THE FIREMAN OF THE NIGHT GOODS TRAIN SHOT ON HIS ENGINE.
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.
THE SOUTHLAND TRAGED Y.
FURTHER DETAILS. ARREST OF THREE BOYS.
[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.
THE SOUTHLAND TRAGEDY
INQUEST AND VERDICT. [By Telegraph.]
(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.
SLOAN'S THEATRE. FRIDAY, I4th SEP-TBMBEBy 1883.
GRAND BENEFIT CONCERT,
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.
SLOAN'S THEATRE. GRAND BENEFIT CONCERT,
In aid of the widow of the late John Henderson,
ON FRIDAY, 14th SEPTEMBER, 1883.
His Worship the Mayor ... Chairman.
PROGRAMME: Part 1.
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.
THE SHOOTING OF A FIREMAN ON A TRAIN.
VERDICT AND SENTENCE ON THE BOYS.
(BY TELEGRAPH.—PRESS ASSOCIATION.)
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.