Clutha Leader, Rōrahi X, Putanga 516, 31 Hereturikōkā 1883, Page 6
Dr J. G. Smith, District Coroner, held an inquiry in the Prince of Wales Hotel, Clinton, on Monday, touching the death of the fireman, John Henderson, who was shot on his engine on the night of the 23rd inst. , while passing through a cutting near Wairuna. A jury of 14 were empannelled consisting of Andrew Howison (foreman), John M'Culloch, James Garden, Allan Low, D. A. M'Lachlan, John Jamie, A. W Geddes, W. I. Conradi, W. Charlton, C. Redpath, W. Nelson, Thomas Steel, W. Bilzon, and James Findlater. Mr Denniston appeared on behalf of the boys Roy, and Inspector Wildom conducted the inquiry on the part of the police. The following evidence was led : W. E. Chisholm, inspector of permanent-way, produced a sketch of the ground where the occurrence took place. The height of the banks on either side of the cutting from the rails -vas 7ft lOin. The width of the cutting at the top was 30ft 6in, and at the bottom 14ft 6in. The footplate of the enerine on which the deceased stood would be 2ffc lOin from i the rails. ' | Peter Dunn, enginedriver, deposed that he was on the train which left Clinton at two minutes after 10 o'clock on Thursday evening last. Charles Simmonds, brakesman, and John Henderson, the deceased fireman, were on the engine with him. They had proceeded about three miles and were passing through acutting about a mile from Wairuna, when witness heard a report. They were " dodging along " at about 12 or 14 miles an hour. Witness turned round and said " What's that ?" The fireman turned also half round. Witness at first thought it was a fog-signal on seeing the flash. The deceased put for- i ward his head to take a look out, and ! and before they could realise what was the matter, a second shot was fired. Witness heard what he thought was the ! fall of the hammer of a gun, and saw the flash. The deceased put his right hand up to his left breast, and said "Oh !" three times, and then, " Peter, I am shot," trying at the same time to mske his way over to witness. Witness said, " No, Jack ; you cannot be " ; but as he put his arms out, the deceased dropped. The brakesman was behind, and assisted to lift the deceased. Witness had shut off steam at the first report, and then told Simmonds to put on the brake. On the train stopping, he called out to the guard that Jack was shot. The guard came down, and they agreed to return to Clinton, and did so. To Inspector Weldon : At the time the i shots were fired, deceased was standing I on the left hand side of the platform. About two or three seconds intervened between the shots. I cannot say whether ; the deceased was dead or not when we arrived at Clinton. The doctor was at once sent for; and pronounced him dead. To the Foreman : It was at the second shot that deceased cried out and put up his hand. To Mr Denniston: After the first report the deceased looked round. Mr Denniston : And as far as you know there might have been nothing in the first tun, as nothing seemed to strike the eoeased ? Witness : I could not say that. When I saw the first flash jt seemed to be level<l w.ish. me as, X Bipod on. ths footplate. &
would be about 20 minutes past 10 when the shots were fired. I know by sight one of the boys in custody. I took him always to be Mr Driver's son and I have had him with me on the engine. At about a quarter to 9 the same evening, while passing a crossing near Wairuna, a turnip was thrown at the engine. It struck the tender, and deceased drew my attention to it. Charles Simmonds, brakesman on the night goods train, corroborated the last witness. After' the second shot the deceased put his hand up to his left breast, cried out, and fell back into their arms. The shots seemed to be .fired about 10 yards from the train. The driver instructed me to put back the train. To a Juryman : Witness' opinion was that the deceased was hit by the first shot as well as the second. He made no remark after the first shot, but he had not time to do so. The second one was fired about two or three seconds later. William Duncan, guard of the train, noticed the two flashes on the left-hand side of the cutting, but heard no report, and thought they were opening the firebox of the engine. He then felt the train pulling up, and went out on the platform of the van to see what was the matter. He heard the driver singing out, " Billy, Billy, Jack is shot," and jumped off the van and ran up. He found the driver holding the deceased by the shoulders, and they decided that the best thin? was to go back to Clinton for medical assistance. To Inspector Weldon : On the following morning witness visited the scene of the occurrence with Constable Wilson and the inspector of permanent-way, and pointed out the exact spot as nearly as he could. He did not see the constable pick up anything. Thomas C. Harrison, schoolmaster at Wairuna, deposed that he was in bed at i 20 minutes or half-past 10 o'clock on the • evening in question. He heard two shots ' fired in quick succession. Subsequently the engine pulled up opposite the schoolhouse, about 500 yards off. Witness i thought something was wrong, and went ' to the door, and afterwards retired into the bedroom to dress. Before he was i half dressed the engine was on the way back to Clinton, so he went to bed again, 1 and he did not know what had happened until the next day. It sounded just like i a double-barrelled gun going off — about two or three seconds between the reports, j James Roy, father of the accused James , John, and Alexander Roy, deposed that the latter returned home on the night of Thursday last some time between 10 and i 11 o'clock. Their ages were about 20, 18, 1 and 14 respectively. (The witness afterwards said the boys were aged 19, 18, '• and 14.) ; Isabella Cruickshank, widow, residing > at Wairuna, a short distance from the ' railway-station, deposed that the accused s were her nephews. James and John came to her house shortly after 6 o'clock on the evening in question, and Alexander came an hour or so later. They had two guns with them. They left at about a quarter or 10 minutes to 10. Her house was a few minutes' walk from the schoolhouse. To Mr Denniston : . The boys could go ' home by way of the railway. Witness | remarked to them when they lef b that it s was nearly 10 o'clock, and the train would soon be due. John H. Roy, uncle to the prisoners, deposed that he saw them at Clinton on Saturday last. He asked John, " Did yon fire a gun?" His reply was, "No; Alick fired my gun." He then said that he took his ramrod and removed the shot, or the greater part of it, as they thought, in case of any danger. Witness then put , the question to James whether he fired a gun, and he replied, " Yes." John then said that he could have had no intention of hurting anyone, and did not know of anyone having been hurt on the train. •To Mr Denniston : Witness warned them to be careful to tell the truth in replying to all questions that were asked, and they did not alter their statements. Mr Denniston : Was this not what he said, That he had removed the shot, but it might have been only the greater part of iM Witness: I think he said that he had removed the shot, or the greater part of it. To the Coroner : John said that Alick asked him to be allowed to fire off his gun. Detective Henderson deposed that on the 24th inst., whilst inquiring with Constable Wilson concerning the death of the deceased, they called at the house of Mr 1 Roy at about 4.30 p.m. They were shown two guns— one single and one doublebarrelle — which were both charged at the time, the double-barrelled one in the left barrel only. The nipple of the right barrel was missing of the double gun. The father of the boys said the guns were used by his sons James and John the previous day. The left barrel of the double-barrelled gun had the appearance of having been recently fired from ; also the single-barrelled gun. After leaving the house they saw the accused James and John Roy coining through a paddock riding in a cart. Witness told them to stop, and called John a little on one side, ' leaving Constable Wilson talking to James. Witness asked John if he had been out with a gun the previous night. He replied " Yes ; I was along with my brother James. He had a gun too ; we > were rabbiting." Witness asked if they had fired any shots. He said, " Yes, at i rabbits." Witness asked if they had been on the railway-line, near Wairuna, about 10 o'clock at night, and he replied " Yes." Had they fired any shots about there ? and he said, " No, it was brother Alick ; he fired off my gun." Witness asked if he saw a train about then, and he said, " Yes ; one just passed at the time." They were then joined by the accused James and Alexander. Witness asked John if he had seen the train pull up, and he said, " Yes ; but we did not know there was anything . wrong, and I asked James if he thought there T?as anything the matter ; he said perhaps there was something wrong with the steampipe." John continued, " after this we loaded the guns again, and came back along the line some distance, and then cut through the paddock h«me. ' ' Witness asked John ifhe played the flute, and he said "Yea." When asked to show his instrument. /he said he had lost half of it the previous • J night. Constable Wilson then took the! j lower portiian. of a flufe* from, his pocket,.
and John claimed it as his, and produced. 1 the other portion. James and John thea I went to the house and brought out the guns they used the previous evening, also two powdei-3asks and two shot-belts. Witness then told thorn they would have go into Cliuton, and charged them with shooting John Henderson the night before. John said, " Well, we did not intend to hurt anyone. We did not know that there was a man shot until this morn-* at 10 o'clock. " John said to Alick, " Did you not fire off ray gun V. and the latter said "Yes." John said, "I did not think there was any shot in the gun, a* I had drawn it before." James said, "I did not know there was any shot in my gun, and I fired and Alick ftred." When charged at the police-station, each said, " Well, we did not do it inteationally ; we never jaeant to hurt anyone." John stated previously that they wnt to tea with their aunt, Mrs .Cruicksbank, between 9 and 10 o'clock in the evening. Witness compared the shot taken, from the body of the deceased with tfo»> shot in the belt. The former was a good deal flattened, but he judged it to be the same number. James did not say which fired first, but witness inferred that he did/ as his words were, " I fired and Alick fired. ?> They said the train passed just as they fired, but they did not say they fired at the train. John said that when Alick fired he was sitting on the grass, and a portion of the grass at the top of the bank was crushed down and trod on as though someone had been lying or sitting on it. Constable Wilson, stationed at Clinton, deposed to finding on the bank near the scene of the occurrence a portion of a flute, and from inquiries he learned James and John Roy were out shooting on the 23rd inst. Witness accompanied Detective Henderson to Mr Roy's house, and afterwards spoke to the accused Jam@g , asking him whether he was out shooting'the night before. He hesitated a moment, and then said, " Oh, well, I'll tell you : I fired when the train was passing last night, , but did not think that any harm was done." At the police station John stated that he pulled the charge out of his gon with an iron, ramrod, and thought he had taken it all, out. He also said that Alick asked him to let him have a shot, and that he gave the gun to Alick, who fired just as the train was passing. James then said, " Alick and I fired, but did not think we hurt anyone." Witness inquired but could not discover that any other persons were shooting that night. The deceased was sft llin in height. Neither of them could say which fired first. Charles Low, medical practitioner, deposed that he made a post mortem examination on the body of the deceased.. In the upper part of the thorax, on the. left side, there were 2& shot-marks, and 4$ on the left shoulder and left upper arm,, several of which had merely grazed the> skin. On opening the body three, shot were taken from a muscle betwees*. the* first and second ribs. Over two pints ofr clots and blood-stained serum was taken, from the region of the lungs. Tbedobe> of the left lung was perforated by threepellets, and the margin of the righi hvng by one pellet. Two pellets of shofe fl^td penetrated the heart. The shot hadfc travelled transversely downwards and ftfcckwards from left to right. To the Foreman : There appeared to be only one charge in the body. Tho. deceased must have been in good health, and possessed a splendid constitution. Inspector Weldon intimated that this closed the evidence. The Coroner said : You have now heard the evidence, gentlemen. There is no doubt that the deceased John Henderson was shot whilst on the engine of the goods train which left Clinton on Thursday evening last. It appears that the accused — James, John, and Alexander Roy — were out shooting on the 23rd inst. , and went in the evening to visit their aunt, Mrs Cruickshank. They left there at nearly 10 o'clock to go home. When the train passed near the crossing, James and Alexander evidently discharged theirguns — whether intending to fire them as the train passed or at the train there is little to show. There is in fact nothing to show that they maliciously fired at the train, but it is proved that one at least of the shots took effect upon the deceased and upon the engine. It would appear that; Alexander had asked John for his gun to fire off, so that John evidently did not fire himself, but the shots were discharged by James and Alexander, and apparently he had nothing at all to do with the firing. If you think, gentlemen, that there* was any malicious intent, you will require to return a verdict of murder. If youvthink they merely fired at the train for amusement, and out of a spirit of larrikin* fun, and unfortunately killed the deceased, then it will be a case of manslaughter The Jury were then left to themselves, and after three-quarters of an hour'k deliberation returned the following verdict :. — " That James and Alexander Roys diu> ing the night of the- 23rd inst., discharged their guns recklessly whilst the train, was passing through a eutting near Wairuna,. thereby causing thedeath of the deceased John Henderson. " Mr Denniston said that amounted to. a verdict of manslaughter, and he would ask the Coroner to take moderate bail for the attendance of the accused at the next sitting of the Court. The matter must of necessity be formally brought before a magistrate. The three lads were then bound over ijn two sureties of L250 each to appear before Mr Wood, the local R. M. Mr Roy, the lads' father, and Mr Harrison, the schoolmaster, became sureties in the amounts required.