Liverpool Mercury 14th January 1899

Alleged criminal cruelty on board ship

Committal of Captain and Steward

At the Liverpool Police Court on Tuesday

Captain Charles Lewis BAKER, aged 36, and Herbert E. PASSINGHAM, Steward, aged 26 of the barque MARY A. TROOP, were charged before Mr L. MORRIS, on remand, with having assaulted Ah CHING, a Chinese cabin boy, sailing on the vessel.

Mr PAXTON prosecuted for the Board of Trade and Mr E. BERRY appeared for the accused.

Ist witness called was Philip F. SWEENEY who stated he joined the vessel as an able seaman at Port Townsend, he had never been to sea before, his previous occupation being a commercial traveller. When he joined the vessel Ah CHING was in good health, except for some bruises to his face.

When the boy disappeared witness did not think he would last another day. The steward daily ill-treated the boy by thrashing him with his fists, sticks, rope ends and his feet, the lad was always covered in cuts and bruises and never seemed to resist. Witness once saw the steward pour soup down the boys throat with a pint funnel, as far down the throat as possible, holding the lads nose, the lad gasped and choked and, “squirmed.” He had seen the Captain strike the lad on the back of the neck with a piece of wood over the weather board, and the steward rushed up and knocked the lad back again.

Seaman BARKER stated, he had seen the steward throw the lad overboard, the Captain stood by and encouraged it, and told the witness to keep his mouth shut. He said nothing in fear he would get the same treatment.

Able seaman, John BROWN, a Finn, said he had seen the 2nd mate and the steward beat the lad.

Elijah TAYLOR, 2nd mate, said he joined the vessel at, Newcastle, New South Wales, in Sept 1897, shortly after Al CHING joined the vessel at Port Townsend. Witness found blood-stains on the deckload, leading aft.

When he was asked about ill-treating the boy he said he had done so because the boy had stolen and eaten some cakes. He had seen the steward beat the boy with his fists. He had spoken to the steward about it. He had also seen a rope around the boy, he never saw the steward jerk the rope, but it was calculated to cause pain to a boy like the deceased.

Witness saw the boy forced to eat nasty food while the steward stood over him, he never saw the Captain ill-treat the boy but he knew about the matter, he was present when the boy was scrubbed with a broom. The Captain stopped the boy on two occasions from attempting to crawl overboard. In the witnesses opinion the deceased was a “bit slow,” “ not all there.” In his opinion he was not fit for the position as cabin boy. He did not think it was cruel to put a rope around the boy’s neck as it was done to prevent him going overboard.

Charles Kirby NEWMAN, 1st mate, said he joined the vessel in May 1897, the boy was transferred to him from another vessel and joined the MARY A. TROOP on 4th Aug last, he was in good health and could speak a couple of words of English, and was, “a little simple.

Witness heard a splash in the water on the 7th Aug and a boat was lowered, the 2nd mate found the boy with a severe wound under the bridge of his nose, where blood was flowing. He accused the steward of striking the deceased which he later admitted to doing, he had attacked him with his fists.

The boy’s health decreased, his face became swollen and his eyes could hardly be seen, his legs and feet became covered in bruises and scars. He was free from marks when he came on board. He became emaciated and weak and could scarcely walk.

He last saw the boy on the 29th Aug, lying on his back in the paint locker, not a proper place to keep someone, it was stacked high with paints and oils with little space, and full of the strong smells of the paint and oil. While he lay there he seemed to be dying, his eyes were closed his face was ashen. He rubbed some liniment on the boy’s legs the Captain had given to him, after this he never saw the boy again.

Three quarters of an hour later he was informed by the cook that the boy was missing and informed the Captain who hardly turned and told him, “Go look for him,” a search was made but he could not be found.

Witness saw the steward being cruel to the boy as stated before, the compulsory swallowing of the soup and also forcing the boy to eat rope-yarn and raw potatoes. He also heard the sound of blows and thrashing in the galley, with loud cries, when he entered the galley they stopped. Witness told the cook if he did not desist he would give him a “taste of the same.”

River P.C. ABERNETHY arrested both prisoners on the 26th ult, on board the steam ship ORISSA and on arrival at the bridewell charged them both with assaulting the boy.

Mr PAXTON charges the prisoner with grievous bodily harm with intent, he thought there was not the same gravity attached to the Captain, but there was a charge warranting committal for trial.

His Worship committed both prisoners for trial at the assizes on a charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent – for the next assizes.


Copyright 2002 / To date