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THE MANCHESTER CAB MYSTERY.

(Feom Otrs London Coeeesponpent.)

London, March 23,

In the case of the so-called " Manchester; cab mystery," the old adage;"murder will,out/'of late so frequently controverted by the recurrent impunity of undetected assassins, has been triumphantly verified. The knowledge that atrocious criminals, such as the perpetrator of the Whitechapel butcheries, for instance, have succeeded in evading discovery for many months, and are still at liberty, in all probability rubbing shoulders, daily with well-conducted and lawabiding persons, is heivily fraught with mortification to the. people of a civilised country. Modern science has supplied so many facilities for the detection of crime, and the pursuit of malefactors, that it is difficult to conceive how a murderer of the present day", be he as cunning as an old dog-fox or a very Machiavel of human astuteness, can baffle police research and escape the clutch of avenging justice. Still, experience has repeatedly proved within the past few years that the detective mechauism at the disposal.of our Home office is not always adequate to the fulfilment of the objects it; has been specially organised to achieve. That it has shown itself equal to its task in bringing the murderer of Mr John Fletcher to trial with laudable promptitude is really a subject for public self-congratulation. Just three weeks have elapsed since the tragedy, and the person accused of the murder has been found guilty and sentenced to death. Thecrime to which the unfortunate Manchester gentleman fell a victim presented more than one feature of peculiar vileness. It was the result of a deeply-laid scheme, carefully thought out, and put into execution with cold-blooded mercilessness, while its motive was a despicably base one. Mr Fletcher was done to death in order that his slayer might gain possession of his gold watch and chain, and of the handful of loose money which a man in easy circumstaances may, as a rule, be assumed to carry about him in his waistcoat and trousers pockets. Nothing transpired in the course of the evidence adduced at the trial of Charles Parton to indicate that this precocious miscreant—a mere stripling of 18—entertained any personal animosity towards the kindly,' jovial gentleman whom he deliberately murdered and robbed. Probably he had not even the least acquaintance with Mr Fletcher, who was a wealthy manufacturer of good social standing, while Parton was described in his indictment as a labourer. The former was evidently well-known in Manchester as a public character, somewhat addicted to conviviality, well-to-do, and in the habit of wearing valuables of the class defined By Mr Wemmick as "portable property." Parton, who appears to have been an adept in the practices of hocussing iDg and robbery, had in all likelihood " spotted" Mr Fletcher as an easy and remunerative prey; had watched him and dogged his steps until, the luckless county councillor being slightly in liquor, a favourable opportunity arose for accosting him, and then, upon some plausible pretext which remains unrevealed, inveigled him into a cab, wherein he conveyed him to a publichouse. There he administered a deadly dose of chloral to his victim in a glass of beer, induced him to re-enter the cab as soon as the poison had manifestly begun to take effect, ordered the cabman to drive to a house some considerable distance off, plundered the dying man of his watch, chain, aud money, and slipped out of the cab during a temporary stoppage of that vehicle caused by a passing procession of circus riders.

Parton's crime had been so ingeniously s planned, and, on the whole, was so cleverly executed, that but for two circumstances one attributable to his own imprudence the other purely accidental—it might have escaped detection, and he himself might have got off scot-free. Mr Fletcher, it appears, was sufficiently given to indulgence in intoxicating liquors to justify the assumption ' that he had died of alcoholic poisoning, the result of habitual intemperance. As a matter of fact, that was the view taken of the cause of his death by the house surgeon of the Manchester Infirmary, who first examined his body when it was brought to that institution. Dr Barker deposed on oath that, "had he not been told by the public analyst that traces of chloral had been found in the corpse, he would have formed the opinion that death was due to alcoholic poisoning." Dr Reynolds, another member of the Infirmary medical staff, who took part in the post mortem examination, stated that the deceased was a bull-necked man, who had undoubtedly consumed a vast quantity of ardent spirits, and whose liver was thafc of an habitual gin-drinker '•in an early stage." .Neither he nor his colleague, Dr Barker, would swear that Mr Fletcher had not died from alcoholic poisoning. Thus, it might have been impossible for the prosecution to prove Parton's guilt, despite his suspicious behaviour on the night of the murder—when he sported the spoils of his victim in a Manchester publichouse bar— 'had not the two circumstances above referred to brought it .home to him with fatal directness. The first was his theft of a bottle of chloral from a chemist's shop in Liverpool, just a week before the_ murder. He was identified by the tradesman in question as the very person who, on February 19, had applied to him for 40 grains of chloral, on the pretence that his mother was suffering from angina pectoris. The dose was too large to be supplied to auy applicant, save on the authority of a medical prescription. The chemist, however, ultimately consented to let Parton have 10 grains, and took a bottle of chloral down from a shelf for the purpose of serving him, placing it upon the counter. Whilst he was writing out a label, Parton caught up the bottle, ran off with it, and disappeared. After his arrest, on suspicion of haviog murdered Mr Fletcher, the Liverpool chemist picked him out from among seven other men at the Manchester police office.

Possibly the fact that Parton was in posses- ' sion of a porad of chloral, obtained by nefarious '■ means, at the time when he persuaded Mr Flet- ' cher to drink and ride in a cab with him might [ have Been regarded, from the strictly legal ''■ point of view, merely as a piece of strong pre- > suraptive evidence in his disfavour, considered ' in conjunction with other incriminating matters that came to light in the course of h>s tjisj," All doubt as to his culpability, w» p ' moved by the testimony o{' r witn"'' ■<■' reheld a^oof frora tho mufti**" ' -oS wno had preceding Barton's _ ..orial investigation charge, bui ' committal on the capital to b" . who came forward at the assizes ../ear that he had seen the prisoner furtively pour the contents of a phial into one of the two glasses of beer with which Mr Fletcher and Parton were supplied at the Three Arrows public house on the evening of the 26fch ultimo. This witness, Mr Edward Phillips, bookkeeper to the Manchester branch of the London Dress Company/whilst himself partaking of refreshment nt the tavern bar, noticed JParton and the deceased gentleman "sitting between two tables." They called for beer, and after they had been served he saw Parton empty a small bottle, containing a yellowish liquid, into one of the glasses, both of which he subsequently held up to the light and "looked at," finally setting them down, one on each table. Mr Fletcher was talking at the time, not looking at his companion, and, besides, was so placed that he could not possibly have seen what Parton was about. It appears to have struck Mr Phillips that Parton was taking a dose of medicine in beer, probably to disguise its disagreeable flavour, and he fiava no further thought to the occurrence until the proceedings in tbe police cou.rtjOOHsequentupon Parton's arrest,obtained publicity. Gathering from' the report that the prisoner had conveyed Mr Fletcher from the fish shop outside which ho had engaged him in conversation to the Three Arrows, where he had remained with him for some 20 minutes, and had thence'driven off with him iv the cab in which the murdered man was found, later on, all but dead. Mr Phillips went down to the polica office, and there identified Parton as the person whom he had observed pouring liquid from a small phial into a glass of beer on the occasion above referred to. The witness had withheld his evidence, on the ground that he " did not wish to be mixed up in the case," until—the Manchester detectives having ascertained from the landlady of the Three Arrows that he had noticed "something suspicious" in connection with Parton's behaviour in that tavern—he was taken in hand by the authorities, and called upon to make the statement which he repeated in courb on Monday last. His evidence practically cleared up the " Manchester Cab Mystery," and sealed the fate of Parton. The jury added to their verdict of guilty a recommendation to mercy on account of the prisoner^ youth. Whether that_ compassionate rider prodnces any effect or not, it does not lesson or extenuate the heinousness of the orime itself, ;

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT18890511.2.48

Bibliographic details

THE MANCHESTER CAB MYSTERY., Otago Daily Times, Issue 8491, 11 May 1889, Supplement

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THE MANCHESTER CAB MYSTERY. Otago Daily Times, Issue 8491, 11 May 1889, Supplement

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