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THE ARSON CASE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 398, 18 July 1881
THE ARSON CASE.
After the adjournment on Saturday afternoon, the following additional evidence for the defence was taken : William Smith, clerk to Mr Gundry (insurance agent), exaimined by Mr O’Reilly, deposed ; Buxton effected an insurance in the Standard Company in November last. I examined the goods in his possession. I should say that the goods he showed me were worth over L 1,200. I was with an auctioneer here before 1 was with Mr Gundry, and had an opportunity of knowing the value of goods. I had a proposal of Miss Buckman’s in February | last fo*- Ll5O. That was for the stock in 1 Peter street. I inspected the stock at the the time. It was then in the work-room (front room) and bedroom. When I wont to see Ruxton’s property, I saw tins of Miss Buckman’s at the same time. When I went to see Buxton's property last November, I did not see Miss Buckman’s. She was not here. When I went to see Miss Buckman’s stock on the 2nd February, I had not seen it before. I could not estimate it. I was perfectly satisfied, as it was such a small amount she wanted as compared with the value of the stock. There was no* objection raised by the company. When I sent the proposal to Christchurch, I received an answer that as the goods were under the same roof as Ruxton’s, an additional rate would be charged. [Letter read.] When I received that letter, I did not see either Mr Raxton or Miss Buckman- In answer to the letter, I sent a letter I explaining that Miss Buckman was Mrs | Ruxton’s sister, and that she was carrying on her own business under her brother-in-law’s roof. A reply came back that the goods could be insured at the usual rate. Buxton afterwards called at Mr Gundry’s office. Miss Buckman’a insurance was transferred on 29th April to Aitken street. I went to Aitken street to see ■ the goods before the transfer was effected. Miss Buckman had already moved. I went to see that the goods had been transferred to Aitken street. Mrs Ruxton came to the door, and I asked to see Miss Buckman. I saw Miss Buckman, and she showed me the goods transferred from Peter street. I saw property of Ruxton’s also—a quantity of linen, tweeds, shirts, blankets, satins, silks, etc.; altogether six cases. I saw what was contained in the cases. They ; were of a different class of goods from those in Peter street. I noticed that the goods of both Ruxton and Miss Buckman were of a very superior quality ; too good, in fact, for Ashburton. I saw Raxton respecting a sale of goods. I knew Ruxton was about to sell part of the goods. I said to him at the time, ‘ ‘ I take no notice of the alteration ; I suppose you keep up the stock.” 1 was in Aitken street afterwards, and saw goods bought of Ruxton by Miss Buckman. They .were goods I had seen at Mr Ruxton’s in Peter street. There might have been Ll5O worth, or there might have been L2OO worth. I knew from them that Miss Buckman was going to Timaru. I was at Ruxton’s on the evening of the day when Mrs Ruxton and Miss Buckman wont to Timaru. Mr Ruxton was there. Mrs Ruxton and Miss Buckman came in. Mr Ruxton knew they had gone to Timaru to look for a shop, and did not expect them back for two or three days. I was there on business in connection with Miss Buckman’s affairs. I was last in Ruxton’s place a week before the tire. I saw the stock, but could not see any alteration at all in it.
By the Police : I recollect being at the house in Aitken street one Sunday when Miss Buckman was out. I saw a lot of tweeds in the bedroom. I did not tell either Sergeant Felton or you that there were no goods kept there. I might have seen things there that I had not noticed before. 1 don’t believe I have seen the picture' produced before anywhere. 1 knew something about Miss Buckman’s removing to Timaru. I did not tell it to you. Why should I ? I did not tell Mr Gundry anything about it. It was not necessary. I have been tolerably intimate .with Miss Buckman. I had not been courting her. When I insured the things at Miss Buckman’s in Aitken street, I saw some things that had been before underMr Ruxton’s roof. The mat produced was not the mat in Ruxton’s house at the time of the fire. I could not swear that there were any goods like those produced in Court in Ruxton’s possession. By Mr O’Reilly : I do not know that after the transfer of the insurance to Aitken street, Miss Buckman had a large addition to her stock. That addition would have been worth from Ll5O to L2OO.
James Mac Lean Dunn, examined by Mr Branson, deposed ; lam a journalist, residing in Ashburton. On the Wednesday before the fire I was in the Peter street shop. It was between 12 and 2 o’clock. Mr Ruxton owed the Lyttelton Timex Company some money, and I went to collect it. I went into the shop door, and remained at the place two or three minutes. I took notice of what was in the shop, because there was no one there. The shelves seemed to be well stocked, and pretty well loaded with rolls of tweed. There were six of these shelves. There were some small things in the window. There was a show case in the shop, containing ties, Ac. There was no painting on the window, but frosting about half way up. There had been some frosting as far back as April. I was at the fire. Prom the number of pieces of burnt tweed remaining, I had every reason to believe that the tweeds I had seen were burnt. By the Police : I could not see that there were pieces of tweed remaining. They were charred remains of rolls. I saw three of them. lam sure about one roll, because I spread it out before several people. Sergeant Felton was with me. We had some conversation about the matter. I did not find any heap of rolls. I also found the remains of some remnants.
I did not expect to find a larger quantity of remains than that which I found, because the whole heat of the shop was concentrated about that part of it.
Henry Burford, deposed : I am in the employment of Mr Chapman, painter. I have seen the picture produced previously. Saw it on the Thursday morning before the fire. Have not seen it since. Saw
it at Mr Chapman’s. It was being glazed. 1 took it up to Ruxton’s shop on Thursday morning, about half-past nine. No one was there. I put it down at the kitchen door with its face against the door leaning inwards. I went down then to another house, and saw Mrs Ruxton, and another lady (Miss Buckman), and told them where I had put the picture. John Richard Chapman deposed : I am a painter and glazier, living in Ashburton. I recollect the night of the fire. The picture produced is one I had twice in my shop. On the Thursday before the fire I had it in my shop to put another pane of glass in. On the night of the same day (Friday), I sent for it. The glass was broken. It remained in my possession the second time for about a week. The first time Mrs Ruxton brought the picture. The glass was pretty nearly all out then. It was completely smashed. Mrs Ruxton called on the Friday afternoon and told mo the glass had been broken again by some dogs when she was opening the door. I offered to take a square of glass to the house and put it in. Mrs Ruxton said sho would probably not be at the shop, and it would bo better for me to take it down to my own place to put the glass in. The glass was pretty well smashed on each occasion, in pretty much the same way. There was very little glass left on either occasion. As a matter of fact the picture was broken twice without much injury being done. The dog may have broken the glass and then the picture fallen out.
William Leggett deposed : I am work-
ing for my father, Joseph Leggett. Mr' Ruxton bought a horse. I have driven that horse. When I first borrowed the horse from Ruxton it was about a fortnight before the fire. I also borrowed a trap and harness. The harness produced is that borrowed. The trap was a sort of spring cart. The horse was very fresh, and Mr Ruxton could not drive it. I was breaking it in. I borrowed the harness a week before the fire. I brought back the trap and harness after the fire. The harness was in my possession a forttight before the fire, and returned a week after the fire.
By the Police : I proposed that I should take the cart and harness. That was one Sunday when going over the bridge across the Hinds river. When I brought back the horse and harness I asked Ruxton to let me keep them for another week. This was on the Sunday before the fire. I did take them back. I used them in going backwards and forwards near home. On the Wednesday I brought the horse and harness, and as Mr Ruxton was not at home I took them back.
By Mr Branson: 1 did not borrow them previously, for Mr Buxton had bought them only two or three days before. Joseph Leggett deposed: I am living in Ashburton, next door to Mr Buxton’s. I frosted Mr Buxton’s window ; two panes and part of another. Mr Buxton did the balance. That was four months ago. I removed a bedstead from the front bedroom into the back room, and removed the counter to the show room, altered the desk and shelves and the window board. Mr Buxton showed me some red flannel. It was faded from the sun. I was present when Counstable Neill was searching in debris. He picked up what seemed to me to be a gold stud. If it had been a brass button I should have known it. He held it up by the seem, rubbed it with his handkerchief, and put it in his pocket. I was seven or eight feet from him. This was between 12 and 2 o’clock. The top was larger than the bottom part. It was like the one produced [worn by Mr Buxton], but smaller. I think he put it into his waistcoat pocket. I believe his eye caught mine ; I am quite sure I was not mistaken. I believe I have seen the harness produced before, both in Mr Buxton’s possession and my son’s. By the Police : I don’t say that I saw Constable Neill steal this stud. Mr Quill was there, but his back was towards him. Since the last Court day I did not try to persuade Mr Quill that he did see him. Mr Quill spoke to me coming down the street. That was on the first day when the case was on. He said, “ What about this diamond ring?” I said, “ What diamond ring?” He said, “ They say you saw the constable pick up a diamond ring. ” I said “No, I did not see him pick up a diamond ring, but what appeared to be a gold stud.” That was all that passed. I did not ask Mr Quill if he saw Constable Neill pick this up. I did not mention it to any one until after Buxton was arrested. I thought he would of course report it to the head-quarters of the police. I mentioned it to more than one person. I believe I mentioned it to Mr Buxton first. I intended to be present when Neill gave his evidence, but mistook the hour for the Court opening. Constable Smart was present when the stud was picked up. It was broad daylight. There were some boys there. I saw Neill stoop down. Smart was moving about. I was about four yards off. I would not swear that it was not a button. I don’t believe it was. I did not see Smart throw anything to Neill. If witnesses swear that they saw him do so I will not swear that they did not see him do so. Mr Branson went round to me. I did not call on him. Inspector Pender said that this was a disgraceful way of conducting a defence. Mr Branson retorted with much warmth, and said that the disgraceful, bloodhound manner in which the police had conducted their case was most discreditable. He had done nothing that he would not do again. Mr Branson said he had subpoened Mr Beath of Christchurch, but he had not attended. Mr O’Beilly said he was aware that Mr Beath was prevented by a domestic affliction from being present. Mr Branson produced the account for
some tweeds bought by Ruxton from Beath and Co., but Inspector Pender objected that that was not evidence, as there was no one to prove the invoice. Mr Branson addressed the Court very briefly for the defence, stating that there had been not the slightest proof of arson or concealment of goods. The Magistrate said he was here acting not judicially but magisterially. The only question for him to decide upon was as to whether there was a case to go before a grand jury, not whether there was enough to convict. The accused were then committed to take their trial at the next criminal sittings of the Supremo Court, to be held in Christchurch ; bail was allowed in two sureties for Ll6O each, together with Buxton's own surety for L3OO for himself and his wife. The Court then adjourned.
THE ARSON CASE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 398, 18 July 1881
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