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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

Besomo v. Keating [1895] NSWSupC 1

slander, medical science, alternative medicine, homeopathy, phrenology, Tichborne case

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Simpson J., 5 December 1895

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 6 December 1895, p. 3

No. 2 Jury Court. - (Before Mr. Justice Simpson and a jury of four.)

BESOMO V. KEATING - A SINGULAR CASE.

Mr. Bateman and Mr. Curlewis, instructed by Mr. P.E. Tighe, appeared for the plaintiff; and Mr. Ferguson, instructed by Mr. C. Bull, for defendant.

This was an action brought by Pasquale Besomo, of 4 Castlereagh-street, Redfern, who described himself as a phrenologist and medical homoeopathist, against Edward Keating, a member of the detective police of New South Wales, to recover damages for alleged false and malicious slander. Plaintiff's case, according to his counsel, was that in addition to his business as a phrenologist and A homoeopathist, he carried on a matrimonial bureau, and had a paper called Matrimony , established with the object of bringing together people who wished to get married. An old German, named Talegrin, who was 60 years of age, wished to enter upon a matrimonial venture, and he opened up negotiations with the plaintiff in order to obtain a suitable companion for the remainder of his life. The negotiations were, however, broken off, and from that period plaintiff's connection with Talegrin ceased, and he had nothing more to do with him. It appeared, however, that afterwards Jean Luie opened fresh matrimonial negotiations with Talegrin, and pretended to get him a wife, who was no other than a man dressed up in woman's clothes. A the bogus writ was subsequently issued by these men fof of the against Talegrin for breach of promise of marriage, and this being served upon the old German had such an effect upon him that he paid a sum of £126 to quash the supposed proceedings. Luie was afterwards arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for the offence, plaintiff being one of the witnesses against him. On the 3rd June last plaintiff met defendant at Watt's Hotel, corner of Goulburn and George streets, and the defendant invited him to have a drink. While they were talking the landlady asked them to come into a back room where there was a club, consisting of some 30 or 40 members. They accepted the invitation, and when they reached the room defendant proposed that they should have a debate, and that plaintiff should act as chairman. This plaintiff, after some demur, acceded to, but he had no sooner had taken the chair than defendant stepped into the middle of the room, and in effect made the following statement, which was the slander complained of:- "There is a notorious scoundrel named Jean Louie, whom I gave five years to. He is a great friend of our chairman, Mr. Besomo. Mr. Besomo was publish a journal called 'Matrimony,' and he used to keep a matrimonial bureau, and this Jean Luie was working for our chairman. This Jean Louie and Mr. Besomo advertised to get a wife for a poor old Swede or German living out at Pyrmont, and who, by plodding and industry, accumulated both property and money. Amongst a great number of applicants there was one supposed to have come from Bathurst. Jean Louie introduced the poor old man to our chairman, who charged £1 for inserting a matrimonial advertisement and for introducing him to lady applicants. The conspiracy between these two men went on to the making of an appointment to meet a supposed lady applicant in answer to the advertisement inserted by our chairman in his paper, but the supposed woman was a man dressed in lady's clothes. An arrangement was made that the introduction should be at Bald Rock, Balmain. The woman was a man, with a veil over his face. The conspiracy did not end there. The Bald Rock woman was supposed to start an action against the poor old German or Swede for breach of promise of marriage, and claim £500, and that man and Luie served him with a bogus writ, and managed to get out of him £60 or £80. Our chairman knew all about this, for he himself was in the swim." Plaintiff complained that defendant charged him with an indictable offence, and that his reputation had been considerably injured thereby. Damages were laid at £1000.

Defendant pleaded not guilty.

The case stands part heard.

Simpson J., 6 December 1895

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 7 December 1895, p. 7

No. 2 Jury Court. - (Before Mr. Justice Simpson and a jury of four.)

BESOMO V. KEATING (PART HEARD.)

Mr. Bateman and Mr. Curlewis, instructed by Mr. P.E. Tighe, appeared for the plaintiff; and Mr. Ferguson, instructed by Mr. C. Bull, for defendant.

This was an action brought by Pasquale Besomo, of 4 Castlereagh-street, Redfern, who described himself as a phrenologist and medical homoeopathist, against Edward Keating, a member of the detective police of New South Wales, to recover damages for alleged false and malicious slander. The slander complained of was the following statement, which the defendant was alleged to have used on the 3rd June last at Watts's Hotel, corner of Goulburn and George streets, when plaintiff, defendant, and a number of other persons were present at a sort of impromptu social gathering, of which plaintiff was elected chairman:- "There is a notorious scoundrel named Jean Louie, whom I gave five years to. He is a great friend of our chairman, Mr. Besomo. Mr. Besomo was publish a journal called 'Matrimony,' and he used to keep a matrimonial bureau, and this Jean Luie was working for our chairman. This Jean Louie and Mr. Besomo advertised to get a wife for a poor old Swede or German living out at Pyrmont, and who, by plodding and industry, accumulated both property and money. Amongst a great number of applicants there was one supposed to have come from Bathurst. Jean Louie introduced the poor old man to our chairman, who charged £1 for inserting a matrimonial advertisement and for introducing him to lady applicants. The conspiracy between these two men went on to the making of an appointment to meet a supposed lady applicant in answer to the advertisement inserted by our chairman in his paper, but the supposed woman was a man dressed in lady's clothes. An arrangement was made that the introduction should be at Bald Rock, Balmain. The woman was a man, with a veil over his face. The conspiracy did not end there. The Bald Rock woman was supposed to start an action against the poor old German or Swede for breach of promise of marriage, and claim £500, and that man and Luie served him with a bogus writ, and managed to get out of him £60 or £80. Our chairman knew all about this, for he himself was in the swim." Plaintiff compained [sic] that defendant charged him with an indictable offence, and that his reputation had been considerably injured thereby. Damages were laid at £1000.

Plaintiff continued his evidence, and said that he never had any connection in business with Jean Luie, and he merely at one time allowed him to remain in the office on condition that he cleaned the office out every morning. At the trial of Jean Luie in 1888, he was subpoenaed by the prisoner, but he really gave evidence in favour of the prosecution, and afterwards demanded and received his expenses from Talegrin. Since Luie came out, he had allowed him to sleep in his office, but that was merely out of charity.

In cross-examination by Mr. Ferguson, plaintiff said that he now carried on the business of a phrenologist and homoeopathist, and had abandoned the matrimonial speculation

Q.: Do you not engage in palm-reading and fortune-telling?

Witness: Not for 13 or 14 years. I am a pure scientist. Phrenology and homoeopathy are science, and you must not insinuate anything against me.

Q.: But pure science does not pay, does it?

Witness said that was because people were so dull that they did not understand what it meant. He made a bare living at it, and was satisfied; he had informed his counsel that if defendant apologised he would be satisfied, as he did not want to make money out of the case; for if he lost the present case he believed he would be a bar to pay the costs, if the amount was not too exorbitant. He brought an action for malicious prosecution against Modini and lost the case. He had not paid the costs, and had never been asked for them; he was never injected from premises for non-payment of rent; he was summoned to go out, and went out without ejection; when he met Keating on the 3rd June at Watts's Hotel he was invited into the room where the other people were at the request of Keating; it was about the time when a statement had been made about the Tichborne confession; Jean Luie was a witness in the original Tichborne the case in England, and was committed for perjury. A conversation took place about the new development, but witness did not then saying he believed that the Claimant was really Tichborne; up to that time he was probably like many other dupes, and he sympathised with the Claimant and Jean Luie. He believed up to the time of the confession that Luie was an innocent man, and had been wrongfully convicted of perjury. He did not speak against Luie at the meeting. He stood up and spoke about the Tichborne case after Keating had made the attack upon him.

Q. Did not keeping suggest that you should go into the chair in order to make a statement to the company about the Tichborne case?

Witness said No, and he was terribly surprised when pleading took the floor and launched out at him. He (witness) stated that he believed the confession was a hoax to enable the claimant to bring out a biography so that he could start another action. Mrs Watt reprimanded Keating when the people left the hotel. So far as he knew Keating gave a true account of Luie's connection with the matter in which Talegrin was the victim, but he was surprised to hear keeping accuse him (witness) of being connected with the case, as up to that time he had been on the most friendly terms with him.

Alexander Ross, a tailor, said he was present at the gathering at Watt's Hotel on the night of the 3rd June, about 11 o'clock, when plaintiff and keeping were present. He did not hear keeping say anything of a slanderous nature to plaintiff in any way, and witness did not afterwards told plaintiff that he had heard Keating slander him that night, and he was prepared to give evidence of the fact. He gave plaintiff his name and address.

To Mr. Ferguson: The gathering was purely of the personal friends of the landlady and her brothers, and it was held in the bar parlour.

Plaintiff was recalled in reference to the evidence of the first witness, and he said that two or three weeks after the occurrence Ross asked him if he was going to take proceedings about the matter. Witness said he was, and Ross then said he knew all about it, and gave witness his name and address.

The case was not concluded.

Simpson J., 9 December 1895

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 10 December 1895, p. 3

No. 2 Jury Court. - (Before Mr. Justice Simpson and a jury of four.)

BESOMO V. KEATING (PART HEARD.)

Mr. Bateman and Mr. Curlewis, instructed by Mr. P.E. Tighe, appeared for the plaintiff; and Mr. Ferguson, instructed by Mr. C. Bull for defendant.

This was an action brought by Pasquale Besomo, of 4 Castlereagh-street, Redfern, who described himself as a phrenologist and medical homoeopathist, against Edward Keating, a member of the detective police of New South Wales, to recover damages for alleged false and malicious slander. The slander complained of was the following statement, which the defendant was alleged to have used on the 3rd June last at Watts's Hotel, corner of Goulburn and George streets, when plaintiff, defendant, and a number of other persons were present at a sort of impromptu social gathering, of which plaintiff was elected chairman:- "There is a notorious scoundrel named Jean Louie, whom I gave five years to. He is a great friend of our chairman, Mr. Besomo. Mr. Besomo was publish a journal called 'Matrimony,' and he used to keep a matrimonial bureau, and this Jean Luie was working for our chairman. This Jean Louie and Mr. Besomo advertised to get a wife for a poor old Swede or German living out at Pyrmont, and who, by plodding and industry, accumulated both property and money. Amongst a great number of applicants there was one supposed to have come from Bathurst. Jean Louie introduced the poor old man to our chairman, who charged £1 for inserting a matrimonial advertisement and for introducing him to lady applicants. The conspiracy between these two men went on to the making of an appointment to meet a supposed lady applicant in answer to the advertisement inserted by our chairman in his paper, but the supposed woman was a man dressed in lady's clothes. An arrangement was made that the introduction should be at Bald Rock, Balmain. The woman was a man, with a veil over his face. The conspiracy did not end there. The Bald Rock woman was supposed to start an action against the poor old German or Swede for breach of promise of marriage, and claim £500, and that man and Luie served him with a bogus writ, and managed to get out of him £60 or £80. Our chairman knew all about this, for he himself was in the swim." Plaintiff compained [sic] that defendant charged him with an indictable offence, and that his reputation had been considerably injured thereby. Damages were laid at £1000.

The plaintiff's case having been concluded, the defendant was called, and stated that when he him as the plaintiff at Watts's Hotel on the evening of the 3rd June, he was invited into the bar parlour at defendant's request. There were about 10 persons in the parlour, and a conversation took place in regard to the confession of the Tichborne Claimant, and, seeing the there that a debate on the subject was likely to take place, defendant suggest that the plaintiff should take the chair, which he consented to do. While a reference was being made to Cresswell and Jean Luie, defendant expressed his disbelief in the theory which had been started respecting Cresswell. He also made some reference to a the matrimonial agency which had been kept by plaintiff, and said that he had frequently seen Luie at his place. Subsequently, in conversation with a man named McCulloch about the case of eight German or Swede named Talegrin, if he gave a short history of the case. He also said that he believed that Luie was not the worst person implicated, as when he (Keating) arrested him he had no money in his possession. He also used the expression that he believed someone else was "in the swim," and that he had a warrant for another man who was never arrested. Plaintiff had immediately had jumped up from his chair, took out his pocketbook, and said, "I have got you now, Mr. Keating; I will report you for that." One or two gentlemen assured plaintiff that defendant had said nothing against him, and that his name had not even been mentioned. Plaintiff was also accused of causing a break in the harmony of the meeting, which then broke up. He (witness) never said that the plaintiff had been concerned in a conspiracy with Luie, and such a the thought had never occurred to him; nor did he say that plaintiff was "in the swim." He never told Talegrin anything to that effect.

Two his Honor: He had practically stated all that took place at the gathering. Subsequently, when the plaintiff served the writ upon him, if defendant said to him, jocularly, "I thought it was a fiver." He also said something to the effect that he supposed a fiver was wanted, and that plaintiff rubbed his hands and replied "That is the way he had to talk," and then went away. Plaintiff, upon being recalled, however, denied that anything of the kind occurred between him and defendant.

Counsel having addressed the Court, his Honor summed up, and the jury, after a few minutes' consideration, returned a verdict for defendant.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University