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The Brabant Street Obeah Case. Defendants sentenced to three and one month respectively. Notice of appeal given

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The Brabant Street Obeah Case. Defendants sentenced to three and one month respectively. Notice of appeal given
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Port of Spain Gazette
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'Before Mr. H.D Huggins at the City police Court yesterday the adjourned case of Corporal Alexander against Arthur Clement and Mary Clement for receiving $6.02 from one Annie Stewart under the pretense of being able to restore her husband to health was resumed. Inspector May prosecuted for the Police and Mr. Gaston Johnston appeared for the defendants, who pleaded "not guilty."
At the instance of Inspector May a slight amendment to the charge was made, the words "under the pretense of being able etc" having been deleted and "by obtaining money by false pretenses with intent to defraud by the practice of obeah" substituted instead.

Corporal Alexander sworn said on the 2nd of July he obtained a warrant to search defendant's house for articles used in the practice of obeah. Between 4 and 5 p.m., accompanied by Sergeant Boyd he went to defendant's place. As soon as he got into the yard he met a young man who gave his name as John and a young woman named Mary John. The male defendant was wearing round his neck a chaplet. Witness asked him for his wife, meaning the other defendant. Before he answered, he observed a small door push open and the female defendant came to the door from inside with a candle in her hand.

Mr Johnston here objected to this evidence unless it led up to the specific charge against the defendants with respect to receiving money from Annie Stewart.

Witness (cont.): he also found a crucifix in a small room in the yard. He read the warrant and the female defendant ran to the back. Sergeant Boyd stopped her and at his request, she handed over a registered envelope containing two $1 notes and 4/- in silver coins which she carried in her hand. In a corner of the house he found several bottles tied together. In another portion of the house he found a vessel with oil into it and a wick burning. A woman named Adelaide went and put it out. He also saw two demijohns containing a liquid that to him tasted like sea water; a saucepan with something that smelt like rum.

Mr Johnston said there was a great difference between the specific charge of receiving money on false pretenses and the practicing of obeah.

The Magistrate said if it could be shown that those things had any influence on the woman Annie Stewart they could be put in.

Continuing witness said that he had found several envelopes and Annie Stewart handed a prescription. He also found a book marked "Kellers Wizards Annual."

Annie Stewart said --- her husband was sick. She knew the defendants and remembers seeing them on the 16th of May at Brabant Street at their house between 10 and 11 a.m. She went there on the advice of some one. Arriving there she saw the man Clement first, and her husband told him "I have come to you for you to get me better." The man told him to come into the house and they went in. The female defendant then came out with a crucifix on a hat stand in her hand and sat on a chair before the witness' husband with a lighted candle in her hand. She told him to look at her and then said that three Spirits were upon the witness' husband. Before saying that she said a prayer. The male defendant then sung a hymn and told witness's husband that he would take off the three spirits for $15. Witness said she had only 7/- and Clement said that was not sufficient. He then suggested that if witness could give him $5 he would take off one of the Spirits. They left and went back on the following day and defendant told them to buy three half bottles of rum and a fowl, as the three spirits were devil spirits and he could not take them off without the blood of a fowl. She then bought the rum and the fowl and the man brought three saucepans with three tumblers in them and a white plate. He then cut the fowl's throat over a white plate and put the plate with the blood in it between the witness's husband's legs above his knees, after he had put him to lay on the floor. All this time the female defendant was in and out getting breakfast. The male defendant then opened one half bottle of rum and threw its contents into a saucepan and lit it with a match. He then put a bottle with some liquid on her husband's stomach and said a prayer from a book and extinguished the light, saying that is one of the spirits off. He did this three times saying each time "the spirit is off." After that he then told the witness's husband to pay him $5, and at the latter's request witness handed him (defendant) $5, who then gave her a bit of paper and told her to buy several things on it from the drug shop. He then told her husband to take a bath for six days and return to him. The female defendant gave him the names of the different things to write on the piece of paper, her eyes being closed the while. Witness's husband went home and at the end of the six days returned. He had grown worse and she called in a doctor. He died on the 17th of last month. She went to the defendant to please her husband, but quarreled all the way home. She knew nothing of mesmerism. She did not know that the crucifix was a representation of Our Lord. She has seen a crucifix in the church, which was like the one shown her, but she did not believe in the latter. She did not believe that the female defendant was in a hypnotic sleep but only pretending. Her husband had been ailing since January. When she took him from the hospital in March, she did not take him to another doctor. He had seen Doctors Camps and Kenny before going to the hospital. She saw defendants as a last resort although she was not impressed with anything she saw them do when she parted with her $5. She did not know if they had performed something supernatural by curing her husband.

Mr Johnston: (Prosecution) should put before His Worship the particular facts that they relied upon as having operated upon the woman Stewart's mind to make her believe the defendants were possessed of supernatural power to enable them to carry out what they represented to her. They had heard the woman herself say that she did not believe the defendants could do anything to her husband but only went there to satisfy him. --- the crucifix and other articles --- were mere symbols used in their faith as Roman Catholics.

His Worship did not think that the state of the woman's mind when she consulted defendant was material except the charge was for obtaining money on false pretences alone, but then it was for practicing obeah and the fact of her disbelief in the performance did in no measure effect the obtaining of the money by the defendants. The question really was whether the defendants really assumed the possession of supernatural power. --- the real essence of the prosecution was that the performance should be regarded with respect to the lights and so on. It was said that the male defendant in putting out the lights informed the sick party that he was driving out the three evil spirits which dominated him. He thought there was evidence of the assumption of supernatural power.

Defendant, Arthur Clement, witnessed: He was the husband of the other defendant. He was a painter by trade and his wife was a mesmerist. On the 17th of May a woman and her husband came to him and said that some one had told her that his wife gave bush remedies. His wife asked her if she had seen a doctor and she had seen two and apart from them her husband was treated at the hospital to no benefit. Witness's wife then said she would see what she could do for her. The woman then went and bought a candle and witness's wife gazed at the candle while the sick man held it. She soon fell asleep. It was the usual way in which she hypnotized herself. While in that sleep the sick man spoke to her and told her to try and see what she could do for him as he was suffering very long. Witness's wife while under that sleep mentioned the remedies and he wrote them down. The sick man's wife gave him 2s. after he had given her the list containing the remedies. She went away and returned in six days and his wife slept again and the woman gave him 2s. more. He never told her anything about removing spirits. She never paid him $5. Nobody has ever paid him $5; he was always paid 2s. The cutting of a fowl throat etc. never occurred. His wife was a Roman Catholic and used the glasses to burn oil. His wife has slept for a large number of persons in the community in all stations of life and has cured them when doctors failed. She always charged 2s.; sometimes she is made a present apart from that amount. Defendant had been married for two years, he was sick for three years and seven months and was attended by Dr. Proctor to no avail. His present wife cured him and by way of recompense he got married to her.

Cross-examined: He did not marry her because she was doing a good business in the curing line. It was not a fact that he lived off her earnings and he did nothing but bring patients for her. He denied having worn the chaplet on the 23rd. He could not account for the circular marks on the bottom of the saucepans which appeared to have been caused by the top of a glass. He was not aware that assefetida was used in spiritualistic treatment.

The persons whom defendant had treated were called for the defence. Each of them said they had been given over by doctors before consulting "Ma Joe" who cured them by the use of bush medicine and baths. Among them was a Chinaman who had been knocked down by some unknown person three years ago at Robert Street and was attended to at the hospital for a fracture of the skull. He remained there for seventeen days and was pronounced incurable by several doctors. He was now well and able to attend his work by the efficacy of Madam Joe's treatment. There was another man who had suffered pneumonia and yet another who suffered from an indescribable complaint.

Mr. Johnston said there were other persons who had benefitted from the defendant's treatment whom he wanted to call but owing to their public positions they asked him to be allowed to give evidence in camera.

His Worship said that if that were once done it would be difficult for him. The Court would be confronted with similar applications. --- He did not want to establish such a precedent. The whole case was to his mind whether the woman Stewart had spoken the truth. He believed she had. It was true that certain things shown could not be regarded as having been used for carrying out supernatural practices but there were some which brought them within the pale of the law. From the evidence the female defendant so closely identified herself with what took place that he must include her in the conviction. He sentenced the man to three months and the woman to a month.

Mr. Johnston gave a notice of appeal.'

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