Police Department, C.I. Branch Office,
Melbourne, 7th November, 1885.
Inquiry re Schooner "Douro," late "Albert," vide attached File.
I beg to report that, in accordance with your instructions, I first called upon Mr. Musgrave at the Customs in reference to this mater, but though he kindly searched all the books, &c, he could give me little or no information on the subject, further than that the books showed that the schooner was struck off the books as a British vessel on the 9th of April last, "as sold to a foreign person." This was done at the request of Mr. Leslie, a copy of whose letter to the Registrar of Shipping,
[ Margin: See page 12. ] Customs Department, Melbourne, dated 30th March, 1885, I forward herewith, and this is the only document they have at the Customs referring to this matter. The books were also searched to ascertain the date on which the schooner left Melbourne, but no entry appeared in them that a schooner, either under the name of the Albert or the Douro, had left Melbourne during this year. From what I could learn it appears the schooner had a permit to visit colonial ports, but that was a very old one (viz., in 1883), and she evidently left Melbourne for Sydney, where I next hear of her, without the necessary clearance at the Customs.
Having failed to obtain information at the Customs, I determined next to see Mr. Cooper, the Portuguese Consul, and having informed him of the nature of the information I required, I obtained the following statement from him:-
Thomas Charles Napier Cooper states - I am the Consul for Portugal in Victoria. About the commencement of March last Mr. Leslie, a British subject, whom I have known for some time, called on me at my office, and asked me to put a vessel, which he owned, under the Portuguese flag, as she was going to the islands pearl fishing, &c., and as there was a likelihood of war breaking out between England and Russia, he wished to put the vessel under a neutral flag. I told him it could not be done, unless the vessel was the property of a Portuguese subject. Leslie said the captain was a Dane, and I said, "Why do you not put the vessel under the Danish flag"? He said, "Must the captain be of the same nationality under which the ship sails ?" I said, "No." I do not remember what he said then, but I know he threw obstacles in the way of putting the vessel under the Danish flag. Leslie then asked me if I could put him in the way of how to get it done. I said, "You must sell the vessel to a Portuguese subject, and he must come to me with the necessary papers." I, of course, knew that it was to be a dummy sale, but the excuse about the war scare quite threw me off my guard. Leslie then asked me the names of some of the Portuguese residents in Melbourne. I gave him several; amongst them I mentioned Mr. Carlos Straus, whom I knew personally to be a Portuguese subject, and added that he or any of them would, no doubt, allow their names to be used for a transfer for a small consideration. Shortly after this Carlos Straus and Leslie came to my private house, as I was laid up, and the former told me that he had agreed to purchase the schooner Albert from Leslie, for I believe, £1,000, and wished to have the vessel put under the Portuguese flag under the name of Douro, and this I agreed to do.
On 14th March last I made the following memorandum of the transaction:- "Put under the Portuguese flag the schooner Albert, now called the Douro, owner Mr. Carlos Straus, Portuguese subject, from Lisbon, as per passport." On the same day (14th March) Straus executed a mortgage in favour of Leslie on the schooner Douro, late Albert, for £800, which I duly registered.
The schooner Douro left here on 16th March for Sydney, and on the 26th March I received a letter from the Portuguese Consul there, in which he acknowledged receiving my advices as to the schooner Douro, and stated that the master, Sorrenson, had handed to him the British register of the vessel; this I handed to Mr. Leslie, who, I presume, returned it to the Customs here.
On 8th April last I received a letter from Messrs. Holdsworth and Evans, of Sydney, sending me an assignment of the mortgage executed between Straus and Leslie, from the latter to Sorrenson, as security for the sum of £150, advanced by him to Leslie, and requesting me to register same. This I did, and returned the assignment to them.
I also received a copy of the ship's articles from the Portuguese Consul at Sydney, in which the names of the master and crew and their various nationalities appear, but none of them are Portuguese.