- The Times, 21 September 1844:
THAMES-POLICE. - Yesterday a respectable woman named Lansdell applied to Mr. BALLANTINE for a warrant against Captain Spratley, the master of the Cyrus, for leaving her son behind at Celebes, or Macassar, an island in the Indian Ocean, four years ago.
Mrs. Lansdell said, that in June, 1838, her son, who was then only 15 years of age, was apprenticed to Mr. Joe, the owner of the Cyrus, South Sea whaling ship, for one voyage only. The ship returned in July, 1841, after a voyage of three years and one month, without her son, and on inquiring for him of the captain he said the lad had run away at the Celebes Islands, but she ascertained from several of the crew that her son had been wrongfully left behind, and from their statements it appeared that the youth had gone ashore with the third mate and others, and while they went inland to barter with the natives her son was left in charge of the boat. Soon afterwards a man named Brown left Cotton, the mate, and the rest of the party, and returned to the boat, which he offered to take care of while Lansdell went to a neighbouring creek to bathe. During his absence Cotton and the other seamen returned, and without looking after, or waiting for her son's return, left the island in the boat, and rowed off to the ship, which sailed away without her son, and no efforts were made to find him. Her son could have had no intention to desert, as he had no other clothing but an old pair of trousers and a shirt on his person when he left the boat. In the year 1841 she saw the log in which there was merely an entry that "George Lansdell left the ship;" but the master said he had run away. Previous to the vessel leaving for another South Sea voyage, in November, 1841, Captain Spratley and Cotton, who went out as chief-mate, promised to look for her son, and said the vessel would touch at the same islands. The Cyrus returned a few weeks ago without her son, and the captain and chief mate said he was no more, and one of them intimated that he had been killed by the Malays on the island; but this statement was in contradiction to one made by Cotton in a letter forwarded by the Marshal Bennett whaler, dated Sooloo Sea, June 27, 1842, which stated that her son was still alive, and on the island where he was left on the previous voyage. Other statements had been made by Mr. Spratley respecting the death of her son which were unsatisfactory and full of contradictions, and she was assured by the carpenter, the cooper of the ship, and others, that when they left Celebes he was still alive on the island, and that the present of a musket to the natives would have obtained his release. Mrs. Lansdell added that she and her husband and family had, for the last four years, endured all the agonies of suspense; that she was satisfied her son had been improperly abandoned, and respectfully implored the magistrate's interference.
Mr. BALLANTINE asked where the ship was?
Mrs. Lansdell said the Cyrus was in the Commercial-dock, and that Captain Spratley was in Stepney. She wished to state that 13 or 14 men left the Cyrus at the Cape of Good Hope on the same voyage.
Mr. BALLANTINE said the case demanded an investigation, and the parents of the missing person had a right to be informed whether their son had been illegally abandoned or not. He directed Inspector Maddox, of the Thames-police, to make an immediate inquiry into all the circumstances of the transaction and report to him the result.
Mrs. Heron, a widow, living in Sion-place, Old Kent-road, next applied for a warrant against Captain Spratley, for having abandoned her son, William Heron, the cooper's mate, at Keims, a Dutch settlement, on the last voyage, and said, that he had been previously beaten in a cruel manner by Cotton, the chief mate.
Benby, the usher, said, the case had been already investigated at the Greenwich police-court.
Mrs. Heron. - But the magistrate did not call one of my witnesses, though several were in court. I want justiced one me [sic]. 12 men left on the same voyage, and are gone no-one knows where.
Mr. BALLANTINE said, he could not entertain Mrs. Heron's application, as her case had been heard elsewhere, but he would attend to the other.