In proof of this he declared that he had lived for many months in an obscure French village, and, being well acquainted with French, passed quite unknown, while watching for someone; and he strengthened his argument by quoting the case of the perpetrator of a recent robbery of pearls, who baffled pursuit for months, and gave herself up voluntarily in the end.
In any case, pursuit was not so keen as it would have been with more notorious criminals. Such people are not necessarily in request; there may be a secret reason for concealment, for dreading discovery, but it has generally been of a social, a domestic, not necessarily a criminal character. We have all heard of the crossing-sweeper who did so good a trade that he kept his brougham to bring him to business from a snug home at the other end of the town. The case is not singular, moreover.
Another on all fours, and even more romantic, was that of two youths with different names, walking side by side in the streets of New York, who saluted the same man as father; a gentleman with two distinct personalities. Where crime complicates it, where the police are on the alert and have an object in hunting the wrong-doer down, disappearance is seldom entirely successful. Jekyll could not cover Mr. Hyde altogether when his homicidal mania became ungovernable. The clergyman who lived a life of sanctity and preached admirable sermons to an appreciative congregation for five full years was run down at last and exposed as a noted burglar in private life.
Criminals who seek effacement do not take into sufficient account the curiosity and inquisitiveness of mankind. The judicious publication of certain details, of personal descriptions, of names, aliases, and the supposed movements of persons in request, has constantly borne fruit. Long ago, as far back as the murder of Lord William Russell by Courvoisier, proof of the crime was greatly assisted by the publication of the story in the Press.
Madame Piolaine, an hotel-keeper, read in the newspaper of the arrest of a suspected person, recognising him as a man who had been in her service as a waiter. Only a day or two after the murder he had come to her, begging her to take charge of a brown paper parcel, for which he would call. He had never returned, and now Madame Piolaine hunted up the parcel, which lay at the bottom of a cupboard, where she had placed it. The fact that Courvoisier had brought it justified her in examining it, and she now found that it contained a quantity of silver plate, and other articles of value.
Hitherto the evidence had been mainly presumptive. The man had a gold locket, too, in his possession, the property of Lord William Russell, but it had been lost some time antecedent to the murder. All the evidence was presumptive, and the case was not made perfectly clear until Madame Piolaine was brought into it through the publicity given by the Press. In the murder of Mr. The hat found in the railway carriage where the deed had been done was a chief clue. His movements were easily traced. He had gone across the Atlantic in a sailing ship, and was easily forestalled by the detectives in a fast Atlantic liner, which also carried the jeweller and the cabman.
Where identity is clear the publication of the signalement , if possible of the likeness, has reduced capture to a certainty; it is a mere question then of time and money. Lefroy, the murderer of Mr.
- New Trends in Conceptual Representation: Challenges To Piagets Theory (Jean Piaget Symposia Series).
- Crossing Over.
- Crimes of the 19th Century - Chronicle Live;
Gold, was caught through the publicity given to his portrait, which had appeared in the columns of the Daily Telegraph. Some eminent but highly cautious police officers nevertheless deprecate the interference of the Press, and have said that the premature or injudicious disclosure of facts obtained in the progress of investigation has led to the escape of criminals.
It is to be feared that there is an increasing distrust of the official methods of detection, and the Press is more and more inclined to institute a pursuit of its own when mysterious cases continue unsolved. So convinced are the London police authorities of the value of a public organ for police purposes, that they publish a newspaper of their own, the admirably managed Police Gazette , which is an improved form of a journal started in Ireland has a similar organ, the Dublin Hue and Cry ; and some of the chief constables of counties send out police reports that are highly useful at times.
Through these various channels news travels quickly to all parts, puts all interested on the alert, and makes them active in running down their prey. Detection depends largely, of course, upon the knowledge, astuteness, ingenuity, and logical powers of police officers, although they find many independent and often unexpected aids, as we shall see. The best method of procedure is clearly laid down in police manuals: an immediate systematic investigation on the theatre of a crime, the minute examination of premises, the careful search for tracks and traces, for any article left behind, however insignificant, such as the merest fragment of clothing, a scrap of paper, a harmless tool, a hat, half a button; the slow, persistent inquiry into the antecedents of suspected persons, of their friends and associates, their movements and ways, unexplained change of domicile, proved possession of substantial funds after previous indigence—all these are detailed for the guidance of the detective.
It will be seen in the following pages how small a thing has often sufficed to form a clue. A name chalked upon a door in tell-tale handwriting; half a word scratched upon a chisel, has led to the identification of its guilty owner, as in the case of Orrock. A button dropped after a burglary has been found to correspond with those on the coat of a man in custody for another offence, and with the very place from which it was torn.
The position of a body has shown that death could not have been accidental. A false tooth, fortunately incombustible, has sufficed for proof of identity when every other vestige has been annihilated by fire, as in the case of Dr. Webster of Boston. A dog, belonging to a murdered man, had been seen to leave the house with him on the morning of the crime, and was yet found fourteen days later alive and well, with fresh food by him, in the locked-up apartment to which the occupier had never returned.
The strongest evidence against Patch, the murderer of Mr. Blight at Rotherhithe, was that the fatal shot could not possibly have been fired from the road outside, and the first notion of this was suggested by the doctor called in, afterwards eminent as Sir Astley Cooper. We shall see in the Voirbo case, quoted above, how an ingenious police officer, when he found bloodstains on a floor, discovered where a body had been buried by emptying a can of water on the uneven stones and following the channels in which it ran. Finger-prints and foot-marks have again and again been cleverly worked into undeniable evidence.
The impression of the first is personal and peculiar to the individual; by the latter the police have been able to fix beyond question the direction in which criminals have moved, their character and class, and the neighbourhood that owns them. The labours of the scientist have within the last few years produced new methods of identification, which are invaluable in the pursuit and detection of criminals.
The patient investigations of a medical expert, M. The system, however, is on the face of it a complicated one, and at New Scotland Yard it has now been abandoned in favour of the finger-prints method. Francis Galton, to whose researches this mode of identification is due, has proved that finger prints, exhibited in certain unalterable combinations, suffice to fix individual identity, and his system of notation, as now practised in England, will soon provide a general register of all known criminals in the country.
The ineffaceable odour of musk and other strong scents has more than once brought home robbery and murder to their perpetrators. A most interesting case is recorded by General Harvey,  where, in the plunder of a native banker and pawnbroker in India, an entire pod of musk, just as it had been excised from the deer, was carried off with a number of valuables.
- The Creators Appointed Times: In Depth;
- Back Issues - Discover Your Ancestors.
- Browse by Subject.
- United Kingdom Blacksheep Ancestors?
- About the author.
- Journalist and Author.
Musk is a costly commodity, for it is rare, and obtained generally from far-off Thibet. He travelled up country by boat part of the way, then landed to complete the journey, and carried with him the spikenard. He fell among thieves, a small gang of professional poisoners, who disposed of him, killing him and his companions and throwing them into the river.
Long afterwards the criminals, who had appropriated all their goods, were detected by the tell-tale smell of the spikenard in their house, and the flask, nearly emptied, was discovered beneath a stack of fuel in a small room. Yet again, the smell of opium led to the detection of a robbery in the Punjaub, where a train of bullock carts laden with the drug was plundered by dacoits. After a short struggle the bullock drivers bolted, the thieves seized the opium and buried it.
But, returning through a village, they were intercepted as suspicious characters, and it was found that their clothes smelt strongly of opium. Then their footsteps were traced back to where they had committed the robbery, and thence to a spot in the dry bed of a river, in which the opium was found buried. In India, again, many cases of obscure homicide have been brought to light by such a trifling fact as the practice, common among native women, of wearing glass, or rather shell lac, bangles or bracelets.
These choorees , as they are called, are heated, then wound round wrist or ankle in continuous circles and joined. They are very brittle, and will naturally be easily smashed in a violent struggle. Fruitless search was made for a woman who had disappeared from a village, until in a field adjoining the fragments of broken choorees were picked up. On digging below, the corpse of the missing woman, bearing marks of foul play, was discovered. In another case a father identified certain broken choorees as belonging to his daughter; they had been found, with traces of blood and wisps of female hair, near a well, and were the means of bringing home the murder.
Cheevers  tells us that a young woman was seen to throw a boy ten years of age into a dry well twenty feet deep. Information was given, and the child was extracted, a corpse. But sentence of death was passed. We shall come upon innumerable instances of this.
crime history | Victorian Policing
Troppmann, the wholesale murderer, was apprehended quite by accident, because his papers were not in proper form. He might still have escaped prolonged arrest had he not run for it and tried to drown himself in the harbour at Havre. The chief of a band of French burglars was arrested in a street quarrel, and was found to be carrying a great part of the stolen bonds in his pocket. When Charles Peace was taken at Blackheath in the act of burglary, and charged with wounding a policeman, no one suspected that this supposed half-caste mulatto, with his dyed skin, was a murderer much wanted in another part of the country.
Every good police officer freely admits the assistance he has had from fortune. One of these—famous, not to say notorious, for he fell into bad ways—described to me how he was much thwarted and baffled in a certain case by his inability to come upon the person he was after, or any trace of him, and how, meeting a strange face in the street, a sudden impulse prompted him to turn and follow it, with the satisfactory result that he was led straight to his desired goal.
The same officer confessed that chancing to see a letter delivered by the postman at a certain door he was tempted to become possessed of it, and did not hesitate to steal it. When he had opened and read it, he found the clue of which he was in search! Criminals themselves believe strongly in luck, and in some cases are most superstitious. An Italian, whose speciality was sacrilege, never broke into a church without kneeling down before the altar to pray for good fortune and large booty.
The whole system of Thuggee was based on superstition. This superstitious belief in luck is still prevalent. A notorious banknote forger in France carefully abstained from counterfeiting notes of two values, those for francs and 2, francs, being convinced that they would bring him into trouble. Thieves, it has been noticed, generally follow one line of business, because a first essay in it was successful. The man who steals coats steals them continually; once a horse thief always a horse thief; the forger sticks to his own line, as do the pickpocket, the burglar, and the performer of the confidence trick.
Only in matter-of-fact America does the cracksman rise superior to superstition. There a good business is done by certain people who lend housebreaking tools on hire. Instinct, aboriginal and animal, has helped at times to bring criminals to justice. It has been sometimes suggested that the instinct of animals might be further utilised in the pursuit of criminals. Something more than the well-known unerring chase of the bloodhound might be got from the marvellous intelligence of dogs.
The clever beast was perpetually scratching at the floor beneath which the poor woman was buried, and his inconvenient restlessness no doubt led to his own destruction, for Wainwright is said to have made away with the dog. In India the idea of using the pariah dog for the purpose of smelling out buried bodies has been often put forward. Dogs would avail little, however, if the corpse lay at a great depth below ground, and hence the suggestion to draw upon the keener sense, exercised over a wider range above and below ground, of the vulture.
This foul bird is commonly believed to be untameable, but it might assist unconsciously. Vultures are much given to perching upon the same tree near every Indian station, and close observation might reveal the direction of their flight. Indian police experience records many cases of the discovery of bodies through the agency of kites, vultures, crows, and scavenging wild beasts. The howling of a jackal has given the clue; in one remarkable case the body of a murdered child was traced through the snarling and quarrelling of jackals over the remains.
A murderer who had buried his victim under a heap of stones, on returning the old story to the spot found that it had been unearthed by wild animals. The strange, almost superhuman, powers of the Australian blacks in following blind, invisible tracks have been turned to good account in the detection of crime.
Their senses of sight, smell, and touch are abnormally acute. They can distinguish the trail of lost animals one from the other, and follow it for hundreds of miles. Like the Red Indians of North America, they judge by a leaf, a blade of grass, a mere splash in the mud; they can tell with unfailing precision whether the ground has been recently disturbed, and even what has passed over it.
A remarkable instance occurred in the colony of Victoria in , when a stockholder, travelling up to Melbourne with a considerable sum of money, disappeared. His horse had returned riderless to the station, and without saddle or bridle. A search was at once instituted, but proved fruitless. These men, when questioned, declared that neither man nor horse had passed that way.
There was nothing, however, definitely to prove foul play, and further search was necessary. The black now discovered the tracks of men by the banks of a small stream hard by, which formed the boundary of the run. The stream was shrunk to a tiny thread after the long drought, and here and there was swallowed up by sand. But it gathered occasionally into deep, stagnant pools, which marked its course.
Each of these the native examined, still finding foot-marks on the margin. At last the party reached a pond larger than any, wide, and seemingly very deep. The tracker, after circling round and round the bank, said the trail had ceased, and bent all his attention upon the surface of the water, where a quantity of dark scum was floating.
The pond was soon dragged with grappling-irons and long spears, and presently a large sack was brought up, which was found to contain the mangled remains of the missing stockholder. The sack had been weighted with many stones to prevent it from rising to the surface. Suspicion fell upon the two shepherds who lived in the hut on the boundary of the run. One was a convict on ticket-of-leave, the other a deserter from a regiment in England. Both, too, incautiously urged that the search had gone far enough, and protested against examining the ponds.
While this was being done, and unobserved by them, a magistrate and two constables went to their hut and searched it thoroughly. Nothing was found in the hut, but in an outhouse they came upon a coat and waistcoat and two pairs of trousers, all much stained with fresh blood-marks. On this the shepherds were arrested and sent down to Melbourne. What had become of the saddle-bags in which the murdered man had carried his cash? It was surmised that they had been put by in some safe place, and again the services of the native tracker were sought. The tracks ended at a stone on the side, where the native said he smelt leather.
When several stones had been taken down, the saddle-bags, saddle, and bridle were found hidden in an inner receptacle. The shepherds were put on their trial, and the evidence thus accumulated was deemed convincing by a jury. It was also proved that the blood-stained clothes had been worn by the prisoners both on the day before and on the very day of the murder.
It was also shown that the men had been absent from the hut the greater part of the morning of the murder. They were executed at Melbourne. This extraordinary faculty of following a trail is characteristic of all the Australian blacks. It was remarkably illustrated in a Queensland case, where a man was missing who was supposed to have been murdered, and whose remains were discovered by the black trackers.
An aged shepherd, who had long served on a certain station, was at last sent off with a considerable sum, arrears of pay. He started down country, but was never heard of again. Various suspicious reports started a belief that he had been the victim of foul play. The police were called in, and proceeded to make a thorough search, assisted by several blacks, who usually hang about the station loafing.
But they lost their native indolence when there was tracking to be done. Now they were roused to keenest excitement, and entered eagerly into the work, jabbering and gesticulating, with flashing eyes. The search commenced at the hut lately occupied by the shepherd. The first thing discovered, lying among the ashes of the hearth, was a spade, which might have been used as a weapon of offence; spots on it, as the blacks declared, were of blood.
Some similar spots were pointed out upon the hard, well-trodden ground outside, and the track led to a creek or water-hole, on the banks of which the blacks picked up among the tufts of short dried grass several locks of reddish-white hair, invisible to everyone else. The depths of the water were now probed with long poles, and the blacks presently fished up a blucher boot with an iron heel. The hair and the boot were both believed to belong to the missing shepherd. The trackers still found locks of hair, following them to a second water-hole, where all traces ceased, and it was supposed by some that the body lay there at the bottom.
Not so the blacks, who asserted that it had now been lifted upon horseback for removal to a more distant spot, and in proof pointed out hoof-marks, which had escaped observation until they detected them. The hoof-marks were large and small, obviously of a mare and her foal. The pursuit returned to the hoof-marks, and these were followed to the edge of a scrub, where for the time they were lost. Next day, however, they were again picked up, on the hard, bare ground, where there was hardly a blade of grass.
They led to the far-off edge of a plain, towards a small spiral column which ascended into the sky. It was the remains of an old and dilapidated sheep-yard, which had been burnt by the station overseer. This man, it should have been premised, had all along been suspected of making away with the shepherd from interested motives, having been the depositary of his savings. And it was remembered that he had paid several visits in the last few days to the burning sheep-yard. Now, when the search party reached the spot, where little but charred and smouldering embers remained, the blacks eagerly turned over the ashes.
Small portions of the skull were still unconsumed, and a few teeth were found, quite perfect, having altogether escaped the action of the fire. Soon the buckle of a belt was discovered, and identified as having been worn by the missing shepherd, and also the iron heel of a boot corresponding to that found in the first water-hole. Not the least useful of the many allies found by the police are the criminals themselves.
Their shortsightedness is often extraordinary; even when seemingly most careful to cover up their tracks they will neglect some small point, will drop unconsciously some slight clue, which, sooner or later, must betray them. In an American murder, at Michigan, a man killed his wife in the night by braining her with a heavy club. His story was that his bedroom had been entered through the window by some unknown murderer. The real murderer in planning the crime had extracted one nail and left the other. The detection of the murderers of M.
Delahache, a misanthrope who lived with a paralysed mother and one old servant in a ruined abbey at La Gloire Dieu, near Troyes, was much facilitated by the carelessness with which the criminals neglected to carry off a note-book from the safe. After they had slain their three victims, they forced the safe and carried off a large quantity of securities payable to bearer, for M. Delahache was a saving, well-to-do person. They took all the gold and banknotes, but they left the title-deeds of the property and his memorandum book, in which the late owner had recorded in shorthand, illegible by the thieves, the numbers and description of the stock he held, mostly in Russian and English securities.
By means of these indications it was possible to trace the stolen papers and secure the thieves, who still possessed them, together with the pocket-book itself and a number of other valuables that had belonged to M. It is almost an axiom in detection to watch the scene of a murder for the visit of the criminal, who seems almost irresistibly drawn thither. The same impulse attracts the French murderer to the Morgue, where his victim lies in full public view. This is so thoroughly understood in Paris that the police keep officers in plain clothes among the crowd which is always filing past the plate-glass windows separating the public from the marble slopes on which the bodies are exposed.
Numerous cases might be quoted in which offenders disclose their crime by ill-advised ostentation: the reckless display of much cash by those who were, seemingly, poverty-stricken just before; self-indulgent extravagance, throwing money about wastefully, not seldom parading in the very clothes of their victims. A curious instance of the neglect of common precaution was that of Wainwright, the murderer of Harriet Lane, who left the corpus delicti , the damning proof of his guilt, to the prying curiosity of an outsider, while he went off in search of a cab.
The victim was an aged woman of eccentric character and extremely parsimonious habits, who lived entirely alone, only admitting a woman to help her in the housework for an hour or two every day. She owned a good deal of house property, let out in tenements to the working classes. As a rule she collected the rents herself, and was believed to have considerable sums from time to time in her house. This made her timid; being naturally of a suspicious nature, she fortified herself inside with closed shutters and locked doors, never opening to a soul until she had closely scrutinised any visitor.
It called for no particular remark that for several days she had not issued forth. She was last seen on the evening of the 13th of August, When people came to see her on business on the 14th, 15th, and 16th, she made no response to their loud knockings, but her strange habits were well known; moreover, the neighbourhood was so densely inhabited that it was thought impossible she could have been the victim of foul play.
At last, on the 17th of August, a shoemaker named Emm, whom she sometimes employed to collect rents at a distance, went to Mrs. The police were consulted, and decided to break into the house. Its owner was found lying dead on the floor in a lumber-room at the top of the house. The body lay in a pool of blood, which had also splashed the walls, and a bloody footprint was impressed on the floor, pointing outwards from the room. There were no appearances of forcible entry to the house, and the conclusion was fair that whoever had done the deed had been admitted by Mrs. Elmsley herself.
A possible clue to the criminal was afforded by the several rolls of wall-paper lying about near the corpse. Elmsley was in the habit of employing workmen on her own account to carry out repairs and decorations in her houses, and the indications pointed to her having been visited by one of these, who had perpetrated the crime. Yet the police made no useful deductions from these data. While they were still at fault a man named Mullins, a plasterer by trade and an ex-member of the Irish constabulary, who knew Mrs. Elmsley well and had often worked for her, came forward voluntarily to throw some light on the mystery.
Nearly a month had elapsed since the murder, and he declared that during this period his attention had been drawn to the man Emm and his suspicious conduct. He had watched him, had frequently seen him leave his cottage and proceed stealthily to a neighbouring brickfield, laden on each occasion with a parcel he did not bring back. Mullins, after giving this information quite unsought, led the police officers to the spot, and into a ruined outbuilding, where a strict search was made.
But to his utter amazement the police turned on Mullins and took him also into custody. Something in his manner had aroused suspicion, and rightly, for eventually he was convicted and hanged for the crime. Here Mullins had only himself to thank. It may be interesting to complete this case, and show how further suspicion settled around Mullins.
The parcel found in the brickfield was tied up with a tag end of tape and a bit of a dirty apron string. There was an inner parcel fastened with waxed cord. It was examined under the microscope, and proved to be stained with blood. Mullins had thrown away an old boot, which chanced to be picked up under the window of a room he occupied. This boot fitted exactly into the blood-stained footprint on the floor in Mrs. So far as Emm was concerned, he was able clearly to establish an alibi , while witnesses were produced who swore to having seen Mullins coming across Stepney Green at dawn on the day of the crime with bulging pockets stuffed full of something, and going home; he appeared much perturbed, and trembled all over.
Mullins was found guilty without hesitation, and the judge expressed himself perfectly satisfied with the verdict. The case was much discussed in legal circles and in the Press, and all opinions were unanimously hostile to Mullins. The convict steadfastly denied his guilt to the last, but left a paper exonerating Emm. It is difficult to reconcile this with his denunciation of that innocent man, except on the ground of his own guilty knowledge of the real murderer. In any case, it was he himself who first lifted the veil and stupidly brought justice down upon himself.
The case of Mullins was in some points forestalled by the discovery of an Indian murder, in which the native police ingeniously entrapped the criminal to assist in his own detection. A man in Kumacu, named Mungloo, disappeared, and a neighbour, Moosa, was suspected of having made away with him. Moosa knew better, and said so. Imprudently anxious to shift all suspicion from himself, he told the police that a certain Kitroo knew where the real corpse lay, and advised them to arrest him.
Kitroo was seized, and confessed in effect that Mungloo was buried close to his house.
- Nigel Green.
- LANCELOT HEDLEY - POW & SWISS INTERNEE OF WW1.
- Tough Times and Grisly Crimes : A History of Crime in Northumberland and County Durham.
- United Kingdom Blacksheep Ancestors.
- See a Problem??
- A Pro-active approach to Credit Management (The Collecting Money Series Book 9)!
The ground was opened, and at a considerable depth down the body was found. Now Moosa came forward and claimed the credit, as well as the proffered reward for discovery. He was, he said, the first to indicate where the body was hidden. Moosa was sentenced to transportation for life. There was in his case no necessity to accuse Kitroo, and but for his officiousness the corpse would never, probably, have been brought to light.
There have, however, been occasions when detection has failed more or less completely. The police do not admit always that the perpetrators remain unknown; they have clues, suspicion, strong presumption, even more, but there is a gap in the evidence forthcoming, and to attempt prosecution would be to face inevitable defeat. To this day it is held at Scotland Yard that the real murderer in a mysterious murder in London in the seventies was discovered, but that the case failed before an artfully planned alibi.
The Burdell murder in , in New York, was one of these. Burdell was a wealthy and eccentric dentist, owning a house in Bond Street, the greater part of which he let out in tenements. One of his tenants was a Mrs. Cunningham, to whom he became engaged, and whom, according to one account, he married. In any case, they quarrelled furiously, and Dr. Burdell warned her that she must leave the house, as he had let her rooms.
Whereupon she told him significantly that he might not live to sign the agreement. Shortly afterwards he was found murdered, stabbed with fifteen wounds, and there were all the signs of a violent struggle. Cunningham was proved to be left-handed. The facts were strong against her, and she was arrested, but was acquitted on trial. It came out long after the mysterious Road Somerset murder that the detectives were absolutely right about it, and that Inspector Whicher, of Scotland Yard, in fixing the crime on Constance Kent, had worked out the case with singular acumen. He elicited the motive—her jealousy of the little brother, one of a second family; he built up the clever theory of the abstracted nightdress, and obtained what he considered sufficient proof.
It will be remembered that this accusation was denounced as frivolous and unjust. Whicher was so overwhelmed with ridicule that he soon afterwards retired from the force, and died, it was said, of a broken heart. His failure, as it was called, threw suspicion upon Mr. In the end, as all the world knows, Constance Kent, who had entered an Anglican sisterhood, made full confession to the Rev. Wagner, of Brighton, and she was duly convicted of murder.
Although sentence of death was passed, it was commuted, and I had her in my charge at Millbank for years. So far as absolute knowledge goes, this is undoubtedly true. But the police, after the last murder, had brought their investigations to the point of strongly suspecting several persons, all of them known to be homicidal lunatics, and against three of these they held very plausible and reasonable grounds of suspicion.
Concerning two of them the case was weak, although it was based on certain suggestive facts. One was a Polish Jew, a known lunatic, who was at large in the district of Whitechapel at the time of the murder, and who, having developed homicidal tendencies, was afterwards confined in an asylum. This man was said to resemble the murderer by the one person who got a glimpse of him—the police-constable in Mitre Court.
The second possible criminal was a Russian doctor, also insane, who had been a convict in both England and Siberia. The third person was of the same type, but the suspicion in his case was stronger, and there was every reason to believe that his own friends entertained grave doubts about him. On the last day of that year, seven weeks later, his body was found floating in the Thames, and was said to have been in the water a month. The theory in this case was that after his last exploit, which was the most fiendish of all, his brain entirely gave way, and he became furiously insane and committed suicide.
It would be interesting to know whether in this third case the man was left-handed or ambidextrous, both suggestions having been advanced by medical experts after viewing the victims. It is true that other doctors disagreed on this point, which may be said to add another to the many instances in which medical evidence has been conflicting, not to say confusing. Yet the incontestable fact remains, unsatisfactory and disquieting, that many murder mysteries have baffled all inquiry, and that the long list of undiscovered crimes is continually receiving mysterious additions.
An erroneous impression, however, prevails that such failures are more common in Great Britain than elsewhere. But with all their advantages, the power to make arrests on suspicion, to interrogate the accused parties and force on self-incrimination, the Continental police meet with many rebuffs. In every country, and in all times, past and present, there have been crimes that defied detection.
Feuerbach, in his record of criminal trials in Bavaria, tells, for example, of the unsolved murder mystery of one Rupprecht, a notorious usurer of Munich, who was killed in in the doorway of a public tavern not fifty yards from his own residence. One night the landlord, returning from his cellar, heard a voice in the street asking for Rupprecht, and, going up to the drinking saloon, conveyed the message.
Rupprecht went down to see his visitor and never returned. Within a minute deep groans were heard as of a person in a fit or in extreme pain. All rushed downstairs and found the old man lying in a pool of blood just inside the front door. The victim must have been taken unawares, when his back was turned. The theory constructed by the police was that the murderer had waited within the porch out of sight, standing on a stone bench in a dark corner near the street door; that Rupprecht, finding no one to explain the summons, had looked out into the street and then had made to go back into the house.
After he had turned the blow was struck. Thus not a scrap of a clue was left on the theatre of the crime. But Rupprecht was still alive and able to answer simple questions. The name was as common as Smith is with us, and many Schmidts were woodcutters. Three Schmidts were suspected.
All three, although none lived in the Most, were arrested and confronted with Rupprecht, but he recognised none of them; and he died next day, having become speechless and unconscious at the last. Only the first Schmidt seemed guilty; he was much agitated when interrogated, he contradicted himself, and could give no good account of the employment of his time when the offence was committed. Moreover, he had a hatchet; it was examined and spots were found upon it, undoubtedly of blood. He was brought into the presence of the dead Rupprecht, and was greatly overcome with terror and agitation.
Yet after the first accusation he offered good rebutting evidence. He explained the stain by saying he had a chapped hand which bled, and when it was pointed out that this was the right hand, which would be at the other end of the axe shaft, he was able in reply to prove that he was left-handed. Again, the wound in the head was considerably longer than the blade of the axe, and an axe cannot be drawn along after the blow. If he had committed the crime he must have jumped out of bed again almost at once, run more than a mile, wounded Rupprecht, returned, gone back to bed and to sleep, all in less than an hour.
Further, it was shown by trustworthy evidence that this Schmidt knew nothing of the murder after it had occurred. They were no more successful with other Schmidts, although every one of the name was examined, and it was now realised that the last delirious words of the dying man had led them astray.
This might have been from the desire to see her in his last moments. On the other hand, he was estranged from this daughter, and he positively hated his son-in-law. They were no doubt a cold-blooded pair, these Bieringers, as they were called. The daughter showed little emotion when she heard her father had been mortally wounded; she looked at him as he lay without emotion, and had so little lost her appetite that she devoured a whole basin of soup in the house.
Rupprecht sided with his daughter, and openly declared that in leaving her his money he would tie it up so tightly that Bieringer could not touch a penny. This he had said openly, and it was twisted into a motive why Bieringer should remove him before he could make such a will. But a sufficient alibi was proved by Bieringer; his time was accounted for satisfactorily on the night of the murder. The daughter was absolved from guilt, for even if she, a woman, could have struck so shrewd a blow, it was not to her interest to kill a father who sided with her against her husband and was on the point of making a will in her favour.
But the case of these troopers, men who could handle the very weapon that did the deed, broke down on clear proof that they were elsewhere at the time of the murder. The one flaw in the otherwise acute investigation was that the sabres of all the troopers had not been examined before so much noise had been made about the murder.
But from the first attention had been concentrated on axes, wielded by woodcutters, and the probable use of a sabre had been overlooked. After the troopers, two other callers had come, and Rupprecht had given them a secret interview. One proved to be the regimental master-tailor, who was seeking a loan and had brought with him a witness to the transaction.
Their innocence also was clearly proved; and although many other persons were arrested they were in all cases discharged. The murder of this Rupprecht has remained a mystery. The only plausible suggestion was that he had been murdered by some aggrieved person, some would-be borrower whom he had rejected, or some debtor who could not pay and thought this the simplest way of clearing his obligation.
No one but Rupprecht himself could have afforded the proper clue; and, as it was, he had led the police in the wrong direction. Numerous murder mysteries have been contributed by American criminal records. Mary Rogers had many admirers, but her character was good, her conduct seemingly irreproachable. She was supposed to have spent her last Sunday with friends, but was seen with a single companion late that afternoon at a little restaurant near Hoboken.
Many arrests were made, but the crime was never brought home to anyone. Among others upon whom suspicion fell was John Anderson, the cigar merchant in whose employ Mary Rogers was, and it was encouraged by his flight after the discovery of the murder. But when arrested and brought back, he adduced what was deemed satisfactory proof of an alibi. Anderson lived to amass enormous wealth, and about the time of his death in Paris in the evil reports of his complicity in the murder were revived, but nothing new transpired. It was said that in his later years Anderson became an ardent spiritualist, and that the murdered Mary Rogers was one among the many spirits he communed with.
The murder of Mary Rogers was not the only unsolved mystery of its class beyond the Atlantic. It was long antedated by that known as the Manhattan Well Mystery. This murder occurred as far back as , when New York was little more than a village compared to its present size. The well stood in an open field, and all passers-by had free access to it.
One day the pretty niece of a respectable Quaker disappeared; she had left her home, it was said, to be privately married, and nothing more was seen of her till she was fished out of the Manhattan well. Some thought she had committed suicide, but articles of her dress were found at a distance from the well, including her shoes, none of which she was likely to have removed and left there before drowning herself.
Her muff, moreover, was found in the water; why should she have retained that to the last? Suspicion rested upon the man whom she was to have married, and who had called for her in his sleigh after she had already left the house. This man was tried for his life, but the case broke down, and the murder has always baffled detection. Later, in , there was the mystery of Sarah M. Cornell, in which suspicion fell upon a reverend gentleman of the Methodist persuasion, who was acquitted. A great crime that altogether baffled the New York police occurred in , and is still remembered as an extraordinary mystery.
It was the murder of a wealthy Jew named Nathan, in his own house in Twenty-third Street. He had come up from the country in July for a religious ceremony, and slept at home. His two sons, who were in business, also lived in the Twenty-third Street house. The only other occupant was a housekeeper. The sons, returning late, one after the other, looked in on their father and found him sleeping peacefully.
No noise disturbed the house during the night, but early next morning Mr. One of Mr. Another person thought to be guilty was the son of the resident housekeeper, but that supposition also fell to the ground. One ingenious solution was offered, and it may be commended to the romantic novelist; it was to the effect that Mr.
Grisly crimes of the Dark Angel: Story of Victorian female serial killer who murdered 21
Nathan held certain documents gravely compromising the character of a person with whom he had had business dealings, and that this person had planned and executed the murder in order to become repossessed of them. This theory had no definite support from known fact; but Mr. Nathan was a close, secretive man, who kept all the threads of his financial affairs in his own hands; and it was said that no one in his family, not even his wife, was aware what his safe held or what he carried in his pockets. It is worth noticing that this last theory resembles very closely the explanation suggested as a solution of the undiscovered murder of Rupprecht in Bavaria, which has been already described.
There are one or two striking cases in the records of Indian crime of murders that have remained undiscovered. Arthur Crawfurd  describes that of an old Marwari money-lender, which repeats in some particulars the cases of Rupprecht and Nathan. This usurer was reputed to be very wealthy. His business was extensive, all his neighbours were more or less in his debt, and, as he was a hard, unrelenting creditor, he was generally detested throughout the district.
He lived in a mud-built house all on the ground floor. In front was the shop where he received his clients, and in this room, visible from the roadway, was a vast deed-box in which he kept papers, bills, notes of hand, but never money. When he had agreed to make a loan and all formalities were completed, he brought the cash from a secret receptacle in an inner chamber.
In this, his strong room, so to speak, which occupied one corner at the back of the house, he slept. In the opposite angle lived his granddaughter, a young widow, who kept house for him. He was protected by a guard of two men in his pay, who slept in an outhouse close by. The granddaughter summoned the watchmen, who only arrived in time to hear a few last inarticulate sounds as their master expired. It was seen afterwards at the post-mortem that he had been partially smothered, and subjected to great violence.
His assailant must have knelt on him heavily, for the ribs were nearly all fractured and had been forced into the lungs. The police arrived in all haste and made a thorough search of the premises. The orifice was just large enough to admit a man. There were no traces of any struggle save the blood, which had flowed freely and inundated the mattress. Strange to say, there had been no robbery.
Nor had the deed-box in the shop been interfered with. The perpetrators of this murder were never discovered. The police, hoping to entrap them in the not uncommon event of a return to the theatre of the crime, established themselves secretly inside the house, but not in the bedroom where the murder was accomplished. They were right in their surmise, but the design failed utterly through their culpable neglect. The bedroom, within a fortnight, was again entered, and in precisely the same way, while the careless watchers slept unconscious in the adjoining shop.
The fair inference was that the murderers had returned hoping to lay hands on some of the booty which they had previously missed. The same authority, Mr. The body of a female was washed ashore upon the rocks below the foot of Severndroog, in the South Konkan district. The fact was reported to Mr. Crawfurd, who found the body of a fine healthy young Mahomedan woman, who had not been dead for more than a couple of hours. The only injury to be seen was a severe extended wound upon one temple, which must have bled profusely, but was not, according to the medical evidence, sufficient to cause death.
It seemed probable that she had been stunned by it and had fallen in the water, to be drowned, or that she had been thrown from the cliffs above on to the rocks, and, becoming unconscious, had slipped into the sea. The only arrests made were those of two Europeans, soldiers, one an army schoolmaster on his way up coast to Bombay, the other a sergeant about to be pensioned; and both had been travelling by a coast boat which was windbound a little below the fort. They had been landed in order to take a little exercise, and had been forthwith stopped by a crowd of suspicious natives, who charged them with the crime.
Yet on examination no blood stains were found upon their clothes, and nothing indicative of a struggle; moreover, it was soon clearly proved that they had not been put ashore till 10 a. Further inquiry showed that they were men of estimable character. Another more recent Indian murder went near to being classed with the undiscovered.
Mary Ann Tracey: sentenced to death for the murder of her husband, February 1880.
That it was brought home to its perpetrators was due to the keen intelligence of a native detective officer, the Sirdar Mir Abdul Ali, of the Bombay police. This clever detective, of whom a biography has appeared, belonged to the Bombay police, and his many successes show how much the Indian police has improved of late years.
The murder was known as the Parel case. On the morning of the 24th of November, , a deal box was picked up on a piece of open marsh close to the Elphinstone Station at Parel. Near it was an ordinary counterpane. It was at first supposed that the box had been stolen from the railway station, and the matter was reported to the police. An officer soon reached the spot, and ascertained that the box, from which an offensive smell issued, was locked and fastened. On breaking it open the remains of a woman were found within, coiled up and jammed in tightly, and in an advanced stage of decomposition.
The face was so much battered that its features were unrecognisable, but the dress, that of a Mahomedan, might, it was hoped, lead to identification. According to custom, the police gathered in thousands of people by beat of battaki , or drum, but no one who viewed the corpse could recognise the clothes. Moreover, there was no woman reported missing at the time from any house in Bombay. Abdul Ali shrewdly surmised either that the woman was a perfect stranger or that she had been murdered at a distance, and the box containing her remains had been brought into Bombay to be disposed of without attracting attention.
This box furnished the clue. At least, it came out that he had suddenly taken ship for Aden, and had been accompanied by his daughter and a friend, but not by his wife. The evidence was little more than presumptive, but the head of the Bombay police persuaded the Governor to telegraph to the Resident of Aden to look out for the three passengers and arrest them on landing.
They were accordingly taken into custody and sent back to Bombay. This man, a confederate, on arrival at Bombay, made a clean breast of the crime and was admitted as an approver; but for that the offence might never have been brought home. He effected his purpose, assisted by his friend, using a pair of long iron pincers, with which he compressed her windpipe till she died of suffocation.
Then he prudently resolved to get rid of it by removing it to the spot on which it was found. In this country fresh cases crop up year after year, and it would take volumes to catalogue them all. I will mention but one or two more, merely to point the moral that the police are often at fault still, even in these latter days of enlightened research, where so much makes in favour of the law.
Thus the Burton Crescent murder, in December, , must always be remembered against the police. An aged widow, named Samuel, lived at a house in Burton Crescent, but she kept no servant on the premises, and took in a lodger, although she was of independent means. The lodger was a musician in a theatrical orchestra, away most of the day, returning late to supper. One evening there was no supper and no Mrs.
Samuel, but on making search he found her dead body in the kitchen, lying in a pool of blood. The police summoned a doctor to view the corpse, and it was found that Mrs. Samuel had been battered to death with the fragment of a hat-rail in which many pegs still remained. The pocket of her dress had been cut off, and a pair of boots was missing, but no other property. Nothing could have happened till late in the afternoon, as three workmen, against whom there was apparently no suspicion, were in the house till then, and the maid who assisted in the household duties had left Mrs.
Samuel alive and well at 4 p. Only one arrest was made, that of a woman, one Mary Donovan, who was frequently remanded on the application of the police, but against whom no sufficient evidence was forthcoming to warrant her committal for trial. The Burton Crescent murder has remained a mystery to this day.
So has that of Lieutenant Roper, R. This young officer, who was going through the course of military engineering, was found lying dead at the bottom of the staircase leading to his quarters in Brompton Barracks. He had been shot with a revolver, and the weapon, six-chambered, was picked up at a short distance from the body, one shot discharged, the remaining five barrels still loaded with ball cartridges.
Roper had left the mess at an earlier hour than usual, between 8 and 9 p. The unfortunate officer was quite unconscious when found, and although he survived some forty minutes, he never recovered the power of speech, so that he could give no indication as to his assailant. A poker belonging to Mr. Roper was found by his side, and it was inferred that he had entered his room before the attack, and had seized the poker as the only instrument of self-defence within reach. Not the slightest clue was ever obtained which would help to solve this mystery; rewards were offered, but in vain, and the police had at last to confess themselves entirely baffled.
Roper was an exceedingly promising young officer; he had but just completed his course of instruction with considerable credit, and he was said to have been in perfect health and spirits on the fatal evening, so that there was nothing whatever to support, and indeed everything to discredit, any theory of suicide.
Taking a general view of the case as between hunted and hunters, it may be fairly considered that the ultimate advantage is with the latter. He has a wide range of contacts across the region and a good working knowledge of Newcastle, Sunderland, Northumberland and Durham, as well as Teesside and Cumbria. Nigel has also carried out a number of foreign assignments during his career see examples for more details.
As an experienced journalist, he can tell you straight away if your story is likely to sell. If so, Nigel will make sure you get the best deal — and the best coverage — possible, whether it be with a national newspaper or a magazine. Nigel prides himself on uncovering stories involving powerful people abusing their position, miscarriages of justice and other scandals. He is not afraid to challenge police, politicians, businesses or other organisations if the story is in the public interest.
Sources always remain confidential, unless they wish to be named. Do you want a story covering? Simply give him a call on the number below or e-mail him. Do you need photographs? Nigel also works alongside a number of highly-experienced and reasonably-priced photographers. Do you have a story to sell?