A Book of Remarkable Criminals
H. B. Irving

Part 2 out of 5

be committed for trial to the ensuing Leeds Assizes which
commenced in the first week in February. If he were injured too
seriously, this would not be possible. Here again he was doomed
to disappointment.

Peace recovered so well from the results of his adventure on the
railway that the doctor pronounced him fit to appear for his
second examination before the magistrate on January 30. To avoid
excitement, both on the part of the prisoner and the public, the
court sat in one of the corridors of the Town Hall. The scene is
described as dismal, dark and cheerless. The proceedings took
place by candlelight, and Peace, who was seated in an armchair,
complained frequently of the cold. At other times he moaned and
groaned and protested against the injustice with which he was
being treated. But the absence of any audience rather dashed the
effect of his laments.

The most interesting part of the proceedings was the cross-
examination of Mrs. Dyson by Mr. Clegg, the prisoner's solicitor.

Its purpose was to show that Mrs. Dyson had been on more intimate
terms with Peace than she was ready to admit, and that Dyson had
been shot by Peace in the course of a struggle, in which the
former had been the aggressor.

In the first part of his task Mr. Clegg met with some
success. Mrs. Dyson, whose memory was certainly eccentric--she
could not, she said, remember the year in which she had been
married--was obliged to admit that she had been in the habit of
going to Peace's house, that she had been alone with him to
public-houses and places of entertainment, and that she and Peace
had been photographed together during the summer fair at
Sheffield. She could not "to her knowledge" recollect having
told the landlord of a public-house to charge her drink to Peace.

A great deal of Mrs. Dyson's cross-examination turned on a bundle
of letters that had been found near the scene of Dyson's murder
on the morning following the crime. These letters consisted for
the most part of notes, written in pencil on scraps of paper,
purporting to have been sent from Mrs. Dyson to Peace. In many
of them she asks for money to get drink, others refer to oppor-

tunities for their meetings in the absence of Dyson; there are
kind messages to members of Peace's family, his wife and
daughter, and urgent directions to Peace to hold his tongue and
not give ground for suspicion as to their relations. This bundle
of letters contained also the card which Dyson had thrown into
Peace's garden requesting him not to interfere with his family.
According to the theory of the defence, these letters had been
written by Mrs. Dyson to Peace, and went to prove the intimacy of
their relations. At the inquest after her husband's murder, Mrs.
Dyson had been questioned by the coroner about these letters.
She denied that she had ever written to Peace; in fact, she said,
she "never did write." It was stated that Dyson himself had seen
the letters, and declared them to be forgeries written by Peace
or members of his family for the purpose of annoyance. Neverthe-

less, before the Sheffield magistrate Mr. Clegg thought it his
duty to cross-examine Mrs. Dyson closely as to their authorship.
He asked her to write out a passage from one of them: "You
can give me something as a keepsake if you like, but I don't like
to be covetous, and to take them from your wife and daughter.
Love to all!" Mrs. Dyson refused to admit any likeness between
what she had written and the handwriting of the letter in ques-

tion. Another passage ran: "Will see you as soon as I possibly
can. I think it would be easier after you move; he won't watch
so. The r--g fits the little finger. Many thanks and love to--
Jennie (Peace's daughter Jane). I will tell you what I thought
of when I see you about arranging matters. Excuse this
scribbling." In answer to Mr. Clegg, Mrs. Dyson admitted that
Peace had given her a ring, which she had worn for a short time
on her little finger.

Another letter ran: "If you have a note for me, send now whilst
he is out; but you must not venture, for he is watching, and you
cannot be too careful. Hope your foot is better. I went to
Sheffield yesterday, but I could not see you anywhere. Were you
out? Love to Jane." Mrs. Dyson denied that she had known of an
accident which Peace had had to his foot at this time. In spite
of the ruling of the magistrate that Mr. Clegg had put forward
quite enough, if true, to damage Mrs. Dyson's credibility, he
continued to press her as to her authorship of these notes and
letters, but Mrs. Dyson was firm in her repudiation of them. She
was equally firm in denying that anything in the nature of a
struggle had taken place between Peace and her husband previous
to his murder.

At the conclusion of Mrs. Dyson's evidence the prisoner was
committed to take his trial at the Leeds Assizes, which commenced
the week following. Peace, who had groaned and moaned and
constantly interrupted the proceedings, protested his innocence,
and complained that his witnesses had not been called. The
apprehension with which this daring malefactor was regarded by
the authorities is shown by this clandestine hearing of his
case in a cold corridor of the Town Hall, and the rapidity with
which his trial followed on his committal. There is an
appearance almost of precipitation in the haste with which Peace
was bustled to his doom. After his committal he was taken to
Wakefield Prison, and a few days later to Armley Jail, there to
await his trial.

This began on February 4, and lasted one day. Mr. Justice Lopes,
who had tried vainly to persuade the Manchester Grand Jury to
throw out the bill in the case of the brothers Habron, was the
presiding judge. Mr. Campbell Foster, Q.C., led for the
prosecution. Peace was defended by Mr. Frank Lockwood, then
rising into that popular success at the bar which some fifteen
years later made him Solicitor-General, and but for his premature
death would have raised him to even higher honours in his

In addressing the jury, both Mr. Campbell Foster and Mr. Lockwood
took occasion to protest against the recklessness with which the
press of the day, both high and low, had circulated stories and
rumours about the interesting convict. As early as November in
1878 one leading London daily newspaper had said that "it was now
established beyond doubt that the burglar captured by Police
Constable Robinson was one and the same as the Banner Cross
murderer." Since then, as the public excitement grew and the
facts of Peace's extraordinary career came to light, the press
had responded loyally to the demands of the greedy lovers of
sensation, and piled fiction on fact with generous profusion.
"Never," said Mr. Lockwood, "in the whole course of his
experience--and he defied any of his learned friends to quote an
experience--had there been such an attempt made on the part of
those who should be most careful of all others to preserve the
liberties of their fellowmen and to preserve the dignity of
the tribunals of justice to determine the guilt of a man." Peace
exclaimed "Hear, hear!" as Mr. Lockwood went on to say that "for
the sake of snatching paltry pence from the public, these persons
had wickedly sought to prejudice the prisoner's life." Allowing
for Mr. Lockwood's zeal as an advocate, there can be no question
that, had Peace chosen or been in a position to take proceedings,
more than one newspaper had at this time laid itself open to
prosecution for contempt of Court. The Times was not far wrong
in saying that, since Muller murdered Mr. Briggs on the North
London Railway and the poisonings of William Palmer, no criminal
case had created such excitement as that of Charles Peace. The
fact that property seemed to be no more sacred to him than life
aggravated in a singular degree the resentment of a commercial

The first witness called by the prosecution was Mrs. Dyson. She
described how on the night of November 29, 1876, she had come out
of the outhouse in the yard at the back of her house, and found
herself confronted by Peace holding a revolver; how he said:
"Speak, or I'll fire!" and the sequence of events already related
up to the moment when Dyson fell, shot in the temple.

Mr. Lockwood commenced his cross-examination of Mrs. Dyson by
endeavouring to get from her an admission; the most important to
the defence, that Dyson had caught hold of Peace after the first
shot had been fired, and that in the struggle which ensued, the
revolver had gone off by accident. But he was not very
successful. He put it to Mrs. Dyson that before the magistrate
at Sheffield she had said: "I can't say my husband did not get
hold of the prisoner." "Put in the little word `try,' please,"
answered Mrs. Dyson. In spite of Mr. Lockwood's questions, she
maintained that, though her husband may have attempted to get
hold of Peace, he did not succeed in doing so. As she was
the only witness to the shooting there was no one to contradict
her statement.

Mr. Lockwood fared better when he came to deal with the relations
of Mrs. Dyson with Peace previous to the crime. Mrs. Dyson
admitted that in the spring of 1876 her husband had objected to
her friendship with Peace, and that nevertheless, in the
following summer, she and Peace had been photographed together at
the Sheffield fair. She made a vain attempt to escape from such
an admission by trying to shift the occasion of the summer fair
to the previous year, 1875, but Mr. Lockwood put it to her that
she had not come to Darnall, where she first met Peace, until the
end of that year. Finally he drove her to say that she could not
remember when she came to Darnall, whether in 1873, 1874, 1875,
or 1876. She admitted that she had accepted a ring from Peace,
but could not remember whether she had shown it to her husband.
She had been perhaps twice with Peace to the Marquis of Waterford
public-house, and once to the Star Music Hall. She could not
swear one way or the other whether she had charged to Peace's
account drink consumed by her at an inn in Darnall called the
Half-way House. Confronted with a little girl and a man, whom
Mr. Lockwood suggested she had employed to carry notes to Peace,
Mrs. Dyson said that these were merely receipts for pictures
which he had framed for her. On the day before her husband's
murder, Mrs. Dyson was at the Stag Hotel at Sharrow with a little
boy belonging to a neighbour. A man followed her in and sat
beside her, and afterwards followed her out. In answer to Mr.
Lockwood, Mrs. Dyson would "almost swear" the man was not Peace;
he had spoken to her, but she could not remember whether she had
spoken to him or not. She denied that this man had said to her
that he would come and see her the next night. As the result of
a parting shot Mr. Lockwood obtained from Mrs. Dyson a reluc-

tant admission that she had been "slightly inebriated" at the
Half-way House in Darnall, but had not to her knowledge" been
turned out of the house on that account. "You may not have known
you were inebriated? suggested Mr. Lockwood. "I always know what
I am doing," was Mrs. Dyson's reply, to which an unfriendly
critic might have replied that she did not apparently know with
anything like certainty what she had been doing during the last
three or four years. In commenting on the trial the following
day, the Times stigmatised as "feeble" the prevarications by
which Mrs. Dyson tried to explain away her intimacy with Peace.
In this part of his cross-examination Mr. Lockwood had made it
appear at least highly probable that there had been a much closer
relationship between Mrs. Dyson and Peace than the former was
willing to acknowledge.

The evidence of Mrs. Dyson was followed by that of five persons
who had either seen Peace in the neighbourhood of Banner Cross
Terrace on the night of the murder, or heard the screams and
shots that accompanied it. A woman, Mrs. Gregory, whose house
was between that of the Dysons and the passage in which Dyson was
shot, said that she had heard the noise of the clogs Mrs. Dyson
was wearing as she went across the yard. A minute later she
heard a scream. She opened her back door and saw Dyson standing
by his own. She told him to go to his wife. She then went back
into her house, and almost directly after heard two shots,
followed by another scream, but no sound as of any scuffling.

Another witness was a labourer named Brassington. He was a
stranger to Peace, but stated that about eight o'clock on the
night of the murder a man came up to him outside the Banner Cross
Hotel, a few yards from Dyson's house. He was standing under a
gas lamp, and it was a bright moonlight night. The man asked
him if he knew of any strange people who had come to live in the
neighbourhood. Brassington answered that he did not. The man
then produced a bundle of letters which he asked Brassington to
read. But Brassington declined, as reading was not one of his
accomplishments. The man then said that "he would make it a warm
'un for those strange folks before morning--he would shoot both
of them," and went off in the direction of Dyson's house.
Brassington swore positively that Peace was the stranger who had
accosted him that night, and Mr. Lockwood failed to shake him in
his evidence. Nor could Mr. Lockwood persuade the surgeon who
was called to Dyson at the time of his death to admit that the
marks on the nose and chin of the dead man could have been caused
by a blow; they were merely abrasions of the skin caused by the
wounded man falling to the ground.

Evidence was then given as to threats uttered by Peace against
the Dysons in the July of 1876, and as to his arrest at
Blackheath in the October of 1878. The revolver taken from Peace
that night was produced, and it was shown that the rifling of the
bullet extracted from Dyson's head was the same as that of the
bullet fired from the revolver carried by Peace at the time of
his capture.

Mr. Campbell Foster wanted to put in as evidence the card that
Dyson had flung into Peace's garden at Darnall requesting him not
to interfere with his family. This card had been found among the
bundle of letters dropped by Peace near the scene of the murder.
Mr. Lockwood objected to the admission of the card unless all the
letters were admitted at the same time. The Judge ruled that
both the card and the letters were inadmissible, as irrelevant to
the issue; Mr. Lockwood had, he said, very properly cross-
examined Mrs. Dyson on these letters to test her credibility, but
he was bound by her answers and could not contradict her by
introducing them as evidence in the case.

Mr. Lockwood in his address to the jury did his best to persuade
them that the death of Dyson was the accidental result of a
struggle between Peace and himself. He suggested that Mrs. Dyson
had left her house that night for the purpose of meeting Peace,
and that Dyson, who was jealous of his wife's intimacy with him,
had gone out to find her; that Dyson, seeing Peace, had caught
hold of him; and that the revolver had gone off accidentally as
Dyson tried to wrest it from his adversary. He repudiated the
suggestion of Mr. Foster that the persons he had confronted with
Mrs. Dyson in the course of his cross-examination had been hired
for a paltry sum to come into court and lie.

Twice, both at the beginning and the end of his speech, Mr.
Lockwood urged as a reason for the jury being tender in taking
Peace's life that he was in such a state of wickedness as to be
quite unprepared to meet death. Both times that his counsel put
forward this curious plea, Peace raised his eyes to heaven and
exclaimed "I am not fit to die."

Mr. Justice Lopes in summing up described as an "absolute
surmise" the theory of the accidental discharge of the pistol.
He asked the jury to take Peace's revolver in their hands and try
the trigger, so as to see for themselves whether it was likely to
go off accidentally or not. He pointed out that the pistol
produced might not have been the pistol used at Banner Cross; at
the same time the bullet fired in November, 1876, bore marks such
as would have been produced had it been fired from the pistol
taken from Peace at Blackheath in October, 1878. He said that
Mr. Lockwood had been perfectly justified in his attempt to
discredit the evidence of Mrs. Dyson, but the case did not rest
on her evidence alone. In her evidence as to the threats
uttered by Peace in July, 1876, Mrs. Dyson was corroborated by
three other witnesses. In the Judge's opinion it was clearly
proved that no struggle or scuffle had taken place before the
murder. If the defence, he concluded, rested on no solid founda-

tion, then the jury must do their duty to the community at large
and by the oath they had sworn.

It was a quarter past seven when the jury retired. Ten minutes
later they came back into court with a verdict of guilty. Asked
if he had anything to say, Peace in a faint voice replied, "It is
no use my saying anything." The Judge, declining very properly
to aggravate the prisoner's feelings by "a recapitulation of any
portion of the details of what I fear, I can only call your
criminal career," passed on him sentence of death. Peace
accepted his fate with composure.

Before we proceed to describe the last days of Peace on earth,
let us finish with the two women who had succeeded Mrs. Peace in
his ardent affections.

A few days after Peace's execution Mrs. Dyson left England for
America, but before going she left behind her a narrative
intended to contradict the imputations which she felt had been
made against her moral character. An Irishwoman by birth, she
said that she had gone to America when she was fifteen years old.

There she met and married Dyson, a civil engineer on the Atlantic
and Great Western Railway. Theirs was a rough and arduous life.
But Mrs. Dyson was thoroughly happy in driving her husband about
in a buggy among bears and creeks. She did not know fear and
loved danger: "My husband loved me and I loved him, and in his
company and in driving him about in this wild kind of fashion I
derived much pleasure." However, Mr. Dyson's health broke down,
and he was obliged to return to England. It was at Darnall that
the fatal acquaintance with Peace began. Living next door
but one to the Dysons, Peace took the opportunity of introducing
himself, and Mr. Dyson "being a gentleman," took polite notice of
his advances. He became a constant visitor at the house. But
after a time Peace began to show that he was not the gentleman
Mr. Dyson was. He disgusted the latter by offering to show him
improper pictures and "the sights of the town" of Sheffield.

The Dysons tried to shake off the unwelcome acquaintance, but
that was easier said than done. By this time Peace had set his
heart on making Mrs. Dyson leave her husband. He kept trying to
persuade her to go to Manchester with him, where he would take a
cigar or picture shop, to which Mrs. Dyson, in fine clothes and
jewelry, should lend the charm of her comely presence. He of-

fered her a sealskin jacket, yards of silk, a gold watch. She
should, he said, live in Manchester like a lady, to which Mrs.
Dyson replied coldly that she had always lived like one and
should continue to do so quite independently of him. But Peace
would listen to no refusal, however decided its tone. Dyson
threw over the card into Peace's garden. This only served to
aggravate his determination to possess himself of the wife. He
would listen at keyholes, leer in at the window, and follow Mrs.
Dyson wherever she went. When she was photographed at the fair,
she found that Peace had stood behind her chair and by that means
got himself included in the picture. At times he had threatened
her with a revolver. On one occasion when he was more insulting
than usual, Mrs. Dyson forgot her fear of him and gave him a
thrashing. Peace threatened "to make her so that neither man nor
woman should look at her, and then he would have her all to
himself." It was with some purpose of this kind, Mrs. Dyson
suggested, that Peace stole a photograph of herself out of a
locket, intending to make some improper use of it. At last,
in desperation, the Dysons moved to Banner Cross. From the day
of their arrival there until the murder, Mrs. Dyson never saw
Peace. She denied altogether having been in his company the
night before the murder. The letters were "bare forgeries,"
written by Peace or members of his family to get her into their

Against the advice of all her friends Mrs. Dyson had come back
from America to give evidence against Peace. To the detective
who saw her at Cleveland she said, "I will go back if I have to
walk on my head all the way"; and though she little knew what she
would have to go through in giving her evidence, she would do it
again under the circumstances. "My opinion is," she said, "that
Peace is a perfect demon--not a man. I am told that since he has
been sentenced to death he has become a changed character. That
I don't believe. The place to which the wicked go is not bad
enough for him. I think its occupants, bad as they might be, are
too good to be where he is. No matter where he goes, I am satis-

fied that there will be hell. Not even a Shakespeare could
adequately paint such a man as he has been. My lifelong regret
will be that I ever knew him."

With these few earnest words Mrs. Dyson quitted the shores of
England, hardly clearing up the mystery of her actual relations
with Peace.

A woman with whom Mrs. Dyson very much resented finding herself
classed--inebriety would appear to have been their only common
weakness--was Mrs. Thompson, the "traitress Sue." In spite of
the fact that on February 5 Mrs. Thompson had applied to the
Treasury for L100, blood money due her for assisting the
police in the identification of Peace, she was at the same time
carrying on a friendly correspondence with her lover and making
attempts to see him. Peace had written to her before his
trial hoping she would not forsake him; "you have been my bosom
friend, and you have ofttimes said you loved me, that you would
die for me." He asked her to sell some goods which he had left
with her in order to raise money for his defence. The traitress
replied on January 27 that she had already sold everything and
shared the proceeds with Mrs. Peace. "You are doing me great
injustice," she wrote, "by saying that I have been out to `work'
with you. Do not die with such a base falsehood on your
conscience, for you know I am young and have my living and
character to redeem. I pity you and myself to think we should
have met." After his condemnation Mrs. Thompson made repeated
efforts to see Peace, coming to Leeds for the purpose. Peace
wrote a letter on February 9 to his "poor Sue," asking her to
come to the prison. But, partly at the wish of Peace's relatives
and for reasons of their own, a permission given Mrs. Thompson by
the authorities to visit the convict was suddenly withdrawn, and
she never saw him again.



In the lives of those famous men who have perished on the
scaffold their behaviour during the interval between their
condemnation and their execution has always been the subject of
curiosity and interest.

It may be said at once that nothing could have been more deeply
religious, more sincerely repentant, more Christian to all
appearances than Peace's conduct and demeanour in the last weeks
of his life. He threw himself into the work of atonement with
the same uncompromising zeal and energy that he had displayed as
a burglar. By his death a truly welcome and effective re-

cruit was lost to the ranks of the contrite and converted
sinners. However powerless as a controlling force--and he
admitted it--his belief in God and the devil may have been in the
past, that belief was assured and confident, and in the presence
of death proclaimed itself with vigour, not in words merely, but
in deeds.

In obedience to the wishes of his family, Peace had refrained
from seeing Sue Thompson. This was at some sacrifice, for he
wished very much to see her and to the last, though he knew that
she had betrayed him, sent her affectionate and forgiving
messages. These were transmitted to Sue by Mr. Brion. This
disingenuous gentleman was a fellow-applicant with Sue to the
Treasury for pecuinary recognition of his efforts in bringing
about the identification of Peace, and furnishing the police with
information as to the convict's disposal of his stolen property.
In his zeal he had even gone so far as to play the role of an
accomplice of Peace, and by this means discovered a place in
Petticoat Lane where the burglar got rid of some of his booty.

After Peace's condemnation Mr. Brion visited him in Armley Jail.
His purpose in doing so was to wring from his co-inventor an
admission that the inventions which they had patented together
were his work alone. Peace denied this, but offered to sell his
share for L50. Brion refused the offer, and persisted in his
assertion that Peace had got his name attached to the patents by
undue influence, whatever that might mean. Peace, after wres-

tling with the spirit, gave way. "Very well, my friend," he
said, "let it be as you say. I have not cheated you, Heaven
knows. But I also know that this infamy of mine has been the
cause of bringing harm to you, which is the last thing I should
have wished to have caused to my friend." A deed of gift was
drawn up, making over to Brion Peace's share in their
inventions; this Peace handed to Brion as the price of the
latter's precious forgiveness and a token of the sincerity of his
colleague's repentance. Thus, as has often happened in this sad
world, was disreputable genius exploited once again by smug
mediocrity. Mr. Brion, having got all he wanted, left the
prison, assuring the Governor that Peace's repentance was "all
bunkum," and advising, with commendable anxiety for the public
good, that the warders in the condemned cell should be doubled.

Peace had one act of atonement to discharge more urgent than
displaying Christian forbearance towards ignoble associates.
That was the righting of William Habron, who was now serving the
third year of his life sentence for the murder of Constable Cock
at Whalley Range. Peace sent for the Governor of the jail a few
days before his execution and obtained from him the materials
necessary for drawing up a plan. Peace was quite an adept at
making plans; he had already made an excellent one of the scene
of Dyson's murder. He now drew a plan of the place where Cock
had been shot, gave a detailed account of how he came by his
death, and made a full confession of his own guilt.

In the confession he described how, some days before the
burglary, he had, according to his custom, "spotted" the house at
Whalley Range. In order to do this he always dressed himself
respectably, because he had found that the police never suspected
anyone who wore good clothes. On the night of the crime he
passed two policemen on the road to the house. He had gone into
the grounds and was about to begin operations when he heard a
rustle behind him and saw a policeman, whom he recognised as one
of those he had met in the road, enter the garden. With his
well-known agility Peace climbed on to the wall, and dropped on
to the other side, only to find himself almost in the arms of
the second policeman. Peace warned the officer to stand back and
fired his revolver wide of him. But, as Peace said, "these
Manchester policemen are a very obstinate lot." The constable
took out his truncheon. Peace fired again and killed him.

Soon after the murderer saw in the newspapers that two men had
been arrested for the crime. "This greatly interested me," said
Peace. "I always had a liking to be present at trials, as the
public no doubt know by this time." So he went to Manchester
Assizes and saw William Habron sentenced to death. "People will
say," he said, "that I was a hardened wretch for allowing an in-

nocent man to suffer for the crime of which I was guilty but what
man would have given himself up under such circumstances, knowing
as I did that I should certainly be hanged?" Peace's view of the
question was a purely practical one: "Now that I am going to
forfeit my own life and feel that I have nothing to gain by
further secrecy, I think it is right in the sight of God and man
to clear this innocent young man." It would have been more right
in the sight of God and man to have done it before, but then
Peace admitted that during all his career he had allowed neither
God nor man to influence his actions.

How many men in the situation of Peace at the time, with the
certainty of death before him if he confessed, would have
sacrificed themselves to save an innocent man? Cold-blooded
heroism of this kind is rare in the annals of crime. Nor did
Peace claim to have anything of the hero about him.

"Lion-hearted I've lived,
And when my time comes
Lion-hearted I'll die."

Though fond of repeating this piece of doggerel, Peace would have
been the last man to have attributed to himself all those
qualities associated symbolically with the lion.

A few days before his execution Peace was visited in his prison
by Mr. Littlewood, the Vicar of Darnall. Mr. Littlewood had
known Peace a few years before, when he had been chaplain at
Wakefield Prison. "Well, my old friend Peace," he said as he
entered the cell, "how are you to-day?" "`I am very poorly, sir,"
replied the convict, "but I am exceedingly pleased to see you."
Mr. Littlewood assured Peace that there was at any rate one
person in the world who had deep sympathy with him, and that was
himself. Peace burst into tears. He expressed a wish to
unburden himself to the vicar, but before doing so, asked for his
assurance that he believed in the truth and sincerity of what he
was about to say to him. He said that he preferred to be hanged
to lingering out his life in penal servitude, that he was grieved
and repentant for his past life. "If I could undo, or make
amends for anything I have done, I would suffer my body as I now
stand to be cut in pieces inch by inch. I feel, sir, that I am
too bad to live or die, and having this feeling I cannot think
that either you or anyone else would believe me, and that is the
reason why I ask you so much to try to be assured that you do not
think I am telling lies. I call my God to witness that all I am
saying and wish to say shall be the truth--the whole truth--
nothing but the truth." Mr. Littlewood said that, after
carefully watching Peace and having regard to his experience of
some of the most hardened of criminals during his service in
Wakefield Prison, he felt convinced that Peace was in earnest and
as sincere as any man could be; he spoke rationally, coherently,
and without excitement.

Peace was determined to test the extent of the reverend
gentleman's faith in his asseverations. "Now, sir," he said, "I
understand that you still have the impression that I stole the
clock from your day-schools." Mr. Littlewood admitted that such
was his impression. "I thought so," replied Peace, "and this has
caused me much grief and pain, for I can assure you I have so
much respect for you personally that I would rather have given
you a clock and much more besides than have taken it. At the
time your clock was stolen I had reason for suspecting that it
was taken by some colliers whom I knew." There was a pause. Mr.
Littlewood thought that Peace was going to give him the name of
the colliers. But that was not Peace's way. He said sharply:
"Do you now believe that I have spoken the truth in denying that
I took your clock, and will you leave me to-day fully believing
that I am innocent of doing that?" Mr. Littlewood looked at him
closely and appeared to be deliberating on his reply. Peace
watched him intently. At last Mr. Littlewood said, "Peace, I am
convinced that you did not take the clock. I cannot believe that
you dare deny it now in your position, if you really did." Once
more Peace burst into tears, and was unable for some time to

Having recovered his self-possession, Peace turned to the serious
business of confession. He dealt first with the murder of Dyson.

He maintained that his relations with Mrs. Dyson had been of an
intimate character. He wanted to see her on the night of the
crime in order to get her to induce her husband to withdraw the
warrant which he had procured against him; he was tired, he said,
of being hunted about from place to place. He intercepted Mrs.
Dyson as she crossed the yard. Instead of listening to him
quietly Mrs. Dyson became violent and threatening in her
language. Peace took out his revolver, and, holding it close
to her head, warned her that he was not to be trifled with. She
refused to be warned. Dyson, hearing the loud voices, came out
of his house. Peace tried to get away down the passage into
Banner Cross Road, but Dyson followed and caught hold of him. In
the struggle Peace fired one barrel of his revolver wide. Dyson
seized the hand in which Peace was holding the weapon. "Then I
knew," said Peace, "I had not a moment to spare. I made a
desperate effort, wrenched the arm from him and fired again. All
that was in my head at the time was to get away. I never did
intend, either there or anywhere else, to take a man's life; but
I was determined that I should not be caught at that time, as the
result, knowing what I had done before, would have been worse
even than had I stayed under the warrant." If he had intended to
murder Dyson, Peace pointed out that he would have set about it
in quite a different and more secret way; it was as unintentional
a thing as ever was done; Mrs. Dyson had committed the grossest
perjury in saying that no struggle had taken place between her
husband and himself.

It is to be remembered that Peace and Mrs. Dyson were the sole
witnesses of what took place that night between the two men. In
point of credibility there may be little to choose between them,
but Peace can claim for his account that it was the statement of
a dying, and, to all appearances, sincerely repentant sinner.

Peace then repeated to Mr. Littlewood his confession of the
killing of Constable Cock, and his desire that Habron should be
set free.[11] As to this part of his career Peace indulged in
some general reflections. "My great mistake, sir," he said, "and
I can see it now as my end approaches, has been this--in all my
career I have used ball cartridge. I can see now that in
using ball cartridge I did wrong I ought to have used blank
cartridge; then I would not have taken life." Peace said that he
hoped he would meet his death like a hero. "I do not say this in
any kind of bravado. I do not mean such a hero as some persons
will understand when they read this. I mean such a hero as my
God might wish me to be. I am deeply grieved for all I have
done, and would atone for it to the utmost of my power." To Mr.
Littlewood the moment seemed convenient to suggest that as a
practical means of atonement Peace should reveal to him the names
of the persons with whom he had disposed of the greater part of
his stolen property. But in spite of much attempted persuasion
by the reverend gentleman Peace explained that he was a man and
meant to be a man to the end.

[11] William Habron was subsequently given a free pardon and
L800 by way of compensation.

Earlier in their interview Peace had expressed to Mr. Littlewood
a hope that after his execution his name would never be mentioned
again, but before they parted he asked Mr. Littlewood, as a
favour, to preach a sermon on him after his death to the good
people of Darnall. He wished his career held up to them as a
beacon, in order that all who saw might avoid his example, and so
his death be of some service to society.

Before Mr. Littlewood left, Peace asked him to hear him pray.
Having requested the warders to kneel down, Peace began a prayer
that lasted twenty minutes. He prayed for himself, his family,
his victims, Mr. Littlewood, society generally, and all classes
of the community. Mr. Littlewood described the prayer as
earnest, fervent and fluent. At the end Peace asked Mr.
Littlewood if he ought to see Mrs. Dyson and beg her forgiveness
for having killed her husband. Mr. Littlewood, believing er-

roneously that Mrs. Dyson had already left the country, told
Peace that he should direct all his attention to asking
forgiveness of his Maker. At the close of their interview Peace
was lifted into bed and, turning his face to the wall, wept.

Tuesday, February 25, was the day fixed for the, execution of
Peace. As the time drew near, the convict's confidence in
ultimate salvation increased. A Dr. Potter of Sheffield had
declared in a sermon that "all hope of Peace's salvation was gone
for ever." Peace replied curtly, "Well, Dr. Potter may think so,
but I don't." Though his health had improved, Peace was still
very feeble in body. But his soul was hopeful and undismayed.
On the Saturday before his death his brother and sister-in-law, a
nephew and niece visited him for the last time. He spoke with
some emotion of his approaching end. He said he should die about
eight o'clock, and that at four o'clock an inquest would be held
on his body; he would then be thrown into his grave without
service or sermon of any kind. He asked his relatives to plant a
flower on a certain grave in a cemetery in Sheffield on the day
of his execution. He was very weak, he said, but hoped he should
have strength enough to walk to the scaffold. He sent messages
to friends and warnings to avoid gambling and drinking. He
begged his brother to change his manner of life and "become
religious." His good counsel was not apparently very well
received. Peace's visitors took a depressing view of their
relative's condition. They found him "a poor, wretched, haggard
man," and, meeting Mrs. Thompson who was waiting outside the gaol
for news of "dear Jack," wondered how she could have taken up
with such a man.

When, the day before his execution, Peace was visited for the
last time by his wife, his stepson, his daughter, Mrs. Bolsover,
and her husband, he was in much better spirits. He asked his
visitors to restrain themselves from displays of emotion, as he
felt very happy and did not wish to be disturbed. He advised
them to sell or exhibit for money certain works of art of his own
devising. Among them was a design in paper for a monument to be
placed over his grave. The design is elaborate but well and
ingeniously executed; in the opinion of Frith, the painter, it
showed "the true feeling of an artist." It is somewhat in the
style of the Albert Memorial, and figures of angels are prominent
in the scheme. The whole conception is typical of the artist's
sanguine and confident assurance of his ultimate destiny. A
model boat and a fiddle made out of a hollow bamboo cane he
wished also to be made the means of raising money. He was
describing with some detail the ceremony of his approaching death
and burial when he was interrupted by a sound of hammering.
Peace listened for a moment and then said, "That's a noise that
would make some men fall on the floor. They are working at my
own scaffold." A warder said that he was mistaken. "No, I am
not," answered Peace, "I have not worked so long with wood
without knowing the sound of deals; and they don't have deals
inside a prison for anything else than scaffolds." But the
noise, he said, did not disturb him in the least, as he was quite
prepared to meet his fate. He would like to have seen his grave
and coffin; he knew that his body would be treated with scant
ceremony after his death. But what of that? By that time his
soul would be in Heaven. He was pleased that one sinner who had
seen him on his way from Pentonville to Sheffield, had written to
tell him that the sight of the convict had brought home to him
the sins of his own past life, and by this means he had found

The time had come to say good-bye for the last time. Peace asked
his weeping relatives whether they had anything more that they
wished to ask him. Mrs. Peace reminded him that he had promised
to pray with them at the last. Peace, ever ready, knelt with
them and prayed for half an hour. He then shook hands with them,
prayed for and blessed each one singly, and himself gave way to
tears as they left his presence. To his wife as she departed
Peace gave a funeral card of his own designing. It ran:

Charles Peace
Who was executed in
Armley Prison
Tuesday February 25th,
1879 Aged 47

For that I don but never

The same day there arrived in the prison one who in his own trade
had something of the personality and assurance of the culprit he
was to execute. William Marwood--unlike his celebrated victim,
he has his place in the Dictionary of National Biography--is
perhaps the most remarkable of these persons who have held at
different times the office of public executioner. As the
inventor of the "long drop," he has done a lasting service to
humanity by enabling the death-sentence passed by the judge to be
carried out with the minimum of possible suffering. Marwood took
a lofty view of the office he held, and refused his assent to the
somewhat hypocritical loathing, with which those who sanction and
profit by his exertions are pleased to regard this servant of the
law. "I am doing God's work," said Marwood, "according to the
divine command and the law of the British Crown. I do it simply
as a matter of duty and as a Christian. I sleep as soundly as a
child and am never disturbed by phantoms. Where there is guilt
there is bad sleeping, but I am conscious that I try to live a
blameless life. Detesting idleness, I pass my vacant time in
business (he was a shoemaker at Horncastle, in Lincolnshire) and
work in my shoeshop near the church day after day until such time
as I am required elsewhere. It would have been better for those
I executed if they had preferred industry to idleness."

Marwood had not the almost patriarchal air of benevolent
respectability which his predecessor Calcraft had acquired during
a short experience as a family butler; but as an executioner that
kindly old gentleman had been a sad bungler in his time compared
with the scientific and expeditious Marwood. The Horncastle
shoemaker was saving, businesslike, pious and thoughtful. Like
Peace, he had interests outside his ordinary profession. He had
at one time propounded a scheme for the abolition of the National
Debt, a man clearly determined to benefit his fellowmen in some
way or other. A predilection for gin would seem to have been his
only concession to the ordinary weakness of humanity. And now he
had arrived in Armley Jail to exercise his happy dispatch on the
greatest of the many criminals who passed through his hands, one
who, in his own words, "met death with greater firmness" than any
man on whom he had officiated during seven years of Crown

The day of February the 25th broke bitterly cold. Like Charles
I. before him, Peace feared lest the extreme cold should make him
appear to tremble on the scaffold. He had slept calmly till six
o'clock in the morning. A great part of the two hours before the
coming of the hangman Peace spent in letter-writing. He wrote
two letters to his wife, in one of which he copied out some
verses he had written in Woking Prison on the death of their
little boy John. In the second he expressed his satisfaction
that he was to die now and not linger twenty years in prison. To
his daughter, step-son and son-in-law he wrote letters of
fervent, religious exhortation and sent them tracts and pictures
which he had secured from well-intentioned persons anxious about
his salvation. To an old friend, George Goodlad, a pianist, who
had apparently lived up to his name, he wrote: "You chose an
honest industrious way through life, but I chose the one of dis-

honesty, villainy and sin"; let his fate, he said, be a warning.

Peace ate a hearty breakfast and awaited the coming of the
executioner with calm. He had been troubled with an inconvenient
cough the night before. "I wonder," he said to one of his
warders, "if Marwood could cure this cough of mine." He had got
an idea into his head that Marwood would "punish" him when he
came to deal with him on the scaffold, and asked to see the hang-

man a few minutes before the appointed hour. "I hope you will
not punish me. I hope you will do your work quickly," he said to
Marwood. "You shall not suffer pain from my hand," replied that
worthy. "God bless you," exclaimed Peace, "I hope to meet you
all in heaven. I am thankful to say my sins are all forgiven."
And so these two pious men--on the morning of an execution
Marwood always knelt down and asked God's blessing on the work he
had to do--shook hands together and set about their business.
Firmly and fearlessly Peace submitted himself to the necessary
preparations. For one moment he faltered as the gallows came in
sight, but recovered himself quickly.

As Marwood was about to cover his face, Peace stopped him with
some irritation of manner and said that he wished to speak to the
gentlemen of the press who had been admitted to the ceremony. No
one gainsaid him, and he thus addressed the reporters: "You
gentlemen reporters, I wish you to notice the few words I am
going to say. You know what my life has been. It has been
base; but I wish you to notice, for the sake of others, how a man
can die, as I am about to die, in fear of the Lord. Gentlemen,
my heart says that I feel assured that my sins are forgiven me,
that I am going to the Kingdom of Heaven, or else to the place
prepared for those who rest until the great Judgment day. I do
not think I have any enemies, but if there are any who would be
so, I wish them well. Gentlemen, all and all, I wish them to
come to the Kingdom of Heaven when they die, as I am going to
die." He asked a blessing on the officials of the prison and, in
conclusion, sent his last wishes and respects to his dear
children and their mother. "I hope," he said, "no one will
disgrace them by taunting them or jeering them on my account, but
to have mercy upon them. God bless you, my dear children. Good-
bye, and Heaven bless you. Amen: Oh, my Lord God, have mercy
upon me!"

After the cap had been placed over his head Peace asked twice
very sharply, as a man who expected to be obeyed, for a drink of
water. But this time his request was not compiled with. He died
instantaneously and was buried in Armley Jail.

Had Peace flourished in 1914 instead of 1874, his end might have
been honourable instead of dishonourable. The war of to-day has
no doubt saved many a man from a criminal career by turning to
worthy account qualities which, dangerous in crime, are useful in
war. Absolute fearlessness, agility, resource, cunning and
determination; all these are admirable qualities in the soldier;
and all these Charles Peace possessed in a signal degree. But
fate denied him opportunity, he became a burglar and died on the
scaffold. Years of prison life failed, as they did in those
days, to make any impression for good on one resolute in whatever
way he chose to go. Peace was a born fighter. A detective who
knew him and had on one occasion come near capturing him in
London, said that he was a fair fighter, that he always gave
fair warning to those on whom he fired, and that, being a dead
shot, the many wide shots which he fired are to be reckoned
proofs of this. Peace maintained to the last that he had never
intended to kill Dyson. This statement ex-detective Parrock
believed, and that the fatal shot was fired over Peace's shoulder
as he was making off. Though habitually sober, Peace was made
intoxicated now and then by the drink, stood him by those whom he
used to amuse with his musical tricks and antics in public-
houses. At such times he would get fuddled and quarrelsome. He
was in such a frame of mind on the evening of Dyson's murder.
His visit to the Vicar of Ecclesall brought him little comfort or
consolation. It was in this unsatisfactory frame of mind that he
went to Dyson's house. This much the ex-detective would urge in
his favour. To his neighbours he was an awe-inspiring but kind
and sympathetic man. "If you want my true opinion of him," says
Detective Parrock, "he was a burglar to the backbone but not a
murderer at heart. He deserved the fate that came to him as
little as any who in modern times have met with a like one."
Those who are in the fighting line are always the most generous
about their adversaries. Parrock as a potential target for
Peace's revolver, may have erred on the side of generosity, but
there is some truth in what he says.

As Peace himself admitted, his life had been base. He was well
aware that he had misused such gifts as nature had bestowed on
him. One must go back to mediaeval times to find the
counterpart of this daring ruffian who, believing in personal God
and devil, refuses until the end to allow either to interfere
with his business in life. In this respect Charles Peace reminds
us irresistibly of our Angevin kings.

There is only one criminal who vies with Charley Peace in
that genial popular regard which makes Charles "Charley" and John
"Jack," and that is Jack Sheppard. What Jack was to the
eighteenth century, that Charley was to the nineteenth. And each
one is in a sense typical of his period. Lecky has said that the
eighteenth century is richer than any other in the romance of
crime. I think it may fairly be said that in the nineteenth
century the romance of crime ceased to be. In the eighteenth
century the scenery and dresses, all the stage setting of crime
make for romance; its literature is quaint and picturesque; there
is something gay and debonair about the whole business.

Sheppard is typical of all this. There is a certain charm about
the rascal; his humour is undeniable; he is a philosopher, taking
all that comes with easy grace, even his betrayal by his brother
and others who should have been loyal to him. Jack Sheppard has
the good-humoured carelessness of that most engaging of all
eighteenth century malefactors, Deacon Brodie. It is quite
otherwise with Charley Peace. There is little enough gay or
debonair about him. Compared with Sheppard, Peace is as drab as
the surroundings of mid-Victorian crime are drab compared with
the picturesqueness of eighteenth century England.

Crime in the nineteenth century becomes more scientific in its
methods and in its detection also. The revolver places a more
hasty, less decorous weapon than the old-fashioned pistol in the
hands of the determined burglar. The literature of crime, such
as it is, becomes vulgar and prosaic. Peace has no charm about
him, no gaiety, but he has the virtues of his defects. He,
unlike Sheppard, shuns company; he works alone, never depending
on accomplices; a "tight cock," as Sheppard would have phrased
it, and not relying on a like quality of tightness in his
fellows. Sheppard is a slave to his women, Edgeworth Bess and
Mrs. Maggot; Mrs. Peace and Sue Thompson are the slaves of
Peace. Sheppard loves to stroll openly about the London streets
in his fine suit of black, his ruffled shirt and his silver-
hilted sword. Peace lies concealed at Peckham beneath the homely
disguise of old Mr. Thompson. Sheppard is an imp, Peace a
goblin. But both have that gift of personality which, in their
own peculiar line, lifts them out from the ruck, and makes them
Jack and Charley to those who like to know famous people by
cheery nicknames.

And so we must accept Charles Peace as a remarkable character,
whose unquestioned gifts as a man of action were squandered on a
criminal career; neither better nor worse than a great number of
other persons, whose good fortune it has been to develop similar
qualities under happier surroundings. There are many more
complete villains than the ordinary criminal, who contrive to go
through life without offending against the law. Close and
scientific investigation has shown that the average convicted
criminal differs intellectually from the normal person only in a
slightly lower level of intelligence, a condition that may well
be explained by the fact that the convicted criminal has been
found out. Crime has been happily defined by a recent and most
able investigator into the character of the criminal[12] as "an
unusual act committed by a perfectly normal person." At the same
time, according to the same authority, there is a type of normal
person who tends to be convicted of crime, and he is
differentiated from his fellows by defective physique and mental
capacity and an increased possession of antisocial qualities.[13]

[12] "The English Convict," a statistical study, by Charles
Goring, M.D. His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1913.

[13] Murderers--at least those executed for their crimes--have
not for obvious reasons been made the subject of close scientific
observation. Their mental capacity would in all probability be
found to be rather higher than that of less ambitious

How does Peace answer to the definition? Though short in
stature, his physical development left little to be desired: he
was active, agile, and enjoyed excellent health at all times.
For a man of forty-seven he had aged remarkably in appearance.
That is probably to be accounted for by mental worry. With two
murders on his conscience we know from Sue Thompson that all she
learnt of his secrets was what escaped from him in his troubled
dreams--Peace may well have shown traces of mental anxiety. But
in all other respects Charles Peace would seem to have been
physically fit. In intellectual capacity he was undoubtedly
above the average of the ordinary criminal. The facts of his
career, his natural gifts, speak for themselves. Of anti-social
proclivities he no doubt possessed his share at the beginning,
and these were aggravated, as in most cases they were in his day,
by prison life and discipline.

Judged as scientifically as is possible where the human being is
concerned, Peace stands out physically and intellectually well
above the average of his class, perhaps the most naturally gifted
of all those who, without advantages of rank or education, have
tried their hands at crime. Ordinary crime for the most part
would appear to be little better than the last resort of the
intellectually defective, and a poor game at that. The only
interesting criminals are those worthy of something better.
Peace was one of these. If his life may be said to point a
moral, it is the very simple one that crime is no career for a
man of brains.

The Career of Robert Butler

There is a report of Butler's trial published in Dunedin. It
gives in full the speeches and the cross-examination of the
witnesses, but not in all cases the evidence-in-chief. By the
kindness of a friend in New Zealand I obtained a copy of the
depositions taken before the magistrate; with this I have been
able to supplement the report of the trial. A collection of
newspaper cuttings furnished me with the details of the rest of
Butler's career.



On the evening of March 23, 1905, Mr. William Munday, a highly
respected citizen of the town of Tooringa, in Queensland, was
walking to the neighbouring town of Toowong to attend a masonic
gathering. It was about eight o'clock, the moon shining
brightly. Nearing Toowong, Mr. Munday saw a middle-aged man,
bearded and wearing a white overcoat, step out into the moonlight
from under the shadow of a tree. As Mr. Munday advanced, the man
in the white coat stood directly in his way. "Out with all you
have, and quick about it," he said. Instead of complying with
this peremptory summons, Mr. Munday attempted to close with him.
The man drew back quickly, whipped out a revolver, fired, and
made off as fast as he could. The bullet, after passing through
Mr. Munday's left arm, had lodged in the stomach. The
unfortunate gentleman was taken to a neighbouring hospital where,
within a few hours, he was dead.

In the meantime a vigorous search was made for his assailant.
Late the same night Constable Hennessy, riding a bicycle, saw a
man in a white coat who seemed to answer to the description of
the assassin. He dismounted, walked up to him and asked him for
a match. The man put his hand inside his coat. "What have you
got there?" asked the constable. "I'll--soon show you," replied
the man in the white coat, producing suddenly a large revolver.
But Hennessy was too quick for him. Landing him one under the
jaw, he sent him to the ground and, after a sharp struggle,
secured him. Constable Hennessy little knew at the time that his
capture in Queensland of the man in the white coat was almost as
notable in the annals of crime as the affray at Blackheath on an
autumn night in 1878, when Constable Robinson grappled
successfully, wounded as he was, with Charles Peace.

The man taken by Hennessy gave the name of James Wharton, and as
James Wharton he was hanged at Brisbane. But before his death it
was ascertained beyond doubt, though he never admitted it
himself, that Wharton was none other than one Robert Butler,
whose career as a criminal and natural wickedness may well rank
him with Charles Peace in the hierarchy of scoundrels. Like
Peace, Butler was, in the jargon of crime, a "hatter," a "lone
hand," a solitary who conceived and executed his nefarious
designs alone; like Peace, he supplemented an insignificant
physique by a liberal employment of the revolver; like Peace, he
was something of a musician, the day before his execution he
played hymns for half an hour on the prison organ; like Peace, he
knew when to whine when it suited his purpose; and like Peace,
though not with the same intensity, he could be an uncomfortably
persistent lover, when the fit was on him. Both men were cynics
in their way and viewed their fellow-men with a measure of
contempt. But here parallel ends. Butler was an
intellectual, inferior as a craftsman to Peace, the essentially
practical, unread, naturally gifted artist. Butler was a man of
books. He had been schoolmaster, journalist. He had studied the
lives of great men, and as a criminal, had devoted especial
attention to those of Frederick the Great and Napoleon. Butler's
defence in the Dunedin murder trial was a feat of skill quite
beyond the power of Peace. Peace was a religious man after the
fashion of the mediaeval tyrant, Butler an infidel. Peace,
dragged into the light of a court of justice, cut a sorry figure;
here Butler shone. Peace escaped a conviction for murder by
letting another suffer in his place; Butler escaped a similar
experience by the sheer ingenuity of his defence. Peace had the
modesty and reticence of the sincere artist; Butler the
loquacious vanity of the literary or forensic coxcomb. Lastly,
and it is the supreme difference, Butler was a murderer by
instinct and conviction, as Lacenaire or Ruloff; "a man's life,"
he said, "was of no more importance than a dog's; nature respects
the one no more than the other, a volcanic eruption kills mice
and men with the one hand. The divine command, `kill, kill and
spare not,' was intended not only for Joshua, but for men of all
time; it is the example of our rulers, our Fredericks and

Butler was of the true Prussian mould. "In crime," he would say,
"as in war, no half measures. Let us follow the example of our
rulers whose orders in war run, `Kill, burn and sink,' and what
you cannot carry away, destroy.'" Here is the gospel of
frightfulness applied almost prophetically to crime. To Butler
murder is a principle of warfare; to Peace it was never more than
a desperate resort or an act the outcome of ungovernable passion.

Ireland can claim the honour of Butler's birth. It took place at
Kilkenny about 1845. At an early age he left his native land
for Australia, and commenced his professional career by being
sentenced under the name of James Wilson--the same initials as
those of James Wharton of Queensland--to twelve months'
imprisonment for vagrancy. Of the sixteen years he passed in
Victoria he spent thirteen in prison, first for stealing, then in
steady progression for highway robbery and burglary. Side by
side with the practical and efficient education in crime
furnished by the Victorian prisons of that day, Butler availed
himself of the opportunity to educate his mind. It was during
this period that he found inspiration and encouragement in the
study of the lives of Frederick and Napoleon, besides acquiring a
knowledge of music and shorthand.

When in 1876 Butler quitted Australia for New Zealand, he was
sufficiently accomplished to obtain employment as a schoolmaster.

At Cromwell, Otago, under the name of "C. J. Donelly, Esq.,"
Butler opened a "Commercial and Preparatory Academy," and in a
prospectus that recalls Mr. Squeers' famous advertisement of
Dotheboys Hall, announced that the programme of the Academy would
include "reading, taught as an art and upon the most approved
principles of elocution, writing, arithmetic, euclid, algebra,
mensuration, trigonometry, book-keeping, geography, grammar,
spelling and dictation) composition, logic and debate, French,
Latin, shorthand, history, music, and general lectures on
astronomy, natural philosophy, geology, and other subjects." The
simpler principles of these branches of learning were to be
"rendered intelligible, and a firm foundation laid for the
acquirement of future knowledge." Unfortunately a suspicion of
theft on Butler's part cut short the fulfilment of this really
splendid programme, and Butler left Cromwell hurriedly for the
ampler field of Dunedin. There, less than a fortnight after
his arrivel{sic}, he was sentenced to four years' hard labour for
several burglaries committed in and about that city.

On the 18th of February, 1880, Butler was released from prison.
With that consummate hypocrisy which was part of the man, he had
contrived to enlist the sympathies of the Governor of the Dunedin
Jail, who gave him, on his departure, a suit of clothes and a
small sum of money. A detective of the name of Bain tried to
find him employment. Butler wished to adopt a literary career.
He acted as a reporter on the Dunedin Evening Star, and gave
satisfaction to the editor of that newspaper. An attempt to do
some original work, in the shape of "Prison Sketches," for
another newspaper, was less successful. Bain had arranged for
the publication of the articles in the Sunday Advertiser, but
when the time came to deliver his manuscript, Butler failed to
appear. Bain, whose duty it was to keep an eye on Butler, found
him in the street looking wild and haggard. He said that he had
found the work "too much for his head," that he had torn up what
he had written, that he had nowhere to go, and had been to the
end of the jetty with the intention of drowning himself. Bain
replied somewhat caustically that he thought it a pity he had not
done so, as nothing would have given him greater joy than going
to the end of the jetty and identifying his body. "You speak
very plainly," said Butler. "Yes, and what is more, I mean what
I say," replied Bain. Butler justified Bain's candour by saying
that if he broke out again, he would be worse than the most
savage tiger ever let loose on the community. As a means of
obviating such an outbreak, Butler suggested that, intellectual
employment having failed, some form of manual labour should be
found him. Bain complied with Butler's request, and got him a
job at levelling reclaimed ground in the neighbourhood of
Dunedin. On Wednesday, March 10, Butler started work, but after
three hours of it relinquished the effort. Bain saw Butler again
in Dunedin on the evening of Saturday, March 13, and made an
appointment to meet him at half-past eight that night. Butler
did not keep the appointment. Bain searched the town for him,
but he was nowhere to be found.

About the same time Butler had some talk with another member of
the Dunedin police force, Inspector Mallard. They discussed the
crimes of Charles Peace and other notable artists of that kind.
Butler remarked to Mallard how easy it would be to destroy all
traces of a murder by fire, and asked the inspector whether if he
woke up one morning to find some brutal murder had been
committed, he would not put it down to him. "No, Butler,"
replied the inspector, "the first thing I should do would be to
look for suspicious circumstances, and most undoubtedly, if they
pointed to you, you would be looked after."

In the early morning of this Saturday, March 13, the house of a
Mr. Stamper, a solicitor of Dunedin, had been broken into, and
some articles of value, among them a pair of opera glasses,
stolen. The house had been set on fire, and burned to the
ground. On the morning of the following day, Sunday, the 14th,
Dunedin was horrified by the discovery of a far more terrible
crime, tigerish certainly in its apparent ferocity. In a house
in Cumberland Street, a young married couple and their little
baby were cruelly murdered and un{sic}{an??} unsuccessful attempt
made to fire the scene of the crime.

About half-past six on Sunday morning a man of the name of Robb,
a carpenter, on getting out of bed, noticed smoke coming from the
house of a neighbor of his, Mr. J. M. Dewar, who occupied a small
one-floored cottage standing by itself in Cumberland Street, a
large and broad thoroughfare on the outskirts of the town.
Dewar was a butcher by trade, a young man, some eighteen
months married, and father of a baby girl. Robb, on seeing smoke
coming from Dewar's house, woke his son, who was a member of the
fire brigade. The latter got up, crossed the street, and going
round to the back door, which he found wide open, entered the
house. As he went along the passage that separated the two front
rooms, a bedroom and sitting-room, he called to the inmates to
get up. He received no answer, but as he neared the bedroom he
heard a "gurgling" sound. Crawling on his hands and knees he
reached the bedroom door, and two feet inside it his right hand
touched something. It was the body of a woman; she was still
alive, but in a dying condition. Robb dragged her across the
passage into the sitting-room. He got some water, and extin-
guished the fire in the bedroom. On the bed lay the body of
Dewar. To all appearances he had been killed in his sleep. By
his side was the body of the baby, suffocated by the smoke. Near
the bed was an axe belonging to Dewar, stained with blood. It
was with this weapon, apparently, that Mr. and Mrs. Dewar had
been attacked. Under the bed was a candlestick belonging also to
the Dewars, which had been used by the murderer in setting fire
to the bed. The front window of the sitting-room was open, there
were marks of boot nails on the sill, and on the grass in front
of the window a knife was found. An attempt had been made to
ransack a chest of drawers in the bedroom, but some articles of
jewellery lying in one of the drawers, and a ring on the
dressing-table had been left untouched. As far as was known, Mr.
and Mrs. Dewar were a perfectly happy and united couple. Dewar
had been last seen alive about ten o'clock on the Saturday night
getting off a car near his home. At eleven a neighbour had
noticed a light in the Dewars' house. About five o'clock on the
Sunday morning another neighbour had been aroused from his
sleep by the sound as of something falling heavily. It was a
wild and boisterous night. Thinking the noise might be the
slamming of his stable door, he got up and went out to see that
it was secure. He then noticed that a light was burning in the
bedroom window of the Dewars' cottage.

Nothing more was known of what had occurred that morning until at
half-past six Robb saw the smoke coming from Dewars' house. Mrs.
Dewar, who alone could have told something, never recovered
consciousness and died on the day following the crime. Three
considerable wounds sufficient to cause death had been inflicted
on the unfortunate woman's head, and five of a similar character
on that of her husband. At the head of the bed, which stood in
the corner of the room, there was a large smear of blood on the
wall just above the door; there were spots of blood all over the
top of the bed, and some smaller ones that had to all appearances
spurted on to the panel of the door nearest to the bed.

The investigation of this shocking crime was placed in the hands
of Detective Bain, whose duty it had been to keep an eye on
Robert Butler, but he did not at first associate his interesting
charge with the commission of the murder. About half-past six on
Sunday evening Bain happened to go to a place called the Scotia
Hotel, where the landlord informed him that one of his servants,
a girl named Sarah Gillespie, was very anxious to see him. Her
story was this: On the morning of Thursday, March 11, Robert
Butler had come to the hotel; he was wearing a dark lavender
check suit and carried a top coat and parcel. Butler had stayed
in the hotel all Thursday and slept there that night. He had not
slept in the hotel on the Friday night, and Sarah Gillespie had
not seen him again until he came into the house about five and
twenty minutes to seven on Sunday morning. The girl noticed
that he was pale and excited, seemed afraid and worried, as if
someone were coming after him. After giving her some money for
the landlord, he went upstairs, fetched his top coat, a muffler,
and his parcel. Before leaving he said he would have a pint of
beer, as he had not breakfasted. He then left, presumably to
catch an early train.

Butler was next seen a few minutes later at a shop near the
hotel, where he bought five tins of salmon, and about the same
time a milk-boy saw him standing on the kerb in Cumberland Street
in a stooping position, his head turned in the direction of
Dewars' house. A little after ten the same night Butler entered
a hotel at a place called Blueskin, some twelve miles distant
from Dunedin. He was wearing an overcoat and a light muffler.
He sat down at a table in the dining-room and seemed weary and
sleepy. Someone standing at the bar said "What a shocking murder
that was in Cumberland Street!" Butler started up, looked
steadily from one to the other of the two men who happened to be
in the room, then sat down again and, taking up a book, appeared
to be reading. More than once he put down the book and kept
shifting uneasily in his chair. After having some supper he got
up, paid his reckoning, and left the hotel.

At half-past three the following morning, about fifteen miles
from Dunedin, on the road to Waikouaiti, two constables met a man
whom they recognised as Butler from a description that had been
circulated by the police. The constables arrested and searched
him. They found on him a pair of opera glasses, the property of
Mr. Stamper, whose house had been burgled and burned down on the
morning of the 13th. Of this crime Butler acknowledged himself
to be the perpetrator. Besides the opera glasses the constables
took from Butler two tins of salmon, a purse containing four
shillings and sixpence, a pocket knife, a box of matches, a
piece of candle, and a revolver and cartridges. The prisoner was
carrying a top coat, and was dressed in a dark coat and grey
trousers, underneath which he was wearing a white shirt, an under
flannel and a Rob Roy Crimean shirt. One of the constables
noticed that there were marks of blood on his shirt. Another
singular feature in Butler's attire was the fact that the outer
soles of his boots had been recently removed. When last seen in
Dunedin Butler had been wearing a moustache; he was now clean

The same evening a remarkable interview took place in the lock-up
at Waikouaiti between Butler and Inspector Mallard. Mallard, who
had some reason for suspecting Butler, bearing in mind their
recent conversation, told the prisoner that he would be charged
with the murder in Cumberland Street. For a few seconds,
according to Mallard, the prisoner seemed terribly agitated and
appeared to be choking. Recovering himself somewhat, he said,
"If for that, you can get no evidence against me; and if I am
hanged for it, I shall be an innocent man, whatever other crimes
I may have committed." Mallard replied, "There is evidence to
convict you--the fire was put out." Butler than{sic} said that
he would ask Mallard a question, but, after a pause, decided not
to do so. Mallard, after examining Butler's clothes, told him
that those were not the clothes in which he had left the Scotia
Hotel. Butler admitted it, and said he had thrown those away in
the North East Valley. Mallard alluded to the disappearance of
the prisoner's moustache. Butler replied that he had cut it off
on the road. Mallard noticed then the backs of Butler's hands
were scratched, as if by contact with bushes. Butler seemed
often on the point of asking questions, but would then stop and
say "No, I won't ask you anything." To the constables who had
arrested him Butler remarked, "You ought to remember me,
because I could have shot you if I had wished." When Mallard
later in the evening visited Butler again, the prisoner who was
then lying down said, "I want to speak to you. I want to ask the
press not to publish my career. Give me fair play. I suppose I
shall be convicted and you will see I can die like a man."

A few days after Butler's arrest a ranger on the Town Belt, a
hill overlooking Dunedin, found a coat, a hat and silk striped
cravat, and a few days later a pair of trousers folded up and
placed under a bush. These articles of clothing were identified
as those which Butler had been seen wearing on the Saturday and
Sunday morning. They were examined. There were a number of
bloodstains on them, not one of them larger in size than a pea,
some almost invisible. On the front of the trousers about the
level of the groin there were blood spots on both sides. There
was blood on the fold of the left breast of the coat and on the
lining of the cuff of the right arm. The shirt Butler was
wearing at the time of his arrest was examined also. There were
small spots of blood, about fourteen altogether, on the neck and
shoulder bands, the right armpit, the left sleeve, and on both
wristbands. Besides the clothes, a salmon tin was found on the
Town Belt, and behind a seat in the Botanical Gardens, from which
a partial view of the Dewars' house in Cumberland Street could be
obtained, two more salmon tins were found, all three similar to
the five purchased by Butler on the Sunday morning, two of which
had been in his possession at the time of his arrest.

Such were the main facts of the case which Butler had to answer
when, a few weeks later, he was put on his trial before the
Supreme Court at Dunedin. The presiding judge was Mr. Justice
Williams, afterwards Sir Joshua Williams and a member of the
Privy Council. The Crown Prosecutor, Mr. Haggitt, conducted
the case for the Crown, and Butler defended himself.



To a man of Butler's egregious vanity his trial was a glorious
opportunity for displaying his intellectual gifts, such as they
were. One who had known him in prison about this time describes
him as a strange compound of vanity and envy, blind to his own
faults and envious of the material advantages enjoyed by others.
Self-willed and arrogant, he could bully or whine with equal
effect. Despising men, he believed that if a man did not possess
some requisite quality, he had only to ape it, as few would
distinguish between the real and the sham.

But with all these advantages in the struggle for life, it is
certain that Butler's defence would have been far less effective
had be{sic} been denied all professional aid. As a matter of
fact, throughout his trial Butler was being advised by three
distinguished members of the New Zealand bar, now judges of the
Supreme Court, who though not appearing for him in court, gave
him the full benefit of their assistance outside it. At the same
time Butler carried off the thing well. Where imagination was
required, Butler broke down; he could not write sketches of life
in prison; that was too much for his pedestrian intellect. But
given the facts of a case, dealing with a transaction of which he
alone knew the real truth, and aided by the advice and guidance
of trained intellects, Butler was unquestionably clever and
shrewd enough to make the best use of such advantages in meeting
the case against him.

Thus equipped for the coming struggle, this high-browed ruffian,
with his semi-intellectual cast of countenance, his jerky
restless posturing, his splay-footed waddle, "like a lame Muscovy
duck," in the graphic words of his gaol companion, stood up to
plead for his life before the Supreme Court at Dunedin.

It may be said at the outset that Butler profited greatly by the
scrupulous fairness shown by the Crown Prosecutor. Mr. Haggitt
extended to the prisoner a degree of consideration and
forbearance, justified undoubtedly towards an undefended
prisoner. But, as we have seen, Butler was not in reality
undefended. At every moment of the trial he was in communication
with his legal advisers, and being instructed by them how to meet
the evidence given against him. Under these circumstances the
unfailing consideration shown him by the Crown Prosecutor seems
almost excessive. From the first moment of the trial Butler was
fully alive to the necessities of his situation. He refrained
from including in his challenges of the jury the gentleman who
was afterwards foreman; he knew he was all right, he said,
because he parted his hair in the middle, a "softy," in fact. He
did not know in all probability that one gentleman on the jury
had a rooted conviction that the murder of the Dewars was the
work of a criminal lunatic. There was certainly nothing in
Butler's demeanour or behaviour to suggest homicidal mania.

The case against Butler rested on purely circumstantial evidence.

No new facts of importance were adduced at the trial. The
stealing of Dewar's wages, which had been paid to him on the
Saturday, was the motive for the murder suggested by the Crown.
The chief facts pointing to Butler's guilt were: his conversation
with Mallard and Bain previous to the crime; his demeanour after
it; his departure from Dunedin; the removal of his moustache
and the soles of his boots; his change of clothes and the
bloodstains found upon them, added to which was his apparent
inability to account for his movements on the night in question.

Such as the evidence was, Butler did little to shake it in cross-
examination. His questions were many of them skilful and
pointed, but on more than one occasion the judge intervened to
save him from the danger common to all amateur cross-examiners,
of not knowing when to stop. He was most successful in dealing
with the medical witnesses. Butler had explained the bloodstains
on his clothes as smears that had come from scratches on his
hands, caused by contact with bushes. This explanation the
medical gentlemen with good reason rejected. But they went
further, and said that these stains might well have been caused
by the spurting and spraying of blood on to the murderer as he
struck his victims. Butler was able to show by the position of
the bloodstains on the clothes that such an explanation was open
to considerable doubt.

Butler's speech in his defence lasted six hours, and was a
creditable performance. Its arrangement is somewhat confused and
repetitious, some points are over-elaborated, but on the whole he
deals very successfully with most of the evidence given against
him and exposes the unquestionable weakness of the Crown case.
At the outset he declared that he had taken his innocence for his
defence. "I was not willing," he said, "to leave my life in the
hands of a stranger. I was willing to incur all the
disadvantages which the knowledge of the law might bring upon me.

I was willing, also, to enter on this case without any experience
whatever of that peculiarly acquired art of cross-examination. I
fear I have done wrong. If I had had the assistance of able
counsel, much more light would have been thrown on this case
than has been." As we have seen, Butler enjoyed throughout his
trial the informal assistance of three of the most able counsel
in New Zealand, so that this heroic attitude of conscious
innocence braving all dangers loses most of its force. Without
such assistance his danger might have been very real.

A great deal of the evidence as to his conduct and demeanour at
the time of the murder Butler met by acknowledging that it was he
who had broken into Mr. Stamper's house on the Saturday morning,
burgled it and set it on fire. His consciousness of guilt in
this respect was, he said, quite sufficient to account for
anything strange or furtive in his manner at that time. He was
already known to the police; meeting Bain on the Saturday night,
he felt more than ever sure that he was susspected{sic} of the
robbery at Mr. Stamper's; he therefore decided to leave Dunedin
as soon as possible. That night, he said, he spent wandering
about the streets half drunk, taking occasional shelter from the
pouring rain, until six o'clock on the Sunday morning, when he
went to the Scotia Hotel. A more detailed account of his
movements on the night of the Dewars' murder he did not, or would
not, give.

When he comes to the facts of the murder and his theories as to
the nature and motive of the crime--theories which he developed
at rather unnecessary length for the purpose of his own defence--
his speech is interesting. It will be recollected that on the
discovery of the murder, a knife was found on the grass outside
the house. This knife was not the property of the Dewars. In
Butler's speech he emphasised the opinion that this knife had
been brought there by the murderer: "Horrible though it may be,
my conclusion is that he brought it with the intention of cutting
the throats of his victims, and that, finding they lay in rather
an untoward position, he changed his mind, and, having
carried out the object with which he entered the house, left the
knife and, going back, brought the axe with which he effected his
purpose. What was the purpose of the murderer? Was it the
robbery of Dewar's paltry wages? Was it the act of a tiger
broken loose on the community? An act of pure wanton devilry? or
was there some more reasonable explanation of this most atrocious

Butler rejected altogether the theory of ordinary theft. No
thief of ambitious views, he said, would pitch upon the house of
a poor journeyman butcher. The killing of the family appeared to
him to be the motive: "an enemy hath done this." The murderer
seems to have had a knowledge of the premises; he enters the
house and does his work swiftly and promptly, and is gone. "We
cannot know," Butler continues, "all the passages in the lives of
the murdered man or woman. What can we know of the hundred
spites and jealousies or other causes of malice which might have
caused the crime? If you say some obscure quarrel, some spite or
jealousy is not likely to have been the cause of so dreadful a
murder, you cannot revert to the robbery theory without admitting
a motive much weaker in all its utter needlessness and vagueness.

The prominent feature of the murder, indeed the only feature, is
its ruthless, unrelenting, determined vindictiveness. Every blow
seemed to say, `You shall die you shall not live.'"

Whether Butler were the murderer of the Dewars or not, the theory
that represented them as having been killed for the purpose of
robbery has its weak side all the weaker if Butler, a practical
and ambitious criminal, were the guilty man.

In 1882, two years after Butler's trial, there appeared in a New
Zealand newspaper, Society, published in Christchurch, a series
of Prison "Portraits," written evidently by one who had
himself undergone a term of imprisonment. One of the "Portraits"
was devoted to an account of Butler. The writer had known Butler
in prison. According to the story told him by Butler, the latter
had arrived in Dunedin with a quantity of jewellery he had stolen
in Australia. This jewellery he entrusted to a young woman for
safe keeping. After serving his first term of two years'
imprisonment in Dunedin, Butler found on his release that the
young woman had married a man of the name of Dewar. Butler went
to Mrs. Dewar and asked for the return of his jewellery; she
refused to give it up. On the night of the murder he called at
the house in Cumberland Street and made a last appeal to her, but
in vain. He determined on revenge. During his visit to Mrs.
Dewar he had had an opportunity of seeing the axe and observing
the best way to break into the house. He watched the husband's
return, and decided to kill him as well as his wife on the chance
of obtaining his week's wages. With the help of the knife which
he had found in the backyard of a hotel he opened the window.
The husband he killed in his sleep, the woman waked with the
first blow he struck her. He found the jewellery in a drawer
rolled up in a pair of stockings. He afterwards hid it in a
well-marked spot some half-hour before his arrest.

A few years after its appearance in Society, this account of
Butler was reproduced in an Auckland newspaper. Bain, the
detective, wrote a letter questioning the truth of the writer's
statements. He pointed out that when Butler first came to
Dunedin he had been at liberty only a fortnight before serving
his first term of imprisonment, very little time in which to make
the acquaintance of a woman and dispose of the stolen jewellery.
He asked why, if Butler had hidden the jewellery just before his
arrest, he had not also hidden the opera-glasses which he
had stolen from Mr. Stamper's house. Neither of these comments
is very convincing. A fortnight seems time enough in which a man
of Butler's character might get to know a woman and dispose of
some jewellery; while, if Butler were the murderer of Mr. Dewar
as well as the burglar who had broken into Stamper's house, it
was part of his plan to acknowledge himself guilty of the latter
crime and use it to justify his movements before and after the
murder. Bain is more convincing when he states at the conclusion
of his letter that he had known Mrs. Dewar from childhood as a
"thoroughly good and true woman," who, as far as he knew, had
never in her life had any acquaintance with Butler.

At the same time, the account given by Butler's fellow-prisoner,
in which the conduct of the murdered woman is represented as
constituting the provocation for the subsequent crime, explains
one peculiar circumstance in connection with the tragedy, the
selection of this journeyman butcher and his wife as the victims
of the murderer. It explains the theory, urged so persistently
by Butler in his speech to the jury, that the crime was the work
of an enemy of the Dewars, the outcome of some hidden spite, or
obscure quarrel; it explains the apparent ferocity of the murder,
and the improbability of a practical thief selecting such an
unprofitable couple as his prey. The rummaged chest of drawers
and the fact that some trifling articles of jewellery were left
untouched on the top of them, are consistent with an eager search
by the murderer for some particular object. Against this theory
of revenge is the fact that Butler was a malignant ruffian and
liar in any case, that, having realised very little in cash by
the burglary at Stamper's house, he would not be particular as to
where he might get a few shillings more, that he had threatened
to do a tigerish deed, and that it is characteristic of his
vanity to try to impute to his crime a higher motive than
mere greed or necessity.

Butler showed himself not averse to speaking of the murder in
Cumberland Street to at least one of those, with whom he came in
contact in his later years. After he had left New Zealand and
returned to Australia, he was walking in a street in Melbourne
with a friend when they passed a lady dressed in black, carrying
a baby in her arms. The baby looked at the two men and laughed.
Butler frowned and walked rapidly away. His companion chaffed
him, and asked whether it was the widow or the baby that he was
afraid of. Butler was silent, but after a time asked his
companion to come into some gardens and sit down on one of the
seats, as he had something serious to say to him. For a while
Butler sat silent. Then he asked the other if he had ever been
in Dunedin. "Yes," was the reply. "Look here," said Butler,
"you are the only man I ever made any kind of confidant of. You
are a good scholar, though I could teach you a lot." After this
gracious compliment he went on: "I was once tried in Dunedin on
the charge of killing a man, woman and child, and although
innocent, the crime was nearly brought home to me. It was my own
ability that pulled me through. Had I employed a professional
advocate, I should not have been here to-day talking to you."
After describing the murder, Butler said: "Trying to fire the
house was unnecessary, and killing the baby was unnecessary and
cruel. I respect no man's life, for no man respects mine. A lot
of men I have never injured have tried to put a rope round my
neck more than once. I hate society in general, and one or two
individuals in particular. The man who did that murder in
Dunedin has, if anything, my sympathy, but it seems to me he need
not have killed that child." His companion was about to speak.
Butler stopped him. "Now, don't ever ask me such a silly
question as that," he said. "What?" asked his friend. "You were
about to ask me if I did that deed," replied Butler, "and you
know perfectly well that, guilty or innocent, that question would
only be answered in one way." "I was about to ask nothing of the
kind," said the other, "for you have already told me that you
were innocent." "Good!" said Butler, "then let that be the end
of the subject, and never refer to it again, except, perhaps, in
your own mind, when you can, if you like, remember that I said
the killing of the child was unnecessary and cruel."

Having developed to the jury his theory of why the crime was
committed, Butler told them that, as far as he was concerned,
there were four points against him on which the Crown relied to
prove his guilt. Firstly, there was the fact of his being in the
neighbourhood of the crime on the Sunday morning; that, he said,
applied to scores of other people besides himself. Then there
was his alleged disturbed appearance and guilty demeanour. The
evidence of that was, he contended, doubtful in any case, and
referable to another cause; as also his leaving Dunedin in the
way and at the time he did. He scouted the idea that murderers
are compelled by some invisible force to betray their guilt.
"The doings of men," he urged, "and their success are regulated
by the amount of judgment that they possess, and, without
impugning or denying the existence of Providence, I say this is a
law that holds good in all cases, whether for evil or good.
Murderers, if they have the sense and ability and discretion to
cover up their crime, will escape, do escape, and have escaped.
Many people, when they have gravely shaken their heads and said
`Murder will out,' consider they have done a great deal and gone
a long way towards settling the question. Well, this, like many
other stock formulas of Old World wisdom, is not true. How
many murders are there that the world has never heard of, and
never will? How many a murdered man, for instance, lies among
the gum-trees of Victoria, or in the old abandoned mining-shafts
on the diggings, who is missed by nobody, perhaps, but a pining
wife at home, or helpless children, or an old mother? But who
were their murderers? Where are they? God knows, perhaps, but
nobody else, and nobody ever will." The fact, he said, that he
was alleged to have walked up Cumberland Street on the Sunday
morning and looked in the direction of the Dewars' house was,
unless the causes of superstition and a vague and incomplete
reasoning were to be accepted as proof, evidence rather of his
innocence than his guilt. He had removed the soles of his boots,
he said, in order to ease his feet in walking; the outer soles
had become worn and ragged, and in lumps under his feet. He
denied that he had told Bain, the detective, that he would break
out as a desperate tiger let loose on the community; what he had
said was that he was tired of living the life of a prairie dog or
a tiger in the jungle.

Butler was more successful when he came to deal with the
bloodstains on his clothes. These, he said, were caused by the
blood from the scratches on his hands, which had been observed at
the time of his arrest. The doctors had rejected this theory,
and said that the spots of blood had been impelled from the axe
or from the heads of the victims as the murderer struck the fatal
blow. Butler put on the clothes in court, and was successful in
showing that the position and appearance of certain of the blood
spots was not compatible with such a theory. "I think," he said,
"I am fairly warranted in saying that the evidence of these
gentlemen is, not to put too fine a point on it, worth just
nothing at all."

Butler's concluding words to the jury were brief but
emphatic: "I stand in a terrible position. So do you. See that
in your way of disposing of me you deliver yourselves of your

In the exercise of his forbearance towards an undefended
prisoner, Mr. Haggitt did not address the jury for the Crown. At
four o'clock the judge commenced his summingDup. Mr. Justice
Williams impressed on the jury that they must be satisfied,
before they could convict the prisoner, that the circumstances of
the crime and the prisoner's conduct were inconsistent with any
other reasonable hypothesis than his guilt. There was little or
no evidence that robbery was the motive of the crime. The
circumstance of the prisoner being out all Saturday night and in
the neighbourhood of the crime on Sunday morning only amounted to
the fact that he had an opportunity shared by a great number of
other persons of committing the murder. The evidence of his
agitation and demeanour at the time of his arrest must be
accepted with caution. The evidence of the blood spots was of
crucial importance; there was nothing save this to connect him
directly with the crime. The jury must be satisfied that the
blood on the clothes corresponded with the blood marks which, in
all probability, would be found on the person who committed the
murder. In regard to the medical testimony some caution must be
exercised. Where medical gentlemen had made observations, seen
with their own eyes, the direct inference might be highly
trustworthy, but, when they proceeded to draw further inferences,
they might be in danger of looking at facts through the
spectacles of theory; "we know that people do that in other
things besides science--politics, religion, and so forth."
Taking the Crown evidence, at its strongest, there was a missing
link; did the evidence of the bloodstains supply it? These
bloodstains were almost invisible. Could a person be reasonably
asked to explain how they came where they did? Could they
be accounted for in no other reasonable way than that the clothes
had been worn by the murderer of the Dewars?

In spite of a summing-up distinctly favourable to the prisoner,
the jury were out three hours. According to one account of their
proceedings, told to the writer, there was at first a majority of
the jurymen in favour of conviction. But it was Saturday night;
if they could not come to a decision they were in danger of being
locked up over Sunday. For this reason the gentleman who held an
obstinate and unshaken belief that the crime was the work of a
homicidal maniac found an unexpected ally in a prominent member
of a church choir who was down to sing a solo in his church on
Sunday, and was anxious not to lose such an opportunity for
distinction. Whatever the cause, after three hours' deliberation
the jury returned a verdict of "Not Guilty."
Later in the Session Butler pleaded guilty to the burglary at Mr.
Stamper's house, and was sentenced to eighteen years'
imprisonment. The severity of this sentence was not, the judge
said, intended to mark the strong suspicion under which Butler
laboured of being a murderer as well as a burglar.

The ends of justice had been served by Butler's acquittal. But
in the light of after events, it is perhaps unfortunate that the
jury did not stretch a point and so save the life of Mr. Munday
of Toowong. Butler underwent his term of imprisonment in
Littleton Jail. There his reputation was most unenviable. He is
described by a fellow prisoner as ill-tempered, malicious,
destructive, but cowardly and treacherous. He seems to have done
little or no work; he looked after the choir and the library, but
was not above breaking up the one and smashing the other, if the
fit seized him.



In 1896 Butler was released from prison. The news of his release
was described as falling like a bomb-shell among the peaceful
inhabitants of Dunedin. In the colony of Victoria, where Butler
had commenced his career, it was received with an apprehension
that was justified by subsequent events. It was believed that on
his release the New Zealand authorities had shipped Butler off to
Rio. But it was not long before he made his way once more to
Australia. From the moment of his arrival in Melbourne he was
shadowed by the police. One or two mysterious occurrences soon
led to his arrest. On June 5 he was sentenced to twelve months'
imprisonment under the Criminal Influx Act, which makes it a
penal offence for any convict to enter Victoria for three years
after his release from prison. Not content with this, the
authorities determined to put Butler on trial on two charges of
burglary and one of highway robbery, committed since his return
to the colony. To one charge of burglary, that of breaking into
a hairdresser's shop and stealing a wig, some razors and a little
money, Butler pleaded guilty.

But the charge of highway robbery, which bore a singular
resemblance to the final catastrophe in Queensland, he resisted
to the utmost, and showed that his experience in the Supreme
Court at Dunedin had not been lost on him. At half-past six one
evening in a suburb of Melbourne an elderly gentleman found
himself confronted by a bearded man, wearing a long overcoat and
a boxer hat and flourishing a revolver, who told him abruptly to
"turn out his pockets." The old man did ashe was told. The
robber then asked for his watch and chain, saying "Business must
be done." The old gentleman mildly urged that this was a
dangerous business. On being assured that the watch was a gold
one, the robber appeared willing to risk the danger, and departed
thoroughly satisfied. The old gentleman afterwards identified
Butler as the man who had taken his watch. Another elderly man
swore that he had seen Butler at the time of the robbery in the
possession of a fine gold watch, which he said had been sent him
from home. But the watch had not been found in Butler's

On June 18 Butler was put on his trial in the Melbourne Criminal
Court before Mr. Justice Holroyd, charged with robbery under
arms. His appearance in the dock aroused very considerable
interest. "It was the general verdict," wrote one newspaper,
"that his intellectual head and forehead compared not unfavour-

ably with those of the judge." He was decently dressed and wore
pince-nez, which he used in the best professional manner as he
referred to the various documents that lay in front of him. He
went into the witness-box and stated that the evening of the
crime he had spent according to his custom in the Public Library.

For an hour and a half he addressed the jury. He disputed the
possibility of his identification by his alleged victim. He was
"an old gentleman of sedentary pursuits and not cast in the
heroic mould." Such a man would be naturally alarmed and
confused at meeting suddenly an armed robber. Now, under these
circumstances, could his recognition of a man whose face was
hidden by a beard, his head by a boxer hat, and his body by a
long overcoat, be considered trustworthy? And such recognition
occurring in the course of a chance encounter in the darkness,
that fruitful mother of error? The elderly gentleman had
described his moustache as a slight one, but the jury could see
that it was full and overhanging. He complained that he had been
put up for identification singly, not with other men, according
to the usual custom; the police had said to the prosecutor: "We
have here a man that we think robbed you, and, if he is not the
man, we shall be disappointed," to which the prosecutor had
replied: "Yes, and if he is not the man, I shall be disappointed
too." For the elderly person who had stated that he had seen a
gold watch in Butler's possession the latter had nothing but
scorn. He was a "lean and slippered pantaloon in Shakespeare's
last stage"; and he, Butler, would have been a lunatic to have
confided in such a man.

The jury acquitted Butler, adding as a rider to their verdict
that there was not sufficient evidence of identification. The
third charge against Butler was not proceeded with. He was put
up to receive sentence for the burglary at the hairdresser's
shop. Butler handed to the judge a written statement which Mr.
Justice Holroyd described as a narrative that might have been
taken from those sensational newspapers written for nursery-
maids, and from which, he said, he could not find that Butler had
ever done one good thing in the whole course of his life. Of
that life of fifty years Butler had spent thirty-five in prison.
The judge expressed his regret that a man of Butler's knowledge,
information, vanity, and utter recklessness of what evil will do,
could not be put away somewhere for the rest of his life, and
sentenced him to fifteen years' imprisonment with hard labour.
"An iniquitous and brutal sentence!" exclaimed the prisoner.
After a brief altercation with the judge, who said that he could
hardly express the scorn he felt for such a man, Butler was
removed. The judge subsequentty reduced the sentence to one
of ten years. Chance or destiny would seem implacable in their
pursuit of Mr. William Munday of Toowong.

Butler after his trial admitted that it was he who had robbed the
old gentleman of his watch, and described to the police the house
in which it was hidden. When the police went there to search
they found that the house had been pulled down, but among the
debris they discovered a brown paper parcel containing the old
gentleman's gold watch and chain, a five-chambered revolver, a
keen-edged butcher's knife, and a mask.

Butler served his term of imprisonment in Victoria, "an
unmitigated nuisance" to his custodians. On his release in 1904,
he made, as in Dunedin, an attempt to earn a living by his pen.
He contributed some articles to a Melbourne evening paper on the
inconveniences of prison discipline, but he was quite unfitted
for any sustained effort as a journalist. According to his own
account, with the little money he had left he made his way to
Sydney, thence to Brisbane. He was half-starved, bewildered,
despairing; in his own words, "if a psychological camera could
have been turned on me it would have shown me like a bird
fascinated by a serpent, fascinated and bewildered by the fate in
front, behind, and around me." Months of suffering and privation
passed, months of tramping hundreds of miles with occasional
breakdowns, months of hunger and sickness; "my actions had become
those of a fool; my mind and will had become a remnant guided or
misguided by unreasoning impulse."

It was under the influence of such an impulse that on March 23
Butler had met and shot Mr. Munday at Toowong. On May 24 he was
arraigned at Brisbane before the Supreme Court of Queensland.
But the Butler who stood in the dock of the Brisbane
Criminal Court was very different from the Butler who had
successfully defended himself at Dunedin and Melbourne. The
spirit had gone out of him; it was rather as a suppliant,
represented by counsel, that he faced the charge of murder. His
attitude was one of humble and appropriate penitence. In a weak
and nervous voice he told the story of his hardships since his
release from his Victorian prison; he would only urge that the
shooting of Mr. Munday was accidental, caused by Munday picking
up a stone and attacking him. When about to be sentenced to
death he expressed great sorrow and contrition for his crime, for
the poor wife and children of his unfortunate victim. His life,
he said, was a poor thing, but he would gladly give it fifty
times over.

The sentence of death was confirmed by the Executive on June 30.
To a Freethought advocate who visited him shortly before his
execution, Butler wrote a final confession of faith: "I shall
have to find my way across the harbour bar without the aid of any
pilot. In these matters I have for many years carried an exempt
flag, and, as it has not been carried through caprice or igno-

rance, I am compelled to carry it to the last. There is an
impassable bar of what I honestly believe to be the inexorable
logic of philosophy and facts, history and experience of the
nature of the world, the human race and myself, between me and
the views of the communion of any religious organisation. So
instead of the `depart Christian soul' of the priest, I only hope
for the comfort and satisfaction of the last friendly good-bye of
any who cares to give it."

From this positive affirmation of unbelief Butler wilted somewhat
at the approach of death. The day before his execution he spent
half an hour playing hymns on the church organ in the
prison; and on the scaffold, where his agitation rendered him
almost speechless, he expressed his sorrow for what he had done,
and the hope that, if there were a heaven, mercy would be shown

M. Derues

The last word on Derues has been said by M. Georges Claretie in
his excellent monograph, "Derues L'Empoisonneur," Paris. 1907.
There is a full account of the case in Vol. V. of Fouquier,
"Causes Celebres."



M. Etienne Saint-Faust de Lamotte, a provincial nobleman of
ancient lineage and moderate health, ex-equerry to the King, de-

sired in the year 1774 to dispose of a property in the country,
the estate of Buisson-Souef near Villeneuve-le-Roi, which he had
purchased some ten years before out of money acquired by a
prudent marriage.

With an eye to the main chance M. de Lamotte had in 1760 ran away
with the daughter of a wealthy citizen of Rheims, who was then
staying with her sister in Paris. They lived together in the
country for some time, and a son was born to them, whom the
father legitimised by subsequently marrying the mother. For a
few years M. and Mme. de Lamotte dwelt happily together at
Buisson-Souef. But as their boy grew up they became anxious to
leave the country and return to Paris, where M. de Lamotte hoped
to be able to obtain for his son some position about the Court of
Louis XVI. And so it was that in May, 1775, M. de Lamotte gave a
power of attorney to his wife in order that she might go to Paris
and negotiate for the sale of Buisson-Souef. The legal side
of the transaction was placed in the hands of one Jolly, a
proctor at the Chatelet in Paris.

Now the proctor Jolly had a client with a great desire to acquire
a place in the country, M. Derues de Cyrano de Bury, lord of
Candeville, Herchies, and other places. Here was the very man to
comply with the requirements of the de Lamottes, and such a
pleasing, ready, accommodating gentleman into the bargain! Very
delicate to all appearances, strangely pale, slight, fragile in
build, with his beardless chin and feminine cast of feature,
there was something cat-like in the soft insinuating smile of
this seemingly most amiable, candid and pious of men. Always
cheerful and optimistic, it was quite a pleasure to do business
with M. Derues de Cyrano de Bury. The de Lamottes after one or
two interviews were delighted with their prospective purchaser.
Everything was speedily settled. M. Derues and his wife, a lady
belonging to the distinguished family of Nicolai, visited
Buisson-Souef. They were enchanted with what they saw, and their
hosts were hardly less enchanted with their visitors. By the end
of December, 1775, the purchase was concluded. M. Derues was to
give 130,000 livres (about L20,000) for the estate, the
payments to be made by instalments, the first of 12,000 livres to
be paid on the actual signing of the contract of sale, which, it
was agreed, was to be concluded not later than the first of June,
1776. In the meantime, as an earnest of good faith, M. Derues
gave Mme. de Lamotte a bill for 4,200 livres to fall due on April
1, 1776.

What could be more satisfactory? That M. Derues was a
substantial person there could be no doubt. Through his wife he
was entitled to a sum of 250,000 livres as her share of the
property of a wealthy kinsman, one Despeignes-Duplessis, a
country gentleman, who some four years before had been found
murdered in his house under mysterious circumstances. The
liquidation of the Duplessis inheritance, as soon as the law's
delay could be overcome, would place the Derues in a position of
affluence fitting a Cyrano de Bury and a Nicolai.

At this time M. Derues was in reality far from affluent. In
point of fact he was insolvent. Nor was his lineage, nor that of
his wife, in any way distinguished. He had no right to call
himself de Cyrano de Bury or Lord of Candeville. His wife's name
was Nicolais, not Nicolai--a very important difference from the
genealogical point of view. The Duplessis inheritance, though
certainly existent, would seem to have had little more chance of
realisation than the mythical Crawford millions of Madame
Humbert. And yet, crippled with debt, without a penny in the
world, this daring grocer of the Rue Beaubourg, for such was M.
Derues' present condition in life, could cheerfully and
confidently engage in a transaction as considerable as the
purchase of a large estate for 130,000 livres! The origin of so
enterprising a gentleman is worthy of attention.

Antoine Francois Derues was born at Chartres in 1744; his
father was a corn merchant. His parents died when he was three


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