Rex v. Sekkeena

In this complex case, the witnesses are six women and one man. Sekkeena is accused of murder for having beaten Noorun to death. The first witness, Sheik Daiem Ally, says that the dispute began between Islam Beeby & Noorun, but that Sekkeena delivered the death blows. The next witness, Islam Beeby, said the dispute began when Sheik Daiem beat her. She then got into a fight with the deceased, Noorun, which was broken up by the group. The next witnesses are a servants and slaves and their testimony reveals a different reality.

The last witness is called by Sekkeena, the accused. Moidah is a servant who tended Noorun after the fight and she says Noorun died from cholera. Sekkeena, speaking on her own behalf, says that she does not know why they would accuse her of murder and can only guess it was so they could sell her daughter into slavery. The verdict is not guilty.

Thursday 12 June 1788

Present – Chambers, Hyde & Jones Justices

The King

The prisoner (who is a woman) is indicted for having feloniously and of malice aforethought struck beat & kicked with hands & feet one Noorun (another women) on the head stomach, back, belly, & sides, & having cast her on the ground, and with having by such Casting on the ground beating & kicking, given to the said Noorun several mortal bruises on the 15th of May 1788, of which she died on the 16th. And the Jurors further present that the fact was committed in Calcutta.

The Pris having pleaded Not guilty – the following Jury was sworn to try her:

1 Robert Hutchinson
2 James Scott
3 Willm Higgs
4 Peter Lumsaiden
5 Josiah Morgan
6 W Williams
7 Saml Jones
8 Jas Hennes
9 Geo Munro
10 Geo Gordon
11 Rich Blechynden
12 John Jas Ullman

1 Witness for the King
Sheik Daiem Ally
[Persian writing] Sworn on the Coran.

I knew Noorun she was my Nikai wife. I know the prisoner she was wet nurse to a child of one Islam Beeby who is a slave girl of mine. I am by profession a Munshy but have been out of employment for about 8 years, except occasionally teaching Persian and now & then writing a Persian letter.

I was not present when the dispute happened between Islam Beeby & Noorun, the day before Noorun died, which happened one day last month but when I came home on the day of the quarrel, Noorun had fainted away and was unable to speak, her teeth were fixed. When she came to herself, I asked her what hurt she had received. She answered that she had received a hurt on her head & on her belly, that Islam Beeby had hurt her head by throwing her against the Ground and that the prisoner had kicked her Belly 4 times she said the hurt on her head was caused by hitting the sill of the Door.

She complained most of her belly. She said Islam Beeby first took her by the hair of her head. That the cause of the quarrel was Noorun’s complaining of her having too much work to do now she was with child. She said that the first blow was given by Islam. Noorun said she’d had a great deal of work on account of the death of her late Mistress, i.e. (says Witness) of my Bahaty wife.

The principal hurt Noorun had received was in my opinion & in her own the hurt in the Belly. And I conceived it to be the cause of her death. She was in the 9th month of her pregnancy, but was not delivered. A Dai came but could not assist her, she said the child was dead. I did not tell her that Noorun had received any hurt because if I had, the Dai would not have attended her for fear of getting into trouble, or hurting her own reputation as a Midwife.

I argd the Tanr with N’s death.

The prisoner & decedent had no previous quarrel to my knowledge. They all lived in my house.

In Answer to questions from the prisoner, the Witness says

I purchased Noorun then a young woman at Khanpur, & kept her myself. (For 20 Rupees). I sent a person to Furrockabad, who purchased Islam for me & I gave her to my Mother in Law Kerimah. I ordered that person to purchase for me one or two slave girls, they only bought Islam, then about 12 years old; I gave the person 50 Rupees to purchase her. This was 6 years ago; & 3 years ago Noorun was purchased. I own this is a very improper traffick for a Musselman.

2d Witness for the King.
Islam – a mussulman woman. Sworn on the Coran.

I was kept by a Major in the English Service who brought me from Khanpur into Bengal. When he went to Europe he recommended me to Major D’s brother when he left this country I was 1 months with a seafaring man, & when I came home to my house in Calcutta I found I was with child – but that gentleman died & I took care of the child myself.

This is the 3d year since I came into Bengal. It is true that I was purchased near Turrockabad 7 years ago by the Mother in Law of ye last Witness. Her name is Kerimah. She brought me to Khanpur where the Major saw me, & asked Kerimah if she would let me out, she agreed to let me out at 30 Rupees a month. I received it & after paying expenses gave the residue to Kerimah who lived with me. Sheik Dime Ally also live in the house.

About a Month ago Shaik Daiem Dime, ordered me to take a Cot into a Cook room and make his bed there. I refused, I told him Noorun will do it for me; he then threatened me, he would have my head, beat me and put me in Irons, and cut off my Nose. I told him it was not in his power to do so, because there was a Magistrate; then he gave me a slap, and threw me on my bed. I remained on the Cot senceless and with my teeth closed then the prisoner went and fetched some Water and threw it on my face, when I recovered Noorun came up to me and pulled my hair, and I pulled her hair, the Prisoner went to call Kurreema because Dime was beating me, and afterward he went to Dine to make his own story good. When I recovered I was going out into the Compound when Noorun came up to me and laid hold of my hair. I also took her by the hair. We began to struggle, she carried me close to the Wall, then we got nigh to the door, by the persuasion of a great many people who came there. I let go the hair of Noorun and she fell against the Threshold of the door, some of the people took me toward the door, what pass when I was gone I do not know after she fell I heard her say only “humks marra,” I am beaten. I know nothing further. This Quarrel was after Gun Fire at night. The next day at noon Noorun was well. I did not see her, but I heard so. At noon she began to be ill with vomiting and purging, and at night soon after Gun Fire she died as I heard. I did not see the Prisoner strike Noorun.

3d Witness for the King
Saheb Khatoon – a mussulman woman.
Sworn on Coran

I am a servant of Hindostany Ladies, but out of place. I knew Noorun, she was a woman belonging to Shaik Daiem Ally. I know the prisoner she was wet nurse to the child of Islam Beeby.

I was sitting in Banchoo Bengally’s house, for whose tenant, Chaund Beeby, I used to do business & with whom I lived, & hearing a great noise in Islam Beeby’s house, I went thither, & saw Islam having hold of Noorun’s hair, & when she let it go Noorun fell on the ground, her teeth closed & she seemed to be senceless. Then the prisoner came up & gave her 4 kicks – (Witness points out her hip) she kicked her here; not on the belly. I am sure she did not kick her on the belly.

A child of the prisoner about so high, shewing the height of a small child, then hit the arm of Noorun. Daiem Ally was in the house but not near the spot where the quarrel happened. I saw him in the Courtyard, but some people seized him lest he should beat Islam; not lest he should beat the prisoner.

The Kicks that the prisoner gave Noorun were by accident God ordained it. I only saw one kick Actually given, when the or 3 were given. I was at a distance, & as it was dark, I did not see the Kicks given, though I saw the leg, lifted up as if to kick. Shaik Daiem Ally came & lifted her up – He was within sight of the spot all the time. I went away as did other people. Next day at Noon I found Noorun vomiting & purging. I staid with her, & before she died Daiem Ally asked her in what part of the Belly she had received the hurt, & where she felt pain. She answered I don’t know but I received a hurt here (pointing to her Hip.) She died that night after Gun Fire.

She said nothing about the fall she had. I did not stay with her all that time.

In answer to Prisoner Witness says

I seized her hand, & said why do you beat Noorun she denied it but I said you give her a Kick.

In Answer to the Jury

Noorun did not complain of any pain in her belly but said I have received a hurt here (pointing to her hip.) I know not what is the cause of my Death.

She was seized with the Cholera Morbus on the next day after the qp at noon. It is a disorder that many people die of & several Died of it in that month. I never heard that it was produced by blows.

There was a Midwife called, but Noorun’s belly was cold & she was a dying. The Midwife did not say that the child was dead; but she said I don’t know whether she will have a child or no.

4th Witness for the King
Kerimah, Sw on Coran

I live by my labour I was formerly a servant & after the purchase of Beeby Islam, I lived on what she earned.

Noorun was a slave to my daughter. My daughter died about 17 days before Noorun. Noorun was with child I know not by whom, but Daiem Ally slighted my Daughter for her.

I have heard that Noorun died of a Kick but I did not see it. The prisoner came to call me. When I came, Noorun was sitting on the ground in the Courtyard.

The Prisoner being called upon for her Defence, desires to examine a witness, viz

Moidah – a Mussulman woman
1 Witness for Prisoner
She is sworn on the Coran.

Noorun cod not die of the beating for she continued well till next day at Noon. I lived in the house as a servant, & attended her, she had a violent Heizah, & brought up vast quantities of Bile. I have seen many in that illness, & if they drink cold water they die: She would have cold water I forbad it, but Shaik Daiem gave it, & she got up Frequently to get it herself.

I cannot pretend to say whether an accidental hurt can bring on the cholera Morbus or no.

She died at night after Gunfire.

I was present at the quarrel. First Shaik Daiem beat Islam Beeby, then Islam & Noorun quarreled & pulled hair, we parted then. Again they fell to I then sent the Prisoner to call Kerimah before they seized each other.

Islam letting go her hold Noorun fell to the ground. At that time Prisoner was come back; but I did not see any body kick her & I was there all the time, till she was raised up again.

I do not know of any body [ill] that had the Heiza at that time. It was about 4 or 5 days after the heavy rain. The place where this happened is in Calcutta.

The Prisoner only says further in her defense that she did not kick the decedent & that Noorun died of the Cholera Morbus. As to their motives (she said) for accusing me of having murdered her, I don’t know them; but as I am a widow without any protector perhaps when they had destroyed me they would make a slave of my little daughter.

Not Guilty

With this Verdict Mr. Justice Hyde & I were both satisfied, and I believe Sir W. Jones was so who heard almost the whole of the Evidence.