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THE HENDERSON TRAGEDY., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 143, 24 August 1880
THE HENDERSON TRAGEDY.
Wellington exchanges to hand per the Wanaka, give a full account of the Henderson tragedy, a telegraphic summary of which has already been given to our readers, containing the main facts, which were .shortly that Matthew Henderson came to Wellington with a Christchurch lady named Blyth, intending to elope with her to San Francisco, under the names of Mr. and Mrs. Terry, he himself being already a married man. He was apprehended in Wellington on the information of a telegam from Christchurch, charged with wife desertion. The Magistrate did not recognise a telegram as sufficient warrant for the man’s apprehension, and dismissed Henderson, who was immediately re-arrested on charges of larceny as a bailee, and of embezzlement. After his arrest two six-chambered revolvers and a sum of L2OO in gold wore found upon him. These were detained, and were not returned to him on his liberation. He was liberated on bail, the Hon. W. S. Moorhouse being his surety, for L3OO. At Orr’s City Buffet Henderson took rooms for himself and the girl, but was requested to leave on being identified. They then went to the Empire Hotel, where they asked for lunch. Here it was observed Miss Blyth wore a wedding ring. They stayed there over Tuesday night, and breakfasted in the morning. Henderson took a bottle of lemonade into the sitting - room with him shortly after breakfast. This was on Wednesday, and on. that day he should halve surrendered to his bail at the R. M. Court at half-past ten. Having failed to do this a warrant for his arrest was issued, arid it was in execution of this warrant that the fact was. ascertained by the constable :that the two . unhappy individuals had. taken poison, and were’ oh the point of death, from which, as our readers know, only Miss Blyth was rescued, the man dying of the poison. The story of ■ THE FINDING OF THE TWO by the constable is thus told by the New Zealand Times :—Detective Browne at Price' proceeded to the Empire Hotel, where he enquired for Henderson. In reply he was directed to the rooms -occupied by him. He knocked at the door, and failing to obtain admittance, tried to open it,- but found that it was locked. A gurgling sound then attracted his attention. A moment’s listening convinced him that things were not as they should be, and he, therefore hastily sought the landlord. The two then found that another door leading to the apartments was not locked, and they unhesitatingly entered. The sight that met them realised the detective’s suspicion to the fullest extent, for on the bed they saw Henderson and Miss Blyth lying, dressed as if they were about to take a walk, but writhing in all the agony which strychnine poisoning is well known to inflict. The position was taken in at a glance. Detective Browne ran downstairs, jumped into the nearest cab, and drove up Willis street, in order to . bring down : Drs. ■ Harding and Collins, while a servant was at the same time despatched for Dr. Diver. Upon their arrival, Dr. Diver attended to Miss Blyth, while Drs. Harding and Collins undertook to treat Henderson, De>i tective Browne arid .one or two others giving whatever assistance was required.. Both were made to swallow emetics, the’ stomach puipp being also freely applied, , but it soon became apparent that,,there was no hope of saving the man,'who had apparently taken a large quantity of the poison. Dr. Diver succeeded in making his patient vomit very freely, and he soon had reason for entertaining hopes that she would recover. Once she was understood to say, “He forced me to take it.” At other times she called upon her mother to forgive her for her folly. At noon there was good reason to believe that she would recover. DEATH OP HENDERSON. All hopes of saving the man were abandoned at that time, for, although a large quantity of liquid was extracted from his stomach, his system had absorbed sufficient to defy the skill of the medical men. Gradually the fearful spasms which attend strychnine poisoning became more frequent, at the same time growing in violence, and at 12.30 he breathed his last. Miss Blyth continued to improve, and by three o’clock Dr. Diver, who had remained with her till then, was able to pronounce her but of all ordinary danger. 1 Shortly after that time she, was .able to take some broth, and a little later on to speak, though in a very w*eak voice. She asked where “he” was, and being told that he -was in another room, she again expressed regret for her foolishness, and said" she wanted to go back to her mother. It was also learnt from her that the poison was brought up from Christchurch. HOW THE POISON WAS TAKEN. The bottle of lemonade which Henderson took into the sitting room was evidently used to dissolve the strychnine. He probably poured a quantity of the liquid into a tumbler,-. ,and then put ini the poison, and having stirred it up divided the mixture into two parts, giving one to Miss Blyth, he, himself taking the other. As strychnine does not dissolve very . readily, and sinks to the bottom in any liquid, it is inferred that he kept the tumbler containing the bulk of the drug, and that Miss Blyth swallowed a much smaller quantity, than he imagined./ ~. On the table of the sitting-room were two letters ; one from Henderson, addressed to his wife in Christchurch, and, the other from Miss Blyth, to her mother at the same place, both containing statements to the effect that the writers . contemplated suicide. THE LETTERS. “Wellington, 17th August, 1880. . “ This letter is to be given to the person in Christchurch calling herself Mrs. Henderson.
“ You have produced a certificate of marriage and laid an information against me'for deserting you. In the first place you knew I was going away because I told you, and I also told you that I was not coming back to Christchurch any more. And, secondly, you know that you are not my lawful wife. When you enticed me into marrying you, I had a wife to whom I was lawful married, which you knew, and I left England to escape a prosecution for, bigamy. I sinned, but repented long ago, and although you deceived me, I stood to you, and, for the sake of the two children, have submitted to a life of agony, of torture of the worst description, from you, a woman 20 years older than I am, a shrewd, calculating woman, a modern Jezebel of the lowest type and; worst description, a regular attendant at church and partaker of God’s sacrament, but a hypocrite of the very worst kind. You devoted your life to ruin me, and now you have accomplished it both body and soul, as you hope ; but I am not afraid to trust myself to God’s mercy. Oh, when I think of the past and of your hypocrisy, how you have tortured me in your quiet, nagging, and uncharitable words—cruel words—which I have seldom answered, and how you have led the outside world to deem you an angel of light, and how .you have succeeded, it makes- me think there surely cannot be a God cognisant of such cruelty, such sin, or He would never have allowed it. I am now going to die, and I leave you to the r.emorse of conscience—if you have any—that you are my murderer. Yes, you have murdered me —for 1 told you I had sinned —that every man’s h »nd had been against me, and what a hard struggle I had had to keep the home together, and to make you and the children comfortable, and I told you if jl was stopped it would be my ruin ; and you promised me you would say nothing. At the same time you were glorying within yourself how you would gloat over my downfall. What is it that is in you—
— , w* it caunotbe lust, at your time of la) years of age ? May God forgive yo|[ do—the dear children whom in year%> by I have loved, but whose have weaned from me, and who, altffi you have taught them to treat mo h contempt, are old enough to havefi your treatment of me, and will yet curse you. I cannot say any morqj good-bye, and may God yet bring, yd, your sense?, and in His great mercy fo|j you for Christ’s sake. Amen. i (Signed) “ M. Henderson The other, also in Henderson’s hi writing, ran as under : •-) “ Wellington, 18th August, 188 Q “ My dear Mrs. Blyth, ,j “I deem it my duty to ask r forgiveness, and to state that lam no 4 ' villain you %vouid believe me to bet took your daughter from you, but I ' her and she loves me, and it is b first time in my life thatt have known what love is. It ,1 . be necessary for me to go somewhat baci ’ my history, and explain to you that wi very young I got married to a young .1?* whom I thought I loved, and. we Ul‘ / - happily together for three months,: wii she eloped with another man. I •soldi my home, and went to lodge with a widi, who had three children—a shrewd, 1culating woman of ■ the world, twep years my senior. : I was very young d. ' • very foolish. She enticed mo in marrying her, and I did— commit! < bigamy—and to escape the cousequens ': I had to leave England. T could see my fty almost before the ink was dry that sigid the marriage register, and, although repented, I stuck to my bond. I done iy best for the woman who had deceived ie, v and for the past fifteen years have sbmitted to a life of torture at the hads of a woman who calls herself Mrs. Hgderson.' No need for me to tell you nice of this.. I met your daughter, and knw what pure love was. ’ You saw. it, aid ' have seen it all along, arid have spokenof ■ it. Why have you interfered, or helpedto interfere ? We have resolved to do together, seeking and preferring to tnst - ourselves to God’s mercy; than to mans. You must forgive us for Christ’s sake. V. (Signed) “M. Henderson.’' : In a very shaky hand, follow theie words Dear Mother,—Forgive he: Kiss my sisters and brothers for me. I - may not have loved wisely, but too wel. [Here there is a cross, and the deceased’s handwriting is taken up as follows ] Good-bye, dear mother your erring ■” .daughter, * ~ r ‘ “ (Signed in Miss Blyth’s handwriting', “M. J. Blyth.” At the foot of the letter deceased again takes up the pen, and writes :—“ I wrote from the cross. Jenny could not finish . it, but managed to sign her name.” SHORT HISTORY OF HENDERSON. Regarding the .chief actors (says the New Zealand Times) a good many faois have been brought to light. . Henderson; who stood about 6ft. Sin. in height, and built in proportion, was about thirty-eight years old. .He was a police trooper at Sandhurst, in 1863, when ■ Detective Browne knew* him. He was dismissed : from the .force, for some breach of the* ll regulations, and then went, to Sydney, V where ho again joined the police, being ■ again dismissed, this time because he got mixed up in an assault case. About six; years ago he was employed as . a clerk in the railway' depart- :, merit at Christchurch, but was dismissed because he was unable to .account.. .* r for certain moneys which bad:, passed i through , his hands. A charge of em- / . bezzlement broke down in . the, Supreme . v Court. / He was subsequently f ','arr,ested and committed for trial on a charge: of . grossly slandering the wife of ’ Mr. Ba.tes, si .n a cabinetmaker at Christchurch, but again got off, because Mr. Bates did not feel inclined to pay the costs of the prosecution. Since then he has made a living by keeping books, and doing similar work whenever he could got it. He was occasionally appointed trustee in bankrupt estates, and! 1 !: it is said it was in connection with, these ' that he embezzled the funds which led to . the charges upon which he via 3 last ’ 1 arrested. During the time he was at liberty here he told various persons that he committed bigamy when he married* the woman who claims to be his wife; but 'v that his proper wife is now dead. He therefore felt himself, free to marry : Miss 1 ’• ■; Blyth. According to the yourig lady’s '' statement it appears that he told her something of* the kind before they-left ■ Christchurch. There is, however, good reason to doubt the statement.
The Chronicle says regarding Headerson ;—When Detective Browne arrested Henderson, that officer was very . much . struck with the likenesslhe hereto a'noted '«e character he had seen twenty years ago in Bendigo, and after a few questions had been answered on both sides, sure enough he proved to be the same man, who had been-dismissed the .VictoVian force for certain irregularities. • From Victoria Henderson went to Sydney, and was for some time employed in the Hew South Wales police force. One night a row occurred in a brothel, and Henderson, with several other constables, rushed the hpuse. On getting inside‘the lights ’ were' suddenly extinguished, and in a struggle which ensued one of - the constable's 1 got struck a severe blow over the head with a - brass candlestick.'; ;At an inquiry which' was afterwards held, it was proved that Henderson 1 struck; his. fellow - constable;and was here again dismissed the force. From thence he , came to Hew Zealand,' and his career in this colony has certainlybeen an extraordinary ; one. A clerk ra - the Railway Department, ho embezzled! the funds ;v a trustee in bankruptcy,-he-appropriated money and absconded with a gold watch ; a member of an education ■ board, he led an innocent teacher astray; a married man, he married a second , time" • while his wife lived ; and because he was cornered in endeavoring to ruin his third victim he made an attempt to take her life by poison, and then brought his...own ; miserable and base career to a close by poisoning himself.; Taking all into, consideration, perhaps it is well that'Matthew Henderson died as he did. i , , ” -' J ” ; MISS BLYTH. : ' -- . ’ ■ The Chronicle says-Miss Blyth is nineteen years of age, and' filled the "position of teacher at one of the public , schools in Canterbury. ; She is a little over five feet ■ln height, has dark hair, fair t complexion, amiable expression, and is decidedly prepossessing. She seems to have been very much attached to Mr. Henderson, and-de-dined to return to Christchurch, without him. About two o’clock , she was able to speak, but only uttered the words Save me, mama,” “Oh ! save me.” Facts have came to light which,conclusively show, that..; . Miss Blyth willingly partook,of- her share of the poisonous drug. They partook, of. ~ J breakfast in the morning-.in their own i room, .and the waiter states tliat-they both appeared to be perfectly calm. Miss Blyth. never lost her consciousness, and states;. ... that they had taken the poison only, .five ,! - minutes, when the detectiye arrived- , A . feeling of dimness'seized.lier, but she re-* collected seeing Mr. Brown enter the chamber and narrated all .that subsequently transpired. . .
Friday’s Fpst says :-r-Yesterday after noon she desired the nurse attends
ing her-to procure a newspaper. Suspecting the motive that prompted her to make the request. Dr. .Diver,, who was present at the time,, asked the nurse to retire, when he said,/'I sup- . s pose you want to see Henderson ?” Miss . Blyth replied affirmatively. “You will never see him again in this world,” continuedthe doctor; “he died before we
took you, from the bed.” • The, intelligence did hot startle her to any perceptible degree, and she merely remarked ‘ ‘ I thoughts .- so. ” She has since stated that occupied nearly two hours in ' her to take the poison, assuring her tha
life would be extinct in a couple of seconds or so afterwards, and pointing out that if she refused to do his bidding she would be disgraced for ever. MISS BLYTH’S DEVOTION TO HER EVIL GENIUS.
A Christchurch clergyman telegraphed to a minister residing in Wellington, telling him of what had taken place, and asking him to induce the young lady, if possible, to return to her sorrowing parents. The clergyman immediately sought them out, and in a manner that does him the highest credit, used his most earnest endeavors to persuade tbe erring girl to return to Christchurch. It is also stated that a most affectionate _ telegram was received from her mother, imploring her child to come back, and all would bo forgiven. The unhappy girl seemed over come by these entreaties, and promised to go back. She said, however, that she must take her farewell of Henderson. Unfortunately, she did so, and at once the old infatuation was renewed, and all her good resolutions seemed scattered to the winds. When the man was arrested she went all over the town to obtain bail for his release, and remained with him until the dreadful tragedy narrated above took place. The authorities have decided to lay a criminal information against Miss Blyth, which will positively come on for hearing early this week. Henderson’s coolness and deliberation. Henderson is noted for his coolness and determination, and it is supposed that when he found there was no possibility of his escaping the clutches of the law ■ for these offences he persuaded Miss Blyth to join him in committing suicide. As an illustration of Mr. Henderson’s coolness, it may be added, that a few minutes before committing the rash act, he walked down to Mr. Orr’s City Buffet, and paid his account. He acted in a similar manner to the proprietor of the Empire Hotel. Miss Blyth, who is now out of danger, states that Henderson, on being released from custody, at once suggested to her the advisableness of committing suicide. He said that it would be impossible for her again to return to Christchurch without being subject to slander and disgrace. For himself he preferred to sacrifice his life rather than bear the ignominy of a felon’s doom. He had embezzled money, which would surely result in imprisonment were ho to stand hi# trial. His life, Henderson added, had been ruined through the conduct of his first wife, who had proved unfaithful to him and had run away. This occurred many years ago, and since then he had neither seen nor heard of her. He married a second time, but had not'experienced spmptoms of love for his second wife, and this led to unhappiness. He wished to commence the . world anew, and for that purpose was seeking a new field in San Francisco, whither he was bound when arrested. In his presence Miss. Blyth, the unfortunate victim of the wretch s machinations, seems to have had no control over herself, and was totally unable to resist his wicked and insane proposal. He had premeditated the catastrophe, for before leaving Christchurch he had armedhimself with a six-barrelled revolver, with which it has transpired he intended to shoot Miss Blyth, and then blow his own brains out. Luckily this scheme was frustrated, through the acuteness of Chief Detective Browne in taking possession of the instrument. It is also thought that the fatal strychnine was brought from Christchurch. A LOST INSURANCE Mr. E. W. Lowe, the resident secretary of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, states that Hendersoniusured his life in the society for the sum of LI,OOO on the 14th August, 1879, but that in terms of the policy the assurance is void, he having committed suicide within one year and thirty days from the date of the policy. The clause in the policy runs thus —“ If the assured shall, whether sane or insane, die by his own hands within one year and thirty days from the date hereof .... then and in any such case this policy and the assurance hereby made shall be void.” If the deceased man had waited till the 15th September next the society would have had to pay over the amount. THE INQUEST. An inquest was held at the morgue on Friday morning, when evidence bearing out the facts above narrated was given. The letters already given were read, and the testimony of the medical men taken. The coroner in summing , up, explained the difference between felo de se and suicide committed while the offender was not of sound mind, and asked the jury to consider their verdict. After several consultations the jury were unable to agree on a verdict, some of them holding that evidence had not been given as’to the state of Henderson’s mind for some hours prior to the act. They were, however, satisfied that the act had been committed with great deliberation. The coroner remarked that all of them having a merciful disposition ought to give deceased the benefit of any doubt. Four jurymen held one opinion, and the remainder took a contrary view. They were therefore locked up at 2 o’clock to think over it. At three they were still at sixes and sevens, and wanted more evidence. This was refused, they having retired to consider their verdict. A jurymen asked —“ What is the consequence ? To which the coroner replied—“ The consequence is, first, that some gentleman who has been smoking here will be fined, and secondly, thatTshall nowgohome, and shall not come back till to-morrow morning, and you will be locked up in this room in the meantime.” The jury were again locked up, and at eleven o’clock returned a verdict “ That deceased committed suicide by taking strychnine, and he is felo de
THE HENDERSON TRAGEDY., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 143, 24 August 1880
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