Thursday, 7 January 2016

Indian Seaman Acquitted of Fatal Stabbing

When a serviceman was killed whilst on home leave during Word War 2, the man charged with murder was cleared after the judge expressed dissatisfaction with the evidence.

On the evening of Saturday 8th June 1940 Patrick McCoy, a 26 year old serviceman who was home on leave, was enjoying a dance at the Mayfair Hotel on the corner of Park Lane and Sparling Street. 

After McCoy appeared to accidentally bumped into a table at which an Indian seaman named Abdul Rahman and three friends were sitting, spilling a drink. A fight broke out and everyone involved was turned outside by the landlord and McCoy was found bleeding in a gutter. He was taken to the Royal Infirmary but pronounced dead on arrival. A member of the British Expeditionary Force, he had only been back home in Lydia Ann Street for two days after being evacuated from Dunkirk earlier that month.

After making some inquiries 29 year old Rahman was arrested on board the City of Cardiff, where he was a marine fireman. A knife was found on his bunk with blood on it that matched McCoy's group, and he was picked out from an identity parade by three men. On being charged with murder he said 'I never stabbed him, the fight was inside and I was out, I never did anything wrong.' Rahman, who lived in Bombay, appeared at the police court on the Monday morning where he was remanded in custody.

Rahman was committed to trial at the next Manchester Assizes where he appeared before Mr Justice Oliver on 10th July. The judge ordered that because of Rahman's limited knowledge of the English language, the trial would need to take two days as every word would need to be translated into Hindustani. 

Opening the case for the prosecution, Mr Sandbach said that Rahman's beer was knocked over and a fight broke out, in which stool legs were used as weapons.After McCoy collapsed outside Rahman was alleged to have returned to the pub and handed a knife to another Indian sailor. 

Evidence was given against Rahman by his fellow countryman Baney Ram, but the judge ruled this was inadmissable as he had sworn on the Koran as opposed to the Bhagwat Gita. When a translated copy of the sacred Hindu book was found, an Indian official told the judge he could not be sure if this oath was binding as it was not in the original language. When a search of Manchester's central library failed to locate a Hindu copy, Justice Oliver ruled that his evidence should be set aside given he had knowingly gave it having sworn on the Koran.

In giving his evidence, Rahman denied being part of a fight or having a knife and said that he did not know two of the other Indian witnesses. The defence barrister pointed out to the inconsistencies in the prosecution evidence, with witnesses seeming unable to agree as to who was and wasn't inside the bar at the time. It was also pointed out that the three men who McCoy was with ended up being arrested themselves on the night for being drunk and incapable.

Justice Oliver's summing up was favourable, as he told then jury 'The tragedy arose from the drunken aggression of three drunken white men against a group of inoffensive Indian sailors who sat peacefully on their own in the public house.' He characterised the evidence as unsatisfactory and said that all the witnesses contradicted one another.

The jury only retired for a short time to find Rahman not guilty and the judge said he cordially agreed with the verdict. Rahman's interpreter was then thanked for his skills and assistance and he was discharged from the dock.





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