Trial – The West Australian – Day 5


The Trial as Reported by The West Australian Newspaper

Day 5


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


The Court resumed at the usual hour, and the evidence for the prosecution in the Roebourne murder case was continued. Robert Burns, who was too ill to be examined on Saturday, was the first witness called. He said he was a builder and contractor living at Roebourne, and that he saw the prisoner San Qui standing in front of the bank, with a crowd of other spectators, on the morning after the murder. He had a conversation with San Qui, in the course of which the former started to tell the witness where he was the night before. He said he was at Bevan’s house up to 10 o’clock that evening, and that they had some fun there, dancing and singing. Witness asked him who was there, and he understood him to say “Bevan, Mrs. Bevan, and a lot of others.” He was not quite sure whether he meant to say that Bevan himself was there ; but the impression he left on his mind was that he did. San Qui in the course of the conversation, and, alluding to the excitement caused by the murder, made the remark, “Why for they make all this row ? Plenty of that sort of thing in Singapore.” Next day he saw San Qui again, and was struck with the change in his appearance. He was , like a “wild ferocious native who was going to spear somebody” whereas he generally looked to be a quiet, pleasant fellow.

Witness happened to meet San Qui again the same day in Ashton’s shop, and both returned home together. San Qui seemed very agitated, and was not the sort of man he used to be at all. Witness’s wife, on the morning of the murder, remarked to San Qui that it was a cruel thing for anyone to kill poor Mr. Anketell, whereupon San Qui said ‘. No one man do it, two or three.” Witness’s little boy casually remarked that Mr. Burrup had been shot through the head, and San Qui remarked, ‘. No shoot him, pick,” and, after a pause, ” So me hear.” Up to this, witness had never heard it hinted that a pick was supposed to have been one of the instruments used, in the commission of the murder. This conversation took place about 10 a.m. on the day of the murder. After dinner, his wife casually remarked in the presence of San Qui that she heard the robbers had got “a lot of money, and San Qui made answer : ” They no get money ; lots of cheques there, but they no take them”; and, after another pause ‘. So me hear.” Witness’s little girl asked San Qui which way the murderers went. He seemed annoyed at this, and said “Why for you think I should know.” He asked witness if he thought the police would catch them, and witness said they would be sure to catch them, whereupon San Qui remarked, “Me no think so ; me think they don’t know”.

Witness saw him again after the funeral, at his (witness’s) house, when he said after listening to some conversation that was going on about the murder, “Me go home ; me think the police will lock me up, lock us all up.” He also said that Mr. Roderick McRae had taken him to his office and offered 50 sovereigns if he would tell who had done it ; but he said he could not tell who done it. He also said he could not sleep that night, dreaming that Mr. Anketell was coming to him. He also said he would not stop at Roebourne any more, that the other Chinamen were not like him, and that he would settle up with Dickie (meaning his employer, Mr. Eaton), and go back to Singapore.

To Mr. Steven : The murder of course was a general topic of conversation, and everybody had their own ideas as to how the deed was done. San Qui was not the only person who made remarks about the matter, or discussed how it was done.
To Mr. Harper : It was suggested by many people that the murder was done by Chinamen, and this may have led to the remark made by San Qui that the police would lock him up,-lock them all up. It was when he was in Mr. McRae’s store that he looked “like a ferocious native who was going to spear somebody.” He seemed very agitated all the time we conversed about the murder, and changed colour. He changed from a yellow into a blacker colour. Cannot say whether that was the Chinese way of turning pale. I watched him very closely, as I thought I would do a little amateur detective business, on my own account. I fancied San Qui knew something about the murder, but I did not think he was a man who would have perpetrated the murder himself. San Qui was not the only person I heard discussing with what instruments the murder had probably been committed, or as to whether any money had been taken. Many others besides San Qui probably dreamt about the murder. Cannot say whether any conversation took place between my wife and San Qui as to a dream-book ; but I believe my wife has a dream book, and it may have been consulted. When the murder was first discussed, suspicion at once, without rhyme or reason, fell upon Chinamen as being the murderers, and, of course, after that, every Chinaman was the object of more or less suspicion.

Francis Smith, a sawyer, said he remembered the night of the murder (Monday), and that he saw Bevan, San Qui, and a man named Gilroy in Bevan’s house on the Sunday night previous to the murder. While witness was in the house, San Qui went out to the back, followed by Bevan, and the two conversed together in a low tone for about 20 minutes. Witness next saw Bevan on Monday evening, about dusk, at the back of his house, when Bevan spoke to witness and asked him if he was going to join the Good Templars. Did not make the statement as to seeing the prisoners on Monday evening when he was examined before the magistrate, as he was not then aware that it was of any importance ; he did not know that it was denied by Bevan and Warburton that they had been in Roebourne after Monday morning. He did not mention the circumstance until the following April.

To Mr. Stevens : This was after the rewards were offered. It was in the course of a conversation with Sergeant O’Connell that I first mentioned it. I am sure it was Monday evening and not Tuesday evening that I saw the prisoners together at Bevan’s. I remember it because of the conversation as to joining the Good Templars, and I am positive it was on Monday, the 13th January. Mr. Stevens pointed out that Monday was the 12th of January, and not the 13th. Witness said he had always been under the impression that Monday was the 13th.

The Attorney General : Merely a mistake in the day of the month.

His Honor : If he remembers the day of the week, why should he not also remember the day of the month, and, if he makes a mistake in one, why should he not make a mistake in the other?

The Attorney General : Do the Good Templars at Roebourne always meet on the same night in the week, or on different nights ?

Witness : I cannot say, I never was one.

The witness Burns was then recalled and stated that Monday evenings were, the evenings on which the Good Templars invariably held their meetings at Roebourne. As a rule they were held on the first Monday in each month, and afterwards fortnightly.

To Mr. Stevens: In the ordinary course of affairs the first meeting in January would be on January 5th, and the next on January 19th ; but, it is possible that something may have occurred to cause the monthly meeting to be postponed from the 5th to the 12th.

Chow Ah Hong, a Chinaman, who spoke intelligible English, and who said he was a Christian, was sworn in the usual form, on the Testament. He said he was employed as cook at Mr. Lockyer’s, but that he was in Roebourne on the night of the murder, and that he stopped that night with several other Chinamen, at San Qui’s house. After supper, between 7 and 8 o’clock, San Qui went out, but came back about 10, and went into his own room. Witness and a companion named Ah Hook were then lying down, smoking opium, and shortly afterwards he went to bed, and was soon sound asleep. He did not awake until about half-just 6 o’clock next morning, when he got up, and, going to the front door, he saw San Qui in the butcher’s shop (Eaton’s).

About 8 o’clock that morning, before breakfast, a Chinaman named Ah Hing said to San Qui, “Do you know that somebody kill bank master last night ?” San Qui said nothing in reply, but stood there, for a little while, and then said he would go ‘ bank way’. He was away about an hour, and, when he returned, breakfast was offered to him, but he did not eat anything. Witness asked him how the men had been killed, and he said he did not know, that he only saw a lot of blood on the floor, the bodies being covered with a blanket. He went out again, and came back about dinner time, and went to lie down and had a sleep. Next morning, about half past six, constable Thomas came in, and questioned the witness, after which he went away. Three or four hours afterwards, Bevan came to the backdoor, and asked for San Qui, who had then gone out. Bevan stopped there about ten minutes time, until San Qui came home, and they both went into San Qui’s bedroom, where they remained about five minutes, talking in an undertone. Constable Thomas then came to the window and beckoned witness out. Witness went, and conversed with the constable for a quarter of an hour. When San Qui came out of his room he asked witness what the policeman wanted with him, but witness fenced with the question and gave him no satisfaction.

To Mr. Harper: Bevan and San Qui were great friends, and the “latter, frequently called at San Qui’s house. There was nothing unusual about his coming there to see San Qui.

Li Wat Sun, the half-caste who acted as Chinese interpreter on Saturday, was next called. He was lame and walked with the aid of a stick. He said he was cook at Noonan’s public house, and that he remembered seeing the prisoner Bevan about 10 o’clock on the morning of the murder, when he came to him at Noonan’s and asked him if he knew where Lockyer’s cook (the last witness) was ; and witness said he didn’t. Bevan said he was a liar, and threatened to call the police, saying he would have witness shot, and put in the lockup.

To Mr. Harper: Was sure that this was on Tuesday morning, about 10 o’clock.

The Chief Justice : The teamster told us that both Bevan and Warburton were at the quarry when he arrived there, at 11 o’clock that morning.

Several witnesses were at this stage recalled by the Attorney General, but not one of them happened to be in attendance, which elicited from the Chief Justice the remark that he was not at all surprised at witnesses not remaining, looking at the very uncomfortable quarters provided for them ; at the same time, every witness ought to remain within hearing, pending the conclusion of a trial, unless they were excused from further attendance.

William Pollett, who was in charge of the lockup at Roebourne on the night of the 20th March last, said he was standing outside San Qui’s cell, the adjoining cell being occupied by the prisoner Warburton, on the night in question, and that he overheard a conversation between the two, San “Qui remarking that there did not seem to be anybody about that night, whereupon Warburton said, ” That’s a good job ; we can go to sleep.” San Qui said, “Me no can sleep.” Warburton asked him how that was, and he repeated the remark, -‘No, me no sleep.” Warburton said, ” You ought to talkee to your God ; he make you all right.” San Qui said ‘. Bevan no talkee me like you Charlie;” and, after a pause he said, “Me tell ’em ; me no stop lockup.” Warburton then said he would go to sleep,”and, after a short pause, San Qui said, “Me no tell them : me keep it to myself.” Warburton made no answer, and the conversation dropped. This was on the night after the prisoners were committed for trial.

Ah Pang whose examination had commenced on Saturday, but was adjourned, owing to counsel for the prisoners objecting to a witness in the case acting also as interpreter was now further examined, the services of another interpreter having been secured by the Crown.

He repeated that he first heard of the murder from Bevan, on Tuesday morning (the morning of the murder). This was at San Qui’s house. Bevan said : ” B_____y Chinamen killum white-fellows.” Chow Ah Hong (already examined) was present when Bevan said this ; but Chow Ah Hong was in bed at the time, asleep. This was at 8 o’clock on Tuesday morning.

The Chief Justice : There is a discrepancy there. Chow Ah Hong himself told us he awoke and was up at half-past six that morning.

It transpired, after some further questions were put, that the witness did not understand the dialect spoken by the interpreter, or, as the interpreter himself put it, did not want to understand him. Thereupon another almond-eyed alien volunteered his services as interpreter, and, after some inquiries as to his antecedents, his services were accepted ; but nothing of material importance was elicited.

Ti Jin, another Chinaman, was next called. His evidence was interpreted by Djusong, the barman employed at the Royal Hotel. It was to the effect that after Inspector Rowe came up to investigate the case, he went to see San Qui at the lockup, at Roebourne, and, in the course of the interview, he asked San Qui whether he really knew anything about the murder, and that if he did, and would tell him, he would get the reward. San Qui said he knew nothing about it, and told witness that he wanted the money that was owing to him by Mr. Lockyer’s cook, so as to get a lawyer, and five witnesses whom he wanted, and that if he did not get the money he would have to go and speak for himself.

His Honor : That seems to put a very different complexion upon the conversation which took place in the lockup from that placed upon it by your instructions, Mr. Attorney. I am alluding to your opening. It shows how much importance depends upon the skill and intelligence of an interpreter, and the great difficulty which the Crown has to contend with in cases of this kind.

Edward Lillis, a labourer, who lodged at Bevan’s house, said he remembered Bevan going to work on Monday morning, and that he saw him again at dinner time on Tuesday. He came in just before dinner time-about half-past eleven o’clock.

To Mr. Stevens : A man named Gilroy occupied the same bed-room as I did, but he did not sleep there on the night of the murder.

To Mr. Harper : I slept at Bevan’s on Monday night, but saw nothing of Bevan there that evening. I was in the house from 7 to 10 o’clock, and then went to bed. San Qui and some others were there during a portion of the evening, having a chat ; but there was no dancing nor singing.

The Attorney General said there were two or three more witnesses on the depositions, but, as their evidence did not appear of much importance, as affecting the present case, he did. not propose to examine them ; but he would put them in the box, if the prisoner’s counsel wished it. The Court then rose, and adjourned until this morning at 10 o’clock.