WA History

Murder of Ah Yet

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following blog post may contain images and names of deceased persons.

A well-known face in Donnybrook, 25 year old Ah Yet regularly loaded up his cart with vegetables from his garden and on Fridays and Saturdays he travelled from house to house offering them for sale. On 21 and 22 March 1902, he did not show up.

Knowing that his absence was out of the ordinary, John Vennell went to look for him at 3 pm on the 22nd. He first peered through the open door of Ah Yet’s hut but found it deserted. He then walked through the garden, passing cabbages, radishes and other vegetables growing profusely. As he came to the well on the property, he found him. Ah Yet was dead.

John immediately headed to Donnybrook and reported the death at the Police Station. Corporal Bernard Slattery and Constable Arthur Topliss accompanied him back to the scene.

…there found the dead body of a chinaman laying by the edge of the well, it was laying on its side and in a doubled up position, the head was laying in a pool of clotted blood which had run into the well…

Corporal Slattery’s Report. Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S76- cons430 1902-1366).

The blood and the position of the body led Corporal Slattery to suspect foul play. Ah Yet was killed while going about his day; lying partly under his head was a straw hat and grasped in his hand was a radish.

The upright board marked where Ah Yet’s body was found.

Corporal Slattery carefully examined the scene and saw no signs of a struggle. Eleven feet away he noticed some strange tracks among the cabbages and was careful to avoid and protect them. He noted that the only tracks surrounding the body belonged to Ah Yet.

He searched the body and in the left hand trouser pocket he found two sovereigns and five half sovereigns wrapped in newspaper. Again, there were no signs or marks of violence apart from a severe head wound. Having positively identified that the deceased was Ah Yet, Corporal Slattery came to the conclusion that he had been shot at close range.

Taking the position of the dead body into consideration and its surroundings I concluded that deceased had been struck down while he was stooping and washing raddishes.

Corporal Slattery’s sworn statement. Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S122- 251 cons3473 Cases Number 3229-3238 – Case Number 3235).

With initial observations recorded, Ah Yet’s body was moved from his garden to his house until the doctor arrived to conduct a post mortem. Both the body and the garden were guarded by the police.

Upon returning to the Donnybrook Police Station, Corporal Slattery telegraphed the District Officer in Bunbury to advise him of the death. He requested additional police assistance, including an Aboriginal tracker. The District Officer then telegraphed the Commissioner of Police in Perth who arranged for Detective Henry Mann to be sent to Donnybrook.

The telegram from Bunbury to the Commissioner of Police. “News received from Donnybrook Chinese gardener named Ah Yet found dead today in his garden evidently wilfully shot with shot gun. Suspicion attached to no one police and tracker leaving here this evening investigating.” Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S76- cons430 1902-1366).

That evening Resident Magistrate (R.M.) William Timperley, Corporal Thomas Kelso and Constable Hanson travelled from Bunbury to Donnybrook via the 10:20 pm train. Constable Thomas Kennedy and Aboriginal tracker, Billy, proceeded on horseback. They arrived in town at midnight.

At 9 am on the following day, Constable Kennedy and Billy left the Donnybrook Police Station and made their way to Ah Yet’s garden. They inspected the ground and among the cabbages they found the tracks and a set of footprints that Corporal Slattery had previously observed. They estimated that they were made by a person wearing size eight men’s boots.

Police and Aboriginal trackers searching Ah Yet’s garden.

The footprints indicated that someone had been standing in front of Ah Yet, their left foot pointing straight towards the well and their right foot positioned further back pointing to the right. It was a stance described by Constable Kennedy as “a steady position“.

Constable Kennedy and Billy combed the rest of the garden but struggled to follow the tracks. A decision was made to obtain the services of another Aboriginal tracker who had more experience.

In town, R.M. Timperley called Edward Hadlow, James Bentley and Thomas Armstrong as jurors and officially opened the inquest into Ah Yet’s death. They viewed the body and the place where he died and then returned to Donnybrook where R.M. Timperley adjourned the inquest for three days pending further investigation by the police.

Donnybrook circa 1902.

At 3 pm a post mortem examination on Ah Yet’s body was carried out by Dr Frederick Elliott in an open shed on the property. He recorded that the head was in an advanced state of decomposition and the hair was matted with blood. Removal of the hair exposed a lacerated wound in the top centre of the head, about three inches in diameter. There was a shot hole on the right side of the wound and two shot holes on the left. He removed the scalp and observed a corresponding hole in the skull. From within the skull he removed 31 lead shot pellets.

The direction of the gun shot charge was plainly indicated.

Dr Elliott’s sworn statement. Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S122- 251 cons3473 Cases Number 3229-3238 – Case Number 3235).

Ah Yet was fired at from above, with the charge travelling in a downwards and forwards trajectory. It was clear he was shot at close range as the lead pellets had only just started to disperse when they entered his skull all at once. There were no other pellet marks on his face, shoulders or back. Death was instantaneous.

Dr Elliott theorised that “the person who fired the shot must have been directly opposite the deceased and a little to his right.” If that was not the case, he wondered whether Ah Yet was sitting or crouching with his head bent downwards and had turned his head slightly to the left when the gun was fired.

Meanwhile Corporals Slattery and Kelso made inquiries with residents. While they initially suspected another Chinese gardener, their assumption changed when Mr Harrison reported that his pony was stolen the previous night and that he suspected the culprit was 17 year old Edward Hall who was also missing.

I knowing this youth to be of a wild character, and his sudden disappearance, began to direct my suspicions to him as being concerned in the murder.

Corporal Slattery’s Report. Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S76- cons430 1902-1366).

More people were interviewed and further details concerning Hall’s movements came to light. On 20 March John Trigwell gave Hall two bullets. On the same day Richard Hunter loaned Hall a gun to shoot a dog. Not trusting him with two bullets, he took one away. An eye witness named Jeremiah Murphy further placed Hall at the scene. He saw him at Ah Yet’s garden at 2 pm, talking and carrying the gun on his shoulder. Ah Yet was standing inside the fence and Hall was standing outside.

Corporal Slattery consulted with Corporal Kelso. The evidence was circumstantial however they both agreed there were reasonable grounds to suspect Hall of murder. Instructions were given to the police to find Hall and have him arrested.

It wasn’t until 6 pm on 23 March that Corporal Slattery received a report that Hall was seen earlier that day at the rear of Mrs Shorthill’s boarding house. He left the Station accompanied by Corporal Kelso and immediately found Hall in the stables.

Corporal Slattery: “Hulloa you are just the man I need to see.”

Hall: “Oh yes I believe they reckon I shot that chinaman.”

Corporal Slattery: “Who said so?”

Hall: “I don’t know his name he is the man who works for the butcher.”

Corporal Slattery’s sworn statement. Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S122- 251 cons3473 Cases Number 3229-3238 – Case Number 3235).

He pointed at a man on the other side of the river but the man was too far away for Corporal Slattery to identify him. Corporal Kelso then asked about his movements on 20 March. When questioned whether he had gone shooting that day, Hall admitted he went out to shoot a dog that John Trigwell had given him. He fired at the dog near Hackett’s garden (located in a different direction to Ah Yet’s garden) but missed it. He went on to say that he also fired at a wallaby, but missed that too. Finally, Corporal Kelso probed whether Hall had been over the railway line that day and pointed in the direction of Ah Yet’s property. Hall said, “No I have not been that way for a long time.

Hall’s answers were conflicting. Corporal Slattery noted in his report that he gave “a very unsatisfactory account of himself” while Corporal Kelso noted “his replies was not in accordance with the information we had in our possession.” They told him of the charge, cautioned him and arrested him. Hall began to cry and pleaded, “Don’t lock me up. I will not run away.

Taken into custody, Hall was brought to the Donnybrook Police Station and searched. In his vest pocket was a double cased silver Waltham watch with a double silver curb chain attached. The watch was numbered and it was later established that the number matched a receipt found in Ah Yet’s house. Ah Yet had purchased the watch in 1897. The police presumed the motive for the murder was robbery.

Ah Yet’s receipt for his watch. Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S76- cons430 1902-1871).

Early on 24 March, Hall was brought before R.M. Timperley on a charge of murder and was remanded for eight days. Later that morning, an Aboriginal man named Joe (who worked for Forbes Fee at Dardanup) joined the investigation. They proceeded to the scene at 11 am, taking with them the boots Hall had been wearing for comparison. After one and a half hours Joe found the tracks and followed them. Perfectly matching the boots, they led from the well in an easterly direction towards Ah Yet’s house.

PC Kennedy with Native Tracker Joe traced the tracks from where found across the garden and over the wire fence, a short distance from deceased house where they were lost owing to the nature of the ground being covered with scrub & leaves.

Corporal Kelso’s Report. Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S76- cons430 1902-1366).

The police continued gathering evidence. Corporal Slattery conducted several other interviews, obtained statements and took possession of the gun and cartridge from Richard Hunter. He noted that the right barrel looked as if it had been used. At 4 pm that afternoon, the case was handed over to Detective Mann who arrived in Donnybrook via the train from Perth. Ah Yet’s watch and chain was a crucial piece of evidence and he began by asking Hall if he would like to tell him something about it. Hall stated that the chain was given to him by his mother. He then explained how the watch came to be in his possession.

I bought it in Bunbury, from a man I did not know, at the Rose Hotel, he was drinking there and offering the watch for sale. …the man asked 50/ for it, but I only gave him 10/.

Corporal Slattery’s sworn statement. Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S122- 251 cons3473 Cases Number 3229-3238 – Case Number 3235).

The inquest into the death of Ah Yet resumed at the Court House in Donnybrook at noon on 26 March 1902. Edward Hall was present throughout the proceedings and was able to ask questions but did not have to answer any. He was warned that anything he did say however might be used against him. According to a reporter for the Bunbury Herald, he “preserved an indifferent demeanor throughout.

A total of 15 witnesses were called with the first being Charles Fattorini who was a photographer at Bunbury. He had been called upon by the police to photograph Ah Yet’s garden as well as the scene. Four photos were tendered into evidence and were used regularly throughout the proceedings.

Corporal Slattery followed and described seeing the body lying on its left side, with the face partly turned downwards and facing the well which was on the right. He produced Ah Yet’s straw hat as evidence and pointed out a hole in the crown. The hole in the hat corresponded with the wound on the head.

Ah Yet was wearing boots and his legs were curled up with the right over the left. His tracks were found at the corner of the well and a set of footprints indicated he was either squatting or stooping there. A bundle of string tied to his belt matched string that was tied around three bunches of radishes nearby. In Corporal Slattery’s opinion, he was shot whilst cleaning radishes.

Questioned by R.M. Timperley as to Ah Yet’s character, Corporal Slattery stated that he had known Ah Yet for over two years and throughout that time had considered him to be “a hard-working industrious man and of good repute.

Dr Elliott, a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in England, took to the stand and described the results of the post mortem. Considering the wound and the way in which the skull had fragmented and splintered, he concluded that:

  1. Death was caused by a gunshot wound that could not have been self inflicted.
  2. The shot was fired at close range, eight to ten feet at most, as all the shot pellets entered the head before having a chance to disperse.
  3. The person who fired the shot was directly opposite the deceased and slightly to the right or, the deceased’s head was turned slightly to the left.
  4. The position and direction of the wound indicated that the person who fired the shot was standing several feet above the deceased, who must have been sitting or crouching with his head bent forward and his face looking down.

At the conclusion of Dr Elliott’s evidence, the inquest was adjourned until 3 pm. When it resumed, Jeremiah Murphy took to the stand. He was walking past Ah Yet’s property at 2 pm on 20 March and observed Hall speaking to Ah Yet.

John Vennell was next and described the events leading up to him finding Ah Yet’s body. He confirmed that he did not enter the house, nor did he walk among the cabbages where the tracks were found.

Constable Topliss had helped remove Ah Yet’s body from the garden to the hut and he was responsible for guarding the premises. He also conducted a search of the house on 24 March and came across the receipt showing that the watch in Hall’s possession belonged to Ah Yet. He went on to say that under the table he found a locked box with chop marks on it and “half of the lid burst off“. Near the box was a tomahawk which he presumed was used to open it. The contents within the box appeared to have been disarranged and, proving that it was not likely to have been Ah Yet who damaged it, Constable Topliss found a bunch of keys, one of which fitted the lock and opened the box.

Constable Kennedy described the methodical way he and Aboriginal trackers Billy and Joe went about tracking in Ah Yet’s garden. The set of footprints were located eleven feet from the well and matched the boots Hall had been wearing. They followed the tracks which led them from the well and through a fence in the direction of the hut.

Ah Yet’s watch (and the fact that Hall had it) was an important piece of evidence and thus, Waldo Catlett, a watchmaker of Bunbury, was called. He confirmed that Ah Yet had purchased the watch at Christmas in 1897 and that he gave him a receipt which was an exhibit in the inquest. He went on to say that he had cleaned the watch six weeks previously, indicating that it had definitely been in Ah Yet’s possession a little over a month before his death.

John Trigwell, a farmer of Donnybrook, had once employed Hall and stated that he saw him in front of the Donnybrook Hotel just before noon on 20 March. Hall asked if he had any spare cartridges and requested two, claiming that he owed them to Richard Hunter. They both went back to John’s house where he handed over the cartridges as well as a dog that was promised to Hall. No mention of Hall shooting the dog was made and John did not give the dog away expecting it to be killed. Again, the watch was brought up. Hall was known to have an open faced watch but was not known to have a double cased watch.

The owner of the gun, Richard Hunter, knew Hall and admitted that he loaned him his gun at about 1 pm on 20 March. Hall claimed that he needed the gun to shoot a dog for John Trigwell. Richard told him he had no cartridges however Hall showed him that he already had two. Richard confirmed that at the time Hall did not owe him any cartridges. Agreeing to give him the gun, Richard took the cartridges, placed one in the right hand chamber and told Hall, “One cartridge was quite enough to shoot a dog with…” He instructed Hall to bring the gun back as soon as possible but it was not returned until the following morning. Richard inspected the gun on Sunday, 23 March. He found that the right hand barrel was fired and the spent cartridge removed.

Ah Yet’s friend, Ah Bay, took to the stand and swore to tell the truth by blowing out a lit match. He was also a gardener at Donnybrook and lived about 400 metres away from Ah Yet. On 20 March at 1 pm, Ah Yet visited him at his house and stayed for about 15 minutes. According to Ah Bay, Ah Yet was wearing his watch at the time. Between the hours of 4 pm and 5 pm he heard a noise coming from the direction of Ah Yet’s house, which he likened to the sound of a gun going off.

John Shorthill often saw Hall at his place and stated that the boots produced in Court were his. He last saw them around the 14th March and could not find them after that date. He was not in the habit of lending his boots to Hall and Hall “had no right to them.

Detective Mann was last to take the stand and he did so with the knowledge of a confession. The day before (25 March) Hall was locked up in a cell at the Donnybrook Police Station when he intimated that he wanted to talk to the Detective. When questioned as to what he wanted to say, Hall professed, “I want to tell you all I know about the death of the Chinaman.” Warning him that whatever he said could be used against him as evidence in a trial, Hall responded, “I think it is best.

Hall confessed that he was given a dog by John Trigwell and he headed out on the afternoon of 20 March with the intention of shooting it. He began walking towards the cemetery and on the way decided to keep the dog instead. Changing plans, he walked towards the mines, a route which took him past Ah Yet’s property. It was about 2 pm and Ah Yet called him over to read out the price of vegetables in the paper. Once Hall had finished, Ah Yet gave him some tomatoes. Hall told him that he was going to the mines and Ah Yet invited him into the garden so that he could give him some radishes.

I went with him and he gave me some raddishes to eat. He asked me to let him see the gun. He also asked me whose gun it was. I told him it was Mr Hunters gun. I handed him the gun and he opened it and said no good if you shoot out of it the powder will come up into your eyes. He said that is the way I used to shoot Donalds pigs. He then handed the gun back to me open. I went to shut it and it went off bang. The chinaman was standing up in front of me. I did not wait to see what had happened…

Edward Hall’s sworn statement. Courtesy of the State Records Office of Western Australia (AU WA S122- 251 cons3473 Cases Number 3229-3238 – Case Number 3235).

Afraid that Ah Yet would hit him with a spade, Hall said that he took off without so much as a backward glance and returned home with the gun. Once his statement was in writing, he signed it in the presence of Constables Topliss and Kennedy.

Continuing with his evidence, Detective Mann outlined the process he took in order to confirm that the bullet used was John Trigwell’s. Obtaining two other cartridges from John, he compared them to the one Richard Hunter had kept. They were the same. He then extracted 31 pellets from one cartridge and compared the weight to the 31 pellets removed from Ah Yet’s skull. The pellets removed were one pellet lighter which was reasoned as likely being due to the loss of lead in firing.

By the time the police evidence had concluded, it was extremely late. R.M. Timperley decided not to review the whole of the evidence for the jury and instead offered them two questions: 1) Was the deceased murdered? and 2) If so, who murdered him? It was their job to decide whether Hall should go to trial and he reinforced the fact that the most significant evidence was Dr Elliott’s, which he considered “the best of its kind that had ever come before him.

The jury retired for ten minutes and returned with their verdict:

That the deceased Ah Yet came to his death by murder at the hands of Edward Hall.

Bunbury Herald (WA : 1892 – 1919); 29 March 1902; Page 3; Alleged Murder

Concurring with their decision, R.M. Timperley stated, “In my opinion it is the only one you could give.” With the inquest concluded, Hall was committed for trial at the next Criminal Sessions of the Supreme Court in Perth.

The trial commenced in the temporary Supreme Court building (the present day Supreme Court was not yet complete) on 10 April 1902 before Justice Stephen Parker and a jury of twelve men. Robert Burnside conducted the case for the Crown while Richard Beresford represented Hall who pleaded ‘not guilty’.

The temporary Supreme Court on Irwin Street circa 1901.

Corporal Slattery and Constable Topliss were first to give their evidence. Their statements were the same as those given during the inquest and upon completion, the Court was adjourned to resume on the following day.

Resuming on Friday, 11 April, Ah Bay took to the stand and gave his evidence through Frederick Washing who acted as an interpreter. He reiterated that he had seen Ah Yet alive at about 1 pm on 20 March and that he was wearing his watch and chain at the time. When asked a question by Mr Beresford, he responded that, “He was sorry that Ah Yet was dead, and would like to see his murderer punished.

Richard Hunter followed. He confirmed he was out of cartridges when Hall asked to borrow the gun and explained that he decided to keep one of John Trigwell’s cartridges because he did not trust Hall with two. He had known Hall for about two years and when prompted, described him as a “foolish lad” who was known to have done “foolish things.”

John Shorthill was next and asserted that the boots were his and that he had not lent them to Hall. The evidence continued in a similar fashion to Richard’s with John stating that he “had always regarded the lad as a ‘softy.‘” While today we might consider the word ‘softy’ to refer to someone who was soft-hearted or sentimental, it seems likely, that in 1902, John was using it to describe Hall as a foolish person.

Something in John’s evidence resulted in the foreman of the jury requesting that Richard be recalled. The Foreman asked, “Did you regard the accused as a vicious lad, or merely a bit wild and foolish?” Richard affirmed that it was the latter.

When Detective Mann took the stand he recounted the confession given to him by Hall and stated that he had “carefully cautioned” him beforehand. Questioned by Mr Beresford as to why he had used such level of caution, the Detective explained that he had “heard that he was a wild, uneducated youth, and he did not want it said afterwards that he (witness) had taken advantage of him.

The strongest evidence for the Crown during the trial was given by Dr Elliott. Having explained the findings of the post mortem, Mr Beresford asked him a question about the position of Ah Yet’s body before he was shot. Dr Elliott maintained that Ah Yet was stooping when the shot was fired. Dissatisfied, Mr Beresford recounted that the theory of the defence was that after Ah Yet handed the gun back, it accidentally discharged when Hall closed it. He questioned Dr Elliott, “Was that probable?” Dr Elliott agreed that it was probable, but only if Ah Yet was stooping.

The doctor’s evidence clearly conflicted with Hall’s statement that Ah Yet was standing when the gun went off. Attempting to gain some leverage back, Mr Beresford asked, “Is it not possible that the deceased could have straightened himself after the shot was fired?” Dr Elliott was direct with his response.

Not with such a belt in the head as that. That Chinaman never straightened himself. He fell on his face and never moved.

The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950); 12 April 1902; Page 4; Yesterday’s Proceedings

Unwilling to let it go, Mr Beresford reiterated that Hall had said in his statement that Ah Yet was standing up. Dr Elliott was succinct with his reply: “But that was impossible.

With the Crown’s evidence complete, Mr Beresford requested that Justice Parker direct the jury that there was no case against Hall; that there was no evidence of murder; and that Hall’s statement proved that Ah Yet came to his death by misadventure. Justice Parker refused.

Addressing the jury, Mr Beresford asked them “to bear in mind that there was no evidence against the accused.” He pointed out the conflict of Hall’s statement that Ah Yet was standing and not stooping and, drawing on his earlier line of questioning, concluded that “the poor, half-witted lad thought he was doing so.

He dismissed the tracks; they were nowhere near Ah Yet’s hut and thus Hall did not enter it. He dismissed the evidence of the boots; Hall likely thought ‘what’s yours is mine’ when he took them. There was nothing to show he stole the watch and thus should not be convicted of murder over it. He declared that there was no evidence of robbery and that was proved by the sovereigns found in Ah Yet’s pocket. Furthermore, he considered that Hall had time to conceal the body and the fact that he did not indicated innocence. Finally, he recommended that the jury disregard Hall’s initial lies. Many people lied and they should not put “too much importance to any statement made by the half silly youth when first approached by the police.”

Overall, Mr Beresford highlighted to the jury that Hall was a young man who was unintelligent and weak-minded but was harmless. If they had any doubt as to his guilt, they should find him not guilty.

The Court adjourned and resumed at 2 pm. Justice Parker addressed the jury and went over the evidence, in some instances making it abundantly clear that discrepancies existed when compared to Hall’s statement. His address was described in the Bunbury Herald as being “somewhat adverse to the prisoner.

On the strength of the medical evidence, he rejected Hall’s statement that Ah Yet was standing when the gun went off and even agreed that the shot was fired from some distance away.

He advised the jury to consider Hall’s confession and to also weigh up the lies he told beforehand. He touched upon the watch and commented that “it was strange that accused was wearing the watch openly…” but speculated that Hall might have thought it could not be identified. After all, he also wore Shorthill’s boots openly.

If he went to the place, shot the Chinaman, and then broke open the box and stole the watch, he was a most hardened criminal.

The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950); 12 April 1902; Page 4; Yesterday’s Proceedings

The watch clearly belonged to Ah Yet however Hall failed to adequately explain how he came to have it in his possession. No witnesses confirmed his story. Despite Ah Bay’s testimony that he saw Ah Yet wearing the watch on the day of his death, Justice Parker advised the jury to not put much trust in the statement. They were only to consider “the statement by the light of the evidence.

The jury retired and less than fifteen minutes later returned with a verdict of not guilty. Edward Hall was free to go. Before he left however, Mr Beresford applied to the Court on Hall’s behalf to have Ah Yet’s watch returned to him. Refusing to grant such a request, Justice Parker advised him to make an application to the police.

There is much about this story that does not make sense. Hall’s explanation, the contradictory evidence and the puzzle of Ah Yet’s watch all combine to raise more questions than answers. Did Hall murder Ah Yet? Was it an accident? And perhaps the most frustrating question of all: why did he have Ah Yet’s watch? If his story was true, it would have to have been the worst set of coincidences, to buy a watch off a stranger at a hotel and then days or weeks later, accidentally kill the original owner.

During his summary, Mr Beresford described Hall as having ‘monkey cunning’. I wonder whether there was some truth in that statement. John Trigwell, Richard Hunter and Jeremiah Murphy confirmed seeing Hall at noon, 1 pm and 2 pm respectively. The last instance was when he was talking to Ah Yet. Ah Bay heard what he thought was a gunshot between 4 pm and 5 pm. Even the Bunbury Herald wrote that a shot was heard in the evening. Assuming these statements were correct, it raises the possibility of a discrepancy in the timeline.

Nevertheless, much of the Crown’s case was somewhat circumstantial and not a lot of significance was placed on the forensics involved at the time. Hall’s confession, though conflicting, was obviously the paramount piece of evidence for the defence at the trial. He was the only person present when Ah Yet was killed and was given the benefit of the doubt that what had occurred was accidental.

After the trial, Edward Hall left Donnybrook. In the years that followed he married, had children and later returned. He was living in Donnybrook when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces in July 1915. While fighting in France in 1918, he was killed in action.

Ah Yet was buried in the back right corner of the Donnybrook Cemetery. A headstone was erected over his grave and a fence placed around it. In English at the top, the headstone describes the grave as belonging to Tung Yet. Written in Chinese below are further details of his name, place of birth and death.

Person (人) from Guang Dong (廣東) province, Ning (甯) county, Ji Long Tian (雞龍田) Village. Qing Dynasty era, grave of Deng Yi (鄧乙), male (公). Fallen during Emperor Guangxu (光緒) reign, 壬寅 (Chinese year in sexagenary cycle), 11th day (十一日) of the second month (二月), which translates to 20th March 1902 in the Gregorian Calendar.

Despite its hidden location, the grave has not been completely neglected. Remnants of artificial flowers surround the base of the headstone and are indicative of visitors paying their respects to a man they did not know. Wind chimes hang in a nearby tree and they no doubt fill the space with peaceful sounds. 117 years have passed since Ah Yet was killed while washing radishes in his garden. He has not been forgotten.

Heartfelt thanks are given to the extended family of my friend, who very kindly translated the Chinese characters on Ah Yet’s headstone into English.



5 thoughts on “Murder of Ah Yet”

  1. Seems to me the police, pathology and forensic investigation were exemplary leading one to the uncomfortable position that trial by one’s peers does not always deliver justice.
    Well done Jess


  2. Dear Jessica.
    Edward Hall was my grandfather whom I never met .He spent 3+ years in the trenches of Europe ( Mainly France)and was KIA in the last major battle only weeks before the end of WW1 after previously being severely wounded on several occasions. I have original letters from the front where he is widely praised for his exploits & rising to the rank of L/corporal. He was married to Louisa Jane Worthington and had 5 children including my dad ,before embarking towards Gallipoli but then diverted to Egypt & Europe.for nearly 4 years fighting.
    By my reading of the evidence he was only 17 & was as “guilty as Sin” but looks like he turned himself around for the better.


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