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Date: 07 July 1917.






In the Belfast Custody Court, where Mr. John Gray. R.M., was the presiding magistrate, a fatal fracas between seamen led to an investigation and the ultimate remand of three prisoners of Japanese nationality, who with the man who lost his life had been employed on the tramp steamer, Earl of Elgin.

The accused, whose names and ratings were recorded as follow—Matsuzo Kawaba, aged 25 years, fireman; Masham Kurata, aged 26 years, greaser; and Masataka Yasuji, aged 30 years, cook— were charged that at Musgrave Channel on the previous evening they did kill and slay one Robert Scarborough. The latter was described as of Scottish origin, living in London. His dead body at present lies in the mortuary Royal Victoria Hospital. District-Inspector Harrison conducted the prosecution, and the prisoners were not professionally represented.

The interpreter examined in the case gave his name Nobujuki Sada, and the oath on which he was sworn read as follows:-

I declare, as in the presence of Buddha, that I am unprejudiced, and if what I shall speak shall prove false, or if by colouring truth others shall be led astray, then may the three Holy Existenies, Buddha, Dhamma, and the Pro Sangha, in whose sight I now stand, together with the devotees of the twenty-two Firmaments, punish me and also my migrating soul.


Frederick Watkins, chief officer of the Earl of Elgin, was the first witness called. He stated that on the previous evening shortly before six o'clock he was having tea in company with the captain, the second officer, and the wireless operator in the cabin. They heard loud voices and some talking.

Mr- Harrison —Did you see movement on the part of some of the crew?— Yes. They formed up as if to fight, and they were told to go ashore if they wanted to fight.

Did you hear that direction given?— No. but I saw several of the crew go ashore.

Did you then come out the cabin?— Yes. Did you see two of the crew standing up to fight? —Yes, the deceased and Yasuji. The latter had been paid off that afternoon.

Did you see Yasuji take off his coat and leave it on a box on the quay?—Yes.

Did you see Scarborough hold out his hand as if to shake hands with Yasuji?—l did. Did you see Yasukji catch the other man’s hand and give it a sudden twist? —Yes I thought they were shaking hands before fighting.

Did Scarborough reel over and fall?—He did.

Did you then see Kawaba do anything.— He sprang at Scarborough and struck him on the back several times.

Did you immediately afterward see a knife in Kawaba’s hand?—Yes, when he turned after finishing the punching.

You were on the deck of the boat at the time?—Yes, about twenty yards away.

You saw the knife in his hand plainly- Distinctly.

The Clerk of the Court—Have you got the knife?

Mr. Harrison, D.I.—No. it is at the bottom of the sea.

The examination of the witness was resumed.

Did you then see Kawaba go over towards the ship's ladder? —Yes.

Did he run or walk?—He went quickly.

Had he the knife then in his hand?—Yes.

Did you go over towards the head of the ladder to meet him?—l did.

As he came up the ladder did you see him do anything?—I saw him drop the knife into the water between the ship and the quay.

Did you catch him as he came aboard?—l did, and I handed him over to the third officer.

Did you go then down to where Scarborough was lying?—Yes.

In what condition did you find him?—He was lying on his face in a pool of blood.

Was he dead or alive?—He was apparently dead. I felt his heart. It was not beating.

Did you know if there had been quarrel between Scarborough and Yasuji?—Yes; there had been a disturbance during the day over bad cooking.

The prisoners, through the Interpreter, signified that they asked no question, and Kurata, who could speak English, added, "My name has not been mentioned.”

Mr. Harrison—That is quite correct. We are getting on better than thought we would.

The witness, further interrogated, said that at 8-30 p.m. he picked out Kawaba and Yasuji from a number of other Japanese seamen, and identified them.


Mr. Harrison—The next witness is a Dutchman.

Jacob Van Kempen, a fireman on board the Earl of Elgin, said that during the day quarrelling had been going on between the cook, Yasuji, and Scarborough. It started in the morning at about a quarter to nine, and was about the way the food was cooked. The cook was paid off in the afternoon about three o’clock. He came back about a quarter to six o’clock for his effects, and challenged Scarborough ashore to fight. The men went ashore, and witness saw Scarborough hold out his hand. Yasuji caught him, and tripped him on the quayside.

The District-Inspector—What happened then?—The men fell in a scrimmage, and Kawaba ran from the ship with a knife in his hand, and when Scarborough came up on top Kawaba struck him about five times in the back with the knife. He also stabbed Scarborough in the side.

Proceeding, witness said that after the stabbing affair Kawaba ran back to the ship, and witness saw him drop the knife into the water as he went aboard. Later witness identified Kawaba and Yasuji from amongst a number of other men. Witness saw Kurata standing behind Scarborough, but did not observe him do anything.

Questioned by Kurata (through the interpreter), witness admitted having heard him (Kurata) advise Yasuji and Scarborough earlier in the day not to create trouble on board. Witness, however, could not say if he tried to separate the men when the fight commenced.

No further evidence was taken, and the prisoners were formally remanded until Friday.


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