The Courier

The Courier

September 5th 1844

Murder of an American Captain on the High Seas

The Thomas Bennett, a vessel on her voyage from Liverpool to Charleston SC, whence she sailed on the 3rd instant, returned on the 14th, in consequence of the murder of the captain by the cook. She had been out five days when the melancholy event occurred, but had only reached the Bay of Biscay when the chief mate put back, and on arrival the murderer, a fine looking fellow named John Kent, was apprehended, and placed in confinement.

It appears that Captain Halsey, the commander of the vessel, though generally a very sober man, had been under the influence of potent draughts from the time he put to sea. One day, it is averred, he drank no less than a pint of brandy. Under the excitement produced by ardent spirits he rushed on deck, having been dissatisfied with the preparation of his dinner, when an altercation took place between him and the cook in the caboose.

The captain, it is said, had a knife in his hand at the time and immediately after he was seen to fall, the blood flowing from his person; and, when picked up, several wounds of a fatal nature were found on his chest, throat and other parts of his person, inflicted by the cook. An investigation before the magistrates on the 15th was adjourned to ascertain the law of the case, the chief magistrate intimating that as the vessel was under American colours, and the murdered man a citizen of the United States, it might be necessary to send the man out there to be tried.

A coroners inquest was held on the body, and after a patient investigation of two days by a jury of merchants called off ‘Change for the purpose, they returned a verdict of ‘Justifiable Homicide’ believing that the fatal accident was in self defence.

The man however, was not set at liberty upon this verdict, as he was claimed by the American Consul on behalf of the United States Government, and remanded to receive the answer of the Secretary of State, as to his being given up, to be tried there.

The body of Captain Halsey was interred in St James Cemetery on the 15th, attended from the Grecian Hotel by most of the American Captains in port. The deceased, we understand, was a widower, and has left a family of six children.

Mike Faulkner 2016