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Ah Kim - Shooting

The following text is from the Coronial Inquest reported in NT Times 15 May 1875.

It can be found in TROVE at The Jury having chosen Mr. Caldwell foreman proceeded to the Police-station to view the body of deceased, and having returned, the following evidence was taken :– George Percy Badman, Sergeant of Police, stated—I know the deceased, Ah Kim. He was in my custody in the Palmerston Gaol on the 10th February, 1875, up to the morning of the 15th February, under sentence of imprisonment for life. It was discovered he had escaped by bursting the bolt of the door of his cell. Obtained a warrant for his rearrest on February 23. I am gaoler. Have seen the body. It is that of the prisoner Ah Kim, who was illegally at large. After the body was brought to the station last night I accompanied Charles Miller to a spot pointed out by him; where I saw stains of blood on the beach at the bottom of the gully from the Esplanade, nearly in a line with Mr. Smith's house. Saw the stains of blood on the stones, and covering the stains I saw the revolver and knife produced. The revolver was in the case, and was loaded in all the chambers. By spanning I could touch both the revolver and the knife. Found in a boat alongside several loaves of bread, a bag of rice, and two pair of old boots. I saw the Miller brothers take his swag front the top of the trunk of a tree, and a bag of biscuits, sardines, and tin of milk. Four of the loaves were quite new. Was not present at the shooting. Body had been removed. It is in the charge of the police. By a Juror—I found no money or jewellery in his possession. The body had been searched before I saw it. When he escaped I know he had no money. He had nothing except what he stood up in. James Marshall Miller, police-constable, said — Last night between 10 and 11 o'clock was told off on duty with my brother by Sergeant Badman and the Inspector. Suspecting from what we had heard that Ah Kim would be taking his departure for the Peninsula we went down to the beach in front of Mr. Smith's dwelling house. There are two paths down the gully from the Esplanade — one leading from the O.T. quarters, and the other close by Mr. Smith's. My brother took the left hand one, and I took the other — the one leading from Mr. Smith's. We met on a rise, just before we got to the gravelly beach near the well. We walked down as far as a boat which I believe belongs to Mr. Dalton. We searched the boat; while doing so saw an object move in a forked paper-bark tree that projects about 30 feet from the bank. Called out, "Halloo, who's that? Is that you Ah Kim? Surrender, or I'll shoot you." The object rose up a bit, and seemed to lean forward as if reaching for something. He then made a spring in the opposite direction to where we were, towards the jungle. I said, "Look out, Charley." He said, "Surrender, Ah Kim, or I'll shoot you," at least four times. He might have called six times, but I will swear four times, and one of the times he made use of the expression, " I'll shoot you, by God." At the time he sprang from the tree, I could just see his head and part of his body. I ran towards the stern of the boat, and called my brother, and said, "Fire, Charley, quick." He did so. I immediately ran round the boat with my revolver, thinking be had missed him. My revolver was in my hand at the time. After he fired I ran round, and saw something lying on the ground. Thinking he might not have been wounded, and only stunned by the fall, and knowing be had a revolver and a knife in his possession, I ran towards him, folded his arms over, and put my knee on his chest. Called out, "Come on, Charley, be quick, and see if he has got a revolver on him; if he has, take it from him. He searched him, but found none on him. He then said, "I have shot the poor fellow what shall I do? "I replied that the best thing you can do is to report it at the station at once, and get the doctor. He said, "I don't think I can do it." Afterwards he went, and we then got the assistance of several troopers who conveyed him to the station. The deceased has been closer to me on a former occasion, and then got away. By Sergeant Badman—Knew the deceased was illegally at large, and that a warrant was issued for his arrest. Have been in search of him for months — both day and night. On the fork of the tree there were some boards supporting a net. Found there a bag of biscuits, one tin of milk, some tins of sardines, and a quantity of line. There was a hammock, a mosquito net, and I think a tablecloth; also leather bag containing knife, spoon, pricker, files, needles, thread, one tin of No. 2 diamond grain powder, and a quantity of fishhooks. Found the revolver immediately under where his body was before he was taken away. Nero said, "That's his revolver; I see him with it before." There were a quantity of central fire cartridges. From his trousers pockets were taken six sovereigns, two half sovereigns, and one brooch, a few small trinkets, a watch, pocket compass, piece of smelted gold, one nugget, two watch chains, and two boxes of matches from his person. By the Foreman — From the position you, your brother, and the deceased were in, was it possible to take him with out firing? I think not. We were in the centre on the other side of a long boat, and there was fallen timber and large stones between us and the deceased. It would have been quite impossible to take him if he had got into the jungle on the cliffs. Ah Kim was hardly on the ground when he was shot. He was on the fork of the tree. He made a spring towards the jungle, where he had tracks of his own, and then he was fired upon. By a Juror—It was about 10 yards from the deceased. From where he was shot we should have had to go round the boat. We were both together at the boat, which was high and dry on the beach. The deceased was at an angle. My instructions were that I was to call upon him three times to surrender, if he did not do so, we were to fire. About a minute elapsed between the challenge and the firing. Deceased had plenty of time to reply. Heard no sound after he fell. He never moved. Have seen no bullet marks on the tree. Only one shot was fired. Was quite certain it was Ah Kim. He was fired at because he tried to escape. Have known him about two years. He knows the English Language well. Patrick Mulloy, Palmerston, laborer, stated — When working at the pound for District Council met Ah Kim down there. It was some time in March last, I think. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon — smoke time — and I walked about 200 yards in the direction of the garden from the pound. Turned round, and saw a person I thought to be Mr. Abbott's shepherd. Went within 12 yards of him. Then saw it was Ah Kim. As soon as he heard my footsteps he turned round. He knew me, and beckoned for me to come to him. He shook hands with me. He asked for tobacco and matches, which I gave to him. He asked me if the coolies were working at the pound, and I told him, "Yes." He said he would like to see them. We walked back along the the track together to the pound. Told Walter Soward that it was Ah Kim, and he would not believe me at first. I asked him if he had a revolver, and he said, "Yes." He asked me if the police were after him, and I said they were. Asked him where he used to stop at night, and he said some- times in a tree. He had often seen the police from behind the trees, and from up the trees. He told me he had seen somebody else, who had told him if he gave himself up to Mr. Foelsche he would only get two or three years. He said he would sooner die than go to the prison again, and that he would shoot anybody that attempted to take him, and Inspector Foelsche before anybody. He then went away. A trooper came down five minutes afterwards. Did not tell him, but reported the matter to Mr. Foelsche that night. The police were informed that he had a revolver, and that the threat was used. By a Juror — Did not see any arms on him. He said he had a revolver on him. Did not think it was my duty to interfere and stop him. By the Coroner — I and Soward agreed to say nothing about it. He said he was innocent of the charge. By a Juror — The trooper asked no questions. By the Coroner — Knew he had been tried, and also that he had been found guilty. Nero, a Malay, stated — He lived at Southport. Was cook at a public house there. On Saturday night last he went to Peel's Well. Saw Ah Kim near to Mr. Bogle's house. Said good evening to him. He did not say anything in reply, and when I came up to him he fetched out his revolver and knife. Here Mr. Rudall, who was sitting in the Court taking notes, rose, and asked to be allowed to put a question to the witness. The Coroner told him he could not be allowed to say anything. Mr. Rudall still continued to speak, when he was again told that he had no standing in that Court. No heed being taken the Coroner said he was very sorry but if Mr. Rudall would not sit down he should leave to order him to be taken out of the Court. He then sat down. By the Coroner — I asked Ah Kim where he had been, and he said Palmerston all the time. He said he belonged to "Well." This was at six o'clock. He asked me to come on Sunday, and bring him black trousers and cart- ridges. Found him on Sunday, and he said he wanted black trousers, shirt, hat, boots, and cartridges. I asked him what he wanted cartridges for. He said, "Any man catch me, I kill him — everyone. I don't care policeman — I don't care Government." Came and told Mr. Foelsche. I looked for him on Monday, but did not find him. The revolver produced is like the one he had, as is also the knife. He had the revolver in one hand and the knife in the other. By a Juror—Has Ah Kim been on the Peninsula? I don't know. He say no. All the time in Palmerston. Did not know he was down by Mr. Smith's last night. Frederick George Guy, surgeon, examined — At 9 o'clock this morning I visited the gaol, and saw the body of the deceased in one of the cells. He was a strong muscular man of about 35 years of age. Examined the body carefully, but could find no marks of external violence on it. On the left cheek under the eye was a jagged wound about one and a half inches long and one inch deep. Examined the wound, and found the left cheek bone completely smashed, and also the lower jaw, which was fractured and splintered at its posterior angle. Also found that either the third or fourth cervical vertebra was fractured. Could find no exit for the bullet. The carotid artery was completely divided. By a Juror — The direction of the bullet was downwards and backwards. By the Foreman — The division of the carotid artery was sufficient to cause death from internal haemorrhage. I saw him lying in the cell the previous night. He was dead then. He must have died instantaneously. Should say from the appearance of the wound it was a gunshot wound. This being the whole of the evidence, the Coroner then addressed the Jury briefly but to the point, telling them it now rested with them to return their verdict in this case. The deceased was a prisoner under sentence for life, and illegally at large, he having broken his prison, which was of itself a felony. He could have been taken without any warrant; but the Sergeant to be quite certain had taken out a fresh warrant for his arrest. The Sergeant had seen the body, and said it was the body of Ah Kim whom he had in custody. The evidence of the Constable Miller, too, was quite clear. Both he and his brother had called upon the deceased to surrender at least four times, and in his attempt to escape he had been fired at and killed. Killing a man was murder; but there were various kinds of murder — there was murder where the deed was premeditated, there was manslaughter where a man lost his life at the hands of another in passion on the spur of the moment, or carelessness, and there was justifiable homicide, which gave power to fire upon a prisoner when trying to escape from arrest; the law give its officers that power, but they must be quite sure that they could not have taken the prisoner by any other means. The Coroner also made some severe remarks with reference to the behaviour of the men Mulloy and Soward for not informing the trooper who had come up to them so shortly after their interview with Ah Kim. The Jury after retiring for about ten minutes returned the following verdict: " The said Ah Kim came to his death from a gun shot wound inflicted by Constable Charles Archibald Miller — that no blame whatever is attributable to the constable for firing on an escaping prisoner, the act being justifiable homicide," to which they added a rider severely censuring the conduct of the men Mulloy and Soward.


Text associated with the image from SA Museum The capture of Ah Kim at 10.20 pm on 11th May 1875 Digital print from 600dpi scan of original wet-plate glass negative, State Library of South Australia. This photograph is Foelsche's reconstruction of a tragic event, the shooting of an escaped Chinese prisoner during a police attempt to recapture him. Foelsche's motive for reconstructing the event is unclear. Public disquiet over the shooting of Ah Kim may have prompted Foelsche to prepare this unambiguous daylight tableau of a murky evening tragedy. Among the contrived elements in this photograph is the puff of smoke from the policeman's carbine, which Foelsche painted onto the glass negative. The falling figure of Ah Kim himself is represented by a stuffed dummy. Ah Kim was one of the first Chinese to arrive in the Northern Territory during 1871, as a ship's cook. He established a successful market garden at Yam Creek before working as a jeweller in Palmerston. During April 1874 he was arrested for the theft of some cheques he had found. Imprisoned without trial for a year, Ah Kim escaped from the Palmerston Gaol in April 1875, and eluded police capture. In fact, he was living in a tree on the foreshore, barely a stone's throw from Foelsche's police station. On 10 May, Foelsche was tipped off that Ah Kim planned to row to Cox's Peninsula in a stolen boat, loaded with provisions. This boat is partly concealed behind the larger boat in the photograph. Foelsche sent two troopers, who ambushed Ah Kim late on the evening of 11 May 1875. They challenged him to surrender. He slipped from his hiding place above the boat, and fell. Believing him to be armed, a policeman fired a shot, hitting Ah Kim in the jaw and killing him instantly. Ah Kim was far from a dangerous criminal. It was generally considered that he should not have been in prison in the first place, as his original offence consisted only of failing to return some cheques he had found. He had been held without trial for many months, and had written several letters complaining of his treatment, appealing to authorities in Palmerston and Adelaide. Further Reading More about Ah Kim in TROVE News 10 July 1875

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