(by Private Notice) asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the circumstances in which Mr. W. J. Stephenson, of South Shields, Chief Engineer of the British Steamship "Kingswood," was shot in Leningrad on or about 18th August, 1931; what steps have been taken by British diplomatic officials in Russia to investigate the matter; and what further action is contemplated by the Foreign Office?
As regards the first part of the question, I much regret to inform the House that Mr. W. S. Stephenson, Chief Engineer of the Steamship "Kings-wood," was shot on the evening of 18th August last by a sentry guarding a munition depot in Leningrad. A military inquiry, which it was not open to His Majesty's Consul-General to attend, was immediately instituted, and on its conclusion the sentry was committed for public trial. The trial took place on 3rd September, and the court returned a verdict of acquittal. The British Consul-General attended, and his detailed report of the proceedings is expected shortly.
From his interim report received by telegram, it appears that the Public Prosecutor withdrew the charge against the sentry on the ground that, as the evidence of witnesses showed that Mr. Stephenson had ignored the sentry's unmistakable warnings, the sentry had not exceeded his duty. A statement made by the Master of Steamship "Kingswood" before His Majesty's Consul-General at Leningrad was read in court, and attached to the dossier of the proceedings.
As regards the second and third parts of the question, His Majesty's Charge d'Affaires at Moscow has been in frequent communication with the Soviet authorities. Pending the arrival in this country of the full report of His Majesty's Consul-General in Leningrad, my noble Friend must reserve his opinion as to whether further action in the matter is possible or necessary. My noble Friend has asked me to take this opportunity to express his deep sympathy with the relatives, a sympathy which I am sure will he shared by every Member of this House.
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman if he will see that before the matter is closed, the other members of the drew of the ship, who are in a position to give evidence with regard to the matter, shall be consulted; and that the great anxiety caused in the north-east coast- ports about this matter shall be taken into consideration before His Majesty's Government regard the incident as closed?