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ALLEGED ARSON IN PETER STREET.

At the Resident Magistrate’s Court this morning, before Mr J. N. Wood, R.M,, his Worship the Mayor, Dr. Trevor, and Newman Alcorn, Esq., JJ.P., Robert Gould Ruxton, Marjorie Theresa Ruxton, and Mary Buckman were charged with setting fire to the shop of Robert G. Ruxton on the 24th June. Mr Branson appeared for Ruxton and his wife ; Mr O’Reilly appeared for Mary Buckman ; Inspector Pender prosecuted for the Crown. After a preliminary objection by Mr Branson as to his appearing both as prosecutor and as witness had been disallowed by then Bench, Inspector Pender deposed : 1 am Inspector of Police at Timaru. On the 3rd inst. I went with Sergeant Felton to a house occupied by Ruxton and his wife. I had a warrant with me. Mr and Mrs Ruxton occupied a bedroom, and Miss Buckman the parlor. The Sergeant arrested them on a charge of arson. In the bedroom I saw a large quantity ol wearing apparel, male and female, claimed by Mr arid Mrs Ruxton. It was left in charge of a constable. Next daj

(Monday, 4th), I again went to the house, and found in the bedroom a lot of goods (No. 4), consisting of 13 pieces of tweeds (produced), 2 pairs riding pants, 1 pair trousers, and sundry small goods, 2 other pairs new trousers, a piece of cloth, two pairs uf dressing trousers and jacket, one cloth vest (cut out), one leather hat case, and a parcel of shirting. Lot No. 5 (produced) I found in the bedroom (goods produced). The coat was in a corner covered up ; one pair trousers and one set harness. Lot No. 6 was found in the passage, and consists of. five coats. Lot No. 7 was found in the parlor. It consists of a dark tweed piece, one whip, one top-coat. No. 8 was found in a back room. It consists of one box, claimed by Mrs Ruxton, containing abridlefcit rolled up, and five measuring rules. These I found behind a box in the corner. In the same room I found a pair of gun boots. I also found this mat, curry-comb, and brush. Far down in the case were several things

packed. In the soullerjrwas lot No. 9. It consists of two sides of bacon and one ham sown up in calico. At Timaru, on Saturday, I found two boxes—lot No. 10. On of them was large brown leather portmanteau. They were at the railway station. I brought them to Ashburton last night in the presence of Sergeant Felton and Mr Alfred Harrison. Had them opened in their presence, and had an inventory taken. Sergeant Felton has the inventory. In the pocket of the portmanteau I found the two memorandum books produced. One contained two photographs of Mr Euxton, and also an envelope addressed to him, and also an interim receipt for fire insurance, also a very large quantity of gloves of various descriptions. (Mr Branson remarked the fire insurance receipt was for an old payment last year.) Examination continued: The other box contained a large quantity of millinery goods, life belts, &c. By Mr O’Reilly: I went with Sergeant Felton to the house in Aitken street. We both went together. We had some difficulty in getting in. I knocked at Miss Buckman’s door. She called out that she was not dressed. I saw her after she got dressed, but not then. There was no breaking in at all. When we went to Buxton’s his daughter said they were both out. 1 knew that was not true, as I saw Buxton’s head at the window, and I went in at the front door. It waa ten o’clock in the morning. Sergeant Felton deposed: I am Sergeant of Police, stationed at Ashburton. On the 25th June I saw Mrs Buxton in Aitken street. She said she did not know what to do, she was in such a state on account of the fire; that Mr Buxton was such a strange man, and that it would be a severe blow to him when he returned. She

would like to let him know, but did not know where he was, whether in Rangiora or at the White Hart,* Christchurch. The loss had been a very heavy one, about L 2,000, and everything had been destroyed, that she had lett the house about nine in the evening, and _in about half ah hour heard the fire-bell ring, when she went to the fire. In reply to questions she said that most of her jewellery was saved. She said, “ Most of my jewellery is over here, except a diamond ring worth twenty guineas, a plain gold ring, a diamond solitaire of Mr Ruxton’s, and a lady’s gold albert. When I came away the night before, I left the lamp burning on the table in the parlor. It was all right, and there was nothing the matter with it. A small fire was burning in the kitchen, with something for supper in the oven, and there was a small fire in the parlor of coal and wood, with a chair with some of my underclothing on it in front of the fire, in a safe position. When Mr Ruxton went to Christchurch he gave me strict instructions to sleep in the house and not leave it. 1 felt awfully frightened and nervous the first night at being alone. The children slept with Miss Buckman. The second night I got in my bed I was frightened terribly, so that I had no sleep. When 1 thought of this last night I got into such a state of uneasiness I could not remain along, and I ran over to my sister’s to get some supper with her. I fastened the house and locked up the door when I went out, and left all safe ; there was no cat in the house. I can’t think how it was possible that the place caught fire. The reason why the lamp was burning instead of the gas was that I smelt the gas escaping. She said, ‘ Didn’t you,’ turning to her sister, who had joined her just before. I had noticed it for three or four days before. I liked to keep a lamp burning to make people think there was somebody in the house. ” I said, “Are you sure there was L 2,000 worth of goods ; it

is a large quantity?” She said, “ Well . am sure there was over L 1,200 worth, bu I don’t know much about Mr Ruxton’i affairs. I know there was a ' aluable lo of English cloth which we brought oui with us, and a lot of valuable small goods, I brought a large quantity of goods ou myself, and I think about half them rausl be saved. They are over here. ” By Inspector Pender: After leaving Mi Ruxton’s I went to the scene of the fire. Searched among the debris, but could nol find any rolls of cloth. There were two or three rolls of lining burnt at the ends, two or three small remnants of cloth, about four or five yards each. Where the desk was described to be there were the remains of some books and some papers. The books were burnt all round the edges. There was one board not burnt, with some cloth upon it. In the show room there were remains of what appeared to be a number of patterns and scraps of cloth, and there were some pieces of cloth on the carpet. The floor under the carpet was burnt. The boards under the tire place were not burnt. On Monday, 27th, in company with . Mr Gundry, X met Ruxton at the corner of Peter street. He accompanied us to the scene of the fire. He said he estimated his loss at 82,000, and ho had a lot of English cloth which he brought out with him, also a lot of valuable small goods. 1 requested him to point out where the cloth had been. He did so, and picked out a piece of light tweed in folds ; he said, “ I can identify this; .there were yards of this, it was on the shelf.” I saidi “If thisremnantis safe, where are the rolls.” “ Ohj he “ they have been burnt; it was out here.” He picked up another piece and said, this if as also on the shelf. I_ asked him where the rolls where. He 1 can t account for them. ”. He also pointed out the position cf the show EOORb and picked

ip a piece of light tweed used t ibout 57 yards, and said, “ I know this'.'. tVhat a fortunate thing I took my watch vith me ;it is worth LBS. _ I:was nearly eaving it in the desk. I did leave a set of reautiful studs and a-diamond ring. The studs Mrs Ruxton had put in a shirt. She lad brought them out with her. • I took them out of the shirt. The diamond solitaire was*worth L 8 10s.” On the 3rd July I arrested the prisoners on warrant. (Witness here recapitulated the evidence of the Inspector.) The cash box, No. 11, I found under the bed where Mr and Mrs Ruxton were sleeping. It contained a bank pass book (Bank of New Zealand), sundry papers, a gold bracelet, gold chain, gold necklet, two rings, one of them a diamond, the other diamond and pearls, two chanis, pair of gold ear-ridga, one of them broken, two scarf pins, Albert guard, one diamond stud. In the front room or parlor I found this roll of receipts on the mantelpiece. They had all been on the file. I examined the receipts ; they were of various dates up to June. I received the enclosed parcel from Mrs Felton. It contained a ring, bracelet, gold ring, locket and chain, gold brooch, pair of earrings, rings, and stud; a bunch of keys, a purse, and a pocketbook. On .Mr Ruxton’s person I found a parcel containing two gold rings, a gold chain, and purse, with a railway receipt for the box No. 9. Mr Harrison made a valuation of the goods. I produce the inventory. Mr Harrison took them down in my presence. By Mr Branson : I am positive Mrs Ruxton did not say the light was left in the kitchen ; she said either parlor or sitting-room. 1 knew which room they wore sitting in from what she told me. The room faces the street. lam quite

sure she made use of the expression that I there was a small fire burning in the I kitchen. She told me she was suffering I from heart disease, and was not strong. 1 X am sure that she said, on the second 1 night after Mr Buxton loft, that the rat 1 got into her bed; Her statement was that she went away about 9 o’clock. At I 23 min urea to 10 I heard the fire bell. When I went to her, she told me at once the bulk of her jewellery was in Her house in Aitken street. It is not unusual for people, particularly women, when leaving their houses alone, to leave a light | burning She received a telegram from her husband on the morning after the fire, which was seized. I read the telegram. Mrs Buxton and Miss Buckman were in the house in Aitken street, talking to me. On going away I saw the telegraph boy, and he delivered a telegram to Mrs Buxton from her husband. She read it, and then handed it to me. I have got all the papers seized with me. It was • from the White Hart Hotel, Christchurch. A reply was sent to it; I wrote the reply. I signed it “Mary Buxton.” On the 27th, when I asked Buxton where the policies were, he said they were burnt, and he supposed it did not matter. He said if he had been offered L 1,500 to clear out the day before the place was burnt, he would not have taken it. He said “I was just getting a nice business together; now 1 shall have to stop at Christchurch. I asked him what was the jewellery lost in the fire, and he told me. He said the price of the solitaires was L 8 10s. He said it was the first time he wore a large tie. The diamond ring was. Mrs Buxton’s, and a wedding present to her. It was worth twenty guineas. He said that a plain ring and a lady’s albert had been lost, also | a set of butterfly studs. Am quite sure he did mention two solitaires as lost. ! When he told me that his watch cost him , LBS in London I told him I would not have believed him if that had been burned. ■ It was a very handsome gold watch, and , had a heavy gold chain attached. He asked me and Mr Gundry to go . over to ; Miss Buckman’s in Aitken street. He i said—“ I should like you to go over to Miss Buckman’s and see her stock. It is worth LSOO, and is only insured for Ll5O. ” ' He made no remark about his own stock. He told me he was insured for L3OO in i the Standard, and Ll5O in Mr Harrison’s company. He could not recollect the name the Transatlantic. He said—- “ What is that to what I have lost 1” He said there was no insurance whatever on his goods in Aitken street. He said if Miss Buckman had been burned out he should not have believed the goods were worth as much as they were. I did not go over to Miss Buckman’s. I had suspicions at that time that the fire did not occur by accident. That was on the Monday. None of the jewellery described by Buxton was found at the fire. Constables Smart and Neill were searching with me. It was from ten to eleven in the morning. Constable Neill remained in charge all night till eight o’clock in the morning, and then Constable Smart relieved him. I should be surprised to hear that one of the constables mentioned picked up the solitaire in the debris. I have known Buxton for about twelve months. When I saw him first he was in the employment of Mr Hodder. Margaret Felton deposed: I am wife of Sergeant Felton. On the 3rd July I searched the female prisoners. Constable Neill deponed; I am a constable stationed in Ashburton. Was on duty when the fire broke out. It was in Peter street, and occupied by Mr Buxton. It was totally destroyed by fire. When I came to the place the fire was in the back part of the house, looking through the roof. There was no light in the front part of the house. I went round to the front. The door was open. It was not locked. I looked into the shop and saw a chair inside the door, and and four rolls of cloth in the shop, also two small rolls on the shelf in the shop. That vms all I saw; if there had been more there I could have seen it. There were no goods of any sort in the window. I went to a window at the end of the house, and broke it in with a batten. I saw no one in bed. The place burnt very quickly. It was burnt to the ground within half an hour. Saw Miss Buckman that night. Afterwards saw Mrs Buxton. I asked her where Mr Buxton was 1 She said he was in Christchurch, Bangiora, or Raiapoi. She said she had left the house, and gone off to Miss Buckman’s with the intention of returning. 11 asked her how long she was in Miss Buckman’s ? and she Said till she heard the fire bell. She said it would be about half-an-hour from the time when she left the house until the time when she was talking to me. I asked her if anyone had been left in the house. She said no one except the dog. Tasked her if she had left any lights burning, and she said she had ; she had left a fire in the front room and one in the back, both small fires. She said there was a kerosene lamp in the kitchen, turned down. She locked this back door, went out at the front, and put the key in her pocket. She asked, “ Is there nothing saved.” I said, “ No.” I asked her if the place and the stock were insured. She said she didn’t know. I asked her what the value of the stuff in the shop was, and she said about L 2,000. I recollect going, on Sunday, 3rd July, to Hicks’ shop in Havelock street,. Mr Buxton occupied it. I saw Buxton there the day before. I took possession of some things there. They were these, things (produced), lot 12. It consisted of' three rolls tweeds and a quantity of cut up tweeds, one picture, two parcels iweed trousers and vest, tweed trousers and coat, and some papers. ; Mr Branson applied for all the papers seised on Buxton’s premises to be produced. The Bench said the papers could be produced and examined in the defence, t. ; Evidence continued: There was a roll of duck, pair of .scissors, and a sewing machine. By Mr Branson : I got the information ; about the fire from the waiter at|QutlTq s .Hotel. I did not see the - blacksmith/ opposite on that occasion to my lotonv

ioor'was burst open. I didnot bunt 111 .nSS ra. The back part or kitchen was what |£|p mis on pre when I came. There was a window 'facing Quill's back yard. The fire was coining out under the' roof at the back. 1 have been in the house before. I did not notice whether the window was open. I can’t saj whether the back door' was open or shut. She told me she had i-jpl placed the kerosene lamp on the table in *" "if the kitchen, turned down low. When ~lf she was speaking to me, the fire 'was still blazing. I saw her in East street. She -' was excited at the tiihe:’ iß< n6B l?HiSfPffiorning I was in charge until half-past 9. I could--not see anything there. I did i*ot pick un a stnfl/;ffiy.ny. body says he saw roe pick is mistaken. X was talking to jlr l£ggatt. > r , He lives close by them. If hejßweara he , «. saw me pick up a stud , I most deny that it is true. . . - A ’-a By Mr O’Reilly: I waj heamMont- M gomery’a buildings when the bell mhg. 1 */ ran up to the fire. There were' a few -' people there. X noticed there wdce at least eight or nine people at: the {tack of, the building when r I .got therei There' might have been many more. 1 went 2$ r in and looked’ round, ,bist ,d|d r not go further, because there-''’was a south-west wind blowing. back" m door was open. I .did- not see anything to save. I did not find any inconvenience from the smoke. I did not go back again. .V It was not smoke, that drove the out. There was no light in the shop, except , what came from the fire. 1 washable to ,y see the stock by the light "frotp’the’b-lrning roof at the back; I cannot-say'if I saw Mr Burn of the railway station there. , By Inspector Pender: I did nottske up

any thing, from whatever. The Court then adjourned until tiro o’clock p.m. ' 1 . - ■ l On the Court resuming— George Scott, a carrier ; I recollect the 23rd of June last seeing the' defendant, Mr Ruxton. He askednre - whether I could take some things to the. railway station the next morning. I wentj to Miss Buck man’s with my cart about 6.30 next morning. It was not light. I saw Miss i Buckman 1 took a portmanteau and one or two boxes. Couldmdt'swearto \-m there being more than two.' Ttook them '/ to the railway station. 1 . Mr' Ruxtom and Miss Buckman went to the : railway' platform.. I was at the railway—first. I ■; asked whether more than one vfera going, as there wastob' for one 3 passenger without booking" itas excess. I asked whether I was to -get the luggage labeled. Ruxton said he w4s going to Timaru. I helped to pultihoT llggage ..| in the guard’s van of the Timara-itraiu. i Two ladies went in 'thd same train. 1 saw the same persons two ,ot three days afterwards in Ashburton... ..The. Jjoxes !) came from the parlor of .Misa house. I have seen the lot 12) often in Ruxton’s shop. It was.: then banging up in the shop. .Have.--* - , seen the coat (marked 6) r in thej-shop few days or so befdre-J;heL firei It was ' then , hanging up. It. tpoks. .like a coat that was offered.fpr sale tb m 1 ' recognise the. lining, / , y \ By Mr Branson ; I cannot swear to the. j. coat produced. J T was likd- one Ruxton offered me. : I was thefirsttrain in the ‘ s morning the luggage went by. J RIA. Keifip, a statipa, Timsru ; : : I the < .two ladies now before., the,Court .at the •Sj railway station, Timaru, on ,'the 14th?'. June. They came up by-the-10.JSD train from Ashburton, and had a largo?box and - portmanteaux with thenn. . I pnfi’a ticket on each box. lean swear to.?the two boxes in Court as the ones I saw at Timaru. -The -elder.of the two'ladies : staled that they wished the :I)QXMl6lored. I issued a storage.ticket,.ami asked what name to put on it. They hesitated for a short time time, and said “ Pot M-^ELR.; that will .do.” They paiff &f for the ticket, and said they would leave the box for a few days. The ookisa-. remained . from the 14th unclaimed. - Ihinded them *. one ticket and put the other on Kill box. (Ticket produced -by Sergeant Felton.) :j Inspector Pender said;thist-wai all the | evidence to show-the tracing rof the pro* .1 porty. He would now-call- ' J Thomas Quill,., who .deposed?'--I am licensee of the Commercial Hotel The -)j accused (Mr Ruxton) kented;>a !r lionsai d from me in Peter street;' . He: tented it for twelve months atlOs petweek- It J was a wooden house covered with shingles. | There was a room all fronting in street. At the back there was a &c. It was burned down <on the 14th June. The i| house was all iu»'good»m{psubijw£Ua was J laid on in the. front rpppi. The building, was insured by me' I was in.the premises , 1 the Monday previous to the fire. I was. ■'* then on business. ' Did not notice ther.-j stock particularly. I thought 3>.« had seen ’more stock in the \ shop. (Mr. Branson objected to this line j of examination;-) Examination continued. | I did not cohaider.that there was a very m large stock in the. shop, when I-was there; -'3 I should say thafc-there was not so much * as when Mr Ruxton'first opened. I no- j ticed a few rolls of cloth,,op the shelves. , t There was more in the winc&bout a month i before the fire Mr Ruxton used to dress' n| his window with rolls of cloth,&c. I did i| not notice any different ih : shto. I.'was at the scene of the fire shortlyjttter it ji

broke duty There was no 'wind blowing at the time. . , By Mr Branson : 1 aacdllecfc'the occa* t sion when I went to Buxton’s shop. X: J never used the. expression that “ I had come to see his very valuable collection of tweeds.” I was -• only shown two rolhof;twead.and|a roll r of patterns of all kinds of se- - lected a* pattern out of the rolfc I did notO notice whether there Was tnbrbtihaA tworolls of tweed. There was a table in the shop close to the front .witfdo wT""J I would not be certain that it month } previously that I went'to ’Ruxion’s shop., I did not go into any other portion of the shop, nor did I know what stock there was ■ in the other rooms. About six or seven ; months ago, if not moreletrthe premises to Mr Buxton. The shop win- \ dow was dressed with gloves, collars, and ■. cloths, &c. I have, as auctioneer,, sold goods to Mr Buxton previous to Mr Buxton’s arrival. I sold a table at L 3 15s. Did not know when that table was placed in the .house. l ean give a list of the goods,land .the ’prices of. them, sold to Buxton. - William Anderaonoeponed : I am a saddler. Remember th£ night: ,qf Ahe fire in Peter street. I waa.thpre.' T|p fire was burning iii the back the inside. I could not see front room. ~ r -. V, ! By Mr Branson: Was. uo llght .in the front room whatever. There ‘ deal of smoke. The wind oame'froha the back of the house. It was "a vefyslight '

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Permanent link to this item

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Bibliographic details

ALLEGED ARSON IN PETER STREET., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 390, 8 July 1881

Word Count
4,145

ALLEGED ARSON IN PETER STREET. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 390, 8 July 1881

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