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Sir Basil Thomson's Memoirs

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Sir Basil Thomson's Memoirs

Post by Karen on Sat 25 Jun 2011 - 9:01


It was a curious but fascinating medley of incidents taken largely from the secret history of the war that Sir Basil Thomson, former head of Scotland Yard, and at one time chief of the British counter espionage system, gave in his lecture at Symphony Hall recently.
Although he was expected to speak on "My Experiences at Scotland Yard," he touched rather lightly on the science of crime detection and spoke rather of what was evidently nearer his heart, the exciting game of espionage, and counter espionage, interpolating his story with sharply drawn sketches of men and events. Such was his account of why the Kaiser fled to Holland, the gruesome story of the death of Rasputin, told to Sir Basil by the chief murderer, Prince Yusipoff, and, to revert to a historic criminal, the supposed identity of Jack the Ripper.

Not a Sherlock Holmes.

Sir Basil Thomson, a short, stocky elderly man, wearing on his dress coat the gleaming star of the Order of the Bath, resembled a retired merchant, rather than one of the most famous detectives of his time, declared that the faculty of deduction, Sherlock Holmes's greatest asset, was almost valueless, and had been of use to him in only one case, the famous Bournemouth murder.
The first of his flashes of secret history came when he told how the London police found the body of a degenerate Russian student in the Thames, immediately after the series of Jack the Ripper atrocities. This man, he stated, was by every rule of evidence the author of the crimes. At least, after his death they stopped, never to recur.
Sir Basil Thomson told how an agent of the British Government received the true story of the Kaiser's flight into Holland from General Granau, who succeeded Ludendorff as chief of staff. When William was informed that Germany had no chance of defeating the Allies he appeared not to be surprised, but when informed that there was a revolt in Berlin, he jumped up and said he would lead his troops against the rebels. It was then that General Granau told him that his life was not safe even with his troops, and at that the Emperor sank back in a dazed, half unconscious state and he was carried to the car which took him across the Dutch border. He never spoke during the journey.

Murder of Rasputin.

Prince Yusipoff, he said, in describing the details of the murder of Rasputin, told how the priest, a physical giant, was decoyed to the Prince's palace where a band of men had resolved to kill him because he had finally persuaded the Czar to withdraw from the war. Rasputin, unsuspecting, was escorted by Yusipoff to the dining room in the basement, where he was given poisoned wine, a few drops of which had killed a large dog earlier in the day. After a bottle of the stuff Rasputin showed no effects of the drug, and Yusipoff, convinced that he was dealing with a man possessed of the devil, excused himself and went upstairs to the waiting conspirators where he borrowed a revolver from the Grand Duke Boris.
On his return in typical Russian fashion, he stopped and knelt before an altar in the hall. After a moment he heard a sound and terrified to see Rasputin, with foam on his lips, bending over him. Without a word he fired and the priest fell prostrate on his back. The most of the others left and when Yusipoff returned a half-hour later, Rasputin was still apparently dead, but when he bent over him that priest sprang up and grappled with him. The prince fought him off and Rasputin rushed towards the garden, where another conspirator shot him three times.
Still his tremendous vitality persisted and Yusipoff was forced to club him for several minutes before he finally succumbed. A half-witted policeman, attracted by the firing, then appeared on the scene, and after they had satisfied him that they were only shooting a dog, Yusipoff managed to throw the body into the Neva.

Source: Northern Standard, Tuesday 5 June 1923, page 1

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

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