Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another use for a wooden leg

From the Feilding Star, 13 July 1906

Christchurch, Thursday.

A shocking tragedy occurred at Lincoln this morning. A young man named Charles McCutcheon was to have been married in the Lincoln Presbyterian Church at 11.30 a.m., and all arrangements had been made. McCutcheon was at the church waiting for the bride, and there was no hint of anything in the nature of a tragedy, until at 11.15 Detectives Bishop and Ward arrested the man in the church on a charge of having forged a cheque for £158 at Wellington.

McCutcheon made no resistance when arrested. He remarked that he would be able to clear himself, and gave Detective Ward an account of his movements, with the object of showing that he had not been in Wellington on May 31st — the date on which he is alleged to have cashed a forged cheque for £158 on the name of his employer, Mr A W. Andrews, of Greenpark. McCutcheon seemed quite resigned to his position, and, in the words of one of the detectives, was " as cool as a cucumber."

A few minutes after his arrest McCutcheon asked that, he might be allowed to speak to the clergyman who was to have married him, the Rev W Spence. The request seemed reasonable, and the prisoner was allowed to go into a front room of the manse with Mr Spence. Detective Bishop had gone away a little distance, and Detective Ward remained on the steps at the front door, from where he could see the prisoner. In order to speak to his companion, however, Detective Ward lost sight of MucCutcheon for a few minutes, and the prisoner took advantage of the opportunity to secure Mr Spence's permission to retire to a lavatory at the back of the manse.

The detectives were at the door a few moments he had entered, but almost immediately a shot was heard. The door was opened, and McCutcheon was found lying on the floor with a smoking revolver in his hand and a large bullet wonnd in his forehead.

Dr Logan was soon on the spot, and found the man still breathing, but evidently very badly wounded. He did what was possible under the circumstances, and ordered that the wounded man should be removed to the Christchurch Hospital. A start was made accordingly in a waggonette, the detectives and the doctor accompanying the prisoner, but McCutcheon died on the way. The body was taken direct to the morgue, where it now lies.

How McCutcheon had managed to secrete the revolver was shown when an examination was made of the body. He had a wooden leg, and there was a large cavity in the side which would easily contain the weapon. The trouser leg had been pulled up to enable him to reach the hiding-place. The revolver is a large one, nearly new and contained two exploded shells. As only one shot was fired by McCutcheon after his arrest, it appears he had tried the weapon beforehand. He seemed to have prepared for what he felt might happen. 

A report published in the Weekly News at the time said that the inside of the hidden compartment in the leg had been specially lined with felt, to prevent the gun rattling around. While McCutcheon was speaking privately with Rev Spence, according to the Poverty Bay Herald, he was getting the reverend and the reverend's wife to witness his last will and testament, leaving all his worldly possessions to his fiancee.

From the Bush Advocate, 18 July 1906:

The formal charge preferred against McCutcheon, who shot himself at the Presbyterian manse at Lincoln last week, was that on May 31st, at Wellington, he forged and uttered a cheque on the Union Bank of Australia, Wellington, for the sum of £158 7s 3d, in the name of A W Andrew, of Tai Tapu, farmer. McCutcheon, it appears, had been working for Mr Andrew, of Tai Tapu, as a general farm hand for the past two years.

He left on May 17th last, and proceeded to Wellington, where he introduced himself to Messrs Harcourt and Co., land agents, as Mr A W Andrew, of Tai Tapu, Canterbury, farmer. He then entered into negotiations with them for the purchase of a 415-acre farm in the Wellington district, the price to be £9 5s per acre. He requested a member of the firm to introduce him to the manager of  the Wellington branch of the Union Bank, which was done, and he then asked the manager to telegraph to Christchurch to fiud out the state of his account. This also was done, and a reply received giving the amount standing to the credit of Mr Andrew. He thereupon asked for a cheque, and on the form beiug supplied to him, filled it up for £158 7s 3d, signed it, and handed it over as a deposit on the purchase. The fraud was discovered, and the matter placed in the hands ot the police.

McCutcheon was a man of from thirty to thirty-five years of age, and waa a general farm labourer by occupation. On June 28th, 1899, he was convicted at Christchurch of horae stealing, and was placed on probation for four years. On August 6th of the following year, however, he was convicted on three charges of forging and uttering, and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. He served his term, and was liberated on November 21st, 1903. He has been living in the Ellesmere district for the past three years.


  1. I should be sad after reading that, but it is kind of amusing.

  2. It is a little sad but what a silly bugger, obviously not big on thinking well ahead with his plots.
    Apart from lining his wooden leg with felt *snort*

  3. Cheers, Andrew and Jayne. The story was just too quirky not to share.