The Murder and Suicide at Smithfield.
(Abridged from the Cairns Advertiser.)
INFORMATION reached Cairns on Boxing Day, from Smithfield, that Mr. Robert Craig had been shot by Bill Smith, and that the latter had shot himself. The particulars, as detailed at a magisterial enquiry before W. Mowbray, Esq., P.M., appear hereunder:— A magisterial enquiry was held on Thursday the 27th instant, before W. M. Mowbray, Esq., P.M., touching the cause of death of Robert Craig and William Smith, of Smithfield, when the following evidence was produced :—
James H. Norris, a constable, stationed at Smithfield, stated:
I remember yesterday, the 26th December; I was in Smithfield all day; I know the deceased Robert Jackson Craig, a storekeeper, and William Smith, a publican, both of Smithfield; at about 8 o'clock in the afternoon I heard several revolver shots—I think five; I immediately went down the street towards Mr. Craig's store; I saw Mr. Craig running across the street—he was running pretty quickly; I saw him immediately afterwards lying in his own door, and Mr. W. Cochrane and several others near him; immediately afterwards I went over to Smith's public-house on the opposite side of the street from Craig's store ; I saw William Smith lying on his back under the verandah; there was blood on his shirt; he stretched out his hand and said, "Will anyone hold me up ?" another man and myself took him by the hands and raised him up to a sitting posture; a few minutes after he seemed to get very weak ; he said, "Oh, I am done !" he died in about fifteen minutes, in the place where he was lying, under the verandah ; I examined his body ; I found the marks of a bullet about two inches under his right breast; there was only a small quantity of blood on his shirt; there were marks of powder on it too; a short time afterwards a packer named James Ferrier gave me a revolver and said "That was the one Smith shot Mr. Craig and himself with"; he said Smith threw it out of his hand when he shot himself, and he (Ferrier) found it lying on the ground beside Smith; I found five barrels had been recently discharged ; I also examined the inside of the dining room at Smith's public-house; I found a bullet, which appears to be one which fits the revolver produced; it was lying on the floor; I could find no marks of where it had been discharged ; I noticed no bullet marks of where it had been discharged ; I noticed no bullet marks inside the place; there was only one wound on Smith's body; I did not examine Mr. Craig's body; I took charge of Smith until he died ; when I saw Smith was dead, I went over and saw Mr. Craig was dead ; Smith was about 45 or 50 years of age; he has a wife here; he told me about ten days ago he was often going to commit suicide while travelling through the bush; he was sober when he said this: Smith appeared to be under the influence of drink when I saw him immediately after he shot himself; I know of no motive he had for shooting Mr. Craig; I have heard he was in Mr. Craig's debt; he was in the habit of drinking a good deal; he did not get drunk, but got a good deal excited whilst under the influence of drink.
James Ferrier, sworn, said:
I am a packer; I was in Smithfield yesterday afternoon between 2 and 8 o'clock; I was standing at Solomon's store, opposite Smith's public-house ; I heard a noise inside Smith's house ; I heard talking and two shots fired ; the first thing I saw was Craig running out of the front door of Smith's public-house ; he was holding his hand on his breast, shouting out, "Murder!" and that he was done for; Smith ran out close behind him, and fired two shots at him from a revolver; he then held his hand up quickly towards his breast and shot himself; I heard the report and I saw him fall, and drop or throw the revolver down ; he then fell over, and I picked the revolver up and handed it to Constable Norris; the revolver produced is the one; I am sure Craig was wounded when I saw him first; he was holding his hand to his breast and calling out; the whole thing only took a few seconds from the time I heard the first two shots until I saw Smith shoot himself; I ran over as soon as I heard the two shots; Smith fell before I got across the street: he said to me, " Give me a drink of water, old fellow"; someone gave him water; he could not drink it; I afterwards saw both bodies dead ; I knew they were the bodies of Robert Craig and William Smith ; I saw Craig going into Smith's door about a minute before I heard the shots; I saw no one else but Smith and Craig near the public-house.
William Cochrane, sworn, deposed :
I knew the deceased Robert Jackson Craig and William Smith; Mr. Craig was my brother-in-law; I remember yesterday afternoon, about 25 minutes before 8 o'clock ; I heard two shots fired; I was then behind the grocery counter in Mr. Craig's store; I heard Mr. Craig's voice call out " Murder " twice; I ran from behind the counter into the street ; I saw Mr. Craig running across the street from Mr. Smith's public-house towards his store; he was holding his hand to bis breast; I saw Smith holding a revolver in his hand, and standing under his own verandah; I went past Mr. Craig towards Smith ; before I reached him I saw him throw the muzzle of the revolver quickly towards himself ; I heard a shot go off, and Smith fell immediately ; I did not stay to look at him, but turned back towards Mr. Craig; he was then under his own verandah ; he was staggering; I caught hold of him and laid him just inside the doorway of his store ; he died in a few seconds ; he said, "I am done, Bill; I have it in me ;" this was as I was laying him down ; I am not aware of any disagreement between them; Smith came into the store immediately before the occurrence and asked Mr. Craig to go over and he would settle with him ; he owed an account to Mr. Craig, and I understood Smith to mean he was going to pay him ; Mr. Craig then went over to Smith's public-house; they both went out together ; I heard the shots a few seconds afterwards ; Mr. Craig was 84 years of age, a native of Glasgow, Scotland ; his family and friends live in Brisbane ; Mr. Craig and Smith always appeared to be very good friends ; I know of no motive ; Smith was not sober before he came into the store; I did not notice what state he was in when he went out with Mr. Craig ; I noticed he was under the influence of drink about three-quarters of an hour previously ; after Mr. Craig's death I noticed a small wound about three inches below the left breast; it had the appearance of a revolver bullet's wound; it bled very little; it was the only wound I noticed; the two shots I heard were like shots from a revolver; I saw no one but Smith at the public-house.
The depositions were ordered to be forwarded to the Attorney-General. Mr. Robert Craig was (says the Advertiser) a young man in the prime of life, whose wife and children went south about three weeks back. He was one of our earliest merchants; a business man in every particular, and the one most largely engaged here in pursuits of every description. He was held in universal respect, and was justly considered one of the leading men—in fact, it may be said the most prominent one. Amongst the hundreds of packers travelling between this and the Hodgkinson goldfields the name of Craig is as a household word. The deceased had but recently added to his extensive operations the exportation of cedar produced here, and with reference to this a strange coincidence may be mentioned. On Wednesday the Lucy and Adelaide, schooner, arrived for the first cargo of cedar, and must have reached her point of destination, up the Barron River, some- where about the time the melancholy and fatal occurrence took place. Mr. Craig's awful and untimely end has shed a sad gloom throughout Cairns and Smithfield, as it will wherever it is known. The corpse was brought into Cairns on Thursday, and buried in the cemetery, the attendance at the funeral being very large, and without exception every house in town was closed. The funeral service was impressively read by Mr. James Powers. The awful catastrophe, so sudden, so unprovoked, and so very fatal, entirely unhinged everyone's nerves. Business was at a complete standstill, and the sorrowful countenances met at every stop manifested the universal grief for the late Mr. Craig and sincere sympathy for his family. The unhappy murderer's fate can but likewise cause a sorrowful feeling. Smith was a man known by and to all of us. We all are cognisant of recent troubles and misfortunes which overtook him, and, although we cannot conceal from ourselves that those troubles have been sensibly brought about by bis own passions and irregular conduct, still a thought of christian and human regret must flash through our brain, knowing this man took his own life at the moment he took that of another, and was hailed into the presence of his Maker without time to implore divine forgiveness for the cruel and cowardly murder he had committed.
Article appeared in The Queenslander on the 12th of January, 1878.