MONDAY, JULY 10TH.
The Court sat at IO a.m.
Peter John Keeshan, a young man, was charged with having murdered one Meedejah, sanative woman, on the 27th of January last.
The Crown Solioitor, Mr. G. Leake, with Mr. Draper, prosecuted-; and the prisoner, who was defended hy Mr. F. W. Moorhead, pleaded not guilty. The jury were Messrs. J. C. Foster (foreman), E. Capewell, J. Milne, T. Tapper, B. Scrivener, G. F. Gollop, J. B. Jooks, J. Stokes, A. Lee, F. B. Stirling, A. Douglas, and H. Yates.
Mr. Leake, having opened the case for the prosecuties,
Mr. Moorhead asked His Honour to rule on the learned counsel's opening that , there was no evidence to go to a jury. There was no evidence of violence, but of some tracks, and of some body having been dragged, but there was no evidence to show even that the dragging occurred before life
His Honour said he thought the Crown Solicitor had opened a prima facie to go to the jury.
Edward Smith, examined by Mr. Draper, deposed that in January last he waa the manager of the Milly Milly station, upon which the acused was then employed. The prisoner left the station on the 27th of January, between seven and eight o'clock in the morning. He was on foot, and going over to Nookawarra to catch the coach. Milly Milly lay north of Nookawarra. He had his rugs and a very small deal box. He did not carry them, but a blackwoman oalled Polly, a servant on the station, carried them. She was a native of that part of the country. The box would weigh from five to eight pounds. She was a strong woman, capable of carrying it to Nookawarra without fatigue Shs used to walk in twice a month from tbe prisoner's camp, 40 miles from Milly Milly. She worked at the prisoner's camp. On that day she appeared quite well and made no complaint. Milly Milly was about twenty miles from Nookawarra, and Polly thoroughly knew tbe district. On that day they took a waterbag, which witness filled with water for them. It would contain three or four quarts. She was a woman in her prime. Before they started witness told Keeshan to send the woman back from Nookawarra. No one, to witness' knowledge, left Milly Milly for Nookawarra that day. He should have known if they had. There were plenty of natives about. A native named Bootboloo, or Dicky, came to the station that day, from Nookawarra, whither be had been on the 26th. He was walking, witness believed, though he was not sura that he was wearing boots. He arrived some time in the afternoon. Witness knew the Nookawarra woolshed. Going there from Milly MilIy, there was a well on the right side of the road, and close to it. It was about three miles from Nookawarra and close to the woolshed .Wallace made a report to witness after the 27th, and witness reported to the police, Witnesss left Milly-Milly in April.
Cross-examined, witness said he was not aware there was a larger number of natives about at the time. The prisoner's camp was at Innawindie. The prisoner arrived on foot at Milly-Milly on the 26th, carrying a swag. Witness sent a man named Moore to Inna- windie on the 25th to take his place. There would be a count of the sheep and Moore Would give a receipt. The prisoner did not bring the receipt, but Polly did, when she arrived on the night of the 26th; She gave him the receipt on the 27tb. She had thus walked forty miles since the early morning of the 26th. The prisoner asked him for a horse on which to go to Nookawarra, but witness had none to spare. Witness, knew Keeshan wished to catch the mail which was to leave Nookawarra on the Friday . Keesban thus had to walk sixty miles ; it wonld not do bim any harm. It was very warm at the time.
Re-examined by Mr. Leake : He did not know what time Polly arrived. She was at, Milly about six o'clock on the morning of the 27th, and said she had arrived during the night. She made no complaint at having to walk the additional eighteen miles.
By a juryman : Witness wonld not have sent the woman on to Nookawarra if she had not looked fit.
John Wallace, examined by Mr. Leake,
deposed that he was a butcher, and on the 27th of January was at Nookawarra on his way to Mount Clere. He arrived there aboat 6 p.m. He saw Keeshan there when he arrived. Witnees, Keeshan, and Chambers were talking togother. Keeshan said be had come from Milly Milly that day. Chambers said it was 18 miles distant. Keeshan said it was a good long twenty. Keeeben re- marked that a native woman was coming with his box. Chambers about half an hoar afterwards looked along the road and said, " she has cleared with your box, cheque, and all." Keeshan said she had not as he had the cheque in his. pooket. He said he had left her about two miles from the well, with a waterbag with about two or three drinks in
it. He said the woman had come from Milly Milly with him. Witness stayed at Nookawarra that night. The next morning Keeshan stood looking down the road. He said he wanted to go to Geraldton, and was wonder- ing why she did not come. Chambers sug- gested he should take a horse and see what had become of her. Keeshan got the horse and went away in the direction of the wool- shed. This would be after breakfast. He was away till midday. When he came baok be said, "I had to gallop yonr horse," One of them asked what waa the matter. He replied, " It was a near squeak with the woman; she was nearly dead for want of water." He said she had not come on much further than when he left her. Either Chambers or witness asked him where she was, and he said he had taken her into the shed and given her food, and that she was all right and had gone baok to Milly Milly. Keeshan, speaking of the day before, said be had been very thirsty when be went to the well; it was a very warm day, Keeshan left Nookawarra on Sunday morning by the mail; witness left on the afternoon of tbe same day, and started for Milly Milly by the road. He passed the well, which was only a few yards from the road. About two and a half miles past the well witness' horse shied, and looking to see what had caused it to do this, he saw the body of a woman. He judged it to be dead, but his horses wonld not let him go near it. He rode back to Nookawarra. There were tracks of something having been dragged along. The ground was neither sandy, bat favourable for tracking. Witness reported it to Chambers, and they went back to the body about an hour later. It was a moonlight night. They did not dismount, but Chambers pushed the body with a stick, to see if it would move, but it gave no appearance of life. They did not look to see if it was the body of a male or female. During the ten or twelve minutes they were there, they did not dismount. They then rode to the place where the tracks of dragging were, remained there about a mínute and a half and then returned to Nookawarra. Tbe next morning, between eight and ten, witness passed the body again, but did not go near it, the horses being frightened. He again saw the tracks. They were quite plain to him sitting on his horse. He also saw at the same place the print of a light boot. It was very plain. From this spot to the Milly Milly gate there was a bare footed track and a light boot track, the latter being the larger. The tracks covered a distance of about twelve miles, the Milly Milly gate being abont two miles from the station. Witness thinking some tracking might be necessary, avoided the road, so as not to oblierate the tracks. When he got to Milly Milly, he gave Smith a letter from Chambers and reported what he had seen. Each of the three times witness saw the body it was in the same position. It had clothing, some- thing like a blanket, but he did not particu larly notice it. The body was not hidden at all. The boot tracks were in the direction of Norkawarra; there were none pointing to Milly Milly. He saw a barefooted'track at the well, but could not say whether it was the same he saw on the road. When he saw the body on the first and second occasion, be saw some bread and meat in paper, a water bag and a tin, about five yards off the road, on the side opposite to where the b .dy was and aboat ten yards from the tracks. Keeshan wore light boots, and the tracks were snoh as might have been made by Keeshan's boots, bat witness did not under- stand tracking, and wonld not swear they were Keeshan's tteoks. Keeshan told them when he spoke abont the woman thal he left her abont two mileB from the well.
By His Honour: The body lay slightly bent, and partly on its face, with the arms bent beneath. It was covered with a dark blanket, and the legs partly exposed. He noticed no s'gns of a struggle where the body lay.
Cross-examined; The blanket was of tbe t'¿e ordinary kind served eut to the natives. Tbere was no attempt at concealment, and he noticed no marks of violence. He saw neither blood nor weapons. He did not fol- low the marks of dragging up to where the body lay. Witness Baw no sign*' of a struggle, nor marks of blood upon Keeshan's clothes. Witness did not look to see whether there was anything in the water bottle when he noticed it on the road.
Edward Smith, recalled, said be did not remember bow the woman was olothed when she left. Witness knew the native, Kar lottha, but did not think Karlettha knew Polly ; he belonged to Walsh's station, fifty miles away.
John Wallace, recalled, said the weight of the box would be* abont 141b3 or 161be.
Herbert Robert Chambers deposed that he was the manager of the Norkawarra Station in January last, and knew the prisoner. On the 27th of that month the prisoner arrived there alone from Milly Milly. WitnetB a«ked him where was his swag, and he said a black woman was bringing it on from Milly Milly. Witness asked him where the woman was, and be said,-" She got a bit bad for want of watar ; there were only a couple of drinks in the bag, and I left it with her." He said she was about three miles tho other side cf the ehe J. It was a pretty hot day. No native woman came into the station that day. No native woman came in from Milly Milly before Keeshm left. Later ©n wituoes asked Keeshan if the woman bad turned u¡'<, and he said no. He heard the prisoner a .king tbe naiives on the station if ehe bad turned np, and they replied that she had not. The next morning, witses3 asked Keeshan if the woman had come, and upon being told she had not, told him he had better get a horse and see whether the woman had gone baok to Milly Milly with his things. Keeshan went away about 9 a.m. on horse-back along '
the Milly . Milly road, and returned about midday, with a small box weighing about 71bs. cr 81ba., and a red blanket. Witness asked him bow he got en, and he said " It was a pretty close thing, old man,abont as close a3 I wish to have it ia mylifet" Witness said, " It is a goed job for you theft'yon were in time,as it might have been a aertoua thing fOr.you." Ho said " Yes, I knbi^ that, old
mac, and I have to thank-yoh'fdr'the horse, bat' I had tb gallop bim back to the water to get it in time." The hoWe looked as though it had been galloped. Witness asked him, " Where is tbe woman%OT P" . He said "I
have brought ber in to tVe woolshed well, as she is going on to Milly Milly to-night." He said she was all right. No one elee arrived from Milly, Milly on the 27th, but witness sent back, on that day, a Milly Milly native named Dickey, who had sinoe died. In witness' experience of the Murchison oonntry, eighteen miles was not considered a great distance for a native to travel without water, but it was for a white man, if it waB a hot day. Keesban left ou the Sunday by the mail} about nine or ten. Wallace .'eft abont four in the afternoon, and returned in the evening. «In conséquence of Wallace's report, witness, went witti bim to a spot three miles beyond th's woolshed. He saw.what he took to be^he body of a dead woman. Wit« ness broke a stick and touched ic, and spoke tb it, bat it was quite fctiff, and he was certain it was dead. It lay for* ward /with its face in its hands. It wasi five oj six yards off. the road. Wallace then said " Come and have a look at this." Witness did, and saw on .the white ground by the bright moonlight, from his horsejthe marke-the heels of a woman .hav- ing apparently bpen ¿raggedalong tbe ground, and there were the marks of the finger nails bent downwards. That was fer aboat twenty or thirty yardi, and then stopped. There were a lot of boot-tracks all mixed np. The traeka of the body being dragged went off the road towards a tree, bat he dianatfollow them. Witness saw lying abont, half a leaf of bread, a shoulder of mutton, a tin, an empty water bag, a, kangaroo «kin, and a native scoop. He left them there. Witness went to the well. He saw a native track there. He did not go to the woolshed. The well was abont a yard from the.road, and abont 300 yards from the woolshed, and about 79 or 80 yards from the shearers' bute. He could not say whoso tracks they were that ha saw on the road. Keeshan wore a pair of elastic-side boots. He saw boot-traoke-besideB the native tracks at the well. He could not eay how the body was dressed, nor what was its 6ex. He reported the matter on tbe 30th to the police at Mt. Goold, 55 miles distant.
By Hts Honour : He was not in the habit Of seeing the bodies of dead natives. He did not dismount, because be feared his traoke might mix np the tracks of the other«.
Cross-examined, witness eaid he saw no weapon* about» nor any marks of violence on the body. Had there boen any en the head he should not have seen them. There was so attempt at concealment; any passer-by could have seen it. ¡So far as be could see it was. drísBed in the erdinary garb of a native. A rtd blanket was not an unusual thing for' a sbepherd-;io have. Witness thought that on tho evening of the 27th January Keeshan became aware that Wallace was going to Milly Milly. From the place where he saw the body to the place where the dragging terned off the road was about eight' or nine yards. The body was not doubled up, but appeared to be in repose. There were no marks to lead one to suppose that tbe body had dragged itself along the ground. He should say from the appearance the body was dragged hy tbf atmpits, with most of the weight on the -heels. Supposing a native woman had complaced a journey of 40 mileB between,4 and'6 o'clock in the morning, he wonld not have started her off on a journey ef 20 miles the same morning. He saw no signs of a struggle.
He-exàmined.: The dragging turned off to the left j the hedy was found on the right of
Henry Patrick Breen deposed that he was a police constable stationed at Mount Goold, and had been 'in the colony about eighteen months, and twelve months in the polioe. He arrived at Milly Milly on the 2nd of Feb» roary, with native assistant Tommy. There he got.-another native, Dicky, and the two natives accompanied him towards Nookawarra. He want te investigate tbe death of a woman. About two miles from Milly Milly be saw. a bare footed track, and a light boot track, going together towards Nookawarra.. He saw them, off and on, along the road for aboat twelve miles. "--On the right-hand side of the road he saw -on the ground appearances of a person having:-eat 'down by ft bush» The ground .was Sandy Witness then went te look for the track of a light boot, and found it about six yards past in front of the other mark, and it thea came back to where it was. The bare foot track then went from the mark and webt onwards about 28 yards in front of the light boot traek. He know it went in front because in some places the boot track obliterated it. At the end of the 28 yards the ground bore evidences of a straggle-as though something had been rolling-and there ware "the Jight boot tracks. Then there; was the bare traok for three yards, and then the signs of a struggle were repeated. Fallowing upon thia he saw the ?appearances of a body having been, dragged for nine yards, on each aide there being, finger marks. There were boot tracks on the leftside of where .the body was bragged. At the end of the nine yards there were tba. signs of another struggle, and,, after that,, dragging for eight yards more, .then another, struggle, then farther dragging for nine yards, and af ter that again a'struggle. . Then tbe barefoot traoks again' appears* for twelve yards, the light boot traoks being on thé
right. Ât the end of that there were indica- tions of another straggle. After that the
object was dragged from the right to the left ] side of the road, and thence to a tree 31 yards from the place where it left the read. The grennd was harder there than on the road, bot he saw the boot-track in several places. He could not find tba barefoot-track, though be looked for it. At thy tree he Baw the marks of an object lying there, and some bushes had been broken down. There were near the tree, portions of two copiés of the WB8T AUSTRALIAN addressed to the prisoner, an empty water-bag, an old pooket handherobief, and a stick* (all of these were prodnoed). There were the hairs (produced) on the stick. From the tree there was a mark leading towards the road-Uko some- thing crawling. He saw the boot-track go from the tree to the dragging, and then back to the tree, and thence on towards Nooka- warra. The crawling mark went to the road, and then for eleven yards towards Nookawarra, then to a tree five yardB from the road. It stopped at the west side of the tree a considerable while, and then went round to five yards from the south side of the tree, and there he found the body of a dead native woman. Both the native assistants were with him. He found the body by means of this tiaolring. The body was lying on its right side with its face downwards, th» hands doubled up close to the face. It had on an old check skirt, and a pieee of flannel aoroBS the loins. ' The body was decomposed. He saw no outs oe marks upoa it. There was no track of a light boot about the body. - He left the body there and went to tb» well for the night. The next morning they went back te where the body lay, and buried'it. He saw the boot tracks going towards Nookawarra from tbe place where be saw them the previous day along the road. They also went from the well to a small offioe belonging to the race club, then baok to the well and on towards Nookawarra. There were ne bare foot or other tracks besides. There were no boet-traeks from the well to the body, but there were horse tracks. Dioky, the native, died in Perth the end of last June. Witness saw him dead. Dieky was the same nan who was examined at the preliminary inquiry before Mr. Lodge asd Mr. Walsh.
Cross-examined, witness said the native trackers asùsted him, end pointed out marks to him. They saw them first. There were no marks of violsnoe on the body where it lay, neither did he see any bloed.
William Brown, examined by Mr. Draper deposed that he was a police-constable, sta- tioned at Fremantle, and arrested the prisoner for the murder of the deoeased. He exclaimed, " Great Scott ! " On the way to the look-up, he said, " I heard about this the day before I left Geraldton." Afterwards, he said, "I did not kill her ; che died of thirst." Wit- ness took him from Fremantle to Mount Gould. Two or three dajB before they arrived there the prisoner said, " I won't do any time for her; I would rather do away with myself."
' Cross-examined, witness said he was quite friendly with him ; he did no» caution the prisoner.
Re-examined: He was not cautioned when arrested.
Karlottha, alias Tommy, an aboriginal native deposed that he went with Breen to Milly Milly Station. They went with Dicky along tbs ro'ad to Nookawarra. They saw a dead] woman whom he did not know. Didky found the woman. Witness was on the road elose by. Witness , described through an interpreter how he saw tracks along the road, one being a boot track, the other that of a bare footed woman, both leading from Mi'ly Milly towards Nookawarra. Neither of the tracks, he snid, west off the road, nor did he BOB where thoy stepped ; bnt he saw where
she fell down on the road. Witness then described tbe appearance of the different draggings whioh, be said, was done, by the owner of the boot tracks, who. walked back- wards. At the tree there were many boot tracks. The owner of the boot tracks broke down bushes and oovered ber np, and after- wards went on io Nookawarra. She tben got up and crawkd across te a tree where she laid down and died. The woman died be- cause the man hither with a stiok ; he knew that because there was a etiok close by, and she was Bwollen on one tide.
Cross-examined, witness said there was no blood en the stiok, nor did he see any hairs
Mr. Leader proposed te put in the deposi- tions ot Dicky' taken at the preliminary inquiry. Mr. Moorhead objected that they could not be put in without évidence that they were taken upon oath or affirmation and cited' the ease ef Bey v Pruntey, 16 Cox, in Boppert of hie contention. Neither. of, the constables was able to say whether witness was affirmed as they were not in court at the time, and after hearing the arguments, His Honour overruled the objection, but reserved the point.
The depositions of the witness were then read. He deposed to having metHeèshan and Meedejah about half way between Milly Milly and Nookawarra on the 27th of January. The sun was bigh, it then being about noon. They said thor* was no water in the bag which witness saw waa empty. They we're
walking quickly. The woman wa« " all j right." Witness then described the tracks,
and the inferences, he drew from them, bis : evidence being generally corroborative of Breen and Totamy.
This was the case for the Crown.
The .Crown Solieitor addressed the jury, laying great stress upon the evidence for the tracking, which, he contended, indicated oar tain facts,, namely, that the twp travelled together for some distanoe; then , that tjhe woman rested several times ; and then that a struggle took plaoe. What tho'struggle
was about no one knew, bat it wu evident] that there was one. Probably the atraggfe waa the result of a quarrel ; and then canto' the evidenoe of the dragging, and the plating* of the boughs over her, and he (the learned oonnsel) asked them to believe they were plaoedover her in the belief she was dead. After th», she crawled to the spot where she was: fonnd, and died dose to the road. Then, again,, taking the story fae told the polios-it was evidenoe, if it were true, that be was aware of her condition, and he might, by borrowing a water bottle and a horse have gone to har assistance, instead of whioh he ornelly aban- doned her. The reason he went out with the horse the next day was in aouniaaenoe with Ur. Chambers' contention« and if fae did not. take the rug and box away the night before he must have taken it that morning. Bat the evidence'Went to show that be did not go np te tba body that morning. Mr. Leake then contrasted the story told to Chambers with the story told to Brown, and contended that the fermer showed a guilty knowledge on tbe part of the prisoner. There was abundant evidenoe to show that her death was caused by thia man, bnt what hu motive was the prosecution could not tell.
Mr. Moorhead) for tbe defenee, commented upon what he regarded as the flimsy ebarae ter of the evidence put before them to sup« port tho information, and said he thought tbe only reason whioh could have induced the Attorney-Général to file the information was was that he wasted to show the good fanatics of Exeter Hall that these reported outrages whioh were attributed te the white inhabit- ants of Wee tera 'Australia, were in a good many cases mythical. . He contended there was no theory on the part of the Crown as to the canee Of tbe death of tbe woman, and that even if tbeie was, there was no direot evidence of the canse.. It wat, on the other hand, purely circumstantial, and he warned the jory that they moat .exercise extreme caution in finding a verdict upon evidence of that kind. Dealing with the elroamatanoes of the oase, he contended that if there was any inhumanity, it was displayed by the manager of the Milly Milly station, who had not only mado Keeshan walk in from Inna, windie to Milty Millyrand thence to Nooka- warra, but also caused a woman of feeble phyeiqne, a few hoare after a walk of 40 miles, to undertake a second walk of 20 miles. The learned counsel suggested that she might have come by her end by sun* stroke, heart disease, or some other seizure, especially, after ssoh a journey as she had performed the day previous to her death, supposing the body fonnd was bera. Reviewing the evidenoe as to the traoking, he contended that Breen's was the most im- portant, bnt it was, he urged, based ' npon what the natives told him, and that his desire to detoot crime nnconaoiously led him to draw, fallacious inferences from facts. He ridiculed the alleged covering np as having been exaggerated, and to.be altogether ridicu- lous. There was no evidenoe of violenoe and none of motive, and they were asked to hang a man upon the shadowy evideaee put before
His Honour in summing op to the jury, eaid there were certain questions they wonld have to be satisfied with before they could oome to the conclusion that,the prisoner at the bar was guilty of tbe crime with which he was charged. In all oases of murder it was essential that the death of tbe person whom the prisoner was charged with murdering should be established, and that was es tabliebed by the finding of the body, er seme portions of the romaine which could be iden- tified as being the remains of the person said to have been murdered. The first question wa«-was Meede'jah, otherwise Polly,'de*d. In answering that <jtoestion,they would t%ke into consideration the evidence given by the Crown, and upon which they ware asked te oome to
a conclusion that í he was dead. H's Honour here reviewed the evidence bearing npon the point, and said he felt they would not, perhaps, have muoh doubt in coming to a oonolnsion that the body could have been any other than the body of the woman whom tbe prisoner was charged with murdering. If they oanie/to that oonolnsion they carno next to the consideration' as to how she came by her death. Unfortunately, tbe Crown had been unable teputany medical evideaee before them, any en'denoe which, based upon a pott mortem examination, would disclose to thnrn tbs
oause of death, if they foond that the body
was that of this -native woman and that she was found dead shortly after the time she,, was seen , ia the. -prisoner's company, it was
inonmbbnt upon him to give some explanation - as to what became of bar. His Honour here read the evidenoe as to the prisoner's state manta'to Chambers; and said that if these statements were false it did not follow that
the prisoner wa* guilty of murder. There . bad been na .attempt on the part of the pri- soner's counsel to reduce the erime to mas
slaughter, and very wiBely, beoauBe the facts, ( as disclosed in the 'evidence, weat to' show that pHhe prisoner did kill- her he killed her ' of his own mattoe aforethought. His Honour reviewed the evidence given as to the track- ing, and said tbe indications of her falling down were the first that the Crown had that all was not right with'her. But what was the cause Of her falling down? There was .no
evidence of any violenoe used towardB her, - exoepttbe dragging and the struggles, and , it was a fact for them to take into .considera. ' tion. As to the straggling and dragging, the ' straggles may have. been the results of the -
efforts of the prisoner.injtrying to get harben ; to her legs, and what seemed to be dragging . might have been, as was suggested by tbe.
prisoner's oonnsel, that she was being helped ,. along in her weak Btâte. It ma st be remain* .*
bored.,¡ai ha &adalready said, there wsarHo>' evidehpe of viojepoe on her body, ana ithsy-j were entitled (tp ssk thomtelves whether -»ha
might sot have had a flt, or a sunstroke, or aome other sudden illness. With regard to what was said about tbe bushes, the natives jumped to the oonolnsien they were UBSd for oorering up the body. They could not say BO correctly, as they did not see the body covered np. The Crown would hare them believe they were out down for the purpose of oonoealing tbe body, bnt the evidence did net shew that euch a quantity was eut as would be required for euch a purpose. Another view they might take of it waa dûs : Was the prisoner np to that time acting in a humane manner towards the woman, and taking her to the tree for the purpose of shade, and patting bushes over ber for the same pur» pow. Regarding tbs statement the prisoner made te Chamberí. H|s Honour asked, Did he, after he found her dead on the morning of the 28th, feel the responsibility attaching to him, and make np this «tory to soresn himself P He made no attempt. to bid» the ' body, and there waa no evidence of his having attempted to evade the police, or flee from justice. This statement was contrasted with that he made to the police constable that aha died from thirst. He might fairly have come te that conduelen from what he had fem en the morning of the 26th. Bonis reflection bad been made upon the Attorney .General bnt he was only aoting ns a Grand Jury, and it seemed to His Honour it was the Attorney* General's bounden duty to, pat a case upon "these fasts before a jnry. V /
The jury retired, and after a quarter of an hour's deliberation, acquitted tbe prisoner, who was discharged from custody. An attempt at applause was made among the spectators, hst Ik was instantly suppressed.
The Court adjourned till half-past 19 a.m.
the fellowing day. j
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