ALLEGED ARSON IN PETER STREET.
[The following concludes our report of the evidence taken at the Court yesterday in the charge of arson preferred against Robert Gould Ruxton, Marjorie Theresa Ruxton, and Mary Buckman :—] Eliza Jane Thompson : I am an apprentice to the dressmaking. I was in !Mr Buxton’s employment for two months as a tailoress. I have been there during the whole of the day every day. Nearly every day have been through the whole of the house, and had an opportunity of seeing all the goods. The 21st was the last day I was there. Mr Ruxton told me he was going to Christchurch, and there would be no work until Friday morning. Friday was wet, and I could not go. I had been often away before, but only for a holiday. Ho gave no other reason, except that there would bo no work. The stock was about the same as usual when I loft. The window was never dressed. I hare seen this roll of grey tweed in Let No. 4 before, and the two rolls of sheeting. The hatcase produced was under the writing desk. I saw this serge (produced) a week before the fire. These corduroy breeches were in the shop also at the time. In lot No. 5 the trousers were in the place. They were there a fortnight before the fire. (Witness here Identified some other articles of clothing, etc., in lots 5, 6, 7, and 8, as having been in the shop a week or a fortnight before the fire.) About -two months before the fire I saw Mrs Ruxten mark the ribbons produced. The woollen gloves produced were in the shop, but were removed about a fortnight before the fire.
T. Quill recalled—The paper produced is a list of the goods which I arid to Mr Ruxton.
Eliza Jane Thompson’s examination continued—l have seen the chain and locket produced. Mrs Ruxton wore things like those. Mrs Ruxton told me since the fire that her locket like that was burnt. I paid the Property Tax bill out of the cash box for Mr Buxton. I recollect several of these receipts. They were on the file in the shop. I paid a cheque of Mr Buxton's for L 5 on the 20th June. These things (in lot 12) I saw in Mr Buxton’s shop some time before the fire. I have seen tweed very much like that in Mr Buxton’s shop. Cannot swear if it is the same.
By Mr Branson : I will swear that I have seen those identical gcods in Buxton’s shop. I could not bo mistaken. I will not swear that he never had exactly similar goods to those at hia shop in Aitken street. Cannot see any mark on that roll. I can identify this roll by the piece cut out. I cut it out myself. The Inspector said Mr Branson was very hard on the girl, and appealed to the Bench to protect her, Mr Branson said he had done nothing wrong. He had strong lungs, but ho could not help that. He would 1 ‘ roar as gently as any sucking dove.” Cross-examination continued : I have measured out fifteen pieces of tweed. That was the week before the fire. I can identify five of the pieces. Mrs Buxton got me to mark the number of yards of each piece on pieces of paper. I fixed them on the large roll, not on the pieces cut off. All this occurred exactly one week before the fire. I was not in the shop on the day I left. I don’t think those pieces were in Christchurch a week before the fire. I used sometimes to go to the house in Aitken street. Have never been further than the kitchen. Miss Buckman carried on business there as a dressmaker. She was accustomed to make ulsters and ladies’ dresses. She was accustomed to make coats and trousers for Mr Buxton and send them to his house. She sent over some pieces to Mr Buxton to make up for her. Miss Buckman used t# come over to take things. I was the only girl employed in Buxton's. There were three employed by Miss Buckman. It was a common thing for Buxton to send over things which had been cut out by him to Miss Buckman’s to make up. I am not certain whether I did take over the ulster produced or not. 1 am positive I have not taken the coat produced over to Miss Buckman’s. There was no secrecy about the taking of the things over. Miss Buck man used to make the things used in her business from what Buxton sent over. Tweeds are not used in ladies’ drosses that I know of. I was four months with Miss Buckman, and two months with Mr Buxton. I was away from Mr Buxton’s fifteen days. I don’t know whether Mr Buxton used to send things which he had cut oat to be made up in Christchurch. I took one parcel to the railway station, to be sent to Mr Nixon, a tailor, in Christchurch. That was a week before the fire. Mr Buxton did not tell me whether he was coining back from Christchurch. I should have come back to the shop if it had not been a rainy day. I was never in Miss Buckman’s parlor, nor in her workroom, but I was in her kitchen, where the girls worked. There was a Singer’s and also a Wanzer sowing machine. The Singer machine was in the kitchen. That had been brought there about three weeks before the fire. Neither of those machines had been taken from the Peter street house to Aitken street. I did not know that Miss Buckman was going to leave Ashburton, or going into business at Timaru. I recollect the time when Miss Buckman left Peter street to go to Aitken street. There may have been some goods taken across.
Annie Coffey deponed : I am a dressmaker, employed by Missßuckman at her house, up to last Saturday. I worked in the back room. I was in the habit of going over the whole of the house. I recollect the fire. Do not recollect any of the things produced. They might have been in the house without my seeing them. They are not things of the sort Miss Buckraan used. She did not use any tweed to my knowledge. 1 left last Saturday. About a week before the fire there was nothing in Miss Buckman’s bedroom of the sort produced. The work came to Miss Buckman’s to be cut out. I did not notice some things after the fire which were out there before. They wore clothes of Mr Buxton’s, and a few dresses of Mrs Buxton’s. The only alteration I noticed after the fire was that the house seemed in confusion. Mr Buxton’s sleeve board was there. There were some pillow cases also; a picture like that produced was brought there. By Mr Branson : Before the fire I had seen some packing cases in the house. One contained groceries, and the other house clothing. I saw some boxes, but do not know what they contained. It might have been the case that after Mr Buxton was burnt out in Peter street, ho fell back on his stock in Aitken street. I do not know what goods Mr Buxton brought into the house. I was not allowed to roam all over the house and search anything. I helped to make up the coat produced at Miss Bookman's. I have not, to my knowledge, helped to make up the coat produced. I have helped to makeup a coat like this other coat produced a few days before the fire took place. Mr Buxton’s little boy brought over something one evening, but I do not know what it was; it might have been ulsters. I was sent over by Mrs Buxton after the fire to Sergeant Felton to ask him to come up as she wanted to speak to him. By Inspector Pender: I do not Icnov if the blue coat produced was sent back to Aitken street to be altered. I never saw any tweed used by Miss Buckman. Margaret Meharry deposed: lam a dressmaker. Was at Mr Buxton’s at the time of thp fire. I ussd to go all ever the house every morning. Did not see nnj pieces of tweed there. I was in Hiss
Buckman’a bedroom. Was in the house just before the lire. Did not see any of Mrs Buxton’s or Mr Buxton’s wearing apparel there. There were some clothes in the back bedroom—a pair of trousers and a coat. I did not see anything more. After the fire 1 saw a dock which had bsen in Mr Bnxton’a front toom. It was a round clock. I never saw any of the twesds produced before. By Mr Branson: I saW some boxes previously at Miss Buckman’S, some packingcases and a trunk. Do not know what they contained. All thsse boxes and cases might have contained all the goods produced. Have often carried goods from Buxton’s to Miss Buckman's to be made up. James Tait deposed: I am a saddlor in Ashburton. I remember the fire. I sold Mr Buxton some goods about June 22nd. They were of a similar kind to those produced (Pelham bit, etc.) A week before I sold him the brushes, etc., produced. I saw the picture produced at Mr Buxton’s, and identify the trap harness as some sold by me to Buxton. By Mr Branson: I cannot swear if the picture produced is the same one that I saw at Mr Buxton’s. I only know it is exactly like it, as it contains a photograph of Mr Buxton.
At this stage the Court adjourned until this morning.
On the Court resuming at ten o’clock this morning the case was proceeded with. —lnspector Pender called Alfred Harrison, agent for the Transatlantic Insurance Company at Ashburton, who deposed ; I recollect Buxton effecting an insurance in our company. It was a renewal of a policy, and took place on 12th March, 1881. The insurance was on L2OO stock-in-trade and LIOO on fixtures, furniture, wearing apparel, &c. They were in the house which was recently burned down. I delivered the policy to Buxton. The policy was prepared in accordance with the proposal. He has claimed the full amount insured. I asked him to furnish full particulars of the details of the loss. He said he would do so, or Mrs Buxton would do it. At the time when the insurance was effected I saw the stock and furniture. I was at the house. The goods consisted of tweeds, &c., and all the requisites for a tailor's trade. There were also gloves of an unusually rich kind. The tweeds I saw wore similar to those in Court. I examined the portmanteau and trunk in Court. Was present when an inventory was taken of their contents. I have no doubt the inventory produced is the one.
Mr Branson objected that there was no proof that the inventory was the same one. The witness could not swear it was. The Police Magistrate said that Sergeant Felton had sworn to that. Examination continued:—l valued the goods in both boxes at LI3G. The goods are very similar to those I had seen in the shop. I particularly remember the expensive silks being exactly similar to those in the shop. The goods are suitable for a tailor’s and also for a milliner’s shop. By Mr Branson : I do not identify any of the goods as having been in the shop. They were of a similar nature. When the second insurance was effected, Miss Buckman was carrying on business on the same premises. I think 1 can swear that. I don’t know what business it was she was carrying on. I believe it was dressmaking. The ladies' gloves produced are very probably what would have been part of the stock of a dressmaker’s shop. The silk gloves might be worn by gentlemen. The buttons produced might bo used by either youngtor old ladies. Gentlemen sometimes wear ribbons. I should think the things the stock of a milliner. It is an unusual
thing for a milliner to sell gentlemen’s gloves, but it is not at all impossible that she might. I helped to re-pack the box produced. The large majority of goods, in it are those suitable for a tailor’s shop. The ties produced are children’s ties. The hooks and eyes and mixed pins are used by milliners. The cloth produced is suitable for the army. Mr O’Reilly said it was red flannel for ladies’ petticoats. Examination continued : There are
some ladies’ stoekings in the box. I saw some of Buxton’s wearing apparel when he effected the insurance. I should be always willing to insure for two-thirds of the actual value of the goods. I did not make an exact valuation, but satisfied myself that there was fully sufficient to cover my risk. In the Peter street shop there was not, in my opinion, more than sufficient to cover my risk. I took the risk over all I saw there. There may have been goods there that belonged to Miss Buckman, but there could not have been many of them. The shop fittings wore not of much value. The house was not extensively furnished. I thought I was covered in insuring the furniture and jewellery for LIOO. I took only a cursory observation of what I saw there. It was quite a sufficient observation for me to see that I was covered in the risk. I satisfied myself when I insured for L3OO, that there was a good L4OO worth of goods there. If I had made detailed examination of the goods, it might have proved that goods of a larger value might have been there. It was possible. I don’t say probable. The lot of squares for ladies’ ties was undoubtedly a bigger lot than that now produced. I should not be surprised to learn that the lady’s jacket with a life belt belonged to Miss Buckman. I did see a lifebelt there.
By the Police : I understood that to be part of the goods I was insuring. While I was looking at the goods, Miss Buckman’s name was not mentioned to mo, to my recollection. She was there, working in another room.
By the Bench : I was not aware that at the time when the second insurance was made, t here was another insurance in the Standard office. I know it was about the same time that I ascertained that. I did not know that when I made the valuation. I knew at the time when the policy was out that there was at least L 550 worth of goods in value there. The previous policy in my office was for the same amount as the second. I was the only insurer at the time of the first policy. I was never asked, to my recollection, to insure for more than L3OO. I will not swear that I did not caro to insure for so large an amount as L6OO. I don’t think that, at the time when I insured for L 430, that there was L6OO worth of goods. I was told by Mr Branson that people generally sent in their detailed claims immediately. W. H. Gundry, agent for the Standard Insurance Company at Ashburton ; I know the premises and store of Mr Buxton in Peter street. I effected an insurance for him. The policy is made out in the name of Mr Buxton. The proposal was for Ll5O in the Standard. The policy was delivered to Mr Buxton. He put in a claim for the amount, and stated the loss by fire was total. He claimed Ll3O on the stock, and the rest for furniture and eflects. The certificate by two householders that the stock was there was not completed. He went to the premises at the time of the fire and on Saturday morning. I went to Mr Buxton’s residence on Monday morning. There were no remains of stock on the scene of the fire on Sunday. I saw no remains of harness. There were the remains of a small piece of tweed, and of a small piece of lining for coats. On the Wednesday after the fire I saw Buxton, and stated that I did not think he had filled in sufficient particulars of his loss. He had sent in his claim then. He told me he had a list of his stock taken in January, and a list of what he had sold, and he would gire it to me. By Mr Branson : I recollect, on the Monday after the fire, I met Buxton Sergeant Felton. It was quite an accidental meeting. 1 had not informed Buxton I
was going to meet him. I had some conversation withhim as to hisloss. He saidhehad lost some jewellery of Mrs Ruxten’s and some diamond studs of his own, also a gold albert chain and a solitaire. He said it was a mere chance he had saved his watch, worth LBS, though I might not believe it was. He said if he had been offered just before the fire to take L 2,000 to go out of his shop he would not have taken it. I smiled at that, thinking It rather heavy and exaggerated. When we were leaving he said Miss Buckmaa had a very fine stock, and if she had been burned out no one would have believed what the actual loss would have been. He asked us to go over to her house. He said he had a risk on some other goods of his at another place; I think he said Ll5O. Ho said it was in an insurance company with Mr Hodder. Ho did not ask me to look at some other goods of his in Aitkan street. I knew at the time when he insured with me that ho had already insured for L3OO in the Transatlantic Company. My clerk went to make a valuation; his name is William Smith. My practice is to insure from two-thirds to threefourths of the value of goods. To insure for L 450 the stock, &c., should bo worth at least LCOO. My clerk was satisfied that there was that value there.
By the Police: It was in November last that he insured with me. Ho said he had a risk of Ll5O on goods in a dwellinghouse on the other aide of the line with Mr Hodder (the Norwich Union Co. John Nixon, a tailor, living in Christchurch, deposed: On the 12th June I received a large parcel of goods from Mr Ruxton. It contained men's clothes cut out to bo made up. That was the first time I had received any goods from him. I received some more on the 16th June. I received a note from Ruxton on the 13th, and the first parcel, to which it referred, on the 15th June. The second parcel was a large one of men’s clothing, tweeda to be made up. Did not receive any instructions in connection with that. 1 received a note on the 20th June, and also a parcel of goods. I think on the 20th ; that was the third parcel. The note produced is not the one. The one produced is the second note, and refers to the second parcel. I received three parcels, and that was all. Some of the parcels I did not open from want of time. I could value the goods without opening the parcels. On looking at the end of the parcel I saw it was tweed. I cannot tell how many suits there ware. I saw Mr Ruxton for the first time on the 22nd June. That was at my house. I don’t think I ever spoke to him before. He w anted to take the goods away that were on my premises. He said, “ I have five suits of clothes, eighteen pairs of gaiters, and some pieces of tweed at the railway station, which will settle my hill.” He said he wanted the things made up. He said he wished to come and fit his own coat on at 12 o’clock. He did not come the next day. On Friday night, at halfpast ten he came to my house, and introduced a person whom he represented as Mr Lancaster, and told me he wished the goods away. They were the goods in my possession. He said he was going to have them made up in another place, and he would give me the five suits, the gaiters and the tweed. I told him I would not give up the other goods until he paid me. Mr Lancaster said, “ D n me, my coat is disappointed, and I won’t have it now.” This was all that took place that day. I did not see Mr Ruxton until the following Thursday. I did not give up the things. He came to my place on the Wednesday, and said he would like to get the things. 1 replied that I should have to give up the goods to the police, or the Insurance Company. He brought Sergeant Hughes to force me to give up the goods. This was on the Thursday. I gave the things to him before Sergeant Hughes, and he paid me my bill. I said to Ruxton, “ Where are the five suits of clothes and eighteen pairs of gaiters that you got down town 1" By Mr Branson : The letter dated June 15th, from Mr Ruxton, is in the hands of the police. (Letter produced and read.) I received a parcel on the 15th June. [A number of letters were read from Ruxton to witness, requesting certain work to be done to clothes.] I did not receive the goods on the same week. Buxton came down to Christchurch. I received the parcel on the 16th, before the parcel came to hand. [This witness appeared to endeavor to be rather facetious in his remarks.] I made up Casey’s suit and forwarded it on Saturday. I sent it by rail to Ashburton. I had_not made up the
overcoat mentioned in Ruxton’s letter o; June 16th when he came to Christchurch,
None of the goods were ready on the 23rd June. On the Friday night I had partly made up some goods. I was perfectly sober at the time. I had not been drinking heavily before. I was sober enough to do business. I did not make up any of the goods between the Friday night and the 30th of June, because I had seen that a fire had taken place at Ruxton’s shop, and considered the goods belonged to the insurance company. I received L 3 12s 6d altogether that day from Ruxton, before Sergeant Hughes. I told Sergeant Hughes that Ruxton had had a fire in Ashburton, and that I had some goods of his in Christchurch. I know Mr Hobbs. Ho has taken away work from me because I was working for Ruxton, but not because I was drunk.
His Worship here cautioned the witness as to his mode of giving evidence. Mr Branson said the witness was nothing more than a drunken reprobate, and his evidence was totally unreliable. Cross-examination continued —lt was not through spite that X went to the Police Station and gave information, but because I did not get my money. . 1 left a note at the White Hart Hotel, asking Ruxton to meet me. I never asked Mr Ruxton for the loan of a sovereign. Ido not recollect using threatening language towards him. I was brought up before the Christchurch Bench on the Thursday for drunkenness, and was let off on the understanding that I took the pledge. I became acquainted with Mr Ruxton through a Mr Childs of Beath and Co., six months ago. I always work for Mr Hobbs. I have never received goods from any one outside this district excepting Mr Ruxton. I was in business in Akaroa. My partner got ten years for burning the house down. I lost L2OO by it. I was never in goal for anything but drunkenness and for turning Mr Woollcorabe out of ray house. Mr Woollcombe sentenced me himself. I did attempt to dance a Highland fling before Ruxton and Lancaster, and I said that they had a Scotchman to deal with and no fool. I was not drunk at the time. I may have been slightly excited with liquor. I knew what I was doing. I have had several intimations from Ruxton. The last letter I wrote to him was on the 25th June. (A letter from the witness was then read, apologising for his conduct, and asking Ruxton’s advice as to what he was to do with the goods after the fire.) Richard Lancaster deposed: I am a butcher, residing in Ashburton. I was in bed at the time of Ruxton’s fire. I have had three suits of clothes made and one top-coat at Ruxton’s. The latter was ordered a month before the fire. I paid for the one suit. By Mr Branson : Ruxton told me that my top-coat was all right, and was, I think, at Miss Buckman’s. I believe Ruxton said that it was sent there to be lined. The coat produced is the one I ordered. I never went to Christchurch with Ruxton.
Nixon, re-called : I recognise the coat produced as one sent up to mo for making up. I did not complete it, oiying to the fire.
Samuel S. U'Laren : I am a clerk for Mr T. R. Hodder, who is agent for the Norwich Union Insurance Company. I do the clerkship in connection with the Insurance department. There has been an insurance of Ll5O effected on table linen, household furniture, «fcc. Wo fill up the insurance proposal, and the Christchurch office forward the policies to the insured. It was originally effected on a property in a house in Wills street. There was no insurance on the stock in trade effected through us. The insurance was transferred to another house. By Mr Branson : I was shown some jewellery in the boxes. Also sheets, blankets, and miscellaneous goods. I value the goods seen by me at more than Ll6O. Mr Ruxton wished to have the goods insured for L2OO. I declined, because I considered it too much. Ruxton came to me. I did not go to Ruxton to ask for the insurance. I wont to Ruxton’s house and saw the goods. By Mr O’Reilly: I never said that in consequence of the smallness of the place I did not consider the goods of more than two-thirds more value than I had accepted. I do not identify all of the goods produced as the ones I insured. The house was a small house. I believe I saw all the boxes. The goods I saw were partly of the kind produced, such as handkerchiefs, but not the piece goods. Henry Dillon Hopkins : lam a draper’s assistant at Orr and Co.’s, Ashburton. I knew the premises in Peter street, lately burned down, and occupied by Mr Ruxton. I passed it on the night of the fire on my way home. I saw the stock in the shop about two days before the fire.
This was between six and seven o’clock. There was a little stock but not much. I noticed that the window w«s changed. It used to be dressed with goods. On this occasion there was more in the window. I noticed that the window panes were frosted over about two days before the fire. I noticed that the shelves in the shop were very bare of stock. I was at the scene of the fire rather late.
By Mr Branson: I should be surprised to hear that the window had been painted three months before. The nakedness and absence of goods made me look through the window to see what was in the shop. It was seven o’clock in the evening. There was a light in the shop. I was not sent there by anyone to look in the shop. I could not see into the shop without stepping on the ledge of the front of the shop. I held on by the centre sash of the window. I looked into the window, and held on to the window sash for two or three minutes. I saw a counter in Mr Buxton’s shop. I did not know whether there were any goods under the counter. Mr Branson said as a matter of fact there was no counter in the shop at all. Examination continued : I did not look through any other window in the house. ■ By Mr O’Reilly : 1 saw the partition in the shop, but did not see any stock on the walla. It might have been the boards of the partition. Eliza Jane Thompson, re-called : I have seen the picture amongst lot 12 in Mr Buxton’s front room the Monday before the fire. I missed seeing some goods on the shelves, consisting of ties, &c. Recognised some of the goods produced. They were not in the shop on the night of ~ the 20th.
By Mr Branson : They might have been elsewhere in the house.
Wm Sparrow, manager of the New Zealand Clothing Factory, Ashburton, deposed : I was at the fire at the time. Was not there afterwards. That was about ten o’clock. I have seen woollen goods after they have been exposed to fire. [The Police were about to ask a question regarding the appearance of burnt cloth, but counsel for the ac -.used objected, and the objection was allowed.! Mr Branson and Mr O’Reilly objected to the police not calling Mr Smith, Mr Gundry’s clerk, who made the valuation of the goods for insurance. Mr Branson stigmatised the conduct of the police as most unfair. He asserted that the police knew Mr Smith’s evidence would tell against their case. The Bench thought it would have been more satisfactory if Mr Smith had been examined, but they could not compel evidence to be called for the prosecution. Mr Gundry recalled: We have a policy of Miss Buckman’s. . It was dated last February. My clerk, Mr Smith, made the valuation of her goods. She applied for an insurance on some goods in Buxton’s house. The Standard Company objected, on the ground of two insurances being proposed for goods in one building. She then removed the goods to a house in Aitken street, and the insurance was granted. It was, I think, in March that her goods were removed. I did not inspect the goods. Mr Smith did. Miss Buckman obtained a conditional policy on the 12th February before the goods were removed, it was afterwards the Company objected, and then she took them away to Aitken street.
By Mr O’Reilly : I produce press copy of the proposal for Miss Buokman’s proposal. The proposal was L 25 on jewel lerry ; wearing apparel, and linen in private use only L 3 5; on stock-in-trade, LBS; on two sewing machines, LlO. The policy was dated 14th February, but not issued until the 17th May. This closed the case for the prosecution. [Left sitting.]
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 391, 9 July 1881
ALLEGED ARSON IN PETER STREET. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 391, 9 July 1881
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