South African Commercial Advertiser of 12 Feb 1831 -
On Wednesday the 26th January William FLETCHER, residing near the Fish River mouth, was killed while resisting a constable who had a warrant for his apprehension. The following are the circumstances:
In consequence of information received by Mr. CURRIE. Justice of the Peace at Bathurst, on the day previous to the unfortunate occurrence, he issued a warrant for the apprehension of FLETCHER, on the testimony of a girl about fourteen years old, charging him with a heinous offence. The constable having proceeded to the house of FLETCHER, and not finding him at home, took the precaution to inquire whether there were any firearms loaded in the house, and having discharged the contents of a pistol, which he found in his search, took the road to Graham’s Town, whither FLETCHER had gone, in the hopes of meeting him on the way, as FLETCHER was hourly expected home. Having met him near the house of Mr. BAYLIE, the constable disguising his purpose, induced FLETCHER to accompany him to that place, where Mr. Charles BAYLIE, who is a Provisional Field Cornet, read the warrant and the constable announced FLETCHER to be his prisoner.
At FLETCHER’s urgent request he was suffered to go home, accompanied by three persons, including the Field Cornet and Constable, who granted this indulgence from the knowledge that the prisoner’s affairs required some arrangement. After waiting an hour and a half, and FLETCHER not showing a disposition to move, the Field Cornet desired the Constable to proceed in the execution of his duty, when the latter exhibited a pair of handcuffs and threatened to put FLETCHER to the inconvenience of wearing them if he did not quietly yield to his directions. FLETCHER now assumed a fighting attitude and defied the party to take him, at the same time threatening to clear the house.
The constable then seized the prisoner, who soon disengaged himself and rushed into his bedroom, in which some firearms and a sword were deposited: to this place the former followed and again seized him, but FLETCHER, being a powerful man, threw his antagonist on the ground and had nearly succeeded in wresting a pistol from him, which he carried in his belt. At this moment Mr. C. BAYLIE ran to the assistance of the constable and, perceiving his perilous situation, and sensible of the danger to be apprehended, with such an instrument of death in FLETCHER’s hand, he fired a pistol with which he was armed and shot FLETCHER through the body. The deceased, it would seem, was at the moment unconscious he was wounded, for quitting his hold of the constable he rushed after Mr. BAYLIE, uttering the most violent imprecations, and about 40 yards from the house he fell. He was immediately conveyed to his bed, and after lingering a few hours he died.
The circumstances of this melancholy catastrophe have led to a contrariety of opinion: and the fact that four able bodied men were present, and witnessed the opposition to legal authority, without uniting to avoid the consequences which followed, has excited a partial feeling that want of energy on the one hand led to an act of indiscretion on the other; but a local knowledge of facts enables me to say that, however the event may be deplored, yet nothing in the character of the man through whose instrumentality the deceased has been thus prematurely cut off, can leave room for a doubt that immediate necessity alone influenced the hand that directed the fatal instrument.
The deceased was a powerful man, of a resolute and desperate disposition; and the want of education gave him an unbridled exercise of passions naturally violent, and at the moment when debased by a criminal accusation which might affect his liberty, and perhaps his life, and the doom which he was sensible awaited a long course of iniquity, served but to increase his desperation; and when it is reflected that such a hand had already grasped, and a moment’s delay might have put him in possession of a deadly weapon, by which the innocent might have fallen, it will be seen that there was but little time for the exercise of cool deliberation. The deceased a few years since married the Widow HARDEN, other reports are current to the prejudice of his character, but as he is now beyond the reach of human law the world would be but little interested by the disclosure of facts revolting to nature and morality.
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