HC Deb 21 March 1878 vol 238 cc1744-5

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether, in taking the steps detailed in the papers recently laid upon the Table of the House relative to the execution of a native of Tanna, the officer in command of the "Beagle" was not acting in excess of his instructions; whether, further, he was not inaccurate in reporting that there was no "direct proof" of Mr. Easterbrook's misconduct; and, if he is able to say what were the orders in the execution of which, as represented by Mr. Neilson, the missionary, the lives of nine Tannamen were taken, four of whom were absolutely free from complicity in the death of Mr. Easterbrook?


Sir, Commodore Hoskins directed Lieutenant Caffin to inquire into the murder of Mr. Easterbrook, and if he considered it was not his own misconduct which led to the commission of the deed, to take the necessary steps for the punishment of the murderer. It would appear that Lieutenant Caffin was not successful in obtaining possession of the actual murderer; but, acting upon his discretion, under the directions he had received, he tried an accessory to the murder and hanged him. I am not prepared to state that in doing so Lieutenan Caffin exceeded his instructions, as I find Commodore Hoskins states that he is disposed to think his proceedings generally deserving of approval. I do not feel myself at liberty to say whether there was or was not direct proof of Mr. Easterbrook's misconduct, as I am unable to say myself what weight should be given to the evidence taken on this subject by the Court. I am not aware that there were any orders which led to the lives of nine Tanna men being taken. We have no information on the subject beyond that it would appear the Natives of Tanna themselves put nine persons to death in their efforts to secure the actual murderer.


said, he wished to know how soon they might expect to receive the Papers referred to in the Answer of the right hon. Gentleman?


said, that in consequence of the distance of the place from this country, he did not think it possible that Commodore Hoskins could reply in less than sixweeks or twomonths. As soon as the reply had been received and considered by the Admiralty, it would be laid on the Table of the House.