Friday 13 August 2021

Yan Sue Cot, 1850-12/11/1895.

Please note: racist attitudes of the times when the following newspaper stories were written are not shared by me.


A sensational shooting case is reported at Lawrence. A Chinaman named Sue Cot, shot and wounded a Mrs Lue Chong, to whom he had made indecent overtures, which were resented. He also fired at Mrs Sue Chong Lee who had rushed to the assistance of her neighbour. John Neylon, blacksmith, was also shot in the thigh on making his appearance on the scene. The frenzied chinaman returned to his hut and inflicted such shot wounds upon himself as will probably result fatally. The other persons are expected to recover.   -Lake Wakatip Mail, 18/10/1895.


(From Our Own Correspondent.)

At the Chinese camp near Lawrence on Wednesday night a Chinaman named Sue Cot was guilty of a very serious shooting outrage. As far as can be gathered, he went to the house of a Mrs Lue Choy, to whom he made indecent overtures, which she resented. He then drew a revolver and fired at her, wounding her in the thigh. The woman's screams attracted the attention of another woman named Mrs Sing Lue, who rushed to her aid. The Chinaman, without hesitation, fired two shots at her in quick succession. One struck her on the breast and glanced off her ribs; the other bullet struck her in the side and lodged in her back. A young man named John Naylon, a blacksmith, now appeared on the scene, and Sue Cot immediately turned his attention to him, shooting him in the thigh. The Chinaman, who was in a frenzied state, then betook himself to his hut, where, after locking himself in, he turned the revolver on himself. When the police effected an entrance they found he was suffering from a wound in the stomach and from injuries about the head. He was conveyed to the hospital, but is at present in a critical state, and very faint hopes are entertained as to his recovery. The others who were shot at were also taken to the hospital, but none of the wounds are likely to prove dangerous. The two women, it may be added, are Europeans.   -Otago Daily Times, 18/10/1895.


[by telegraph.] (per press association.) DUNEDIN. November 5. At Lawrence to-day Sue Cot was committed for trial on a charge of shooting at two women and men on the 16th and wounding them. He presented a haggard appearance, having evidently suffered much.   -Oamaru Mail, 6/1/1895.


(From Our Own Correspondent.) Lawrence, November 5. Sue Cot was to-day brought before Messrs Pilling, sen., and J. Thompson, J.P.s, charged with, on October 16, shooting at Bridget Loo Choy with intent to kill. 

Mr Finlayson appeared for the accused. 

Bridget Loo Choy deposed that she was a widow residing at the Chinese Camp. On October 16 last she was in her kitchen about 7 o'clock. The accused came to her place and made improper overtures to her which she rejected. He then called her bad names, and went away, but returned again in about 10 minutes, when he came in by the back door, and pulled a revolver out of his pocket, and struck her over the head with it. He then caught hold of her and struck her again. She retreated to her bedroom, where he followed her. She got partly under the bed when he fired at her. The first shot grazed her hand. He fired again a second and third time. She was calling out "Murder!" all the time. She then heard the door being forced open, and Mrs Sing Lee and a man named Joe Neylon came in. She heard more shots fired, and Mrs Sing Lee and Neylon call out that they were shot. She thought she heard either two or three shots fired after the door was broken in. She was very excited, and did not remember anything more until she found herself lying on a sofa in the back room, being attended to by Dr Newell and Sergeant Conn. She never gave the accused any cause to molest her. 

By Mr Finlayson: She was friendly with accused for some time, until about three or four months ago. She had known him for ahout six years. She cohabited with the accused some time ago — not so long as a year ago. He had no right to be jealous of her. 

Ellen Sing Lee, the wife of William Sing Lee, of Tuapeka Flat, stated that when, on the 16th October, she heard Bridget Loo Choy screaming and calling out "Murder!" she was in her own house next door. She ran round to her back door, and found it locked. She then went to the front door, where she met Joe Neylon, and he burst it in with his feet and went in, witness following him into the back bedroom. Sue Cot was behind the door in the bedroom. Bridget Loo Choy was lying on the floor, her body being about half way under the bed. There was blood running down her face. Sue Cot had a revolver in his hand at the time. 

Joseph Neylon, blacksmith at Tuapeka Flat, gave corroborative evidence, and said there was sufficient light from a fire in the adjoining room to see everything distinctly in the bedroom. He was sure it was a revolver the accused had in his hand. 

By Mr Finlayson: After he saw the blood and the state of affairs he struck accused on the body with his fist. 

Mr Newell deposed that he was called to attend some cases at the Chinese Camp an the evening of the 16th October. Bridget Loo Choy was lying on a bed in a small room in her own house. She had several wounds. One on the head was bleeding freely — this wound was apparently caused by a bullet. The second wound was 1 & 1/2 in long, exposing the skull, and was probably caused by a blow. There was a third wound on the right thumb, which had also the appearance of being caused by a bullet. There were other scratches and abrasions about the face and body. The house bad a very much disordered appearance. The pillows and the woman's hair and clothing were also saturated with blood.

By Mr Finlayson: The sharp cut wound on the head and the one on the thumb might have possibly been caused by a sharp instrument. 

The accused reserved his defence, and was committed for trial. 

In the case of shooting at Ellen Sing Lee and Joseph Neylon, the evidence was very similar to the above, except that it was brought out that when Mrs Sing Lee and Neilon went in accused fired at them and hit them. Neilon's evidence went to show that he did not think Sue Cot intended to shoot Mrs Sing Lee, but that he intended to shoot him, and missed him and struck Mrs Sing Lee, who was behind him. The accused reserved his defence in these cases also, and was committed to take his trial at the Supreme Court.

The prisoner was brought from the hospital to the court, and was looking very ill.  -Otago Daily Times, 6/11/1895.



We take the following sensational and decidedly mixed account of the late affray at the Chinese Camp from a Sydney paper just to hand. As a sample of the stupid manner of transmitting New Zealand news to Sydney, it is unique: —

"A Chinaman named Ching Cat, in a fit of jealousy, pistolled his European wife named Mrs Lee Sing and afterwards proceeded to dismember her with an axe. He then shot two men named Timothy Nailor and Pat Kelly, who courageously came to the rescue of his unfortunate victim. Both the men are dead. Shortly after two other European women — McCauley and Loughlin — appeared on the scene and were dangerously wounded by the infuriated Mongolian. A desperate struggle took place between himself and the sergeant of police, the latter, at the risk of his own life, boldly rushing the murderer. Before, however, he could be disarmed, Ching Cat turned the weapon on himself and shot himself fatally." The writer then says: — "The scene of the bloodshed is at a place called the Chinese Camp, near Lawrence, on the Otago goldfields, which sprang up in consequence of the discovery of gold near there by Gabriel Read in the late fifties, and Gabriels Gully was a very rich alluvial field. At the head of it is the Blue Spur, where the cement has been crushed by batteries for years. There are many Chinese miners in the neighborhood, and 'the camp' is the result, where there are stores and gambling dens and loose characters generally. About twenty years ago this camp was started outside town bounds. Before that there was a Chinese store in Lawrence, but in consequence of a Chinese gardener, Ah Ling, having tomahawked a miner named Ben Harboard in his tent at night in order to steal his gold, Chinese were never afterwards permitted within town bounds. Ah Ling got ten years for manslaughter. The Mrs Lee Sing mentioned in connection with the tragedy has been in the Camp for over fifteen years. When discovered the body of the woman was found to be fearfully mutilated. Both Kelly and Nailor lived in the vicinity of the Camp. Kelly was married and leaves a family. It is thought that after this the authorities will demolish the Camp and compel the inhabitants to go further inland.  -Tuapeka Times, 9/11/1895.

The Chinese Camp near Lawrence, looking deserted in the 1930s.  Hocken Library photo.


Sue Cot, who was awaiting his trial for shooting at Ellen Sing Lee, Bridget McLoughlan, and John Naylor at the Chinese Camp, Lawrence, on the 16th ult, died in the hospital this morning from the result of the wounds inflicted upon himself. An inquest will probably be held on the body to-morrow.  -Evening Star, 12/11/1895.

The inquest on Sue Got, or You Sue Cot, as the name appears on the warrant of commitment, was opened at the hospital this afternoon before a jury, of whom James Beadle was elected foreman. The Coroner (Mr Carew) stated that the police had not been able to get together all the necessary evidence for to-day, wherefore it was intended to simply identify the body and then adjourn the inquiry to next Tuesday. One Witness only was sworn — Mr Phillips, the gaoler. He said in the course of his evidence that on the afternoon of the 6th, the day the Chinaman arrived in custody from Lawrence, the gaol surgeon prescribed milk diet, and next day recommended a consultation with Dr Gloss. This took place, and the doctors agreed to recommend that the man be removed to the hospital. The usual plan was to convey a sick prisoner to the hospital in a cab, but in consequence of Sue Cot’s condition the ambulance was used in his case.  -Evening Star, 13/11/1895.


An inquest was held on the 19th at the Magistrate's Court by Mr Coroner Carew and a jury of six, of whom Mr James Beath was chosen foreman, concerning the death of Sue Cot, who shot himself at the Chinese Camp, near Lawrence, last month. 

Dr Ross deposed that Sue Cot was brought into the hospital on the 7th inst. from the Dunedin prison. He examined him and found that he was suffering from peritonitis. A consultation was held next morning. Deceased became worse, and on the 12th another consultation was held and an opinion arrived at that there was perforation of the bowels. It was decided to operate, and on this taking place it was found that the bowels were perforated in two places. Deceased subsequently died, and the medical opinion come to was that death was caused by perforation of the bowels and peritonitis. There was a wound about 1in above the navel which could have been caused by a bullet. It was possible that the bullet might not have perforated the bowels in the first place. It might have grazed them and ulceration might have followed. Deceased was pretty low when he came to the hospital. 

Dr Burns stated that two outside wounds were found, but both had healed up. They were probably three weeks old. The rest of witness's evidence was chiefly corroborative of Dr Ross's. Not having seen deceased before, witness was not prepared to say whether he was in a fit state to be sent away from Lawrence or not. 

Joseph Neylon, blacksmith, living at Tuapeka Flat, near Lawrence, said he remembered the disturbance at the Chinese Camp about the 16th October. He had just finished tea, and was near the Chinese Camp, when he heard Mrs Sing Lee screaming. Witness ran to her house, and saw her outside it. She called out loud, "They are murdering her inside. The doors are locked, and you will have to put the door in." Witness found the door locked, and forced it with his foot. There were two rooms in the house. He went into the lefthand one — a bedroom — and saw Sue Cot sitting on the bed behind the door. He also saw Bridget McLauchlan lying under the bed with her head out, but saw no one else in the place. Mrs Sing. Lee followed him in. Bridget McLauchlan was groaning. Witness struck Sue Cot twice with his fist, and the Chinaman then fired one shot from a revolver but missed witness. He fired again, and hit witness on the inside of the hip. Witness got outside, and after a few seconds Mrs Sing Lee came and complained of being shot. Witness then hopped away and got into Mrs Sing Lee's house, which was close to the other, and did not see Sue Cot again till some days afterwards, when he saw him in Lawrence Hospital. The house where witness was shot was occupied by Bridget McLauchlan and was alongside Mrs Sing Lee's. Witness saw only one pistol, and no one else had possession of it except Sue Cot. The occurrence took place about halfpast 7 o'clock in the evening. 

Ah Teck, residing at the Chinese Camp, said that shortly after 7 o'clock on the 16th October he heard Sue Cot go into a four-roomed cottage occupied by him, witness, and others. He (deceased) went into his bedroom and locked the door, but did not speak. About a quarter of an hour afterwards witness heard the report of a pistol from Sue Cot's room. Three shots were fired in rapid succession. There was no one else but witness and Sue Cot in the house. About five or six minutes afterwards some Chinese came into the house and said that Sue Cot had killed two women and a young man and had then killed himself. Witness went to the door of Sue Cot's room and found it locked on the inside. He then went outside into the street and looked for the police. About 10 minutes afterwards Sergeant Conn came down and broke in the door. There was a constable with the sergeant. The three went into the room and saw Sue Cot lying on the bed with his head bleeding. The sergeant searched the room and witness looked for the pistol, but could not find it. There was a small window in the room. Witness never knew that Sue Cot had a pistol in his possession. 

Constable McAllen stated that he went to the house. Sue Cot was on the bed apparently dead. Witness felt his pulse, and it seemed natural. Witness thought he was pretending to be dead. No trace of firearms was found, but outside the window, which opened about 12 inches, they found five empty cartridges, which seemed to have been lately emptied. Dr Newall, of Lawrence, recommended the wounded person's removal to the hospital at Lawrence. On the 5th inst. Sue Cot was brought to Dunedin prison, and was able to walk to the railway station, and appeared to be fit to travel to Dunedin. 

A verdict was returned that deceased died from the effects of a gunshot wound, but there was no evidence, the jury considered, to show by whom the wound was inflicted.  -Otago Witness, 28/11/1895.

Yan Sue Cot is buried in Dunedin's Southern Cemetery.  To the best of my knowledge, his grave has no stone.

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