New Zealand Herald, 10 December 1925, Page 13






The full horror of the Straits Settlements tragedy on board the steamer Klang, when a Malay ran amok armed with a kis, is revealed in the details received by mail yesterday. The Malay fatally stabbed Captain Murdoch McDonald, who was born in Auckland, and killed seven other persons. Five others were wounded, including the chief engineer, Mr. William Rae. The Malay was later shot on the deck he had made a shambles by a force of armed police.

Tho Straits Steamship Co.'s steamer Klang left Singapore for Port Swettenham and Penang at 4.30 p.m. on Saturday, October 31, with about eight European passengers and over 200 deck passengers on board, says the Straits Budget. When the vessel was approaching Tanjong Pagar, a Malay passenger suddenly ran amok with a knife, and stabbed right and left.

Scene of Absolute Panic.

A scene of absolute panic ensued, the deck passengers rushing all over the upper deck to escape the madman. Eventually the main deck and the boat deck, on which the saloon is situated, were isolated. The ship was put about, and during the half hour that elapsed before she was anchored in the roads the Malay stabbed thirteen persons.

Captain McDonald left the bridge to investigate after the ship had anchored and was fatally stabbed in the abdomen. Mr. Rae, on coming up from the engineroom, encountered the madman, who stabbed him seriously in the chest. Signals for immediate medical assistance were hoisted and a passing launch hailed, with the result that the boarding officer communicated with the marine police.

Inspectors Bostock and Christie with eight constables all armed with rifles and bayonets went out to the ship and found it under a veritable reign of terror. They eventually made their way to the stern of the upper deck where they found the Malay with his back to the second-class cabins. After trying for a quarter of an hour to persuade the man to drop the knife Inspector Bostock was forced to disable him with a shot in the leg.

Malay Shot Down by Police.

There were terrified people in the gangways on either side of the cabins in the stern, and there was nothing to prevent the man running loose among these people had the police not taken stern action. The chief officer. Mr. William Lutkin, therefore told the police that the captain had been killed, and he ordered the man to be shot down. Inspectors Bostock and Christie both fired and the man died subsequently on his way to the hospital. Inspector Bostock was informed-of the occurrence at 5.30 p.m. by telephone from the boarding officer, and he left immediately with Inspector Christie and eight constables, armed with rifles and bayonets. Both inspectors had loaded rifles, but the constables had no ammunition. On nearing the ship they saw a Malay shouting, dancing about and flourishing a knife.

The man came to the rail of the upper deck and defied the police, but the latter found no difficulty in boarding the main deck. They found the passengers hiding in every conceivable hole and corner of the ship, and at first they were unable to get on to the upper deck, all the doors being bolted. Eventually, however, the passengers at the forward end of the ship unbolted a trapdoor and the police went up, to find the man by the engine room. Inspector Christie was instructed to watch the boat deck, while Inspector Bostock stood at about ten paces from the man, with the file of constables in the rear.

In a Strategic Position.

For about fifteen minutes the police tried to persuade the man to put down his weapon and in the meantime he defied them and threatened to rush them. It was plain that he would stab anyone who went near him and there were people on the same deck astern of him whom he might attack. In order, therefore, to prevent his running loose again, Inspector Bostock fired once and wounded the man in the lower part of the leg. Inspector Christie then called from the boat deck that the captain had been killed and the chief officer had given orders that the man was to be shot. Both inspectors fired and the man fell. Even when he was lying on the deck he attempted to stab Inspector Bostock, but the knife was knocked out of his hand. It was a matter of difficulty to shoot the man, because he had his back to the cabins in which people were hiding, and he could partially conceal himself behind some impedimenta on the deck. He had chosen his position well, for he had a clear space in front and an awning over his head, so that it was impossible to get at him from above.

The knife he used was a murderous weapon, with a blade a foot long, over an inch wide and exceedingly sharp. It was fitted with a kris handle, adapted for the upward slashing blow and practicaly all his victims died of terrible wounds in the abdomen. Nothing is known about the man, but it is believed that he came From Bandjermassin, and that he had a quarrel with two Kedah Malays, a man find his sister, just before the occurrence. It is said that this man wanted to share a deck space with these two passengers and when they refused he suddenly produced this knife and slashed at them—luckily without result—and ran amok on the crowded deck.

Any Shelter in a Storm.

For some twenty minutes panic reigned on the ship. The passengers ran in every direction, seeking safety, those who got into cabins locking the doors in the faces of those who were less fortunate, and it is said that some actually found their way down into the engine-room and into tho tunnel shaft. When the police came on board the upper deck was like a shambles, and after the man had been shot they spent half an hour finding all the wounded persons, who were hidden under bunks and in all sorts of holes and crannies on all three decks.

With the chief engineer wounded, the second engineer looking after the engineroom, the captain killed, and the chief officer on the bridge, it was impossible to control the deck passengers. These, in their flight however, did the best thing by closing the doors leading to the decks above and below the upper deck, and those still on the upper deck managed to hide themselves so that when the police arrived the man was isolated. He died on Johnston's pier while being removed to the hospital. He was shot in three places, twice in the legs and once in the groin.

Among the madman's victims was a 70 year-old Malay and an aged Chinese woman who had just arrived from China and was on her way to visit her daughter at Penang. Those killed included the Chinese cook, who was stabbed in the galley, and a Chinese fireman. After the chief engineer had been stabbed, the second engineer tried to bring the madman down with bolts and iron bars but could not get near him. An especially tragic feature of the occurrence is that the chief officer found in Captain McDonald's pocket a revolver unloaded and some rounds of ammunition.

Panic broke out on board the vessel a second time that evening after the injured and dead and all passengers had been taken off. A Chinese who had fallen down and cut his head was seen streaming with blood and the rumour immediately spread that another man had run amok. The police were still on board, however, and calmed the fears of the crew.

The start of the trouble it would appear, began in that part of the ship where some of the crew sleep. The assailant had gone there in an endeavour to obtain some sleeping accommodation. There he found that the place he had thought he might keep for himself had been occupied. He sat for a few minutes in contemplation then got up, drew his kris and began dancing about wildly.

Then he attacked a Tamil man who was frightfully wounded. Two Malays, it is said, attacked him with a stick but the stick broke. One escaped, but the other received the Kris. From this stage narratives are distorted as everyone seems to have made a bolt to escape. The cook who had been working on the Klang for a long time was very badly cut up.

The assailant had a kris about 12in. long, sharpened on both sides. All the time he appears to have kept on chanting. By this time there was a general alarm, the ship was turned back to port, and the captain had been informed. One of the native passengers said that the assailant was downed by Captain McDonald who had come up and two Malays then rushed to the captain's assistance and held the madman down. The latter struggled, freed himself and lunged at the captain. The two Malays ran for their lives.

After fatally wounding a number of people the Malay kept on brandishing his knife and sharpening it against the iron rails, challenging all and sundry, but he did not make any serious effort to get at the deck passengers who were all huddled together terror-stricken. Eventually the marine police came and fired at the man. The first shot it seems got him on the toes, and the second on the knee but he still stood up. Then he received a double charge which sent him down.

The late Captain Murdoch McDonald was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1858. At one time in his career he owned a sailing ship and Mrs. McDonald accompanied him on his voyages. He was for many years a master in the curry (currie) ships running between Melbourne and Calcutta, and he joined the Straits Steamship Company, 17 1/2 years ago. He had command of numerous vessels and had been in the Klang over four years. Previous to that he was in the Ipoh. He was one of the best-known and most popular of Singapore skippers and his genial and hearty presence made a trip on the Klang an exceedingly pleasant experience. One of his sons, Captain Graham McDonald, is a master in the Straits Steamship Company, and his brother Captain Colin McDonald, who recently retired from the British India Company, will be remembered as being the captain in command of the Sunbeam when Lady Brassey's widely-read book was published (Colin's time on Sunbeam was considerably later that this article claims). Captain McDonald leaves a widow, three sons and two daughters.

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