NAIROBI NEWS: 1920 “NATIVE MURDER – THE HAWKINS CASE: PART 2”
In mid-April, Captain Longley Hawkins accused several Kikuyu workers of stealing a box containing 400 rupees. Soon after, he and a Kavirondo askari, beat and brutalized the men and one man’s mother to induce confession. By mid-June, an enquiry into the death of one of those Kikuyu, a man named Meharu, put Captain Hawkins under arrest with bail and surety amounting to 12,000 rupees. The askari committed suicide.
The trial captured the attention of the entire colony. While many felt that Captain Hawkins deserved punishment for his cruelty, others maintained that threat of the kiboki (a whip of hippo hide) was the only way to enforce order on their farms and that this trial undermined the settlers’ authority.
One of the more horrifying aspects of the trial was Hawkins use of the “smelling out ordeal” where the natives were told to lick a hot knife to see if they were guilty or innocent. The rational, according to the accused, was that an innocent man had plenty of saliva and would come off unscathed whereas a guilty man would be dry-mouthed. Of the four Kikuyu accused, Meharu refused to lick the knife. Hawkins saw this as a sign of guilt. When Meharu refused to confess, he was beaten to his death. Meharu’s mother was also beaten and that, more than anything else, moved the general opinion against Hawkins whose motto was “kiboko first and enquire afterwards.”
The trial included testimony of several Kikuyu, Captain Hawkins associates, and Dr. Henderson who had examined Meharu’s mother. Witnesses regarded Hawkins as “rather a callous person” not above beating animals either.
Justice Maxwell, who presided over the trial, determined that, according to medical evidence, all the Kikuyu had “received grievous bodily harm such as to endanger life.” The question for the jury was, “whether the hurt was received only from Hassandra the askari or from the accused, or did accused by his presence countenance the acts of the askari.”
The jury deliberated for “over an hour.” They found Hawkins guilty of “simple hurt on the counts of Maheru and the woman, and guilty of grievous hurt with reference to the boys Richu and Kamangu.” Justice Maxwell sentenced Hawkins to two periods of two years “rigorous imprisonment” to run concurrently and in the case of the woman, a fine of 2,000 rupees or nine months prison.
The images and quotes were taken from The Leader of British East Africa August 14, 1920.
NEXT WEEK: Trains vs African Wildlife
NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter, all available in trade paperback.. The fourth book The Leopard’s Prey, is available in hardcover. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH will be released Sept. 1, 2009. An excerpt and information on pre-ordering signed copies is available at the website: www.suzannearruda.com. Follow short updates on http://twitter.com/SuzanneArruda