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Macnaghten's Reminiscences - Third Installment

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Macnaghten's Reminiscences - Third Installment

Post by Karen on Mon 14 Feb 2011 - 22:43


[All Rights Reserved.]

Undiscovered Child Murderers.

It was only when ill-health and advancing years joined hands and appeared on the stage together that little police troubles seemed to loom up large, and the grasshoppers of the Yard became veritable burdens to me. I had such splendid health during my first twenty years in the Criminal Investigation Department that I think I could have counted up my bad nights on the fingers of one hand.
Nevertheless there was always the shadow of a great fear over me in one class of case, and that was lest evil should overtake "missing" children. Of course, in nine hundred and ninety cases out of a thousand the little wanderers are found and restored, safe and sound, to their parents. So soon as a child is reported missing at a police station, the officer on duty wires to all surrounding stations, and - on occasions - to all stations in the Metropolitan Police District, giving a very full description of the dress and appearance of the lost lamb. These descriptions are read out to all reliefs, and not infrequently copied into the notebooks of the constables. Oftentimes the waif turns up many miles from home, and is then taken to the nearest police station, where he, or she, is regaled with tea and bread and butter till such time as the parents can be summoned.
There are, however, homicidal maniacs - and worse - abroad in this great city, and, at rare intervals, some hapless infant falls into their hands. Such a case was that of little Mary Bailes, whose tragic death occurred on one of the last days in May, 1909. She was living in the north of London, and was seen within fifty yards of her parents' house, returning home from school about twenty minutes to six. She never reached her destination. At 8:30 the next morning her little body was found, done up in a brown-paper parcel, in a lavatory near the well-known Elephant and Castle public-house. Her throat was cut, and she had probably been dead about twelve hours; her body bore no marks of assault. This was, in all probability, the work of a homicidal maniac.
Police were working in the dark from the outset, and never saw a ray of daylight in the case at all. Here was a child of about eight years of age, stopped in the busy street by someone, taken somewhere to enclosed premises of some sort, done to death, and then wrapped up in a parcel and conveyed right across London, for the distance from the child's home to the Elephant and Castle was some four and a half miles as the crow flies.
Never did the Criminal Investigation Department work harder, or with greater determination, than in this case. It was felt that the honour of the London detectives was at stake, and every officer engaged in the inquiries exerted himself to the uttermost. But we were hopelessly baffled, and not the slightest clue was ever vouchsafed to us.

Who Killed Amelia Jeffs?

One of the earliest, and one of the strangest, cases which ever came before me was the murder of a girl about twelve years of age. The victim's name was Amelia Jeffs, and the locality was West Ham.
About Jan. 29, 1890, at eight o'clock in the evening, a Mr. Jeffs reported to the police at West Ham Station that his daughter had gone out some two hours before to execute some small errand and had not returned, and that he and her mother were very anxious about her. The usual steps were taken, but day succeeded day, and no tidings of the missing child were forthcoming. At this time a severe frost prevailed, and work on buildings came to a standstill. Somewhere in the vicinity a row of houses had just been erected in what was, I think, called the Portway, but none of them was sufficiently advanced for habitation. On Feb. 13, about fifteen days after the disappearance of Amelia Jeffs, a workman had occasioned to go to the top storey of one of these houses, and, on opening a large fixed cupboard let into the wall under one of the front windows, was horrified to find the body of a fully dressed child, which had evidently been lying there for some days. Police were at once informed, and in due course the corpse was identified as that of the ill-starred Amelia Jeffs.
In company of several local officers I was on the scene as soon as possible, and if ever a case repaid local and personal investigation this was one. The body looked as if it had been "laid out" by loving hands, as for decent burial, the little hands were crossed on the bosom, the frock carefully pulled down, and the hat, which must have fallen off in the house, was placed at, but not on, the head. A medical inspection showed that the child had been brutally outraged and then strangled to death by her own comforter, which was still hanging loose around the neck. From the surroundings the crime was easy of reconstruction.
Somebody had inveigled the victim to the house, the door of which had, probably by accident, been left open, and the assault must have taken place as the last flight of stairs was being mounted. The screams of the girl must have alarmed the brutal assailant, who, in order to stifle them, pulled tight the ends of the scarf. When he released his hold the child was dead. Horrified at his deed, and hoping perhaps to find there was still life in the body, the murderer carried it to the top landing, and, in the back room, supported it against the wall; the marks of the heels of the little boots were plainly discernible in the thick dust always to be found in newly built houses. Subsequently the corpse was carried into the front room and placed, as already described, in the cupboard under the wiindow.
No one was ever made amenable for this awful crime. But the difference between the cases of Mary Bailes and Amelia Jeffs was that, whereas in the former no clue of any kind was discovered, in the latter very grave suspicions attached to a certain individual. Legal proofs were wanting, and, there being no sufficient cause to justify an arrest, it must be classed as an "undiscovered" crime.

The Muswell Hill Murder.

Never were two more savage murders committed than those at Muswell Hill and Stepney, in the spring of 1896. In each case burglary (or housebreaking) was the inciting cause. In each case the murderers provided types more akin to Zola's "human beast" than any criminals of recent years.
Both Seaman, who murdered an elderly Jew and his maid-servant at Stepney, and Fowler, who, with Millsom, did to death poor old Mr. Smith at Muswell Hill, were about as ferocious specimens of the genus homo as could be imagined, Millsom was of a different and better educated class. He eventually turned Queen's evidence, and was stigmatised by his old confederate as "that dirty dog, my pal." The Muswell Hill case has always excited keen interest by reason of the sensational part played in it by a child's lantern, which, after several weeks, brought the two murderers to the gallows.
Mr. Smith, who, though some eighty years of age, was still hale and hearty, lived by himself in a fairly large house with a garden abutting on to the Highgate Woods. Like most solitary dwellers, he was, perhaps, a little eccentric, but fond of gardening, and an inoffensive, if somewhat taciturn, neighbour. Also, like most solitary dwellers, he was credited with being a miser and having large stores of gold in his house. What he did really keep by him was never known, but probably something less than one hundred pounds. At any rate, these two accomplished burglars, Millsom and Fowler, had "marked him for their own."
One evening, after hiding about in the bushes for some hours, they broke into the house. They prised open a small window with their "jemmies" as soon as the lights in the upper part of the house had been extinguished, and it was surmised that the old gentleman had gone to bed. The noise made on entering the house must have aroused Mr. Smith, who, absolutely fearless, at once came downstairs, and, on entering the kitchen, found himself face to face with the two burglars. Seemingly he was at once attacked and literally cut to pieces by the "jemmies" of his assailants.
It was a ghastly sight which met the eyes of the first tradesman who called the next morning. Police were at once summoned and a thorough search made. The murderers had evidently made their escape by way of the Highgate Woods. Here the scent broke off, and no trace of them could be found. If I remember rightly, some ordinary housebreaking tools had been left behind, together with a child's bull's-eye lantern, which was afterwards to play so prominent a part in bringing the criminals to justice.

The Clue of the Lampwick.

The brutal murder of the harmless old gentleman horrified all London. Scotland Yard became very busy, but it looked for some time as if all police efforts were to be fruitless. The criminal haunts of known burglars were looked up, and the usual sources of information tapped.
No light was vouchsafed to us, and after two or three weeks it seemed as if the Muswell Hill murder was going to climb on the shelf of undiscovered crimes alongside Jack the Ripper and the Cafe Royal case of eighteen months before. But the inquiries were in the hands of one of those "dogged-does-it" officers, who never know when they are beaten, and who plod along on their cases just as steadily after three weeks as they do after three days. Happy is the chief of the Criminal Investigation Department who has many such on his staff. In all cases of this kind it is well to encourage the officer in charge by getting him to run round to one's house in the evening. One can then learn, over a cigar, what has been doing and what it is proposed to do. Even if nothing comes of it, the officer goes away in good heart and cheered for his morrow's work.
Four or five weeks must have passed before the inspector came round to me, one Sunday night, with the pleasing intelligence that he had got what looked like two clues, the one really big and hopeful, the other of a minute description. He told me he was going to start on the more important one the first thing the next morning. To my disappointment, at noon I had a wire from him to the effect that number one clue had hopelessly broken down, and that he would now embark on number two. That was the discovery of the association of the toy bull's-eye lantern with Millsom's nephew, owing to the wick being made out of a piece of tartan stuff which Mrs. Millsom was working into a frock for her little daughter.
We now knew for whom we were looking, as Millsom and Fowler had been seen together before disappearing from their usual haunts about the time of the murder. But it took many days to trace them. Eventually it was reported that they were travelling, with a kind of cheap-jack or conjurer, in the west of England. Fowler was said to be the "strong man" of the show, and Millsom, I think, was playing "general utility."
To cut a long story short, after many encouragements and many disappointments - such as are always incidental to and inseparable from detective work - our suspects were traced to Bath, and there arrested in bed one night. They were armed with revolvers, and would no doubt have made a desperate resistance, but the arrangements for their capture had been well thought out, and the officers, both metropolitan and local, were too quick for them. There was great excitement at Paddington the next evening when they were brought up from Bath.

Fight in the Dock.

In the dock at the Central Criminal Court, Fowler made a rush at Millsom, having heard that he had turned Queen's evidence, and if the warders had not been on the alert and immediately thrown themselves upon him, another murder might have been laid to his charge, for he was a man of Herculean build.
Seaman's story was a plain, unvarnished tale of butchery, and the murder was one of no particular interest. Indeed, had not the papers started a rumour that a second man had been seen escaping from the house where the tragedy occurred, there would have been no necessity for a local visit of a superior officer. The case in its inception was one of housebreaking, as opposed to burglary - that is to say, that the offence took place during the day (i.e. between six a.m. and nine p.m.).
The door was forced and the house entered by Seaman, who, upon encountering the occupier, immediately knocked him down and cut his throat. A stream of blood found its way under the door and into the street. This was noticed by passers-by, who at once called the police, and the house was surrounded. In the meantime Seaman had heard someone moving about in the upper storey, and mindful of the fact that dead women tell no tales, he at once rushed upstairs, and the unfortunate maid shared her master's fate. Nemesis, however, was hot-foot on the trail. Before the double murderer had commenced to search for property, police had entered the house.
Seaman broke through the roof and climbed on to the tiles, and the scene then was not unlike that of Bill Sikes's last moments. Finding that an officer was coming up on to the roof after him, he jumped off, and, falling some forty feet, broke both his thighs. He was condemned at the same sessions as were Fowler and Millsom, and all three were executed together.
There is a grim story connected with this hanging. It will be remembered that in the dock at the Old Bailey Fowler had made a desperate attempt to assault Millsom. On the day of execution, then, when the fatal shed was reached, Seaman found himself placed under the beam between the two Muswell Hill murderers, and, just before the drop fell, he was heard to remark, "This is the first time as ever I was a peacemaker."
Such is life and death to some people born into this world. But, indeed, Seaman and Fowler were nineteenth-century types of that Barnardine of whom Shakespeare wrote in a "Measure for Measure": "A man that apprehends death no more dreadfully but as a drunken sleep; careless, reckless, and fearless of what's past, present, or to come: insensible of mortality and desperately mortal."

Lives of great men all remind us
We may make our lives sublime
And, departing, leave behind us
Finger-prints on the tracks of crime.



Finger Prints and Crime.

If I remember aright, this paraphrase formed the peroration of a speech (made by the chairman at one of the annual dinners of the Criminal Investigation Department) in which the health of the present Chief Commissioner of Police was proposed.
It is to him, and to him alone, that society is indebted for a revolution in the detection of criminals, due to the introduction of his system of classifying finger-prints. Of course, the value of digital impressions was recognised hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. Some say that the Chinese, and others that the Assyrians, first utilised them. Be that as it may, it is certain that in the time of the Great Mogul, documents were stamped by means of thumb-prints. Coming down to much later times - somewhere about the "mid-sixties" - Sir William Herschell, a member of the Bengal Civil Service, reintroduced the idea into India. The late Sir Francis Galton entirely recognised the possibilities of finger-prints, and was engaged on them just at the time when the present Prime Minister - then Secretary of State for the Home Department - appointed a small committee to inquire and report as to the best means available for identifying habitual criminals. This was in October, 1893.
A few years previously M. Bertillon's anthropometrical system had been introduced in France, and, not without reason, had been considerably boomed. By this method had an Anarchist (who perished by the explosion of his own bomb at the Madeleine in Paris) been identified. It was an advance on anything that had gone before; and - if the measurements were taken with unerring accuracy - the results shown were highly satisfactory.
The principle of this system consisted in taking records of all prisoners, including certain measurements, which depended mainly on the length of bony structures in the body. The particulars thus obtained were entered on cards so classified that each could be picked out by means of the measurements, independently altogether of the name of the individual. It followed that, by taking measurements of all persons arrested, it became possible to ascertain their identity if they had already been included in the records under any name whatever.
It was felt that the English police were behindhand in the matter of identifying criminals. Generally speaking, the practice of our police forces had depended on personal recognition of offenders by constables or warders. It was by such personal recognition that identity had to be proved in criminal courts, with a view to previous convictions, and it was by the same means (aided by photography of a not very scientific sort), and by registers of distinctive marks, that identity was first discovered.
Mr. Asquith's committee visited Paris and very carefully studied the Bertillon system. They also paid many visits to Sir Francis Galton. The finger-print idea appealed to them very strongly, but Sir Francis's classification was found to be very much too complicated for police purposes. Finally, then, the committee submitted a report recommending that the more valuable portion of the existing English system should be supplemented by another, based upon a combination of the methods of M. Bertillon and Sir Francis Galton. This was approved, and, for seven long years police muddled along in a not very successful manner.

Sir Edward Henry's System.

Great difficulties were experienced in obtaining absolutely accurate measurements in the prisons. Governors and warders did their best, and so did police, but results shown were pitifully small. All this time, however, the present Commissioner of Metropolitan Police was working away at "finger-prints" in Bengal, and eventually evolved a system of classification as perfect as it was simple. It could readily be "understanded of" any police officer, and when Sir Edward (then Mr.) Henry arrived at the Yard in 1901 it took him only a few months to reorganise the identification arrangements, and to place them on the very satisfactory footing upon which they rest today.
From the very first the supreme worth of his system was reorganised even by the most conservative of constables. The working of it, from that time to the present, has been a clear and unbroken record of success. The identification of an habitual criminal nowadays is as quick as it is clever.
I remember, as the first Derby Day drew nigh, after our "finger-prints" were in full swing, it was feared that we should not be able to fully utilise them on that occasion, inasmuch as offenders were taken in up till six or seven in the evening, and were dealt with summarily by the petty sessional court at 9:30 the next morning.
Scotland Yard, however, determined not to be beaten in the matter; experts were sent to Epsom, and then and there took the finger-prints of fifty-four men who were arrested for various offences on the racecourse on Derby Day. These impressions were taken up to the finger-print department that night. Two officers, who had been kept on reserve duty for that purpose, examined them, with the result that twenty-nine of these men were found to be old offenders. Their records and photographs were taken down to Epsom early the following morning by a chief inspector.
When the "arrests" appeared before the justices at half-past nine they were confronted with a record of their previous convictions, with the result that they received sentences twice as long as would otherwise have been awarded.
The first prisoner on this occasion gave his name as Green, of Gloucester, and assured the interrogating magistrate that he had never been in trouble before, and that a racecourse was, up to this time, an unknown world to him. But up jumped the chief inspector, in answer to a question as to whether "anything was known," and begged their worships to look at the papers and photograph, which proved the innocent to be Benjamin Brown, from Birmingham, with some ten convictions to his discredit. "Bless the finger-prints," said Benjamin, with an oath; "I knew they'd do me in!"

A Murderer's Finger Prints.

But what gave our finger-print system a really sensational lift was a supreme piece of good luck which befell me during my inquiries into the murders of a Mr. and Mrs. Farrow, at Deptford in March, 1905. In the High-street there was a small shop, calling itself an "oil and colour stores." It belonged to a Mr. Chapman, who employed an elderly couple of the name of Farrow to look after the business for him. They resided on the premises. It was rumoured in the neighbourhood that these old people had saved money and were hoarding it up. It turned out in this case, as in most others, that Dame Rumour was a lying jade. I do not think that they had more than six or seven pounds in the house.
It subsequently transpired that on the morning of the murder, at about 7:15, a little girl, while playing in the street saw the shop door slowly open and the figure of an old man - undoubtedly Mr. Farrow - appeared on the threshold. Blood was streaming down his head and face. After a few seconds he reclosed the door and was never afterwards seen alive. The child only mentioned the grim fact to her parents two or three days afterwards, and apparently it had made very little impression on her.
An hour later a milkman called, and going round to the back of the house looked in at the window, and was horrified to see Mr. Farrow lying dead on his face by the side of the fireplace, and an overturned chair just behind him. Police were called in, and the Yard was at once informed. In these days of rapid locomotion it did not take long to get down to the scene of the tragedy, and by 9:30 we were on the spot.
Mr. and Mrs. Farrow had their bedroom on the second floor. Upon entering that apartment, the poor old lady was found lying on her bed with her head battered in. She was groaning out her life. An ambulance had been obtained and she was removed as soon as possible. She never spoke, and, if I remember rightly, died before reaching the hospital.
Under the husband's bed was a small cashbox, the tray of which was lying a few feet away. Near it, and under the bed, a sixpenny piece had rolled, showing that the murderers had left in a hurry. Now a japanned surface is a very good medium for the retention of a finger-print, and specially so, of course, if the papillary ridges are damp from perspiration, caused by excitement or any other cause. I am given to understand that nervous tension during operations generally causes burglars to have clammy hands. In our case the cash-box showed nothing like an impression, but on one side of the tray there was a blurred mark which had all the characteristics of a digital imprint.
On inquiry being made as to whether anyone had touched this tray, a young detective-sergeant came forward in some trepidation and confessed that he had moved it a little way under the bed, as he feared it might be disturbed by the feet of one of the ambulance-bearers when they entered the room. He was assured that no harm had been done, but was told to go up to the Yard in the course of the day and have his finger-prints taken. The cash-box and the tray were then most carefully wrapped up in paper and carted away to the finger-print department at Scotland Yard.

Reconstructing the Crime.

The crime was very easy of reconstruction. The housebreakers had forced an entry on the ground floor. Their breaking in must have been heard by Mr. Farrow, who, partly dressed, came downstairs, where he was at once attacked and left for dead by the intruders. The unfortunate wife must have heard the scuffle, but her screams were soon to be smothered. The ruffians rushed upstairs and beat her with their "jemmies" as she lay in bed. The cash-box had evidently been found under the husband's pillow; the murderers emptied it and hurriedly decamped.
From the door of the kitchen, which led into the back of the shop, right up to the front door, was a very distinct and continuous trail of blood, which, on the first day of the inquiry, was a puzzling feature. But in view of what the little girl in the street reported she had seen, there can be no doubt that the poor old man partly recovered consciousness after the departure of his assailants, and had then, in a dazed condition, made his way to the front door, opened it, looked hopelessly and helplessly out, and then returned to the kitchen, where he tried to sit down in a chair, but overbalanced and fell dead by his own fireside.
Two masks made out of old black stockings were found in the kitchen, and gave proof that at least two men must have been engaged in the crime. The facts as to the masks and the wife's life having been taken pointed to probability of the murderers being local men who feared recognition. Nothing but cash had been stolen, and the case was evidently one which would give trouble. In a day or two the experts in the finger-print department reported that the impression on the tray of the cash-box had "enlarged" (by photography) remarkably well, and that there would not be the least difficulty about recognising the finger that made it, should that finger at any time fall within the clutches of the police.
In the meantime the finger-prints of the young detective-sergeant had been taken, and showed no characteristics in keeping with the cash-box imprint; and the same course of procedure with regard to the hands of the murdered Farrows led to a similar result. Local inquiries were being pushed in every possible direction, and, after three or four days, information reached us that two young brothers, of a very pronounced "hooligan" type, were suspected housebreakers, and might very easily have been engaged in such a crime as had been committed. Their name was Stratton. They were dwellers in Deptford, but birds of passage, and the same address seldom found them for two weeks together.
The French adage, Cherchez la femme, is a very good one, and it was through a woman who had been ill-treated by the elder brother that we first got on the right scent.

Marks that Hanged Two Brothers.

The murder had taken place, I think, on a Monday morning, and by the Friday evening little bits of information had reached us, which (although not crushingly conclusive from a legal point of view), when pieced together, made us feel quite satisfied that when we could lay our hands on the Stratton brothers we should have the guilty parties in custody. The address of the elder brother had been ascertained, but the younger had not been seen about his old haunts for many days.
It was deemed advisable to arrest them, if possible, together. As they were constant in their attendance at football matches, and an important Cup tie was billed for the Saturday afternoon at the Crystal Palace, it was hoped that a joint capture might be then effected. Football, however, had no fascination for them at this time. They never turned up at the match, and, to add to our disquietude, the elder brother slipped away from his lodging and temporarily disappeared. Anything in the shape of "shadowing" or strict observation had been purposely forbidden lest the birds should be startled before the fowler's net was ready for them.
On the Sunday morning, then, police were in somewhat of a quandary. Orders were issued that either of the brothers was to be arrested, wherever found, and to be charged with "wilful murder." That Sabbath was a busy day; but, late in the evening, one of the brothers was arrested in a public-house and the other was "taken in" the next morning. This enabled them to be brought up together at the Tower Bridge Police Court at noon, and very noisy and disorderly they were in the dock. The counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions did not think much of the evidence available, but promised to get the prisoners remanded for a week. This was done in due course, and the brothers were then "finger-printed" at the police court before being taken away to the remand prison.
I had returned to office in the forenoon, and shall never forget the dramatic entry made into my room by the expert an hour or two later. "Good God, sir," he exclaimed, with pardonable excitement, "I have found that the mark on the cash-box tray is in exact correspondence with the print of the right thumb of the elder prisoner." After this all went well with the prosecution. Attempts to disparage the finger-print system were made at the trial at the Old Bailey, but they gregiously failed, and the brothers Stratton suffered the extreme penalty of the law.

The Unerring Finger Print.

Before saying "good-bye" to finger-prints, I should like to tell two more short stories, illustrating again their immutability and deadly accuracy. Some eight or ten years ago, an old "lag," who had not been recognised by any officer at the police-court, was remanded for a week. He had every reason to fear the result of "finger-printing," and fully realised that a black past would thereby be revealed at his next appearance before the magistrate. On his way to the remand prison in Black Maria he excoriated (with a pluck and perseverance worthy a better cause) the papillary ridges of his thumbs and fingers by means of a metal tag attached to his bootlace.
On arriving at Brixton Prison his hands were found to be in a terrible state, and one in which an application of prepared ink, for taking the prints might very well have induced blood-poisoning. The governor of the prison duly reported to Scotland Yard. One of the experts went down, and, inspecting the prisoner's lacerated hands with a magnifying glass, was able to make out what eventually proved to be the distinguishing ridges on every digit. But, in order to be on the safe side, the man was remanded from week to week until the wounds had healed, and the impressions then taken revealed his notorious identity.
And now for my "lastly." One morning at daybreak, about three and a half years ago, a police-constable, while patrolling a street in Clerkenwell, observed a solitary finger, with a yellow metal ring on same, impaled on one of the spikes on the top of a gate. It was obvious that somebody, on felony intent, had tried to climb this gate, which was some ten feet high and led into a warehouse yard. He had evidently got to the top, and, in his attempt to reach the ground on the inner side, had placed his feet on the centre cross-bar, while still grasping the spikes with his right hand.
In this position he must have slipped, and the metal ring which he was wearing on his little finger had caught on one of the metal spikes. He was thus suspended until the weight of his body tore the finger away. This very ghastly "piece of conviction" was brought to the Yard. A laborious search was made amongst the finger-print slips, with the result that it was identified as that of the right little finger of a man who had more than one conviction recorded against him, but who had not come under the notice of police for some time past.
Three weeks later a detective-sergeant of the Lambeth division arrested two men as suspected pickpockets, hustling among the crowds who were waiting for tramcars near the Elephant and Castle public-house. At the police-station one of the men arrested pointing to a heavily bandaged hand, asked, "How could I pick pockets with a hand like this? I cut it very badly at Clapham last week." The officer had a good memory, and had heard of the Clerkenwell constable's "find." "I don't think," he dryly remarked; "but I do believe that you've lost a finger, and that the Yard people are keeping it for you." Subsequently the prisoner was charged under the Prevention of Crimes Act, and sentenced to twelve months' hard labour. The ways of transgressors are hard.

One to destroy is murder by the law,
And gibbets keep the lifted hand in awe.


Murder of William Terries.

Assassinations (which may, I think, be differentiated from common murders) are, happily, rare in this country. When they do take place they are generally found to be the work of half-crazy individuals, and are as purposeless as they are deplorable.
Towards the end of 1897 the whole of London was shocked one night to hear that the handsome and debonair William Terries had lost his life by the knife of an assassin as he was entering the stage door of the Adelphi Theatre.
The madman, whose name, I think, was Prince, was at once arrested and eventually sent to Broadmoor. Many rumours - some of a not very charitable nature - were bruited abroad as the reason for the murderous act; all such, so far as I know, were absolutely devoid of any foundation.
Professional jealousy (if this could be said of a man who had, I believe, rarely played a part more distinguished than that of a "Salaminian Sailor," or a banner-bearer), acting upon an ill-conditioned mind, was the sole cause that deprived poor William Terries of life.
And what a fine actor he was in certain kinds of parts! Those who say him play Henry II to Sir Henry Irving's Becket, or Squire Thornhill in that gem of a play, "Olivia," are never likely to forget such artistic impersonations. Perhaps too much Adelphi melodrama did not tend to improve his methods; but, if the public insisted on his playing the part of a dashing naval lieutenant, or a gallant young subaltern, who should gainsay them?

Sir Curzon Wyllie Assassinated.

And now I come to what was the saddest day I ever spent in the Metropolitan Police. At eleven o'clock one night, in July, 1909, I had just got into bed when I received a telephone message from the Walton-street Police Station to the effect that Sir Curzon Wyllie had been assassinated at the Imperial Institute, and that his murderer, a native of India, was in custody.
The message was sent by the inspector on duty, who, of course, had no knowledge of the very intimate and affectionate relations which had existed between Wyllie and myself for six-and-thirty years. It was in November, 1873, that we first met in Bombay and journeyed across India together.
When I got down to Walton-street I found that the assassin had already been conveyed there and was in the charge-room. He was exactly the kind of man whom I had expected to see. A conceited young native, one of the least desirable products of that education with which the British raj has so liberally endowed India. He desired one thing, and one thing only - notoriety; and now he stood in the charge-room, devilish and complacent, for he knew he had gained it! What was it to him that in so doing he had wrecked a home and had taken one of the purest and most unselfish lives that an English gentleman ever lived - a life devoted to the welfare of the masses of India.
On Dhingra - for that was the name of the assassin - we found a proclamation in triplicate, saying that he was going to die that India might live, and a lot more nonsense to the same effect. His pistol was lying on the inspector's table. I had often wondered whether the same thought which occurred to me presented itself to any of the other police officers assembled.
If Dhingra could have been then and there disposed of, and "gone down into the (quick-lime) pit quickly," it would have been a very salutary lesson to all of his co-conspirators, for men of his kidney are perfectly content to go to the scaffold if they are allowed first to make a speech, or publish a proclamation from the dock.

(Sir Melville Macnaghten will continue his reminiscences in these columns next week, dealing with some famous railway mysteries.)

Source: Lloyd's Weekly News, December 20, 1914, Page 7

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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