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1896, Austin Kirby and William George Bassett - Unfit For Publication
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The Argus, Wed 20 May 1896 1

NEW ZEALAND.
————

Auckland, Tuesday.

SERIOUS CHARGE AGAINST A POLICE
OFFICER.

    Detective Kirby, a well-known police officer, was arrested at Napier to-day charged with having in 1882, at Timaru, threatened to accuse John Herman of a certain crime with the object of extorting money, and causing him to sign two cheques for £400 and £300 respectively. He was remanded to Wellington. Herman only recently returned from America, and a friend to whom he disclosed the alleged offence informed the Government. Hence the present proceedings.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Brisbane Courier, Wed 20 May 1896 2

NEW ZEALAND.
————
AUCKLAND, May 19.

CHARGE AGAINST A DETECTIVE.

    Detective Kirby, a well-known police officer, was arrested at Napier to-day charged with having in 1882 at Timaru, threatened to accuse John Herman of a certain crime with a view to extorting money, and causing him to sign two cheques for £400 and £300 respectively. The accused was remanded to Wellington. Herman only recently returned from America, and a friend to whom he disclosed the alleged offence informed the Government; hence the present proceedings.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

South Australian Register, Wed 20 May 1896 3

NEW ZEALAND.
————

Auckland, May 19.


    Detective Kirby, a well-known police officer, was arrested at Napier to-day, and charged with having in 1882, at Timaru, threatened to accuse John Herman of a certain crime with a view of extorting money, and causing him to sign two cheques for £400 and £300 respectively. He was remanded to Wellington. Herman only recently returned from America, and a friend to whom he disclosed the alleged offence informed the Government. Hence the present proceedings.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Thu 21 May 1896 4

SOME CABLED TOPICS.
———◦———


    This morning Austin Kirby, detective, appeared before Mr Greenfield, SM, on remand from Napier. The charges against him were:—(1) That at Timaru, in 1882, he threatened to accuse John Herman of an infamous offence; and (2) that at the same time and place he extorted money from Herman. Sir Robert Stout appeared for the accused, the Crown was represented by Mr Gully and Inspector Pender, while Mr Jellicoe watched the proceedings on behalf of Herman. Sir Robert Stout asked for a remand until Friday week, and for bail. Mr Gully thought the case was one in which his Worship should not grant bail. He was prepared to offer some evidence to show the nature of the alleged offence. His Worship stated that he would grant bail, and suggested two sureties of £75 each on each charge, but at the request of the Crown he increased the amount to two sureties of £100 each on each charge. Later in the morning the sureties were forthcoming.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Morning Bulletin, Thu 21 May 1896 5

NEW ZEALAND.

Wellington, May 19.


    Detective Kirby, a well-known police officer, was arrested at Napier to-day charged with having, in 1882, at Timaru, threatened to accuse Mr John Herman of a certain crime with a view to extorting money and causing him to sign two cheques for £100 and £300 respectively. Accused was remanded to Wellington. Mr Herman only recently returned from America and a friend, to whom he disclosed the alleged offence, informed the Government. Hence the present proceedings.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Capricornian, Sat 23 May 1896 6

NEW ZEALAND.

Wellington, May 19.


    Detective Kirby, a well-known police officer, was arrested at Napier to-day, charged with having, in 1882, at Timaru threatened to accuse Mr John Herman of a certain crime with a view to extorting money and causing him to sign two cheques for £100 and £300 respectively. Accused was remanded to Wellington. Mr Herman only recently returned from America, and a friend, to whom he disclosed the alleged offence, informed the Government. Hence the present proceedings.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Fri 29 May 1896 7

THE KIRBY CASE.
———◦———
NON-APPEARANCE OF THE
DETECTIVE.
———
HIS BAIL ESTREATED.
———
STRONG WORDS FROM THE
BENCH.
———

    The charges against Austin Kirby, detective, of having at Timaru, in 1882, threatened to accuse John Herman of an infamous offence, and of having at the same time and place defrauded Herman of two sums of £400 and £300 respectively, had been adjourned at the Magistrate’s Court on the application of the Crown Prosecutor till this morning. The case was set down for hearing at 9.30 am, and as the time approached there was considerable speculation as to whether Kirby would appear or not. The general impression was that Kirby had fled, but there were one or two who confidently asserted that the accused would calmly appear at the last moment.

    When the name of Kirby was called there was no answer, and the Court Crier was instructed to call him again. Then the name of Austin Kirby was heard re-echoing down all the passages in the Court buildings—but the modest owner of the appellation was not forthcoming, and on the faces of the crowd in the Court there was a look of more than disappointment.

    Mr Gray stated that he appeared to prosecute, and asked that a warrant should be issued for Kirby’s arrest, and that the sureties for the accused’s reappearance should be estreated.

    Mr Martin, SM, said he hoped that the police, for their own sake, would make every effort to apprehend the accused. This was the second time within 15 months that a police officer had been charged with a serious crime, and had managed to evade arrest. He asked Inspector Pender to leave no stone unturned in order to effect the arrest of Kirby. The warrant for the arrest would be at once issued, and the bail would be immediately estreated.

    The sureties were originally fixed at two bonds of £75 each on each charge, but at the request of the Crown Prosecutor, who thought the amount too small in a charge of such serious import, Mr Greenfield, SM, raised the recognisances to two sureties of £100 each on each charge. Messrs Arthur Hoby, dentist, and TR Jones, contractor, became the bondsmen, and these gentlemen will now have to forfeit £200 each.

    It was known in town yesterday morning that Kirby was away from his usual haunts, and strenuous efforts were made by the police to discover his whereabouts. Kirby was last seen about 5 o’clock on Wednesday, going along Lambton-quay, and a few hours later he had disappeared. He was staying at the City Buffet Hotel, where his luggage still is.

    On Wednesday evening at 8 o’clock the Talune lefs [sic] Wellington for Sydney, and it is suggested that Kirby may have managed to get on board that vessel. If so, however, he will be arrested on the arrival of the ship at Sydney.

    A more startling suggestion, however, is that Kirby has committed suicide. This opinion is lent colour to by the fact that he was overheard to say that he would do away with himself. A clever detective such as Kirby, however, might possibly make the above suggestion in order to avert suspicion from his real movements.

    As is usual with persons on bail, Kirby was under no direct surveillance, though on account of the magnitude of the charge, a more than ordinary watch was, we are informed, kept by the whole Force upon his actions.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Sat 30 May 1896 8

TOPICS OF THE TIME.
———◦———


    The escape of Austin Kirby, detective, says little for the efficiency of the Police Force. Here was a man, charged with a crime for which the punishment could be imprisonment for life, and allowed on bail at an amount that appeared at the time, as now, and utterly inadequate to the gravity of the charge; a man known to be one of the cleverest officers of the service, a man who must have had many friends, and above all, a detective, familiar with every device of the criminal class, and with all the sources of information open to the police. All this, while in itself accounting for Kirby’s escape, should have been the very reason why Kirby could not have escaped. It will be the duty of the Police Force, as Mr Martin, SM, justly remarked, at all hazards to bring Kirby back to the justice from which, we must presume, he has fled.

KIRBY’S DISAPPEARANCE.
———◦———
AN ANONYMOUS COMMUNICATION.
———
SUGGESTED THEORIES OF HIS
ESCAPE.
———

    In connection with the disappearance of Detective Kirby, this morning we received the following anonymous communication, which is printed literally:—“If the Post really desires to know what became of Austin Kirby they can. He was shaved by a barber named George employed by Herman. His hair was died, and he went to Lyttleton by the Takapuna and caught the Tainui. The news that he was gone was in the hands of your reporter before noon on Thursday, and the tainui [sic] left Lyttelton at 6 pm same day, so police could have got him if they wanted. If the Govert. want to do right, arrest Kirby’s sureties for conspiracy to defeat justice.”

    On receipt of the letter we at once communicated with Inspector Pender, whose opinion is that there was no dependence to be placed upon it. As soon as the news of Kirby’s disappearance reached the police on Wednesday evening, a telegram was sent—through the courtesy of the telegraph officials, as the office was then closed—to Inspector Broham, of Christchurch, requesting him to thoroughly search the Takapuna on her arrival at Lyttleton, and also the Tainui before she departed. Inspector Pender has since received information that this has been done. It is possible, he adds, that Kirby may have been secreted on the vessel, as a thorough search of a steamer is almost an impossibility. Herman, he thinks, had no interest in getting Kirby away while as for the sureties being concerned in the matter, that is ludicrous.

    Our representative then proceeded to Mr Herman’s shop in Cuba-street, and on being interrogated, that gentleman denied all knowledge of Kirby’s movements, and pointed out that his interest was to expose Kirby. Kirby had never come inside his shop. The last time Mr Herman saw him was on the wharf on Wednesday morning, where Mr Herman had gone in order to meet Mr Kippenberger, his counsel, on his arrival from Christchurch. On the letter being shown to Mr George, he, like his employer, utterly scouted the idea that he had assisted in bringing about Kirby’s escape.

    Mr Hoby, too, for himself and Mr TR Jones, the other surety, gave an emphatic denial to the suggestion that either had been connected with the escape.

    It has been reported that Kirby was seen on the Takapuna previous to her departure for Lyttelton; and another theory is that he is still in hiding in Wellington, awaiting his chance of escape.

    Kirby was 54 years of age, six feet in height, and was born in Wales. He had a fresh complexion, grey hair cropped close, was clean shaven except for a grey moustache, and had small grey eyes. He walked in a peculiar jerky style, stooped slightly, and was slightly knock-kneed. The forefinger of the said left hand was contracted, and the nail deformed. In addition he was well known all over this colony.

————————
(BY TELEGRAPH.—PRESS ASSOCIATION.)

Christchurch, 29th May.

    Regarding the Kirby case, the police at Lyttelton carefully searched the steamers arriving from the North during the last couple of days, and also the direct liner Tainui, which left for London on Thursday, but without finding any trace of the missing man.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Hawke’s Bay Herald (Hawke’s Bay, NZ), Mon 1 Jun 1896 9

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF AUSTIN
KIRBY.
————
CENSURE OF THE POLICE FORCE.
————

    The Post, referring to the disappearance of Detective Kirby, says:—The general impression was that Kirby had fled, but there were one or two who confidently asserted that the accused would calmly appear in Court at the last moment.

    When the name of Kirby was called there was no answer, and the Court crier was instructed to call him again. Then the name of Austin Kirby was heard re-echoing down all the passages in the Court buildings—but the modest owner of the appellation was not forthcoming, and on the faces of the crowd in the Court there was a look of more than disappointment.

    It was known in town on Thursday morning that Kirby was away from his usual haunts, and strenuous efforts were made by the police to discover his whereabouts. Kirby was last seen about 5 o’clock on Wednesday evening going along Lambton-quay, and a few hours later he had disappeared. He was staying at the City Buffet Hotel, where his luggage still is.

    A more startling suggestion, however, is that Kirby has committed suicide. This opinion is lent color to by the fact that he was overheard to say that he would do away with himself. A clever detective such as Kirby, however, might possibly make the above suggestion in order to avert suspicion from his real movements.

    As usual with persons on bail, Kirby was under no direct surveillance, though on account of the magnitude of the charge, a more than ordinary watch was, we are informed, kept by the whole Force upon his actions.

    The editor goes on to say; The escape of Austin Kirby, detective, says little for the efficiency of the Police Force. Here was a man, charged with a crime for which the punishment could be imprisonment for life, and allowed on bail at an amount that appeared at the time, as now, utterly inadequate to the gravity of the charge; a man known to be one of the cleverest officers of the service; a man who must have had many friends; and, above all, a detective, familiar with every device of the criminal class, and with the sources of information open to the police. All this, while in itself accounting for Kirby’s escape, should have been the very reason why Kirby should not have escaped. It will be the duty of the Police Force, as Mr Martin, SM, justly remarked, to bring Kirby back to the justice from which, we must presume, he has fled.

    The following is the police description of the missing man:—Kirby was 54 years of age, six feet in height, and was born in Wales. He had a fresh complexion, grey hair cropped closed, was clean shaven except for a grey moustache, and had small grey eyes. He walked in a peculiarly jerky style, stooped slightly, and was slightly knock-kneed. The forefinger of his left hand was contracted, and the nail deformed. In addition, he was well known all over this colony.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Star (Canterbury, NZ), Mon 1 Jun 1896 10

DETECTIVE KIRBY’S CASE.
———◦———
(PER PRESS ASSOCIATION.)

Wellington, May 30.

    The Evening Post received an anonymous letter to-day, saying that Kirby was shaved by a barber in Herman’s shop, got his hair dyed, and caught the Tainui at Lyttelton. He hinted that the sureties connived at the escape. Inquiries, however, quite disprove the accusation. All the persons mentioned emphatically deny having seen Kirby or had anything to do with his evasion, and the Tainui and Takapuna were searched before leaving.

May 31.

    A reward of £250 is offered for information as to the whereabouts of Detective Kirby.

    The Wellington Post comments on the case as follows:—

    “The escape of Austin Kirby, detective, says little for the efficiency of the police force. Here was a man, charged with a crime for which the punishment could be imprisonment for life, and allowed on bail at an amount that appeared at the time as now, utterly inadequate to the gravity of the charge; a man known to be one of the cleverest officers of the service; a man who must have had many friends; and above all, a detective familiar with every device of the criminal class, and with all the sources of information open to the police. All this, while in itself accounting for Kirby’s escape, should have been the very reason why Kirby could not have escaped. It will be the duty of the police force, as Mr Martin, SM, justly remarked, at all hazards to bring Kirby back to the justice from which, we must presume, he has fled.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Wed 3 Jun 1896 11

£250 REWARD.
——

WHEREAS AUSTIN KIRBY, ex-Detective, is charged on warrant, issued by the Wellington Bench, with having extorted money by threats, and the said Austin Kirby has absconded:
it is hereby notified that a reward of TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS will be given for the arrest of the said Austin Kirby, or for such information as will lead thereto.

    If the information is given by one or more persons, and the arrest effected by others, the reward will be divided accordingly to the respective services of each.

T THOMPSON,

Minister of Justice.

    Wellington, 1st June, 1896.

————————
DESCRIPTION.

    A Welshman, 54 years of age, 6 feet high, medium build, fresh complexion, grey hair cut short, clean shaved except for grey moustache cropped and worn low down each side of mouth (may be now clean shaved and have hair dyed), forefinger left hand contracted and nail deformed, small grey eyes, large mouth, prominent cheek bones, very fleshy round lower jaw, sloping shoulders, slightly knocked-kneed, leans forward when walking, has a peculiar jerky way of lifting his feet, and looks on the ground.

————————————
DETECTIVE KIRBY.
——

THOSE in search of Detective Kirby should secure a bottle
of Wilton’s Athletic Embrocation. Price, 1s 6d

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Marlborough Express (Marlborough, NZ), Wed 3 Jun 1896 12

AN ANONYMOUS COMMUNICATION.
——

    In connection with the disappearance of Detective Kirby, the following anonymous communication, which is printed literally, was received by the newspaper mentioned: “If the Post really desires to know what became of Austin Kirby they can. He was shaved by a barber named George employed by Herman. His hair was died, and he went to Lyttelton by the Takapuna caught the Tainui. The news that he was gone was in the hands of your reporter before noon on Thursday, and the Tainui left Lyttelton at 6 pm same day, so police could have got him if they wanted. If the Government want to do right, arrest Kirby’s sureties for conspiracy to defeat justice.”

     Enquiries made show that no dependence can be place upon the communication.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Timaru Herald (Canterbury, NZ), Wed 3 Jun 1896 13

DETECTIVE KIRBY.
———◦———

    The Wellington Post on Saturday morning received the following anonymous communication:—“If the Post really desires to know what became of Austin Kirby they can. He was shaved by a barber named George, employed by Herman. His hair was dyed, and he went to Lyttelton by the Takapuna and caught the Tainui. The news that he was gone was in the hands of your reporter before noon on Thursday, and the Tainui left Lyttelton at 6 pm the same day, so police could have got him if they wanted. If the Govert [sic] want to do right, arrest Kirby’s sureties for conspiracy to defeat justice.”

    On receipt of the letter the Post at once communicated with Inspector Pender, whose opinion was that there was no dependence to be placed upon it. As soon as the news of Kirby’s disappearance reached the police on Wednesday evening, a telegram was sent—through the courtesy of the telegraph officials, as the office was then closed.—to Inspector Broham, of Christchurch, requesting him to thoroughly search the Takapuna on her arrival at Lyttelton, and also the Tainui before she departed. Inspector Pender has since received information that this has been done. It is possible, he adds, that Kirby may have been secreted on the vessel, as a thorough search of a steamer is almost an impossibility. Herman, he thinks, had no interest in getting Kirby away, while as for the sureties being concerned in the matter, that is ludicrous.

    Mr Herman, and his assistant, Mr George, scouted the idea of assisting Kirby, and Mr Hoby, too, for himself and Mr TR Jones, the other surety, gave an emphatic denial to the suggestion that either had been connected with the escape.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Thu 4 Jun 1896 14

WHAT THE LOCAL POLICE DID.
———
HOW THEY DIRECTED THE
SYDNEY FORCE.

    The truth has now come out in regard to Kirby’s escape, and confirms in all particulars the theory suggested in this journal yesterday as to how he managed to evade the police.

    The account which we published yesterday of the details of Kirby’s flight was received in some quarters as purely visionary, and some belated individuals still held the theory that Kirby had never left the city. It was pointed out that a clever detective such as Kirby—about his cleverness there is at present some doubt—would never leave such damning evidences behind him as were found in the case in which he escaped. It was contended, too, that the whole idea was merely an elaborate “plant,” intended to divert suspicion from his real hiding-place. But Kirby would scarcely go to such trouble for the sake of misleading the police when, as the event proved, it was perfectly possible by that means to make his escape. Why he left such clear evidence of his stay in the case behind him at Sydney will no doubt be made clear in due time.

    One fact that has not yet come to light, and which we now have pleasure in giving due prominence to, is the part that the Wellington police, after allowing Kirby to slip through their hands, took in accomplishing his arrest. Late on Sunday night, after all telegraph offices had been closed, Inspector Pender was in full possession of facts that pointed in only one direction—that Kirby had secreted himself in a case and escaped on board the Talune. By the courtesy of the telegraph officials a message was got through that night to the Sydney police, informing that body of the results of the enquiries of our local force. The Sydney police were told distinctly to search the packing-case alluded to, and informed that on searching it Kirby would be probably found inside.

    Thus the local Police Force were directly responsible for putting their Sydney confreres on the track of the escapee, and this fact, among other, utterly dispels the suggestions of collusion on the part of the police that have been freely circulating since Kirby’s disappearance.

    Other facts that should remove any doubt in this connection was the perfectly sincere demonstrations of joy that were everywhere apparent at the Police Station this morning when the news of Kirby’s arrest was received.

    A peculiarity in connection with the case is that Mr Martin has no option but to admit Kirby to bail, though, of course, the amount of the sureties may be altered.

    It is suggested that the motive of Kirby daring attempt to return to Auckland was in order that he might catch the San Francisco boat which leaves that city on the 13th June. But there was nothing to have prevented him from shipping by that vessel from Sydney.

    The only thing to add is a sincere hope that Austin Kirby, ex-detective, will arrive in Wellington safely.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 4 Jun 1896 15

ARREST OF A NEW ZEALAND
DETECTIVE.
———◦———
A SEARCH FOR A STOWAWAY.
———
THE FUGITIVE TRAVELS AS AN
ORDINARY PASSENGER.

    The Sydney police received information last week that a detective, for whose apprehension £250 reward had been offered, was stowed away on the Talune, which was due to arrive in Sydney from Auckland on Sunday night. It was alleged that the detective, whose name is Austin Kirby, had absconded from bail at Auckland, where he had been charged with obtaining money by threats. When the Talune arrived at Bradley’s Head she was boarded by three detectives, and an examination of the vessel was made without any traces of the absconder being discovered. A further search was made when the vessel was berthed at the wharf, and although Kirby could not be found a large empty case was discovered in which were two bottles containing water, a bag of biscuits, and other evidences of the case having been occupied by someone during the voyage. As the most careful watch for Kirby’s whereabouts had been kept the, police surmised that he had not come by the vessel, and that the indications in the case of a stowaway passage having been made was a clever ruse to mislead the authorities. However, a few minutes before 7 o’clock last night an arrest was made which elucidates the mystery. Senior-sergeant Higgins, Senior-constable Carson, and Constable Allanson saw a man answering to the description of Kirby descending the steps of the Union Company’s wharf. They immediately arrested him, and took him to the police station in Lower George-street. The man acknowledged that he was Kirby, and that he had come to Sydney by the Talune. He stated that he had been in the detective force in New Zealand for 20 years. Asked how he managed to secrete himself, he replied that he had come over as a passenger. Kirby will be brought before the Court to-morrow, and steps will be taken for his transference to New Zealand.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 5 Jun 1896 16

POLICE COURTS.
———◦———

THE NEW ZEALAND EX-DETECTIVE.

    Austin Kirby, 52, described as an ex-detective of New Zealand, was brought before Mr GWF Addison, SM, in the Water Police Court yesterday, charged with having obtained money by threat. On the application of the police he was remanded for a week, pending the arrival of the original warrant from New Zealand.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening News, Tue 16 Jun 1896 17

THE ABSCONDING DETECTIVE.
————
HIS SUPPOSED NEPHEW.
————
REMANDED TO NEW ZEALAND.

    Austin Kirby, the ex-detective, charged by provisional warrant with obtaining money by threats in New Zealand, was agin brought up at the Water Police Court to-day before Mr Edwards, SM. Mr Williamson appeared for the accused. Senior-sergeant Higgins gave evidence of the arrest, the details of which created no little interest a week or two ago, and Detective Jones deposed as to the discovery in the hold of the steamer Talune of the packing case, with memos , and cheque, and bread, biscuit, and empty water bottles, which had been the accused’s hiding place. On the application of Detective Neil, of the New Zealand Police Force, who produced the original warrant, accused was remanded to that colony to be dealt with.

    Wm Geo Bassett, a young man of 28 years, said to be a nephew of Kirby’s, was charged with being an accessory after the fact to the offence alleged against Kirby. Detective Jones gave evidence as to his arresting the accused in George-street on the 4th instant. The latter gave his name as Wm George, but admitted subsequently that he was Bassett, that he had come over in the Talune under the name of Lewis (the packing case in which Kirby is supposed to have been concealed bore the name of Lewis), and that he had shaved off his whiskers since coming ashore. As in the case of Kirby, accused was likewise handed over to the custody of Detective Neil for conveyance to New Zealand. Bassett is said to have followed the occupation of private detective at Wellington (NZ). As to his actual relationship with Kirby Detective Neil could not say, though according to Mr Williamson, who appeared for the accused, he appears to have married Kirby’s first wife’s niece.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 17 Jun 1896 18

POLICE COURTS.
———◦———

DETECTIVE KIRBY REMANDED TO NEW ZEALAND.

    At the Water Police Court yesterday, before Mr Edwards, SM, Austin Kirby was charged, on a provisional warrant, with obtaining money by threats, in New Zealand. Senior-Sergeant Higgins deposed that shortly after 6 o’clock on the evening of the 3rd instant he arrested the accused Kirby on board the steamer Tarawera [sic], then lying at the Union Company’s Wharf. Kirby was taken on No 4 Police station, where the warrant was read over to him. The accused replied, “I have nothing to say now;” and afterwards added, “When I go back another man in New Zealand will fall by it as well as myself. I had to purchase silence for two years.” When arrested Kirby was on the deck of the vessel near the gangway, and did not assume the character of a decrepit old man. Witness had read the report of Kirby’s arrest, and the account given in the Sydney Morning Herald was correct. Detective Jones said that on the 31st May he had boarded the Talune down the harbour and searched the vessel for Kirby. No trace of the accused could be found. A further search resulted in the discovery of a packing-case in which some wearing apparel was found. Witness also found some bread in the case, and there were indications of a person having been there for some time. An order was made for the accused to be returned to New Zealand.

    William George Bassett was charged with being an accessory after the fact to the offence with which Austin Kirby was charged. Bassett was also ordered to be returned to New Zealand.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Inquirer & Commercial News, Fri 19 Jun 1896 19

DETECTIVE KIRBY.
———◦———

Sydney, June 16.

    Austin Kirby, the New Zealand detective, has been remanded to New Zealand. William Bassett, a young man of 28, who said that he was a nephew of Kirby, has likewise been remanded to New Zealand. He is charged with having been an accessory after the fact.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Fri 26 Jun 1896 20

ARRIVAL OF KIRBY AND
BASSETT.
———◦———
PARTICULARS OF THE RETURN
TRIP.
———

    The eagerly-expected arrival of Austin Kirby, ex-detective and fugitive, and of WG Bassett, took place this morning. When the Waihora was signalled at about 11 o’clock a crowd began to collect on the Queen’s Wharf to witness the debarkation. A strong posse of police were in evidence, by which the on-lookers were kept behind a barrier erected on the wharf. Inspector Pender and Sergeant-Major Ramsay were also present, and the Harbour Board officials were in attendance in considerable numbers.

    On the steamer coming alongside she was boarded by Inspector Pender, who, after a short interval, reappeared heading a little procession in which Kirby and Bassett were the prominent figures. The prisoners were handcuffed together and carefully guarded by police officers. They were at once placed with their escort in a cab that was waiting. Inspector Pender and Sergeant-Major Ramsay got into another, in which two press representatives were courteously granted a passage, and the little party, surrounded by running youngsters, drove rapidly to the Police Station.

    Here the two prisoners were searched and placed in a cell to await their appearance before the Stipendiary Magistrate.

    As Kirby stepped on the gangway it was seen that the ex-detective had changed much for the worse. He looked worried and unkempt, with his week-old grey beard and his stooping figure. Bassett, on the contrary, seemed quite cheerful, and on being searched at the Police Station he appeared to treat the matter as a joke.

    The now famous packing-case, together with the other exhibits in the matter, was brought over in the Waihora, and will be produced at the trial. The police have already received offers from showmen for the purchase of the box, with a view to exhibiting it to the curious.

    Our representative was able to interview Detective Neill, who with Sergeant W Kiely and Constable Murphy were the escorting party, and from him some particulars were obtained as to how the prisoners were brought over.

    The party occupied a large steerage cabin in the forepart of the ship, in which eight bunks could be fitted up. In this room the whole five men spent their time. No on was allowed to see the prisoners, and they were never left alone. A system of watches was arranged, by which there was always one man awake.

    The food was brought to the cabin chopped up, and the prisoners were given wooden spoons and forks to eat theirs, no knives being allowed them. The close confinement did not affect their appetites, as they ate most heartily. Whatever food the prisoners wanted was supplied to them, alcoholic drinks of course being barred.

    Kirby would not go on deck the whole of the voyage, as he objected to being seen handcuffed—to which indignity, of course, he would have had to submit while taking exercise. Bassett occasionally went on deck, but as a rule he preferred to remain in his bunk.

    In conversation the prisoners were fairly cheerful, and they conversed freely with their captors on various subjects.

    In reply to questions, Detective Neill said that the voyage over had been a most disagreeable one. Apart from the worry and anxiety to which each member of the police party was naturally subjected, there were physical inconveniences which tended to make the trip a disagreeable one. For practically the whole trip the cabin was occupied by the five men. There was really no ventilation, as the skylight had been fastened down, and the port-hole was never opened. The prisoners, apparently, had a better time than their guards, but all suffered more or less from the stuffiness of the cabin under these circumstances.

    The police party deserve every credit for having safely lodged the prisoners in the Lambton-quay cells.

    In view of the various statements which have been so persistently made that the police had not captured the right man as Kirby at all, Detective Neill said that a number of people who had seen Kirby in Sydney told him of the fact as soon as he arrived. It is possible, however, that those who so stubbornly denied the identity of Kirby still continue to believe that he is the wrong man. Some people are very hard to convince.

————
THE PRISONERS BEFORE THE
COURT.

    Kirby came before the Stipendiary Magistrate this afternoon, on the original warrant charging him with having levied blackmail upon John Herman, and was remanded till to-morrow morning. Dr Findlay appeared for the defence.

    Bassett, on the charge of having assisted Kirby to escape, was remanded till Monday, and was allowed bail in two sureties of £200 each. Mr Wilford is defending the accused.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Marlborough Express (Marlborough, NZ), Mon 29 Jun 1896 21

KIRBY AND BASSETT IN
COURT.
———◦———
THE EX-DETECTIVE BEFORE
THE MAGISTRATE.
———

AUSTIN KIRBY, ex detective, appeared on Saturday morning at Wellington before Mr Marin, SM, on a charge of having, at Timaru in 1882, feloniously threatened to accuse John Herman of an infamous crime, with a view to extort from him a sum of money and a gold watch. Mr Gray appeared to prosecute, Sir Robert Stout appeared for the accused, and Mr Wilford watched the case on behalf of WG Bassett.

    John Herman, tobacconist, stated that he carried on a similar business in Timaru in 1882. He knew the accused there. Witness left Timaru in February, 1882. Shortly before he left, about the beginning of February, the accused came into witness’s shop and told him that he held a warrant which charged witness with an infamous crime. Kirby showed witness some blue paper, but witness did not take it or read it. Witness told Kirby that the warrant was a lie, whereupon accused said “You’ll get ten years for it, and the Government will take all your property.” Being a foreigner, witness did not know the laws of the country. Thinking therefore that accused had a lot of power over him, and so as not to expose himself in a case of this sort, when Kirby suggested that witness should pay him £300 or £400 witness agreed. Kirby asked for the money at once. Witness thereupon drew a cheque for £100, and offered it to Kirby. Accused suggested that witness should go to the bank and get the money himself. Witness went to the bank the same day, cashed the cheque, and brought the money. He paid Kirby in the back room of his shop the next day. On the next or the same day witness drew a second cheque for £100, got the money, and gave it to Kirby in his back room. After this Kirby came into witness’s shop several times a day, bothering him, and telling him to sell his business and clear out. Witness thought he paid accused another cheque for £100. Was positive that he paid accused £300 in all. After this, on Kirby’s solicitations, witness sold his business, receiving £1200 from this source. On the night before witness left Timaru Kirby came to him again, and said that he wanted another £400 to “square” some other parties. Ultimately, in response to threats from Kirby, witness agreed to pay the £400 asked for. He drew the money from the bank, and paid it to Kirby. No one was present when any of the sums of money were paid. The cheques produced were cheques for £400 and £100 which witness had signed and drawn for Kirby. Prior to witness’s departure Kirby came into his shop and said,. “Before you go, you must give me your gold watch.” Witness had just bought the watch, and had paid about £38 for it. Witness gave the watch to Kirby. He left the colony, and was thirteen years away. On his return to New Zealand, witness consulted Mr Kippenberger, solicitor, of Christchurch, and came to Wellington in October, 1894.

    Cross-examined, the witness said that in February, 1882, he had a bet of £100 on the Dunedin races with Kirby. He lost the bet, but did not pay the debt. Witness left Timaru on the same day that he races were held. His conversation with Kirby took place in the hair-cutting room, into which the public might have come. His assistant, Frank George, might have been present. George had told witnesses since that he heard some of the conversation between Kirby and himself. (Immediately afterwards the witness contradicted this statement, and said that George might have gone out at the time). Kirby was the only person who had made accusations of this sort against witness.

    Frank George, formerly employed in Herman’s employ at Timaru, said he had frequently seen Kirby in the shop. The night that Herman left witness was in the cutting-room, and left there about 9 o’clock. He left Herman in the shop, and waited a little while outside. Then he saw Kirby enter the shop. Thinking that something peculiar was going on, he went round to the back of the shop, and from there saw Herman and Kirby in the hair-cutting room. They were standing at a table, and witness saw what appeared to be a roll of notes being counted out by Kirby. The notes were on the table. Kirby had finished counting the notes and was rolling them up when witness went away. About two hours later, Herman left for Dunedin.

    Cross-examined—Was still in the employ of Herman. Did not hear any conversation between Herman and Kirby. Did not see the accused in the cutting room for two weeks before Herman left, except on the night mentioned. Kirby always came into the front shop when he saw Herman. Herman had bought out witness’s hair-dressing shop in Cuba-street. It was common talk in Timaru that Kirby had driven Herman out of the town. When pressed to give the names of some who had told him so, George could only name two men, both of whom were now dead.

    James Kellow, accountant, said he received a letter from Kirby in July last, asking him to see Herman and tell him to go to Napier to see Kirby. No particulars were given further than that it was on business. Herman declined to go. Afterwards Mr Kippenberger went to Napier, witness guaranteeing £10 expenses to him, but being still unaware of the nature of the business.

    At this point the case was adjourned till 10 am on Monday. Bail was not asked for.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Wed 8 Jul 1896 22

KIRBY’S ESCAPE.
———◦———
THE CHARGE AGAINST BASSETT

    The hearing of the charge against William George Bassett of having assisted ex-Detective Kirby to escape to Sydney, was continued in the Magistrate’s Court this afternoon.

    Mr Gray appeared for the Crown, and Mr Wilford defended.

    William Herbert Johnson, second officer of the Talune, deposed that he recognised the accused as a steerage passenger on the voyage to Sydney which began on Wednesday, 27th May. On the first day out accused went to him and told him that he had lost a portmanteau, and asked permission to look for it down the hatch. Witness agreed to allow accused to look down the hatch. Accused told him his name was Lewis. When the accused went down after the luggage witness went with him. Two portmanteaux were found, but accused said that neither belonged to him. The same day they made another search, and again accused said his portmanteau was not there. Later on during the voyage the tarpaulins were taken off the hatch, but witness could not say whether the hatches were taken off. The cargo was discharged at Sydney under the supervision of the police. A large packing case was found smashed, having apparently been broken by some sacks of grain falling against it through the rolling of the vessel. There were two means of access to the hold—one down the hatch, and the other through two trap-doors behind the pantry. The trap-doors were always kept padlocked.

    Cross-examined by Mr Wilford—Witness was with accused the whole time he was down the hold. Accused made no attempt to open a case. The packing-case which the Sydney police took charge of was marked:—“Lewis—glass; this side up.”

    Re-examined—The keys of the trap-doors leading into the luggage-hold were hung on a nail in the chief officer’s cabin. The door of that cabin was not kept locked. A person using the keys could be seen by anyone in the ship’s bar.

(Left sitting.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Thu 9 Jul 1896 23

KIRBY’S ESCAPE.
———◦———
THE CASE AGAINST BASSETT.

    The hearing of the charge preferred against William George Bassett of having assisted Ex-Detective Kirby to escape to Sydney, was continued in the Magistrate’s Court after we went to press yesterday.

    James Burns, purser of the Talune, gave evidence that just after the steamer left Wellington for Sydney on 27th May he issued a steerage ticket to a man who said his name was Lewis. Witness could not say that accused was the man, nor could he say that accused was on the vessel.

    Wm Johnson, second officer of the Talune, re-called, said the packing-case now in the possession of the police in Wellington was, he believed, the same case that was landed from the Talune, and taken possession of by the Sydney police.

    Charles Ridley, assistant purser of the Talune, was also examined.

    Thos Forsayth, a steward on the Talune, deposed that he lived next door to Bassett on Cottleville-terrace. On the 27th May, the day the vessel left for Sydney, Bassett called at his house. He did not see Bassett, but he heard him ask if witness would take a letter down to the steamer. Witness called at Bassett’s house for the letter at 6 pm, but did not get it. Bassett was not there. About 9.30 that night, as the vessel was on her way to Sydney, he saw Bassett on the fore-deck and had a few words with him. Only once after that on the voyage did he see Bassett. Did not know that Bassett was travelling under an assumed name.

    Cross-examined—Was perfectly certain it was Bassett, and not that man’s brother, who asked him to take the letter. The voice resembled that of the accused. The first night out for Sydney witness and Bassett had a drink together.

    At this stage the case was adjourned until Friday, to enable a Sydney detective to be present to give evidence.

    An application for bail was refused.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Fri 10 Jul 1896 24

 A DANGER THAT NEW ZEALAND
SHOULD AVOID.
THE KIRBY-BASSETT CASE.


    This afternoon the evidence of William James Jones, a detective officer of the New South Wales police force, was taken before Mr Martin, SM, in connection with the case against WG Bassett.

    Detective Jones said he assisted in the search of the steamer Talune on arrival of that vessel inside the Sydney Heads on the 31st May, but they failed to find Kirby. Witness had the ship’s fore-hold opened, and found there a coat, an overcoat, (in the pocket of which were a pair of socks, a hat, and some physic), and a rug. He also saw a big packing-case which was immediately under the trap-door ‘tween decks, and opposite the bar. In the pocket of the walking coat he found two envelopes addressed to “A Kirby, City Buffet Hotel, Wellington,” one of which contained a cheque (produced) on the Bank of New South Wales for £300 made out in favour of Mrs Olive Bassett. He had the case removed and examined. It was constructed in such a way that the lid, which was fixed on with hinges, could be opened from the inside by shooting back two bolts. He identified the case now in the police yard as that taken from the Talune. The side missing was smashed in the ship’s hold, and was not taken possession of by the police. He saw the accused in George-street, Sydney, on the 4th of June, when he gave the name of “William George,” and denied that he was Bassett or knew anything of Kirby. He afterwards admitted that he came over from New Zealand under the name of Lewis, but said he was not aware that the case in which Kirby was supposed to have travelled was ticketed “Lewis.” Witness then told accused that he answered the description of Bassett, and arrested him. A few days afterwards the received the portmanteau produced, bearing a label marked “Lewis, Sydney,” in lead pencil, from the chief steward of the Talune. Kirby claimed everything except the rug.

(Left sitting.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Colonist (Nelson, NZ), Sat 11 Jul 1896 25

CHARGE AGAINST WG BASSET. [sic]

Wellington, July 10.

    In the Magistrates Court, WG Basset was charged with aiding and abetting Kirby to escape. Detective Jones of Sydney gave evidence that he searched for Kirby on the Talune’s arrival, but found no trace of him. He had the forehold of the vessel searched, and found there a coat, an overcoat (in the pocket of which were pair of socks, hat and some physic, and a rug); he also saw a big packing case, which was immediately under a trap door ‘tween decks, and opposite the bar. In the pocket of the walking coat he found two envelopes addressed to “A Kirby, City Buffet Hotel, Wellington,” one of which contained a cheque (produced) on Bank of New South Wales for £300, made out in favour of Mrs Olive Bassett. Witness saw Bassett in George street, Sydney on June 4, when he gave the name of William George, and denied that he was Bassett, or that he knew Kirby. Afterwards he admitted that he came from New Zealand under the name of Lewis, which was the same name as marked on the case in which Kirby is supposed to have travelled. Accused was committed for trial, bail being allowed in two sureties of £250.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Mon 3 Aug 1896 26

SUPREME COURT.
———◦———
CRIMINAL SITTINGS.
(Before His Honour the Chief Justice.) 27

    The quarterly Criminal Sittings of the Supreme Court were opened this morning before His Honour the Chief Justice.

THE GRAND JURY.

    The following gentlemen were sworn in as the Grand Jury:—Messrs John Maginnity (Foreman), George C Russell, Jas H Mentiplay, Walter E Woods, Wm Lees, John G Fildes, Axel W Newton, Chas E Capper, Chas Laishley, Archibald Hall, Geo C Stevenson, Bolton, M Molineau, Christopher Smith, JH Otto Schwartz, Paul Coffey, MacDuff Boyd, Evered W Seaton, David Nathan, Wm Chalmers, Arthur Blacklock, Alfred E Donne, Alex Turnbull, Fred Mitchell.

HIS HONOUR'S CHARGE.

    In his address to the Grand Jury his Honour referred to the case of Wm Bassett, who was charged with being an accessory after the fact in the charge against Austin Kirby, ex-detective, of having extorted money from John Herman at Timaru. Bassett was charged with being an accessory after the fact in that he had assisted Kirby to escape while on bail in connection with the extortion charge. There was a difficulty in proving knowledge on the part of the accessory, but it was not at all necessary that the accessory should have been present at the committal of the offence. It might be proved by admissions or by circumstances showing that Bassett knew of the offence. In reference to the charge against Messrs Ashbolt and Cassidy of having criminally libelled Austin Kirby, his Honour said that all the Grand Jury had to be satisfied about was that the writing was defamatory to Kirby, and that Messrs Ashbolt and Cassidy were responsible for it, and no doubt the printer and publisher of a paper were responsible for what appeared in it. It would be for the common jury to say whether the matter published was true, or published for the public benefit.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Tue 11 Aug 1896 28

AUSTIN KIRBY’S CASE
———◦———

    After we went to press yesterday further evidence was taken at the Supreme Court in regard to the charge against ex-Detective Kirby of having attempted to extort money from J Herman, at Timaru, by threatening to accuse him of an infamous crime.

    Frank George, formerly in the employ of Herman at Timaru, said in cross-examination that after Herman’s departure from Timaru witness did not see him again until about two years ago in Wellington. Here the witness refused to state what conversation had taken place between Herman and himself when they met, as he had told Herman he would not broach the subject they were conversing on to anyone. He had met Herman on the wharf, where he had promised to meet him. He had seen Herman previously, and they had had conversations. They had no talk about Kirby for nearly a fortnight, when Herman told him what he was going to do about Kirby. After a good deal of persuasion, the witness said the matter he had promised not to broach was about the cheques, and he wanted to keep his promise. After further pressure, witness said Herman had told him that if any one asked him about the cheques he was to know nothing about them; Kirby had “had” him for £700. He had told Herman that he had seen him counting the notes, through the window. He thought Herman knew where he was when he was looking through the window, but he was not sure. When he met Herman on the Wellington wharf they had a conversation about Kirby, and from that and other conversations he learned that Herman was going to try and get some of his £700 back from Kirby. Witness had spoken of having seen the bank-notes being counted by Kirby—to Mr Kippenberger. Here the witness produced a paper from his pocket, looked at it, and slipped it back again. Mr Jellicoe at once demanded the paper, and found that it was a newspaper cutting containing Herman’s evidence. On being asked to produce the rest, the witness produced three or four more newspaper cuttings containing reports of his own evidence and that of Herman himself before the Magistrate’s Court. The witness accounted for these slips by saying he wanted to send them away, and had simply pulled them out to see if he could find the dates he wanted upon them. Proceeding with his evidence, George said he had been in Herman’s employ since 1894, but had had no conversation with Herman about the matter since. Kirby had never complained to him of his conduct. Witness obtained a cheque from Herman for £20 for his business, in 1894.

    To Mr Gully—Had one quarrel with Kirby before he left Timaru. When Herman left Timaru he told witness that Kirby had got enough out of him. Several other persons saw Herman’s bank-book after he left. They were induced to take notice of the book because of what they had heard about Herman and Kirby.

    Mr Blundell, Manager of the Bank of New Zealand at Feilding, and formerly of Timaru, recollected Herman leaving Timaru, and remembered the cheques in question being cashed.

    Sergeant Cullen remembered Kirby coming into his office at Timaru, and displaying a roll of bank-notes before witness and another officer, with the remark—“Do you see that, Dick? There is £350 odd there. A friend of mine has given me that to keep for him until he comes back, and if he does not come back I am to keep it.” On another occasion Kirby pulled a gold watch out of his pocket and said that a friend of his had bought it and made him a present of it. Kirby had been getting 9s a day, and soon after this he purchased a house for £650.

    To Mr Jellicoe—Kirby was a man he did not like because his methods were not what they should be. When he was transferred to Napier he told Inspector Emerson that Kirby was the companion of spielers. Herman met witness in Wanganui, and told him how Kirby had blackmailed him at Timaru. Witness told Herman in return of the notes and the watch Kirby had shown him in Timaru, and said he would act as a witness in the case if desired.

TO-DAY’S PROCEEDINGS.

    On resuming this morning, Sergeant Cullen was further cross-examined by Mr Jellicoe, and said there was nothing in a statement about his having seen Kirby with the notes in Timaru. He was present at the Rutland Hotel, Wanganui, with Mr Parsons and a reporter, when a certain statement was drawn up, but did not revise the manuscript in any way. He simply glanced over it, and had nothing to do with the publication of it. Referring to the statement he had made yesterday, witness said that he thought the amount Kirby had mentioned in the watch-house at Timaru as having been given him by a friend was either £350 or £308.

    To Mr Gray—There were no grounds for saying that witness had been reduced in rank because of the Kirby case at Timaru.

    Sergeant-Major Ramsay deposed that he was stationed at Waimate in 1882 when Kirby was at Timaru. He saw Kirby at Waimate on several occasions, and Kirby once showed a gold watch to him, saying that it was a present he had got from his mother, and that he had also had £500 sent to him.

    Several other witnesses were examined.

[Left sitting.]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Wed12 Aug 1896 29

AUSTIN KIRBY’S CASE.

    The hearing of the case against Austin Kirby, who is charged with having extorted money from J Herman at Timaru, in February, 1882, by threatening to accuse him of having committed an infamous offence, was continued in the Supreme Court yesterday afternoon before His Honour the Chief Justice.

    A number of witnesses were examined, amongst them Inspector Pender, who, as the officer in charge of Canterbury in 1882, said that as a detective Kirby had to mix with all classes of people, and witness found him a good officer, who never failed in his duty, whether he had to prosecute spielers or not. Up to the time of the occurrence in 1882 witness had no reason to doubt his integrity, and had never known him in favour one class more than another. Kirby helped to suppress the Timaru riots.

    Philip Kippenberger, solicitor, Christchurch, repeated the evidence which he gave in the lower Court, its general effect being that when he went to Napier on Herman’s behalf accused told him there had been three Timaru cases in which Herman had committed abominable offences; that in one case when he (Kirby) went to execute a warrant for arrest Herman went on his knees and begged him not to do so, stating that he would give him £1000; that Herman paid £300 to the father of one boy and £200 in each of two other cases; that Kirby himself never handled any of the money, but that as he had neglected his duty he had now to suffer for it, and was therefore prepared to pay Herman some money in order to keep his position. The witness refused to accept any compromise on the basis that Herman was blackmailing, and after a good deal of parleying, Kirby signed a mortgage over his property and paid a sum of £200.

    Several more witnesses were examined this morning, no points of importance being developed that were not before the Magistrate’s Court.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

New Zealand Police Gazette, 1896 30


 Return of Prisoners tried at the Supreme and District Courts, 1896

Name

Offence

Where and when tried

Sentence

 Austin Kirby

 Conspiring to defeat justice

 Supreme Court Wellington,
 14 August

 Acquitted

 William George Bassett

 Conspiring to defeat justice

 Supreme Court Wellington,
 14 August

 Acquitted

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Fri 14 Aug 1896 31

AUSTIN KIRBY’S CASE.
———◦———
THE JURY FINDS HIM GUILTY.
———
SENTENCE DEFERRED PENDING
ARGUMENT.
——

    The hearing of the case against Austin Kirby, who was charged with having extorted money from J Herman, at Timaru, in February, 1882, by threatening to accuse him of having committed an infamous offence, was continued in the Supreme Court yesterday afternoon by His Honour the Chief Justice.

    Mr Gully, Crown Prosecutor, continuing his address to the jury after we went to press, laid stress upon the fact that the prisoner, on the eve of his trial, ran away to Sydney, getting himself stowed away in the packing-case. This, he urged, was not what an innocent man would usually do.

    Sir Robert Stout, addressing the jury for the defence, said that an accusation meant an accusation made against Herman to some other person, and there was no evidence whatever that Kirby had made such. The whole case hung on that; they had not to find whether Kirby got money by any compounding of felony. That was not what was charged against him. The main thing that lay at the foundation of the charge was the question, Did he accuse or threaten Herman to any one else? The second thing was, Was there any evidence to prove that Kirby charged Herman with a crime, or threatened to do so? There was no admission even to Mr Kippenberger of an accusation or threat to accuse. Even Herman’s statement of what occurred did not amount to an accusation. It was only a statement that somebody else had threatened to accuse Herman of a crime. What evidence was there to show that a warrant was not issued? Supposing Kirby’s statement to be true, then the whole case was gone; he was guilty of not doing his duty as a constable. As to Kirby’s flight, there was no evidence that he had not walked on board the steamer. And even if he had concealed himself, that was no evidence of his guilt. It was curious that after a charge had been made about Kirby he went about displaying the notes and the watch. It might be asked, why did Kirby compromise with Kippenberger?—but what would a man not do to save himself and his family when he knew even if he had only done the wrong thing of not arresting Herman he would lose his appointment if discovered? There was nothing in the deed between Kirby and Kippenberger about any charge.

    His Honour the Chief Justice, in summing up, said the prisoner was indicted upon two counts—one for extorting money, and the other for threatening to accuse. If the jury were satisfied that in substance the prisoner had accused or threatened to accuse Herman of crime, then they should find him Guilty. If they were satisfied that Kirby did use the words in a way that had an effect on the mind of the person accused, then, in his opinion, the offence had been committed. There could be no doubt that this case was one of the most important that had evert come before a Court in the colonies. That a detective officer should be guilty (if he were guilty) of such an offence was bad enough. They had heard of such cases in the newspapers, but he was not aware of any such charge ever being made against any police officer. He asked the jury to give the case their serious consideration. It was not an accusation in which they could give a verdict of mercy. If they were satisfied that the prisoner was guilty, they must convict him; if they were not satisfied, they could not. With regard to the point Sir Robert Stout had raised, that they could not convict on that specific charge, he (the Chief Justice) thought otherwise; but if the jury convicted the prisoner, that could be reserved for the Court of Appeal. The Crown had given evidence that had raised a prima facie presumption that there never was any information or warrant against Herman. He asked the jury to indicate in the verdict whether or not they were satisfied that there ever was a warrant and information in existence.

    After an hour and 40 minutes’ deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of Guilty on both counts, and stated that they were satisfied that there was no genuine information or warrant.

    The questions which had been raised by Sir Robert Stout as to the admissibility of the evidence as to Kirby’s banking account, and as to whether there was any evidence to go to the jury to show there had been an accusation or threat to accuse, were reserved for argument in the Court of Appeal.

    In the meantime his Honour deferred sentence, and committed the prisoner to gaol until the question was decided.

KIRBY’S FLIGHT IN A
PACKING CASE.

    Austin Kirby and WG Bassett were arraigned at the Supreme Court this morning on an indictment charging them with having conspired to defeat the course of justice, and of having devised and effected the escape of Kirby to Sydney.

    Sir Robert Stout and Mr Jellicoe appeared for Kirby, and Mr Wilford for Bassett. Messrs Gully and Gray prosecuted.

    Mr J McEwen was foreman of the jury.

    Sir Robert Stout raised the point that there was no precedent for the offence described in the second count of the indictment.

    His Honour said he would reserve the point.

    Sir Robert then asked his Honour to rule that the Crown should either quash the first count or give particulars on the second count.

    Mr Gully said he was willing to proceed upon the second count.

    Sir Robert Stout and Mr Wilford both applied to sever the prisoners in the case, but his Honour decided that they should be tried together.

    Sergeant Donovan and Mr WP James, Clerk of the Magistrate’s Court, respectively gave evidence as to the arrest of Kirby and his appearance before the Court.

    AJ Bassett (brother of the accused) gave similar evidence to that which he had given in Kirby’s previous trial. In cross-examination by Mr Wilford he said his brother often assumed disguises when he went away on his business as a private detective. Witness did not recognise the case produced as the case he had bought from Bethune and Company.

    WE Bethune said the case was like the one he sold Bassett.

(Left sitting.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Thu 3 Sep 1896 32

PARLIAMENTARY NOTES.
———◦———
A SEQUEL TO KIRBY'S ESCAPE.

    The petition of William George Bassett, recently arrested and charged with complicity in the escape of ex-detective Kirby from this colony to Australia, asks for compensation for his arrest, and consequent damage to reputation and business. After pointing out the circumstances of his arrest and acquittal, Bassett goes on to state that he went to Sydney with the object of finding four men whom he had been engaged to ferret out, and in connection with which he stood to earn fees amounting to about £135, besides expenses. He had obtained some particulars of one of the men when he was arrested.. During the time he was in custody his business as private detective, he states, went to complete ruin, and would take some time to work up again. He was left quite penniless by his detention and the expenses of the action, and had had to depend on what his wife and brother had of value to sell to provide food for his children. Being without capital or friends he was in a sorry plight. He considered it very hard that he should have been arrested in the hope that after his arrest the police might be able to secure evidence to convict him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Tue 20 Oct 1896 33

KIRBY’S CASE
———◦———
UNCERTAINTY AS TO PROCEDURE.
———

    It will be recollected that Mr Jellicoe, when addressing the jury on behalf of Austin Kirby, who was tried at the last criminal sessions of the Supreme Court in Wellington on a charge of having blackmailed John Herman at Timaru some years ago, raised the point that there was no evidence that prisoner had accused or had threatened to accuse Herman, inasmuch as he had not used words of accusation or threat. The Chief Justice reserved the point for the Court of Appeal. Yesterday afternoon Mr Bell, in that Court, on behalf of the Crown, asked who was responsible for stating the points reserved. So far as he was aware a statement had not yet been drawn up, and he wished to know upon whose shoulders the duty devolved. Mr Jellicoe contended that the duty did not devolve upon him. It was unfair to assume that a prisoner would be defended, and that, therefore, his counsel would draw up the statement of the case for the opinion of the Court of Appeal. If a man was undefended, and a point was reserved for the higher Court, would that man be compelled to remain in gaol for an indefinite period because he had no one to state the case for him? The Chief Justice thought it was the duty of one of the parties to draw up the statement. Mr Justice Conolly took a different view, his opinion being that the Judge who tried the case should assume the responsibility. Mr Justice Denniston said that of course, in an extreme case, the Judge would undertake the task. Mr Bell suggested that regulations for the drawing up of cases reserved for the Court of Appeal should be framed, so that the legal profession might know how to act, and their Honours undertook that the matter should receive their consideration.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Wed 21 Oct 1896 34

LOCAL AND GENERAL.
———◦———


    A statement of the point reserved in the case of Austin Kirby, under circumstances mentioned in our issue of yesterday, has been drawn up by the Chief Justice, who presided at the trial, and it will be laid before the Court of Appeal in a few days.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Fri 23 Oct 1896 35

AUSTIN KIRBY’S CASE
———◦———
THE APPEAL DISMISSED BY THE
APPEAL COURT.
———

    Yesterday afternoon argument in the case stated by the Chief Justice in the case of Regina v Austin Kirby, ex-detective—now in prison (pending the decision of law points reserved) awaiting sentence upon a conviction for blackmailing—was heard before the Court of Appeal, the Bench consisting of the Chief Justice, and Judges Williams, Denniston, Edwards, and Conolly.

    In the case drawn up by his Honour it was stated that there was no evidence that an information had been sworn against Herman or that any warrant had in fact been issued. On the contrary, there was ample evidence which would have justified the jury in concluding, in the absence of proof to the contrary, that in fact no information had been laid against Herman, or a genuine warrant issued against him. Before the case went to the jury, it was contended on behalf of the prisoner that there was no evidence that Kirby had accused or threatened to accuse, inasmuch as he had used no words of accusation or threat. His Honour considered otherwise, but on application reserved the question for the consideration of the Court of Appeal. The prosecution put in under the Banks and Bankers Act, 1887, an affidavit of the manager of the Bank concerned with an annexed paper purporting to be a copy of an account of a person named Austin Kirby. It was objected that there was no evidence that the bank account was the bank account of the prisoner. His Honour was of a contrary opinion, but consented to reserve this question also.

    Sir Robert Stout and Mr Jellicoe appeared on behalf of Kirby, and Mr Bell represented the Crown.

    Dealing with the first count, in which Kirby is charged with having accused Herman with a view to extort money, Sir Robert submitted that there was nothing in the evidence which showed that Kirby had made any accusation to Herman. As to the evidence of the bank-books, counsel contended that this evidence had been wrongly admitted at the Supreme Court trial. All that was proved was that Austin Kirby had an account in the bank; and there was no evidence of the identity of the account produced with that of the prisoner.

    Mr Jellicoe dealt in his address with the second count, in which Kirby was charged with having threatened to accuse. The conviction could not be sustained, he urged, as there had been no offence disclosed. There was no evidence of the threat to accuse. The evidence, he admitted, proved a false pretence and a menace, and the prisoner might have been indicted on these charges. All that was disclosed was a threat to arrest on a fictitious charge, and this was quite different from a threat to accuse.

    The Chief Justice held that there was evidence to go to the jury in support of the first count, and, if that were so, it was not necessary to have evidence on the second count. The evidence proved that Kirby had no warrant, in fact, but used language which was usual when a person was to be arrested under a real warrant. The jury were thus justified in convicting, as they did convict. With regard to the other point he held that the jury were entitled to infer that the person who kept the bank account was Austin Kirby.

    Mr Justice Williams entirely agreed in all the points with the finding of the Chief Justice. The jury was justified in coming to the conclusion that Kirby was the person who had had the bank accounts.

    Mr Justice Denniston was satisfied on both points. It was perfectly clear that the whole language taken together amounted to an accusation; though the word “accuse” was not used. He also concurred in the Chief Justice’s judgment with reference to the bank accounts. Mr Justice Conolly and Mr Justice Edwards also concurred.

    The appeal having been thus dismissed, Kirby will come up for sentence at the next criminal sittings of the Supreme Court.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Mon 16 Nov 1896 36

EX-DETECTIVE KIRBY.
———◦———
HIS SPEECH FROM THE DOCK.
———
A LIGHT SENTENCE.
———

    Austin Kirby, ex-detective, came up at the Supreme Court this morning for sentence on the charge of extortion.

    Sir Robert Stout, who appeared for Kirby, said he had nothing to say further than to draw attention to Kiby’s [sic] long service and previous good record in the Police Force.

    Kirby, who looked none the worse for his incarceration, said—Your Honour, I crave your attention for a short time. I may state that in 1881 I was stationed at Timaru. Hermann [sic] at that time kept a tobacconist shop and gambling room there. I suppressed this, and it caused him loss and annoyed him very much. In 1882 I investigated into his affairs, but there was nothing to warrant me arresting him. I declare, your Honour, that I never received any money or anything else from him. Unfortunately at my trial I was not able to get practically any witnesses, seeing that 15 years had elapsed since this alleged offence had been committed. Also, it is a peculiar thing to me that Hermann did not take proceedings against me in 1890, when he was here for some time upon the racecourses. Also, your Honour, directly this case was over he left the colony for South Africa, where he has stated he intends to remain. The unfortunate thing connected with this case is my trip to Sydney. I can assure your Honour that when I was taken there I was not in my right mind. When I came to my senses I went aboard the Tarawera to come to this colony. When I was arrested it was necessary that a medical attendant should attend me for a week. In consideration of my state of mind then I thank God that I did not destroy myself. I wish also to inform your Honour that after I regain my liberty I intend to pay those who bailed me out. I will get assistance from England. Regarding the majority of the witnesses at my trial, I leave them to their conscience and their God. I may state, your Honour, that I have lost 20 years of service and compensation amounting to £250. My poor wife had to sell up her home to pay for my legal and other expenses. She has three small children—the last was born on the 2nd or 3rd of last month. (Kirby here broke down, and wept.) Continuing, Kirby said—She is left destitute, and dependent upon the charity of relatives and friends. I also wish to point out, your Honour, that my imprisonment will be a double punishment to me, because I will have to associate with men who I have been the means of putting there. I may also state that within three days I have been six months in gaol already, and the torture I have endured has been something terrible—mental torture I mean. I therefore pray for mercy. Deal as leniently with me as you can. Kirby here again wept.

    His Honour, in passing sentence, said that the prisoner must have undergone a considerable amount of mental suffering in the years that had just elapsed, and the punishment in this way must have ben necessarily very severe. It would be the duty of the Court to take into account the fact that the position prisoner held as Inspector of Police—(Kirby, interrupting—I was at that time a constable in plain clothes). The fact that he was an officer of the police in a position of considerable trust would have to be taken into account, the crime being more serious in an officer of justice. It was, however, his duty to take into account the fact that so long a time had elapsed since the time of the offence. He thought it was sufficient in this case to pass what, under any other circumstances, would be an improperly slight sentence. The sentence of the Court was that the prisoner be kept in penal servitude for three years.

    Prisoner was then removed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

New Zealand Police Gazette, 1896 37


 Return of Prisoners tried at the Supreme and District Courts, 1896

Name

Offence

Where and when tried

Sentence

 Austin Kirby

 Extortion

 Supreme Court Wellington,
 16 November

 3 years’ penal servitude.
 Appeal dismissed.

 


1     The Argus, Wed 20 May 1896, p. 5.

2     The Brisbane Courier, Wed 20 May 1896, p. 5.

3     South Australian Register, Wed 20 May 1866, p. 6.

4     Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Thu 21 May 1896, p. 2.

5     Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld), Thu 21 May 1896, p. 5.

6     The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld), Sat 23 May 1896, p. 24.

7     Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Fri 29 May 1896, p. 5. Emphasis added.

8     Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Sat 30 May 1896, pp. 4, 5.

9     Hawke’s Bay Herald (Hawke’s Bay, NZ), Mon 1 Jun 1896, p. 4.

10   The Star (Canterbury, NZ), Mon 1 Jun 1896, p. 2.

11   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Wed 3 Jun 1896, p. 1.

12   Marlborough Express (Marlborough, NZ), Wed 3 Jun 1896, p. 2.

13   Timaru Herald (Canterbury, NZ), Wed 3 Jun 1896, p. 4 .

14   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Thu 4 Jun 1896, p. 5.

15   The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 4 Jun 1896, p. 5.

16   The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 5 Jun 1896, p. 3.

17   Evening News, (Sydney, NSW), Tue 16 Jun 1877, p. 6.

18   The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 17 Jun 1896, p. 4.

19   The Inquirer & Commercial News, Fri 19 Jun 1896, p. 11.

20   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Fri 26 Jun 1896, p. 6.

21   Marlborough Express (Marlborough, NZ), Mon 29 Jun 1896, p. 3. Emphasis added.

22   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Wed 8 Jul 1896, p. 6. Emphasis added.

23   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Thu 9 Jul 1896, p. 5. Emphasis added.

24   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Fri 10 Jul 1896, p. 6. Emphasis added.

25   Colonist (Nelson, NZ), Sat 11 Jul 1896, p. 4. Emphasis added.

26   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Mon 3 Aug 1896, p. 5.

27   Sir James Prendergast, New Zealand’s Chief Justice, 1875-1899. Prendergast was born in London in 1826 and sailed to New Zealand during 1862. He became the first NZ president of its law society when it was formed in 1870. Sir James retired in 1899 at the age of 73 and died in Wellington during 1921.

28   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Tue 11 Aug 1896, p. 6. Emphasis added.

29   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Wed 12 Aug 1896, p. 6. Emphasis added.

30   New Zealand Police Gazette, Vol. 19 & 20, 1895-9, p. 169.

31   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Fri 14 Aug 1896, pp. 5, 6. Emphasis added.

32   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Thu 3 Sep 1896, p. 5.

33   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Tue 20 Oct 1896, p. 5.

34   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Wed 21 Oct 1896, p. 5.

35   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Fri 23 Oct 1896, p. 5.

36   Evening Post (Wellington, NZ), Mon 16 Nov 1896, p. 6.

37   New Zealand Police Gazette, Vol. 19 & 20, 1895-9, p. 216.