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Colonial Cases

R v. Williams [1870]


Supreme Court for China

Shanghai, 1 June 1870

Source: Supreme Court of China (Shanghai), Judges' Notebooks, The National Archives (U.K.), FO1092: 339, pp 32-41

Regina v. William Williams

Indictment - Murder of Thomas Mitcheson - read

Plea - Not Guilty

Jury: G. Bailey; B. Valentine; F. G. Gwyn; G. G. Mayer; C. Edbrook, sworn. Prisoner challenges none.

Mr. Jamieson prosecutes.

Prisoner in person.

Witnesses for prosecution.

Henry Watson, sworn.

I am able seaman on board the Schooner Ann. I remember the night of May 23rd. I was on watch. I know the prisoner, he is an able seaman. I was on watch at 11.30 p.m. on the 23rd when prisoner came on board.He was in drink at the time. He used threats & bad language towards the mate, & we took him forward.He called the mate a son of a bitch. He came aft. The mate came & asked him to go forward.He said he wd if he liked. He then struck the mate with his hand. They both fell. We parted them & took him forward.He then went below. I don't know what he did. He came up again on deck & ran right aft behind the wheel, & then walked up to the companion. He sang out for the mate. The mate came up stairs & asked what he wanted. He said I want you - you son of a b----. I can't say what reply was made. The mate ordered him off the poop & asked him to go forward & keep quiet. He went down on the main deck & the mate followed him to the [?????] of the poop & asked him again to go forward.He said he wd go forward if he liked. There were [other] words between them. What they were I can't say. I then saw a struggle between the two. He said I'll finish you, you son of a bitch. I turned round & saw him strike the mate. The mate gave a shriek & ran to the cabin. I saw nothing in his hand. It was dark. The mate ran down the cabin stairs. The prisoner walked forward.I heard him say no more. He went below & I saw him no more.

X examd

I did not see you strike him with a knife. I saw you strike him. I did not see you with a knife in your hand. I never said that I saw him strike with a knife. I do not remember having said that I saw a knife. I was not close to him & saw no knife. I can't say whether there was a moon. I can't say whether I heard you say you wanted the mate to fight you.

I did not see what happened in the last scuffle. I can't say the mate hit him. At the time the scuffle happened the mate & the prisoner were alone. We took him forward three times. He was not insensible drunk.

[????] Vidal, sworn.

I am a medical practitioner in Shanghai. I remember being called on board the schooner Ann, on the morning of the 24th. I left shortly before one. I went on board in company with some sailors. I went down to the cabin. The Captain showed me the body of a dead man. I examined the body. The capt. requested me to ascertain if he was dead or no. I found him lying on his back. I found a wound to his heart & a large quantity of blood on the floor. The wound was on the left & upper side. I first of all satisfied myself of the fact of death. The capt told me he had been stabbed. I asked to see the knife supposed to have inflicted the wound. I found a wound apparently inflicted by a knife. I think it must have been two or three inches deep. The breadth of the wound was about the breadth of the knife [shown]. I think he died from the effect of the wound.

I could find no other wounds. The wound was on the left side.

John Walker, sworn.

I am a seaman on board the schooner Ann. I remember the night of the 23rd. I know the prisoner. The prisoner came on board at 11.30. He all sorts of bad language, to every one. To the mate especially. He had been on board half hour when the mate came up & said make less noise, then forward.Prisoner said Who are you, you son of a bitch. The mate said never mind who I am you go to sleep. The mate said go forward.Prisoner answered I'll go forward when I like. We got him forward. I was one who helped. In the forecastle, there was a bucket of water, the P. got hold of the bucket & threw the water all over the forecastle. He went on deck & went aft. I went up just afterwards & found the mate on deck & scuffling with Williams. The mate said Take this man forward. I & another [went] between W. & the mate to part them. W. struck me. We got W. forward & I went down the forecastle. W. went aft again & I came up. I saw him go right aft the wheel. He was coming forward again & sang out to the mate just as he got to the end of companion, the mate said What do you want Williams. He said I want you, you son of a bitch. I came forward & went round the forecastle. I had been there two or 3 moments & I heard the mate scream. I came on deck & Williams was coming forward & I heard him say, I have done for you, you son of a bitch - now. I went down in the cabin & found the mate bleeding on the cabin floor. He was alive. Then Captain sent me for the doctor. When I came back I saw him lying there. He was dead. I heard him use no threatening language besides what I have mentioned.

Prisoner declines to X examine.

It was pretty dark. I saw Williams walking forward when I heard him say, I have done for you. I saw nothing further about him when he said those words.

I had been about a month on boardf the ship. I had never observed any bad feeling between the mate & W. except he was sometimes dissatisfied as any man is. I never saw W. drunk till that night. I never saw W. quarrel with any one while I was in the vessel.

Charles Harmer, sworn.

I am A. B. on board Ann. I know prisoner. I recollect 23rd May. I was in company with prisoner on board Mexicana. We got back at 11.30. We were talking together. We talked about the mate. We talked about the mate having found fault with prisoner's scrubbing. He said that the mate had found fault with his scrubbing, and that he had kicked the bucket over, & that if the mate had been anything of a man he wd have took it up. There were two or 3 [quart] bottles of gin in the forecastle. There was nine of us in the forecastle, two from our ship, three belonged to the [Lauthenia] & [others] belonging to the brig. We left the Mexicana about 20 mins past 11. Williams made a great noise when we got on then gangway. I suppose it was the [little] drop of liquor. He caught hold of me & ground his teeth, & said I'll [run] the mate like that - or something to that effect. He frightened me. I was afraid of a [punishing]. He had given me one before. With some trouble we got him below. I went into my bunk. Williams seized hold of the ladder & threw it down, & put it right again, & he slapped it down again. I put it up again. He seized a bucket of water & dashed that down. He then tore up the ladder. I went after him. The mate told him to go forward.He said I will if I like. The mate came on the main deck & advised him to go forward.He made a strike at the mate, the mate fell down & W. fell on top of him. In falling, W's forehead struck the corner of the hen coop & he bled very much. I got him forward again & got a bucket of water to wash him. He went aft again. I was then at the poop. I saw him shake hands with the captain. He made a tear over to the other side & [sat] down. He was bleeding very much then. We got him forward from there again. He tore away aft again out of my hands. I did not go further aft than the carpenter's bench. I saw him run towards the poop & come to the companion. I heard the mate say, What do you want. He said, I want you, you somn of a bitch. I went below & said I'll have no more to do with that man. I heard the mate scream twice. I went on deck. I saw Williams, making motions but what he was doing I did not know. [He] was moving as if rubbing something against his side. I could not see what it was.

X examd.

I never said that I saw him wiping his knife. I did not know he had one on him. It is usual for sailors to carry knives.

I did not hear him say anything when on board the Mexicana which wd lead me to think he wanted to injure the mate. We may all have a quarrel sometimes.

I saw him three times of the gin about two wineglasses each time - out of a china basin. I did not pay much attention to what was said except occasionally to join in a song. I understood that he meant nothing further than to fight with the mate. Among sailors such conversation may frequently take place. I think he had no more drink after he came on board.The first scuffle when he hurt his face took place ten mins after we got on board.

I have seen him drunk before. I have been with him three months in this ship & six weeks in the Jane steamer. On a former occasion when drunk at Nagasaki he pulled the forecastle ladder away. When sober I have found him a good ship-mate. I can't say he was more drunk than usual. I can't say. I had not drunk much myself.

James King, sworn.

I am a seaman on board the Ann. I know the prisoner. I recollect the 23rd May. I was in my bunk. Prisoner came down & took a bucket of water & threw it about & knocked the ladder about. He took me by the hair of the head & pulled me half out of my bunk. He went out. I heard a scream & a few minutes after Williams came below. I saw him wipe his knfe. He said the mate had fooled him all the evening but he had given him enough for 3 ½ foot of coffin. I can't swear to the knife produced. It was very dim in the forecastle. I should say it was about 20 minutes between the time that he came down to the forecastle & the time when he came down & wiped his knife. I am certain he was wiping a knife. I have known Williams 3 months. He is [well] as a shipmate if he only keeps from drink.

No exam.

Henry Yeoman, sworn.

I am a detective in the P. Force. I went on board the schooner Ann on the morning of the 24 th May & arrested prisoner. I found him sleeping. I had some difficulty in awaking him. I got him up. I found this knife on him. I produce the knife. It has been in the custody of Inspector Fowler. The prisoner was very violent. He called me by name & asked me who put me on the scent. He was very talkative & violent. He was sick at first - in the forecastle. While we were taking him along the [bund] he said "I have been locked up several times & the next time it will be for something." I put no questions to him. He was very excited & talkative.

Charles Harmer recalled.

When the scuffle took place, the mate told him to go forwatrd.He said I will if I like. He then struck the mate in the face, first. I don't know whether the mate struck him again. They were wrestling. He struck the mate & clung to him. The mate must have tripped up & fell on his back. Prisoner fell on top of him. William's forehead struck the corner of the hen coop. I never heard the mate say anything. When he struck his head I heard him say nothing.

Witness for the prisoner.

Robert Mansfield, sworn.

I am able seaman on board Mexicana. Prisoner came on board between 6 & 7 on Monday evening. In company with the last witrness (Harmer.) We [tatted] on deck about a quarter of an hour & then went below in the forecastle. Williams took some liquor & began singing - till about 11.15 ? He was very drunk, & was quite insensible to what he was doing. I took him & put him on a bed. Harmer came & took him off. Prisoner said he would not go he would stop there for the night. H. insisted on his going on board.I & one of our men got him out of the bunk & got him on deck, & thence into a sampan. One of out men seeing he was intoxicated went on board with him to see him safe on board.I saw no more of him.

X examd.

He had had a great deal of liquor. There were three bottles - between 7 I think.

Prisoner says he recollects nothing except getting a heavy blow on the head. I was unable to see several days.

I sum up. Define murder & manslaughter, &c.

Verdict - Wilful Murder.

Sentence - Death, to be hung & buried in the prison where last confined.

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