04/09/1917 - ARRESTED FOURTH MAN AT CLOSE OF INQUEST
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.”