Face of Winifred May Davies
Latest topics
» Why Jesus Is Not God
Mon 17 Apr 2017 - 0:09 by Karen

» The Fourth Reich
Fri 14 Apr 2017 - 14:14 by Karen

» Allah, The Real Serpent of the Garden
Tue 7 Mar 2017 - 11:45 by Karen

Sat 4 Mar 2017 - 12:06 by Karen

» Hillary Clinton (Hillroy Was Here)
Fri 28 Oct 2016 - 17:38 by Karen

» Alien on the Moon
Thu 20 Oct 2016 - 21:57 by Karen

» Martian Nonsense Repeats Itself
Thu 20 Oct 2016 - 18:43 by Karen

» Enlil and Enki
Fri 7 Oct 2016 - 17:11 by Karen

» Israel Shoots Down Drone - Peter Kucznir's Threat
Wed 24 Aug 2016 - 22:55 by Karen

» Rome is Babylon
Sun 24 Jul 2016 - 21:27 by Karen



Macnaghten's Reminiscences - Fourth Installment

View previous topic View next topic Go down

Macnaghten's Reminiscences - Fourth Installment

Post by Karen on Tue 15 Feb 2011 - 6:21


[All Rights Reserved.]

My Experience of Burglars.

It does not fall to the lot of every police officer to have been victimised alike by the common burglar and the more vulgar area sneak. These two experiences have been mine. They were by no means unmixed evils. "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin," and when infuriated losers of property, by burglary, or other means, turned up at Scotland Yard, it was a sensible satisfaction to them to find that the gentleman whom they interviewed had a fellow feeling, in the words of the poet, "he himself was not exempt, truly he himself had suffered," and many of those who came to objurgate remained to sympathise.
The public are, not unnaturally, very loose in their definitions of crime. Everything is accounted a burglary. It is a very common occurrence to hear people say, "We've had the devil of a time lately in our street - two burglaries in one month." Upon inquiries being made, it generally turns out that an individual has called on some pretext to see the masters of the two houses, and, upon the servant going away to apprise them, has levanted with an overcoat or an umbrella. This would be deemed larceny by trick (or something like it), which class of offence does not show up so badly as burglary in criminal returns, although the practical results may be equally and sufficiently annoying.
I have often wondered why more area sneaks do not exist, and why criminal business in this direction is not extended. It is all so simple. At about half-past two or three o'clock in the afternoon servants have mostly gone upstairs, and I am afraid that it is the exception rather than the rule that area gates are locked.
What more easy then than to descend the steps and knock softly at the kitchen door? If the summons is responded to the area sneak's question is already prepared, "Any empty bottles for sale, miss?" He is, in most cases, indignantly ordered off the premises, and goes up the steps unscathed, and there the matter ends. But, if no response is made to his knock, he enters at his own sweet will, and probably finds such silver as the family has used for lunch set out on the pantry table. This he annexes and puts away in his "bottles" bag. If the house be a small corner one, such as has been in the occupation of the writer for many years past, the pantry can probably be seen into from the street, so that the thief is able to appraise his prospective gains, and to make a calculation as to whether it is a "good enough job."
In the particular case I refer to "fear added wings" to the depredator, so soon as he regained the street, and he commenced to run, dropping, as he did so, one of the silver spoons from his bag. This was observed by a postman, who, however, took no notice of the matter at the time, but reported it at the police station afterwards. The silver appropriated was at once taken to Hoxton and thrown into one of the melting-pots always on the boil there.
The local detectives were not long in finding out who had done the job, but evidence against him was not forthcoming, as the postman failed to identify. The officers, however, were determined to get a bit of their own back, and, after a little scientific shadowing, the suspect was found frequenting areas for an unlawful purpose, and was put away, if I remember rightly, for three months.

Collaring a Burglar.

My second misadventure, that of the burglary, took place about eighteen months afterwards, and, had it not been for the admirable vigilance of the uniform officers in the neighbourhood, might have been fraught with most unpleasant consequences.
Early in May, 1895, a high wind and much dust caused the servant to shut the window of the smoking-room early in the day, but she forgot to fasten the catch. This was noticed, in the afternoon, by two young Westminster burglars out on the prowl; and, the access to the window in question being particularly easy, they determined to pay me an unofficial visit that night, feeling pretty confident that the fastening of the window would remain in the same unlatched condition.
That was the last day of the Easter holidays. My Eton boy should have returned to school in the evening, but he had developed a rash, which, late in the afternoon, was pronounced to be measles. This was more than depressing, seeing that he had, through a bad attack of scarlet fever, been absent for a whole term the previous year. I must apologise for giving these trivial domestic details, but they are necessary in the light of what subsequently transpired.
We all of us went to bed that night in rather low spirits. My son's bedroom was on the ground floor, next to the dining-room, from which a passage led into the smoking-room. At about half-past two we were awakened by a diversity of noises of a very distressing nature. The maternal instinct led my wife to believe that the boy was delirious. She beat me in a race downstairs by one short flight. When I reached the bottom my wife said, "Someone is in the smoking-room; he whispered down the passage, "Lidy, Lidy, don't be afride, it's only me."
Although in great fear lest the burglar should tread on my naked feet (always a most sensitive portion of my anatomy) I rushed into the smoking-room, and saw a short, thick-set man dodging round the eight-foot-long billiard-table. I soon caught and collared him (mercifully without having my toes trodden on) and then put my hand into his breast-pocket, expecting to find a "jemmy" (or "stick," as the thieving fraternity call this stock-in-trade article), but nothing was there, and the man was evidently unarmed. "Don't hit me, guv'nor," he said, "and I'll go quiet."

A Midnight Pandemonium.

During all this time the pandemonium of noise, which had first aroused us, was being continued. Someone had got his finger on the electric bell at the front door, and was pressing it ceaselessly; someone had seized the knocker and was making play with it for all he was worth; a cockatoo was screaming on the landing, and an old dachshund, tied up in the kitchen, was barking as only an old dachshund can bark." Amidst the din of battle I called out that I had got my man, and that my wife must now open the door. This was accordingly done, when two unusually tall policemen stepped across the threshold, with an uncommonly undersized member of the criminal classes wedged between them.
What had happened was as follows: The prospective marauders had left their lair in Great Peter-street, Westminster, about one a.m. and strolled down to their objective in Pimlico. There they rested a while and watched the retreating form of the constable on the beat, and, when he was well out of sight, commenced operations. The more hardened criminal of the two climbed the area railings, got on to the windowsill, lifted the sash, crept into the house, and closed the window after him. His pal was to remain on guard outside, and it had been arranged that, in a few moments, a signal should be given if all were right, and that then the man inside might set to work.
Fortunately, however, a "man in blue" was crossing the long, unlovely street some hundred yards higher up, and, seeing a stationary loafer, rightly conjectured that he could be up to no good at that hour of the night. He therefore descended upon him and demanded his business. "Waiting to see my girl," was the watchman's reply. "Well, you don't wait any longer," says the constable; "now be off." The temporarily disappointed ill-doer slouched away and turned down the first side street. The officer, however, had liked neither his manner nor his movements and, thinking that he might return, hid himself behind the double pillars of the portico. His suspicions were well founded. In another five minutes his man returned, and, when three or four yards from the door, was pounced upon.
At this psychological moment the burglar inside, being weary of waiting for the long-deferred signal, struck a silent match. The constable grasped the situation; while retaining his hold of the watchman, he blew his whistle, which very speedily brought another police officer to his assistance, and "then the band played" in the matter of the electric bell and the door-knocker, while the cockatoo and the dog supplied the vocal accompaniments. I wasn't sorry to hand over my prisoner, and, in due course, went down to Gerald-road Police Station and charged the men. It was about four o'clock when I got back to bed.
The next morning to Westminster Police Court, and there (as Pepys would say) bound over to appear against the prisoners (who were old offenders) at the next sessions at the Central Criminal Court. Prosecutors certainly don't meet with much encouragement in this country! I suppose the law's delays are inevitable, but I had to kick my heels about at the Old Bailey for two days before the case came on, and, as things were and are conducted, I suppose I was lucky in not having to wait longer. The learned Recorder, Sir Charles Hall, tried the case, and the prisoners were sentenced, respectively, to eighteen and fifteen months' hard labour.
My particular friend received the longer imprisonment, and has since followed it up by getting several terms of penal servitude for similar offences. Still, I have kindly recollections of him because he didn't tread on my feet when he had the opportunity of so doing. I looked at his boots afterwards and shuddered! He was a violent young fellow and a sturdy one, who, on previous occasions, had always shown fight. On being asked by one of the detectives why he had made no resistance in my case, he replied, "The Chief Constable were several sizes too big for me." I have watched this criminal's career for the last eighteen years, and fear he is incorrigible - hopeless as a citizen and a menace to society.
It is often alleged that, in a majority of cases, servants are in league with the wrong-doers who break into their masters' premises. Experience leads me to believe that this very rarely happens. But, in my particular instance, there certainly was a concatenation of circumstances which, to a suspicious mind, might well have proved confirmation strong as proof of Holy Writ (but I know that there was nothing of the sort); firstly, the window was left unfastened, and, secondly, on going down to the basement, after the burglars had been arrested, I found the key of the safe (built in under the kitchen stairs) had been left on the table in the pantry) the door of which was wide open. It was the servant's duty to have taken the key up to her bedroom. These were corroborative coincidences and nothing more.

The quivering carriages rock and reel,
Hurrah! for the rush of the grinding steel,
The thundering crank and the mighty wheel.


Famous Railway Mysteries.

What a deafening accompaniment the above three lines would make to a madman's murder on a train! The only railway case of sensational importance which gave us "days" of anxiety was one perpetrated by a homicidal maniac - but more of that anon.
Happily these tragedies are not, I hope and believe, likely to be as frequent in the future as they have been in the past. From a police point of view they were always troublesome cases to deal with, and, most naturally, raised considerable perturbation in the minds of the travelling public. In the old-fashioned railway compartments (too many of which are in existence at the present time) passengers were helplessly, and hopelessly, isolated. The introduction of corridor trains has given a very real sense of security, and, when travelling in them, the chances of a murderous attack are almost nil. Let us take the three most important of these cases in chronological order: -

(1) The murder of Mr. Briggs between Fenchurch-street and Hackney in 1864.
(2) The murder of Mr. Gold on the Brighton line in 1881.
(3) The murder of Miss Camp between Putney and Wandsworth on the L. and S.W. Railway in 1897.

I am old enough to remember well the interest which we boys, at a private school, took in the murder of Mr. Briggs, and in the capture and trial of Franz Muller, and often have I seen the counterfeit presentment of the latter in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud's. When I first went to the Yard I heard a good many facts about this case from my predecessor in the post of Chief Constable of the Criminal Investigation Department (who has already been affectionately mentioned in a former chapter). He was a detective-sergeant at the time when the murder took place. There is nothing new under the sun, and the race across the Atlantic, which terminated in Muller's capture at New York, was the very counterpart of what took place in the Crippen case just six-and-forty years later!

Murder of Mr. Briggs.

Mr. Briggs was an elderly gentleman who occupied a very good position in a City bank, and who resided at Hackney. On the night of the murder he had been detained in town, and the evening was advanced when he got into a train at Fenchurch-street on his homeward journey. He never reached Hackney alive. When the train stopped at one of the intermediate stations, a passenger, who was about to enter the (then empty) compartment in which the ill-fated Mr. Briggs had travelled, noticed that the cushions were wet with what appeared to be blood, and that a walking-stick and a hat were lying on the floor. He at once called the attention of the stationmaster to the matter.
A careful search was made along the line, and somewhere in the vicinity of Victoria Park the body of a well-dressed elderly gentleman was found. Although his head had been literally battered in by some blunt weapon, such as a "jemmy," or life preserver, he still breathed. He remained unconscious till his death, which took place a few hours later.
Some letters in his pocket established his identity, and the bank authorities were at once communicated with. A gold watch and chain, which he was known to have worn the previous day, were missing. The walking-stick found had belonged to the deceased gentleman, but the hat was not his. It was a fair inference then, that in the hurry of escaping from the train the murderer had left behind his own hat and gone off with that of his victim. Inside the crown of the hat found was stamped the name of a well-known maker in Marylebone.
This was something to start with, and, from this time forward, Fortune favoured the police to the end of the chapter. Clues cropped up all round. A cabman came forward and gave information that, till quite recently, he had had a lodger, a German named Franz Muller, and that he had bought for him at this very shop the identical hat, which he recognised. The gold chain had already been "circulated" by police, and found in possession of a pawnbroker or jeweller in Cheapside. This man (whose name was Death!) said he had received the chain from a foreigner and had given him another in exchange for it.
The cabman made a further statement to the effect that Muller had given his little daughter a cardboard box which had stamped on it: "Death, Cheapside." No better evidence could be forthcoming on which to procure a warrant. Muller's movements were being traced. It was found that he had taken a passage on board a sailing vessel which, bound for New York, had started from the London Docks.
Two detectives, in whose company went the jeweller and the cabman for the purpose of identification, at once travelled to Liverpool and steamed in pursuit. As was only to be expected, the steamer arrived in New York many days before the sailing vessel was sighted. No time was lost in boarding her on arrival. Muller was at once identified by the two witnesses and charged on the warrant.
In the prisoner's box the murdered man's watch was found. Moreover, at the very time of his arrest, he was found wearing Mr. Briggs's hat; the crown of the same had been cut down and the top sewn on again in a particularly workmanlike manner. As the old chief constable told me, there was a very dramatic moment at the trial when the fact was elicited that Muller at one time had been a tailor! The evidence before had, indeed, been of an overwhelming nature, yet this seemed to satisfy the jury more than anything else which had previously transpired.

The Balcombe Tunnel Crime.

The murder of Mr. Gold, whose body was found in the Balcombe tunnel on the Brighton line, took place in 1881. I was in Bengal at the time, but, even in the Far East, the case caused considerable sensation. I well remember the grim riddle as to why it was expedient to purchase L.B. and S.C. Railway stock; the answer being because "gold" had been found in one of the company's tunnels!
When I joined the Yard, seven or eight years later, I found that one of the then chief inspectors was the officer who had been deputed to make the various inquiries in London in connection with the case; and he it was, I think, who actually arrested Lefroy at his lodgings in a London suburb. He often told me the salient facts, which afforded an object-lesson to police officers as to the advisability of safe-holding a suspect after they had once laid their hands on him.
Mr. Gold was a retired business man who had largely invested in house property in London, the rents of which he used personally to collect. For this purpose he frequently came up to town for the day. He lived at Preston Park, just outside Brighton. Late one afternoon some travellers by the London and Brighton express thought they heard the discharge of firearms in a neighbouring compartment as the train was entering Merstham tunnel, just beyond South Croydon; and it subsequently transpired that, as the express was passing Horley, some men saw a struggle taking place between two passengers in a first-class carriage.
When the train slowed down at Preston Park, a man of disarranged attire and dilapidated appearance alighted from a first-class compartment. He gave his name as Lefroy, and told the railway officials a wildly improbable story, to the effect that when he left London his carriage was shared by two other passengers. All went well till South Croydon was passed, then he remembered hearing a pistol-shot, and immediately afterwards received a blow on the head which rendered him senseless.
When he came to he was alone in the carriage. Some foreign coins were strewn about the floor, and (what must have seemed most extraordinary) the end of a gold watch-chain was seen to be hanging out of Lefroy's boot. He gave, as his residence, an address at Croydon, and thither the police accompanied him. On arrival he asked and obtained permission to change his clothes. He was allowed to enter the house alone - and, not unnaturally, left it by the back door. After waiting for a considerable time the officers entered the house, only to find that the bird had flown, nor was he caged again till three or four weeks had passed.
Meanwhile the body of the murdered man was found on the line in the Balcombe tunnel. A hue and cry was raised after Lefroy. No photograph of the missing man was forthcoming; but a gentleman who had often met him in London came forward with a sketch portrait which he had made from memory. This was photographed and published in one of the morning papers.
A copy can still be seen at Scotland Yard; it represents what appears to be a palpable caricature of one of the most typical degenerates that it is possible to imagine. It must, nevertheless, have been a very striking likeness, and through its insertion in the papers Lefroy was captured. He had been lodging for some three weeks at a very quiet street in the south, or east, of London. During that period he had never once left the house. This excited the suspicions of his landlady, who, on seeing the portrait, thought she recognised it, and at once communicated with the Yard.
Percy Lefroy Mapleton - for that was, I believe, his real name - had a curious history. He said he was an actor, but I think had never got nearer the stage than the writing of some lines for the opening scenes in a provincial pantomime. "The profession," however, is quite accustomed to being maligned. How often in police-courts do young women give their avocation as "actress," when in reality they are something very, very different!

"The Four Minutes' Murder."

The "four minutes' murder," as some of the newspapers called it at the time, was that by which Miss Camp met her death on the L. and S.W. Railway, in the spring of 1897. It was so called because the train took exactly four minutes in running between Putney and Wandsworth. At the former station the unfortunate woman was seen in a compartment reading a magazine; at the latter station her murderer probably alighted, having, in that short space of time, battered in his victim's head and pushed the body under the seat.
Miss Camp was a barmaid at Waterloo Station. She had many friends, and was universally liked and respected. So far as could be ascertained she had absolutely no enemy in the world.
She had on this particular day been visiting relatives at Hounslow, and left to return to town at about eight o'clock in the evening. The body was discovered by a carriage cleaner an hour and a half after the train had reached Waterloo, and even then, if I remember rightly, there was some delay in informing the police, and, in consequence, many valuable hours were lost. It was a very favourite saying of my predecessor at the Yard that, "if you don't catch a murderer in the first twenty-four hours, you don't get him at all!" This statement is a bit too arbitrary, but, for all that, it contains a good deal of truth. At the commencement of a murder investigation every minute is of golden importance.
As soon as news reached us inquiries were at once made up and down the line. The murdered woman had entered an empty compartment at Hounslow. At Putney, where she was noticed reading a paper, it was said that a man was seated opposite to her, but no description of him was at any time forthcoming, nor could it be ascertained at what station he had entered the train.
Within some fifty yards of the Wandsworth Station (on the right-hand side as you come up from Putney) is the Alma public-house, the dome-like roof of which can be seen from the line. Here is was that the first possible clue was obtained. About the time of the arrival of the train at Wandsworth a man entered the bar of the house and called for twopennyworth of rum. He was a wild, weird-looking individual, with a very thick black moustache. It was noticed that the collar of his overcoat was wet with some thick, glutinous matter. His entrance and general appearance excited some interest amongst the tavern folk, but, of course, at that time they knew nothing as to a murder having been committed. After a few minutes the mysterious stranger drank up his rum and left. His heavy moustache, and that alone, seems to have impressed those who saw him, and the importance of this will be seen later on in the story.
The next morning a pestle, with blood and hair adhering to it, was found at the side of the line, about one hundred yards from where the train would have pulled up at the Wandsworth Station platform. It was undoubtedly the weapon with which the murder had been committed.

Search for a Wanderer.

Police had now got the weapon; they also had knowledge of the fact that a mysterious individual had been in the Alma public-house the night before, very soon after the murder had been committed, but where was he to be found? and, if found, how could he be connected with the crime? These were problems for the Yard to solve.
Two or three days later the police at Blackheath found a man wandering about in pitiable plight. He was much travel-stained; he had evidently been sleeping out for some nights, and possessed no overcoat. He appeared half-witted, and though unshaved for many days had very little hair on his face. He said he had been down at Redhill the week before, and this was verified by inquiry. His home, he stated, was on the River Thames, some forty miles from London.
The investigations were entrusted to the same chief inspector who had so successfully conducted the Muswell Hill case the year before. At his request a junior inspector was sent down to the address given by the wanderer, and, after making the necessary inquiries, returned to the Yard on a Sunday morning, when I met both officers. The information locally obtained showed that this man was of weak intellect, but what impressed both inspectors more than anything else, and went far to convince them that the suspect could not have been the man who drank rum at the Alma public-house on the night of the murder, was the fact that his neighbours one and all asserted that he never had grown a moustache and never could grow one.
Upon this I drew a bow at a venture, and suggested that, on the occasion in question, the man might have been wearing a false moustache. This idea seemed to my hard-headed and matter-of-fact officers to be fantastic and somewhat far-fetched, and they told me so, for there is nothing like free and unrestrained converse with your detectives if you are to get anything out of them or they are to get anything out of you. However, only a few days afterwards, the wanderer (who was being looked after by police) volunteered the information that he had bought a false moustache in Redhill and had thrown it away somewhere in the Edgware-road a day or so before he came under the notice of police in the vicinity of Blackheath.
He was put up for identification by the people who had seen him in the Alma, but they all failed to pick him out, and roundly asserted that their rum-drinking acquaintance had a large, dark moustache. In this country, of course, it was impossible to furnish him with a second hirsute appendage for his upper lip, though no doubt in France one would have been promptly provided.
The inquest on the body of Miss Camp was held by the coroner for the South-Western district - a gentleman who died many years ago, but who was renowned for his pertinacity and the zeal with which he prosecuted the inquiries in his court. Again and again did he adjourn, and his questions to the wanderer were many and apposite. But the identification had entirely failed, and it could never be proved that he was on the spot, though he must have been perilously near it. Some months after the man was adjudged insane and confined in a lunatic asylum, and, as far as I know, he died there.
The murder of Miss Camp was wholly without motive, and was no doubt perpetrated by some homicidal maniac. Such men, I believe, have no recollection of their guilty acts, which pass out of their minds as soon as they have been committed.

The Murder on the Liner.

As, according to Shylock, there be water rats as well as land rats, so are there murders on steamers as well as in trains. Fortunately these are rare and, when they do take place, the motive for the crime is generally obvious, and very little doubt exists as to the guilty parties. A case, however, occurred three or four years ago which presented some curious features.
The good ship China, of the P. and O. Company's fleet, was on a homeward voyage somewhere between Colombo and Aden. After a rather stormy night one of the stewardesses was discovered dead in her cabin with her head battered in. Hard by was a heavy "spanner," with which the murder have evidently been committed. The spanner might have been used by almost anyone on board. The dead woman was alleged to have been (what they call in Sussex) "tall-tempered," and, on occasion, to have had words with more than one of the lascars.
No evidence of any kind was forthcoming, however, although suspicion attached to one of the bath attendants.
So soon as the steamer touched at an English port she was boarded by an officer of the Criminal Investigation Department, who took statements from everyone in the least likely to be able to throw any light on the subject, and then embodied them in a full report.
A conference was held at the Yard, at which legal authorities were present, and there was a consensus of opinion among these gentlemen (which was supported by the officer who had made the inquiries and taken the statements) that a charge, if made, could not be sustained. The matter, however, was deemed of sufficient importance to justify a risk being taken.
The suspected native was arrested. He at once said that his ears had been boxed by the murdered woman, and that this had rankled in his breast; in effect he confessed the crime, and added, with some touching naivete, "As King George is to be crowned this year, perhaps he won't order me to be hanged!"

(Sir Melville Macnaghten will continue his reminiscences in these columns next week, dealing with the Crippen case.)

Source: Lloyd's Weekly News, December 27, 1914, Page 7

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

Posts : 4907

View user profile

Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum