Transcription of Newspaper record of County Court Proceedings



Wednesday, July 2(20), 1842

Robert Wyeth, indicted for stealing five pieces of scantling and some blocks of wood, the property of Rowland Davis.

R.R.Davis, sworn. - I am an engineer, and live at Lambton-quay; I am erecting a house at Lambton-quay and have purchased about 4000 or 5000 feet of wood - scantling, blue gum, and blocks of wood ( Manuka ) for foundation; 45 feet from Waitt A Tyser, 10,11, 19, 15, and six of 20, I have missed a portion of this and other timber for these some months past - Question put - was kept in front of Mr Perry's premises; the last which I missed were 10, 12, and one of 20, and five manuka blocks; I have not seen them since; the house which I now occupy was fastened by 4000 nails at the back, and locked in front, the carpenters kept their tools within, but every night the best part of the timber which was placed there for security was taken; and the back door forced open.

Cross-examined.- There was no fence between the place where the timber was deposited and the public road; the manuka was placed some in the house and some at the back; I missed five pieces and called the attention of the carpenters to the circumstance. /p>

Johannah Connell. Sworn. - I am the daughter of Charles Connell of Wellington-terrace; aged fourteen; I was servant to Mr. Wyeth; three or four weeks ago I left my place; I was in his service four months; I went out to fetch wood for him; I fetched some long pieces; I got them from a heap near Mr.Perry's house; the wood was scantling Mr. Wyeth told me to get them; some was burned and some was used in Mr.. Wyeth's house; Sunday it was raining, and he said he had no firewood, and he said I must go and get some, if I went through iron; I did go, and got to the heap and took hold of them and dragged it in; there were in the room when I bought it in Mr. Wyeth and Mr.Canning; I heard Mr Wyeth say it was 20 feet long; nothing was said when I brought it in; Mr. Wyeth took it from me and took it in the kitchen; he sawed it in half, and took it into the coffee-room, which is in front; the coffee-room was not open to the public; the prisoner was making bunks; he made partitions of it to nail the boards to; Mr. Canning was in the kitchen; I brought no more of that kind, but I brought in some red-wood logs; I got these from near Mr. Davies' blacksmith shop; round blocks; between two and three feet they were I think; the prisoner was chopping up these logs, Mr Canning came down and said to the prisoner it was a great shame to chop up these logs, and he would get into trouble about it; I have never seen any other scantling in the prisoner's house except what I brought in; at the back of the house there were two short pieces and one long piece; I recollect the prisoner changed two short pieces for one long piece; the prisoner gave the long piece.

Cross-examined. - This occurred about three or four months ago; he told me to go out and get some wood somewhere for the fire; I brought in some little pieces first, and the prisoner said they were no good, they would burn away quick, and go get some big bits, and then I fetched in the scantling; I found it near Mr. Perry's store; I passed the front door and went right round to the back; it was about six o'clock on Sunday afternoon; I recollect Mr. Batton asking him whether he might lay some boards and scantling under his window for care; it was on a Saturday after this occurred; remembers no other timber being brought; he brought three or four planks himself, but I do not know where they came from; I do not remember any bullock-cart coming to the prisoner's house with timber; I recollect some chairs being brought , I was out with the baby, and had only just come in; I cannot say if the timber was brought at that time; I noticed no timber lying under the parlour window; I don't remember any cart coming with timber, but I recollect a horse and cart coming to take away Mr. Batton's timber; I do not remember Mr. Guthrie coming with bullocks to bring timber or carry it away; I remember being examined at the Police-office; I don't remember saying that the affair to which this investigation refers took place three weeks before then; I believe he took it into the coffee-room whole and cut it up in there; Mr. Canning is a lodger at this time, he lived there longer than a week; I think he lived there about three weeks; Mr. Canning never sent me out to get firewood; I left about a month ago, three weeks yesterday; I went away because I stopped out all night; he said I might take my things and take myself off; I left about a month ago; three weeks before I left I told my mother I was taking the wood, and she said if I took any more she would tell Mr. Davies; I wanted to light a fire on the morning, on Sunday I went out and got some shingles, I took Mr. Smith's shingles; there were some shingles of the prisoners lying on the hen-house, but he would not let me take them; Mr. Wyeth was in bed and told me to do this, that a man who had ordered some coffee should have some; I picked the shingles out of several bundles; I brought in a block, and he asked me where I got it, I told him, and he said to go and get some more, as I want to dress a leg of pork, and if I send it to Mr. Sellers he will take out all the gravy; one day Mr. Wyeth lost some shingles off his hen-house, and the prisoner said if she did so again he would "give it her", and so I was frightened; the prisoner told me to get some shingles, and I said where am I to get them from, he said go into Mr. Smith's house; I did so, and Mr. Wyeth told me to make haste and get some shingles from these, before the carpenters came in the morning; I was not accused of being a thief at a Mr. Wyeth's; there was a piece of silver which Mrs. Robertson put on the shelf and it was removed away to another place, and then I was accused of moving it with the intention of stealing it; I was accused of stealing a pair of boots belonging to a maori woman, I took them for a lark and I was afraid and denied it, but afterwards I confessed it; Mr. Wyeth found the boots in the back place, and he took them back to Mr. Williams; I lived at Mrs. Hewitt's; I was discharged because she could not afford to keep two servants, a boy and myself; Mrs. Hewitt never accused me of stealing anything; I have had no talk with Mr. Pode, he said to me at the Police-office, you have done a pretty thing my lady, take care you are not sent across the water, I said take care you are not sent across the water yourself; Mr Pode is the prisoners brother-in -law; Mr. Wyeth never accused me of stealing from him and giving things to my father; Mrs. Macgreggor said on the Police-office, that she thought she saw me take tobacco or something she did not know what it was; I do remember being sent to get a five pound changed, he sent me out to get change one wet night in all the rain, I lost a note which afterwards I found again with a candle, when I returned first Mr. Wyeth told me there was a pound short, and I thought there was a two pound note; I went back by Mr. Wyeth's orders, and said Mr. Brown had only given me four pounds, he said there were five pounds I went back and told my mistress so, who said run out and see if you have not dropped it; I went out without a light first and afterwards took a candle, and went to the side of a barrel where I had stopped before, and stooping down I found the note; I was paid on the morning I left, in all he paid me One pound One, there were two months' wages and about a weeks.

(R.R.Strang. Esq., produced copies of the depositions which he proved.)

Witness continued. -When I called for my wages on the Thursday after I left, the prisoner said he had got into a great trouble through the wood; he asked me, when I brought the wood into the house, if there were two men in the coffee-room. This took place in a little room through the bar; he saw some of it; I cannot think of any word I said at the Police-office; the wood he sawed he took from near the bedroom he had lately erected for his wife, it was part of the partition and fixed with nails. I pointed out the wood which I had taken, and he took it down with a hammer, cut it into lengths, and put it on the fire in the kitchen.

John Canning, sworn. - I am a cabinet-maker; I know the prisoner at the bar; I lived at his house; we were partners together about three or four months ago; I was there when a piece of wood, about two feet long, such as they use for foundation piles or blocks; I said to the girl, where did you get the piece of wood from; she made no reply; I said that piece of wood belongs to Mr. R. Davies, and it cost that man 6d. or 1s., and it is a shame that it should be burnt when he wants it for his building; after I said this the prisoner said , don't mind taking it back, but don't get any more; I said mind if this is burned, I will have nothing more to do with it; I got up and went away out of the house; the prisoner was building up some bunks; scantling was employed in it; I saw scantling used.

Cross-examined.- About four or five months ago there were four or six pieces of scantling, about 16 feet long left at the house when I went up to the north; I knew of this prosecution at Otaki; Burgess told me my name was mentioned as being connected with a robbery of timber; I heard that there was a warrant out against me and I went to Burgess and afterwards fined on bail; I appeared next morning before Mr. Murphy; I was discharged, and told to appear as a witness; I was seven or eight months a partner to Mr. Wyeth; I went to his house and had some breakfast; I arrived here on Saturday night-perhaps it might be Friday-and gave bail immediately; I lodged at Mr. Couper's; I received my property from Mr. Wyeth on Monday; I have lodged since at Mr. Young's; I placed my property outside Mr. Perry's afterwards I placed it in Mr.R.Davies house; I never said to anyone at any time that I would not be surprised to see Mr. Wyeth across the water; I never did use the terms to that effect; all I said was, that I was sorry I had any thing to do with it.

Richard Harvey, Sworn. - I am a carpenter, and live in Willlis St; I know Mr. Davies; I was at work at the house he is putting up; I remember his receiving some scantling; there were some 10 feet, some 12, 14, and 20; I have missed some; we have missed one 20 feet length; there were some blocks; i do not know if there were any missing.

Jury.- The size of the 20 foot scantling was 2 and a half by 4; the girl Johanna, I think, could drag a piece that size.

Defence; Robert Gutch, sworn. - I know the prisoner at the bar; I boarded in his house some months; from my own observation, I have always considered him an industrious thriving man; he was punctual in his payments; I lived there five months, and during that time i saw nothing that would induce me to think that any dishonest practice was going on; from the time I spent in the house, I think, if such practices were going on, I should have seen it; he purchased boards of Wade and others since he has occupied the prisoner's house; I believe he had a small quantity of scantling left after finishing his house; I know Mr. Willis; I saw him using scantling at Mr. Wyeth's house about April last; I know Johanna Connell; she lived at Mr. Wyeth's as a servant; she lived there about four months; I would not believe her on her simple statement, unless I had known it to be true; I know she was charged with stealing half a dollar; I remember hearing Mr. Wyeth saying that he had found her secrete half a dollar and placed it under a small box; he asked Mrs. Robertson if she had placed any thing on the dresser; she was taxed with doing it ,and went to the shelf, lifted the box, and turned it; I think Willis had used about four or five lengths of 10 feet long about the month of April.

Cross-examined. - The scantling was used for rafters; I have seen scantling long between Mr. M'Gregor's and Mr. Wyeth's; I am not aware whether I owe him money now; he owed me money and I have been indebted to him; I am sure Mr. Wyeth does not owe me money; I will not swear whether I do not owe him money; Mr. Wyeth has made a number of small things; remarks were made in the presence of Johanna; he has made statements which the girl has denied; she remained after the charge of the half dollar was made against her; he said he could not get another, that she was fond of the child; there have been alterations made in the house; there was some repair put upon the roof of the house.

Emma Robertson, widow, sworn. - I know a girl named Johanna Connell; I was present when a charge was made against her by Mr. Wyeth; it was about a dollar which was laid by me on the table, which was removed; I made enquiry after it, and Mr. Wyeth asked the girl if she had seen it, and she said no; there was a search for it, and the girl took it from a shelf; it was under a box or basin where I had not placed it; I did not know whether it was a half dollar, I took it to be a half-crown; Mr. Wyeth said he saw her put it there, and she told a story; I know nothing against the girl except on that occasion.

Cross-examined. - John Wyeth asked her if she knew of it, she denied it; I knew it was only half a dollar, by subsequent enquiry.

John Ellis, seaman, sworn. - I live at Mr. Wyeth's house; the day of the investigation at the Police-office, I remember Johanna coming for her wages; she came to the back door where I was sitting; she enquired for the child; I do not believe the master spoke to her; I saw no scantling cut down or burnt on that day.

Cross-examined. - The accident which I am suffering under, (viz. the fracture on the head and broken leg,) took place five weeks ago; the girl was living in the house at the time; she was going to be discharged about a pair of boots.

Sarah Jackson, sworn. - I live at Wellington, at Mr. Wyeth's, as his servant; three week's yesterday, I went there; I remember Johanna Connell coming on a Saturday, to the back door; she asked to see the baby; I never heard Mr. Wyeth speak to her; I was in the kitchen; it was not possible I think, for Mr. Wyeth to have said anything to Johanna without my hearing it; I saw nothing put in the fire while I was there; I saw no saw; I saw nothing taken from the partition; nothing I think could have taken place without my seeing it.

Cross-examined.- It was about one or two o'clock when she came, and staid one or two hours; it was on Thursday; I know the day she came, we were washing the day before; I have had no conversation about what I was to say when I came here; I have not been asked what I would say; no-one has ever asked me; I have not told any one what I would say; I was brought here because I was in the kitchen all the time.

Arthur Heywood, sworn. - I know the house Mr. Wyeth lives in; a piece of timber 20 feet long could not be brought into the back kitchen door, and thus enter the coffee room.

The judge in his charge to the jury, told them, they must dismiss the fact from their minds, that the prisoner was tried on a former occasion. That they as jurymen, as well as he, as judge, must attend to the evidence only, and all parties discharge, their several duties according to their oaths, however painful it might be to their feelings. That the prisoner,(Wyeth) had received an excellent character from persons of credibility at his former trial of which he would have the benefit.

The jury after a short consultation returned a verdict of guilty, recommending him to mercy.

The prisoner was then sentenced to two months hard labour.

This case closed the criminal cases before the court.

The judge in discharging the jury, thanked them for the patience and integrity with which they had discharged their duties. He (the judge)took the occasion to remark upon the late fire, which had occurred at the Court House, and he begged to assure the Court, and the public through them, that the whole of the papers and deeds connected with the County Court, as well as the preliminary proceedings of the Supreme Court, were safe. Since the commencement of these proceedings all affidavits, warrants of attorney, judgements, deeds, etc, and all matters connected with the administration of the effect of deceased persons, were carefully deposited in an iron box, and were kept at his private house until a safer place could be procured.