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Colonial Cases

R. v. Keechil, 1870


R. v. Keechil

Supreme Court of China and Japan
17 May 1870
Source: The North-China Herald, 19 May 1870



SUPREME COURT            .

Before Sir E. HORNBY, and a Jury.

May 17th, 1870.

R. v.  G. KEECHIL.

   Prisoner was charged with the wilful murder of a woman, a native of Canton, on the 18th of April last, in a house No. 290 Woosung Road.

   The following Jury was empaneled: - H. Knight; C. J. Harvey; Barnes Dallas; W. Cheshire; G. Baker.

   Inspector STRIPLING conducted the prosecution; and Mr. Kelly, master of the sailors' Home, and a Malay scholar, was asked by the Court to watch the case on behalf of the prisoner.

   Mr. KELLY asked the prisoner if he objected to any of the jury.  No objection.  The indictment was read to the prisoner, who pled not guilty.

   Mr. BISHOP was sworn in as Malay Interpreter.

   TAIMUN, a little Chinese girl, was put in the witness box.  Tried to make her understand the nature of an oath.  She did not know God, nor did she know an idol.  She believed, however, that if she told a lie, joss would kill her.

   Mr. KELLY objected that this witness did not understand the nature of an oath, and that she was of tender years.

   His LORDSHIP - What age.

   Inspector STRIPLING said she was thirteen.

   Witness was allowed to proceed to tell what she saw.  On the 18th of April, cooked rice in the kitchen, and was carrying it up stairs.  Her mother and sister were up-stairs.  It was about half past three.  While carrying the rice, she heard some row downstairs - the prisoner and deceased quarrelling.  She looked down, and saw the prisoner take a knife in his hand.  Prisoner was standing just under, at the foot of the stairs.  The man was chasing the woman, who ran under the stairs.  Prisoner caught the woman under the stairs, and stabbed her dead.  Witness could see from where she was right, underneath the stairs.  It was close top the door of the kitchen.  Then he dragged the woman out, and took her to his room.  He put the woman on the bed.  Witness went downstairs, directly prisoner had stabbed the woman.  Her mother was lying down in the bed, and got up when she heard the noise.  The woman did not make any noise. She groaned simply.  Witness saw nothing when she went down.  She stood and looked on, and did nothing.  The woman was in the prisoner's bed; the prisoner was sitting in the bed beside her.  About this time, a great number of people came in.  Presently a policeman came and burst open the door.  When she first came down, there was nobody there, but almost immediately the people come in.  The door was locked.  The knife was a sailor's knife; and prisoner had it in his right hand, and holding the woman with the other hand gave her a downward blow.  Did not see where she was struck; but blood dropping from her sleeve.  Did not see how often the blow was repeated, but his hand was moving in a "chopping" way.  Was quite sure it was the prisoner.  Knew the prisoner some time; lived in the same house.  He had a red shirt on, with black spots, and a gray pair of trousers with stripes.  Identified these articles.  He had the knife; it was a little bent, and somewhat new.  Shown several; did not think any of them the one used, but one resembled it closely.  After he dragged away the woman from the place where he stabbed her, witness' relatives came downstairs.

   Prisoner, through Mr. Kelly - It might be 5 or 10 days that she stayed in the house with the prisoner, since his last return to it.  She didn't know if any other quarrel took place between them.  Had not seen this woman drunk, nor know of she was in the habit of drinking.  Sometimes she did so, and sometimes not. 

   Dr. MACGOWAN was deceased at the Hongkew police station.  She was dead - the body cold.  I found a wound descending from the clavicle, piercing into the upper substance of the lobe of the right lung.  Wound was about two inches long, and gaping about an inch.  It was a wound to cause death; there were no others.  It was such a wound as would be inflicted by a person standing above.  The deceased was middle-aged and healthy.  The large bronchial tubes were severed.  It would have been impossible to save her.

   Prisoner wished to ask the doctor whether any smell of spirits was perceptible.

   Witness - She might or might not have been drinking, but he had not found that. 

   To his Lordship. - Knew nothing of these people; had little practice among Malays.  Their general character was vindictive, rash.

   AMUN - Was a Mahomedan and a true believer.  Believed God would punish her for telling a lie.  She was sworn by putting the koran to her forehead.  Deposed - Her daughter woke her to take her food.  She had been asleep, and had just awoke, but not got out of bed.  At the time her daughter called her, she also told her that the prisoner was quarrelling.  She heard the noise and went downstairs.  She saw the murdered woman on a chair.  The noise she heard was someone screaming.  Knew the voice to be that of deceased.  She merely said, Oh!  When she was going downstairs her daughter told her nothing, but on the way told her to be careful, that the prisoner had a knife, and had stabbed the woman.  The first thing she saw, downstairs, was blood on the right hand of the prisoner, who was standing close to the woman, outside prisoner's room, on a bamboo chair.  Did nothing and said nothing.  Deceased was crying out with pain.  Prisoner said nothing till witness was going out, and he then asked her where she was going.  She said nowhere in particular; and he asked if she was going for a policeman, but she replied no, and getting frightened went up stairs again.  Prisoner caught hold of her by the sleeve, when he thought she was going out, in order to prevent her.  Saw blood running down the woman's arm.  The man did not take the woman into the room till she went upstairs.  There was no other person in the room.  Identified clothes worn by prisoner.  Did not see the knife.  Knew prisoner about 10 months off and on.  He was frequently absent from Shanghai.  Knew the deceased a little in Hongkong - for what time could not say. The last time, prisoner had been more than a month in Shanghai, and had been from his ship for ten days; to the present day it would be more than a month.  Saw the woman lying at the station.  She was then covered up.

   By Mr. KELLY. - Didn't know who deceased stayed with in Hongkong.  After meals, deceased was in the habit of taking samshu.  Four months previous to the prisoner's return, the woman had lived in that house and no man came to see her.  During the day deceased was away, selling, and came home at night.  Did not know if deceased gambled; but thought she had not any money to do so with.  Heard no previous quarrelling.  They woman had hardly money to buy her food, but prisoner when he came paid her debts.  When witness went upstairs, saw prisoner leave the house with a cup in his hand.  He returned with it, and something in it like opium, and went into his room.  Just as the prisoner was going to drink, she saw one of his boarders outside, and sang out, to come in and help her to take away the cup.  She snatched the cup and threw it outside; and by this time a great crowd came into the house.  Didn't know if prisoner was drunk the previous day.  She saw prisoner removing the body.  Her daughter, last witness, was 13.

   Mr. EDWARDS, sworn, deposed - Remember the occasion.  On the 18th of that month, while having tea, heard some noise next door, like somebody being thrown downstairs.  Heard no more at the time, but in a few seconds some hollering outside.  Went out to see what was the matter, and saw the man.  Did not see his face, but saw his arms.  The woman was holding on to the stairs with her left hand, and the right side of her face and her shoulder all blood.  Saw the man's head and he had on a Scotch cap.  The man pulled the woman into the room; and I went away, hearing no more noise.   There was a man with me who went to the window, and said it must be the one who had hurt the woman.  It was the prisoner.  When he had got his errand he went back, and a lot of old women who live there were about the house.  Two little girls were at the top of the stairs and saw all that wert on.  Kept watch at the window till the police came, and wondered that nobody reported.  If prisoner went out must have seen him.  Saw no other man till after the policeman came.

   Cross-examined. - Saw no other man in the same dress.  Plenty there afterwards, but differently spotted shirts.  I went in with policeman No. 39, and was close to the other men and the spots were different.

   By His Lordship. - Heard quarrelling going on about four o'clock that morning.

   JOHN ADDISON, sworn, deposed - remember the occasion.  Was in the house, about six, and heard a scream; and Mr. Edwards went to the door and said there was a case of stabbing.  Saw a man come out of next door whose shirt was all bloody.  Identified clothes.

   Sergeant DUNCAN, sworn - Remember being called to a house, No. 15 Woosung Road, about 15 minutes past six in the evening.  It was reported that a Malay had stabbed a woman.  I went to the house; and found prisoner in the room where the woman was lying on the bed.  There were people in the house, and they said prisoner was not the man, but that the man was upstairs.  I went upstairs, and there was no man there.  When I came down, the prisoner was changing his trousers.  I took him to the Station.  He was very much intoxicated, and by the time he reached there, quite helpless.  I left the constable in charge of the house and to look for the knife.  I took the shirt prisoner wore off him, while he was lying in the cell.  Identified.  Visited prisoner three times, between the time he was taken and 11 o'clock, and smelt samshu in the cell each time.  I asked why he stabbed the woman.  He said the woman wanted to die, and he wanted to die also.  The woman gave a sigh about 20 or 30 yards from the station, but was dead when she reached there.  I returned to the house, to try and get the knife, but was not present when the knife was found.

   Cross-examined. - Prisoner was very drunk.  It took about five minutes to bring him to the station.  I knew nothing about the opium.  He appeared to be drunk when changing his trousers.  He must have been drinking some time before that.

   Constable BARKER, sworn, deposed - On the 18th of April, his attention was drawn by a crowd of women, outside the house occupied by the prisoner.  He asked what was the matter and they said they did not know.  He then asked some men who were near, and they could not tell; but he was told by a European that a woman had been stabbed by a Malay.  Went to the door, and found it locked, but forced it open.  Found a place partitioned off; and saw prisoner lying in a bed - the woman in his arms.  Witness placed his hand on the woman's shoulder, and found it wet; and that there was a stream of blood flowing from it.  Asked prisoner if he had stabbed her.  Prisoner said no; the man who had done it had run away.  The woman was then insensible. Told prisoner he must come to the police station.  Went outside and saw a lot ort Manilla men and Malays, who had come about; but they would give no information as to the affair.  Called some coolies, but they were afraid to come near the house.  At the back of the house found a ladder smeared with blood.  Took it into the house where the prisoner was.  Found the trousers which the prisoner had put off at the back of the bed.

   Mr. KELLY said, in the first place, prisoner had brought the woman from Hongkong.  He lent her money, and gave her all he earned to keep.  She drank and gambled it all away; and there was evidence to prove that he had given her as large sum of money, which disappeared so quickly thst he had to look for a ship within seven days.  He gave her $190, and, a few days after, asked her for some free dollars.  She said it was all spent, and when he quarreled with her for spending it, she confessed; and she said that if he had not come back then, she was going with another man who had made an offer of 7 months' wages.  When out in the dusk, one night, he heard his name mentioned; and he was being laughed and jeered at, for keeping up a woman who spent all his money and went with other men.  Next day he went to the house, somewhat in liquor.  He quarreled with the deceased; and went out, and got more drunk.  When he returned, the quarrel was renewed; but he was in such a state a not to know whether he had stabbed the woman.  Mr. Kelly would bring evidence on behalf of the prisoner, to prove that he had given the woman large sums of money; that she was a gambler and drunkard; and that, while prisoner was at sea a row occurred in front of the house, which was caused by jealousy on her account among some lascars.

   LEWIS, sworn, deposed - Knew that the dead woman drank a little.  They all got tight sometimes.  She was a prostitute.  Almost all the Canton women were prostitutes, and drank and gambled.  Saw a row, while prisoner was at sea, opposite her door.  Asked about it, and found it arose through jealousy.  Knew the prisoner was of average good character.  Only knew him a few months.  Sometimes saw the woman drunk, but could not from personal knowledge say she gambled.  Saw the prisoner get his money on his discharge, when he got about $190.

   CASSIM - Ghaut Serang - Knew deceased. She was a prostitute, and fond of drinking and of gambling.  Knows the prisoner had to get the money spoken of, as he paid it to him; and also knew that he gave it to this woman.  He complained to witness that it was not more than 7 days since he had given this money, and she had spent it all.  Witness said never mind; take it easy; and go and earn more.  He shipped on the "Confucius" after that for two months, for which he was paid $50.  The woman got it all.  Knows that because prisoner was living about 3 doors from my house.  The woman lived in a house of mine, and I turned her out, because she was fond or drinking and gambling.  Prisoner's adopted step-daughter lived in the house.

   By prosecutor. - Knew for a fact, that she was a prostitute.  So long as she was in want, I said I would feed her and keep her in prisoner's absence, but not if she kept trying on games.  Prisoner had a wife and children in Hongkong.  A Malay might keep a dozen.

   LIYAH, step-daughter of prisoner.  Knew ship and that for serving on her prisoner got $200.  He gave it to the woman.  Her father said, in about 7 days, that his money was all gone.  Lived in the same house with this woman about a month.

   Mr. KELLY said that was his case.  He would ask his lordship, and the Jury, to take into consideration the time and circumstances attending the crime; which appeared in quite a different aspect when they remembered that the prisoner belonged - he said to Penang, but they all claimed to come from Penang or Singapore.  Prisoner was a Javanese, and the nature of connubial connection in that country should be taken into account - that for the least hint of infidelity the punishment was death.  The fact was the man was a savage, and knew no better.  He had seen this practice up till manhood, and now he was tried by other laws than the savage customs of his own country.

   His Lordship then charged the Jury.  The prisoner, his lordship said, was charged with the murder of a woman, who stood in relation to him of half housekeeper, half mistress.  There could be little doubt, notwithstanding the discrepancies which appeared in the evidence of the child and its mother, that it was the prisoner's hand that inflicted the wounds that caused death.      

   The discrepancies his lordship referred to, he would point out.  The child said that her mother was asleep, and she was taking up rice to her, and before she got to the room she heard the scuffle, and saw the prisoner inflict the wound on the woman down below.  Her mother states that, being asleep, the child came in and woke her, and, at the time she woke her, told her that the prisoner and the woman had been quarrelling; that she then got off the bed and went downstairs, and saw the woman on a chair.  The next discrepancy is, that the girl says there was no screaming at all; and the mother says that she heard some one scream, and recognized it to be the deceased's voice, crying out Oh! Oh!  Then little girl made no mention of saying anything to her mother, but her mother said that her daughter told her, going downstairs, that prisoner had a knife, and had stabbed the woman, and to be careful.  His Lordship did not suppose the Jury would regard these discrepancies as affecting the fact.

   The elder woman belonged to the same class as the murdered woman, and it might be supposed had a peculiar animus against the prisoner.  The lives which these people led were not such as entitled them to any sympathy or respect, at the same time they were entitled to all the protection the law could give them.  It was impossible to extract from the elder woman anything which could show that the prisoner had received provocation.  She professed to know nothing of the habits of deceased, and evidently wished to say nothing regarding her that might be in favour of the prisoner.  On the other side evidence had been given to show that deceased drank and gambled, and that her fidelity had not been great to the man who supported her.  That did not extenuate the prisoner's guilt, though the Jury might take it into consideration in considering the question of provocation.

   It was possible that the Jury might regard the case as one of manslaughter, if they considered the provocation which had been given.  In such cases, however, there were always extenuating circumstances, and the provocation must be very clear to admit of altering a charge of wilful murder into the lesser crime of manslaughter.  The Jury had the power to do so, if they thought the evidence warranted such a finding.   That prisoner and the deceased woman had been quarrelling, there was no doubt.  The prisoner had been taunted with the woman's infidelity, he was under the influence of drink, and they had been quarrelling in the morning, just before the crime was committed.  And they had the fact that the man had given her a large sum of money, and when he, shortly after, applied for a few dollars, the woman said she had none.  Altogether there was strong provocation for the prisoner, but it was not for his lordship to say that it in any degree justified or excuse the crime.  The Jury might bring in the prisoner guilty of manslaughter; but if they considered the mere crime, apart from any misconduct with which the woman had been connected, they ought to give a verdict on the charge of murder.

   The Jury retired to consider their verdict, and after about one minute's absence returned.

   The Foreman then stated that they had arrived at a verdict of manslaughter.

   His lordship said the Jury had taken a most lenient view of the case, and had they not, the life of the prisoner would have been certainly forfeited.  As it was, he must mark his sense of the crime by a heavy punishment, by sentencing the prisoner to ten years penal servitude.

Source: The North-China Herald, 28 May 1870



19th May, 1870.

   In consequence of the case R. v. Ketchil, reported in our issue of the 18th, Sir E. Hornby delivered the following address, in the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, to a number of Malays.

   I have called you together to explain the fearful risk that Ketchil, a native of Penang, and a countryman of your own, stood in yesterday.

   You must not imagine, because the Jury took a most merciful view of his case, that crimes such as he committed will not be punished with the utmost vigour, even with death.

   Since I have been here, now nearly five years, you have behaved very well.  This offence of Ketchil's is only the second serious crime that I have been called upon to punish.  You have shewn, yourselves, a respect for law, and I have every reason to be satisfier with you.  I wish you to maintain this reputation.

   I wish the Malay race, here, to prove to the people, and to the authorities of other nations, that they are well-conducted and not unworthy subjects of their Queen; and that they are grateful to her for her protection, for she recognizes no difference between them and Englishmen.

   I wish you to warn your countrymen, not to imagine, because Ketchil has been treated with great mercy, that they may indulge in drink - be cruel and passionate, and commit crimes.  Tell them to recollect that they are, here, in a foreign country, and that they must behave well to the native population.  That, while Her Majesty protects them when wronged as her subjects, she is bound to punish them when they wrong others; and she will do so.  And if she finds, in spite of warnings, they ill-treaty and abuse the natives of China, or quarrel amongst themselves, and prove unruly subjects, that she may choose to withdraw her protection, and leave them to be dealt with b y the local authorities.  Tell them that it is the duty of men to protect women, and not ill-treat them, and that a man who illuses a woman is unfit to be considered as a man.  Warn them that I am here to prevent crime, and to punish the guilty.  This is the duty which your Queen and my Queen has sent me here to perform, and I will perform it.  Tell your countrymen - especially the ignorant and the passionate - that I will not tolerate the use of the knife - that I will punish drunkenness severely, because it leads to crime; and that, if they, in their passion, in their anger, or in revenge shed blood, and death ensues, their lives shall surely pay the forfeit.  I wish you to continue to be loyal and well-conducted subjects of our Queen, and to merit the protection that she extends over you all, equally, alike.  I ask you the chief men amongst the Malays in China, to warn your countrymen - to tell them that I will report you as good subjects as long as I can do so, but if crime increases amongst you, you cannot, you must not believe that your Sovereign will look on without anger.

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