Skip to Content

Colonial Cases




The Bombay Telegraph and Courier of the 11th of June, contains an account of a shocking murder perpetrated on the high seas a short time previously.

   This account is from the pen of G. F. White, master of the American brig Lewis, and is dated Zanzibar, May the 6th.  In describing this melancholy affair, Captain White says:- It is with deep regret that I have to inform you of the atrocious murder of Mr. Johnson, my chief mate, by the hands of the second mate.  T he particulars I give you below.

   At 8 o'clock, on the morning of the 1st of May, I sailed from the harbour of Zanzibar, and at 5 P.M., of the same day we anchored off the north point of the island.  While clewing up and taking in sail, I observed the second mate running towards Mr. Johnson, who was standing on the top-gallant forecastle, and as it appeared to me, strike him a blow with his fist.  I called out immediately for an explanation, but I received no answer.  I then saw Mr. Johnson push Mr. Glue, and turn round to come down from the top-gallant forecastle.  I went forward to meet him, but before I reached him he fell on his face.  I cannot describe to you the horrible spectacle he now presented; blood was flowing copiously from his mouth, and on turning him over I observed a large gash in the centre of his breast, from which large quantities of blood flowed.

   My attention was now called from this sad scene, by hearing Glue, the murderer, say, "it was no use trying to bring him to life, as he had stabbed him to the heart, and meant to do it, and had told him so before," and he wished to know if I would give him charge of the ship? Singing out to the men at the same time, "that he was master of the ship now; it was for them to sheet home the anchor;" and asking me again, "if I would give up charge of the ship to him."  I told him, "No, I would not."  Then said he, "God damn you, I will kill you too." 

   I ordered the men to arm themselves with handspikes and heavers, and whatever they could find, to protect themselves, and to go aft and seize him.  The villain said, "he would come forward, as he was not afraid of us, even if we were all armed."  He did come forward, but when he got as far as the edge of the top-gallant forecastle, one of the men stepped behind him, seized him round the arms, and hove him on deck.  The men now rushed upon him by my orders, took the knife out of his hand, wet with the blood of his unfortunate victim, and we bound him hands and feet to the main-mast.  I manned my boat and returned to town, to note a protest, and communicate the tragic event to the United State's Consulate.  I returned afterwards on board the ship with the Vice-Consul, Mr. Gilly, with a guard of four soldiers and four blacks.

   An inquest was held on the body, and a verdict was of course returned against the second mate. ...

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