20/08/1917 - WELL-KNOWN MEDICAL MAN FOUND WITH SKULL CRUSHED20/08/1917
Police Believe Dr. MacRobbie May Have Met With Foul Play
Three Well-Know Citizens Held—Blood-Spattered Room Tells of Struggle.
*PICTURE* DR. D. G. MACROBBIE Well-known physician who was found dead about midnight in the office of the Crescent Oil Company, Cannon and Caroline streets. In connection with the affair the police are holding tree other well-known citizens, pending the inquest, which opened at noon to-day.
Another mysterious death was reported to the police about one o’clock this morning, when the body of Dr. D. G. MacRobbie, 58 Hess street, was discovered by the night watchman of the Crescent Oil Co., lying in the office of the company, corner of Caroline and Cannon streets, in a pool of blood. Detective Harry Sayers, who was on night duty at the Central Police Station received the message from Herbert L. Asselstine, who, finding the side door to the office open, investigated and made the ghastly discovery of Dr. MacRobbie lying in a pool of his own blood beside one of the heavy office tables.
The first act of Mr. Asselstine after finding the body, was to call Manager Harry Bell of the Crescent Oil Co., who immediately called Dr. Langs and Dr. McNichol, who upon arrival, pronounced the man dead from one and one-half hours to two hours before they arrived. The police were notified, Detective Sayers arriving at the scene of the tragedy between one and two o’clock. The remains were removed in the ambulance to the City Hospital morgue, where it was viewed by the jury at 12 noon to-day.
That the death of Dr. MacRobbie its surrounded in deep mystery, and that there are suspicions of foul play in connection with the finding of the body at that hour in the office of the Crescent Oil Co., is borne out by three arrests made by Detective Sayers, who took into custody Harry Smith, the manager of the company, 187 Jackson street west; Joseph McAuliffe, a real estate agent, 9 1-2 John street north and Walter Scott, 419 Bay street north, all three being lodged in the cells.
It was stated that the skull of the victim had a deep wound in the back part, near the base, but that there were no indications in the office that there had been a struggle.
The office furnishings are of the massive type, there being in addition to the furnishings several heavy bars of iron, which were presumably used in connection with the shifting of heavy cases. Dr. McNichol, the coroner, who was one of the first to arrive on the scene, when he was there after midnight did not observe any sign of a struggle in the office, yet there could have been a struggle amidst such heavy furnishings without making any appreciable difference to the appearance of the office.
Dr. MacRobbie’s father, Rev. Dr. G. G. MacRobbie recently of Nelson and Knox Presbyterian churches Tansley, Ont., was immediately informed of the tragedy, arriving on an early morning train. The sad news has completely crushed that aged minister, who lost his wife eighteen months ago. Rev. MacRobbie is well known throughout the province. He was the first High Chief Ranger of the Canadian Order of Foresters.
Dr. D. G. MacRobbie was well known in Hamilton, where he has practiced for the past ten years. He moved here from Victoria Harbor, where he had practiced medicine for eight years. Deceased was a graduate of the University of Toronto, taking his Arts degree in 1896, graduating in medicine in 1899. Beside the widow, he leaves to small girls, aged 2 and 5.
JURY VIEWS BODY
That there has been a foul murder in connection with the death of Dr. MacRobbie at midnight last night in an upper room over the offices of the Crescent Oil Co., every circumstance in connection with the surroundings seem to bear out.
The coroner’s jury, with Sargt. Wm. Hawkins as foreman viewed the remains in the city hospital morgue at 12.15 today. Dr. McNichol, the coroner, pointed out to the jury that the victim’s head was badly crushed in at the back, but as to the extent of the injuries which had been inflicted, nothing definite could be ascertained until after the post-mortem, which will be performed this afternoon. One of the jurors also remarked on the bruised condition of the left hand of the victim, which had the appearance of having received a heavy blow from some hard instrument.
LOTS OF BLOOD AROUND
These facts were all the evidence that was taken at the hospital the jury being then taken to the premises of the Crescent Oil Co. Here it was found that the body was discovered in an upper room of the building, directly over the offices, and not in the office as at first stated. The room above is used for the storage of heavy pulleys, belting and a variety of goods handled by the oil company. The stairs lead from the back of the office on the ground floor to the room above. At the landing there is a large room, off of which there are several smaller rooms used for clerks. The doctor was found by the night watchman at about 12 o’clock, as he was making his rounds lying about 15 feet from the stairs, his feet pointing in a north easterly direction, and his head a few feet from the entrance of a small office in the southwestern corner of the building. Though the nature of the piles of goods which were around the dead man were not such to register signs of a fierce physical struggle, yet the paper coverings on the large wooden pulleys bore signs of having been broken and torn recently. Blood was spattered on the surrounding goods piled up in the room to about the height of a man, spatters of dark red being on the highest portions, and in some instances, even showing that spots of blood had been thrown over these piles beyond. It was pointed out by Dr. McNichol that it would have been impossible for the blood to have spurted to this height from the wound where the victim lay.
The coroner called an inquest for Thursday night at the central police station.
LOOKING FOR MOTIVE
The motive of crime is still a mystery to the police. Detective Harry Sayers is working in the evidence at the scene of the death, but is extremely reticent as to a probable motive. It was known that the doctor had left his home at six o’clock last night, and it has been stated since that he was seen in the company of two other men later in his automobile. As to his actions after that, and up to the time of the finding of the body, little is known.
The deceased is a man of 42 years of age, and was not known to have any especially vicious habits, though it has been admitted that he would take a drink now and again with friends. A story to the effect that the death of the doctor was the outcome of a game of cards, over which a quarrel might have arisen, is not credited. Some of the deceased’s friends say that he was fond of a game of poker for small amounts. Certainly there was no sign of a card game on the premises.
Dr. MacRobbie was universally liked by all who knew him, and was of an unvarying jovial disposition, his death casting a gloom over the neighborhood wherein he lived.
VAGRANCY CHARGE IN COURT
Harry Smith, James McAuliffe and Walter Scott, the three men held by the police in connection with the case, appeared in police court this morning and were remanded for one week. A charge of vagrancy was laid against them.
“These men may not have been responsible for Dr. MacRobbie’s death” said the Crown Attorney. “But they were in the same room. His death may have been the result of such an accident, and if such is the case they may be released. The post mortem may reveal the cause of death.”
“As the men are all respectable citizens, and may not be needed as anything more that material witnesses I would like to make application for bail,” said C. W. Bell, who appeared for the three prisoners.
His Worship answered that at the present time he was not disposed to grant bail, but gave Mr. Bell permission to renew the application.
On the police court roster Harry Smith is registered as living at 187 Jackson street, is forty-two years old, married, and his occupation as that of salesman.
Smith has been in the oil business for many years. It will be recalled that his contracts with the city were the subject of much discussion, and litigation at and following the civic investigation of 1914.
Walter Scott’s address is given as 419 Bay street north, single and 37 years old. His occupation is not stated on the roster, but he is known as an architect, with offices in the Sun Life building.
Joseph McAuliffe is designated as a real estate agent at 8 1-2 John street north. He also is married and is 52 years of age.
McAuliffe was found in the Crescent Oil Company’s yard, asleep. The other two men were found at their homes, asleep.
22/08/1917 - HOPE INQUEST WILL CLEAR TWO OR THREE HARD POINTS22/08/1917
Mystery Surrounding Death of Dr. MacRobbie Still Deep
Drink the One Sure Think, Admitted by All Interested
Seldom has a more baffling mystery been presented to the police for a solution than that of the death of Dr. D. G. MacRobbie, which occurred in an upper room of the Crescent Oil Company’s premises on Sunday night last. Detective Harry Sayers, who has been on the case from the first is gradually narrowing the facts down and arranging matters for the inquest, which will be resumed at the Central Police Station tomorrow night. Naturally, it is conceded that the hostler, Hebert Asselstine, will be an interesting witness.
Mr. Asselstine has been interviewed by the detective and by newspaper reporters so much that he now declares that some statements have been attributed to him which are not correct, and has decided to say no more until he is called upon to make his statement under oath. The police hope that he will be able to clear up some perplexing points which have baffled them. He will be able to place the scene clearly before the jury, as he first saw it. He will be able to tell why he called the residence of Mr. Smith, the proprietor of the Crescent Oil Co., where he informed Mr. Bell, one of the officials of the company, of what he had discovered, and probably to explain the delay in calling medical aid and in notifying the police.
Detective Sayers is making a close study of what took place between the time that Mr. Asselstine made this discovery of the tragedy and the arrival of the doctors.
Almost as interesting as Mr. Asselstine’s story will be the testimony of Mr. Fowler and Mr. Bell. According to Fowler’s statement he had found Mr. Scott and Mr. Smith in a drunken stupor lying on a row of iron valves in the same room with the dead man. It had been a hard job to awaken the two, who were apparently unconscious of the evidences, why the men were aroused at all and taken to their homes in an automobile before the arrival of the police. In support of the statement that the men were in a drunken stupor, McAuliffe and Scott were still in a semi-intoxicated state at a late hour the next morning, after they had been placed in the cells overnight.
When Scott and Smith were removed from the scene, the presence of McAuliffe was probably unknown to those who removed them, the latter being discovered later in the yard of the premises, by Detective Sayers, in a drunken stupor.
STUDYING THE MARKS
Detective Sayers, was busy all morning in company with Dr. Langs, at the scene of the tragedy in the upstairs storeroom of the Oil Company. Considerable attention was devoted by the investigators to the patches of blood on the floor where Dr. MacRobbie was found lying. There are two separate clots on the floor, and this bears out the theory that when he fell he landed on his right side and then rolled over on to his back. His head was lying directly over two long bars of cutting steel, but this in the opinion of the doctors was not sufficient to cause the two deep gashes on the back of his skull. This seems most improbable, inasmuch as the wounds do not run the same way as the bars, and it does not seem possible that his head could have become twisted in such a way as to become cut on the tool steel. The spatters of blood, located in a little room a few feet from where the dead man was found, and also another clot on a piece of wooden moulding several feet from the floor and the splash on the window pane, several feet away are puzzling the police, and neither the medical men nor Detective Sayers have been able to explain how these came to be there. Dr. Langs demonstrated to the satisfaction of the police, this morning that it could not have been caused by Dr. MacRobbie splashing his hand in the pool of blood as he tried to regain his feet after being wounded. It is impossible, said Dr. Langs, for the blood to splash such a distance. It is quite evident that the dead man was partly conscious when he fell on the floor, as above his head on an iron casting are several blood marks. Apparently in trying to rise he flung his hand above his head in an effort to grasp hold of something to assist him.
EVIDENCES OF DRINKING
The police are satisfied that the offices of the Crescent Oil Company were often used for drinking purposes, as several bottles have been found in the building, while the back yard, beneath the bathroom window, is cluttered with broken glass, caused by bottles being thrown from the window and breaking on the ground. Constable Sullivan, who is on guard at the building, while rummaging around the littler of moulds, etc., which are scattered around the floor, came across another empty whiskey bottle, lying in an upturned pulley in the attic above the floor where Dr. MacRobbie was found, the reporters came across several fibre cartons, which had apparently encased whiskey or other bottles. These apparently had been thrown away behind the stack of wooden pulleys, where they were found, when the bottles were opened. The finding of the empty whiskey bottle by Constable Sullivan, and the bottle packings, further bears out the contention that drinking took place in the premises of the company.
VICTIM GOT LITTLE LIQUOR
Investigation by a Times reporter at the Government liquor dispensary on Charles street south, showed that Dr. MacRobbie secured very little liquor by prescription. On Saturday, Aug. 18th, the day preceding his death, the records show that he purchased a quart of rye whiskey for his own of office use, and except on one other occasion, and that on August 15th, three days before, that was the only time that he purchased any liquor for his personal use since the beginning of the month. It was stated at the office that the late Dr. MacRobbie obtained considerably less liquor than the average city physician.
IMPORTED NO LIQUOR
While the evidence in the hands of the police show that at least two of the three men who are under arrest in connection with the case, were more or less drunk around the time of MacRobbie’s death, it has not been stablished definitely where thy secured their liquor. License Inspector James Sturdy, who has records of all liquor shipped into Hamilton from points outside the Province, stated to the Times this morning that no liquor was ever sent in a legal way to either Smith, Scott or McAuliffe, who are at present being held on a nominal charge pending the investigations of the police. The assumption is that they must have obtained their supply from other sources not recognized by the authorities.
SEND TO TORONTO FOR ANALYSIS
In opinion of the police a great deal hinges on the results of the autopsy, which will be presented in the medical testimony at the enquiry tomorrow night. It has not been ascertained as yet whether or not the dead man had been drinking on the night of the tragedy. The stomach has been sent to the office of Dr. Amyot, the Provincial analyst at the Parliament Buildings, Toronto, for examination, and it is likely the report will be ready for submission at the inquest to be held tomorrow night by Coroner McNichol.
An interesting piece of evidence was brought to light this morning in the little enclosure off the side the large room where the dead man was found, in the shape of a small box, probably a couple of feet long. It still contains a quantity of iron or steel castings, and was found lying on its side. One side of the box has been scraped with some sharp instrument, but whether it was done to destroy any implicating marks or merely to erase stencil markings, is a question. Detective Sayers is of the opinion the latter is correct reasoning.
Constable Reynolds who is also on duty at the place, is of the opinion that there may have been a fight in this little room resulting in Dr. MacRobbie being either struck and falling or being thrown out of the room on to the floor where he was found, Owing to the position in which he was though the opinion of the medical experts is that while the wounds on the doctor’s head may possibly have been caused by a tumbler against some hard substance, it is highly improbable.
When seen this morning Benjamin Fowler, traveler for the Crescent Oil Co., said that he was not one of the first on the scene, as reported, but that Bell was there when he arrived. He explain that the length of time which elapsed before calling the doctor arose from Bell going to the home of Dr. Langs for him. Mr. Fowler was also called and preceded to the scene in his automobile. As to the time, he could not say because he had no watch on him, and he did not take notice of the time when he left his home. When he arrived all was more or less confusion, and his whole attention was given to the drunken men. He could not say that Dr. MacRobbie was dead. Mr. Fowler further stated that both Scott and Smith proceeded to their own homes on foot. When asked how they could be expected to walk when freshly awakened from such a drunken stupor, Mr. Fowler said that in his opinion the shock of the discovery of the dead man was sufficient to steady them.
Crown Attorney Washington was asked this morning if it was true as reported that no evidence other than that submitted by the medical examination at the post-mortem would be presented to the jury tomorrow night, and stated that there would likely be much more evidence submitted than that.
- W. Bell stated this morning that he had not said that his client Smith was drunk for several hours after reaching the cells, but he did state, when asked that he understood that all the men were found in a state of helpless intoxication, and were more or less drunk when seen the next morning.
GROUND FLOOR RELEASED
Detective Harry Sayers announced at noon that the ground floor of the Crescent Oil Building had been turned over to the company today. The second floor, however, will not be used by the company until after the inquest. The detective expressed opinion that the mystery would eventually be cleared up. He was, in fact, quite optimistic. Asked if any more arrests would be made, he replied, “Not at present.” Further questioned about the evidence he had gathered, he admitted that he had what might be some important witnesses.
MRS. POWIS STORY
The statement of Mrs. Powis, who told the Times that she was half French and half Indian, is more on the sensational order. She tells how she was awakened at 11 o’clock Sunday night by the fretfulness of her baby, to which she ministered. While in this act, Mrs. Powis stated that she heard four cries apparently coming from the interior of a shed immediately in the rear of the main building. Two of the cries, she stated, were of a muffled description, as if the one who shouted the words “help, help” had some obstruction placed over his mouth, but the others were quite distinct, reaching her bedroom window clearly.
Taking the reporters out on to the back porch, Mrs. Powis pointed over the fence into the yard of Asselstine, who lives next door, and remarked:
“I saw, a woman go over to that barrel by the shed this morning and lift out two bottles. They had the wrappers on them, and looked to be whiskey bottles. When she saw that I observed her, she made a pretense of picking up some sticks, all of which she carried into the woodshed. I told Mr. Sayers of this, and he went into the shed and found the bottles, and there is one of them now sitting on the desk in the office,” she continued, pointing to a large bottle which was plainly visible from the back porch which was not over 100 feet away.
“After the cries were heard,” stated Mrs. Powis, “I noticed that the whole building was lit up as bright as day, both upstairs and down. In a little while I heard the sound of pounding, as if someone was nailing up a box.”
Another neighbor, who lives right beside the building of the Crescent Oil Company, stated that at 9 o’clock Sunday night he saw and automobile enter the side gate of the company, in which there were two men.
24/08/1917 - LITTLE LIGHT THROWN UPON THE MACROBBIE TRAGEDY24/08/1917
Herbert Asselstine Proved an “Unsatisfactory” Witness, the Crown said.
Some Contradictions – Testimony of Medical Men Not Taken
Not in many moons has Hamilton been aroused to such a high pitch of interest as that displayed in connection with the MacRobbie tragedy, which occurred last Sunday night on the premises of the Crescent Oil Company. At the opening of the inquest, last night, at the Central Police Station, the crowd of spectators who turned out to satisfy their curiosity became so large and so boisterous that they threatened to break into the court room where the inquiry was being held. Chief Whatley had several men on guard at all entrances, but it was impossible to clear the crowd who gathered in greater numbers than ever. Some of the more excitable threatened to call out the Mayor, if they were not permitted to enter, but Chief Whatley firmly, ordered all doors locked.
Although very few facts of an enlightening nature were brought out at the inquest last night, the authorities made considerable progress. Altogether, four witnesses were examined by the Crown Mrs. MacRobbie, the late doctor’s widow, Herbert Asselstine, Mrs. Powis and Harry Bell.
Asselstine was a somewhat refractory witness, and was called to task several times by the coroner and Crown Attorney Washington. Some of the watchman’s answers were classed as “unreasonable” and “unsatisfactory.” The Crown thought he seemed plagued with a decidedly short memory, and stock answers. “I don’t know” or “I couldn’t say,” were very annoying. His misunderstanding of the queries put him seemed almost intentional at times and called forth several sharp rebukes from the Crown. Asselstine stuck pretty well to his original story, except in the matter of the time of the time he found the body. Although he had previously been reported to have stated to the newspapers that it was 11:30. The evidence of Harry Bell also differed from that of the watchman, in the matter of the location of the body of MacRobbie, when found. Asselstine stated that when he saw MacRobbie, he was lying on his back, with his head on some iron bars. In direct contradiction was Bell’s statement that MacRobbie was laying on his side, with his head several inches from the bars in question. Each witness when examined was positive on this particular point.
Mrs. Powis, the Indian woman, still adhered to her story of hearing the cries for help from the Oil Company’s building and her testimony in this regard was unshaken under the cross-examinations of the Crown Attorney and counsel for the three men now in custody.
Mrs. MacRobbie remained calm throughout the whole proceedings and answered the questions put to her lucidly. She watched the affair with steadied interest and hardly ever lifted her eyes from the witness under-examination.
The three men, Smith, McAuliffe and Scott, remained in the dock throughout the progress, and from their restlessness it was evident they were suffering under the ordeal. Scott was the most composed of the three, but Smith and McAuliffe were almost continuously mopping from their foreheads the big beads of perspiration. The three prisoners looked pale and wan, apparently as the result of their confinement. Their evidence was not taken.
“I DID NOT LIKE THEM”
Mrs. MacRobbie, the widow of the dead man, the first witness called, was very composed, as she took the stand and answered the questions put to her in a straightforward manner.
In reply to the first query of Crown Attorney S. F. Washington, Mrs. MacRobbie stated that the late Dr. MacRobbie left the house about 8 o’clock in the morning of the day of his death, and returned between 11 and 12 o’clock. He went right upstairs and laid down. During his absence the witness stated, three men called in an auto and asked for the doctor.
Asked if she could identify the man who got out of the car and came to the door, she said:
“The man I saw wore a rough-looking brown suit and cap and slouched. I did not like the look of him. The man at the wheel had sharp features. He had no hat or coat on.”
Pointing to the three men in the dock – Smith, McAuliffe and Scott – the Crown asked her if she could identify them as being the three men who called in the auto, Mrs. Mac Robbie pointed out Scott and said he might be the man at the wheel. “He is not dressed in the same clothes as the man who came to the door. If I could see him in the same clothes, I would recognize him immediately.”
Mrs. MacRobbie explained that at the time the auto came up, a milk boy came to her door by mistake.
“Just then the man called out from the car for the doctor. I told him he was not in and shut the door. I watched them as I did not like the look of them. I saw them speak together. Then the one came up to the door and asked when the doctor would be in. I had no intention of telling them. I told them not till night.”
WATCHED THE CAR
“I watched the car as far as I could see it. I did not like the look of them,” again reiterated Mrs. MacRobbie, with emphasis.
The auto called between 10 and 11 in the morning, she continued under cross-examination by Crown Attorney Washington. The dead doctor often was called out and did not often tell her where she was going. Her husband got up after going to bed between 3 and 4 o’clock. He came down then and played with the baby a few minutes and then went upstairs and laid down again. He did not come down again until about 7 o’clock in time to answer the door to a lady. The witness was on the back verandah at the time, but heard the doorbell ring twice before he went out about five or ten minutes to eight.
Replying to the question put by Mr. Washington, Mrs. MacRobbie said she had never heard the names of Smith, Scott or McAuliffe mentioned by the doctor. She never knew of her husband going to premises of the Crescent Oil Co.
DID NOT TELL OF CALL
“Did you tell your husband that these men had called?” asked M. J. O’Relly, K.C., acting for McAuliffe, who then took the witness.
“No,” she replied emphatically. “I did not like the look of them.”
“There would be no harm in telling him,” proceeded the lawyer, “would there?”
“I suppose not,” answered Mrs. MacRobbie, after a moment’s thought.
Replying to C. W. Bell, counsel for Smith and Scott, Mrs. MacRobbie said it was not unusual for her husband to go out at such an early hour Sunday morning.
“Did you keep record of calls made during his absence?” asked Mr. Bell.
“No, I always answered the door, except when he was at home,” she answered.
WAS NOT WORRIED
Although the doctor’s office hours at night were 6 to 8 o’clock, he left no word of his being detained, she said. The witness stated she did not institute any inquiries when her husband did not return that night. “I went to bed at 10:30. I slept soundly and he could have come in and gone to bed without my knowledge.”
She stated to Mr. Bell that she did not know whether the doctor went out alone or in company with others.
Herbert Asselstine, 114 Caroline street north, stated that he had worked at the Crescent Oil Company’s plant for the past three months. He left home last Sunday in the morning to go out in an auto with Mr. Dick Sturgles, Harriett street. He had not been in the company’s premises during the day. He returned home about 7:30. From then he was around the company’s premises until 9:30. He then walked home, where he found a man standing with an auto. He did not know who owed it. He thought it might belong to someone who was in the office, which was brilliantly lighted.
“Why you think that?” asked the Crown.
“You got me there,” was the reply.
Witness continued that he saw lights about 9:45PM for the first time. He did not go in, although he thought it unusual. It had been lit up before on Sunday, but not so brilliantly. Mrs. Smith had been around in the afternoon.
“But she would not be around in the upstairs room?”
“Sometimes they go up there to wash.”
“Why did you not investigate?”
“I had no keys.”
After further questions, he drifted back to the auto, which he stated, he went back to light. This was at 10:15. After an introduction by the Crown to McAuliffe, he thought it was his car.
He then noticed more lights where lit. He met Smith coming south on Caroline street, in company with another men. “I went to the corner to see of the lights where lit and see if anything was going on,” said witness.
Smith went into the office and he, the witness, declined an invitation to go also. He could not identify the man with Smith. Neither would he say that he looked like the deceased doctor. He knew McAuliffe to look at.
WITNESS CAUTIONED TO BE FRANK
“Mr. Asselstine,” interrupted the coroner, “it appears to me that you are not a very frank witness. I would advise you to answer in a straightforward manner and not hedge and evade so much.”
The Crown then proceeded with the examination. Asked if he knew Dr. MacRobbie, witness answered in the negative, but admitted knowing Scott. He did not think Scott was the man in company with Smith. He did not know a man who came along in an auto with a punctured tire, but helped fix it. Mr. Scott held by the Crown, but another man a tinsmith.
By the time the lights on the first car had gone out. He thought then that Smith was interested in the car as he told him to light the lights, although it was not his own, being a five passenger, while Smith’s was a runabout.
THOUGHTFUL OF NEIGHBORS
Two men came along and asked if “Harry” was in. “There was some noise going on, like singing. I was going in to stop it,” said Asselstine.
“Did you know if it was Smith’s – I was going to say – soprano voice.”
“You could not tell whose voice it was.”
“When Smith called out to light the lights, did his voice appear to be that of a sober man?”
“I could not say.”
“Did you try the door?”
“Yes, and it was locked. I could not get any one to hear and did not want to arouse the neighborhood.”
FOUND THE BODY
After the stranger’s car was repaired he went with the two men to the rear door to see if Smith was in. He found it open and went upstairs, the men following. There was only one light upstairs. He found three men in there with Dr. MacRobbie’s body lying with his head on the bars in a pool of blood. He said, “I guess this man has hurt himself.”
A plan of the office was then produced and the witness described the manner in which the other three men were lying asleep. Dr. MacRobbie was almost on his back, with his head against, not right on, the iron bars. Later, witness thought the head was on the bars. “I asked what I should do, and someone said, “Telephone for Harry Bell,” he declared.
“I am not a good man to tell, so did not know if deceased was alive. He was not moaning,” witness replied when asked if the doctor was alive.
“Did it occur to you then or at any time to call the police?”
“No, it did not.”
“These two men were with you when you discovered the body?” inquired the coroner.
“Yes, but I do not know their names.”
“What time did you call Bell?”
“Did you tell anybody it was half past 10?”
“No. I had no watch.”
“How long was it after you called Bell before he arrived?”
“It might have been half an hour.”
KNEW MEN NOW
Further questioned witness admitted that he knew the three sleeping men, but did not attempt to awaken any of them, not even Smith.
“Why did you call Bell when you had the proprietor right with you?”
“Because someone suggested that I call Bell.”
“All you told Bell was that there had been an accident.”
“Did he appear to know it was Dr. MacRobbie?”
“He seemed to.”
“Did he try to awaken Harry Smith?”
After phoning for a doctor, Bell went away to get one. He, the witness left the building also, and during that time he did not know that anyone else left the building.
The coroner asked witness if it would not be common sense to awaken Smith under such circumstances if he did not know that he was drunk. After mumbling by the way of answer in an evasive manner the coroner remarked: “Your statements are most unsatisfactory and your conduct unreasonable.”
Witness said someone remarked, “Take that man out of the road where he could have a sleep,” pointing to McAuliffe. When he came back McAuliffe was at the bottom of the stairs. He could not say that he was drunk, but he was a little “lobby.” He left him in the yard. A number of whiskey bottles were taken out from under the bath tub. “I did not keep track of them. I think there were two,” Asselstine remarked, at which the assemblage broke into laughter. A number of empty Scotch whiskey bottles were found on his yard, although he did not put them there.
Witness and the Crown at this juncture had a little argument when asked if Smith had left the warehouse, accusing the Crown of bringing several more warehouses into the discussion. Mr. Washington claimed it was but one he was speaking of.
NO BLOOD ON HANDS
- J. O’Relly, K. C., counsel for McAuliffe, then examined the witness. He drew forth the information that witness heard no other sound issue from the building than singing. Asked how long McAuliffe stayed in the yard, he replied that it was until the police came.
Mr. O’Relly suggested that he might have blood on him as a result of being around the body.
The Crown presses this point, asking if he had blood on his hands. Witness replied not to his knowledge as he washed his hands and did not notice any.
“Did you touch the body?”
“Not that I know of.” At which several exclamations were heard in the court room.
“Has anyone been to you about your evidence?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Did you take a note to Mr. Bell today?”
“Mr. Bell, the lawyer.”
“No, not today; that was yesterday.”
“Then you did take a note?”
“Yes, that was about a bluff telegram and had nothing to do with this.”
HEARD CRIES FOR HELP
Mrs. Powis said she lived at 118 Caroline street north. “I was home last Sunday night,” she said. “I did not see anyone around the Oil Co., but the windows were lighted up about nine o’clock. I went to bed about ten.”
“Did you hear any noise from the building?” asked Mr. Washington.
“I heard four cries for help; I thought they came from the building. They sounded as if someone was holding their hand over someone’s mouth. I got up to get the baby a drink of water. It was eleven o’clock by the clock.
“What awakened you from your sleep?” asked Mr. Bell.
“The baby moved around and started to cry,” she answered. “I gave the baby a drink.”
“I heard the cries for help after I had gotten the baby quieted,” she reaffirmed.
The first two cries followed each other closely. The third was about a minute later. The last call came about five minutes later, the first call being the loudest.”
“Did it alarm you?”
“No, it didn’t frighten me at all.”
“Did you ever hear a drunken man shouting before?”
“Yes, I did; some Italians, once.”
“Did the calls sound like that?”
The witness thought that the cries might possibly have come from some Italians living nearby, however.
WERE ALL AT OFFICE
Harry Bell, on being called, said he lived with Harry Smith.
“Were you at home when Smith left the house in the morning?” asked Mr. Washington.
“Yes, I was. I went to the office with McAuliffe, in his car, and myself. Asselstine phoned about ten minutes twelve,” said witness.
“Dr. MacRobbie was in the office when I got there; so was Scott.”
“What were they doing in the office Scott, McAuliffe and MacRobbie?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you ever see any cards or drinking?”
“I went out shortly after,” volunteered Bell. “As far as I could see they were all sober.”
The witness said Scott and McAuliffe and also MacRobbie had been there on several occasions.
“What did Asselstine say when he phoned?”
“He said, ‘Come down right away; there is someone hurt.’ I told him I would be right down.”
“Did you ask who was hurt?”
“No; I told him to get Campbell.”
“Did it occur to you that a doctor might be of some use around there?”
“No, it didn’t”
Mr. Dornan was the first man he saw when he came down, he said. “I asked him who was hurt. He said he thought it was Dr. MacRobbie. He went to the side door, followed by a man named Hindes, he said. “I saw McAuliffe and Smith lying on the floor. They were asleep.”
HEAD NOT ON BARS
The body was lying on the right side. There was a cigarette in the two fingers of his right side. The head was about two inches from the bars, and his legs were out straight. I touched his right hand, but I didn’t get any blood of mine.”
“Did you notice any sign of life?”
“When I touched his wrist, he gave a groan and turned over on his back. I went downstairs and called the doctor, but I did not touch anything about the place. Only Smith and McAuliffe were lying down when I got there,” he said in an answer to the Crown’s query. “I didn’t see Scott then at all.”
“Did you attempt to arouse these two men?”
“Yes, I did,” I didn’t get any response at all.”
“Did you notice any smell of liquor?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Did you think it important to wake them up?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Yet, you only made one feeble effort.”
He left Asselstine and Dornan in charge while he went for the doctor, witness said.
“I got back about a quarter to one. Smith and McAuliffe were still lying there. There was no change in position of body since I left.”
“Who aroused the men?”
“Did they appear to have their senses about them?”
“No, they could hardly walk.”
“Mr. Smith asked what was the trouble, Fowler said ‘do you know the doctor is hurt?’ He muttered something but I don’t know what it was.”
“What about McAuliffe?”
“He appeared in the same condition. He was muttering something.”
“Dr. Langs and I were downstairs when McAuliffe came down.”
“What became Smith?”
“I think he went home.”
“How was the cigarette in MacRobbie’s hand?” asked the coroner.
“It was about half-smoked.”
“The one we found was whole,” said Coroner McNichol.
DID NOT TALK WITH SMITH
“What did you and Smith talk about on the way down from the house when you brought him back?”
“I didn’t talk to him, I was driving the machine.”
“Surely you asked Smith what had happened.”
“No, I didn’t; I was driving the machine.”
“Weren’t you curious about it?”
“No, I wasn’t Detective Sayer just sent me up to bring him back. I didn’t talk to him.”
“Was his head on the bars of iron?” again asked the coroner.
“No, it was a few inches away.”
On the suggestion of Coroner Attorney Washington, the inquest was adjourned until Friday, August 31st, at 8:15 o’clock.
25/08/1917 - POLICE HAVE INSTRUMENT WHICH BEARS BLOOD STAIN25/08/1917
Could Have Been Used in Dealing Blow That May Have Killed MacRobbie
A New Feature Which Renews Interest in the Tragic Death
The belief that Dr. Douglas G. MacRobbie, the young Hamilton physician whose almost lifeless body was found to an upstairs storeroom of the Crescent Oil Company, on Cannon street west, late last Sunday night, came to his death by violent means is growing in the minds of the authorities and those delegated to investigate the tragedy. It is now definitely known that the police have in their possession a large piece of wood in the shape of a mould, which was picked up near the dying man by the police shortly after their arrival. The piece of wood is spattered at one end with a deep blood stain, but whether this patch got there as the result of an accident, or the mould was used to inflict the blow which caused the deep wounds at the base of the deep wounds at the base of the doctor’s skull, is still a matter of conjecture. The weapon is semicircular in shape and measures about three and three-quarters of an iron in diameter. It is about two feet in length and weighs in the neighborhood of three pounds.
According to one of the doctors who examined it, the stick could not be handled in an offensive way by anyone with one hand. Using both hands, an assailant could deal a very heavy blow, sufficiently severe, it is thought to cause the deep gashes in the back of the dead man’s head despite the fact the weapon is not very heavy. There is only one blood spot on the stick, and that is located close to one end, and covers an area about two inches square. As yet the blood spatter has not been analyzed by the expert engaged upon the case, and it is stated that this will not be done until the article in question is produced in evidence.
While the authorities have not had the clothing of Smith, McAuliffe or Scott examined by the analyst with a view of ascertaining if there are any blood stains, all the wearing apparel worn by the three men on the night of MacRobbie’s death is now in the hands of Detective Sayer. This officer has made no announcement of his findings in this regard.
Smith, Scott and McAuliffe, who are still being held at the Barton street jail, without bail, were photographed by Police Photographer McHaffle yesterday. It was apparent that the three men keenly felt their position, but they submitted graciously, having no alternative in the matter. The usual face and profile plates were taken, and they will be place in the police record in the regular way.
License Inspector Sturdy, with the co-operation of the local police, is working on the liquor end of the case. According to the evidence submitted at the inquest, the three had been drinking on the night of the tragedy. The fact has also been established that MacRobbie had consumed a quantity of liquor immediately prior to his death. As the supply of intoxicants, apparently, did not come through in the regular way, the authorities are endeavoring to discover where the liquor was secured. The case was so complicated, Inspector Sturdy said this morning, that their efforts had as yet, met with little success.
August 27th, 1917
CROWN REFUSED BAIL FOR THE THREE PRISONERS
Smith, McAuliffe and Scott Were in Police Court Dock Today
Authorities Think They Have Further Evidence of a Struggle
That the death of Dr. Douglas MacRobbie in the upstairs premises of the Crescent Oil Company was preceded by a struggle or scuffle of some kind became almost an established fact, following new and important evidence unearthed by the police. Although great importance was attached to the testimony of Mrs. Powis, the half Indian who stated that she heard cries for help emanating from the building late Sunday night, it was thought that she may have confused these noises with the cries of her babe. Her story, however, is substantiated by Mrs. William Baker, of 83 Barton street east, who was passing the scene of the tragedy a few minutes after 11 o’clock Sunday night.
Mrs. Baker was very reticent when seen by the Times reporter this morning, but she passed the Crescent Oil Company a few minutes after the hour, in company with her 15-year-old son George, returning to her home on Barton street by a short cut down Cannon street, after a visit to her sister, Mrs. Samuel Freeman, at 37 Inchbury street. She is quite positive of the time, as when she passed the Hess Street School the clock in the tower was striking the hour.
As she passed the building, she says, the upper part was brilliantly lighted. This did not strike her as being unusual, but just as she passed the door, she heard a gurgling sound, which attracted her attention. “My God, what is that?” she exclaimed to her son, as she stopped momentarily to recover from her sudden fright. The sound, however, had subsided, and she heard it no more. Standing out in deep silhouette on the window shade. However, she saw the upper part of a man’s figure. He appeared to be in his shirt sleeves, and from his appearance, she adjudged that he must have been asleep as he never moved. He was sitting in a half reclining position, with his body projecting above.
The silent witness of this extraordinary event never waited to inquire into the matter, but hurried on to her home. It was not until next day that she read in the papers of the death of Dr. MacRobbie and her mind went back to the scene of the night before. So shocked was she that for several nights after she could not sleep. The vision of the mysterious happenings which were being enacted behind the drawn shades and the unusual sounds she had heard, as she passed, constantly recurred to her. Mrs. Baker has told her story to the police, and it is considered that she and her son, who also heard the noises will be important witnesses at the adjourned inquest next Friday night.
The statements of Mrs. Baker support those of Mrs. Powis, although the description of the sounds coming from the building, differ to some extent. Mrs. Powis maintains that she heard four cries for help, while Mrs. Baker explains that the noise she heard sounded muffled, as if someone was holding their hand over the other’s mouth.
WERE ALL DRUNK
“Sandy” Lemond, residing on Troley street on the mountain, a former employee at the old Schwendiman farm, substantiates the story, that the Smith, McAuliffe and Scott, visited the former’s farm on the mountain, on the day of the tragedy. Lemond states that he met the three men in an automobile and they invited him to join them and go out to the farm. He accepted, but deeply regretted his course after he had gotten into the car and proceeded a short distance. The men, he says, were all drunk and drove so recklessly, that he (Lemond), had visions of an upset into the ditch. When the party arrived at the farm, they got no liquor, Lemond stated, but they were so intoxicated that he was frightened to return back with them, and he contemplated making the five miles back home on foot. Smith, who appeared the most sober of the three persuaded him however, to get in the car again, stating that he would drive. Smith’s farm, the driver swerved the car from the road and they passed right across the creek, through about two feet of water at a reckless pace. Fortunately, the automobile did not crash lemond is not sure who drove the car on the way on the way out to the old farm.
Drs. Langs and Parry, who performed the autopsy, absolutely refused, when questioned by the Times, to discuss the report that Dr. MacRobbie’s body had been disinterred for the purpose of clearing up several facts, which had cropped up since the postmortem had been made. It was stated, however, by Coroner McNichol, that this had been done and that in keeping the affair dark, the authorities had done so purely for sentimental reasons.
“I had no object in keeping it a secret,” said the coroner, “beyond the fact that I wanted to spare the feelings of Dr. MacRobbie’s aged father, who seemed terribly worked up when he heard rumors that the re-examination had taken place. When asked by the newspapers on Saturday if I had written an order for the exhumation. I said ‘no’. That was perfectly true. I only gave a verbal order and up to the present time I have given no signed order.
While it is believed that the purpose of the move was to permit of a further examination of the wounds on the head of the dead man, the physicians working on the case refused to confirm this. Coroner McNichol stated that while this was his belief, he could not state positively, as he had not received any report from the medical men. In the opinion of those in close touch with the case, there may be some connection between the exhumation and the blood-stained piece of wooden moulding, which was found near MacRobbie’s body and which is now in possession of the police. While the doctors have not made any statement following their investigations, it is said that the appearance of the wounds point to the fact that they were caused by a blow. Consequently, this probable weapon is considered to be one of the most important pieces of evidence, to be submitted, when the enquiry is resumed next Friday night.
According to the police, the three men now in custody in connection with the case – Smith, McAuliffe and Scott – have been given every opportunity to clear themselves. When arrested and questioned they were allowed to make a statement, and all absolutely denied any connection with MacRobbie’s death, and maintained they were ignorant and innocent of the crime. In statements made to Coroner McNichol, Smith repeatedly said, “I don’t know a thing about it,” according to Dr. McNichol yesterday.
That the authorities are “up against it” and really have not made a great deal of progress towards the solution of the mystery is generally admitted. Detective Sayer has been working diligently on the case, but any new facts brought it only seem to add to the complexity of the case.
“It is the most complicated case I have ever had anything to do with,” said Coroner McNichol to the Times reporter yesterday. “The Kinrade affair was easy beside it. There we knew how the girl died, and all we had to do was find the person who shot her. In this case there are so many possibilities that we have to eliminate that it becomes more and more difficult as we proceed.”
The benchers at the Police Court this morning were on the clock when. Smith, McAuliffe and Scott, the three men who loom so largely in the MacRobbie case, tiled into the prisoners pen. George W. Ballard, of the law firm of Ballard & Morrison, and M. J. O’Relly, K.C., asking that as they on charged with the nominal offence of being vagrants that they be given their liberty on bail.
“I will be guided by the advice of the Crown Attorney in this matter,” said the Magistrate.
“The matter is too serious to take any chances,” remarked Mr. Washington shaking his head in the negative.
“My advice is that bail be not granted.”
The prisoners did not seem very disappointed at the conclusion of the Crown, and were immediately returned to the cells.
08/29/1917 - MYSTERY OF MEN IN BUGGY HAS NOT YET BEEN SOLVED08/29/1917
It Would Go a Long Way Towards Solving the MacRobbie Problem
Other Clues and Theories Are Being Closely Followed in the Difficult Case
While no further clues have been unearthed in the MacRobbie case, the police are still working along several theories, which, it is hoped, may lead to some definite point in the solution of the mystery. The report that two men were heard to dash away in a buggy a few moments after the cries for help were heard, coming from the upstairs room of the Crescent Oil Company, is considered of great import, and it is being thoroughly investigated by Detective Sayer. As yet he has been unable to discover the identity of the two men, but, if they can be found and put in the witness stand, they could shed considerable light on the tragedy, the officer feels. One of the most mysterious facts in connection with the death of Dr. MacRobbie, is that no evidence of what all four men were doing in the stockroom of the Oil Company, on the night of the physician’s death, has been found. While the three men now in custody – Smith, McAuliffe and Scott – had all been drinking, no bottles were found in the room. Several, it is true were found behind the bathroom tub, while a couple were also found outside the rear window, having apparently been thrown out and smashed on the ground. The police are of the opinion that while a carousal of some kind was in progress on the night in question, the men may have occupied their time in some other way, as yet unknown. It seems improbable that they would repair to an upper room of the building merely for the purpose of indulging in a few drinks.
It has been rumored around town that Dr. MacRobbie, just prior to his death, won a large sum of money. The supposition has been made that there may have been a card game going on the night of MacRobbie’s death, but although the police have been working on this theory, they have found no evidence to substantiate it. If it was the case, all evidence of an implicating nature must have been cleared out before the arrival of the police. It is believed that men with the horse and buggy who were heard to leave the building, hurriedly, may have assisted in this connection.
In the piece of blood-stained moulding the police believe they have a most important bit of evidence. This likely weapon has been forwarded to Ottawa for the purposes of examining the fingerprints. These are quite discernable and stand out distinctly, as if it was clutched tightly by someone with both hands. It is quite apparent that the hands of the person who handled the stick where soiled, as ´the imprints of the fingers are quite easy, it is said, to decipher.
If the reports of the physicians who are working on the case show that the wounds on the back of the doctor’s skull were caused by a blow and the authorities are able to find the person whose finger prints correspond with the impressions upon the moulding, they will have gone a long way towards the ultimate solution of the problem.
Dr. Jaffrey, the city bacteriologist, who has been retained by the Crown to give expert evidence on the blood strains found on the floor and on several other articles, stated this morning that he had made no attempt to analyze the blood found on the weapon. This will not be done, he said, until it had been presented for inspection by the jury.
The examination of the dead man’s stomach has been completed, and while it is generally understood that Dr. MacRobbie had been drinking immediately prior to his death, there is nothing to show that the liquor he had consumed was “doped.” The police were working along this line believing that the whiskey he drank may possibly have been doctored for some ulterior motive.
M. J. O’Relly, K. C., is in Toronto today with the object of securing the release of his client in the MacRobbie’s case, J.J. McAuliffe on being refused at the police court.
01/09/1917 - INQUES STILL THROWS NO LIGHT ON TRAGEDY01/09/1917
Eddie Dornan’s Testimony Best Story Told of Affair
Asselstine Flatly Contradicted on Important points
Despite the fact that a dozen witnesses were given a grilling cross-examination for over three hours, very little new light was thrown on the MacRobbie tragedy, when the inquest was resumed by coroner McNichol in The Central Police Station last night. A feature of the probe was the straightforward testimony of Eddie Dornan, the proprietor of the Royal Oak Hotel, who, it transpired, may we been the first to see Dr. MacRobbie. Although Asselstine at the previous hearing had stated that he had gotten no blood on his hands, Mr. Dornan was positive that his hands were stained when he moved the doctor’s head in order that he could see who it was. He then recognized Dr. MacRobbie.
Herbert Dornan, a brother, was quite positive that all four men, who had visited the hotel several times during the day, had been drinking something stronger than two percent. When they came back later in the evening, the witness stated, this was quite evident, but although he was sure they were not sober, he would not say they were drunk. All appeared, however, to be on friendly terms with each other.
Mrs. Baker stuck firmly to her story, that she had heard screams emanating from the Oil Company, as she passed shortly after eleven o’clock, on her way home from a visit to her sister. Her 13-year-old son proved a bright witness and substantiated his mother’s statements in this respect.
Asselstine still continued his evasiveness, and very little new evidence was brought out when he was recalled. He denied absolutely the allegation of Eddie Dornan that he had been drinking anything stronger that local option beer that day.
Benjamin Fowler’s evidence did not bring out anything new, and Crown Attorney Washington, had occasion to urge him on more than one occasion to be more explicit and definite in his answers.
Harry Bell was recalled, and several questions were pulled to him, but he could show no further light on the affair.
The three prisoners occupied their old places in the dock and watched the proceedings with interest. Mrs. MacRobbie was also an interested spectator, but was not recalled to testify.
At the request of the prisoner’s counsel, the inquest was adjourned until tonight. There are still a number of witnesses to be examined, while the medical testimony and the report of the Dominion police on the finger prints found on the bloodstained piece of moulding is yet to be received. It is doubtful, if the Crown will be able to conclude it this evening.
The proceedings were somewhat delayed by a temporary break in the electric light system. There was a scurrying for candles and burglar lanterns, and the enquiry proceeded for a time in a subdued light.
SAW MRS. SMITH
Mrs. Harry Blackwell, 137 Cannon street west, when called, said she saw Dr. MacRobbie at the Oil Company’s place about 11 o’clock in the morning. She also saw Mrs. Smith in the office about 7:30.
“Was the building lighted up?” asked Crown Attorney Washington.
“Did you see any men about the building?”
“No, I didn’t.”
She could not tell, in answer to C. W. Bell, whether the doctor was drunk or sober, when he came out. He seemed to have trouble in opening the door.
“What did Mrs. Smith appear to be doing?” asked Mr. Bell.
“She was writing or something.”
Clarence Dilke, 201 York street, said he knew MacRobbie well, his office being at one time next door to him.
“Did you see him on Sunday night, August 19th?”
“Yes, he came in the side entrance. My mother opened the door and gave him a bottle of Gold Crown lager. The clock struck 8 o’clock just as the doctor left.”
HEARD MUFFLED SCREAM
Mrs. William Baker, 37 Barton Street east, between John and Catherine streets, was paying a visit to the home of her sister on Sunday night. Her sister lives on inch bury street. Mrs. Baker was in company with her oldest son, George, a boy of 13 years. She and the boy, according to her statement, left the home of her sister at 10:50. They came down York to Hess street. Just as they were in front of the Crescent Oil building, she and the boy heard a muffled scream, which seemed to come from the front of the building. Cross-examined, she said she could not locate the scream exactly, and could not tell whether it came from the office or not. Her statement went on as follows:
“We had passed the window in the downstairs office, on the west side of the building, when we heard the scream. I naturally looked back and noticed this window, from which a light was proceeding as much as could be allowed from under some six inches of the blind, which was down. At a passing glance, I discerned what I took to be a figure – the shoulders of a man or woman, I could not say which – with white clothing on it. It might have been imagination. What I saw was only a passing glance. Then we passed on.”
The witness also saw an auto standing on the street between the alley and the store on the corner. There were two men standing beside it, she affirmed, and they appeared to be fixing it. Two women and a child were sitting on the sidewalk beside the car. She observed them at the time she heard it. At least, they made no motion. She was not close enough to observe their features, and could not identify any of the party. She and her son walked on without paying any attention to the noise. The street was dark and she was only with her son. In answer to the counsel’s query, she said that the building appeared to be lighted up. She and her son, as they passed by the office, were attracted by the sound of music farther down the street, at a house where some people were playing lively and loud tunes. Nobody else apparently had heard a scream. She and her son went on home, and she said nothing further about it, as everyone else was in bed when they arrived there. Next morning she mentioned the affair to her neighbor, Mrs. Obermeyer, and shortly afterwards heard of the murder. In the time between that when she arrived home and until she spoke of it to Mrs. Obermeyer, she had said nothing of it to anyone.
ALSO HEARD A SCREAM
George Baker, the young son of Mrs. Baker, stated that he was with his mother that Sunday night.
“Did you hear the noise coming from the Oil Co. office?” asked the Crown.
“Yes, I heard a muffled scream.”
“Did you speak to your mother about it?” asked Mr. O’Relly.
“No, not until the next night,” answered the boy. “When mother said:
“There was a murder down there.”
“Did you hear any music?”
HELPED FIX CAR
“Yes, down near Bay street.”
Clarence I. Scott 107 Caroline north, in answer to Mr. Washington, said he was a tinsmith and knew Asselstine slightly. He saw the latter working on a car and came over to see what he was doing.
“Who was in the car when you got there?”
“Two women, a little girl, the man himself and Asselstine.”
“What time was it when you came away?”
“About half-past eleven.”
“Have you any means of telling the time?”
“No, I haven’t. it was about 12 o’clock when I got home. I think it took about a half hour to repair the car.”
He stated that he did not know the three men, Smith, McAuliffe and Scott personally, although he knew McAuliffe to see him. Asselstine, he stated, asked him to run the car standing on the opposite side of the street into the alley. He did not know whose car it was.”
“Were the car’s light burning?”
“Asselstine told us they weren’t and that was why he wanted it taken off the street,” observed the Crown Attorney. Witness later saw Dornan and Hinds who asked for McAuliffe went to his home.
“Did you hear any other noises?”
“Yes, I heard a commotion outside.”
“Can you give a description of the men driving the car?”
“No, I couldn’t he seemed about 33 years of age, and had a smooth face.”
MACROBIE WAS SOBER
Ernest Theobald, 46 York street, was called early in the proceedings, but did not appear until some time after wards. He was one of the last to see Dr. MacRobbie alive. He stated that he saw the deceased about noon on Sunday going up Railway street. He spoke to him and said “Good morning, doctor,” and the doctor replied in the usual way. The deceased was going east at the time, and was in good condition, and perfectly sober as far as the witness could see. That was the last he saw of him. He was quite a friend of the doctor.
REBURKED BY CROWN
Benjamin Fowler, 267 King street west, an employee of the oil company, said that the first he knew of the affair was when Harry Bell drove up to his home about 1 o’clock on Monday morning, with another man, in an auto. He was roused by Bell and asked if there was a fire. Bell’s reply was, “Come down to the office; a man is hurt.”
Crown Attorney Washington – Didn’t it occur to you to ask who the man was or anything else about the nature of the accident?
Witness – No, not at the time. I was busy dressing. But I did when I got into the car.
“What did he tell you?”
“He told me that it was Dr. MacRobbie. Then I said have you got a doctor, and he told me that they had one.”
On arriving at the office, he (Fowler) and Bell went upstairs, where they saw Dr. Langs working over a body, and McAuliffe some distance from him. Witness said that he woke Smith up, also McAuliffe, but that it took considerable effort. Smith and the other he took into the bathroom and gave them some cold water to sober them up. As soon as Smith came to he became sick. Fowler said that he then shook Smith and said, “Wake up; a man is hurt. What’s happened here?” Smith mumbled something like, “Where am I?” and then said, in answer to the witness question, “I don’t know.” He then told Smith that Dr. MacRobbie was hurt, not knowing that he was dead at the time. All that he could get out of Smith was, “I don’t know.” Then he helped Smith downstairs. His condition was such that he had to half carry him. McAuliffe was in a similar condition. After seeing Smith in the alley safely, he returned to the office upstairs. The witness stated that he saw no whiskey bottles anywhere around in any of the rooms where he was. McAuliffe was where he had left him. The doctor and Mr. Bell had by this time phoned for the ambulance and the police. Smith had gone home when the police arrived, but the witness had no idea who took him there or how he got there. The next he saw of him was when the police brought him back. He was quite sober then. The witness was here warned that he must be frank. He said that he had not touched the body or anything about the room but the two men. He did not see Scott anywhere around, and stayed there until about 4 o’clock, when the body was taken away. In this conversation with Smith, later, the witness stated that Smith had professed ignorance of anything. He left after everyone else and the other witnesses had been taken away by the police.
Questioned by M. J. O’Relly, Fowler said that he had never been to Smith’s farm on the mountain, but he knew where it was. Smith had two farms. Fowler had been in the employ of the oil company for fourteen years.
ASSELSTINE’S HAND COVERED WITH BLOOD
Edward Dornan, the proprietor of the Royal Oak Hotel, at the corner of Bay and Cannon streets, was an important witness, and his evidence helped by its frank straightforwardness. He saw Dr. MacRobbie and the other three men quite often on Sunday, the 19th. He knew Dr. MacRobbie quite well, though he had never been to his home and was quite intimate with the other three. Early Sunday morning, Dornan said he saw Scott, and the deceased. They came to the hotel and had beer. MacRobbie left, and Scott remained for some time, till about noon, when Smith and McAuliffe joined him. They left five or ten minutes later, after having another drink or beer. The witness said that all were perfectly sober at the time, and that he could smell no liquor on any of them, unless it were beer, and it was no liquor. He did not see any of them drunk at any time of the day. All three turned up about 3 o’clock again, and stayed for some time, with more beer and cigars. Then all left, McAuliffe and Scott turning up again about 6:30, and were later joined by Smith. They were all in good spirits and, witness said, perfectly sober. He hadn’t seen the doctor again that day. The men had an auto the last time they were at the hotel, and said they were going to Smith’s farm. They drove up Bay street. He did not see them again until at the Oil Co. Monday morning. He went to the Beach and rode home in an auto about 11 o’clock. He was going down York street, and met Mr. Hines, who was talking to a friend. They stood on the corner and saw an auto drive up to the Oil Co. Then Dornan said to Hines: “That must be the fellows coming back from the farm.” He suggested that they go and try to get McAuliffe to go home.
Mr. Washington: “Then you expected to find McAuliffe drunk?”
Dornan: “More or less.”
They walked over to the Oil Co., and found Asselstine, the watchman, outside with the car. The other men had gone. Dornan asked Asselstine where the others were. Asselstine said “They’re upstairs, dead drunk.” Dornan waited a minute, then he and Hines started upstairs after Asselstine, and passed him on the stairs. Up there they found the three men asleep, and drunk. Seeing the body, Dornan went over and saw MacRobbie lying with his head on what appeared to be a number of valves. Asselstine had appeared by this time, and he turned to him and said, “Is this a man hurt?” Asselstine then went over and, on his knees, slipped a hand under the man’s head, turning the face to Dornan, said as he did so, “My God, the man has been hurt!” Dornan recognized Dr. MacRobbie. The head was laid back in its former position by the watch man, and it dropped intrely. Then Dornan rushed downstairs to phone for Bell, and to get ice. When he got to the street, he saw Bell.
Crown Attorney Washington: “Then you were the first person to see the body?”
Witness: “I suppose so. I do not know.”
01/09/1917 - A GREAT JAM01/09/1917
Many Faked Into Inquest as Reporters
The interest in the MacRobbie case is very profound. It was manifest last night in the huge crown that tried to fight, jostle and shove its way into the courtroom. Both entrances to the police station were guarded by stalwarts who had a hot time trying to sift out the witnesses and the reporter. One policeman told a late arrival that he had let about 30 reporters in already, and he guessed that that was enough to give the affair some space. Every time that door was opened there was a desperate rush. Notwithstanding this, the courtroom was already filled to capacity. The crowd remained outside until quite late, as the inquest did not adjourn until 11 o’clock. Every time some favored one was allowed in, he was followed by many groans. But none were allowed in after eight o’clock as there were already people standing in the courtroom.
04/09/1917 - ALL FOUR MEN REMANDED; BAIL IS BEING CONSIDERED04/09/1917
Men Held in Manslaughter Case Were Not Arraigned Today
Magistrate May Grant Bail If He Finds He Has Authority
Herbert L. Asselstine, the fourth man implicated by the coroner’s jury last night in the death of Dr. MacRobbie, was arrested this morning at 3:45. He, together with his friend, Richard Service, had been to Toronto Exhibition for the day, and the regular train being over an hour late, delayed his arrival home. Detective Sayer and Constable Thomas were waiting for him when the G.T.R. train pulled in a warrant having been issued for his arrest on a charge of manslaughter. They experienced no difficulty with Asselstine when he was placed under arrest, although he appeared to be somewhat surprised.
Asselstine is registered as being 37 years old, and an engineer by occupation. He is a member of the Salvation Army and a married man. His home was at 114 Caroline street north, where he lived with his wife and two children. He is a Canadian by birth and has been resident of Hamilton for some years coming here from this vicinity of Kingston. For the past three months he has been employed by the Crescent Oil Co., and previous to that was in the employ of the B. Greening Wire Co.
Together with Harry Smith, Joseph J. McAuliffe and Walter Scott he appeared in police court this morning and was remanded for one week.
“The jury returned a verdict against these four men amounting to manslaughter,” Crown Attorney Washington informed the magistrate, and asked for a remand of one week.
W. Bell, counsel for Smith, Scott and Asselstine, applied for bail for his three clients, but did not succeed in getting it.
“I am not sure that I have the authority to grant it,” replied his worship.
“I believe that you have and this is a bailable offence with which they are charged,” said Mr. Bell.
The magistrate stated that he would look the matter up.
“Then I may renew the application?” inquired the lawyer.
“Yes, and if I find it within my power, with the Crown’s consent, I may grant bail.”
“It is a very peculiar case,” commented Crown Attorney Washington.
J. O’Relly, K. C., counsel for McAuliffe made no application for bail.
04/09/1917 - ARRESTED FOURTH MAN AT CLOSE OF INQUEST04/09/1917
Dr. MacRobbie Killed by Blows From One of Four Men
None of the Men in Custody Remember the Essentials.
“We, the jury, from the medical evidence in this case, find that Dr. Douglas G. MacRobbie came to his death in the Crescent Oil Company’s warehouse on the night of August 19th, 1917, from a fractured skull, and that the said fracture, we believe, was caused by a blow, or blows he received from some weapon, and we are of the opinion that the said blow or blows were delivered by one of four persons, namely, Harry Smith, J. J. McAuliffe, Walter Scott or Herbert Asselstine.”
“The Jury wish to express their opinion of the highly efficient way in which Detective Sayer has conducted this case.”
After being in private session for slighty over an hour, the above verdict was returned at the fifth sitting of the inquest into the death of Dr. MacRobbie. Immediately afterwards four warrants were sworn out by the Coroner McNichol, charging the three men now in custody, and Herbert Asselstine, the hostler, with causing the death of the physician, Asselstine was later put under arrest at his home on Caroline street. According to Crown Attorney Washington, the four men will likely be later charged with manslaughter and they will appear in police court before Magistrate Jelfs.
At the final session of the enquiry last night, Smith, McAuliffe and Scott, were all put on the stand and subjected to a grilling cross-examination by Crown Attorney Washington. Their evidence, however, threw little light on the tragedy, and they all admitted that they were very drunk; preceding the time when it was believed MacRobbie was killed. The feature of the sitting was that when questioned, on points bearing directly on the case, the men stated that they were so drunk that they could not clearly recollect the events, which immediately preceded the doctor’s death. Crown Attorney Washington took the prisoners to task on several occasions when they seemed to be evading his queries, or relying on their dozed condition to get past his pointed questions.
The evidence of the three men revealed a sordid tale of drunken carousal in progress at the premises of the Crescent Oil Company, during the Sunday on which Dr. MacRobbie met his death. All men agreed on the point that the dead man supplied the greater portion of the liquor, which was consumed on the fatal Sunday, but denied that they knew of any place in the neighborhood, where liquor was available.
The final session of the probe, aroused a great deal of interest, throughout the city and the courtroom was literally crowded to the doors by the officials and others engaged on the case and those who were fortunate enough to squeeze past the constables, guarding all doors leading to the room. The doors were locked before the session opened, but until long after midnight, when the jury reached their conclusion, the sidewalk and roadway in the neighborhood of the police station were thronged with spectators, anxious to hear the result of the investigation.
In summing up the evidence that had been submitted at the various sittings Coroner McNichol pointed out to the jurymen the responsibility of the task, which had been thrust upon them and urged them to base their conclusions on the evidence presented and to not permit any outside influences to have any bearing on their decision.
The surprise of the evening was the decision to arrest Herbert Asselstine. The latter’s evidence at the previous hearings was characterized by the crown as most unsatisfactory and contradictory, and it was the stated belief of the authorities that he knew more of the affair than he told, when on the stand.
Dr. Jaffrey, the city pathologist and a blood expert, testified that the stains on the wooden molding found near the scene of the crime were human blood.
Constable Ince, the ambulance driver, was called, but when asked to identify the tie and collar under Dr. MacRobbie’s body could not do so positively. McAuliffe later identified these places of evidence as being part of his wearing apparel on the night in question.
COSTABLE FOUND TIE
Constable Ince, driver of the police ambulance, the first witness called, said that he saw Asselstine, Fowler and Bell when called to the scene. When he came downstairs he asked Asselstine if he had seen Dr. MacRobbie before and he answered that he had not. He said the doctor could not have got in the door unless someone had opened it for him.
“Did you find a tie?” asked the crown attorney.
“Do you know whose it was?”
He identified a necktie produced by the crown as the one found underneath the body.
OBJECTED TO REMOVAL
J. McAulffe was then called and the Crown Attorney asked if C. W. Bell would object to removal of Scott and Smith.
“I should object to their removal at any time during the admission of evidence,” answered defendant’s counsel. Consequently, they remained in court during the hearing.
McAuliffe was then examined stating first how he came to know Harry Smith, in answer to the Crown Attorney’s question. It was through a business dial, pending the sale of some real state, during the last two months, since when he had seen him eight of ten times.
“How long have you known Scott?”
“About six weeks or two months.”
Witness was then asked the same question regarding Dr. MacRobbie. He said he knew him two years ago when he sold him a car, but he did not see him until the day of the tragedy.
Witness stated that he started out from his home on Saturday at noon, quite sober. He could not remember if he went to Smith’s office first. He remembered telling Bell to take his auto to Smith’s home.
“Where did you pick Bell up?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Did you ever see those three men at the Crescent Oil Company’s office together?”
“I never saw them together.”
“How did you come to see Smith on Sunday?”
“I went to get my car on Sunday morning and had to wake Bell up, when Smith came to the window.”
“Where did you go on Saturday with your car?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you go out of town?”
“How do you know?”
“Well as far as I know, I didn’t.”
“When did you come to life again?”
“In the police station.”
“Did you make any arrangements on Sunday morning for the day?”
“Smith wanted to go to his farm over the mountain, to see some cattle. Smith brought out some whiskey at the office after we went there. I think Scott and MacRobbie came in later.”
“Did you have any at the house?”
“Yes, one bottle.”
McAuliffe remembered Smith bringing in some whiskey which they drank together in a tumbler in the morning, between eleven and twelve o’clock, which was about the time the other men came in. He was not sure if it was then or later in the evening that Dr. MacRobbie came in with a bottle of whiskey. He remembered it by the fact that no one had a cork screw. He did not remember Bell being there.
Witness then remembered the next thing was getting gasoline in the car. He did not recollect being out at the farm yet, was told by Scott that such was the case.
“Could you drive a car like that?”
“I don’t think so.”
“I am informed that you were seen driving on the mountain that evening.”
“You must have been mistaken.”
“It was Mr. Dornan, who said so, and who said you were in his hotel. Do you remember that?
“I hear the evidence, but cannot remember being there.”
“What is the last you remember?”
“It was like a dream. I heard Dr. MacRobbie and Smith talking about having met up north then I was in the patrol.”
He did not remember if the other three men were drunk. Witness admitted that he himself got out on a spree once in a while.
“Who went upstairs with you?”
“I think we went up together.”
“Because according to the evidence we were found together.”
“Were you all friendly?”
“Surely you remember Mrs. Smith being there?”
“I do not.”
“Do you remember being asked to supper?”
“I do not.”
“Is there a time when your legs are all right and your head muddled up?”
“I don’t know.”
McAuliffe did not remember being taken downstairs or being arrested by Detective Sayer.
He admitted that it was his custom to go to Smith’s office to get something to drink, but he had never been there before with Dr. MacRobbie.
“Have you ever been in trouble before?” asked his counsel, M. J. O’Relly, K. C.
“Is that your collar and tie?” as these articles were produced, together with a shoe all of which he identified as his own. But he knew nothing of a corkscrew produced.
“You were in New York for a time?” asked the crown attorney of Walter Scott, who was next called.
“Yes.” Was the reply.
“Did you bring a woman back with you?”
“How long have you known Smith?”
“About three years.”
The witness admitted that it was not business relations which brought them together. He knew Dr. MacRobbie through his connection with the Sons of Scotland. On the Sunday morning he was with a Mr. Staunton. He met the doctor on York Street and they were passing the Crescent Oil Company’s office, when they saw Smith and McAuliffe at the door and went in. Bell was also in at that time. He did not see any drinking. Smith had taken a little to drink. All were able to talk up to one o’clock, when Bell left and the rest accompanied by Mr. Staunton went out to the hotel at the corner and had some ale. Staunton left a short time after and the others went back to the Oil Company’s office. They intended going to the country in McAuliffe’s auto.
After being in the front office for about five minutes, McAuliffe and he were in a downstairs room, and Dr. MacRobbie came in to ask them to have a drink, he having a bottle of whiskey. This was after 1:30. He went out into another room and had the drink. Witness thought it was rye whiskey. All four had a drink. “It was a good shot,” said Scott.
“Let me remind you that Mrs. MacRobbie swore that her husband was home about one o’clock,” said the Crown Attorney.
“Impossible,” answered Scott, “he was with me.”
“What happened after having the drinks?”
“We went upstairs.”
“Because it was too public downstairs.”
“Nothing to sit on up there. What did you do?”
“Have another drink.”
“Yes. They were there about twenty minutes when they went back to the hotel. It was then getting on towards three o’clock. They were still talking about going into the country and were drinking ale. They went upstairs and finished the bottles contents.”
“You were all right at that time?”
“No, it was beginning to take effect on all of us. I was beginning to feel sick and came down about six o’clock. I was going home, for it seemed we were not going to the country. I went back to Dornan’s.”
“You left Smith and McAuliffe and they had not had a drink since three o’clock?”
“The bottle was finished and there was no more whiskey around.”
“A short time after he was in the hotel Smith and McAuliffe came in and after having more ale, all decided to go to the farm. It was then getting along towards seven o’clock. McAuliffe was driving the car when they started. They got out at the farm (Smith’s), at Rymal, after stopping to pick up a man. They exchanged drivers, Smith taking a turn at the wheel and managing to keep the road. Witness and McAuliffe had a little nap while waiting for Smith and the other man to get through their business. Smith drove back into the city. They came down John street and went back into Dornan’s. More ale was the order. He did not think any of the party had anything to drink while in the country.
Back to the Oil Co’s., office was the next move, where they were joined by Dr. MacRobbie somewhere around nine o’clock. He, the doctor had a bottle what appeared to be whiskey. Witness had a drink out of the bottle, which he remembered was opened without a corkscrew.
Scott declared that the doctor was not sober, apparently having been drinking considerable. At Smith’s suggestion all four went upstairs to lie down. Witness then went to sleep and his next recollection was that someone aroused him and told him the police would be there. He did not remember who shook him but he got downstairs, followed by the man, and got out through the side entrance. He then walked home, but could not remember which way. He had no recollection of how the others were sitting, but thought all were sitting on the floor. Neither could he remember at what time he went to sleep, or what time it was when he got home.
When told that Smith was seen at 10.30 on the street, Scott absolutely denied any knowledge of him leaving the building. They did nothing in the office but drink.
“Did you see Mrs. Smith?” inquired one of the jurors.
“No, I did not,” was the reply.
“Did you have any words or disagreement before going upstairs?” questioned the coroner.
“Can you account for Dr. MacRobbie’s injuries?” he also asked.
“Not in the least.”
“What kind of a man is Smith when he gets drunk?” asked the Crown Attorney.
“Very quiet and peaceable so far as I know.”
“And you had no quarrel at all?”
MEMORY FAILED HIM
“How long have you been in the oil business?” was the first question put to Harry Smith. The answer being “about ten years.” He was asked if he knew Dr. MacRobbie before the doctor came to Hamilton and said he did not.
“Do you remember where you were on Sunday, August 19?”
“But cannot remember where you were the day before?”
Other questions were then fired at the witness but he did not remember. He did, however, remember having a bad thirst on Saturday night. He had taken some drinks that day.
“You are not a heavy drinker. I have known you for years and have never seen you drunk.”
“I carry it well.”
“But you don’t get unconscious and go driving around the country like McAuliffe?”
Witness then told how he met McAuliffe and went out to see his farm. He gave him some drinks. He himself drank the larger part of a dozen bottles of stout, giving McAuliffe some. He also had some whiskey.
He went with McAuliffe to get the Oil Company’s premises to get some gasoline. Bell went down with him. Smith found a tumbler of whiskey on the table. He did not know where it came from. It was about eleven o’clock when he got to the office and half an hour later when MacRobbie and Scott came in. between his arrival at the office and the appearance of the other two, he and McAuliffe had nothing to drink but the one tumbler of whiskey.
“When did Dr. MacRobbie leave Dornan’s hotel?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did he go back to the Oil Co?”
“I think so.”
“Did he go down to Dornan’s later?”
“I don’t know.”
“You’re fibbing like McAuliffe, aren’t you?
“We were both in the same condition.”
“Did you and Scott remain in the office all afternoon?
“I think we went down to Dornan’s after one o’clock.”
Witness stated that he was upstairs having a sleep and added that he came down to open the safe at his wife’s request.
“Did you open it?”
“I have a dim recollection of doing so.”
“You remembered the numbers?”
“Pretty good for a man in the condition you pretend to be.”
“Do you remember going to Dornan’s between six and seven o’clock?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Oh, you remember that?”
“Would you have any recollection of seeing your wife in the office if you didn’t hear her in the witness box?”
“I think I would.”
In answer to Mr. Washington he said he had more than the one drink out of the tumbler between one and six o’clock.
“You told me deliberately that you hadn’t.”
“I beg your pardon, we did. Dr. MacRobbie had a bottle in his pocket and he started to treat us.”
The crown attorney pointed out that Scott had said the bottle had been opened in the morning.
“Where was the car left in the morning?” continued Mr. Washington.
“Around the front somewhere.”
“He could not tell what time the party had left for the country.
“Did you get a drink at the farm?”
“Yes, I did.”
“You didn’t offer any to the others?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Well, that’s what I call downright selfishness,” observed the crown attorney.
“Well, I needed it alright.”
Witness said he drove the car home, but could not say what time they got back. The lights were on. He then went back to Dornan’s, had some more two and one-half per cent, and went back again to the office.
“Did you see Asselstine?”
“Yes,” he said after a moment’s thought. “I think I did.”
He added he had very little recollection of the occurrence, however.
“Who were you going up Caroline street with?”
“I don’t remember, I was pretty well flurried that day.”
“yet you could drive a car.”
“Is there any place where you got a bottle of booze in that quarter?”
“Not that I know of?”
“Ever on Harriet street?”
“No; I don’t even know where it is.”
“Say, have you been telling me a lot of stuff you have heard said in the witness box?” interjected Crown Attorney Washington at this point.
“No; I’m not.”
“After going to Dornan’s when did you meet MacRobbie?”
“I think he followed me into the office.”
He stated emphatically that he could not remember what transpired at the office that night, and that his only recollection was being awakened by someone shaking him.”
“I’m rather curious to know how you got home.” Remarked Mr. Washington.
“I walked, I think.”
“So, I expected,” was the rejoinder.
“Do you remember seeing Dr. Lange or McNichol?”
“I think I saw Mr. Sayer’s moustache,” replied the prisoner amidst laughter.
“Do you remember when you last saw Dr. MacRobbie alive?”
“I think it was in the afternoon.”
“I don’t remember.”
He again stated he had no recollection of what took place in the office.
“I was dazed,” he added.
“Well, these dazed businesses don’t go with me,” shot back the Crown Attorney. “In the important matters, you do not seem to have a very good recollection, but in the unimportant matter you have a line memory.”
“Have you any idea what happened to MacRobbie?”
“No, I haven’t, whatsoever,” was the reply.
MADE BLOOD ANAYSIS
Dr. Jaffrey, city bacteriologist, said he was an expert on blood.
“Did you test the stains on the billet of wood?”
“Yes; I found it to be blood.”
In answer to Mr. Bell, he stated the tests were made by a heat and chemical process.
“They were all spatters, the expert added, “but one might be called the main part of a smear.”
The analysis, he said was made between four and six o’clock, yesterday.”
ADDRESS TO JURY
In his address to the jury, Coroner McNichol impressed upon them the seriousness of the duty they were sworn to perform. The evidence, he said, showed a slight diversion in the statements of Mrs. MacRobbie said her husband came home about 12 o’clock, Scott declared he was with him until after 1 o’clock.
Coroner McNichol pointed out again that all four men were at the Crescent Oil Company’s office on the night of the tragedy.
“Mrs. Powis evidence was given in a straightforward manner, but it has not been corroborated,” said the Coroner.
In touching upon Asselstine’s evidence, he stated he could not fully understand why he (Asselstine) did not wake Smith up on finding MacRobbie’s body.
“This is a feature of the case which seems unusual,” he added. “Asselstine told Dornan that all four men were upstairs dead drunk. The question that comes to my mind is how did he know this if he was not up there before.
“According to the medical evidence, MacRobbie had two cuts in his head,” proceeded Dr. McNichol. “One wound could have been cause by a fall on the floor, which could have also caused a second wound.”
The nature of the wound showed this to be unlikely the Coroner said. The evidence of the medical men showed that it was almost impossible to receive the wounds by a fall, and that the wound could have been caused by him being struck with two blows with the piece of moulding now in the hands of the police.
“The doctors have taken nothing for granted without being thoroughly satisfied in their own minds,” remarked Coroner McNichol. “We have the evidence of Detective Sayer and the doctor to show that the location of the iron bars was marked by the trail of blood stains, and they could not have been moved without being noticed.
The coroner in touching upon the evidence upon this evidence of the three prisoners said the minds of all three men seemed to become a blank just at the time Dr. MacRobbie received his injuries.
“It has been proven that these three men were with the doctor at nine o’clock and when his body was found,” he said. “There is no evidence to show that anyone else was there during that time.”
11/09/1917 - ALL FOUR DEFENDANTS COMMITTED FOR TRIAL11/09/1917
Doctor Firmly Convinced Injuries Were Not Cause by a Fall
Blow That Would Have Been Two-Base Hit or Home Run in Baseball
After hearing the medical testimony of Drs. M. H. Langs and J. R. Parry, Magistrate Jelfs yesterday afternoon committed Herbert Asselstine, Walter Scott, J. J. McAuliffe and Harry Smith for trial on a charge of manslaughter in connection with the death of Dr. MacRobbie. Both doctors reaffirmed their belief that the deceased doctor could not have received the wounds which caused his death by falling, but that they must have been inflicted with some blunt instrument. The piece of moulding bearing the blood stains revealed nothing, as, examined for finger prints, the wood was too hard and dry.
Detective Sayer was the first witness called. He gave similar evidence to that submitted at the inquest.
“When you went upstairs did you notice anything against which a man might slip and then knock his head against,” queried the magistrate.
“I did not see anything.”
“Has that been examined for finger prints?” asked M. J. O’Relly, indicating the piece of blood-stained moulding of bushing.
“What was the result?”
“The wood was too hard and dry to obtain any result.”
Dr. Langs described the nature of the wounds after he found the body of Dr. MacRobbie.
He again stated that the wounds on the head could not have been caused by one blow or by falling on the floor. The imprint on the membrane was that of a rounded object.
“He could not get them by a fall?”
“Not unless he fell fifteen or twenty feet.”
“Would he have got them then?”
“Not unless he had fallen twice.”
The doctor was emphatic that the wounds could not be caused by an accident “I saw a man knocked forty feet by a train, hit a telegraph pole and then not have as bad a fracture. With a baseball bat, I think this would have been between a two-base hit and a home run.”
“It was a home run for poor Mac,” muttered Mr. Bell.
Dr. Langs continued by saying that, had the doctor fallen, the fractures would have been at a different angle. “One blow was probably struck with his head jammed on the floor,” he declared.
“A blow on the right side will cause a fracture on the left sometimes?” inquired M. J. O’Relly.
“That sometimes happens.”
“But in this case there was an open, gaping wound where the fracture was?
“Did you find anything on the left side?”
“Nothing but that his face had been in contact with the floor.”
“Who was at the autopsy besides yourself and Dr. Parry?”
“I think Drs. MacLoghlin and McIlwraith.”
“You did not make out your report the same day?”
“I took the notes there and made the report out later.”
“Who suggested you exhuming the body?”
“I think it was the coroner.”
“I thought so.”
“You said that for several days you thought it was an accident?”
“I did almost until the time of the inquest.”
“Who suggested about going to the slaughter house?”
“I did. I wanted to see about the blood clotting.”
“Would you dispute a doctor who would say that about sixty percent of fractured skull are due to falls?”
“I would not want to say it was not correct.”
“Did you think the experiment of the cattle was a good comparison?”
“Yes, a rough one.”
“A pretty rough one, indeed! Did you expect to see the cattle fall much the same as a man?”
Dr. J. R. Parry was then called. He also thought two blows had been struck, but whether standing, sitting or lying down he would not say. Asked why the body was exhumed, he explained it was because he was undecided about the wound going through the pericranium.
“Could he have fallen and got those wounds?”
“He could have fallen and got wounds, but not those wounds.”
“It is those wounds we are talking about,” said the Crown-
Dr. Jaffrey was called and testified that it was human blood on the moulding.
“As I said this morning I do not think there is sufficient evidence to hold these men,” contended C. W. Bell.
“Well, I am going to send the case up,” answered the Magistrate, and the prisoners were marched off another stage of their journey.
It is the intention of counsel to seek bail through the county judge.
14/11/1917 - COURT ROOM IS LAID OUT AS SCENE OF THE TRAGEDY14/11/1917
COURT ROOM IS LAID OUT AS SCENE OF THE TRAGEDY
Manslaughter Trial Opened at the Assize Court This Morning
All Four of the Accused Men Pleaded Not Guilty to the Charge
Early this morning Thomas Battle, K.C., of Niagara Falls, Crown prosecutor in the MacRobbie case, was bustily engaged in setting the stage for the trial of J. J. McAuliffe, Walter Scott, H. L. Asselstine and Harry Smith, on a charge of manslaughter in connection with the death of Dr. Douglas G. MacRobbie, whose body was discovered in the upper room of the Crescent Oil Company’s building, Cannon street west, about the midnight of Sunday, Aug. 19th.
The public are well aware of the details of the tragedy which profoundly stirred the city. With the assistance of Harry Sayer, the detective who is responsible for the gathering of all the evidence to date, the court room was laid out as nearly as possible as the actual scene where the body was found. The iron bars were placed on the floor beside the old desk which served the employees of the Crescent Oil Company for clerical purposes in that upper room, the bars being the ones upon which the head of Dr. MacRobbie rested when the doctors were called to the scene about two hours after he was found by Asselstine, the hostler of the company.
The jury empaneled were: S. F. Mellan, Peter Murray, Harry J. Miller, Wm. Kidd, Georgge Kent, Thomas Lottridge, Victor Shaver, Ernest Ridder, Benjamin Lewis, John Lawry and Harvey.
The accused were brought into the prisoner’s dock, where they were charged with the crime of having been responsible for the death of Dr. Douglas G. MacRobbie, Col. Gwyn, clerk, reading the charge. All of the men answered firmly “Not guilty.”
Thomas Battle, the prosecuting attorney, addressed the jury, reminding them that a man meets his death under four distinct conditions: Naturally, suicide, accidentally or by the hand of another, which is called homicide. It was their duty to find how the victim came to his death.
A description of the movements of the men was given by the prosecuting attorney, after which the first witness, Wm. Perrie, a surveyor, was called. Mr. Perrie stated he had been called into the case by Crown Attorney Washington to make exact measurements of the pools of blood and supposed position of the body.
Early in the proceedings it was evident that a keen legal battle would rage. C. W. Bell, acting for Walter Scott, objected to a question of the possibility of the dead man’s head having struck on the iron bars, as they were laid out in the court room according to the blue prints drawn by witness. The question concerned the relation of blood spots in the inner office. It was stated by the witness that it was impossible for the blood to have spurted from the wound in the head of the victim to the inner room. As the statements were bases largely on supposition, C.W. Bell objected, and was sustained.
J. O’Relly, K. C. for McAuliffe, asked witness when he had made the drawings, and was told it was the Tuesday following the tragedy.
Witness also told the jury that he had only laid out the court room exhibit from the position he had found the materials, which might have been rearranged since the death of the doctor.
Fred Staunton, 173 York street, was the next witness called saying he had made an appointment with Scott on the Sunday morning of the death of Dr. MacRobbie, and met him in his shop on York street. They had taken a walk up York street to Caroline, thence to Cannon. They met Dr. MacRobbie during this walk, who accompanied them as far as the Crescent Oil Co office, when they were attracted by a new auto, Mr. Smith’s which was standing outside of the building. Dr. MacRobbie went inside, later calling the witness and Scott. All talked for a while then dispersed. Witness said that Dr. MacRobbie looked as if he had been drinking, judging from his flushed face. Scott and witness went into the Royal Oak Hotel, and had a few drinks of 2 ½ percent, ale.
G. Slaight, of Simcoe, who acted for Harry Smith, asked the witness if he thought Dr. MacRobbie was drunk, receiving the reply that the doctor was not what one might be called drunk, but was not sober, either.
Theobald, barber, on York street, also testified that he had met the doctor on that Sunday morning; had passed the time of day with him, and had not noticed that the doctor was under the influence of liquor.
Herbert Dornan of the Royal Oak Hotel, corner of Bay and Cannon streets, said that Smith, Scott and McAuliffe called at his hotel that morning about 11 o’clock, and that in his estimation they were all sober. They again came in about 0 o’clock and were all talkatively drunk at the 0 o’clock visit. Dr. MacRobbie joined the men in the hotel later. He was sober. Only 2 ½ percent beer or ale was drunk.
Harry Bell, an employee of the Crescent Oil Co., who resides with Harry Smith in the home of the later, was next called.
Bell stated that Mr. McAuliffe had called at the Smith residence at about 11am of the fatal Sunday. The three men, Bell, McAuliffe’s machine. Conversation centered around the Winona farm of Smith’s.
Bell left the office about 12:30 or 1 pm. He would not say either Smith or McAuliffe was drunk. The next thing Bell knew about the men was when he was called up by Asselstine at about twelve o’clock midnight. He had walked down to the office, finding Eddie Dornan and Asselstine outside. Dornan sad that someone was hurt upstairs, and thought it was Dr. MacRobbie. Together the three went up the stairs the first thing he (Bell) observed was the body of McAuliffe, who was lying asleep on the floor. He then saw Dr. MacRobbie, went over to him, felt his pulse, then was rather startled by the victim groaning and rolling from his original position on the right side to his back.
Dornan suggested getting the doctor, Bell going for Dr. Langs, according to witness, arrived at about one o’clock. The fingers of the right hand of Dr. MacRobbie held a half-smoked cigarette and the head was a short distance from the bars, not on them. The distance was not over an inch or an inch and a half from the bars. If the doctor’s body had been rolled back he thought the head would have rested on the bars. Witness stated that both Smith and McAuliffe were also lying there asleep.
Witness stated that Harry Smith had been drinking the Saturday night before the tragedy. He, Bell, had gone to Smith’s house, bringing him back to the scene at the instance of Detective Sayer. He had found Smith partially dresses in bed and very drunk.
Under cross-examination of C. W. Bell, the witness stated that they had entered the building by the side, back door. Mr. Bell pointed out that this entrance was accessible from two directions and that anyone could have entered the building from one street and left by another.
Dr. M. H. Langs swore that he had arrived on the scene at 12:45 or 1 o’clock on the night between Sunday and Monday. Bell had taken him to the oil company’s premises in an automobile. He found Dr. MacRobbie on his back of the floor, his right hand extended, his left on his chest. The head did not rest on the iron bars, and he could and did have occasion to place his fingers between the iron bars and the head of the victim, showing that the head was no on the bars.
In the opinion of Dr. Langs, the head had rested in but one pool of blood, the subsequent pools being the result of the flow of blood in pool. N° 1 signified that the first blood was spilled there. The blood in the second and third pools was more watery, indicating that the blood had trickled from pool N° 1 to the others.
A description of the wounds followed, being two in number, one 2 ½ inches on left side above the ear on the back of the scalp. The skull was fractured four inches above the ear and one inch behind it. The fracture extended two-thirds of the way around the skull, from the left side at the back, around the left side and across the eyes. This fracture was probably the cause of the discoloring of the eyes.
There was also a scratch on the neck on the right side, one-sixteenth of an inch wide, and three-eighths of an inch long. There was also a scratch on the left side, which might have been inflicted while shaving. The first mark, witness considered, might have been caused by a thumb of finger nail. The examination also showed a blood-clot of about 3-4 of an ounce. The wounds, in the opinion of Dr. Langs, could not have been caused by the fall on the iron bars, but were more of a nature caused by a heavy blow from some blunt instrument. Witness was persistent in the statement that the fracture could not have been caused by the fall. If the fall had been of such a nature to cause the wounds, the body would have been precipitated endways onto the bars, according to the position of the wounds in the back of the skull. As to the pulley grip, or half-round piece of wood which was exhibited, with the blood stains upon it, and which was thought to have been the instrument when the body was found. Dr. Langs stated that he did not think that it would be possible for the tile wound to have been caused by this instrument.
G. Slaight cross-examined the witness severely as to why the body had been exhumed after the first examination, and elicited the information that there had been so dispute as to the extent of the wounds. He also admitted that he had not been impressed by the extent of the wounds at the time that there was any suspicious circumstances surrounding the affair until afterwards. He accepted the statement of those who were present and had called him to the scene that the death of Dr. MacRobbie had been accidental, but when the talk of foul play was started, he took further notice of the extent of the wounds.
Although provision had been made in front of the jurors to demonstrate by a living person the actual position of the body when found, it was not permitted by the court, Justice Latchford considering it unnecessary much to the evident disappointment of Crown Prosecutor Battle.
The court adjourned for lunch at 1 o’clock, the jury being conducted to a hotel for dinner, after being strictly charged by the court as to that there had been some dispute as to their deportment in the matter of discussing the case in hand or separating one from another.
The attorneys interested in the case are: C.W. Bell for Walter Scott; M. J. O’Relly, K.C. for McAuliffe; A. G. Slaight, Simcoe, for Harry Smith and J. J. Hunt for H. L. Asselstine.
15/11/1917 - MACROBBIE CASE WAS TAKEN FROM THE JURY15/11/1917
Verdict by Direction of Court Not Guilty on Manslaughter Charge
Justice Latchford Lectured Men Severely on Evils of Strong Drink
The trial at the Supreme Court came to an abrupt ending about 9:30 last night, when Justice Latchford, at the close of the crown’s case. Automatically took them out of the hands of the Jury. “Verdict by direction of the court-not guilty.” The jurors were simply asked to concur or agree to this verdict, which they did after being summoned from the back roomwhere they had been sent while the judge and the crown prosecutor discussed the legal aspect of the evidence stablished by him.
As soon as the jury retired, the judge said “What evidence is there against Asselstine?”
“No direct evidence, my lord,” replied Crown Prosecutor Battle.
“Then Asselstine is discharged,” said the judge and the talkative ex-janitorof the Crescent Oil company made hastyto get outside of the prisoner’s case.
“What about McAuliffe?” said the judge.
“I do not propose in separate the other three men. I will not take the responsibility of saying what evidence there is for the Jury in consider. Your worship may do so,” was Mr. Battle’s rejoinder.
This discussion went on while the Jury was offside of the courtroom. The members were then called back and his lordshipdelivered himself as follows: “In my opinion there is no evidence to justify any jury to find that these three men, or any one of them had committed any crime, if a crime was committed. There is no evidence proper to go before you for consideration. The judge then had the clerk read over the endorsement of not guilty, and the jury was discharged. His lordship then directed the three remaining prisoners at the bar-Smith McAuliffe and Scott- to stand up and he gave them a real temperance lecture “To you three men I wish to say a word of advice,” he said, “if advice is needed after the experience of last august and after your experience today before the bar of justice. Your position is clearly due to your fondness for liquor; a most discreditable weakness. If you expect to hold the position in the community that your appearance and seeming intelligence justifies, you must decide now to never drink another drop of intoxicating liquor for fear that you again fall away into the beasty stain you were found in that Sunday night. The only safe course is for you to never again to indulge. You are discharged.”
Friends of the three men gathered around them and shook their hands and the end came to the judicial investigation into the untimely end of the late Dr. D. G. MacRobbie.
Dr. Langs was on the witness stand five the first hour of the afternoon counsel, undergoing crisis-examination at the hands of counsel for each of this four refused.
“Why do you think that this club was used?” asked Mr. Flight.
“Because there was blood on the end of it,” replied Dr. Langs.
“No other reason?” Answer “No.”
W. Bell thentookthe witness in hand his opening question being in reward in the fact that there were strong traces of alcohol in the doctor’s body. The doctor said that the stomach,when he after he smelled it, besent away to an analystsmelled strongly of liquor.
To Asselstine counsel, Dr. Langs said that drunken seldom fall backward. They usually go forward and go down very lightly. In his opinion, the doctor had been struck an hour or two before he was called, judging by the state of the congealed blood.
Dr. Jaffrey, city bacteriologist, told of the making examinationof knotson the floor in the office and he said these were of blood. A test of the stains on the club found near the body of Dr. MacRobbie showed that they were of blood also. Witness was shown many items in the office in question including bars, belting and other office material.and Detective Sayer had shown him the relative position of the bars and other things in the office. From the position of a pile of hefting of some other matter, it would be impossible for the blood to have spattered in the way it did from MacRobbie’s head had he fallen on the steel barsfound near the body. The blood spatters were in a straight line.
Dr. J. K. Perry, who made the post-mortem along with Dr. Langs, said the only way that MacRobbie could have sustained the two injuries from a fall was for him to fall twice. One fall could not have produced the two wounds found in his head. He agreed with Dr. Langs in most particulars, but differed with him in the opinion that the deceased must have received the blows lying down. He must have got them in a standing position but it wasn’t likely. He thought MacRobbie was struck twice while lying on the floor.
Dr. McNichol, the coroner in the case, said when he arrived at the office there were two pools of blood, the first one being where MacRobbie’s head was laid and the second one some distance away, where his head later rested. He arrived around one o’clock in the morning and he concluded from the examination made that the first pool was about two hours old. In considering the wounds floor, her and other things he decided that the death was not due to accidental cases, but he had not reached a conclusion at the time he ordered an inquest. The reason he ordered an inquest was he thought an investigation should be held. He arrived at the conclusion of foul play gradually. He said the wounds such as MacRobbie’s head showed could not have been made by falling on the steel bar lying near his body. The wounds, he said, were known in surgery as a bursting fracture. In his opinion, MacRobbie had been struck twice while prone on the floor. The blood marked club was shown on him and he declared that it was the kind of a weapon to produce the wounds found on MacRobbie’s head. He said he questioned Smith at the office and Smith appeared to comprehend his queries.
Cross-examined the coroner said he didn’t agree with Detective Sayer when the officer testified that Smith was too muddled to understand his question. “It is a matter of two opinions” said the coroner, “and my opinion is that Smith knows what he was saying in reply to my questions.”
DORNAN GOT SOME ICE
Eddie Dornan of the Royal Oak Hotel told of the visit of McAuliffe, Scott and Smith to the hotel about 7 o’clock on the Sunday night of the fatality. They were all pretty jolty and took aware. McAuliffe said that they were all going on to Smith’s farm and insisted that Dornan go along, too. Dornan told him he had an appointment at the beach that night and slipped away from there. He saw McAuliffe crank he car, and the party proceeded up Bay street from Cannon street. When witness returned from the beach about 11 o’clock he saw McAuliffe’s car in front of the oil company’s office. He went over to see if McAuliffe was about; and Asselstine said there were four men upstairs. Asselstine called him and Hynes who was with him, to go upstairs to see what shapethe men were in. when they went in, he recognized Smith, Scott and McAuliffe sleeping on the floor. Another man he did not recognized was on the floor in a pool of blood. Asselstine touched the man’s head and noticed blood. Witness told Asselstine to telephone for Harry Bell and a doctor and he went to his hotel to get a pluck of ice. When he and Hynes returned with the ice, Bell was coming down the street in his auto. Hynes carried up the chunk of ice, followed by Bell. Witness stayed downstairs and saw Scott down there, stumbling about the office. He didn’t go upstairs and waited for some time and never saw the ice again, he didn’t know what was done with it. Dornan said that when Asselstine touched the doctor’s head, the head was one or two inches from the steel bars. He picked the head on the floor gentley and no blood could have been spattered. Witness said Bell mentioned of seeing Asselstine go to the side door of the oil company about 11 o’clock and saying “if you don’t stop the noise in there, I’ll stop it”. Later he helped Asselstine to move McAuliffe’s car from the street to the alley on the company’s property, and Asselstine made no reference to the noisein the office earlier.
Mrs. L. Baker and her son George Baker, Barton Street, swore they hear a cry from the building of the oil company as they passed about 11:10
Mrs. Mary Powis, Caroline Street arose from her bed about 11 o’clock to feed her baby. Shortly afterwards she heard three cries for help. She thought they came from the direction of the oil company’s office.
BOTTLES OF WHISKEY STOUT
Richard Servor, Harriet street, admitted having given Dr. MacRobbie a quart bottle of whiskey on the Sunday night of the tragedy, about 9.30 or 10 o’clock. He said the doctor and Smith came to his come and asked for some whiskey. Dr. MacRobbie was his family physician, so he gave it to him. The doctor, he said, was sober but that Smith appeared to be under the influence of liquor. He was the last witness to see the Dr. alive and physically unharmed.
This was the last witness called at the afternoon session, the court adjoining at 6:00 o’clock till 8PM.
THE EVENING SESSION
The first witness at the evening sitting was Benjamin Fowler, an employee of the Crescent Oil Company, who told of being notified of the trouble at the office by Harry Bell, who called at his house with an auto. When he arrived at the office he found Smith and McAuliffe dead drunk on the floor. The doctor went to MacRobbie’s side, and he shook the sleeping men. With difficulty, he awoke them. He took them to the wash room to give them a drink of water. Smith having taken it and vomited he then took Smith outside and later he learned Smith had been taken home. At the request of the detective he and Bell went to Smith’s house to get Smith.
To Smith’s counsel, Fowler said that Smith was very drunk at the time he found him at the office and he was dazed when he got him at his house some time after the trouble.
Constable Ince, Devey Hill and Arnol gave unimportant testimony in the developments at the office subsequent to the arrival of Detective Sayer.
Detective Sayer said that when he arrived at the building, Fowler, Bell and Asselstine were in the downstairs back office and Dr. Langs and Dr. McNichol were upstairs with the body of MacRobbie. Not one of the other accused even were to be seen. Asselstine took him to McAuliffe who was in the yard asleep with only one shoe on. Asselstine said he had taken McAuliffe from the office for safekeeping. Smith later appeared on the scene and seemed so so very dopey. Dr. McNichol questioned Smith on to when he had have seen MacRobbie, Smith at first said 6:30.
And later Smith said “Maybe it was 8:30” Witness then told of goingto Scott’s house and arresting Scott who was also suffering from excessive drinking. Asselstine was not arrested till about two weeks later.
This detective then produced a grin full of exhibits which had been taken from the deathchamber. One was a coat, which Smith said was his. A collar marked “J. J. M.” and an odd shoe. While the witness was producing other articles, the judge asked sharply “What have these thing to do with the case?” and the crown prosecutor called for a more exhibits from the suit case. The detective found some more empty whiskey bottles in Asselstine’s yard next to the company’s building and Asselstine said that they had been thrown over his fence during the previous night.
The detective identified the blood-stained molding produced and said it was on a box near Dr. MacRobbie’s body. He had examined the steel bars under a powerful magnifying glass for traces of hair but he didn’t find any. On one of the bars there was a blood smear.
The crown prosecutor then asked the witness concerning a question asked by counsel for one of the prisoners to the effect that Dr. McNichol told him not to take the steel bars into the grand jury room and the detective said the statement was a falsehood.
“Dr. McNichol didn’t make any such statement” he declared holly.
This sided the crowning case and the judge asked the jurorsto retire while the legal aspect of the evidence was discussed. The discharge of the prisoners followed, as told about in the early part of this report.