22/08/1917 - HOPE INQUEST WILL CLEAR TWO OR THREE HARD POINTS
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.