HC Deb 25 February 1901 vol 89 cc1022-3

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War, whether the post of chief clerk to the Provost Marshal at Bloemfontein has been or is held by a person going by the name of Sutherland; whether the real name of this person is Atherstone, and as such he was some years ago found guilty and condemned to death for shooting a native, whose grave he had previously dug; and whether he was reprieved by President Steyn, the death penalty being commuted to penal servitude for life, which sentence he was serving on the entry of the British troops into Bloem- fontein, when he was released from the convict prison, and shortly after given the post above described.


Atherstone is an ex-Sergeant-Major of Royal Artillery, who was discharged in 1886. He was convicted of murder in the Free State in 1894 and his sentence was commuted to penal servitude by the late President Mr. Steyn. Considerable doubt, however, arose subsequently as to the reliability of the evidence on which this conviction was based, and on the British occupation of Bloemfontein it was found that the Executive Council had ordered his release to take place in November, 1900, and that Mr. Steyn had informed Atherstone that he would be released at an earlier date. Under these circumstances the Military Governor of the Orange River Colony, having after inquiry formed the opinion that the conviction could not be upheld, sanctioned the man's release in March, 1900. He was subsequently employed in the purely clerical work of making out returns in the Provost Marshal's office, but was in no sense that official's chief clerk.