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Colonial Cases

Willimsen, 1875




German Consular Court, Yokohama
Zapfe, 17 December 1875
Source: Japan Weekly Mail, 18 December, 1875



Before E. Zapfe, President, and Messrs. J. Mammelsdorf and H. Franke, Assessors.

December17, 1875

HEINRICH WILLIMSEN was brought before the court, charged with complicity in a robbery of three bales of silk from the P.B.S.S. Co.'s steamer Golden Age on or the 3rd or 4th day of September of this year.

   The Clerk of the Court having read the bill of indictment, the President proceeded with the examination of the prisoner.

   The prisoner said: My name is Heinrich Willemsen. I am 33 years of age. I am a seaman, and at present in charge of the Japanese steamer Augusta. I am a Protestant, and have never yet incurred the displeasure of the law. It was, I think, on the night of the 10th of September, that a man named Salantine, known as Barney, came on board of the Augusta, bringing a chest and two bags, and asked me to land them for him. He said they contained silk to be smuggled through the Customs House, and a sked me to take them and dispose of them for him, telling me, that he would reward me for my assistance. I did not ask how he became possessed of the silk. I knew it must have been stolen from the steamer Golden Age, and undertook to land and sell it. Salantine promised me one third of the proceeds, and said he would keep one third for himself, reserving the remainder for a man named George Clark, who was then quartermaster of the Golden Age. I think the latter was to receive one third for having assisted Salantine to steal the silk. 

   [The accused here gave another version of the business, and with the permission of the Court amended his evidence as follows.]

   Salantine came on board on or about the 10th September. I was at the time asleep and in my bunk. He asked me to lend him a boat, from the Augusta and to join him in taking from the Golden Age, and subsequently landing, three bakes of silk which he and Clark intended to steal. I was then intoxicated.  Accepted his proposal, rose from my bed, dressed, and got into my boat, accompanied by Salantine. We rowed to the Golden Age. The hour was about midnight. On arriving at the steamer we boarded her on the starboard side, where a ladder had been placed. Salantine went on board, but I remained in the boat. After waiting about a quarter of an hour a port was opened, and Salantine came though it into my boat. I recognised Clark; he was engaged in rolling three bales of silk into the boat.  One of them fell short and into the water, but was at once picked up. The port hole was then closed, and Salantine and I removed the covers from the bales, threw them overboard, and repacked the silk (there were, I think, 18 bundles in each bale) in two bags and one chest which I bought with me from my ship. The packing was done on board. When it was finished Salantine left me, and I hired a Japanese boat to take the bales on shore. I landed with them in the Okugawa Canal between 5 and 6 o'clock a.m. the next day, and, putting them into jinrickshas, had them conveyed to No. 68, where an Englishman named Eyton, with whim I am acquainted, resided. I wanted to see Mr. Eyton, who came at 11 o'clock. I asked him if he would sell the silk for me. He told me to leave it, and he would see what could be done with it. He instructed his Japanese servant to take the chest and two bags to the godown, where the silk was inspected and put into two boxes. These Mr. Eyton at once sent with a note, to Messrs. Mitchell, Cope & Co.'s auction rooms. 

   On leaving Mr. Eyton he requested me to return the same evening, when he would tell me what were the prospects of sale; but on seeing him again, I learned that he had received no reply from Mitchell & Co. On my calling on him the following day I was shown a note from that firm to the effect that the silk had been stolen, and that he (Eyton) could have no more to do with the matter. He told me that I should go to Mitchel & Co. to get back the goods. I went at once to the auctioneers, being joined by quartermaster Clark, who had waited in the street during my interview with Mr. Eyton. We went to Mitchell & Co.'s where I saw Mr. Mitchell and requested him to deliver the silk to Clark, as I was indisposed to concern myself further about it. He declined to give it up to Clark, who was drunk, and we left the auction room.  I was afterwards pressed and menaced by Salantine and Clark to close the sale of the silk. I now call to mind that it was on Thursday, 9th September, that the silk was landed. On the Friday and Saturday following I tried to sell it to Mitchell & Co. On calling upon Mr. Mitchell on the Monday morning following, he offered me $250 for it, and told me to return at noon for payment. On my return he told me that he could not pay me $250, but would give me a cheque for $150 on the O.B.C. enjoining me, however, not to cash it before 2 p.m. on that day. He also asked me to give him an acknowledgment that he had returned the silk to me. Being hard pressed, I accepted his offer and conditions. He gave me a cheque for $150, payable to my order, and I have him an acknowledgment of the return of the bales of silk to me by Mitchell & Co. Having cashed the cheque, I deducted $15 for charges and divided the balance into three equal shares, one each for Salantine, Clark, and myself.

    The President read a letter from Captain Coy of the steamer Golden Age, conveying a report of the robbery and addressed to Mr. Center, General Agent of the P.M.S.S. Co. in Yokohama. He enquired from the accused if he had any observations to offer upon this lettrer and on being answered ibn the negative proceeded with the examination.

   Mr. John L. Eyton then deposed as follows: I formerly resided at No. 68, Yokohama, but now live at No. 87. A person unknown came and offered to sell me silk. I told him that it was not in my line of business. He said he had about 800 lbs. to dispose of. He left me a small bundle as muster. I asked him to return in the afternoon, and took the muster to Messrs. Mitchell, Cope & Co. and asked them if they could buy the silk, leaving the specimen bundle with them. On the following day Mr. Mitchell said that his silk inspector desired to see a larger muster. I communicated this to Willlemsen when I saw him. On the following morning Mitchell wrote to inform me that the Messrs. Kingdon & Co.'s silk Inspector pronounced the silk to be Chinese, and had expressed wonder at seeing it here. He (Mitchell) thought it would be well to return it to Willemsen. I showed the latter Mitchell's note, and asked him to give me a guarantee. He declined to do so, alleging that it would give him too much trouble. I then told him that I washed my hands of the business, and recommended him to go to Mr. Mitchell and claim the return of the silk. He left me, and I did not see him again. In the afternoon I heard from Mitchell, whom I met, that Willemsen had been with him, and that he (Mitchell) had given the Japanese office boy orders to return the silk. That is all I have to say upon the subject.

   In reply to the President, who enquired if he had any questions to ask, the prisoner said that on the day he took the silk to Mr. Eyton's godown he observed Mr. Mitchell to enter it in company with the latter. They then inspected the silk, and Mr. Mitchell took a sample away with him. Mr. Mitchell did not on that occasion see the accused.

   Mr. Eyton: That is not true. Mr. Mitchell was not there.

   Alexander Center deposed: I am agent of the P.M. S.N.Co. The silk was stolen from the steamer Golden Age, the steamer being at that time the property of the P.M.S.N. Co. Shanghai, and consigned for a firm in New York. It was to be transhipped to the steamer Oceanic. The freight clerk informed me of the robbery. The ship was searched, and nothing found. (a letter produced.) This report is the written one received from Captain Coy. From inquiries made by me, it was ascertained afterwards that the prisoner had landed a quantity of silk early one morning in the Okagawa Canal, and that this silk had been traced to the premises of Mr. Eyton, No. 68, and from there to Mitchell, Cope & Co.'s. Upon this I gave information to the U.S. Consulate, and to this Consulate. That is all I know about it.

   In reply to the usual enquiry, defendant stated that he had no objections to the deposition of this witness.

   William F. Mitchell, examined: I am in business in Yokohama as auctioneer and commission agent. I have seen this man before. Mr. Eyton brought a bundle of silk to my store between the 12th and 13th of September, and asked if I would buy silk, or if I could sell it. I took the silk to ask the inspector of Kingdon, Schwartz and Co. Mr. Kingdon requested me to bring a larger sample and said that he wished to look at the silk. I made this request to Mr. Eyton. I went to Mr. Eyton's office for that purpose. I never went into Mr. Eyton's godown. I came back to my office, and shortly afterwards this man brought a larger sample.  He brought about 200 or 300 lbs. I asked him if this was the silk he wished to sell; he said it was, and I told him to leave it and call again on the next day. I sent the silk down to Kingdon, Schwartz & Co.'s and next morning I went down to them, and saw Mr. Scheidt and Mr. Kingdon inspect the silk; they told me that it was Chinese silk, and remarked that it was very curious it should be brought to this market. I told them that I did not know how it got into the market. Mr. Kingdon said that he required a guarantee. Upon this I write to Mr. Eyton to let me know the circumstances. Mr. Eyton told me that he could not get a guarantee, and that I had better have nothing to do with it. I wrote to Mr. Kingdon to return the silk, which he did. On the following day, Saturday, at 3 o'clock, I met Willemsen at the door of my compound, and told him that I could not sell the silk. I gave orders to my boy to return it. That is all I know of the matter.

   In reply to the customary inquiry, the accused stated that this witness' deposition was untrue. He said that he had taken no muster to Mitchell.

   Mr. Mitchell: My banto purchased the silk for $150 and I gave a cheque for that amount.

   The accused adhered to the evidence given in this and the former enquiry. He said that Mr. Mitchell was the person who purchased the silk from him and paid him $1250 for it. He had never spoken to the banto on this subject.

   The President then proceeded to read the evidence given by W. Parker at the preliminary enquiry. The facts elicited not being of much importance, he had not been summoned to attend. He then announced that the examination was closed.

[To Accused:] Have you any statement to make to the Court.

   Defendant: I have nothing more to say.

   The Court then adjourned.

   On resuming its sitting,

   The President proceeded to pronounce the verdict. He said: Heinrich Willensen, of Emmerich, you have been found guilty under clauses 49 and 212 of the Penal Code of the German Empire, of having aided and abetted in the theft of three bales of silk from the seamer Golden Age. For this offence you are hereby condemned to imprisonment for three months, and also to pay the costs of the present proceedings.

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