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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

The Crux of the Crux

The Crux of the Crux.

"Dr. Findlay put it," said Mr. Atkinson in his reply," that, these two skins found in Meikle's smithy were the crux of the case. I put it to your Honours that the crux of the sheep issue is Lambert's unexplained visit to Meikle's house on night of the 1st November." (C. 328.) What was the object of that visit ? Lambert's explanation of this mysterious incident is one of the few vital points in his testimony which have never varied. Here are his different statements:—

1887.—"Last time I was at Meikle's—about 6 p.m.—was before Arthur Meikle's arrest one or two nights. . . . Arthur turned grindstone for me, and while we were sharpening knife father came out."—(P. 21.)

1895.—"I went one night to get a knife sharpened. I do think the night before police came."—(P. 46.)

1906.—"Can you recall when you were last at Meikle's before the police searched?"—"Yes, I think the last time I was there I went to sharpen a knife."—(C. 177/618.)

As Arthur Meikle was arrested on the 4th November, and Lambert's visit was before the entry of the police on the 2nd the date cannot have been later than the 1st; nor will Lambert description of it as a night or two before Arthur's arrest all the placing of it further back. Thus, despite the doubt expressed by Lambert in 1895, we arrive from his own evidence in 1887 at the very night before the police came as, the date of his visit. The hour, according to his statement, was about p. m., but as his tea-time was "somewhere about 6 o'clock,"and he had had tea that evening, and then travelled a mile from hut to Meikle's—(C. 178/640-3), it must have been at least o'clock on his own showing. The Meikle household were all agreed that it was about two hours later.

"I do not know exactly. I took the knife up there."

Whether the hour was 7 or 9 o'clock, it is at any rate not disputed that the reason or the pretext for the visit was that page 25 Lambert wanted to get his knife sharpened. On this point he is in agreement with the Meikle family, and even, as we have seen, with himself. To further questions on the point before the Commission his replies were as follow:—

" Had you any reason for getting the knife sharpened ?"—" Yes; I was going to kill some sheep at the station."

"Did you spend the night in the hut or go on to the station?"—" I did not go on to the station."—(C. 178/646-7.)

He was unable to tell the Commission where he did go that evening, but he was quite clear about it in 1887 :—

"On day I sharpened knife I left Meikle's and went home, ten miles."—(P. 21.)

Lambert's home was at Mataura, which according to independent witnesses was fourteen miles distant by the main road and twelve miles by the shortest cut, but the discrepancy is of no very serious moment for the present purpose. Lambert's cross-examination on this point before the Commission con-cluded as follows:—

"Had you got any bag with you?"—" No, I had not."

"No blankets or anything else?"—"What would I take my blankets up there for ? I would have to fetch them a mile back again, as I would have to pass my hut when I left Meikle's to go home."

"I will put this to you in order to get at the other side :' Was it not a little bit out of your way to go to Meikle's to get a knife sharpened if you were going on to Mataura, ten miles, the same evening ?'"—" No, I do not think it was."

"Was Meikle's on the way to Mataura?"—" No."

"Was it [i.e., Mataura] not ten miles exactly in the opposite direction?"-" Yes."

Dr. Findlay: "He did not say that he came to get his knife sharpened."

Mr. Atkinson: "What did you come for?"—"1 do not know exactly. I took the knife up there."—(C. 178/667-672.)