Spotlight: Trial of Sam Poo for Wilful Murder (13/10/1865)

Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Friday 13 October 1865, page 5



Sam Poo was charged with the wilful murder of constable John Ward, on the 3rd February, 1865, at Talbragar, to which he pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Innes, at the request of his Honor, defended the prisoner.

The Government interpreter Sing Shigh translated the evidence to the prisoner.

Mr. Butler having opened the case.

John Clough was called, and deposed: I am in the employ of Mr. Plunkett, at Talbragar; I remember the day that constable Ward was shot; I saw the prisoner in that neighbourhood the day after Ward was shot; I was coming through the scrub, and I saw him covering me with a gun; he asked me where I was going, and on my telling him that I was going to Mr. Plunkett’s, he said, “Go on, or I will give you one too,” Pointing to the gun and a pistol that was lying near him on a log. The gun shown me (one that had been cut down in the barrel) is the gun he had; it had a piece of leather near the nipple like that now on the gun; I did not notice the pistol-could not swear it was a pistol; the prisoner was dressed in a serge shirt and corduroy trousers like those worn by the prisoner now; he had a hat like the prisoner’s.

By Mr. Innes: Never saw the prisoner before that; my brother was with me when he stopped me, but he stood some way off; I am positive the prisoner is the man; he did not offer to molest us; he had a swag with him, but we had nothing with us; I asked him where he was going and whether he was lost, and told him I would soon fetch somebody to shift him out of that; it was a piece of rag the prisoner had over the nipple of the gun; it did not occur to me that the prisoner might think we were going to stick him up; I could see his face plainly, and I did not think he was an old man; he was rather stouter than he is now.

Elizabeth Golding deposed: I live with my husband near Mr. Plunkett’s; on the 30th January, I saw the prisoner at my place; he came and spoke to my little girl; it was in the forenoon, and he went away; soon after he retuned; I asked him what he came back for, when he said, “If I cannot have my will of the girl, I will of you.”; he had a gun with him like that shown me; it had a precisely similar piece of leather round the barrel; I ran off to get assistance; the prisoner is the man.

By Mr. Innes: The prisoner was dressed then as he is now. I never saw him before. I am certain he is the man. My husband came back with me and the prisoner was gone.

James Francis Plunkett deposed: I live at Talbragar and remember constable Ward being shot. I found Ward lying in the bush wounded. I remember seeing the prisoner the night before Ward was shot. I remember seeing in one of the shepherds’ huts some things strewed about in confusion. There was a mess as if a flour bag had been emptied, and on the floor was a piece of a leather legging which had been cut. The leather round the gun is similar to that of the leggings. I found the things disturbed in the hut three or four days after Ward was shot. I found Ward wounded and took him to my house, where he died at four o’clock in the afternoon. He said he knew he was dying, and asked repeatedly “What is to become of my wife and children?” He knew he was dying and I took down a statement in writing. Afterwards he made other statements which I did not put down. This statement (produced) is the one I wrote.

By Mr. Innes: Constable Ward knew he was dying. He asked us to pray for him. The prayers we offered up were those of the Church of England for the sick and dying. I read the whole service. I sent for a doctor, who was forty-five miles away. I do not know whether he requested me to do so; probably he did so. The doctor came and remained till after Ward was dead. His family were, at his request, also sent for, but they did not arrive till he was buried. I read a portion of the service, and my wife read the rest.

Mr. Innes submitted to his Honor whether the declaration of the deceased could be admitted, as it had been ruled that where, after a declaration had been made, some hope of recovery had been expressed by a person who afterwards died, such a declaration could not be received. Mr. Plunkett had said that probably constable Ward expressed a wish for a doctor to be sent for, and this, he contended, was sufficient lo show that the deceased entertained hopes of recovery. The learned counsel concluded by quoting authorities in support of his argument.

His Honor said there was no positive evidence that Ward had made any request for a doctor. The witness could not remember, but he positively stated that Ward was firm in his conviction that he should die. The declaration, therefore, must be admitted.

Mr. Innis requested that the point might be reserved.

Mr. Butler then handed in the dying declaration of Ward, which was read as follows:— “I, John Ward, senior constable, stationed at Coonabarabran, do hereby solemnly declare, believing myself dangerously ill, and at the point of death, that on the 3rd day of February, 1865, I met two men on the Mudgee side of Barney’s Reef, who told me that a Chinaman was about sticking up people. When I got on the Talbragar side of Barney’s Reef, I sighted a Chinaman, and when he saw me he left the road and went into the bush. I chased and overtook him and told him that I was a policeman, and ordered him to put down his gun. He ran at me, and said, ‘You, policeman, me fire.’ When he presented his gun, I got off my horse, and took out my revolver. He followed me round the horse, fired at, and wounded me. I fired one shot at him, and then fell. I fired two more when I was on the ground. He ran away in the bush, loading his gun. To the best of my belief, the Chinaman was a short little cranky old man; he had a gun and a pistol.”

Examination resumed: After I had written the statement just rend, the deceased described the dress of the Chinaman who shot him. He said it would be of no use, for the Chinaman would change his clothes. He described the man’s dress, saying he wore a blue shirt and a strangely made cap. He said the man who shot him appeared to be a cranky, little, short old man.

Alfred Smith deposed: I was driving some sheep, on the evening of the 3rd February, at Talbragar, when I heard the report of firearms. A young man was with me, and on turning round I saw a man walking through the bush. He was dressed in a blue serge shirt and darkish trousers. His appearance corresponded with the prisoner’s. Afterwards I heard that constable Ward had been shot.

By Mr. Innes: I was near enough to see whether the man who was running away was an European or a Chinaman; I was 250 or 300 yards from him.

Thomas Matthew Morris deposed to being with the last witness, and seeing a man pass him in the bush riding, a few minutes before he heard shots fired; after the firing he saw a man coming from the same direction carrying something in his hand, which he thought was a gun ; in appearance and dress he resembled the prisoner.

Alfred Smith recalled: When I saw the man who passed after the shots were fired, he had something in his hand, which I believed was a gun.

Dr. William King deposed: I attended constable Ward, and found one wound in the pelvis, which was evidently caused by a bullet; there were other small wounds; I saw the deceased before his death; his case was a hopeless one.

Constable Burns deposed: I went out with two constables and a black tracker to scour the country, after it was ascertained that constable Ward was shot; we returned in a few days unsuccessful, and getting fresh information we started again; we met with the prisoner in the bush, our attention being drawn to him hy his firing off a gun; he ran into the scrub which was very thick, and we had to dismount to follow him; we fired after him and eventually brought him to bay and arrested him; the prisoner was dressed then as Chinamen usually dress; he had two jumpers on (produced) and the other clothes he now wears; he had the gun now shown me which has been cut down; it was loaded with a bullet and slugs which I produce; he also had the pistol now in court.

By Mr. Innes: The prisoner was shot and gave a scream, and was afterwards knocked senseless with a blow on the head; he was injured seriously, and was not expected to recover.

Dr. King recalled: The wounds I saw on Ward’s body might have been produced by a bullet and slugs similar to the charge shown me.

Mr. Innes asked his Honor whether there was anything to go to the jury on the charge of murder.

His Honor considered that there was ample evidence to sustain an indictment for murder.

Mr. Innes then made a telling speech in the prisoner’s behalf.

His Honor having gone through the evidence, pointed out its various features; the jury retired, and after a short interval, returned with a verdict of guilty. Sentence deferred.

Spotlight: Execution of Sam Poo (1866)

Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918, 1935), Saturday 6 January 1866, page 19


EXECUTION AT BATHURST. – The convict Sam Poo, who at the last assizes was convicted of the murder of Constable Ward; suffered the extreme penalty of the law within the precincts of the gaol; In the absence of any of his countrymen outside the prison walls three Chinese prisoners, who are at present confined in Bathurst gaol, were brought out to see the end of Sam Poo; there were also about a dozen other persons present, besides the police and the officers of the gaol. The wretched man, who, ever since his apprehension has been quite weak in intellect, appeared perfectly unconscious of his fate, and, until his arms were pinioned by the executioners, stood at the door of his cell clapping his hands. The ceremony of pinioning over, he was led to the gallows without speaking a word, or even once lifting up his head. The rope was fixed, the bolt drawn and Sam Poo ceased to exist. The body was, after the lapse of little more than half an hour, cut down and taken away for burial. — Free Press.

Spotlight: Indictment of Sam Poo

Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Friday 13 October 1865, page 5

TUESDAY, 10th October.


Sam Poo was indicted for that he, on the 3rd day of February, 1865, at Talbragar, did feloniously, wilfully, and of malice aforethought, kill and murder one John Ward.

John Clough deposed: I am a stockman at Talbragar. I remember when constable Ward was shot. I saw the prisonor the day before that on the head of the Tarrawa. My brother was with me. It was afternoon when I saw him on the station. He had a gun in his hand. I was coming through the scrub, and he covered me with the gun. I asked him where he lived. He told me to go on, or he said he would give me one, two. He also had a pistol with him. I saw the gun afterwards in Mudgee. The gun produced is the same. I could not swear to the pistol. It was lying on a log beside the prisoner. I cannot say whether the pistol produced is the same. I had not seen the prisoner before that. He had on a blue shirt, a cap, and a pair of moleskin trousers patched with corduroy. The cap produced is the one he had on. I could not say whether the trousers were or were not corduroy, but I noticed that they were patched.

Isabella Golding deposed: I live in the neighbourhood of Mr. Plunket’s station. I heard of Ward’s death. Prisoner came to my house on the 30th January. I was not at home at the time. He came to me a few hours after that. I asked him what he wanted by coming back a second time, He said if he could not have his will of the little girl he would of me. I ran for assistance. He had a gun with him. I am sure he is the man.

James F. Plunkett deposed: I am a squatter, and live at Talbragar. I saw constable Ward on the 3rd of February, after he was shot. I found the constable near Barney’s Reef; I never saw the prisoner before that. I found some property at the sheep station scattered about. I saw the prisoner afterwards in custody. I saw where some flour had been emptied, and a portion of a leather legging cut up. I saw the gun and pistol produced. The leather on the gun I believe to be a part of that found cut at the station. It was three or four days after Ward was shot that I saw the things referred to. I removed Ward to my place, and he died on the following day. I spoke to him repeatedly. He said he knew he was dying, and asked what would become of his wife and family. I took down a part of his statement in writing. He made some statements to me that I did not take down in writing. He was quite satisfied he was dying when he made the statemonts, and asked me to pray for him. The statement produced is the one I took down from his lips.

The statement was then read, of which the following is a copy :– “I, John Ward, senior-constable, stationed at Coonabarabran, do hereby solemnly declare, believing myself dangerously ill and at the point of death, that on this 3rd day of February, 1865, I met two men on the Mudgee side of Barney’s reef, who told me that a Chinaman was about sticking up people. When I got on the Talbragar side of Barney’s reef, I sighted a Chinaman, and when he saw me he left the road and went into the bush. I chased and overtook him, and told him that I was a policeman, and ordered him to put down his gun. He ran at me, and said, ‘You policeman, me fire’; when he presented his gun I got off my horse and took out my revolver. He followed me round the horse and fired at and wounded me. I fired one shot at him and he fell; I fired two more when I was on the ground. He then ran away reloading his gun. To the best of my belief the Chinaman was a short, little, cranky old man. He had a gun and a pistol.”

Mr. Innes addressed the jury for the defence and commented at considerable length upon the evidence, arguing that there was nothing in the statements of the witnesses that would fix the shooting of Ward upon the prisoner; and the jury should be satisfied not only that the evidence was of such a character as to render it probable that the prisoner was the culprit, but also that it was such as to render it improbable that any other person could have done the deed. There was no case against the prisoner, if thc dying declaration of Ward were shut out, and that declaration was defective and very objectionable, inasmuch as from it they learned that Ward himself was only acting upon imperfect hearsay evidence

His Honor, in summing up, referred to the value of dying declarations as evidence, and argued that they should be received, as a person dying was likely to be fully impressed with the importance of his situation, and was quite as likely to state the truth as he would be were he in the witness-box and giving his testimony upon oath. After reading the declaration, his Honor recapitulated the principal portions of the evidence, expatiating upon the various circumstances related by the witnesses, and showing how those circumstances bore upon each other.

Mr. Butler called his Honor’s attention to the fact that, in the verbal statement made by the deceased that was not reduced to writing, he described the Chinaman’s gun as cut down.

The jury retired, and after a short absence returned a verdict of guilty. Sentence deferred. – Abridged from the Bathurst Free Press.