The Axedale Incendiarism

from: The Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette, 05 Oct 1886, page 5

THE AXEDALE INCENDIARISAM At the Sandhurst police court on Wednesday September, 29th, a young. man, named Robert Elliott was brought up on remand from Drouin, charged with unlawfully and maliciously setting fire to two stacks of corn, the property of Lazarus Bros., and valued at £500, at Axe Creek, on the 21st January last.

Mr. Connelly prosecuted, and Mr. ,Rymer defended the prisoner. who pleaded “Not Guilty.” : Detective A. G. Sainsbury deposed that he conducted the investigation into the firing of the stacks of Messrs. Lazarus Bros.

He visited the scene on the 22nd January, the day after they had been set fire to, and saw two stacks still burning. He saw bootmarks of a man as if he had been running from the stack. The tracks corresponded with a boot produced, which he received from the prisoner, who said he wore it when he set.the stack on fire. The boots corresponded exactly in length and, breadth.

With the assistance of the Government black-trackers, they traced the prints first easterly to the creek, and then in a southerly direction towards Doak’s: After following them 33 chains, they were lost at Doak’s brush fence.

He saw Elliott that day, and spoke to him, also to other men there. Prisoner, to the best of his belief said he knew nothing about it. On the 8th of this month, he went to Drouin with Mr. (unreadable) to conceal himself on the ceiling of the lockup. The ceiling was of logs and some had spaces between them.

Prisoner and a man named Bush were in the cell. Mr. Rymer:” I object to anything being put forward which was said by the prisoner. There was no doubt that a confession was made in writing, and that must be handed in”.The bench overruled the objection.

Witness, proceeding, said with reference to the conversation, he overheard that Bush I asked Elliott ” How is old Lazarus getting, on,” and Elliott replied ” I don’t know; you must not say I ever let you know of the fire. That red-headed Irishman,who was manager for Lazarus is dead.” Bush said ” Is that the overseer that came to Doak’s where they were threshing and said the machine was useless?” Elliott replied ” Yes.” and Bush asked him. if that was the night of the fire. Prisoner. answered “Yes don’t speak too loud” Bush continues, “Did you set fire to all the stacks?”. ” Prisoner replied, ” I only set fire to one, and the other must have caught from it.” Bush said, “I suppose you ran then,’. and prisoner answered, “My —-oath I did.”

Prisoner was heard to say, also that Doak said the fire served Lazarus right. On the following morning,witness saw prisoner, who said he thought he had seen him (witness) before. Witness told him who he was, and he recollected.

After further conversation he told prisoner he had come over about the fire and that he suspected him. He then said he never fired the stacks,and asked him if Bush had told him. Witness replied, “I heard you say so to Bush, when you asked him not to tell”.

Witness showed him where he had been concealed. Prisoner said “Oh, well, it’s no use denying it. I did burn Lazarus’ stacks. I set fire to one of them.” Constable O’Meara, the lockup-keeper, then came to the door, and prisoner continued that he set the stack afire because “the overseer wouldn’t have the old man’s machine or the other cockeys (farmer’s) either”.

He said his father never told him to do it. Prisoner said he had no objection to repeat the statement to some other person. Witness asked him whether he was willing to go to Sandhurst and be tried for the offence. Prisoner replied “I may as well be in gaol. I did it, and must put up with the consequences”.

Prisoner then went with him to the Shire hall next door, and made a statement before :Mr. Startup, J.P. and Mr. Beckwith. Prisoner signed the document (produced), after it had been read over to him.

Witness subsequently swore an information against him. He never induced the prisoner by threats, promises, or anything to make the confession.

Later on that day, witness was at the police station. and prisoner.sent for him. He went to him, and prisoner said ” I suppose you heard me telling Jack Bush that Doak said it was a good job. Well, Doak never said it at all.”  Prisoner gave him as a reason for saying so that he thought Bush would refrain from telling anyone.

To Mr. Rymer: Prisoner was in gaol at Dronin on a charge of false pretences. He put Bush in the lockup as a means of hearing hearing what prisoner said. He was sure that Bush was not put in for being drunk.

There was no charge against Bush, who consented to be locked up. Bush first told witness that prisoner had informed him when at Shelbourne, he had fired the stacks.

There is a reward of £100, which he now thinks Bush will receive. The boots of the man Boyle, who was first arrested on suspicion, were No.8,. and fitted the track. Boyle never made a statement that he had fired the stack.

Samuel and Daniel Lazarus, the owners of the stacks destroyed, William Doak; farmer, Axedale, and Peter Alias, laborer, who saw the prisoner hurrying along the road from Lazarus’ at the time of the fire, gave evidence, and the prisoner was committed to take his trial at .the Assize Court on the 14th October next.

from wikipedia: incendiarism – Dictionary definition and meaning for word incendiarism. (noun) malicious burning to destroy property. Synonyms : arson , fire-raising. the British term for arson is fire-raising –

(Punctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading)

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