that found in the rafters in Warburton’s room) to the same analysis; and also the blouse and trousers found in San Qui’s hut. There were traces of blood, mammalian blood, upon each and all of them. Compared with the blood on the boots, the traces of blood on the blouse and trousers and on the hat were much fainter, the corpuscles being fewer in number and smaller; and the inference which he drew from this was that the garments had been washed. He also examined the shirt found in the pool, but found no traces of blood upon that. Two days immersion in water would probably remove all traces of blood corpuscles. Witness had also examined the sheathed knife produced, and found traces of mammalian blood on the blade and on the sheath.

To Mr. Stevens: It is almost impossible to distinguish human blood from other mammalian blood, and the stains in question may have been the stains of the blood of any other mammal than that of a human being. As to the hair, my firm belief is that it is human hair, it is possible it may be the hair of some animal, such as a spaniel ; but the conclusion I arrived at was that it was human hair, and the hair of an eyebrow.

To His Honor : Human hair, generally speaking, is of a finer texture than that of other animals, and there is a difference in the disposition of the cells ; but I only speak of the distinguishing characteristic of the hair produced from the fineness of its texture. It is a perfect hair, showing the root and all, and, as I have already stated, my firm belief is that it is human hair.

Walter Ashton, a storekeeper at Roebourne, said that on the Monday of the murder, the prisoners Bevan and Warburton purchased two shirts produced. There may have been bone studs in them when sold.

To Mr. Harper ; If there were, they were common bone studs, and not the same sort of stud as that in the shirt produced (that found in Bevan’s house).

Inspector Rowe was next examined. He said he arrived at Roebourne to investigate the case on February 28th, seven weeks after the murder. Next day he had the room occupied by Warburton, at Noonan’s public house, carefully examined by the landlord, who found the hat produced in the rafters (already referred to). Witness himself stayed at the same hotel. He subsequently went to Bevan’s house, and Mrs. Bevan gave him a clean shirt belonging to her husband, and also a shirt taken off her husband’s back there and then. (The later measured half-an-inch shorter round the neck than the shirt found in the pool, as did also the other shirt.) There was also a difference in the measurement of the shirt given by Mrs. Bevan to Sergeant O’Connell. The witness was not further examined.

The Chief Justice : Will you tell me how much of that evidence you deem of any importance?

The Attorney General : Merely, generally, to show that the shirts were found and measured.

His Honor : And, so far as the evidence goes, they all differ, in measurement.

The Attorney General : But, in other respects, the shirt found in the pool and the shirt given by Mrs. Bevan to Sergeant O’connell correspond.

His Honor : That is just what they do not do. They do not correspond in any respect. They are both shirts, and that’s all.

The next witness called, Robert Burns, was ill in hospital, and a medical certificate to that effect was produced.

Ah Pang, a Chinese witness, was then called. It transpired that Ah Pang was in prison, and he had to be sent for. When he arrived, a half-caste Chinaman, Li Wat Sun [Anglicé Watson) was sworn as interpreter. Ah Pang introduced himself by saying that he was in prison for running away from his master, and that the reason he ran away from his master was because his master didn’t give him enough ‘ grub.’ He said (through the interpreter) that he knew the prisoners Bevan and San Qui, and that he was in Roebourne at the time of the murder. The first he heard of it was from Bevan, at 8 o’clock on the morning of the murder. Bevan said to him, “You b____y Chinamen, you kilhum white fellow.”

His Honor : How does he interpret that?

The witness himself repeated the expression, in the same broken English ; and, his examination was about to be continued through the interpreter, when, Mr. Harper pointed out that the interpreter himself was a very important witness in the case, and he thought it was very objectionable that he should act as interpreter, in a case where three men’s lives wore concerned. The Attorney General said, if the court or counsel wished it, he would postpone the further examination of this witness until Monday, when possibly the services of an interpreter wholly unconnected with the case might be procured. This was agreed to.

The witness Burns came into Court at this stage, having been brought out of bed at the Colonial Hospital by a policeman ; but, as he still appeared very unwell, suffering from heart disease, his examination was put off until Monday.

The statement made by Bevan before the magistrate was then read by the Master. It was of great length, entering into the minutest details as to his movements and conversations from the time he came home from his work on Saturday night before the murder, until the Wednesday after the murder. He said he and Warburton left Roebourne to go to work at the quarry on the Monday morning, arriving at the quarry about 10 o’clock, and that they were not in town until Tuesday (after the murder) ; that the first they heard of the murder was from the teamster,-as stated in evidence. He said he had a gallon of sugar beer at Mrs. Hall’s on Monday morning, before leaving town, and again on Tuesday afternoon, after coming back. [Mrs. Hall, it may be remembered, stated in her evidence that she served Bevan with a gallon of beer early on Tuesday morning-the morning of the murder.] He added in conclusion that he never had occasion to rob anybody, that he always had money in his pocket, and a comfortable home ; and that it was not the guilty parties that the police wanted so much as the reward.

The reading of the statement occupied three-quarters of an hour, and it being now 4 o’clock, The Court adjourned until Monday morning, the Chief Justice on parting with the jury saying he was sorry to state that they would have to spend their Sunday in charge of the Sheriff.