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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

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Mr. Mueller,

As intimated to you at the close of this enquiry, I now address you on the evidence brought before you, and with confidence I submit that the cases have been very rare where & man has been subjected to an investigation into his official and private conduct under, as you must be aware, such adverse and uncongenial circumstances, and yet has, as in this case, I urge, on even a reasonable reading of the evidence, emerged from that investigation with his character redeemed, and with clear proof that his services as Road Overseer, were without sufficient reasons dispensed with.

You will remember that Mr. Murphy was road overseer under the late Mr. J. C. Blythe for a period of about two and a-half years; that his capabilities as road overseer have been admitted by all previous engineers over him, and also, as this enquiry has proved (vide the evidence of Messrs. Butt, Taylor, McCrae, and others), and that he (Mr. Murphy), at Mr. Blythe's express wish, resided in his house up to the latter's death, which resulted from the effects of pyrogallic acid used by him in photography; and a quantity of which he had taken a few days before his death. As you are aware, the evidence shows that Mrs. Blythe had nearly two months previously become a Roman Catholic, she and her husband (he a lay reader) having previously belonged to the Church of England. Murphy being a Roman Catholic was credited or blamed for Mrs. Blythe's conversion. This is clear from the "talk" in Rotorua, and, in fact, evidence was adduced at this enquiry (via, evidence of Mr. and Mrs. Scott—a native) to show that Mr. Blythe was disturbed in mind and heart at his wife's conversion. The value of this evidence was, however, wholly destroyed by evidence adduced on the defence, viz., that Mr. Blythe had himself helped to decorate the Rotorua Catholic Church on Christmas Eve, and had also at Christmas inscribed to his wife a Catholic Prayer Book as a Christmas present. No doubt, however, can rest on anyone's mind, after reading the letter [Exhibit "L," written December, 1891] of the Rev. Mr. Spencer, in which he requests Mr. Blythe "To pass me by" in absolute silence, also my wife and my children," and the letter of the Rev. Mr. Willis, where he says, "I cannot help feeling you "(i. e., Mrs. Blythe) have made shipwreck of your faith in becoming "a member of the Roman Catholic Church, and made void the "Word of God by the acceptance of the traditions of men."

No doubts I say, can rest on anyone's mind but that, taking these letters together with Mr. Griffiths, evidence, a strong feeling of antagonism to Murphy, the overseer, and Mrs. Blythe, on the part page 2 of a narrow minded "set" who would like to govern Rotorua, and that) Murphy's expulsion from the district was by them decreed. Hence, when the inquest took place on Mr. Blythe's body, efforts were made to implicate Murphy and Mrs. Blythe, but without success. It may be mentioned that Mr. Griffiths had telegraphed to Inspector Broham urging a thorough investigation, but when called upon to give evidence at the inquest, I believe, said he knew nothing. The Coroner and the jury also discarded the statements of a certain half-caste, named Yates (whose evidence in this enquiry has been proved in several respects to be false), as mere irrelevant gossip. His testimony, in consequence, as you know, does not even appear in the inquest proceedings. Yates had a grievance because Ely the—and he blames Murphy for it (see Yates' evidence)—dad not give him work for a whole year (1891), and thus foiled at the inquest, efforts were immediately set about to defame both Mr. Murphy and Mrs. Blythe, and as a consequence the solemn declarations subsequently made by four natives, before the Clerk of the Court, Mr. Dansey, whose wife is a Maori, and related to Arama Karaka, one of the declarant witnesses. From the evidence of Mrs. Blythe, corroborated by the Rev. J. A. Hollierhock, there is little room for doubt but that Yates, and possibly others, instigated these four natives to make these declarations; because Wiripini, one of the natives, before making her declaration, told both Mrs. Blythe and the Rev. Hollierhock, that Yates wanted her (Wiripini) to make statements against Mrs. Blythe, "but that she knew nothing;" consequently some influence must have been at work, as this same Wiripini subsequently did make her declaration referred to. These so-called statutory declarations were of an extraordinary and defamatory nature against the characters of both Mr. Murphy and Mrs. Blythe, and by wicked influence and alleged circumstance, attributing to them undue familiarity and even improper intimacy.

It is necessary to observe here that no notice was sent by Mr. Dansey either to Mr. Murphy or to Mrs. Blythe, or to myself, as her solicitor, whose presence in Rotorua was generally known. Had Murphy, or Mrs. Blythe, or myself been notified, as in fairness I think should have been the case, denials at least of these damaging statements by the parties concerned might have accompanied the declarations.

I say, in fairness, because not only was a man's official and private position and character thus secretly assailed, but also the virtuous character of a woman cruelly traduced. And Mr. Dansey should have known (for he is also Clerk of the Court) that had these natives' statements been made at the inquest, as he subsequently wrote to the Coroner they were intended to have been, they would have met the same fate as Yates3, by not being listened to, or, if listened to, subjected to cross-examination by the parties a fleeted, at id the Coroner and jury. Moreover, Mr. Dansey, though taking down these natives' statutory declarations, in forwarding them to the Coroner (by letter attached to the papers, dated 5th January—three days after they were taken down) stated in effect that they page 3 had no bearing on Mr. Blythe's death; but, he added, the grave and unwarrantable statement that "They (the Maori declarations) "showed what prompted a man of sensitive nature to commit" the rash act, and who were at least morally responsible." This statement, and his conduct in the face of the fact that he had not notified Murphy or Mrs Blythe of the damaging allegations by the natives, I took occasion at the enquiry to denounce as cowardly in the extreme, and assassin-like; and I hope Mr. Dansey will avail himself of the opportunity which professionally I have offered him of expressing his regret for the extremely criminal imputation above written by him, Whatever other motive was in Mr. Dansey's mind, his personal design to bring about Murphy's dismissal is clear, for he follows up the paragraph just above quoted, with this vindictive aspiration:—" I hope these papers (the Maori declarations, forsooth) will be brought under the notice of the Surveyor-General as regards the conduct of Murphy (the road overseer) in "this sad affair"

What the Surveyor-General would have done apart from Mr. Dansey's letter, I do not know; but the fact is, Mr. Dansey's apparently ardent desire was satisfied, as the Surveyor-General subsequently sent an urgent wire to Mr. Malfroy (a Government officer temporarily in charge of the Road Department after Mr. Blythe's death) to dispense with Murphy's services in these terms, "In view" (to use the Surveyor-General's own words) "of the" disclosures which were made at the recent enquiry into the death "of the late Mr. Blythe, it is considered that Overseer Murphy" should not be retained in the Government service." Now by "recent enquiry" the Surveyor-General must have ostensibly meant the inquest proceedings. But as a fact these proceedings (which are recorded in the Justice File, and were produced at this enquiry) in no way reflect upon Murphy, and I challenge the most scrupulous analysis of the inquest evidence to disclose the slightest r effect ion upon Murphy, and this is supported by the verdict of the Coroner's jury, which attaches no responsibility to anyone but the late Mr. Blythe himself for his unfortunate decease.

As the inquest disclosed nothing derogatory to Murphy, it in evident that the Surveyor-General must have had running in his mind the natives' declarations, which did contain the grossest slanders on the characters of Murphy and Mrs. Blythe. And I submit that it was a very unusual and unfair proceeding, without calling on Murphy for any explanation whatever, to practically dismiss him from the Public Service on the ex parte and uncorroborated statements of natives.

It is necessary at this point to refer to an important incident. It appears that Mr. Malfroy was requested by the Surveyor-General to communicate to the department certain information regarding the position of public moneys in the late Mr. Blythe's hands. In reply to this enquiry, Mr. Malfroy unsolicitedly added the unwarrantable statement that he believed Mr. Blythe's death was "attributable to family troubles." As Mr. Blythe had no children, page 4 the cruel imputation in this telegram could only refer to Mrs. Blythe, or be possibly intended as a discreditable suggestion against Murphy. Mr. Malfroy had the harshness to show this reply to Mrs. Blythe, who at once indignantly telegraphed to the Surveyor-General, stating that there was nothing on her part in her relations to her husband which warranted Mr. Malfroy m making these untruthful statements, The Surveyor-General replied to Mrs. Blythe expressing his sympathy in her bereavement, and also his assurance that "nothing in his home life caused him (Mr. Blythe) to leave it."

I may also mention that on the 2nd of January, 1892 (the day of the evening on which the natives' declarations were made), I was in Rotorua, acting as solicitor for Mrs. Blythe, and in the course of an interview with Mr. Malfroy he also showed me his telegram above referred to. I at once pointed out that the Department had not even asked him for his opinion in any way as to the canse of Mr. Blythe's death, and now that the inquest had exonerated everyone, he was in honour and duty bound to retract his previous statement, This he did in a telegram to the Surveyor-General, in which he stated that, "from the result of the inquest and other inquiries, "he (Mr. Malfroy) found he was not 'justified' in attributing Mr. Blythe's death to family troubles," The rashness of Mr. Malfroy in sending a telegram which he had so soon to contradict needs no further comment. Though the natives' declarations could not have been seen by the Surveyor-Gen eral, their progress, I believe, was known to Mr. Malfroy, and Mr. Malfroy's first implicating telegram and the two telegraphic replies, dated respectively the 2nd and 5th January, 1892 (of the Surveyor-General and Mr. Malfroy), prove at least three things—that the Survey or-General knew of no impropriety, and believed none to exist, between Murphy and Mrs. Blythe; 2nd, that the inquest having concluded on the 3lst December, 1891, and the Surveyor-General's telegram to Mrs. Blythe being dated the 5th January, 1892, and Mr. Malfroy's retracting telegram to him being dated the 2nd of January, 1892, or two days after the inquest, at which Mr. Malfroy was present, the inquest proceedings resulted in no disclosures whatever, much less anything reflecting on Murphy; 3rd, that Mr. Malfroy's telegram attributing the death to family troubles showed that he also entertained an impliedly strong design against Murphy, as well as against Mrs. Blythe, which he afterwards, by his own telegram, declared to be unjustifiable.

It is of importance to bear in mind all the Surveyor-General's telegrams already alluded to, especially the one to Mr. Malfroy dispensing with Murphy's services. For, when acting for Murphy, I telegraphed to the Minister of Lands pointing out that he (Murphy) had been unjustly dismissed, without being called on for any defence or explanation (the correspondence on this matter I presume is all in the Survey Departmental file), and asking," before final "action." to grant an enquiry, I was met by the reply from the Surveyor-General on the 25th February, 1892, that "the Depart- page 5 "merit had made no charge" against Murphy, but circumstances "had come to our knowledge which renders it advisable to make "several changes," and adding that the Minister would have an enquiry made if I thought justice demanded it, This reply is, as it seems to me, a contradiction in itself, for while it alleges "no" charge," it suggests the strongest charges by innuendo, which is one of the worst forms of accusation. This reply, also, is hardly ingenuous; indeed it is again contradictory of his (the Surveyor-General's) instructional to Mr. Malfroy of the 10th February, 1892, to dispense with Murphy's services. The positions taken up by the Surveyor-General are wholly inconsistent and illogical, because, if there was "no charge" against Murphy, then there was no reason to dispense with his services, for there has never been any allegation of retrenchment mentioned. If there was "no charge" by the Department against Murphy, then I confidently submit it is a somewhat extraordinary proceeding to dismiss, on ex partestatements of outsiders—these Maoris—a public servant who previously held an unvariedly good character for work and conduct, and without even calling on him for an explanation.

In the same telegram to me, the Surveyor-General says, "The Government has the right to dismiss any of its servants," But dismissal implies misconduct or other sufficient charge or reason, and if "the Department makes no charge," surely this is rather a high-handed doctrine to propound with regard to public servants.

Following this narration it is necessary to know that I next interviewed the Minister of Lands in Auckland with the view of pursuing my request for an impartial enquiry. I represented to him that a wrong course had been taken in dispensing with Murphy's services summarily when ostensibly no charge was made against him, and asked that he might be simply "suspended," and a proper investigation held. The position of the Minister at this stage of the case made me quite appreciate his unwillingness to suddenly reverse the action taken by the departmental head of his Department; but he granted the enquiry, with the right to me to appear for Murphy, etc. I stipulated, amongst other things, that I should be supplied with the fullest information of everything in the nature of accusation. This the Minister agreed to, and he nominated your self—Mr. Gerhard Mueller, Commissioner of Crown Lands, Auckand—to hold the enquiry, though I mentioned that I would have preferred a person with some judicial training or experience, and who was not an officer in the Department under the Surveyor, General, I had at the time no reason (as you, Mr. Mueller, were little known to me) to think otherwise than that the conduct of the enquiry would be marked by the strictest independence and impartiality, and therefore made no opposition to the appointment. So much for the narration leading up to the enquiry.