AN ATROCIOUS MURDER
A HUSBAND CUTS HIS WIFE'S THROAT
AND ATTEMPTS SUICIDE.
Never since the long-to-be-remembered Butler-Dewar tragedy has it been our unpleasant duty to record such an atrocious case of murder, followed by an attempt at suicide, as the one which came to light early yesterday evening. The news of the tragedy was not long in spreading and the whole town seemed to know of it an hour or so after the first news of the affair was reported to the police. Crowds of people were to be seen about George street and other parts of the City discussing amongst themselves, and it was not until well on in the night that the little knots of people — men, women, and children — dispersed and wended their way homewards.
The scene of the tragedy is situated in a right-of-way off George street. An entrance is gained to the right-of-way by a narrow door between the shops of Messrs Freeman and Romeril, fruiterers, and Miss Grant, milliner, and at the bottom of the lane are four nicely-whitewashed brick cottages known as Lethaby's Terrace. Two of the houses are on each side of the alley, and semi-detached. The places are all occupied, and bear a very respectable appearance.
In the far-away house on the left-hand side lived a laborer named Charles Clements, his wife, Ruth Ann, and their two children — a pretty blue-eyed girl aged about six and a boy of four years of age. The husband and wife did not live on the best of terms, and on more than one occasion they were heard to quarrel; in fact, it was only last Saturday that some of the neighbors heard a sound resembling that of the smashing of crockery in the house. They had separated more than once when living in Filleul street, Walker street, and other parts. When Mrs Clements removed into Lethaby's terrace two or three months ago her husband was then an inmate of the surgical ward of the hospital, where he underwent an operation for hernia. He was discharged from the institution on the 1st inst., but not being in a strong state of health had not done any work since. Mrs Clements seems to have been a hard-working woman. She rose early in the morning, and after scrubbing out offices would return home about nine o'clock, and then frequently go out washing. She was about twentyseven years of age, tall, and very good-looking; while her husband, who was a good deal older, was, so a neighbor said, jealous of her, and could not bear to have her out of his sight.
As is stated above, quarrels between Clements and his wife had occurred very frequently of late. On Sunday another, and the last, disturbance was heard in the house. Clements then used such language towards his wife that one of the neighbors, Mrs Brandon Cremer, an actress, and wife of a well-known Dunedin actor, living in the house opposite, threatened to call in the police. These threats, according to Mrs Cremer, had the effect of quieting Clements. On the same evening Mrs Cremer had a talk with Mrs Clements, who told her that she had made up her mind to leave her husband next morning. Whether Clements was aware of his wife's intention no one appears to know. A Mrs Treseder, living next to Mrs Cremer, says she saw Clements and his wife outside their door at about eight o'clock on Sunday evening, when they looked quite happy. Mrs Williams, who lives in the house adjoining the one occupied by the Clements, also noticed the murdered woman in front of her place the same evening. She was never seen alive again.
The occupants of the other three houses, after sleeping all night, without hearing any unusual noise, went about their work as usual the next morning. The window blinds in the Clements's house, however, remained down, and as the day wore on, and no sign of life was seen about the place, the neighbors began to wonder. They became still more uneasy at not seeing the children, especially when it was the little ones' delight to play about the front of the house. At last Mrs Cremer, taking everything into consideration, had her suspicions aroused, and, starting out for the purpose of finding some of Mrs Clements's relations, she eventually succeeded, after much trouble, in locating the whereabouts of Mr Peter Ross, a laborer, and brother-in-law of Mrs Clements, living in Athol place. Mr Ross lost no time in making for Lethaby's terrace. He knocked at the door of Clements's house, but received no answer. He then burst in the door, and on entering the house he went into the one of the two rooms in front — and was there confronted with a most shocking and painful sight. Clements, his dead wife, and the two children were all lying in the same bed, the children being at the foot. The husband and wife were lying in a soaking mass of blood. The woman's throat was out in two places, and the blood from the wounds had flowed over her nightdress and the bedclothes. The husband was lying alongside his wife's corpse with wounds in his throat, and the blood from them had dried on his face and shirt front. The room bore a most shocking appearance, the whole of the bedclothes being smeared with blood, which was one congealed mass in many places. The children were at once removed to a neighboring house.
Mr Ross went off in search of a policeman, and meeting Constable Hickey in George street returned with him to the house. The husband was found to be alive, but the woman quite dead. The children - poor little mites—had been untouched, but so frightened were they at the sight of their parents lying in a soaking bed of blood that they were afraid to move. They had gone to bed without tea on Sunday, and had remained in it all Monday without a bite of any kind until removed by Mr Ross to the house of Mrs Treseder, who gave them a good round meal and put them to bed. They were afterwards taken to their aunt's place in Athol place. Dr Fulton and Sergeant O'Neill were sent for, and arrived on the scene without a moment's delay. The doctor at once directed his attention to the husband, for the wife was past medical aid, and afterwards had him removed to the hospital. The police took possession of a pocketknife and tomahawk, both of which were stained with blood.
Mr Ross spoke to Clements and asked him what he had been doing. The injured man replied: "I have done it at last." Sergeant O'Neill arrested accused on the charge of murder, and left a constable to watch over him at the hospital.
Clements also made a statement to Constable Hickey to the effect that he placed the knife in his wife's throat and struck the knife with the tomahawk. He is also said to have declared that the knife was not big enough, or he would have done for himself.
The most pitiable and shocking circumstance in connection with the affair is that the little girl — a chubby-faced, intelligent-looking child — was an eye-witness of the murder of her mother. The unfortunate woman was asleep, and this no doubt accounts for the fact that none of the neighbors heard a noise during the night. There was, the child says, no candle burning, but her father put the blind up and then cut her mother's throat with the knife. He then went out of the room into the kitchen, and on returning pulled the blind down again and got into bed. It is not clear from the child's statement whether it was before or after he got into bed that he cut his own throat. The child, of course, does not know at what hour of the night the crime was committed, but it has been suggested that the light of the moon might, when the blind was raised, have been sufficient to enable the man to accomplish his object.
The murdered woman died from two wounds inflicted in the throat. The fatal one was a deep cut, about a couple of inches in length, which severed the windpipe.
The man's injuries consisted of an incised wound in the throat and two or three punctured wounds. Independent of these there is a wound in his wrist, which suggests that he had endeavored to sever an artery. His wounds were dressed by Dr Anderson, house surgeon, on his arrival at the hospital, and every prospect is entertained of his recovery unless serious afterconsequences should ensue. He is, however, very weak from loss of blood.
Deceased, whose maiden name was Ruth Ann Nicholson, was born in Dunedin. Her parents died some years ago, but she has three married sisters living here. She was married in Sydney about seven years ago, but returned to Dunedin about six months later, and has lived here ever since.
Clements was born in Buckinghamshire, England, and is forty-one years of age. He arrived here about eighteen years ago, and was a laborer by occupation. He was last employed at the erection of a building in connection with Kempthorne and Prosser's premises.
An inquest was.held on the body at the Robert Burns Hotel, George street, this afternoon, before Mr Coroner Carew and the following jury:—Charles A. Bressey (foreman), R. Duthie, R. Johnston, J. Christie, G. Horder, and C. H. Nicholls.
Sergeant O'Neill called
Constable Hickey, who deposed: I am a police constable stationed at Dunedin. I have seen the body shown to the jury, and identify it as that of Ruth Ann Clements. I have known her for some time, and saw her on Saturday last. She was the wife of Charles Clements, who is now a patient in the Dunedin Hospital and in the custody of the police. I was present in the right-of-way off George street at about nine o clock last evening, when I saw Clements arrested by Sergeant O'Neill and taken away in a cab.
The Coroner (to the jury): That is as far as we are able to go to-day. Sergeant O'Neill, do you think the man will be able to attend if we adjourn till next Tuesday.
Sergeant O'Neill: Very likely he will.
The Coroner: Then the inquest stands adjourned until Tuesday next, at half-past ten, in the Magistrate's Court.
STATEMENT BY THE RELATIVES.
A member of our staff this afternoon called upon Mr Peter Ross and his wife (sister of deceased) and had a conversation with them. Mr Ross said: On being called to Clements's house I knocked loudly at doors, but got no answer. I then smashed in the back door, and on going into the bedroom I saw what had happened. The first thing I said was "Charlie, what have you been doing'" He replied: "I have done it," and added: "I have had plenty of provocation," or words to that effect. The children were cuddled up at the foot of the bed. They never spoke. I never touched the bed, but went straight away for a policeman. I looked to see if there was a candle, but could not see one in the room, which was in darkness. I lighted a match on entering. When I came back with the constable a bloodstained knife and tomahawk were found under a mat in the passage. Clements was all covered with blood. The doctor on arrival said the woman had been dead for hours. There was no sign of drink about the place. Neither of them drank.
Mrs Ross said: Some seven or eight years ago Clements and my sister left Dunedin and went to Sydney to get married. They stopped in Sydney about six months, and then returned to Dunedin. My sister called at my place at about half-past six on Saturday night. She then complained of Clements breaking everything in the house. They had been quarrelling off and on for the last ten months. I was in their house about three months ago, when Clements accused deceased of drinking and carrying on with other men, but this she denied. He would get very excited, and they would have high words. He had threatened to kill himself. He often said he would go home and cut his throat. About seven weeks ago they had a quarrel, and Mrs Clements came and stopped a week with me. He came and took her and the children home again. She often used to come and stop at my place when they had had a quarrel. She told me she was sometimes afraid to stop in the house with him in case he would do away with himself. She would say to him: "I will not go home with you, because when you get me there you will tear off my clothes and thrash me." My two other sisters (Mrs Williams and Mrs Braithwaite) called at deceased's house on Saturday evening. Deceased said she was going to leave him on Monday and then try and get a separation order against him. I do not know whether she told that to her husband.
Mrs Williams, sister of deceased, residing with her husband, made the following statement to the detectives:— Deceased and her husband came to my house at about half-past one on Saturday afternoon. The two children were with them, It was usual for her to leave the children with me while she worked at the offices on Saturday afternoons. Deceased and Clements were quarrelling outside on the green some distance from my house. She complained that he had beaten her and torn her clothes. I said: "Give him another chance?" She said: "No, I will clear out on Monday morning. Every time I go back he plays up worse and worse." Clements was swearing at her, calling her vile names. Deceased and I then went out to the gate, leaving Clements in the house. Clements came out after us, and asked the children to kiss him, as that would be the last time they would see him. He kissed them, and then went away by himself. Mrs Clements afterwards went up town and returned to my house about a quarter past five that evening. She had a cup of tea and then went home with the children. I went to their house that evening about half-past seven and remained there until ten. Clements was then in the house. He said: "I want a shave, but if I go out you will lock the door." Deceased replied: "I will not." He did not go out. Mrs Clements was sitting on the foot of the bed crying. I said to Clements: "Charlie, look what a mess (alluding to the smashed crockery) you have made." He replied: "Charlie is never sorry for anything he does." I went to the house again on Sunday evening, about 6.30, and remained there until about ten minutes past eight. Clements and his wife were both at home still quarrelling. Deceased said "I am going to take my box away this time." I said "Charlie, what are you going to do now?" He replied "Nobody will know what Charlie is going to do this time." Deceased said: "I have always been hiding your faults, Charlie," but he made no reply to that.
Mr Hanlon has been retained to defend the accused. -Evening Star, 16/11/1897.
THE GEORGE STREET TRAGEDY.
CLEMENTS BEFORE THE COURT.
Charles Clements, the alleged wife murderer, has sufficiently recovered to permit of his removal from the hospital to the gaol. At eleven o'clock this morning Clements was brought before Messrs J. I. Jones and W. D. Hanlon, justices, at the Police Court, and charged with murdering Ruth Ann Clements, his wife, on or about the 15th inst. by cutting her throat with a knife.
Mr Hanlon: I appear for accused.
Sergeant O'Neill: In this case the inquest touching the death of Mrs Clements stands adjourned until half-past ten on Tuesday morning. I therefore respectfully ask for a remand until then.
Mr Hanlon: The application is a reasonable one I offer no objection.
Accused was remanded accordingly.
Clements, as he appeared in the dock this morning with his throat bandaged up, seemed to take little interest in the proceedings. He is a man of about 5ft 8in in height. -Evening Star, 20/11/1897.
My heart goes out, over the span of years, to little Margaret Clements who witnessed the murder of her mother and attempted suicide of her father. How she must have suffered. How brave to be able to relate what she saw.
THE GEORGE STREET TRAGEDY.
EVIDENCE BY THE LITTLE GIRL.
The case against Charles Clements charged with murdering his wife, was resumed at the Police Court at two o'clock this afternoon before Messrs W. Hutchison and J. P. Jones, justices.
Margaret Clements, daughter of accused, aged five and a-half years, said: I remember living at home in Lethaby's right-of-way. I used to sleep in the same bed as my father and mother. I had a little brother. I remember going to bed on the Sunday night. My mother undressed me. That was the last time she undressed me. I was put to bed at once. My brother slept at the foot of the bed with me. It was not dark when I went to bed. There was no candle in the room. I do not know when my father and mother came to bed. I was not asleep at all. Father cut mother's throat and then cut his own. I saw it; I was awake. Mother was asleep. It was not long after they went to bed. Father cut mother's throat with a knife. He had nothing else besides the knife at the time. I know what a tomahawk is. I saw one in my father's hands that night. He was cutting my mother's throat with the knife and the tomahawk. Father and mother were at home all the evening before they went to bed. I was not in the same room as them. They were fighting together before they went to bed. My brother and I went out of the bedroom and saw them fighting. Mother did not speak to me when she went to bed. She came into the room by herself. Mother went to bed before father came. She was asleep before he came. I never went to sleep at all. Father cut his own throat immediately after he cut mother's. After that he went out into the passage three times. Each time he came back he got into bed. There was no light in the room. It was when we went to bed that father did it. It was daylight at the time. I did not sleep that night or the next day. My father told me to lie down. I had not been asleep when my uncle (Ross) came in. I never had anything to eat all that time. My brother had a drink of cold tea out of the pot. Father gave it to him, I did not have any because I did not want it. My brother was awake most of the time. When I sat up father told me to lie down. He only told me that once that was when we went to bed. I knew my mother was killed from the time her throat was cut. I have not told anybody before what had happened that night; nobody has asked me. My aunt (Mrs Williams) did not ask me. Nobody has been telling me what I say. It is all what I recollect myself. I was lying at the foot of the bed with my little brother alongside of me. I saw my father use the tomahawk. He used it to drive the knife into mother's throat. There was a blind on the window of the bedroom. It was a yellow blind. The blind was put down when we went to bed. I do not know what time it was when I went to bed. The church bells were ringing when we went to bed. They had stopped ringing when father cut mother's throat. They had stopped just a little while. There was no noise while father and mother were quarrelling.
Mr Hutchison: Will you ask her if her father or mother ever taught her to say a little prayer.
Mr Haggitt: Did you ever sing a hymn or say a prayer?
Witness replied in the negative. Continuing, the child said: I said a prayer once, but did not say any before going to bed that night. I went to the Normal School and my brother went to the kindergarten. Brother and I cried when father was cutting mother's throat. It was dark when father went out of the room. Father got the tea from the kitchen. It was dark then. Neither my brother nor I ever spoke to father. I was frightened. Father brought nothing into the room except the teapot. Mother and father both undressed themselves in the bedroom. Father came into the bedroom before mother was asleep, and went into the bed before mother was asleep. Mother had been a long time asleep before father cut her throat. Father got up and went out of the room before he killed her.
Mr Hanlon did not cross-examine the child, but suggested a number of questions which were put to the witness by Mr Haggitt.
Dr Roberts repeated the evidence given by him at the inquest. In answer to the Bench witness said accused looked quite rational when he saw him in the hospital. He seemed to be in a nervous state.
Mr Haggitt: Can you tell me how the knife was used to inflict the principal wound in the throat ?
Witness: I think the most reasonable explanation of the supposition that the knife was used to produce the principal wound is that the knife was held as a dagger and entered the woman's throat on the right side and divided the structures. I don't think the tomahawk was used to drive the knife in.
Katherine Ashton was in the box at 4.15 p.m. -Evening Star, 9/12/1897.
THE GEORGE STREET TRAGEDY.
CLEMENTS FOUND GUILTY AND SENTENCED.
The trial of Charles Clements on a charge of murdering his wife, Ruth Ann Clements, on the l5th November last, was proceeding when we went to press yesterday.
Mrs Annie Cremer, who used, to live in Lethaby's right-of-way, said that on Saturday, the 13th of November, she heard a row between Mr and Mrs Clements at a quarter-past seven in the morning. The quarrelling continued till about eleven o'clock. Witness saw Mrs Clements at the door at one time crying, and then she saw Clements tear her skirt off and tear it up. Clements also tried to tear her petticoat off, but did not get it. In the afternoon the Clementses went out. She saw Mr and, Mrs Clements again on the Sunday evening, when they appeared to be on good terms. Witness was out on that evening, and on returning about ten o'clock she saw a light in the bedroom in Clements's house. That night she heard no sound from the house. On Monday morning the blinds in Clements's house were still down. That was not generally the case. Usually the blinds were up and the children playing about. About eleven o'clock witness went to the. house, but got no answer.
This witness was asked by accused a few questions which apparently had no bearing on the case.
Constable Aldridge said that he had charged Clements at the hospital. Witness took the statement down. He said: "Pity it was not worse; I would have liked to make a good job of it. I am miserable with that wife of mine. It is no use my getting all right, for I will only be hung. My wife is always jawing me. She took a tomahawk to me and cut me across the hand. I took the tomahawk from her and used it to knock the knife into my throat. I didn't touch my wife. She did it herself. I can get plenty of proof of that. We had a row because I tore up a syringe. She has always got a lot of women about the place. She did it because I was growling at her for taking medicine so often." He appeared to be quite rational. Accused remarked that he did not think he said all that, and that he did not recollect seeing the constable at the hospital.
Duncan J. McDonald, formerly a constable, said that he was once called in by Mrs Clements. Clements was present. Mrs Clements said that her husband was living apart from her, and that she did not want him there. She said that he accused her of misconduct, and it was untrue. Clements said "I'll do for you yet." Witness advised her to go to the Magistrate's Court and get an order. When witness returned to the beat, he advised Clements to go to his home if he had one to go to. Accused denied that he had made the statement attributed to him.
Mr Chapman said that that was really all the evidence, but under the circumstances he had thought it wise to ask the attendance of Dr Burns.
His Honor: In the interests of the accused ?
Mr Chapman: Yes. Your Honor asked one of the witnesses a question as to whether accused was treated in the hospital for any mental trouble. If there is anything in the suggestion, it is not likely — it is a class of defence that never comes from the man who is defending himself, and for that reason I thought I would call Dr Burns and place him in the hands of the Court.
His Honor said he was satisfied that Mr Hanlon, though not appearing, would have taken care to provide evidence if that line of defence were at all possible, and, looking at the manner in which the accused had examined witnesses, there seemed not the faintest ground for the suggestion that this point could arise. That being so, while he (His Honor) appreciated the reason Mr Chapman had for calling Dr Burns, it was not necessary to swear the doctor.
Dr. Burns thereupon left the box. Mr Chapman intimated that the case for the prosecution was closed. In reply to His Honor, prisoner said he wished to call witnesses. He would like the jury to hear the evidence before he addressed them.
The accused was then cautioned in the usual manner, and, in reply, he said he would himself give evidence on oath, but he would call his witnesses first.
His Honor: You had better confer with Mr Hanlon first. He will explain the whole thing to you.
Mr Hanlon (after conversing with accused): He wishes to call witnesses first.
Jenny Pratt, the first witness called for accused, deposed that she lived in King street with her parents. She remembered New Year's Night last year.
His Honor: What do you wish her to prove?
The Accused: What my wife told her and what this girl told me.
His Honor said that was not at all legal evidence; it could not be proved. His Honor repeated that he wished that even now, for his own sake and for the sake of those responsible for dealing with the case, he would not throw away any chance he had, but would consider the propriety of availing himself of the advice of Mr Hanlon as to the sort of evidence that could and could not be given.
The accused again declined to accept the advice given; and in reply to His Honor as to what he wanted to prove, prisoner said he wanted the girl to tell the Court what she had told him about his wife.
His Honor: But supposing you prove all you suggest against your wife it would be of no use. We are not trying whether your wife was faithful or unfaithful, but whether you killed your wife. Supposing what you suggest was a fact it would not be evidence in your favor — it would only be evidence against you as showing motive on your part. Do be advised in this matter by those whose advice is more likely to be sound than your own, and give up this sort of evidence. I cannot allow it to be given. Even if you had evidence that would show reasonable grounds for being jealous of your wife, I cannot admit it at all. Your counsel understands these matters far better than you can.
Accused: I cannot understand it, because it is all one-sided here, and one side is to be kept dark.
His Honor: I am sorry you should say so. You are mistaken. We cannot alter the law of the land as to what is evidence. Is that all?
Accused: There is another man who could say - -
His Honor directed the witness to stand down, and then, addressing Mr Hanlon, said: Is that the class of evidence you would not call?
Mr Hanlon: Yes, your Honor. There are thirteen of them.
His Honor: You don't suggest that any of the evidence is admissible apart from its value to the accused?
Mr Hanlon: No; even if the witnesses told the story which accused says they could, the evidence would be irrelevant. That is our difference of opinion.
His Honor (to prisoner): You refuse to place yourself in the hands of counsel of experience, and you refuse to accept my statement as to what is not evidence. I can only say that what you wish to have given in evidence is not evidence at all.
Accused: I wanted Mr Hanlon to put it down long ago.
His Honor remarked that he did not quite know what to do, but perhaps the best way would be to let the witnesses be called and see if there was any evidence they could give.
Eliza Clark, the next witness, was asked by the accused some questions about the movements of Mrs Clements, and these questions proved to be entirely irrelevant.
Jane Le Banc, Annie Hughes, Dinah Pine, John Williams, Frank Roy, David Williams and Joseph Nicholson appeared in turn, and answered questions, His Honor remarking that what they said was not evidence.
Archibald Bennie, George Allen, Thomas Elements, and Mrs Evans did not appear when called.
Accused was then asked whether he wished to give evidence.
Mr Hanlon conferred with accused, who eventually broke away from the conversation, shook his head, and said: "Your Honor, I wish to give oath."
Being duly sworn, Clements said: We were quarrelling, and she told me she would take these drugs as long as she liked. I said: You are very foolish; I have told you often and often about taking them." she said: "If you don't stop your growling I will knock you down," and she stooped to pick up the tomahawk to let me have it, but I stopped her. Then she picked up a knife off the washstand, and cut me across the wrist, and there are the marks now. When she done that I hit her on the head, and lifted her on the bed and cut her throat. As to using the tomahawk on her, I never did but I used it on myself. The children did not see it; they were sleeping. It was about half-past eleven at night. Some time next day, when I got up, the children asked me for something to drink, and it took me all my time to walk into the kitchen and get it. That is all I know about it, your Honor.
His Honor: Is that all you wish to say?
The Accused: That is all I wish to say.
His Honor: Do you wish to make any address to the jury?
The Accused: There were one or two things, but they have gone out of my head. My memory is not good enough to keep them.
His Honor: If I thought there was anything you could say to the jury that would do you any good I would adjourn the case to allow you an opportunity of doing so, but I cannot see that such a course would benefit you in the least.
The Accused: Well, I must say, your Honor, that as God is my judge, Mrs Williams and Mrs Ross know about that woman keeping drugs. She was bad when I went into the hospital, and she was bad when I came out of it. I left the house to get some brandy for the wife, but the publican would not give it to me, and sent me to the chemist. I was told by the chemist that I could not get it without a doctor's order, which would cost me 5s, and I said I would get it without that.
His Honor: Is that all?
The Accused: There is one thing, your Honor. I would like to see the children first.
His Honor: If necessary, that will be allowed; but we won't discuss it now. We are a long way from that yet.
In addressing the jury, His Honor said that during all his experience in court and at the Bar he had never had to deal with a case that presented such painful and peculiar features. Though a capital crime, it did not follow that it possessed any special difficulty. The questions were narrowed to the simplest. Many of the features usually present in murder trials were absent. It was, in fact, he regretted to say, a very painful and simple case. Up till close to the trial counsel of ability and experience was ready to do his best for the accused, and the accused had refused to accept that assistance except on terms which no self-respecting person could accede to. How obvious that reason was the jurors must have gathered from the line the accused had taken and from the witnesses. He (His Honor) was, however, bound to say that the absence of counsel could not be said to have affected the chances of the accused. The case was so simple in its character, and the evidence of the witnesses so uncontradicted and incontestable, that it seemed impossible to suggest any line of cross-examination that could have been pursued by counsel to the advantage of the accused. Had such examination suggested itself to the Court, he need hardly say that, under the circumstances, the prisoner would have had the benefit of it. It was also the duty of counsel for the Crown to take care that every point that was favorable for the accused should be put before them; and from the exceedingly moderate and clear way in which the case had been opened for the Crown they must be satisfied that that course had been pursued. There was nothing to suggest that the killing was in any way justifiable, or that the circumstances were such as to reduce the crime to manslaughter. As to insanity, it was for the jury to say if it was possible to suggest that the accused presented an instance of imbecility or disease of the mind incapable of understanding the quality of an act he had done or of knowing that such an act was wrong. It was, His Honor feared, impossible to suggest that the accused was not capable of knowing what he did or that it was wrong; and nothing short of that would justify any conclusion that the mental condition of the accused was such as to render him not liable for the consequences of his acts. In this case, however, they were not driven to the narrow limits of the Code, for notwithstanding his obstinacy in refusing advice and assistance the accused had conducted his case with a considerable amount of intelligence. This was one of the most painful cases he had ever had to do with, but the fact of its being so serious could not remove the case from the ordinary principles of justice and rules of evidence, and, that being so, it was only the duty of the jury to be satisfied that the accused inflicted the wound of which the woman died. If they were satisfied of that he was bound to point out that nothing in the evidence suggested any ground for saying that there existed the only circumstance which could give them any other duty than that of finding the accused guilty of the charge of which he was indicted.
The jury retired at three minutes to six, and returned at twenty-three minutes past six with a verdict of "Guilty." Prisoner, being asked his age, said he thought it was forty-two, and, in reply to the usual question as to whether he had anything to say why sentence should not be passed, he remarked: "No; only that I had cause to do what I did do. If she had not picked up the tomahawk I should not have done it."
His Honor then passed sentence in the following words:— "I have only one duty in this case. The judgment of the Court is that you, Charles Clements, be taken to the place of execution, and there hanged by the neck until you be dead." -Evening Star, 4/3/1898.
THE GEORGE STREET TRAGEDY.
CLEMENTS TO BE EXECUTED.
We learn that the Executive have determined that the law shall take its coarse in respect to Charles Clements. The execution will probably take place on the 12th inst.
[Clements was convicted on the 3rd ult. of the murder of his wife, Ruth Ann Clements, on the l5th November last, and sentenced to death by Mr Justice Denniston. An application to have him committed to an asylum on the ground of insanity was then made by the prisoner’s counsel, and the carrying out of the death sentence was deferred pending an examination of the condemned man by three medical gentlemen. The examination apparently resulted in Clements’s sanity being affirmed.] -Evening Star, 2/4/1898.
THE DUNEDIN MURDER.
[UNITED PRESS ASSOCIATION.] Dunedin, April 11. Charles Clements, found guilty of wife murder, will be executed to-morrow morning. A scaffold has been erected in a portion of the yard and surrounded by high walls, which cannot be overlooked, The condemned man has been receiving the ministrations of Archdeacon Robinson. He has been somewhat violent in his behaviour, and has evinced no concern respecting his position. -Marlborough Express, 12/4/1898.
EXECUTION OF CLEMENTS.
By Telegraph, Press Association. April 12. Charles Clements, who murdered his wife here, was executed this morning. Death was instantaneous.
The condemned man made a statement, which will be forwarded to the Government, but is not available to the press meanwhile.
Clements showed no signs of penitence, and up till the last seemed absolutely indifferent to his fate. -NZ Times, 13/4/1898.
THE GEORGE-STREET TRAGEDY.
Charles Clements was executed in Dunedin jail yesterday (Tuesday) morning for the murder of his wife. The execution was fixed to take place at eight o'clock, and punctually at that hour (says last night's "Star,") the condemned man, accompanied by Archdeacon Robinson, was led from his cell to the scaffold, which had been erected in the prison yard. In the prisoner's walk and general demeanor there was but little manifestation that he feared, even if he realised, his position. Up till the very last Clements exhibited that utter indifference which has all along characterised his attitude, and some of his utterances whilst standing on the scaffold were of a nature quite unfit for publication. Archdeacon Robinson, from a position near the condemned man on the scaffold, read portions of the service from the Prayer Book, and Clements several times interrupted the Archdeacon, on one occasion saying "A policeman said I told him I killed my wife. I deny using those words," and later on he said "God bless Maggie and Willie" (evidently meaning his two children). When all was in readiness the sheriff asked Clements if he had anything more to say. In a whisper, which was only audible to the sheriff, Clements said: "God bless Maggie and Willie; God bless Williams and his family." The signal was given, and Long removed the lever and released the trap, death being instantaneous, not the slightest hitch of any kind occurring. Dr Burns inspected the body three minutes after the drop, and found life to be quite extinct. After the body had hanged the prescribed time, one hour, it was taken down, and subsequently the inquest before Mr Coroner Carew and a jury of six was held, when the usual verdict was returned.
Clements made a statement to Archdeacon Robinson this morning, but this is not yet available to the Press, having first to be forwarded to the Government. He retired to bed on Monday night early and fell asleep at about 9.30, and did not awaken until he was aroused by a warder at five o'clock next morning. Just before the drop he said to Long "Don't let me drop all at once."
The Williams referred to above is doubtless Clements' brother-in-law, who at present has charge of the children. -Tuapeka Times, 13/4/1898.
|Ruth's grave, Southern Cemetery, Dunedin. DCC photo.|
Charles Clements lies buried in an unmarked, common grave in Dunedin's Southern Cemetery, not far from the remains of his wife. William, his some, was killed at the Somme in France, in 1916. He has no known grave.