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Colonial Cases

R v. Harris [1874]


Supreme Court for China

Shanghai, 28 November 1874 (probably 1873 from place in volume)

Source: Supreme Court of China (Shanghai), Judges' Notebooks, The National Archives (U.K.), FO1092: 339, pp 155-170

Regina v. Joseph Harris

Wilful Murder

Jurors sworn: F. P. [Zammill?]; E. P. Hague; R. B. Cuthbertson; J. Vincent; [H] Watson.

Mr. Inspector Stripling conducts the prosecution

Messrs. Miller and Litchfield for the defendant

Indictment read - Prisoner pleads - Not guilty.

Mr. Stripling - explains the case & tells them what witnesses were called.


On the morning of the 25th of Octr Mr. [???????] came to station at 11 p.m. & reported to me that a murder had been committed at 186 Kung dong Rd. I went there - The Door was shut. I found the body of a half caste woman lying on the ground floor on her right side. I identified the body as that of E. Harris. I looked into the small back room. I came out & locked the door & returned to the P. Station. I went back with Mr. S, he sent for Dr. Macgowan - I returned with him. I noticed pools of blood on the staircase sevl spots of blood on the walls. I assisted undressing rhe deceased.


The Key was in the door outside when I went there. The bed had two pillows.

R. X.

The bed was made, there was no appearance of skuffling in that room. I was present at the Post-mortem. It was on the same body as I saw under the Stairs.

Dr. Macgowan

I am a medical Practitioner. I remember the 25th of Octr. I was called in to look at a Body. I saw it in a House in the Kung dong Rd. A Mulatto woman. I exd the body & found a number of wounds on the head 2 had fractured the Skull. I saw the brain. They were sufft to have caused death; some contusions on the back of the head - some incised wounds.

I had the body stripped - there were no other marks of violence on the person. The body was rigid as if death had taken place hours before. The blows must have been from some heavy dull instrument. There were spots of blood. They could not have been self inflicted.


I first saw the body about ¼ to 12. The body was lying on the right side - the head on the right arm. There was quite a pool of blood. The walls were splashed at upper end of room. There was only a bath tub in the room - at side of room. I noticed no marks in the blood - I think this woman was must have been crouching. Rigidity sets in in 2 hours - it had been dead sevl hours - probably 8 hours.


I am purser on bd the "Wellington". I live in Hong Keu. I was passing the K. D. Rd on Friday night at ¼ to 11 as I was opposite the door 186 I heard a woman cry "Oh dear Oh dear." I stopped opposite about a couple of minutes & heard some heavy blows going on & then I left. The cries had ceased the beating continued. I met a Manilla man. I asked who was living there if she was a married woman. I did not report matter to Police.


A China man put his head out of the next house & said I should not like to have that beating. I left my mother's house about ½ 10, this distance is 120 yards. I saw no other Person in the road. I met a Manilla 50 yds off & asked him if he knew who lived there - they are all Manilla men - it is quite a common thing to see Manilla men there - they are Sailors usually. I heard half a dozen blows - beating was still going on. Mr. Stripling asked me if I knew anything. There was a light upstairs - no light down-stairs.

By the Ct.

Manilla men are pacific.

Sung Annie (cautioned)

I live in the market at Hong keu - about seven doors from the dead woman's house. Emily by name. That is the woman who is dead. I know the prisoner. I have seen him once in Emily's house. I have known her 1 ½ months before her death - she came to rent a house - she did not rent one - Emily came to my house often.

Take a note of objection - to any answer of Emily's.

She brought me a watch & 2 ear-rings & two brooches. She brought them because her husband had taken away the [stove?] & she Emily had broken the [pipe] & some other thing. On 1 st of Chinese month - she brought also some clothing wrapped up. I saw her two or three times that day, last time in the after-noon. She said she was afraid that on a/c of her breaking the Pipe - her husband would come - she sd nothing else. She told me that her husband had been there the night before asking for admittance - she sd she would keep the window open & if the witness heard her cry out she was to call a Police-man.

I did not see her again that night. I asked her to stay & take supper - she stayed & after supper went home & I went out with some friends. I saw her next dead. She did not come to wind up watch as usual so I sent servt to ask about her.


I had had Emily's watch 4 days - she came to wind up the watch in the morning about 9 a.m. She left after 4 o'clock in the afternoon. My servt told me that Emily had been there that night about 7 o'clock. The woman who told me that she had been a disturbance. I do not know her name, she lives next door to me - she did not mention time of disturbance. No one has told me what time it took place.

Chun Chun fa

I live next door to the last witness. I live with my mother. I go out to [???] in the Eveng to get something for my mother. I go to the market - about 9 ½ or 10 ½ o'clock. I know a coloured woman living in the same street. On the night 25th of Octr. I saw a person in the Rd when I was going to get Samshu. I saw a Black man - he was [of the] house talkg to the Black woman at the top-side of the window. The man was in the rd. They were talking quietly. I should not know him again - belong more black than a Malay. There was a light up stairs. The Black man was dressed in black clothes.


I go to a shop in market to get the Samshu.

I call the dead woman a black woman. I don't know if she was a Manilla woman. It was about 10 o'clock. I passed behind the Black man. I have lived there 5 moons. There are many Manilla men living there.

Dr. Johnson

I am a Medical Prac. I made the Post mortem of a Half Caste woman on Sunday after-noon at 4 o'clock. The Body was Partly undressed. The fore-arms were bent - 1 leg & thigh extended the other partially bent. Clothing saturated with Blood. The cause of death was extensive fracture of the skull. I observed a pool of blood - marks of blood on the wall - some large & some small - splashed on the wall. I recd some Clothes for examination. I exd [parts cut out] of pairs of trousers & Coat & also a part of a Hat & shirt & a collar with neck tie. I also exd Boots & also a stud in the shirt. The result of the examination was that the stains were blood - they were not the size of the [Dots?] of Bllod. There were numerous minute spots of blood. I examined them mictoscopically & chemically. I am not sure they are huiman blood. The blood was recent. The colour changes in a few days - I should have thoiught that more blood would have been on the man's clothes. I think it perfectly possible that a man might not know that he had blood. The trousers had been washed - the Blood was principally on front part. I did not examine a waistcoat.


I did not apply a test for red lead. The spots of blood on Trousers were very minute - as on the hat. The spots on the wall about the height of a man's chest were larger - there were none or very few on the chest & stomach of the clothes. I expected to find much more blood & was surprised not to find more. I exd boots - no blood on soles - they were free from mud - there only a few spots. They have not been blacked - some spots of blood on them. I did not examine a clean white cuffs. After a [week] I cannot form any opinion as to age of blolod. The blood stains on shirt were not confirmed by chemical test - microscopic test is the most reliable - blood could have been easily removed from stud. The Coat did not have the appearance of being rubbed or wiped. There was no [?semen?] on the large hole - there were only minute particles. The large holes in the trousers do not represent stains.


Sergt Skinner

I saw him on the morng of the 15th of Oct. ¼ past 2 opposite the door where his wife lived - he was standing talking to his wife - he asked his wife to let him in. She sd this was [her] house. He sd I came last night - she sd you are a back stabbing liar, you did not. No, he did not swear at her. He was not using bad language. He was behavg quietly. I moved on. I heard a tile fall on the ground - it struck the prisoner on the body. She said in answer to a question - I've sent your food to "Gas Works." I thought there would be further trouble so I waited. It was raining the whole of the time.


Inspector. I remember the 25th of Octr going to Prisoner's house. I found a pair of trousers behind a chest of drawers. They appeared to be rolled up in the bottom - I exd. I found numerous spots which I took to be blood on the knees & below them. They must have been put there. [margin: triple stroke emphasis.] I tilted drawers forwd & got them out. The Prisoner sd they were his. I exd his hands & neck. There was an old scar on wrist. I went to the Gas Works - I found a pair of boots. I noticed a spot on the inner side - it appeared to be blood.

I did not search the boy's bed-room. I inferred he slept in the sitting room. I think a Coat was left in the room - trhey boy said he had taken it to keep him warm. I think the trousers were concealed - the span was not suffctly wide to prevent them falling. The Black Coat was hanging up - the shirt was on the bed-stead. Hat not concealed. Boots were in the Engine room - the knees appeared to have been soaked.

Mr. Fowler

Inspector. I remember 25th of octr going to house of Prisoner. I exd a Coat I found there - shirt & stud. Mr. Stripling told the Prisoner that he must take him into custody. Prisoner sd his nose had been in habit of bleedg & in [????] he had cut a finger. He sd he had worn hat at Gas Works. He sd it had marks of red lead. He asked aftwds if his wife was buried. He sd he should like to have been - she had been [swallowed] up. These are the Clothes.


I was present at findg of Clothes with the exception of the trousers [????] opening them they were all stained - quite visible to any who walked into the room.

I do not know personally the character of the woman - she was not leadg a normal life after her separation from her husband. She lived for some time in a foreign brothel. Coloured man was [constantly] in the street where the woman was killed. It was a low neighbourhood, many persons of bad character.


These are the Clothes of the Prisoner. I handed them to Dr. Johnson. I assisted in the search. There was only a Bar found which had a spot of blood on it. It did not look as if it had been used. There was a Chopper but it had evidently not been used to murder the woman. The weapon or instrument which killed the woman has not been found. None of his boots were fouind missing. There was nothing in his hoiuse that could have been used.

The Pool was a long one, more than a yard I should think. I think a man might have left the room without getting his feet covered with blood. They could not give me any information at the Gas Works either for or against the Prisoner. The Prisoner said his Nose was in the habit of bleeding. I don't know if his nose bleeds. I did not find any money. There was a little tin cash box in the Prisoner's house - we found 4 $ & a gold dollar piece & some little more money.

Case for my prosecution

Mr Miller for Prisoner

I sum up.

Verdict - Not Guilty.

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