Saturday, 12 June 2021

John Henderson, 1850-24/8/1883.

 Mysterious Tragedy.


Information was received in town early this morning to the effect that a most extraordinary and fatal occurrence had taken place near Clinton. The engine which leavea Invercargill for Clinton with the 4.15 p.m. mixed train, starts from the latter place on its return journey with the night goods train at 10 p.m. Yesterday the driver was Peter Dunn; the fireman, John Henderson; the guard, W. Duncan: and the brakesman, — Simmonds. The train ar-rived at, and departed from, Clinton as usual, but when it neared Wairuna, a station about four miles distant, and was passing through the cutting there, two shots were fired by some person from the bank quite near the engine. The driver, the brakesman, and the fireman were in accordance with orders, on the engine at the time. The shot from the first discharge lodged in the body of Henderson the fareman, just over the heart, killing him instantaneously. The train was immediately run back to Clinton, and the local constable and four volunteers started at once to search for the perpetrator of the awful deed. The weapon used is supposed to have been a fowling-piece loaded with duck shot. Suspicion does not point to any person, and it is scarcely probable that the life of this unfortunate man was particularly attempted. It would be almost impossible to single out one of the three men on an engine in motion, especially in the darkness, and deliberately shoot him down. No reasonable cause can be imagined no explanation offered. The act seems to have been that of a madman. 

The victim of this terrible tragedy is as already stated, named John Henderson. He was a married man, but had no family and resided with his wife in Bowmont street in this town. He was about 28 years of age, and has not been long employed on the railways here; in fact he is but a recent arrival from India, where he worked as an engine-driver. It is stated that poor Henderson and his wife were married very recently, in fact on the passage from India. Whether this be the case or not the sympathies of all will go forth for the bereaved wife, whose stay has been thus ruthlessly or insanely struck down in the execution of a duty sufficiently dangerous in itself without this added risk. 

On information being wired to the heads of the department, it was resolved to suspend the train which would otherwise have arrived in Invercargill about 3.30 this morning.  -Southland Times, 24/8/1883.



[By Telegraph.] (united press association.) Dunedin, 24th August. The Daily Times' special reporter sends a telegram from Clinton concerning the shooting of the fireman Henderson, from which the following is extracted: — At about five o'clock this afternoon came the explanation of tho mystery, for at this time Detective Henderson returned on foot to the township, bringing with him in custody the two lads, James Roy, aged 19, and Alexander Roy, aged 14; also, two fowling-pieces, single and double-barrelled. The lads were immediately taken into the police station, and the main street of the township was at once filled with excited groups eagerly discussing the arrests. The circumstances leading to it appear to be as follows: — The detective and Constable Wilson, as arranged, proceeded to interview the lads in question. Their father, Mr. James Roy, is a farmer and a Justice of the Peace, holding a good position in the district, being generally respected. His residence is about three-quarters of a mile from the cutting where the tragedy occurred. The boys had been working about the farm the greater part of the day. On being met by the police, they were asked if any of them played the flute, and they replied in the affirmative. Detective Henderson then asked where the instrument was, and the reply was that they had lost part of it the day before. On the remaining part being produced, it was found to fit a piece which was picked up by the police near the the scene of the outrage. The following facts were then elicited, although, it is understood, no attempt was made to induce the lads to make any damaging statements. The three of them — James (aged 19), John (aged 18), and Alex, (aged 14), were out rabbiting the evening before, the elder ones carrying the two guns most of the time. John seems at some moment to have handed his gun to the younger brother Alexander; and it was admitted that James and Alexander discharged the weapons simultaneously while the engine was passing, The detailed statement made to the police while these enquiries were proceeding is of course not accessible to the Press, but it will come out at the inquest, and, in the meantime, the following points have transpired: — The lads assert that although they fired at the moment the train was passing, they did not mean harm to any person. Later on, whilst being brought into Clinton, they stated that they did not know thoir guns were loaded with shot. They saw the train stop after the shots, and eventually go back; but did not know they had done any damage. They heard this morning of the fireman's death, but did not know at the time that they had done harm to anybody. The enquiry having taken this turn, Detective Henderson arrested the three lads, John being charged with being an accessory. Mr. Roy, who was present, was informed that he could come into Clinton that evening, if he pleased, and see his sons. He said that he had spoken to them often enough, but that it was no good, and now they would have to go and take the consequences. On the way both boys treated the matter very coolly, whistling at times, and chatting in an unconcerned way. In the police station they were told by Inspector Weldon that he was sorry they were in that position and that he would do what he could to make them comfortable. They replied that they were used to roughing it. The reputation the lads bear in the neighbourhood was by no means a bad one, and although they are looked upon as a little wild, they are well liked. In appearance they are respectable and pleasant looking, and there is a general impression here that the shots were not fired at the men on the engine, but most likely at the funnel, or some other part of the engine itself. There certainly seems no possible motive that could have induced them to make a wilful attempt on the life either of the deceased or his companions. The whole affair has the appearance of being a reckless and wanton pieoe of mischief, which has terminated in an unexpectedly disastrous manner. The fact of both shots having apparently taken effect on the deceased might, upon this hypothesis, be accounted for by both culprits aiming at the same part of the engine, and both alike failing to make allowance for the speed at which it was travelling. On the other hand, the short distance from which the shots were fired seems to make so wide a miscalculation unlikely, and it is just possible that the boys relied upon their guns boing loaded with such charges of powder as not to take a serious effect. One point that might support this theory is that one or two loose shots were found inside the shirt of the deceased. The statement that the lads were rabbiting at that time of night is, however, inexplicable, as it was dark at that hour. They are known to have left home early in the evening, at about 6 o'clock, and visited the house of a widowed aunt in the neighbourhood some time between that and the hour the deed was committed. They returned home about 11 o'clock. Dr. Smith, of Balclutha, coroner for the district, has been communicated with, and an inquest will be hold on Monday. A post mortem examination will be made at 10 o'clook to-morrow by Dr. Low. The latter states that one pellet of shot has, in his opinion, penetrated to the heart. A cousin of the deceased has arrived here, and will remove the body to Invercargill for interment after the inquest. 

John Henderson, the victim of this terrible occurrence, was about 33 years of age. He had only been twelve months in the colony, and had come from India, where he worked as an engine-driver. He entered the railway service in October last as a fireman, and was much liked by his comrades. He resided in Invercargill with his young wife, to whom he had only been married fourteen months. There are no children at present, but Mrs. Henderson is now stated to be near her confinement.   -Evening Post, 25/8/1883.



(United presds association.) Dunedin, 27th August. The inquest in connection with the recent shooting case at Clinton was opened there to-day, before Dr. Smith, Coroner. Mr. Denniston watched the proceedings on behalf of the lads Roy. The principal evidence was that given by the enginedriver (Peter Dunn) and Detective Henderson. Dunn said when about three miles from Clinton, as near as he could guess, and when passing through a cutting about a mile from Wairuna, he heard a report, and, turning round, exclaimed, "What's that?" Deceased, seeming to be of the same mind, twisted round to look, and witness saw a flash of light, and before they could realise what was the matter, there came a second shot. Witness saw the flash of this also. After the second shot, deceased put his right hand to his left breast, and exclaimed "Oh!" three times, and as he did so he tried to make his way over to witness, and exclaimed, "Oh, Peter, I'm shot." Witness said, "No, you can't be," but deceased fell into his arms. Deceased was found to be dead when they returned to Clinton. The second shot followed about three seoonds after the first. 

Detective Henderson detailed his interview with the boys before the arrest. He and Constable Wilson saw James and John Roy riding through a paddock in a cart. Witness told them to stop and called John on one side, leaving Constable Wilson to talk to James. Witness asked John if he had been out with a gun on the previous night. He said that he had been out rabbiting with James, who had a gun too. Witness then asked if they had fired any shots, and he replied, "Yes, at rabbits." Witness asked if they had been on the railway line, near Wairuna, at about 10 o'clock at night, and he replied "Yes." Witness asked if they had fired any shots about there, and he replied "No; it was my brother Alexander; he fired off my gun." Witness asked if he saw the train while there, and he said "Yes; one passed just at the time." Witness and John were just then joined by James and Alexander. Witness asked John if he saw the train pull up, and he replied "Yes; but we did not know that there was anything wrong. I asked James if he thought there was anything the matter, and James replied 'Perhaps there is something wrong with the steampipe.' After this occurred, we loaded the guns and came back along the line for some distance, and cut through the town to go home. Witness told them that they would have to go to Clinton on a charge of committing the deed by which the deceased (John Henderson) lost his life. John said: "Well, we did not intend to hurt anyone; we did not know there was a man shot till this morning at 10 o'clock." He also said to Aloxander, "Didn't you fire off my gun," and Alexander said "Yes." John said he didn't know there was any shot in his gun, as he had drawn it before; and James also said that he did not know there was any shot in his gun. He fired first, and then Alexander fired. Witness then arrested James and Alexander for shooting deceased, and John for being an accessory. 

Isabella Cruickshanks stated that she resided at the Wairuna Railway Station. On Thursday last James and John Roy called at her place about 6 p.m., and Alexander about an hour later. They had two guns between them. They left the house about a quarter to 10 o'clock. To Mr. Denniston — The boys could go hone along the railway line if they choose. Witness said as they went away, "Boys, mind the 10 o'clock train is nearly due." She did not see which way they went. 

John Roy deposed that he resided at Gore, and that from what he heard of this matter, he came to Clinton and saw the boys, who are his nephews. He asked John if he fired a gun, and he said "No; Alexander fired off my gun." He likewise said that he took the ramrod and removed the shot, or the greater part of it, in case of any danger. 

After hearing the remaining evidence, the Coroner, in addressing the jury, after summing up the facts, said — It would appear that Alexander had asked John for his gun to fire off, so that John evidently did not fire it himself; but the shots were discharged by James and Alexander, and he had nothing at all to do with the firing. If you think, gentlemen, that there was any malicious intent, you will be required to return a verdict of murder. If you think they merely fired at the train for amusement and out of a spirit of larrikin fun, and unfortunately killed the deceased, then it will be a case of manslaughter." 

The jury, after three-quarters of an hour's deliberation, returned the following verdict: — "That James and Alexander Roy, during the night of the 23rd inst., discharged their guns recklessly whilst the train was passing through the cutting near Wairuna, thereby causing the death of the deceased, John Henderson." 

This amounted to a verdict of Manslaughter against the two lads, and they were bound over, in two sureties of £250 eaoh, to appear before the Resident Magistrate on Wednesday. The lads' father, and Mr. Harrison, the local schoolmaster, became the sureties.  -Evening Post, 28/8/1883.




In aid of the widow of the late John Henderson

Programme in future issue. D. S. WALKER, Secretary.  -Southland Times, 31/8/1883.

The widow of the late John Henderson, fireman, has been granted a "compassionate" allowance equal to one year's pay of her deceased husband. A telegram to that effect has been received by the secretary of the Henderson Assistance Committee in Invercargill.  -Tuapeka Times, 1/9/1883.



In aid of the widow of the late John Henderson,


His Worship the Mayor ... Chairman.


Selections ... Garrison Band Song — "The Boatswain's Story" ... Mr E. Bateman. 

Song — "A Little Mountain Lad" Mrs Ross 

Song — "Four Jolly Smiths" Mr Vickery 

Song — "Waiting" Miss Thorn 

Song — "The Slave Ship" Mr A Taylor 

Song — "The Land where I was born" Mr McAlpine 

Selections ... ... Orchestral Band 

Recitation — Nottman (a railway poem) Mr Prenticer 

Song—" By a Stream"... Miss Ramsay

Dance — "Athole Broadsword" Mr McKellar, and party. 

Song — "The Scottish Emigrant" ... Mr D Crawford 

Concertina Solo ... ... Mr P. Dunn 

PART II. Overture  ... Orchestral Band 

Song — "The Old Sexton" ... Mr Kierman 

Song ... Miss Smith 

Song — "Cripple Kirsty" ... Mr McAlpine 

Recitation — "Mary Queen of Scots" ... Mr Mathieson 

Song — "Only to love" ... Mrs Ross

Song - Miss Thorn 

Song — "Uncle Tom's Lament" Mr A.Taylor 

Song ... Mr Crawford

Song  ... Miss Ramsay 

Dance - Sailor's Hornpipe. Mr T. Wood 

Song ... Mr J. Lillie 

Musical Director ... Mr Macleod Smith D. S. WALKER, Hon. Secretary.   -Southland Times, 10/9/1883.


INVERCARGILL. September 14. The concert to-night in aid of the widow of John Henderson, the victim of the reckless shooting at the train by youths, was a great success.   -Oamaru Mail, 15/9/1883.




DUNEDIN, Wednesday. The Crown witnesses turning up to-day, the manslaughter case was heard at the Supreme Court. James Roy and Alexander Roy were charged with the manslaughter of John Henderson, a railway fireman, who was shot when on duty on the 23rd of August last, as the train was passing through a cutting near the Wairuaa station on the Dunedin-Invercargill line. Both lads pleaded not guilty, and were defended by Mr. Denniston.

The Crown Prosecutor opened the case with a statement of the facts, and of the law applicable to it. He did not, he said, assume that in firing at the train the lads had the slightest notion of hitting any one. It was utterly impossible to conceive that at the time the incident occurred, on a dark night, the prisoners could have been shooting at anything that had not a light on it. Assuming that they fired at the engine to startle the people on the train, or that when the train was passing they discharged their guns with so little care that instead of being fired in the air the guns were fired on a level between the bank, such recklessness or thoughtlessness would make the killing of the deceased manslaughter.

The principal witness for the Crown was John Robert Roy, who said he and his brother James were out shooting on August 23rd, and when dark came on they went to their aunt's, Mrs. Cruickshanks, to have tea. They were joined by their youngest brother Alexander. As they were leaving, Mrs. Cruickshanks told them not to go through the cutting, as the train would soon be due. James was carrying his gun, and witness his own. James's gun was double barrelled. They went along in the direction of the railway line. Witness noticed the train for the first time as one of the guns was fired. They expected that the train would be up soon, but were not looking for her as they went up the cutting. On getting near the top of the cutting his brother Alexander asked witness if he would allow him to fire off his gun. Witness immediately stopped, and drew the shot with the ramrod, and then gave the ramrod to his brother James to draw his shot. James's ramrod was a wooden one without a screw. After drawing the paper out that covered the shot witness turned the muzzle downward, and shook out the lead. He then set the barrel near the trigger with his ramrod. James handled his gun in like manner. Witness then handed his gun to Alexander to fire it off. James and Alexander were both going to fire their guns. Just as the train passed they fired. They had made no mention of firing at the train. After they had fired witness and his two brothers went on home. They kept on the line of the cutting till they had reached the end of it. It was after this that they had noticed the train had pulled up. The train came up to the cutting while they were taking the charges out of their guns. Witness was of opinion that he put the charge with the shot belt. He knew he did not throw it away. He took the shot out in order to have it, and to let him fire the gun off without it. He could not say if the gun was cocked when he handed it to his youngest brother. Nothing was said when he gave the gun to Alexander, but he understood that James was going to fire his gun off at the same time. The guns were fired, and witnese noticed that as they were fired the train passed. He had not seen the train before. On their way home they reloaded their guns. It was their practice to load the guns before going home, and they were often kept loaded in the house. They heard the train stop, and James said, "Surely there is something wrong with the engine; the steam-pipe or something is wrong?" He said that because of the peculiar sound made by the engine, and witness replied, "Perhaps there is." Once or twice on their way home the remark was made, "That is a strange whistle." He could not be certain what position either of his brothers were in when they fired. When they got home all their people were in bed, and they did not mention anything about the train going back then, but the next morning at breakfast witness's mother said she heard a strange whistle in the night, and he and his brothers said they had heard it too. One of them said they had never heard a whistle like it before, and they said they had seen the train go back towards Clinton. 

Cross-examined: The younger boy never fired a shot in his life before. He had only snapped off caps to blow a candle out. The guns were often kept in the house loaded. 

Mr. Denniston, in addressing the Court for the defence, said that the issue which the jury had to consider, although a very important and momentous one, was very trivial. It had never been disputed that the shot which led to this terrible result was fired by one or other of the lads. The only question was, whether they were bound by the evidence to assume that the shot was fired under circumstances which would justify them in finding that the facts amounted in law to homicide by misadventure. His Honor would, he said, tell the jury that if they were satisfied that the lade fired merely to amuse themselves, that a train happened to pass at the time without their knowing that it was about to pass, and that the shot proved fatal, the chances of which were a thousand to one, that would not be sufficient to prove criminality on the part of the accused, but would merely make it one of those unfortunate accidents which are connected with the use of firearms in the hands of inexperienced young men. His Honor summed up, and the jury retired at half-past three p.m. After being absent for an hour, the jury returned into Court and asked some questions about the height of the bank and the curves and grades of the line.

The jury, at twenty-five minutes past five, returned into Court with a verdict of guilty against both prisoners, with a strong recommendation to mercy on acconnt of previous good character. They did not think that the firearms were discharged with any intention to injure anyone. His Honor agreed with the jury, and said that he would give the fullest effect to their recommendation he could consistently with his duty to the public. So far as Alexander was concerned, His Honor thought that the ends of justice would be met by his father entering into recognisances for his future good behaviour. No sentence would be passed. The older prisoner was sentenced to two months' imprisonment without hard labour.  -NZ Herald, 4/10/1883.

His would indeed be a hard heart which is not touched by the sad fate of poor John Henderson, who was literally "butchered to make a (schoolboy's) holiday." Hardly less strong than our compassion for Mr Henderson and sympathy with his widow is the feeling of indignation against the young man and boy whose wanton recklessness brought about his death. Again, there is a natural feeling of pity for the misfortune of these two lads, who, however reckless, certainly never. intended to do anybody any harm. Hardly have we met a case in which it is more difficult to banish feeling from the mind, and to take a purely judicial view. Everybody who has read the evidence carefully will agree with the verdict of the jury. If not absolutely clear, the balance of evidence certainly goes to show that there was no arrangement between the lads to fire "with criminal recklessness in the direction of the train," if not actually at the train. This being established by the verdict, we find it difficult to think that the sentence passed by the Judge was adequate to the offence. We can easily understand that his Honor thought the younger boy Alexander had got a lesson for life, and that imprisonment would probably do his character harm, but James, at 20 years of age, is no longer a boy. We agree that his previous good character should serve to protect him from hard labour; but since he undoubtedly deserves imprisonment, we submit that he should have had a longer period than two months — not much more than he might have got for firing at the train without hurting anybody. Another consideration in the sentence, besides that of the effect upon the lads themselves, is that of its effect on others. No one can deny that there is a strong tendency amongst our youths to the reckless, and even mischievous, discharge of firearms. The mere fact of a man having been killed by this practice will certainly act as a deterrent; but nothing will be added to the force of the lesson by the sentence passed in this case. For Mr James Roy, sen., it is undoubtedly hard to see his two sons placed in such a painful position; but his case is, after all, only that of all respectable relations of convicted parsons. Had it not been for the unseemly behaviour of the lads themselves when first committed for trial, we should have been more inclined to pity them for their misfortune in unintentionally killing a fellow creature. In considering the testimony as to their previous good character, we cannot forget that in his statement to the police their father said "that he had spoken to them often enough, but that it was no good," and in a case of this kind the value of a round robin signed by their father's neighbours is not very great. We trust that by this time they have been awakened to a proper sense of their position.  -Otago Daily Times, 5/10/1883.

Eastern Cemetery, Invercargill.  ICC photo.

Ah Chin, 1833(?)-16/4/1883, murdered by "person or persons unknown."

The police received information last night that Ah Chin, a Chinese, had been murdered at Shingly Creek, near Roxburgh. Death was caused by a gunshot wound, and, as no weapon was found, it is not thought that the wound was self-inflicted. The following further particulars are to hand: — "Deceased and the informant Wah Kie were in a cave on the bank of the Clutha River. They were smoking opium about 7 p.m. on the 16th inst. Wah Kie fell asleep and was aroused by the report of a gun, when deceased called out "I am shot; I am dying." Footsteps were heard outside the cave, but the informant was afraid to go out for some time. On going out he saw no one. On the police visiting the scene they found deceased dead, with small shot wounds on his right breast and head. The cave was not disturbed, and money and a watch were found on the deceased's person. No motive can be assigned for the murder. An inquest will be held on Saturday."  -Evening Star, 18/4/1883.


The circumstances attending the death of Ah Chin, which occurred near Shingle Creek on Monday last, appear, as far as they have been at present investigated, to indicate a case of deliberate murder. Only superficial inquiry has, however, as yet been made, and the inquest will not take place till Saturday, by which time fuller information will have been obtained. 

The scene of the occurrence is some twelve miles from Roxburgh, on the banks of the Molyneux. A small number of diggers are scattered about this district, and the deceased, a Chinaman between thirty and forty years of age, lived by himself, not far from the junction of Shingle Creek. The country about there is exceedingly rugged, and Ah Chin dwelt in a kind of cave hollowed out in the precipitous side of the gully. The first intimation of the occurrence was furnished by Wah Ki, a Chinaman, who arrived in Roxburgh, at about one o'clock on Tuesday morning. He proceeded at once to the police station, and acquainted Constable Poole with what had happened. He was then with another Chinaman, but they refused to accompany the constable back to the scene. 

It is difficult to give the particulars of Wah Ki's story, owing to his slight acquaintance with English and the strict surveillance under which he is at present kept by the police. His statement is, however, substantially as follows: — He is a digger, and is camped not far from the cave inhabited by the deceased, only a little higher up the gully. On the evening of the murder he was sitting with Ah Chin in the latter's cave, the covering of which consisted of some sacking hung over the front. Both were smoking opium presumably, and Wah Ki, according to his own statement, became drowsy and fell asleep. This was after dark. He was awakened suddenly by hearing a shot fired close at hand. Ah Chin cried out that he was shot and was dying. Wah Ki further states that he heard footsteps outside retreating. He waited for some time, then ventured out of the cave, leaving the deceased still living, and made his way to the roadside. From what can be gathered he heard the barking of a dog some little distance away, and fell in with two lads who were employed about the district rabbitting. The names of these lads, or what passed on the occasion, have not at present transpired. On Wah Ki's arrival in Roxburgh he does not seem to have sought medical assistance, although he says that he left the deceased alive, but he proceeded at once to the police. 

A post mortem examination has been made by Dr McLachlan. The deceased has gunshot wounds in the head, face, and breast, which appear to have been inflicted by a weapon discharged not more than a few yards distant. No weapon has yet been discovered. 

Wah Ki's statements appear to be made with tolerable straightforwardness, and it would be unwise at the present stage to hazard any guess as to the perpetrator of the crime. 

Detective Bain travelled up from Dunedin yesterday, and remains at Roxburgh to conduct the necessary investigations. 

The deceased's gold watch and some money were found in his possession, so that it seems unlikely that the deed could have been committed for the purpose of robbery, unless the perpetrator was alarmed at discovering that Ah Chin was not alone in the cave. The hour at which the affair took place seems also to render it very unlikely that it was accidental. — ' Daily Times' telegram.  -Evening Star, 19/4/1883.


(By Telegraph.)

(from our own reporter.) Roxburgh, April 19th,

As yet there is nothing fresh to communicate regarding the death of Ah Chin. The police have been occupied during the morning in taking the statement of Wah Ki, who was in the cave at the time of the occurrence. I am proceeding to tha scene of the murder, and it is possible that some fresh information may be gathered from rabbiters about the spot. It seems at present very difficult to direct suspicion to any particular person. There is little cause to discredit the statement of Wah Ki, who must have made his way with some difficulty and danger down the face of the rocks to bring the news into Roxburgh. The probability is that the deed was committed by some rabbiters or lads in the district, who may have fired into the cave as an act of wanton mischief or for purposes of robbery. The inquest will not commence until 4 o'clock on Saturday, and it is most likely that a further adjournment will be necessary.

Later. Unless some additional evidence is obtained between this and the inquest, there seems little chance of Ah Chin's murder being sheeted home to any particular individual. A visit to the spot where the occurrence took place is a somewhat arduous undertaking, but the result certainly rewards the trouble taken. The cave where Ah Chin lived and met his death is situated in the midst of scenery as wild and picturesque as can well be imagined. The Molyneux here runs for many miles through a deep gorge, the sides of which rise like the rocky walls of a precipice to a height of many hundreds of feet. Following a downward track, which winds among the enormous boulders of which the incline is composed, the Chinaman's quarters are reached. Some considerable distance above the river, the hollow beneath a huge overhanging rock has been built in with shingle and quartz in such a manner as to form a low cavern some 14ft deep, with a very narrow entrance. The shortest man could not stand upright in this habitation; but it is nevertheless stocked with every necessary, and provision is also made for comfort in some degree. On a broad slab of rock in the far corner, forming the bunk, Ah Chin was lying when shot, and to cover him whilst in this position it would seem to have been necessary for the murderer to insert the muzzle of his gun actually into the entrance of the cave at the side of the matting which hung in front. The shot might possibly have been fired from the ledge of rock, a few feet away, but in that case it would have had to pass through the matting, which shows no signs of shot-holes. Wah Ki declares that after the shot, hearing footsteps outside, he was afraid to venture out, and eventually made his way up to the road by an almost impracticable path along the rocks. The gun used for the deed must in any case have been an exceedingly common one for the shot to spread as they have done in the short distance at which it was discharged. The cave inhabited by Wah Ki is situated some mile or so higher up the stream, in an equally wild spot. Before reaching it it is necessary to cross Shingle Creek, which rushes down the rocks in a series of cascades to join the Molyneux. Wah Ki's domicile is similarly fitted up in every respect. A search has of course been made in both caves, but nothing of importance has been discovered. An empty powder-flask and the lid of a cap-box were, I have reason to believe, found in Wah Ki's cave, also a few roughlycast bullets. No gun has, however, been found, and Wah Ki states that he never had one. A couple of lads named Parker, engaged in rabbiting, are the nearest (next to Wah Ki) to the scene of the murder, but these have also no gun in their possession. About an ounce of gold was found in the possession of the doceased, but his mining implements are, strange to say, not at his cave. It is further rumoured that some complaints had been made by Ah Chin as to some of his tools having been stolen shortly before his death. There is so far, however, nothing but the vaguest suspicion as to the actual murderer.  -Otago Daily Times, 20/4/1883.

A "Chinese cave dwelling" on the side of the Clutha River, near Alexandra.  Not the scene of Ah Chin's murder but a good example of what can still be found in Central Otago.  The description of Ah Chin's cave as being "some considerable distance above the river" means that it may be above the level of Lake Roxburgh.   Hocken Library photo.



Roxburgh, April 23rd,

The inquest on the murdered man Ah Chin was resumed at the Courthouse at 10 o'clock this morning. Wong Gye was sworn in as an interpreter.

Ah Hee, storekeeper, Roxburgh, deposed: I knew the deceased Ah Chin for about 20 years. He has resided in this district about six or seven years. He was a miner, and lived on the bank of the Clutha River. I last saw him alive about six or seven weeks ago, and about every two months he came to Roxburgh for "tucker." It was thus I saw him last. He waa a very quiet man to my knowledge. He has a nephew at Christchurch, and other more distant relatives here. He was always on good terms with his people. He always dealt with me. The deceased is indebted to me £16 or over. He sometimes sold his gold at the bank or Mr Mackay's. I don't know what quantities of gold he sold. The last time I saw him he paid me £5. He appeared to be on good terms with Europeans. I know Wah Ki. He was friendly to the deceased. I have known Wah Ki about 15 years in this Colony and in this district. I think Ah Chin was over 50 years of age, a native of Canton, in China, and a single man. 

William Charles Hodges, private tutor to Mr McLoughlin, Shingle Creek, deposed: I knew deceased Ah Chin for the last six or seven years at Fourteen-mile Beach. I last saw him alive on Monday last, l6th inst., at Mr McLoughlin's house at Shingle Creek, between 1 and 2 o'clock. He was then in company with Wah Ki, and left, going down the road with him. Deceased was a miner, working on the banks of the river. He lived about one mile and a-half from McLoughlin's. For the last three months he has lived alone in a cave. There are three or four other Chinamen digging near him. They also live in caves. He lived on good terms with his countrymen and Europeans. The deceased and Wah Ki appeared to be friendly with each other. I don't know whether Wah Ki had any firearms. He spoke once to me about firearms. That was last Monday, when he asked me if I had my gun with me. I replied I had. 

By a Juryman: Wah Ki has had no chance of getting hold of my gun. At the time he asked me the question I was outside of McLoughlin's house, and my gun was in my bedroom. The deceased and Wah Ki came to McLoughlin's to buy fowls. 

Wah Ki, miner, Twelve-mile Beach: I knew deceased, Ah Chin, for 14 or 15 years. He was not a relative, but a friend. I lived about one mile distant from his cave. I was not a mate of his. We had separate claims. I was his nearest neighbour. Toong Chung resides at Fourteen-mile Beach, about three miles distant from deceased's cave. I was with Ah Chin on Monday last. Ah Chin came to my place about 9 o'clock in the morning, and told me he had lost his mining tools, and asked me to come with him and make inquiry about his loss. We went up the range to look for them. We could not find them. We met Mr Quayle, who resides about three miles from Ah Chin's cave. I said nothing to Mr Quayle about the loss of the tools, but asked him how he was getting on. We went up the gully, and Ah Chin bought a duck from a European. We went then where we saw the last witness, and I asked him how he was getting on — that's all; and then asked the owner of the house if he had any fowls for sale, but he had none. From McLoughlin's we went to Ah Chin's cave, and arrived about 1 o'clock in the alternoon. We killed the duck, cooked and ate it, and then we had some Chinese spirits. We drank together half a Chinese basin — that is, about a tumblerful between us. We also had some tea. After that I felt giddy, and went to bed. I left Ah Chin smoking opium on his bunk. We were both on the same bunk. Our heads were towards the door of the cave. I was nearest the door. There was a box behind my head. I fell asleep. I was awoke by a gun shooting. Then Ah Chin screamed, "A gun shoot me!" and I saw his face bleeding. I then asked Ah Chin where the shot came from. He replied, "From the door." He then said, "I die, I die!" I then peeped outside of the door of the cave, but saw no one there. I went outside, but did not see or hear anything. Before I went I heard a noise which I thought to be the footsteps of a man. I thiuk it was about 7 o'clock when I awoke. There was a light burning in the cave. I went back into the cave, and asked Ah Chin if he was in danger. Ah Chin said, "I am afraid I die." Then I said, "Can I go to Roxburgh, to tell your cousin and report it to the police?" Ah Chin said, "All right." Then I left Ah Chin to go to Roxburgh. Ah Chin was alive when I left him. I heard dogs barking up the hill as I left; it was moonlight. I could not tell the distance they were from me; it was a good way off. I reached the Chinese garden, Roxburgh, about 11 o'clock. I told Ah Chin's cousin — Kang Gon — all about it. We then went to Ah Hue's place before going to the police. This was about 12 o'clock. The distance is about 11 miles from Ah Chin's to the police-station. I did not go back; I was too tired. I saw no person about Ah Chin's cave that day. I never saw him quarrel with anyone. Ah Chin lay higher on the bunk than I did; and there was a box at my head. That is how I account for my escape in the shot from the door, although Ah Chin was inside. There were no firearms in the cave at this time. I had no firearms in my cave, or in my possession. Lin Chun left the cave when I went into it. It was empty when I went into it. I know Lin Chun well. I was acquainted with him for about two months before I took possession of his cave. Lin Chun had a gun. He used to go rabbiting with it. He took it with him to Christchurch.

By the Foreman: I did not try to stop the bleeding. We were both lying one way, with our heads towards the door.

Constable Poole, in his evidence, stated that deceased was quite dead and stiff when he arrived at the scene of the murder. He then gave a description of the cave and property found at the time. There was 14s in silver, 1oz 5dwt of gold, and a silver watch. 

Hugh Kennedy Maclachlan: I am a legally qualified medical practitioner, residing at Roxburgh. I made a post-mortem examination on the body of deceased on Wednesday last. I paid attention to the clothing on the body. On the upper part of his body he had a waistcoat and two shirts, which were perforated with shot. All over the right breast, cheek, and head I found numorous perforations. The second rib was broken, and the third rib splintered. I found the perforations as if produced by small shot discharged from some firearm. The fractured rib was caused by the shot. The whole of the muscular tissue over the right breast was reduced to a kind of pulp, and many of the pellets had perforated the cavity of the thorax. I also found the right cavity to be full of blood. I took about 20 shot from it. The wound on the breast, and especially the internal hemorrhage, was necessarily fatal. Deceased was a small, spare man, and organically healthy. I am of opinion that the deceased could not have survived such a wound more than one hour under any circumstances. He evidently survived about that time, for the whole body was drained of blood. The cause of death was internal hemorrhage, resulting from a gunshot wound in his right breast and lung. I have had experience in gunshot wounds, and I believe that the firearm that discharged the shot must have been fired at a short distance, say, four or five yards distance at the most. I found no other wounds or bruises. 

By a Juror: The person firing must have been in front of him. If his head had been lying towards the door the shot must have come from the inside of the cave. 

James Mackay, merchant, Roxburgh: I have known the deceased Ah Chin for the last seven years. He has been in the habit of selling gold to me in quantities of not more than one ounce at a time. I saw him last about six weeks ago. 

The Jury, after a few minutes' retirement, returned the following verdict: — "That a certain person named Ah Chin was murdered by some person or persons unknown."  -Otago Daily Times, 24/4/1883.


(From a correspondant)

The Murder Case. The police have got no clue as yet to the murdurer of Ah Chin, although they have been indefatigable in their exertions.  -Otago Witness, 5/5/1883.


ROXBURGH, August 14.

Ah Quee, a cousin of Ah Chin, who was murdered at Shingle Creek four or five months ago, and who had been in a desponding state of mind ever since the death of his relative, committed suicide here at seven o’clock this morning by drowning himself. He was to have been taken to Dunedin to-day on account of his unusual and peculiar action of late, but while his mate was preparing breakfast for him he went outside, sallied down to the river (a distance of twenty yards or so), took off his hat, boots, and coat, and jumped off a projecting ledge of rock into the river. The current at this point is very strong, and he must have immediately been carried out into mid-stream and down the river, as the spot has been dragged without discovering any signs of the body. He seemed never to have recovered from the shock occasioned by the death of his relative.

Rain fell heavily here all last night, as it has evidently done further up-country, as the river is rising rapidly.  -Evening Star, 14/8/1883.

The murderer of Ah Chin was never caught. I do not know, as yet, where heis remains were buried.  They might be in the Roxburgh Cemetery or they might have been, as was the custom, buried and then his bones exhumed and sent to his home village in Canton so that his spirit could rest amongst those of his people.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

The Millers Flat Murder of 1882.


ROXBURGH, May 29. A man named John Kitto, of Miller's Flat, went to the residence of his son-in-law, Joseph Augustus Roggiero, about seven o'clock last night, and without any warning shot through the window with a rifle at Roggiero, who was sitting by the fire. 

The screams of Roggiero's wife attracted her brother-in-law, who had to pass Kitto's house. 

Kitto shot him also, the ball entering the wrist and coming out at the elbow. 

Roggiero died a short time afterwards. Kitto, who was in the Lunatic Asylum some time ago, came to Roxburgh and gave himself up to the police.— 'Daily Times' 

[From Our Own.Correspondent.] LAWRENCE, May 29. Between six and seven yesterday evening John Kitto, a miner at Moa Flat, shot one Joseph Roggiero through the breast. Roggiero expired almost immediately afterwards. 

Peter Kloogh was at the time looking towards Roggiero's house, and Kitto shot him through the right arm. 

Roggiero and Kloogh have families. Both are sons-in-law of Kitto.  -Evening Star, 29/5/1882.



An inquest was held by Mr Jonas Harrop, J.P., Acting-coroner, on Tuesday, at the residence of the murdered man Roggiero, at Miller’s Flat. Sergeant-major Moore conducted the inquiry; and after the jury had viewed the body an adjournment was made to the residence of Peter Cloogh. 

Niels Peter Kloogh, the wounded man, whose evidence was taken in bed, deposed; I am a miner, residing on the east bank of the river at Miller’s Flat. I remember Sunday evening, the 28th inst. I was in my house, and about twenty minutes past 6 p.m. I heard the shot of a gun. It was moonlight. I heard a scream, and then went outside. I saw two of William Kitto’s children coming towards my house. They were running. They told me that John Murray had accidentally shot Joseph Roggiero. The children are about ten and eleven years of age. I then ran as hard as I could towards Roggiero’s. On the way I met Betsy Ann Roggiero, wife of deceased, near John Kitto’s fence, and near his house. She said the old man (meaning John Kitto) had shot Joe (meaning her husband), now deceased. From what Mrs Roggiero told me, I ran to give what assistance I could to deceased. When I proceeded about ten or twelve steps I received a bullet wound in my right arm. Mrs Roggiero went in the opposite direction, I was shot on the path near John Kitto’s house, when about four yards from the fence. I saw a man standing between John Kitto’s house and the fence when I received the shot, and immediately my hand dropped, and I heard the report of a gun. The man was about twenty yards distant from me when I received the shot. I could not recognise the man. I noticed the flash from the gun. I feel satisfied that I was shot by that man. I did not notice any gun, but came home again. The man appeared to have on dark clothing. I am acquainted with John Kitto; he is my father-in-law. He answered the description of the man whom I saw and who wounded me, and resides in the house with his wife and family. I am not aware of any ill-feeling, but we have not been speaking for some time. I heard his family say he did not care to converse with anyone. About Tuesday last I saw John Kitto’s son William carrying a gun at Miller’s Flat. I recognise the gun now produced; it is not the one William Kitto carried, but it is John Kitto, jun’s., gun, I recognise it by the brass mountings and large barrel. On returning to my house after receiving the shot, I met my wife, Tamar. I told her that I was shot too. I asked a man named James Burns to go for a doctor. He caused Dr McCarthy to be sent for from Lawrence. At the time I received the wound my dog was with me. 

Betsy Ann Roggiero, wife of deceased, deposed: I remember Sunday evening last. My husband was sitting in the rocking-chair, putting the baby to sleep, at twenty minutes past six o’clock by our clock. The child is four months old. He was sitting in the kitchen near the fire, nearly opposite the window, and facing it. There are only two rooms in the house (bedroom and kitchen), one window in each room. There is only one door to the house, which opens to the outside. About the time stated (6.20 p.m.) I was standing at the end of the table, washing np after tea. A shot was fired through the kitchen window, which struck my husband in the breast. He exclaimed “My God, Annie, someone has shot me!” I said “Oh no, Joe, it is only someone playing a lark.” I ran out, thinking it was someone with Chinese crackers. I saw my father, John Kitto, walk away from the window with his back towards me. I said “You wretch, what did you do that for?” — meaning shooting my husband. I did not hear him make any reply, but ran to my husband. As I entered the door I met the deceased, with his hand across his chest, and saw the infant fall from his arms on to the floor. I then put my arms round his neck. He said “Don’t stay with me, Annie; run for help; I am shot.” I then ran out and called my brother-in-law, Niels Peter Kloogh. I met my brother John nearly opposite their house. I told him to go to deceased while I ran towards my brother-in-law, Peter, whom I met coming running towards me, near my father’s place, on the path. I requested him to go to my husband, and was returning with him. I saw my father, John Kitto, standing between his own house and the wire fence. He held up a gun to his shoulder and deliberately took aim and fired at my brother-in-law, Niels Peter Kloogh. After being shot he ran towards the house. I knew he was shot. The time father put the gun to his shoulder I saw the flash. About ten o’clock p.m. I returned to my own place with Mr Macklay and Mr McLolland. My husband expired about two o’clock on the following morning (29th). I have been nine years married in June next, and have five children, the youngest four months and the eldest seven years. So far as I know, my husband and father were on good terms. 

By a Juror: I do not know that the accused had ever threatened my husband. 

The accused was then brought in and identified by witness as the man who shot her husband.

John Francis Kitto, jun.: I am son of John Francis Kitto, the accused, who is known as John Kitto, residing on the east side of the river, Miller’s Flat. I am a miner, nineteen years of age. I had tea at home on Sunday evening last, about six o’clock. My father was in the house, and sitting at the kitchen fire. During the time I took tea I noticed nothing unusual in his manner. I left the house at 6.15 and went to William Murray’s place, about 200 yards distant. While in Murray’s house I heard a report of firearms. The report appeared to he that of a gun in the direction of deceased’s dwelling, which was about 600 yards distant. I then came out of the house and heard a cry, and thought it was my brother who had accidentally shot himself, as he occasionally went out shooting. I then ran towards deceased’s dwelling, and met my sister (wife of deceased), who said father had shot Joe through the window. She said he was coming behind. I saw him coming from Koggiero’s with a gun in his right hand, I was about twenty or thirty yards from father. We did not speak. I went and told mother, and afterwards proceeded to Mr W. Smith’s, which is about 200 yards from our house. I heard a second shot when near Smith’s place, and being frightened, did not return. I identify the gun now produced. My father gave it to me about five years ago. I last saw it in my bedroom on Sunday morning last, 28th. It was not then loaded. I did not miss the gun until between six and seven o’clock in the evening, at the time I went in to tell mother that father had shot Joe (deceased). I did not see the gun until I saw it in possession of the police this morning. I know of nothing to cause father to shoot the deceased. My father was an inmate of the Lunatic Asylum for six weeks about four years ago. He appeared sulky at times and would not speak, and appeared to he troubled with religion, as he was frequently talking about it. When I saw the gun on Sunday the nipple was in, but now it appears to have been blown out. 

W. Pool, constable in charge of Roxburgh police-station, stated; On Sunday night, 28th inst., at 9.15, a man named John Kitto called at Roxburgh, and informed me he wished to give himself up. I asked him his reason. He replied, for shooting his two sons-in-law. He had a gun in his left hand, which he handed to me at my request, saying “This is the gun I did it with — take care of it, it is loaded.” I asked him “Who are your two sons-in-law?” He replied he did not know, but knowing accused I asked him if he meant Peter Kloogh and “Mexican Joe.” He said he supposed so. I then locked him up. While searching him I said “What brought this about?” He replied “I will answer before a judge.” I have examined the gun; it appears to be loaded; it is a single-barrel, and the nipple has been blown off. I proceeded to Miller’s Flat to make inquiry if there was any truth in Kitto’s statement. On arriving at Peter Kloogh’s residence I found he had been wounded in the arm. He said he did not see the man who shot him, but thought it was the old man, John Kitto. I then proceeded to Roggiero’s — it was about 2 a.m. — and found him lying on his bed dead, with a wound in his right side. I now produce the gun received from Kitto at the lock-up. I produce the bullet handed to me by Dr McCarthy, who said he took it from deceased’s body at the back part. The bullet appears to fit the bore of the gun. 

Samuel Moore: I am sergeant-major of constabulary, stationed at Lawrence. About eleven o’clock this morning (30th inst.), at Ettrick, I asked the accused, Kitto, if he had any other name but John, he replied: “My name is John Francis Kitto.” He added: “After I shot Roggiero I went towards my own house, and I saw Kloogh running to catch me. He hunted a dog on me, but the dog turned on himself, and prevented him getting away. When I shot him it was near the fence.”

Charles Edward DeLacy McCarthy, medical practitioner, residing at Lawrence, stated: I arrived at Miller’s Flat and went to see Niels Peter Kloogh at 9 p.m., and found him suffering from a gunshot wound in the right arm. This morning I made a post mortem examination of the body of Augustus Roggiero (deceased). A bullet had gone through the left lobe of the liver and one lung, fracturing the tenth rib on the right side, and lodging there. I extracted the bullet (now produced). Death was caused by a gunshot wound and the hemorrhage from the lung caused by the bullet. 

James Kitto, miner, Moa Flat, deposed: The accused, John Francis Kitto, is my brother. He is about fifty years of age, a married man, with a wife and ten children, six being at Home. When my brother was fifteen years of age he had a severe fall of seven fathoms in a coal mine and injured his head, and since that he has never appeared to be the same, always appearing lightheaded. He was in the Lunatic Asylum four years ago. He appears now to be worse than ever I saw him before, and he says he glories in what he has done. 

The jury then retired, and returned with a verdict of “Wilful murder” against the accused, John Francis Kitto. 

When the accused was brought in for identification the scene was most heartrending. On Sergeant-major Moore requesting the wife of the deceased to look at the accused, she exclaimed: “That’s the wretch who did it. He is my father, but I can call him so no more.” Accused merely uttered the words “Praise be to God!”  -Evening Star, 1/6/1882.

The shocking murder perpetrated by a semi-lunatic named John Francis Kitto, at Roxburgh, recently, affords an example of the feaiful consequences which flow from the present careless supervision of insanity. There can be no doubt that this man has for years been in a condition calling for control, being troubled, taciturn, and strange in his bearing — a state in which it but required a sudden impulse to lead him to do some such frightful deed as that for which he is now in custody. For the crime which he has committed he is utterly irresponsible, and the moral guilt must be divided between his relatives who permitted him the use of murderous weapons, and the Colonial Executive, who ought to have had him under proper control, We hope that our legislators will turn their serious attention to this question before further crimes of the same description are perpetrated. We recognise, in a new country of scant population, the difficulty of dealing satisfactorily with the victims of mental aberration, but much more ought to be done than at present for the protection of the community, and the humane treatment of these unfortunates themselves. There should undoubtedly be some provision made which would prevent local authorities from shipping off lunatics to other ports, as was done the other day with an insane Chinaman, who came very near setting fire to the steamer in which he was sent. Such a reckless disregard tor public safety, in the selfish desire to get rid of a burden, cannot be too strongly condemned, and ought, indeed, to be visited with severe penalties.  -Auckland Star, 5/6/1882.

News of the Week

The Mount Benger Mail gives the following further particulars as to the insanity of the man Kitto: — "For a month past he has been more unsettled than usual, and on the day in question he was decidedly worse. He believed himself to be the Saviour (or Joseph), his brothers and son-in-law being imps of Satan, Roggiero being Satan himself. After the occurrence he crossed the river in his own boat and made straight for Roxburgh, where he stated to the police that he was inspired by God to commit the deed, and was on his way to the New Jerusalem. Kitto's friends have recently spoken to several people in Roxburgh about the state of his mind, but unfortunately nothing was done. He says he has no fear of man, as God will see that no harm befalls him."   -Otago Witness, 10/6/1882.

We have ascertained that John Kitto, charged with the murder of his son-in-law, Roggiero, at Miller's Flat, was to-day escorted in charge of two of the gaol officers through the streets in manacles, and taken from the Gaol to the Lunatic Asylum. The prisoner, since his lodgment in gaol, has been examined by competent medical authorities, who pronounce him insane. Their report was forwarded to the Hon. Colonial Secretary, who ordered Kitto's removal to the Asylum, pending his trial at the ensuing sessions of the Supreme Court.   -Evening Star, 13/6/1882.


TO THE EDITOR. Sir, — I notice by a local in your paper this evening that "John Kitto, charged with the murder of his son-in-law, at Millar’s Flat, was to-day escorted through the streets in manacles, and taken from the Gaol to the Lunatic Asylum.” Although not for a moment advocating that such a public exposure is too degrading for a man charged with such a dreadful crime as murder, yet I contend that if all prisoners under commital are in future to be thus marched through the public streets in transitu from the Gaol to the Supreme Court and vice versa it seems to be some new idea, when drunkards are conveyed in close cabs from the City Police Court to the Gaol. I have always understood that in the eyes of the law a man is supposed to be innocent until he is found guilty; therefore, in my opinion, to march a prisoner in chains through the public streets before he is convicted is a most harsh and unwarrantable exposure, and besides might lead to serious results as regards the safe custody of the prisoner should public excitement happen to exist. If this is one of the special orders of the new Prison Inspector, whose importation has cost the country so many thousands, then the sooner he is relegated to the Home Country it will be a great benefit to the Colony. 

The tumult in Dunedin on the night of the removal of the notorious and arch fiend Butler — who is a foul blot on the page of nature — and the attempt that was made to overpower the officers who had him in charge, and to take instant vengeance on the delinquent, is a recent instance of the bad consequences of such public exposures of prisoners. 

I am given to understand that the visiting Justices have remonstrated, in very strong but respectful language, to the Hon. Mr Dick on the gross impropriety of marching prisoners for trial through the public streets in chains. Also the Hon. Captain Fraser, who, I believe, is chairman of the visiting Justices, brought the same question, a few days ago, before the Legislative Council, when the Hon. Mr Oliver replied for the Government that they were not aware of such a practice, and that it would be immediately stopped. 

The whole affair is a shame and a horror to a Christian land, and I do hope to see some of our ministers or influential men take this matter up and call a public meeting with a view to obtain an expression of the feeling of the citizens.

— I am, etc., Humanity. Dunedin, June 13.  -Evening Star, 14/6/1882.

The “Tuapeka Times” gives the following description of the Miller’s Creek murderer Kitto, the author of the double crime of murder and serious assault with intent to kill, is a man apparently about 50 years of age, and a native of Redruth, Cornwall. He may be a good deal older than this, as he is a man who seems to carry his age well. He has a nonchalant and reticent manner in regard to affairs of this world, snubbing anyone immediately who begins to talk of secular matters, but is possessed of fanaticism in regard to religion. Indeed, everything he does he seems to consider sanctioned by Divine authority. He asks a blessing before meals, and returns thanks afterwards, and prays fervently, before retiring to rest. He seems to realise his position, but appears to think that he was incited to the dreadful crime by Divine authority. He is a Jew by persuasion, and believes in the ancient ceremony of circumcision. He eats his meals voraciously, drinking cold water only as a beverage. He seems to consider tea or coffee or any of these common beverages either hurtful to the system or derogatory to his form of religion. He is a man apparently about the average height, of rather spare build, with dark brown hair, and whiskers slightly tinged with grey. No one, from his outward appearance, would be apt to fancy that he could be guilty of such a horrible two-fold crime."  -NZ Mail, 17/6/1882.


SUPREME COURT. — CRIMINAL SESSIONS. (Before His Honor Mr Justice Williams.) 

MURDER. John Francis Kitto, against whom a true bill for murder at Miller's Flat had been returned, was put into the dock. 

The Crown Prosecutor said that the prisoner was found guilty of murder by a coroner's jury, and the Grand Jury had also found a bill against him, but he was at the present time confined in the Lunatic Asylum, under a warrant from the Colonial Secretary, issued under section 7 of the Lunacy Act, 1868. He (Mr Haggitt) had applied for instructions to the Minister for Justice as to whether the prisoner should be brought up and arraigned or not, and had been instructed to have him arraigned. The superintendent of the Asylum had stated that prisoner was not in a fit state to plead, that he was actually lunatic, and he could not, therefore, be put on his trial. The course under such circumstances was for a jury to be empannelled to try whether he was in a fit state to plead. 

His Honor: If the jury find in the negative then an order can be made for his confinement. 

The Crown Prosecutor did not know whether an ordinary jury could be empannelled to try the case. 

His Honor: The Sheriff is asked to return a jury at once, and, the jurors on the panel being ready, there is no reason why he should not return a jury from the panel. The Sheriff can draw twelve men out of the box.

A jury was then drawn. 

The Crown Prosecutor, addressing the jury, said: Prisoner was committed on a coroner's warrant to the Gaol in Dunedin, and after his commitment to the Gaol it was found necessary to remove him to the Lunatic Asylum, where he has been for some time past. An indictment has been found against him by the Grand Jury for murder, but before he can be tried upon that indictment it must appear that he is of sane mind, because the law does not allow a person to be put on his trial on any indictment unless he be of sufficient capacity to plead to the indictment and to conduct his defence intelligently. Now, this prisoner is not in that position. I shall put in the box, Dr Neil, superintendent of the Lunatic Asylum, under whose charge the prisoner has been for some time, and he will tell you that the prisoner's state of mind is such that he cannot understand precisely what he is charged with, and, therefore, cannot conduct his defence properly. There will be no evidence on the other side. Your duty, therefore, will be to find a verdict in accordance with the evidence you hear. 

Dr A. H. Neil, superintendent of the Lunatic Asylum, deposed: The prisoner at the bar has been under my care since June 13. He was committed to my charge by order of the Colonial Secretary, under section 7 of the Lunatic Asylums Act. He is not able to plead to an indictment, nor is he of sufficient intellect to comprehend the evidence in order to make a proper defence. His Honor said that as the prisoner had not manifested outward symptoms of insanity he must ask if he wished to put any questions to the witness. 

Prisoner: In what respect have you found me lunatic since I have been in the Asylum? 

Witness: From the letters you have written, and from the delusions under which you suffer. 

His Honor: Have you any letters with you? 

Witness: I have got them all, your Honor. I produce all the correspondence.

 His Honor: And what are the delusions? 

Witness: Religious delusions, your Honor. 

\His Honor: Of what nature? 

Witness: He imagines himself to be a Jew.

His Honor: What else? 

Witness: He considers that his son-in-law Roggiero was possessed of the Devil. 

Prisoner: Not possessed of, but was. 

Witness: Was the Devil, and that his son-in-law, who is wounded, is also the Devil. 

His Honor: Is there anything else, doctor? 

Witness; All his delusions consist of that character. 

His Honor: Does he imagine himself to any particular person? 

Witness: I am not aware that he imagines himself to be any other than he is. 

Prisoner: I am professing to be the Christ. 

His Honor: Gentlemen of the jury, I do not know that it is necessary for me to say anything. You have heard the evidence, and you have heard the statement prisoner has just now made. If a person is insane at the time when he properly comes up to be arraigned he is not to be. arraigned, because not being in the full possession of his senses he cannot plead to the indictment nor conduct his defence with proper care. All you have to determine is whether he is in possession of his senses or not. You will be kind enough to consider your verdict. 

The jury, without leaving the box, found the prisoner insane. 

His Honor: The finding of the jury will be recorded, and the accused will be kept in strict custody until the pleasure of the Colonial Secretary be known. The accused can be removed.   -Evening Star, 20/6/1882.

John Francis Kitto died, presumably at Seacliff Asylum, in 1892.

I have found no images of John Kitto - this is a Hocken Library photo of a Millers Flat dredge owned and worked by John Francis Kitto junior.