ON THIS DAY – February 8, 1899
An extraordinary tragedy took place at the barracks of the Victorian Permanent Artillery, Queenscliff, on the night of the 8th of February, when Gunner Alexander Pollock, was tried, before the Chief Justice, for the wilful murder of his comrade, Thomas Caleb Briner. Pollock, who has served in the Imperial army, is a man of fine physique. The startling story of the crime is already familiar. It will be remembered that on the night in question several of the men were chatting together while in the act of undressing. Pollock had just returned to barracks, and had had several drinks, and some mild chaffing was indulged in at his expense. He thereupon went to a rack, and, taking down his carbine, said to Gunner Hamilton, ‘ Now, you dare me to shoot?’ To which the latter. replied, ‘No, Poll, old man, I know you would.’ At this juncture Briner, referring to Pollock, said, ‘Oh, he’s only a big biuff.’ Pollock then faced about, and said, ‘Do you dare me ?’ Briner’s reply was, ”Yes, I do,’ and so saying he stood up. Thus challenged Pollock put a cartridge into the breech ot his weapon, raised it to his shoulder, took aim, and fired, inflicting a fatal wound. He then threw down his carbine, observing, ‘There, that settles it.’ The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter. Prisoner addressed the Court, stating that he had never intended to hurt poor Briner. They had been on good terms, and his nerves had been unsettled by some brandy which he had taken in the canteen after he had returned to barracks with his comrades. He must have pulled the trigger without knowing it. The Chief Justice told the prisoner that he was a very fortunate man, for the jury had taken a very merciful view of the case. Pollock was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with hard labor.