The British Colonist

Wednesday Morning Jan 30, 1861

Local Intelligence

Court of Assizes

Trial of Wm Millington for murder of Robert Coombs

The court was called to order as 10 o'clock, AM, his lordship Chief Justice Cameron presiding.

True Bills

Grand Jury

William Millington was arraigned at the bard of indictment charging him with the murder of Robert Combs, at Esquimalt, on the morning of the 2d inst

Attorney General Cary and Mr. Crease appears for the prosecution, and Messts. Ring, McCreaigh and Dennes for the defense.

A jury comprised of the following names persons was empanelled: James Curtis, A.J. Brunn, William Rowland, Thomas Williams, Alex Phillips, Thos L. Fosset, Thos. P. Dougal, Thos C. Ducarrow, Arthur Gordon, Thos Campbell, James Thorner, and Adam Watson, foreman.

The registrar read the indictment and the prisoner pleaded "Not Guilty."

Attorney General Cary addressed the jury on the part of the prosecution, and claimed that this jury must take steps for the representation of crimes of the natures for which the prisoner has been charged. The prisoner and deceased were doubtless drunk at the time of the killing, but the prisoner was non the less culpable in the eyes of the law. It would have to be shown to the entire satisfaction of the jury that he deceased was in the act of committing a felony before you can acquit the prisoner. The learned gentleman reviews the points of the evidence he expected to produce, and concluded by advising the jury that they must place no reliance on the wild statements that have been made by the friends of the prisoner relative to the causes that led to the commission of the crime. All prejudices, no matter whether for or against the prisoner must be thrown aside, and the case be tried by the jury on it's own merits as brought out in the course of the examination of the witnesses.

The prosecution then called Mrs. Mary Ann Vine, who was acting as the nurse, in the Millington's family at the time of the killing to the stand.

Mary Ann Vine, sworn - I remember the morning of the 2d inst.: was stopping at the Millington's housel retired to bed about 11 o'clock, and went to sleep; I woke up some time after and heard a horse or horses outside the house. Soon two strange men came into the house; one asked, "Where is the matches," as if he was talking to his own companion; they did not see me; don't know what time it was when they came in' did not see the men' their voices were strange to me: the men were there some time. After I hears two men quarreling outside; I heard the voice of one of the men that came into the house; his was a very gruff voice' heard Millington say "Get off my horse." The man called Millington's name and said he got the horse from Parker. The man then struck Millington and knocked him down.

Mr. Cary - How do you know he struck Millington?

Ans - I heard the blow

Mr. Cary - Well how do you know which man struck the other? Do you suppose if Millington had struck the deceased the blow would have been different?

Ans - No; I don't know who was struck.

A very short time afterwards prisoner came back and asked some one outside for his horse; then there was a second quarrel: a pistol was fired, but I don't know who fired it. I didn't see it fired.

Mr. Cary (sitting down) - Mow Mrs. Vine, calm yourself - keep perfectly quiet - just wait a bit.

After the lapse of a few moments, the witnesses resum

When prisoner acme into the house the first time there was a quarrel. I don't know as he asked for his pistol until after the shot was fired; he asked for a pistol after a shot had been fired; don't remember much about the affair, anyhow, I was so frightened Millington seemed the worse for the liquor; when he asked for the pistol, I replied, "look for it;" and then he said "Oh, I've got it!" he very quickly went out and then I heard the pistol shot fired! (Sensation in Court.) He was not a second before he found his pistol and went out again ant the shot occurred.

Mr. Cary (again sitting down) - now Mrs. Vine, be careful what you say. After a few moments, the Attorney General resumed: Are you sure it was only a second between the time when he got his pistol, went out, and the shot was fired?

Ans - Yes; after the shot was fired, Millington came back to the house, and called to me, "Where are the matches?" I told him to come into my room and he would get a light; he did so and told me he had shot a man; he said he had been kicked, and the man had threatened to cut his throat; he did not say he was afraid of having done anything; he spoke to Mrs. Millington, but I did not hear what he said; I have forgotten it; I have my own business to attend to, and I cannot dwell upon other people's; how should I know what passes between a man and his wife? - I'm not supposed to know.

Mr. Cary asked for his Lordship's notes, which were handed to him.

Mr. Ring objected to this course.

His Lordship said that the witness' evidence was very contradictory she testified to one thing one moment, and to another the net. His Lordship cautioned the witness against pursuing her contradictory statements - she must tell the truth.

Witness - I do.

His Lordship read from his notes that Millington had told her he had shot a man.

Witness - N, I didn't. I never said so.

His Lordship - But I have it in my notes.

Witness - I don't care. I never said so.

After some cross-firing between the counsel, the examination of the witness was resumed; It occupied about a second for Millington to come into his house, ask for the pistol, and leave again; I can't say whether it took four minutes; it was a very short time, and that's all I know about it. I did not tell him to look for his pistol; only heard one shot fired; think Millington told me he had got the pistol before the shot was fired; I was so excited that I didn't know what I was doing for some days - in fact, I haven't known my own business since; I haven't been myself (Witness here complained of having been unwell and unable to remain standing and a chair was brought her, and she gave the remainder of her evidence sitting. Heard the cry of murder after the shot was fired; there were three room in the prisoner's house; Mrs. Millington was in bed with me; Millington came into our room for a light, and I saw that his face was bleeding dreadfully, and he was dirty and muddy, his countenance was ghastly; he had a large wound on his cheek; I think when he left our room he went to sleep in the kitchen. - About 8 o'clock the same morning I went to the pump to get a pail of water; and I saw a horse standing near the front door with the bridle thrown over the door latch , his saddle was under his belly, and the girth was on his back between two and three o'clock on the same afternoon I found the dead body of a man lying about forty-five or fifty yards from the house, near a white pine tree that had been felled for firewood; its head was towards the boughs; I did not go over to the body, but sent for Millington. "Bill," I said, "You've shot that mane if it was you that fired last night." He said he could not help it if he had. He did not seem excited, but answered calmly and quietly. (Grey felt hat shown to witnesses) That looks like a hat Millington used to wear. (A revolver-sheath produced). This looks like a revolver sheath the children used to play with. (A Colt's six-shooter shown to the witnesses.) I could not swear to this revolver belonging to the prisoner; I have seen his pistol lying around in different places in the house. (Cap shown to the witness.) I saw this cap hanging on the door-handle the day after the shooting; I think I saw a man names Peter hang it there.

Cross-examined by Mr. Ring for the defense. There was no conversation between Millington and his wife when he came after the pistol; she was in bed with me at the time of the shooting and asleep, but woke up immediately afterwards; I was examined before the coroner.

Question - Did the coroner put any questions to you?

The Attoryney general objected to the question; and a long discussion ensured between counsel on both sides as to the admissibility of any evidence concerning the coroner's inquest which his lordship finally put an end to by by stating that stating that the rule of the Court was such as to preclude such queries unless depositions were previously taken in evidence.

Cross-examination resumed - Millington, at the time of the shooting, had charge of Parker's horses during the scuffle there was a heavy fall, but I can't say who fell; was Millington's' house; the prisoner has a family of four children.

Q - Were you in a state of trepidation when the coroner examined you?

Mr. Cary objected.

Mr. McCreaight contended that the question was relevant.

His Lordship decided the question to be irrelevant.

Witness continuing - My nerves have been shaken ever since; I heard Millington order the man off his horse two different times.

To a juror - The distance from the stable to where the body was lying, was about 29 yards.

The Court here adjourned till half-past 2 o'clock , P.M.

Afternoon Session

The court re-assembled at 3 o'clock

Peter Williams sworn - Am a boatman; went to bed on the morning of the 2d of January between the hours of land 2o'clock; heard someone walking past the house and looked out of my window and saw Mr. Millington going out towards his house, staggering dunk; saw no one else at the time; a little while afterwards I heard a noise towards his house as if some persons were fighting there; heard Millington's voice once saying, "I'll fix you;" did not recognize the other man's voice I heard a pistol of off, and then a man's voice crying out "murder" three times; (cap shown to witnesses) picked this up near Millington's house the same morning between 8 o'clock and 9 o'clock; Millington saw me and called out, "give me that cap,, a man has taken my hat;" Millington was in bed then and looked out of the window; I hung the cap on the knob; Millington's' face was scratched at the time; he looked as if he had received a stroke across his face with a stick; I said to him "I heard a shot last night;" and he said "Yes a man tried to steal my horse last night and I shot last night and I shot him;" he said the man had struck him with a stick he said if nay man stole a horse from him he'd shoot him.

Cross-examined for the defense - Saw blood about the accused's mouth and face.

To a juror - the face of the accused was muddy and bloody; did not of out when I heard the man cry out "murder." It is nothing unusual to hear that when people are drunk - there we have no police.

Fred Williams, sworn - In the afternoon of the 2d, between two and three o'clock, I was requested by Millington's little boy, to go to his father's house, as his mother wished to speak to me, saw a dead body just at the end of the Millington's lot; the body was lying between two stumps or logs; there was a branch or two across the face but there seemed to have been no attempt at concealment. I knew Coombs,; he was a musician on the Plumper; the body lying there was his.

Wm. Rumsey, M.D. testified to seeing the body of the deceased the only mark of violence on the body was that of a gun-shot wound; the man's back must have been turned at the time the pistol was fired at him; there was a downward tendency in the course of the ball; such a downward tendency was not caused by the ball coming in contact with a bone (The ball shown to witnesses). Extracted this ball from the body of the deceased; if the man had been shot on horseback by a man on foot the tendency of the ball would have not been downward.

Mr. Ring - the weapon must have been held above the level of that part of the body though which the ball passed; the ball lodged in the spinal column.

James Doherty, sworn - Had a conversation with Millington on the morning of the 2d; I called at his house and went through the back way; in the rear apartment I saw two ladies and inquired as for Millington; they told me he was in the front room; he was dressing himself when I went in; he told me he was up a great portion of the night and had a row; he said he did not know the parties he had a row with, but believed they belonged to Plumper; he said he shot at a man who was trying to take away his horse; he said he didn't know whether he shot him or not but he man ran away and hollered; heard him tell some other folks during the day he had shot a man.

Sergeant George Blake of the police force, sworn - Saw the prisoner the day after the murder; (pistol handed witness) found this in the prisoner's house on the day of the coroner's inquest; saw the hat and cap at the coroner's inquest.

Mr. Cary here corrected a statement he had made to the jury in his opening speech. He had there stated that the body was covered; upon looking, however, at the evidence he found that he was wrong in his statement.

Mr. Ring addressed the jury at some length on behalf of his client, claiming that the killing was in self-defense and the prison was entitled to a verdict of acquittal. The wounds on the prisoner's face testified to by Mrs. Vine and others show conclusively that a struggle had taken place between them; and Millington had been severally injured. The whole testimony went to show that the deceased had stolen the prisoner's horse, and it as only when he was making off with it that the deadly wound was inflicted. The learned counsel concluded with an eloquent and fervid appeal on behalf of the prisoner.

Chief Justice Cameron delivered a brief charge, in which he reviewed the evidence, and instructed the jury that they must deal with the case upon its own merits, without regard to the eloquent appeal to their sympathies from the learned counsel for the defense.

The jury as then conducted to their room, and the court was adjourned till 8 o'clock.

Evening Session

A few minutes after 8 o'clock, a knock on the door from the inside of the jury-room announced that the jury had agrees upon a verdict. The Chief Justice took his seat, and a deathlike stillness pervaded the apartment. The prisoner looked pale but firm and evidently prepared for the worse. He sat immediately behind his counsel.

The Verdict

After the jury had taken their seats,

Registrar - Gentlemen of the jury, have you agreed upon your verdict?

The Foremen - We have.

Registrar - Do you find the prisoner guilty of the crime whereof he is charged in the indictment, or not guilty?

The Foreman - NOT GUILTY

The prisoner rose to his feet and grasping hands with his counsel, Mrs. Ring shook it warmly. He also shook hands with Mr. Dennes, his attorney, and was evidently highly pleased at the result of the trial.

Chief Justice Cameron - William Millington; in accordance with the verdict, you are know discharged.

The prisoner immediately left the bar and received the congratulations of a few friends who had remained all day anxiously awaiting the result. The trial, judging from the large number of persons in attendance, awakened a great deal of feeling among our citizens, who thronged the Courtroom during the session and watched the proceedings with much apparent interest.

The Court was adjourned till to-morrow (Wednesday) 30th inst., at 10 o'clock A.M.