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Colonial Cases

R v. Mayhead [1880]

attempted suicide

Supreme Court for China

Shanghai, 20 April 1880

Source: Supreme Court of China (Shanghai), Judges' Notebooks, Vol. 3 (1880-1893), The National Archives (U.K.), FO1092: 340, p 1

Jurors: T. H. Vale, B. H. Perceval, Wm. Howe, G. Harrison, A. C. Westall.


Attempt to commit suicide.

George Skinner.  Serjt. of Municipal police. I know the man in court charged with offence in question.  His name is Robert Mayhead.  I arrested him on a warrant issued from H.B.M.'s ct on morng of 15th March in a godown on the Wangpoo rd Hongkew on premises of Messrs. Birt.  I read warrant to him.  When I first saw Mayhead he was lying in a bed.  I cd not say whr he was asleep or not.  I told him I had a warrant for his arrest and began to read it to him; but I found he was unconscious of what was sd to him.  He put on his clothes and sd he would go with me any where.  I took him to police court and told him warrant charged [2] him with attempt to commit suicide.  He seemed to understand it.  My reason for saying so is that he said "Yes, I shd have been a dead man if Mr. Birt had not come in."  That was a voluntary remark of him and I said nothing to him to cause him to make it.

By prisoner.  I remember having a teapot on table from wch you took a [?????].  I did not observe a bottle of milk on the table.

By me.  He seemed when I took him into custody to be suffg from delirium tremens.

William Birt.  I am a merchant Shanghai.  I know pr. He was in my employ as European godown keeper up to time he was charged before this court with the offence in question.  I saw him on the 15th March last at my godown.  He met me at door as I went in.  He had a wild strange look about him.  He sd I had arrived just in time to save his life.  He was then near door way within a few feet of his own room.  He told me when he heard my carriage wheels stop he was abt to poison himself.  We walked into godown and I told him he was not to talk [3] such nonsense.  He sd Shanghai was not a place for an honest man to live in.  He pointed to a tumbler and sd he was abt to drink what was in tumbler when he heard my carriage stop.  He told me he had mixed some of poison out of tin can standing by tumbler and was abt to drink it when I came in.  Crystals were in the tin.  I threw away whatever was in tumbler.  I don't know name of substance in tin can.  It is a patent crystal made in Germany and is used to kill insects in skins.  The colour of what was in tumbler was almost milky white.  It was of a purple colour.  I was sure it could not have been milk.

By prisoner.  I threw what was in tumbler into the [coppers].  What was in the tin poisons insects and dogs.  I cannot swear whether contents of tumbler were poisonous.  I cannot swear to contents of tumbler.  It is possible liquid in glass was a mixture of tea and milk.

Indict. Not guilty.      [George French]

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