Part of the Acorn Archive

Hearts of Oak



Captain J L Vivian Millett

The Ships Page 4



The Murder of Captain Lyall

of the



The Times 5th January 1891

Murder on the High Seas.

A Hindoo, named Bagwan, has been brought prisoner to Liverpool in the steamship DAKOTA, from New York and will, today, be charged before the Liverpool stipendary with having caused the death of Captain Lyall, of the British Ship, BUCKINGHAM. The prisoner was cook on board, and, on the 11th October last, two days after leaving Dundee for New York, Captain Lyall is alleged to have assaulted him for some dereliction of duty. A quarter of an hour afterwards the captain was found lying dead in the mess room with four wounds in his head, which had evidently been inflicted with a sheath knife. The instrument had in each case penetrated into the brain, and in one case extended from the crown of the head through one of the eyes. Any one would was sufficient to cause death. The tragedy happened upon the anniversary of Captain Lyall's wedding, and Mrs Lyall was in the mess room at the time of the murder.


14th January 1891

The Times

Murder on Shipboard

A Hindoo, named Bhagwan, of the Jessawarri caste, was yesterday charged, at the Liverpool Police Court, with having caused the death of Cpatain peter Lyall, of the British Ship BUCKINGHAM. While the ship was at Dundee the prisoner and the deceased had a quarrel, and, just before sailing, one of the apprentices asked the prisoner if he was not frightened to come on board again after the quarrel with the captain. He replied "No: if the captain strikes me I will kill him". On the following day, when at sea, the prisoner was seen sharpening a knife ( produced ) on a grinding stone. On the 11th of October a complaint was made to the captain that the prisoner had not got breakfast ready for the sailors, and later in the day the captain noticed that the men had not gone to their dinners. He inquired the reason, and was told that the prisoner had refused to cook the potatoes. The captain then sent the steward for the prisoner, who said, "Tell the captain me not commenced". Another messenger received a like answer. The prisoner came to the cabin door, and the deceased slapped him in the face with his open hand and took him into the store room. Four or five minutes afterwards the steward took the captain's dinner into the saloon, and in the corner of the store room the captain lying on his back and to all appearance dead. Others of the crew were called, and the prisoner said, "Captain took knife to kill me: me took knife from captain and kill him". The prisoner was placed in custody, and, while on the voyage to New York, called the boatswain, and said "Boatswain, me kill captain and do everyone good". There were tow wounds on the deceased, one over the left eye, which must have been the result of great violence, as the knife had gone through the captain's cap peak, and had been driven right up to the hilt into the brain, and a similar one on the left temple, where the knife had gone in to the same extent. The prisoner, who reserved his defence, was committed for trial at the assizes.


17th March 1891

the Times

Murder on the High Seas

At Liverpool Assizes yesterday, before Mr Justice Day, Bhagwar Jassiwarra, a coolie, was charged with the murder of Peter Lyall on board the British ship BUCKINGHAM on the high seas on October 11 last. Mr Hopwood, QC and Mr Tidswell were for prosecution; and Mr Maddern for the defence. The deceased man was captain of the BUCKINGHAM, a four masted sailing ship. The prisoner had sailed under Captain Lyall before, and had complained of his having struck him. He had gone so far as to take out a summons for this assault, which was heard and dismissed at Dundee, while the ship was lying at that port. Before sailing, however, he came back on board and sailed withthe ship. He was placed in the galley to act as cook, which it was suggested, was offensive to his Eastern faith, but he never said so. On October 10 he was seen sharpening a knife, and said "If captain strike me, me kill him". On the 11th there was a complaint against him that breakfast was late. At the dinner hour dinner was only partially prepared. The captain was informed of this, and sent for him in to the saloon, and he was brought in that direction. He ran back to where some of the crew were, where he pulled a knife from his pocket and said "Suppose captain makes trouble with me, me kill him quick". He was taken to the captain at the door of the saloon, where the captain struck him two blows with his open hand and put him into the saloon, out of which there was a store room, in which he intended to lock him up. There was no witness of what took place in this room, but about six minutes afterwards the prisoner came out, and on the mate and others going in they found the captain lying down bathed in blood, with two deep wounds over the eye and temple, and in two minutes his heart ceased to beat and he was buried at sea. On being charged by the mate, the prisoner said "Yes, I kill him". For the defence, a trustworthy witness was called to speak of the conduct of the late Captain Lyall. he described him as a "brute" and gave evidence thereof. In the result the jury brought in a verdict of Guilty, but with a strong recommendation to mercy. The prisoner was sentenced to death.



Raymond Forward