In May 1916 Supreme Court proceedings with regards to a homicide at Christmas Island were reported in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser .
Haji Sali Bin Musa, a Javanese and 5 other Malay men, all from Christmas Island were held in custody on a charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder by causing the death of Pouy Fee (a later newspaper spelling is Pang Fee).
The Prosecutor informed his Lordship that the Attorney General had entered an order of nolle pros (not wishing to prosecute) against the five Malays and asked that they be discharged.
The following month there was a further newspaper report and it revealed the following:
The homicide occurred at the White House; the Island brothel.
The accused man, Haji Sali Bin Musa, denied having killed Pang Fee. He had no representation during the Court proceedings and three witnesses, a Japanese prostitute and two Chinese men, supressed evidence and lied. The jury returned a guilty verdict. The judge concurred but gave a lighter sentence due to the good character of the accused.
Some interesting questions arise. What was the nature of the altercation that resulted in the death? Was it all over a woman and/or money? What were the witnesses lying about? What were they trying to suppress? Is justice seen to be done when the accused is unrepresented in an English court of law with some dubious witnesses? There is too little information in the news article below to form any accurate opinions about this case. The events leading up to that fateful Tuesday night in the White House may never be known.
Christmas Island Tragedy
A light sentence
After a hearing lasting for two full days, in the special Assize Court yesterday was concluded the case from Christmas Island, in which a Malay named Haji Sali bin Musa was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder by causing the death of Pang Fee, a Chinese, on April 4.
The Deputy Public Prosecutor (Mr G. G. Seth) and Mr R. L. L. Braddell appeared for the Crown. The accused was not defended by counsel.
The deceased was killed by a blow on the head from a stick during a disturbance at the White House, a Japanese brothel on Christmas Island. The accused was alleged to be the man who struck the blow. This he positively denied.
The jury found the prisoner guilty, and the Chief Justice (Sir John Bucknill, K.C), expressing his concurrence in this verdict, passed sentence of six months’ rigorous imprisonment. His lordship said that he did not believe that the accused had any intention of killing the accused. But, for his good character, the sentence would have been much heavier.
Mr Seth then asked that three witnesses – Chan Tiam Hock, Tan Soo Hye, and a Japanese woman named Matsuko – be allowed no expenses. He added that he should prefer that they be sent to prison for lying. There was no doubt that not only had they suppressed evidence, but they had also been guilty of deliberate lying.
There was some doubt as to his lordship’s powers in the matter.
The witnesses named were called before his lordship, who told them that their evidence had been most unsatisfactory, and such expenses as he could disallow he certainly should disallow.
Source: The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser 2 June 1916, Page 10 © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reprinted with permission
1 John Hunt “Suffering through strength“.
2 Marg Neale “We were the Christmas Islanders“