Saturday, 30 May 2015

Fatal Quarrel Between Chinese Seamen

An argument between two Chinese seamen ended up with one overboard but the other was acquitted after contradictory and inconclusive evidence was given during his trial.

On 28th July 1925 the Palm Branch was 900 miles into its journey from the West Indies to Liverpool when two firemen, Cheong Mo Foo and Sing Lock, came off a nightshift. An argument then a fight broke out over the disposal of ashes, leading to a third seamen intervening and calming things down.

The matter was not over however and Lock struck Foo over the head with a rice bowl, causing it to bleed. Another struggle took place which led to Lock going overboard and it was the events that led to that which were never fully established. Foo told the ship's master that Lock had slipped and fell overboard trying to avoid a retaliatory attack but after arriving in Liverpool an enquiry led to him being charged with murder and committed for trial at the next assizes.

When Foo appeared at St George's Hall on 5th November the ship's master Eric Stark said that Lock was a much stronger man than Foo and prone to violence. The engineer John Stafford confirmed the rail was low and a service pipe was in the vicinity which could easily have been tripped over if stepping backwards.

A Chinese seaman named Ah Sing claimed that Foo was assisted in throwing Lock overboard by Cheong Fook, who Stafford said was not there at all. Three other seamen though said it was another man with protruding teeth, whose name they did not know who assisted him.  

After the prosecution case was over Mr Justice MacKinnon stepped in and asked the jury if they wished to hear any more evidence given what they had heard so far. After a few minutes deliberation, they indicated that they had found Foo not guilty and he was discharged from the dock.

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