Original Sherlock Holmes's Pupil Looks For Accomplice

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Revision as of 12:03, 6 October 2018 by TCDE-Team (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)

Original "Sherlock Holmes's" Pupil Looks For Accomplice is an article published in The St. Louis Republic on 2 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.

Original "Sherlock Holmes's" Pupil Looks For Accomplice

The St. Louis Republic (2 july 1903, p. 2)

Doctor William Smith
Pupil of the original "Sherlock Holmes," who believes that more than one are implicated in the McCann murder.

Doctor William Smith, Who Was a Schoolmate of Conan Doyle Under Professor Bell, at Edinburgh, Says Barrington Had an Assistant if He Murdered McCann — Analyzes the Crime — Knows the Accused.

"Barrington had an accomplice if he murdered McCann," says Doctor William Smith of No. 3949 Washington boulevard, a schoolmate of Doctor A. Conan Doyle, author of the "Sherlock Holmes" tales.

Doctor Smith and Doyle were favorite pupils of Professor Joseph Bell, the man who is said to have trained Doyle's wonderful power for deduction. Bell was taken by the novelist for his hero: he was the original Sherlock Holmes.

Doctor Smith was in his junior year at Edinburgh University when Doyle was a senior, but they met in class frequently during lectures, and became quite intimate.

They were fellow-admirers of Professor Bell, who was a profound student of all things pertaining to criminology, and often after class hours the three would sit together and discuss leading criminal acts of the day.

From newspaper accounts Professor Bell would unravel knotty points for the benefit of his students, and his theories many times turned out to be precisely correct. So enthused did Doyle become in the study that he molded his tutor into the person of "Sherlock Holmes" and won himself fame and fortune.


Doctor Smith met Barrington through a patient, J. W. L. Gillespie. From what Doctor Smith learned of the character of Barrington prior to the McCann murder he feels safe in saying that the "lord" would not tackle a man of McCann's size alone.

"His effeminancy alone would forbid that," he declared, "and, besides, he is an abject coward.

"He does not squeal on a comrade in the deal at present, because to bring another into the case would not suit his purpose. It would virtually be a confession of complicity in the one act — the killing — which is the only thing he has not confessed he was a party to.

"Barrington knows that he can control his own mouth to suit his own ends, so long as he the only one suspected, and as long as the chain of circumstantial evidence is so strong against him it is the wisest thing to do.

"Barrington has said that he will spring a sensation. I believe he will, but not until he gets to the last ditch. When the sensation does come it will be the accomplice, and Barrington will loom up in the character of decoy, which I firmly believe he was.

"From what I have read of the case. I think the attack made upon McCann was begun with a razor. Any one that knows Barrington knows that he would be the last man to start a fight that manner, for the reason that it permits of too much chance to retaliate before the fatal moment arrives, and in a struggle the attacker would, in all probability. If his antagonist were a powerful man like McCann, be worsted.

Doctor Smith, while he has not become famous as a deducer, remembers the days he spent with Doctors Doyle and Bell, and every murder case that puzzles the Police Department recalls his college experience.

The McCann murder especially has interested him from the fact that he knew Barrington well. He took special delight in proving the bogus "lord" a prevaricator on every occasion.

"A man to kill another quickly with a blade must know how to use one. That the party that used the razor on McCann did not know how to use it is shown by two things. First, because a revolver had to be resorted to, and, second, because if they had used the knife in a proper manner after the victim ha been dispatched the corpse would not have come to the surface of the water, and the murderer would now be walking about the streets a free man.


"My theory is this," continued Doctor Smith, "McCann was met by a man, razor in hand, who began a quarrel. That man perhaps went out on a car ahead. He figured that McCann would be under the influence of liquor and he could easily cut his throat.

"He had not reckoned that McCann would put up such a terrible defence. In the struggle the razor was drawn through McCann's hands many times. McCann finally grasped his opponent, and together they rolled on the ground. At that period the third party, the shivering, quaking being, came closer.

"He was terrified because he feared McCann would eventually get the best of his opponent. He feared that he would then turn upon him and soundly thrash him for standing idly by. Then, there were other things to consider. If McCann got the best of his opponent all chance to get mercenary benefit out of the night's work was over. It was easy to run up with a pistol and end the agony.

"McCann could not have harmed the party with the revolver because he was too busy, with the other man. The second man did this. He shot McCann first in the jaw. With that all hope was gone and the doomed man called out 'My God, don't shoot." He had put up a manly fight, but was unprepared for an attack from another quarter. A second shot coursing downward through the eye gave McCann his quietus.

"From the description printed of the bullet wounds I believe the shots were fired in this manner. Had McCann been killed without resorting to razor cuts, I should believe that Barrington alone is guilty, but I cannot reconcile myself to the idea that he would engage a powerful man in battle, neither do I see the necessity for making razor slits upon the hands and neck of a victim after he is dead. A murderer wishes to get away from the scene of his work as soon as possible. A few cuts could not disguise a man.


"It will now be seen how a man who had taken no part in the struggle became bloody. He could have helped to undress the dead form and during that process become besmeared.

"McCann, who generally carried a great deal of money, was that night supposed to have less than $5. Whatever he had was taken. It was divided. Some of it has already turned up.

"Where is the diamond stud? It was the most valuable thing McCann possessed. Did the other fellow get it as half the booty? I am inclined to think so. Why was the Suburban Garden cock-and-bull story gotten up by Barrington? Merely to prove an alibi.

"How was he to prove he was at the Garden? He had to have something to show. He had his picture taken with McCann, and it is not strange that this was the first thing he gave to McCann's wife after his return.

"The murder was a cleverly planned on, and I dare say that had the body not come to the surface it would not have been discovered so soon, for the police, to all appearances, believed Barrington's story of the disappearance and turned him loose after the first arrest.

"The prime motive, I think, was to get to the money which Mrs. McCann had access to. The means by which I think Barrington wished to get it was by poisoning the wife's mind against her spouse. He invented the tale about the women, and I believe would have liked to have Mrs. McCann believe she was deserted.

"Barrington is very vainglorious. It is one of his characteristics to believe he can gain the affections of any woman.

"Mrs. McCann's actions, however, made him change his tactics. He needed ready cash. He would not seek to get rid of the watch or ring because of fear. Mrs. McCann became so upset eventually that he was forced to try to quiet her with promises that McCann would return.

"Her actions soon showed that he was not going to succeed with her as he had anticipated. Necessarily he was forced to seek other means to get money. Then the telephone scheme was born. A message supposed to be from McCann asked for $300. Barrington volunteered to carry the money. Mrs. McCann was too shrewd, however, and consulted an attorney. This act exposed the crime."