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Colonial Cases

R v. O'Brien, 1864

[murder - robbery]

R. v. O'Brien

Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: The North-China Herald, 8 October 1864



Before Sir H. PARKES, K.C.B., H.B.M. Consul.

Shanghai. Oct. 4th, 1864.


JOHN SMITH O'BRIEN, having been placed in the dock, acknowledged that he was a British subject, and stated that he had formerly been a shoemaker.  He had been in Shanghai for only four years.

The charge against the prisoner was then read as follows:

That JOHN SMITH O'BRIEN, being a British subject, without particular employment, did, in company with another foreigner named Curtis, on or about the 16th of September last, murder or was accessory to the murder of a certain Chinese, and within the same month  did commit divers acts of robbery or larceny.

Mr. EAMES watched the case for the prisoner.

CHANG A-SHUN, a servant on board at the time of the alleged murder, LEEN YO, the sister of the woman kept by O'Brien, LIN LAI-Kuo, a boatman, and TUN A-SHI, the woman who lived with the prisoner, were brought into Court, and identified O'Brien as the man who committed the murder.  TSUN A-Lo stated that the prisoner had hired a boat from him, and started with him on the 1st ultimo for Hoochow.  TA-YING said: - I was a boatman on board.  I recognize the prisoner.  Tsun A-lo is the owner of the boat.  I only work in it.

CHANG A-SHUN said: - I am a servant in the employ of the prisoner and of another foreigner named Captain Curtis, an American.  I was employed for four months by Captain Curtis, when he was in command of the steamer Sycee. I was again employed by him on the 28th day odf the seventh month.  I acted in the capacity of boy at $15 a month.  I served the prisoner also.  I was told by Captain Curtis to go to Hoochow to see a steamer there.  We left Shanghai on the 2nd day of the 8th month.  There were on board the prisoner, Captain Curtis, myself and three boatmen.  I do not know the names of the three boatmen.  I saw two of them here this morning.  We went to Kun-pan and anchored, then prepared to cook some food.  My masters hailed a boat.  The boatmen were unwilling to come but they threatened to fire, and so they came alongside.  My masters took fowls and eggs from that boat and out them into ours.  They afterwards threatened them with their fists when they required payment.  We proceeded and anchored at Lin-chu on the 4th day.  I went and bought some things and then we proceeded to Kin-san.  Here we anchored for the night and sailed again next morning and went to Nan-zing.  We then went to a place about eighteen li from Hoochow, where there was a camp of foreign soldiers.  On the next day we were taken in tow by a steamer called the Hyson.  On the way the steamer grounded, and some heavy things had to be taken out.  At one place the boat was damaged by stakes in the water, and was towed by the steamer to Soochow where we remained for a few days and got the boat repaired.  Two Canton women went with us from Shanghai in the boat.  At one time some officers came on board and my master got drunk, and Captain Curtis' woman was beaten.

It was on the 13th day that we returned to Soochow.  On the way my masters took some firewood out of a boat.  Both boats were sailing and our boat was put alongside the wood boat and the other boatmen were told by my master to put the wood on board our boat.  The boatmen put it on board and I handed it aft.  When we arrived that night at Soochow we anchored at Tseng-mung and I saw a boat with rice in it.  Both my masters went on board the rice boat, and ordered the men to bring the rice into our boat.  They took ten bags.  They took a man belonging to the rice boat and said that he was a rebel, seized and bound him hand and foot and out him into the hold of our boat.  The men in the rice-boat asked for payment and that was the reason why one of them was called a rebel and put into our boat.  This was on the 15th.  On the 16th we went on to Tien-san-hu and anchored at three li beyond the barrier.  I wanted to give the man in the hold some rice, but Captain Curtis told me not to do so, that the man was going to be killed.

After supper, at about midnight, Captain Curtis took the man out of the hold.  I saw Captain Curtis take the man to the head of the boat, give him three stroked with a sword and the man went overboard.  The other foreigner was standing at the head of the boat also.  I saw him stoop down, lift the Chinaman's feet and throw him overboard.  I was smoking a pipe when this occurred.  There was a full moon.  Everything could be seen clearly.  The rope on his legs was loosed and the Captain pulled him to the head of the boat.  Captain Curtis went below and untied the bonding on his legs.  The man struggled and cried from fear, and when he struggled he was kicked.  The prisoner handed a knife and sword to Captain Curtis. (the witness identified the swords.)  He first took the long sword, then put it down and took the short one.  Captain Curtis drew the sword, still holding the man by his tail.  I saw two or three blows inflicted on the man by Captain Curtis.  The other man pushed him overboard. I only saw the two or three blows and then the man disappeared.  I did not see where the sword fell.  The boat was at anchor, and I saw the man carried part the boat by the tide.  I saw my master, Captain Curtis, wipe the sword with a cloth, and then take a mop and wipe the head of the bow of the boat.  Next day I did not see the mop.  I don't know what became of it.  It belonged to the boat before the boat had been hired.  The sword was wiped with a piece of white cloth which I did not see again.  Then both my masters went in, drank brandy and went to sleep.

At day-break we proceeded to Tut-san and arrived at Shanghai on the 19th.  The master of the boat received $20 on coming to Shanghai.  My master gave it to me and I handed it over to the master of the boat.  One of the men belonging to the boat left.  The boat now remains in Shanghai.  The man who left said to the others that since the prisoner did such things, he would leave the boat.  When the man was murdered, the three boatmen were asleep.  One of the women was sitting in the cabin; the other was lying down.  I was smoking, did not go to sleep before day-light, when the boat sailed.  In the 5th month Captain Curtis fired at me with a revolver, and I feel the wound still.  The reason I went back to his employ was that he promised not to beat me again, and that he would give me the half month's pay which he owed me.  A Chinese doctor attended me and took out the ball. When we took the firewood, I was told to lower the sail to allow the firewood-boat to come up with us, and that we might give them the dollar which had been handfed us by the officers in the other boat to give for the fire-wood.  When the rice was taken, a man in the rice-boat said that he was doing a very small business, and if they took the rice that it would ruin him.  They were making a great noise in the rice-boat and one man was taken.  There were four or five men in the rice-boat.  When this man was taken away, the others did not follow him.

To MR. EAMES; - I saw the prisoner take the sword down that day.  I never saw him or any one else take down that sword before.  The little rebel boy used to clean the arms.  I was taken up six days ago.

TO THE COURT: - I never laid a complaint before any mandarin here, but one of the Canton women did make a complaint.  When I came here I thought of reporting the matter, but I knew no one at the Consulate.  I knew a mandarin named Chao Su-yu to whom I went; but he was out, and a few persons I spoke to about the affair, told me that I had better wait until he came back.  The Chinese women could not see what was going on at the head of the boat.  The little boy was lying in the middle of the deck between the two houses.  I do not like my two masters, I was so constantly beaten by them; neither did my masters like me else they would not have flogged me so often.  The man that was dragged out of the rice-boat never left the hold of our boat.

A man named STANLEY was called in, who recognised the witness as having been in the employ of Captain Curtis on board the steamer Sycee.

A LEEN, Canton woman, said: - I am Captain Curtis' girl.  I recollect going to Soochow.  I recollect a rice-boat having been plundered.  Captain Curtis told his servant, Chang A-sung, to hail the rice-boat and tell them that if they did not stop they would be fired into.  Ten bags of rice were taken from the boat and six bags remained.  This was at 11 o'clock.  We then proceeded and anchored at about 12 noon.  Captain Curtis, his servant and the prisoner went on shore; I don't know where they went.  They brought back the man whom they afterwards murdered.  I asked Curtis who the man was; hesaid he was a man whom he had seized at Soochow.  I think we were near Soochow at the time.  The man's feet were made fast by a chain, and he was put into the hold.  We then weighed anchor and proceeded that night to a place which had been formerly occupied by the rebels, as might be seen by the devastation of everything around. At about 8 o'clock, the man was dragged by the tail to the bow of the vessel.  Curtis killed him, holding his tail in one hand and a sword in the other.  One sword - the larger of the two - had a steel scabbard, the other had a leather scabbard.  Curtis struck the man three blows on the neck with the sword.  The head was not entirely severed, but hung by a piece of skin.  The rebel boy was directed by Curtis to bring him the sword, but he hesitated, and Chang A-sung being told to do it, he also seemed disinclined to do so; finally the little rebel boy brought the sword to Curtis.  Curtis told Chang A-sung to wash the bow of the boat, but he would not, and a boatman did it.  We anchored for two days and Curtis plundered a wood boat.  A foreigner, a friend of his, remonstrated with him for not paying for the wood.

Court adjourned.

5th October.

Before any additional evidence was taken, Mr. EAMES protested against the tone of an article which had appeared in that morning's issue of the North-China Daily News, commenting on the conduct of the prisoner.

THE COURT observed that the Editorial remarks pointed out by Mr. Eames seemed premature in the present stage of the proceedings, and would of course not be allowed to affect the mind of the Court as to the character of the prisoner.  The Court could only suppose that such a statement as that contained in the paper must be grounded upon other information than that yet brought to the knowledge of the Court.

Examination of A-LEEN continued: - The foreigner whom I mentioned was determined to pay for the wood, for that reason the sum was lowered.  The foreigner paid the dollar.  More than one dollar's worth of wood was taken.  On September 3rd, the day we left Shanghai, we met a boat with fowls in it and took one basket of fowls.  We went for a cruise from which we returned on the 22nd September.  They wanted to keep me in the boat, so I ran away to my house with my sister Tun A-he.  O'Brien came in search of us.  We hid ourselves.  I tried to procure the assistance of the police, but could not find a constable.  I afterwards saw one in plain clothes.  I told him I was very much afraid of Curtis and O'Brien.

Cross-examined:- The man was killed at the stern of the boat; I do not know the bow from the stern.  I was inside the boat, and Chang A-sung was near the place where the man was killed.  I know where the scull was, and the man was killed near that.  I was lying down asleep when I heard that the man was going to be killed and I jumped up and begged Curtis not to kill him.  The three boatmen ran below and his themselves.  My sister was in a state of intoxication.  The man was brought on board that boat at about 2, and killed at 8 o'clock the same day.  I had some rice cooked for him at about 4 o'clock, and sent it to him by the little rebel boy.  I can't say why the man was brought on board. 

I don't like Captain Curtis, because I now know him to be a very bad man.  I saw that he robbed people constantly, and that he had killed that man, and I thought he might perhaps kill me also.  The chain by which the man was tied belonged to the boat.  The fowls were taken first, then the wood and lastly the rice.  I saw no one taken out of the rice-boat.  We went on towards Shanghai and the rice-boat went towards Soochow.  I can't say much for the speed of our boat.  We went on for about an hour.  When we stopped there were no people. There was one street.  Here, I think, the man was seized.  When Curtis and the prisoner went on shore they said they were going for a walk.  In about two hours they returned, Chang A-Sung holding the man by the tail, and Curtis and the prisoner following.  (Witness described the man's appearance.)  He told me he did not know why he was seized.  I understood him a little.  He might have been a Shanghai man by his voice.  Curtis called out not to give him anything to eat.  The ten bags of rice were brought to Shanghai, put into a sampan on the day of arrival (I think, the 18th September) and carried away.

TOW-TA-YUNG, one of the prisoner's boatmen: - I receive one hundred cash a say from Tsun-a-low, top whom the boat belongs.  Our boat did leave Shanghai with two foreigners on board, on the 2nd day of the 8th month.  I identify the prisoner as the man who hired the boat.  He hired it first to go to Soochow, thence to Hoochow, and to Tsung-chang (?) which is about 20 li from Hoochow.  When we came to Tow-pan there was a boat with fowls in it.  The foreigners beckoned it to come alongside.  It would not come, and one of the foreigners pointed a gun and ordered it co come alongside.  It came; the foreigners went on board, and took ten chickens and seventy three eggs. The man wanted money, the foreigners refused to give it.  He followed us nearly to Hoochow, more than 200 le.The guns were loaded after we passed Tow-pan.  The foreigners told the men to go away and pointed a gun at them, whereupon they went.  Nothing further happened until we arrived at Tsung-chang.  They then went to Soochow, where they stayed two or three days.  They then went to Su-su-quei, stopped there a little time and returned to Soochow.  On their way, they saw a boat vwhich they pursued.  They overtook it and took about two peculs and a half of firewood.  They then told the boat to go away; and old woman and boy who were in the boat began to cry.  There was an old man besides.  The foreigners, gave us orders to make sail.  There were three foreigners in another boat alongside, these foreigners told us to let down the sail in order that the wood boat might come up.  But one of the foreigners in our own boat beat us for doing so; he threw a bason at me.  The wood boat came up and one odf the three foreigners in the other boat gave the old woman a dollar, when she left off crying.  After passing Soochow, in company with [the other] foreigners, the two boats went to Tsee-ai-dong, and the three foreigners left in their boat the next morning. (In reply to a question by the Court, the prisoner here said that the names of the foreigners in the other boat were Col. Brennan, Col. Barclay and Captain Silverthorn; formerly of the Imperial force.)

We anchored at Tsee-ai-dong on the evening of 17th.  We next came to Pun-chung-oo.  A rice boat passed alongside of us here, sailing in an opposite direction.  The foreigners went on board and took the rice into their own boat.  They also pulled in one of the men from the rice boat, and put him in a hole in the bow of the boat.  The next morning he was not there, and I was told by the boy that he had been killed by the master.  I was asleep during the night.  I did not see him killed.  We got back to Shanghai on the 19th.

To MR. EAMES: - I do not know whether the foreigners tied the man who was draghged out of the rice-boat.  He was put into a hole and covered up.  The man was not willing to let our boat go, after taking the rice, without payment.  He pulled at our boat and the foreigners dragged him in.  I saw a very little blood, as if a man had been bleeding at the nose.  I saw it after we arrived at Shanghai - on the bow of the boat.  This was about four days afterwards.  The woman left the boat finally on the 26th or 27th.  The two boats kept alongside while the wood was being taken out; when they had taken enough, they let it go.  The rice was taken out of the boat in a sampan, two or three days after we got to Shanghai.  The foreigners took the rice out of the boat themselves.  The bags contained about 80 catties each.

TO COURT: - I saw the man taken out of the rice boat.  It was a country-boat, covered in the middle.  I saw a man in it.  I do not know whether the rice belonged to the man who was dragged into our boat.  The rice-boat was slower than ours.  After taking he rice and the man, the boats separated, and went in different directions.  The men in the rice-boat said nothing about the rice and the man being taken away.  The man belonged to the neighbourhood of Pun-sun-oo.  I know by his dialect.  I heard him say that he depended on selling his rice to get his livelihood.  Both the foreigners dragged him into our boat.  I don't know whether the rice belonged to him alone.  There were no other boats there. The man was dressed in a blue jacket and drawers.  He was older than I am. I am thirty years old.  He had no hair.  I was in the bow and the man was in the stern.  On the night of the 17th I went to sleep, after I got my supper, and awoke at midnight.  I did not get up, I saw nobody.  I don't know what became of the mop.  I recollect washing the deck at 9 o'clock on the morning of the 18th.  There was a little blood.  The first day I was ordered to wipe, I was nor inclined to do it; on the second day I did it.  I think the blood was blood from the nose.  Chicken's blood being different from human blood and there being no other traces of blood on board, I inferred that it was human blood from the nose.  There was a man there whose nose used to bleed at the least touch.  I don't think it bled on the 18th.  I don't know what blood it was.  It was dry.  I think it had been there for two days.  I seldom went to the bow of the boat; when we used to land we went from the stern.  I am one of the boatmen.  From Pun-sun-oo, we came to Minhong and thence to Shanghai.  We came to Cung-shiang-hong when we came to Shanghai.  The rice was taken out if the boat three days after our arrival, at 7 o'clock in the evening.  Two foreigners took it out.  They lifted the bags up themselves and out them into another boat.  I was asleep at the time.  The reason I went to sleep so early was that I had been playing on shore.

STANLEY BENNETT was called, and said that witness had told him the previous day that he was asleep and in the morning saw blood on the deck and washed it off.

SHUN A-LO said: - I am the lowda of the boat.  The boat belongs to me.  I recognise the prisoner as one of the foreigners who hired the boat.  They hired it to go to Soochow.  I went to the boat-tax office and paid a dollar, and a Chinese clerk there named Li told me not to go.  The foreigners forced me to go.  I did not wish to go but the foreigners pulled my anchor and forced me.  Before Li came out they engaged to pay me $15 to go to Soochow.  I got $3 ½ when the boat started.  We started on the 2nd and came to Ton-pan, after which we saw a boat with fowls in it.  The prisoner took ten fowls in a basket and seventy three eggs.  The fowls were not paid for.  We then came to Lu-chin.  Here the boatmen went on shore and got some things for which they paid.  At Sung-tsan there was a steamer, and against the will of the people in the steamer, we tied our boat to her.  The steamer towed us to Ping-wong and thence we went on to Soochow.  We stayed at Soochow for three days.

We went on to another place where we stayed three days and returned to Soochow.  We met a firewood-boat, and took some wood without paying for it.  There were three persons in the boat; a man, a woman and a child.  We wanted to let down the sail but the foreigners would not let us.  At Kwang-wang-ko I was sick and asleep, and some rice was taken from a boat.  A boy called me but I did not get up.  A-sung told me that some rice had been taken from another boat and that a man had also been taken.  We proceeded to Shanghai, nothing remarkable happening on the way, and arrived there on the 19th.  Ten bags of rice were taken by the foreigners, as I was told by A-sung.  The bags were put in the bow of the boat.  There was a good deal of noise made in passing in the bags.  This was in the evening at about supper time.  Ity was nearly dark at the time.  I also heard the noise of pulling a man in.  The noise was different from that of pulling the bags in.  A-sung called me, and told me that a certain affair had happened.  I heard two or three noises a short time after the bags were taken in.  If I were dragged from none boat to another I should scream.  I heard the man call out "What are you pulling me into the boat for." A very short time after this I heard him call out "Save my life."  I did not save his life.  If I had saved his life I should have been beaten.  I was sick and unable to get up.  Sometimes when fighting or quarrelling, Chinamen called out "Tiou-ming, tiou-ming" in the same way.  I heard no other cry. 

We finally got back to Shanghai.  We only got $ 3 ½.  The rice was taken away in a sampan.  I never saw it at all.  I lay down below for five days without ever getting up.  There was another louda on board.  He is sixty years old.  I gave him $2.  His name is Saou-tu-te.  I never saw his nose bleed.  I don't know where he is now.

Cross-examined:- The people that sold the eggs counted them, expecting to get paid.  (The servant, A-sung, being called in, identified witness as louda of the boat.)  I was afraid of my own head.  My boat was not in the habit of being engaged in this way; it was generally used for carrying grain.  Saou Tu-te never quarrelled with me or with A-sung.

TUN A-HE: - The prisoner kept me for less than a month.  He engaged me just before we went to Soochow.  We mat a fowl-boat on the way and a basket of fowls was taken; I don't know how many were in the basket.  Nothing else was taken.  At first, in order to bring the boat alongside, they promised to pay for it, but when it came up, took as much as they wanted.  The old woman in the wood-boat cried so much that another foreigner gave her $1.  I heard that the man was going to be killed, but I was dosed with brandy and know nothing about it.  The man was dragged from the shore by the two foreigners, near Soochow.  As we proceeded, a rice-boat was plundered at about 2 p.m.  The man was taken from the shore before this. (Witness then contradicted herself and said she believed that the rice was taken previous to bringing the man off from the boat.)

A rebel boy belonging to the boat said: - I know the prisoner.  He was on board the boat.  I came from Hoochow in the steamer, and when I arrived at Soochow, joined the foreigners in the small boat.  I r an away from the rebels at Huchow.  We went on to different places and returned to Soochow, whence, after staying for a day, we proceeded to Shanghai.  We took some bags of rice and a man from a boat.  The foreigners told the boatmen to take the rice. Five or six boatmen took the rice.  In out boat there were three boatmen and one gone home.  The foreigners told the men in the rice-boat to bring the rice from their boat.  The foreigners told them that they would kill them if they did not bring the rice.  The foreigners said that all the men in the boat were rebels, and seized one of them and out him into our boat.  There were five or six men in the rice-boat.  On the night of the 16th they killed this man.  The man was taken on the night of the 15th, and he was put in the hold for a day and a night.  Chang A-sung wanted to give him some rice to eat, but his master (not the prisoner) told him not to don so.  I did not see the man being killed.  I was lying awake at the time.  I heard Curtis coming in and taking out the two swords.  The swords were in the house.  The man was pushed over board.  I heard a plunge.  There was a door open, and by looking through I could see what was going on.  I saw the man killed.  I saw my master take a mop which he had brought from the after part of the boat and wash the blood off the deck.  This was immediately after the man had been thrown overboard.  My master called out to A-sung to wash away the blood.  I asked A-sung what he wanted the mop for.  A-sung said, to wipe up blood, and he would not do it.  On the next day a fowl-boat was called from which ten fowls and seventy three eggs were taken.  We then came on to Shanghai.  We took the fowls and eggs a day or two before we came to Shanghai.

Cross-examined:- When the man was killed, A-sung was smoking in the after part of the boat.  The man was killed in the fore-part.  I was inside.  At Shanghai the rice in the boat was put on board a sampan, in the day time.

We are compelled to postpone publication of the evidence for the defence till next week.

Source: The North-China Herald, 15 October 1864


Before Sir H. PARKES, K.C.B., H.B.M. Consul.


In re O'BRIEN.

The evidence for the prosecution in this case was published in last Saturday's North-Chinas Herald.  We now reprint the prisoner's statement, and the evidence put in for the defence.

October 6th.

The COURT asked the Prisoner whether he wished to say anything in reply to the charge which had been brought against him, giving him at the same time the usual caution.

The prisoner wished to know whether the Court wanted him to give a full account of his journey.

The COURT declined to express a wish.  Several serious charges had been brought against the prisoner, and it was at his option to reply to them.

The Prisoner denied both the robbery and the murder, and proceeded to make the following statement: - I and Captain Curtis left Shanghai on the 2nd September.  We were pretty merry when we left, and I went to sleep till the next morning, when we awoke I found we were above Min-hong.  When I awoke, I went down to get some lemonade, and saw some fowls there.  I asked the boy how they came there, and he said Captain Curtis had given him two dollars to buy them out of a passing boat.  When the flood tide made we went on, and I saw a boat coming on.  The boy said it was a boat which wanted a tow, as we had a sail.  I said nothing, but the boatmen would not allow it.  (Prisoner gave a sketch of his trip, nearly to Hoo-chow, where they met the Hyson, and were invited on board.)  The next morning Captain Davidson gave us a tow to Soochow; we stopped at a stockade for three or four days.  The boat had been stove, and we repaired her as well as we could.  Some friends came up there, and we all left together.

Four or five li from Su-su-quei the boy told us that there was no wood to cook dinner.  His master told him to wait until he got further down. There was a boat going past, and the boy called to it.  It would not come.  A short distance further there was another boat, and the boy went into it and took some wood, having told the boatmen to make fast the two boats.  The boy got about a pecul and a half or two peculs.  I was not near the wood boat, but was in the fore part.  The boy was asked how much wood he had taken; and said about 700 cash worth.  Captain Curtis replied we have no cash.  The string with which the boats were lashed was very slight, and carried away with the force of our sailing.  The old man in the boat called out to our boatmen to lower the sail till he could come up.  The boy told him to pull on to Soochow, and they would find the boat alongside the steamer.  (The Court here wanted to know how the prisoner understood him.  Prisoner said he had mentioned what happened so far as he understood Chinese, repeating several sentences).  I am not sure whether Captain Curtis asked Col. Brennan to give a dollar.  At any rate the boat stopped till the wood boat came up, and Col. Brennan paid a dollar. 

We went to Soochow that evening and staid the next day.  On the afternoon of that day, the boy went into the city to buy some rice.  We then left and went in company with Col. Brennan's boar to a place where the boy was sent ashore to get some eggs.  He came back and said he could get none.  We went on, and one of the women made some noise at Col. Brennan, and Col. Brennan got angry, put his things in his own boat and left.  They were in sight of us until nearly dark.  We anchored that night on account of the tide, in a large lake.  Captain Curtis told the boatmen to keep watch, as there were a number of thieves about in that neighborhood who might come on board during the night; they hung round there watching people who went to the silk country.  We left again after the moon got up, on account of the mosquitoes.  We anchored a short distance farther on, but weighed again in the morning and came down as far as Min-hong.  The evening I believe was darkish.  Captain Curtis and the boy went ashore at Min-hong.  I was not perfectly sober and went to sleep.  I did not wake till 4 a.m.  The boy told me the next morning that some rice and eggs had been bought.  We got under weigh and passed the Custom house station.  I called out to the Custom house officer as we passed, and we came down alongside the Maria and made fast to her.  I went on shore and did not go on board till night.

WILLIAM BRENNAN. - I formerly held the rank of Colonel in Gordon's force.  I saw O'Brien for the first tome about a month ago.  I left here on the 8th Sept., and to the best of my recollection saw him on the 11th or 12th.  Our boats were in company two nights and three days; sometimes I was on board their boat, sometimes in my own.  Barclay and Silverthorn were with me.  We left Su-su-quei, I think on the 13th, to proceed to Soochow; we stayed on board O'Brien and Curtis' boat while they towed us.  We passed a small sampan loaded with firewood.  The boy called Curtis' attention to it, saying he had none.  Curtis said we may as well get it here as anywhere else; lower the sail.  This was done, to allow the small boat to come alongside.  As soon as it did so, the boy told the people in it to pass out the wood into the large boat.  Barclay at the rime was lying asleep, and I went below.  I heard a noise, and came up to ask what was the matter, and Silverthorn sais they had taken the wood, and it was a d----d shame the country people should have their property taken in that way without being paid for.  I said, so it is, go to my box, take out a dollar, and give it to them.  He did so, and I called out to lower the sail; the boat was going so fast that small boat could not come up.  Silverthorn went forward to do so; but the boy was doing it.  I told him to give the dollar to the old woman and ask if she was satisfied; she chin-chinned and went away, and I heard no more about it.  That night I made fast my boat alongside the Hyson, where I staid for two days.  I then left for Shanghai, and saw nothing more of O'Brien or Curtis until I had been two or three days in Shanghai.  I was given to understand they came away about the same time that we did; but I saw nothing of them after we started.

To Mr. EAMES: - The boat was called alongside.  There was no threat; the boat was called and it came.  The boatmen passed the wood out of the boat and the boy received it.  I went below and came on deck again, on account of the uproar.  The old man in the wood-boat was holding on to the large boat by one hand, when I went below.  Both Curtis and O'Brien called the boat.  The woman appeared satisfied with the dollar.

TO COURT: - Curtis did not ask me to pay the dollar.  I merely gave it because I thought the wood had been taken wrongly.  Curtis and O'Brien were both standing on deck doing nothing.  They must have seen all that occurred.  Silverthorn looked our and made the remark I have mentioned, in reply to my question, what was the matter.  The sampan was then 60 or 70 yards astern.  If she had slipped astern by accident, the sail could have been lowered.  I did not see either Curtis or O'Brien interfere with any one lowering the sail, Curtis made no remark when I paid the dollar, nor afterwards; neither did O'Brien.  It took us about two hours, or a little more, to go to Soochow, from where the wood boat was.

The Court wished to express its approval of Col. Brennan's conduct in paying the dollar, when he saw the poor old woman being injured.  It was highly important in dealing witrh the Chinese whom we considered so much below us, that we should show them that we possessed the superior civilization we professed to have.  The Court was very glad to find that Col. Brennan had shewn his sense of right, by acting as he did.

ALFRED SILVERTHORN: - I recollect being in O'Brien's company, during a journey from Su-su-quei on the 13th September.  I had known Curtis when in command of the Sycee.  He asked us what we had been up for, and I told him that we had been to see a mandarin, and that we were going back to Soochow.  He took our boat in tow, in passing up the Grand Canal.  We saw a wood boat which was hailed.  She came alongside and a quantity of wood was taken out.  After it was taken, sail was made, and the boat was cast off.  I was on deck the whole time.  The man and woman on board the wood boat were crying, and I said, it's a great shame that they should be treated in this way.  I then lowered the sail of the boat; we were about 100 yards ahead, at the time.  I made this remark to Col. Brennan, and he said - Get a dollar out of my box.  I did so, and it was given to some one on board to give to the people to whom the wood belonged.

To Mr. EAMES: - I did not see the small boat cast off by any one.  I merely saw her leave.  I am not sure that the boy was not on board the wood boat.  I think Curtis said, I'll shoot the fellow if he does not come alongside.  I did not see any demonstrations of shooting made.

TO COURT: - I did not leave the deck at all during the whole time.  I am not certain whether Brennan was on deck the whole time.  He was so at the moment I lowered the sail.  Curtis was booking the wood as it came in, in a large book, which appeared to be a cash book.  O'Brien was on deck the whole time; but did not appear to have much to do with it.  As soon as I had lowered the sail, Curtis said - Who lowered that sail?  That's you Silverthorn - you're a d----d fool.  I did not hear O'Brien make any remark.  We then went on to Soochow, which place we left together on the afternoon of the 16th.  We then left the others at a village on a lake some little distance from Soochow.

The Court expressed its approbation of the course of conduct pursued by Mr. Silverthorn and his friends, and recommended them to continue to treat the Chinese with justice and forbearance if they wished to succeed in establishing satisfactory relations with the natives.

Mr. EAMES drew the attention of the Court to the fact that all the witnesses spoke of Curtis and not of O'Brien as the prominent man in the alleged murder and robbery.  All orders seemed to have been given by Curtis, and O'Brien considered himself as merely a passenger on board. The statements made as to where the murdered man came from were utterly irreconcilable one with another, as were also the descriptions given of his appearance.  Moreover, there would seem to have been a total absence of any motive sufficient to suggest the perpetration of so atrocious a crime.  We have often heard of men so hardened as to have lost all accurate perception of right and wrong, but a totally unprovoked assault resulting in the commission of the highest offence known to the law could hardly be adduced.  The testimony as to the man's position at the time of his death and the relative positions of the persons in the boat, was most conflicting, differing by so much even as the entire length of the boat.  As to the other charges made against the prisoner, the Court would perhaps believe that the want of motive did not possess so much weight.  The point, however, is especially to be noted as making a remarkable alteration in the legal weight of the prisoner's guilt.  All the witnesses agree as to the number of eggs taken, viz: seventy three, which is only explainable on the supposition that the person on board counted the eggs out carefully, thinking that payment was to be made.  But in this case the offenbce committed was no longer robbery with violence; it was an offence which, although morally no less reprehensible, was at the same time less criminal in the eye of the law.  It was in fact a fraud as distinguished from a robbery.

With respect to the wood taken from the boat, O'Brien had little or nothing to say to the matter.  He, as he has stated, considering himself rather as a passenger than as one of the crew, no doubt believed that Brennan was going to pay.  Curtis seeing Brennan giving the dollar may also have been satisfied that the owners of the wood had been remunerated, and it was therefore not likely that he would have made an y unnecessary delay.  But this affords no proof even of an intention to defraud, much less to commit a violent and unprovoked outrage.  Some stress had been laid by the Court on that fact that no attempt was made to repay the dollar advanced by Brennan to pay for the wood.  But the Court would picture to itself the friendly, indeed almost family, way in which these men were living together, and it was quite probable that the laws of meum and tuum were not fully understood or followed out.  On a calm revision of the very unsatisfactory evidence adduced, the Court would doubtless come to the conclusion that there was no sufficient proof against the prisoner to warrant even a committal for trial before the Supreme Court of Hongkong.

Sir HARRY PARKES addressed the prisoner, and informed him that he was remanded until further evidence could be obtained sufficiently to enable the Court to decide whether he should be sent for trial to Hongkong on the charges of murder and robbery, or summarily dealt with here on the simple charge of robbery.

The Court then adjourned sine die.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School