The Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, KStJ, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Doyle Scores in Edalji Case

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Photos of George Edalji and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle illustrating the article.

Doyle Scores in Edalji Case is an article published in The New-York Times on 1 september 1907.

Doyle Fights on to Aid Edalji

The New-York Times (1 september 1907, section 3 p. 1-2)

The Outrages Have Recurred, and Edalji This Time Has an Alibi.


His Medical Knowledge Has Aided Him in Explaining the Crimes.


Police Scoffed at Sir Arthur at First, but It Now Appears That He Has Found the Criminal.

Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES.

LONDON, Aug. 31. — It looks as if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will eventually come to be considered an even greater detective than he made out Sherlock Holmes to be. Copying the experience of his hero in several episodes, Sir Arthur has suffered official obloquy in the Edalji case, which he has made famous.

The police have regarded him as a well-meaning but misguided amateur, and have been minded to sneer at him, just as the Scotland Yard detectives were wont to sneer at Sherlock Holmes in the earlier stages of his investigations. The Government officials listened with polite but superior pretense of attention to his pertinacious plea for justice for the man he championed: but were nothing loath to administer what was universally regarded as a severe rebuke to the novelist for meddling with matters which, they held. did not concern him. There was many a snigger when the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Herbert Gladstone. recently announced in the House of Commons that the law officers of the Crown had advised that no case had been made out justifying compensation for Edalji.

Now the laugh is with Sir Arthur. Everything comes to him who waits, and Sir Arthur has not had very long to wait to see one of his strongest arguments proved by facts.

After his first investigation of the circumstances, he not only declared that Edalji was innocent, but made the prediction that the outrages would be renewed. They have been renewed, in a manner which seems conclusively to prove that the perpetrator of the first series of outrages, which were commit-ted in 1903, and the criminal responsible for the present series are one and the same person.

Great excitement throughout Staffordshire was occasioned to-day by another maiming outrage, this making the second in the Great Wyrley district this week. When the first took place, at the beginning of the week, the district filled up with amateur detectives, hoping to obtain the reward of $250 offered for the apprehension of the criminal. The criminal lay low for a few days; but presently the coast be-came relatively clear again, a great majority of the would-be captors having left the neighborhood, and the criminal showed his disdain of ordinary police precautions by the perpetration of a fresh outrage.

At the trial, which resulted in Edalji's conviction on evidence which a strong body of public opinion considered insufficient, the main plank in the defense was the attempt to set up an alibi. This failed, the prisoner's assertion being supported only by his father, who testified that his son was sleeping in the vicarage, where they lived together, and in the same room as himself, on the night one of the outrages was committed.

This time, however, Edalji's alibi is beyond dispute. He has been all the week at Yarmouth. In fact, he has been afraid to return to Great Wyrley since his release from prison, after serving three years of the sentence meted out to him, lest there be a renewal of the outrages and he again be suspected.

When, desiring to talk with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about the Edalji case, I called at his beautiful home at Hindhead, the highest point in the Surrey Hills, the novelist was playing golf two miles away; but the spirit of hospitality pervades his establishment, and I soon was whirling down to the course in one of the two motors the creator of Sherlock Holmes possesses. "There is no doubt in my mind," said Sir Arthur, "that the crimes of 1903 and 1907 were committed by the same man. When at Great Wyrley, where, by the way, nobody knew me. I traced back the history of the whole miserable business to personal vengeance. For reasons which I need not go into, there were two brothers who hated Edalji like poison.

"One of them is now dead; the other, who is still alive, appears to me, speaking as a medical man, to be a type of the malignant degenerate. I tried to get the Home Office to take action against him — they had all the papers on the subject — but I failed, chiefly on technical grounds.

"This malignant degenerate has been a destructive lunatic from his child-hood. I am quite well acquainted with his history for years back. He will not be able to refrain from committing fresh outrages, and it should be a simple matter to catch him. Although he has no reasoning powers, he laid low until after the Home Office reported against my theory that I lead discovered the culprit. He will go on now; no it is only necessary to keep a strict Watch to catch him red-handed.

"And the way would be for the police first to obtain possession of some article of clothing used by the man, who, by the way, does not live in Great Wyrley. It should be easy enough for the, to do this, and, having possessed themselves of this piece of clothing, let them wait until the next outrage and then put a couple of good blood-hounds on the scent. They will not pick up the scent. without something belonging to the person, but with that I am confident thou would track the man to his own doorstep."

George R. Sims, who had a hand in righting another notorious miscarriage of justice, takes the same view as Sir Arthur of the Edalji case, and, like him, knows the name of the young man thought to be responsible for the outraged.

"He undoubtedly is a madman," said Mr. Sims. "His particular mania might be called cruelty to animals. It is a sort of blood lust and is well known to students of the psychology of crime. It can be seen frequently in children who do fiendish things to animals and birds.

"This man's particular blood lust is slaughtering cattle. What I call the handwriting of crime is that always the same act is performed in the same way, just as it was in the ripper murders, which were also the work of a madman. Like all madmen, this young man has his periods of activity and quiescence. This again resembles the 'ripper' murders, which ceased entirely for a month and then broke out afresh. The present outbreak at Great Wyrley simply means that the man has had another attack."

The local constabulary consider that Sir Arthur is treating them very unfairly. The Superintendent in charge of the case dented absolutely that the novelist had git-en either the Chief Constable or himself any information.

"Sir Arthur," said the Superintendent, "presumably acquainted the Home Office with his theories, but the purport of them has never reached me, either officially or unofficially. If he knows the man and will make formal accusation against him to the police in charge of the case the man will, of course, be arrested. If he is only concerning himself with suspicions, like the rest of us, let him come here and give us the benefit of his suspicions, based on his investigations. I think he should regard this as a public duty.

"For my part, I can say we are perfectly willing to avail ourselves of any information from Sir Arthur or any one else who knows anything useful. The person rendering such information shall receive full credit for his contribution to the investigation. We are anxious to get the culprit, and would welcome assistance from any quarter. It is easy enough to have suspicions, but to cover every man on whom suspicion could reasonably fall would require a small army of police. To police this district exhaustively, so as to 'watch every place where outrages may occur, would require 2,000 men."

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's attention leaving been called to this complaint, he has promised to write to the Chief Constable and give him all the information in his power and name his suspect.

Dispatches from Staffordshire, at present unconfirmed, say Sir Arthur has offered to go there and co-operate with the police in their efforts to solve the mystery.

One correspondent, who knows who the man is whom Sir Arthur has under suspicion, says the police are not keeping any watch on him.