A correspondent, Mr W. G. Crawford, of Conville, Croydon, N.S.W., writes in regard to a cablegram he had read in the Sydney ‘ Herald,’ from Auckland, respecting the Hawkins murder at Wellington. It will be remembered that the evidence against the accused (Chemis) was of a very remarkable character, and wholly circumstantial, Pieces of newspaper had been used by the murderer as a wad, and some of these were found in the wounds and carefully extracted. Small bits of paper were also found at the scene of the murder. All these pieces fitted precisely a torn newspaper found in the accused’s house. Our correspondent writes to state that he knew an innocent man hanged from precisely similar evidence in Adelaide about fifty years ago. His name was Joe Stagg, and that of the murdered man Gofton. Stagg declared to the last moment that he would as soon have shot his father or mother as Gofton, but that he deserved hanging, as at some time previously he and others were bushranging and cattlestealing on the Sydney side ; but he said he never killed Gofton. The affair passed over, and was about forgotten, when a letter was received by the Governor (I think it was Gawler) from the Secretary of State for the Colonies asking if ever a man named Gofton had been shot, and a man named Stagg been hanged for it, as a man had just died in the lunatic asylum who had always been raving that he was the man who shot Gofton, for whose murder Stagg had been hanged, and that he had prepared the plant of the newspaper, gun, etc. I merely send you this to show that what would appear perfectly conclusive evidence may still be doubtful.
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Circumstantial Evidence., Evening Star, Issue 7954, 9 July 1889
Circumstantial Evidence. Evening Star, Issue 7954, 9 July 1889
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