Criminologist Reasons That Murderer Had An Accomplice

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Criminologist Reasons That Murderer Had An Accomplice is an article written by Dr. William Smith published in The St. Louis Republic on 12 july 1903.

About the James McCann murder case, killed in St. Louis by bogus "Lord Seymour Barrington" which real name was Frederick George Barton, an Englishman from Tunbridge Wells.

In this article, Dr. William Smith gave his opinion about the case. The interesting thing is that he was the pupil of Dr. Joseph Bell in his medical studies in Edinburgh, and at the same time than Arthur Conan Doyle. They both inherited the power of deduction from their teacher, and Smith demonstrated it in this interview.

Criminologist Reasons That Murderer Had An Accomplice

The St. Louis Republic (12 july 1903, p. 15)

Presupposing That Barrington Killed Jim McCann, Doctor William Smith, a Friend of Arthur Conan Doyle, Advances a Novel Theory by Attempting to Supply a Motive for the Crime by Placing Himself in the Murderer's Position.

Did F. Seymour Barrington have an accomplice when he murdered James P. McCann?

Doctor William Smith, who is a friend of A. Conan Doyle, the crime theorist, who received instruction from the professor, who is the original in the Sherlock Holmes stories by Doctor Doyle, advances the opinion that Barrington had an accomplice.

Doctor smith has made a study of the Barrington case, and in the following story, written for The Republic, he places himself in Barrington's position, and works out his theory in that manner.


In this article I endeavor to place myself in the mental position of the prisoner Barrington, basing the entire matter upon the theory which I have formed regarding the murder of James McCann.

Barrington I have met; McCann I never knew. Within three minutes of the introduction to Barrington I positively knew that the man had served a long term in an English prison. How? First, he took off an ordinary silk hat in the manner which would be done by one who had for years worn a hat which to compelled him, not by lifting it by the front brim, but by grabbing it by the side brim.

The English convict wears a "glengarry cap." Imagine the ordinary slouch hat divested of its entire brim. How else could it be raised than by catching it by the top? Every time a warder addresses a convict the convict roust say "Sir," stand at attention, and take off his hat. Any neglect to do all three subjects him to deprivation of marks, equivalent to a shortening of the time of remission of sentence.

Barrington says "Sir" every time he addresses you. He has the servile, fawning manner of a convict endeavoring to curry favor with a warder, the cringing manner of one who has flattered and cajoled the chaplain into a belief that he is a "changed man."


Second, Barrington holds his hands by his sides in his ordinary attitude, exactly as though grasping the handles of a wheel-barrow. At Portland, Dartmoor, Portsmouth, in England, and Peterhead in Scotland, the work is quarry work largely. A man of the build of Barrington, medium height and not physically very strong, would mean that he was a "barrow man," spent his day in wheeling the rock.

He has typical "wheelbarrow" hands and gait.

I am prepared to swear that his acquaintance in Brighton (where he falsely claimed Melrose Castle to be situated) is not among the better class of people. I know Brighton better than I do St. Louis. I lived on the street — the Drive, Hove — where he claimed that his chateau en Espagne was situated. There is no such place.

He told me that fairy story when I chatted with him. But he is a liar.

The tale of the attempt to assassinate him on Lucas avenue between Twentieth and Twenty-first streets falls in the same category. He simply lied.

I have spent some time in his company, have analyzed his character, have read the testimony at the inquests, have visited the scene of the crime.

Now, having studied the man and the crime, I beg to place myself as nearly as I can in the mental condition of such a man; to think the thoughts that such a being would think; to utter his words, and, in saying this. I do so because I desire that all who read what I write will understand that this is no confession of the prisoner, but an attempt to reason out a theory, and that not for one instant would I prejudice any chance which may be possessed by the miserable man whom I believe guilty of the murder of McCann — not by his own desire, but by absolute necessity.

I start with McCann giving him $50 on his first introduction at Gillespie's bar. Says Barrington:

"Well, that's good! What a fool! These demmed Americans are easy. All you've got to do is to be a big enough man and they'll black your shoes. That chap must be worth knowing; he pulled that bill off a big roll. I'll get his name and write it down. He's worth remembering.

"It's all coming your way, old fellow; just go easy. You'll meet lots of chaps in this bar and all you've got to do is pick the best one and then work the thing out.

"Oh. Mr. Gillespie. I wanted to ask you if you would care to come out with me in the West End? I met a most delightful man to-day — a really awfully nice fellow — and he wants me to go out to his house this evening. He lives out on the very edge of the city. We can take a carriage, don't you know, and drive out there.


"Damn that Gillespie! That's the fifth time I've tried to get him to go out, and he always snubs me off. I am getting sick of this business of working here for a mere living. I'm going to get some money soon or know the reason why not.

"I know what I'll do, I'll try to get in with that housekeeper of Tom Allen's. I'll poison her against Gillespie. Then, she will fight against his getting that saloon, and if she gets it, she will make me manager. Then, in a few weeks, I'll have the whole thing.

"No. if that woman says I said a word to her against you, sir, she is lying. What! Get out of here, why, Mr. Gillespie, what have I done, sir — take my hat and go. Well, I'm out of it now, and the worst of it is that I've got no money. Hold on, what was that fellow's name? McCann. Yes, here's his name; I'll go to see him.

"Mr. McCann, Gillespie has acted like the cur that he is, and has thrown me out penniless upon the world. I remember your great kindness to me, sir, and if you would be so kind as to give me shelter and food for a few days I would endeavor to repay you.

"Do? Why, surely nothing can be harder for a gentleman such as I am than to stand before a common drinking bar. I will do anything around your house that you wish me to do. Ordinary valet work if you like, and you know that coming of such a good family as I do, and having the high connections that I have, it will not be like having a common fellow in your house. I only wish this for a time. You see, in a few weeks I get a thousand dollars from the English Government, my pension; then I have my suit against Cochrane, and all that money will be coming in. Mr. McCann, I can never thank you enough, sir; you have saved me, and I will never forget it."

Barrington goes to McCann's house with only one idea. McCann has noney; has let Barrington see his "roll," not once, but dozens of times. Barrington fancies that McCann is wealthy. He knows that he has money on deposit; how much he does not know, but he does know that after an unlucky spell at the races. McCann could simply go down to the bank and "borrow" $300. Such a man must be wealthy. If only he were dead, how easy it would be to allow this Kansas divorce suit go by default, then ruin the widow.

"Better still, if only she could get him out of the road, get him to run off with some woman, and, yes, of course, that's only talk, but suppose he died and did not turn up after death, and suppose the widow believed that he had run away with another woman, and that I had fought against it — why, the thing would be dead easy then; she would get a divorce for desertion, collar all the money as he did not come hack to claim it, and there I'd be, and once I got my fingers on the old man's pile it would not be long till I left the fair Mrs. McCann to hunt another husband. It's worth thinking over."


Barrington talks to a negro man:

"Yes, he has a big roll, and he carries it all the time. The dirty dog. I hate him; I wish he was dead. Now. you 'colored gentlemen' don't value life very highly. Why do you not try to get that money?

"Yes. I would help you, for I want revenge. Do you know, that fellow asked me to live with him; came and begged me to live with him; got me to give up my position downtown, where I was making $30 a week, just by talking to persons and taking little drinks with them, and as soon as he had me helpless, because I was poor, he made me, actually me, a lord, black his shoes and sweep out the rooms.

"Why, I will gladly help you to do him up. Kill him if you like. I want revenge, but I don't want to dirty my hands with such a cur.

"You know what we were talking about the other day? Well, I've thought it all out. I've been out in the country and I've found the very place. It's out on the way to St. Charles, a place called Bonfils.

"You go out there. and when you get off the car, walk over to the left and look at an old quarry. It's all surrounded by trees, and the place is quite deserted. I can coax him out there and you can stick him with a knife. What!, a razor? How would you use that on him. I never heard of such a thing. You say negro people always use them. Well, I never heard of that.

"So you think that Bonfils is all right? Well, I'll begin my work. One of these nights I'll get the thing fixed. Any night that I come in here with him and nod to you, you go right out there on the first car and wait by the quarry. I'll bring him out by a later car and arrange things so that if I am seen with him I can prove an alibi and you will not be seen with him.

"Alone, that's all right. What I want to do is to get him out there and have some one else kill him. I could never tackle him alone. Then be able to prove to the charming widow that I was somewhere else with him, tell her a story to get her jealous and make her think he's run off with some one else. Then McCann's money will soon be mine.


"I wish you would come out with me into the country to-night, Jim. I've got some persons out there who will lend me a thousand on my pension papers, and if I get the thousand I want to turn it over to you, old man, to use on the rare track for me. I will let you work it all, and you can have half the winnings, don't you know. That's good enough, ain't it — not to-night? Well, there's no hurry; another night will do, but the sooner the better.

"By Jove, Jim, I've got a devil of a headache, don't you know. Let us go out and get a headache powder — have you got one, too, Mrs. McCann? come on, then. Jim — we'll be back in a few minutes, Mrs. McCann.

"Upon my soul, don't you know. I believe that a good long run in the car would do my head good. Let's go out to those fellows at Bonfils and get those papers fixed. Then you can have the money to-morrow and make a good day at the races. Will you go? All right, come on. Say, let's go in here for a cigar. (Now I hope that negro's here; yes — now, that's all right. I must just kill time so that we don't go out on the same car to Bonfils.)

"Say, Jim. why not stop off at the Suburban Garden and get a drink? Yes, it's only a block or two further. Let's have a photo taken together, Jim. I'll pay for it. It's just a fancy of mine.

"That proves we were here, and as he's going where he'll never be seen again, it does not matter a straw if we are recognized on the St. Charles car, for I can keep down all fuss for a week and no one will remember us out of a crowd a week before.

"Every one has got off the car and McCann keeps talking to that woman — the fool has given his card to the conductor. Well, it doesn't matter at all; it's his last ride on a street car and he'll be forgotten in ten minutes.

"Here we are, Mac. Tee, it's up this way, just round this little clump of trees, and you will see the house we are going to.

"What a fine time we will have with that thousand, and then, next month, you know. I'll get in the rest of my pension money and we will be able to keep the ball rolling.

"There — he's got him; the fool missed his throat. I knew a razor was no good. Why didn't he use a dagger?

"How Mac struggles, I'll get that revolver that he bought for me to protect him.

"I will get the worst of it after all, the razor has broken.

"Yes, he's dead. Now, let's throw him in the quarry. What do you want with the clothes? Well, let's get them off and tie them up — he's a heavy man, isn't he? Far heavier than I thought Now. throw him over — he needs no weights to keep him down; no one goes near the place. You see it's all surrounded by trees. When he does float up he still just sink again. You got his money?

"That's all right, now, we'll do just as I said. You take his money and the stud, and I'll take the watch and the ring. I'm going to put his hat on to walk home with. I don't want to take the car, for I might be recognized going home, and the beast hit me in the face in the struggle.

"No, the car men won't recognize me walking in, if I wear a different hat. Now, we've never been seen together; you walk away to the left on the street car lines, and that will take you to St. Charles, and you can get a train into St. Louis before 7 in the morning. I'll walk down the other way. You can either keep the things or throw them into the river at St. Charles.

"Hurrah, the negro has gone. He dare not tell a word. McCann's dead. and I've jut got, to fix up a nice little story to win the widow's heart. It's the money I want! — what will I tell——."

The rest of the story is not theory, it is fact, so let it go.