Page images
PDF
EPUB

but still there was room enough for eager comers to pass on either side of them, and many passed by trampling over them. The rush into the theatre was not checked until it was nearly full, and then a person mentioned at the pit entrance that a boy was down outside and fainting. One of the two policemen stationed there went out to see, and at once discovered something of the calamity. With great courage, and at the imminent peril of his life, being once actually down and trampled upon, he rescued the boy and took him into the theatre. He and his colleague then went out, and with the help of a few determined men from among the crowd itself, kept back

any

further rush. At this time some one gave an alarm of “Fire,” which greatly helped to deter the mob from coming down. As soon as possible one of the policemen pushed his way out, and obtained a sufficient force to stop all entrance from Parkrow into the passage, the crowd being told that the theatre was full. In the meanwhile, some policemen, with the help of the doorkeepers, were assisting the injured. When the ground was first cleared it is said that forty or fifty men, women, and children were lying in a heap. Some rapidly recovered and went away; but fourteen corpses were at once taken into the refreshment-room of the theatre. So completely had the shrieks and cries of distress resembled the ordinary commotion of the night, and so completely was the whole matter outside the building, that neither the audience nor the actors were alarmed, and many of them did not know what had occurred until the following morning. The lessee and manager, Mr. Chute, was at first only told that some persons had fainted at the entrance, and gave directions that they should be taken into the refreshment-room and cared for. After a while, when the pantomime had fairly commenced, and when the audience were laughing at Mr. Byron's puns, Mr. Chute went down to see what had occurred. He found his subordinates still busy in arranging the dead; and was inexpressibly shocked at the catastrophe. It was necessary for him to decide promptly about continuing or stopping the performance, and he decided that it should continue. With a house full of the very people who had just trampled on the fallen, he felt that he could not stop the pantomime without producing a riot or a panic, and either would have certainly entailed additional disaster. The two policemen who first attempted to stop the crowd were actively resisted with great violence and anger, and but for the cry of “Fire” it is more than probable they would have been overpowered.

The news of the disaster spread with electric rapidity through the city, and the scene witnessed outside the refreshment-rooms of the theatre and at the infirmary, where the bodies were conveyed, was agonizing. Parents and relatives were searching for children and friends who were known to have left their homes with the intention of going to the theatre. In some instances the bodies of the deceased were identified during the night, and in the course of the following morning nearly the whole were recognized. The

a

following is a list of the killed :-Mary Ellen Sherwood, 16, domestic servant; Thomas Merchant, 18, baker; Eliza Lucas, 18; Patrick Donovan, 17: Alfred Ken, 18; Thomas Pearson, 21, shopman; Samuel Hill, 13; William Daves, 14; George Potter, 11; Henry Charles Vining ; Ellen Jones, 15; Sarah Ann Belbey, 18; Catherine Brewer, 16; Joseph Smith, 15; Charles Pring, 17; Elizabeth Hall, 60; William Samuel Alder, 21; Charles Tallot, 14. With one exception, that of Ellen Jones, who resided at Weston-super-Mare, all the persons identified lived in Bristol.

The Bristol Theatre had only been built three years; and it was supposed that special care had been taken in its construction to provide for safe ingress and egress under all circumstances. It had received great crowds without an accident on many former occasions, and although it is easy to be wise after the event, the ample width and length of the passage might fairly justify the assumption that it would meet all demands upon its space. The

. theatre was reopened on the 29th, but only to a thin audience. The shock of what occurred will pass slowly away from the minds of those who might easily have themselves been victims.

There were many hair-breadth escapes. Several people were rescued from the crush by good Samaritans, who let down a rope from a roof that overhung the passage; but at last this rope was dragged away from its owners, thrown down, and trampled upon. So little sense of the great danger was there among the crowd that some persons whose actual companions were separated from them and killed succeeded in making good their own way into the theatre, and enjoyed the performance without any anxiety about the fate of those who were less fortunate.

30. Trial of TROPMANN, THE PANTIN MURDERER.—The trial of Jean Baptiste Tropmann, known as the Pantin murderer, terminated in Paris in a verdict of guilty, and the prisoner was accordingly sentenced to death. The crimes of which Tropmann was convicted caused a thrill of horror throughout the whole civilized world; as well they might, for a more hardened and inhuman wretch has seldom, if ever, appeared at the bar of justice. The prisoner, who was not more than twenty, was indicted for the murder of no less than eight persons, as well as for crimes of lesser magnitude, such as forgery, &c. We give the following facts as they were proved at the trial :

Rather more than three months before, all Paris was electrified by the rumoured discovery of six newly-buried and scarcely cold bodies in a clover-field in the commune of Pantin. An agricultural labourer, when going to his work, had noticed that the earth was spattered with blood and brains, had found a human head lying but a few inches below the surface, and had forthwith informed the police, by whom the six corpses were speedily disinterred. These consisted of a woman and five small children. The woman had been killed by a blow from behind, but her body bore no fewer than thirty wounds. Two of her children had been strangled, but all appeared to have been slashed, and battered, and mangled, as if with the fury and malice of a demon. On inquiry it was found that the family—whose name was Kinck-had only the day before arrived from Roubaix, that the wife had inquired for her husband at the Hotel du Chemin de Fer du Nord, and had then gone, no one knew whither. A person who had been staying at the hotel,

A and who had given the name of Jean Kinck, had disappeared about the same time, and about him, for some days, no information could be obtained, though the accession of such a group of dead bodies made the Morgue by far the most popular of Parisian attractions. Three days after the first discovery, a man who called himself Fisch was arrested at Havre as a suspected person. He had been staying at different hotels, making sinister utterances, and trying to obtain fraudulent embarkation papers, in order to start for the United States. His answers to the gendarme were confused and unsatisfactory. On his way to the Procureur Imperial he almost successfully attempted to commit suicide, and when searched a number of the missing Jean Kinck's papers were found upon him. Clearly, the “suspect” had had something to do with the Pantin murder, which was just then making so much stir, and the conversations of his gaolers soon made him aware that he was to be interrogated with respect to them.

As soon as Tropmann (the soi-disant Fisch) heard this, he must have felt that his game was up. But with consummate craftiness, he endeavoured to put the best face on a very suspicious-looking situation. The authorities scarcely believed that any single man could have committed such wholesale homicide, and their prisoner forth with turned their doubts to account. He had been present, he said, when Madame Kinck and her children met their deaths; nay, he had been in a measure the instrument of their murder. But at the worst he had been only an accessory. Jean Kinck, the head of the family, had doubted his wife's fidelity; had arranged with his son Gustave to leave France for America, and the two had taken their friend Tropmann into their confidence, with whose aid they had carried out the plan which they had contrived for murdering all the other members of the family. But this fiction was too flimsy to hang together after Gustave Kinck's body was found only a few yards from the place where his kinsfolk had been laid. Then came new subterfuges and fresh falsehoods, ending, however, in a confession that he had poisoned Jean Kinck with prussic acid, and had buried him in the environs of Watwiller, in Alsace, some time before despatching the other members of his family. Search was made, the body was found, and the solution of the mystery was at length complete.

The evidence at the trial showed that Tropmann had ingratiated himself in Kinck's favour, and wormed himself into his confidence, with the set and deliberate purpose to murder him, in order to gain possession of his property. With this view he had fostered Kinck's purpose of visiting Alsace, had accompanied him to Cernay, with

his own hand had prepared the poison, which he afterwards poured into the wine flask he carried with him, handing it to Kinck at a moment when the two were in a secluded place, in which he might speedily get rid of the body of his first victim. Then began a system of fraud and forgery by which he induced Madame Kinck and her family to come up to Paris. Foiled in his endeavours to get one of Kinck's cheques cashed, he wrote to Madame Kinck, in her husband's name, telling her a story about an injury to his hand, which compelled him to employ Tropmann as amanuensis, and urging her to come speedily to the capital, where he would meet her. The poor woman, anxious about her husband, and eager to join him, took the fatal journey, and only narrowly missed her last chance of life. Tropmann had directed her to come by a particular train, and had promised to meet her at the station on its arrival. By an accident, however, she reached the terminus some hours earlier, and at once went to the hotel, expecting there to find her husband. Had Tropmann been in she would have found that he was passing under Kinck's name, and this suspicious fact might have led to the discovery of the truth. But the soi-disant Kinck was out, and full of hope and confidence the family party set out to keep the tryst at the previously appointed hour. They met the man who had calmly resolved to take their lives. Without thought of evil, they accompanied him to Pantin, where the mother and the two youngest children got out, accompanying Tropmann to the place where the husband and father was supposed to be staying. They must have gone some little distance, for the coachman, engaged with the prattle of the remaining children, heard nothing to excite his attention. Only twenty minutes had elapsed when Tropmann returned, looking as cool as when he left, and yet in those twenty minutes he had committed three murders, and was bent on committing as many more, in addition to those of the father and his eldest son, both of whom had already fallen by his hand. In the presence of these facts, it is not to be wondered that even the ability and ingenuity of M. Lachaud, who defended the prisoner, failed to discover any ground of defence but that of insanity, which in such a case was but “madness run mad.” Never has a criminal been brought to justice for whose offence there was less excuse or extenuation, and the Procureur did but express the sentiments of universal humanity when he urged that the punishment should be equal to the crime.

Tropmann was guillotined about three weeks afterwards.

a

OBITUARY

OF

EMINENT PERSONS DECEASED IN 1869.

LORD BROUGHTON.

The Right Hon. Sir John CAM HOBHOUSE, G.C.B., P.C., F.R.S., BARON BROUGHTON, of Broughton de Gyffard, in the county of Wilts, and a Baronet, who died on the 3rd of June at his town house in Berke. ley-square, was the son of Sir Benjamin Hobhouse, the first baronet, by his wife, Charlotte, daughter and heiress of Samuel Cam, Esq., of Chantry House, Wilts. He was born June 27, 1786, and educated at Westminster School and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1808. He was a most intimate friend of Lord Byron, and accom. panied the illustrious poet on his travels in 1809, and was with him during his first visit to Greece and Turkey. Mr. Hobhouse on his return home published an interesting narrative entitled “A Journey through Albania.” He was also author of “Imitations and Translations from the Classics, with Original Poems ;” and “ The Last Reign of Napoleon.” To him Lord Byron dedicated the fourth canto of “Childe Harold." Mr. Hobhouse took advanced Liberal views in politics, and was a zealous and unremitting advocate of Parliamentary Reform. His celebrated letter to Mr. Canning, which appeared in a newspaper of the day, was long remembered as one of the keenest of satires. In December, 1829, he was, in consequence of the letter written by him, which con. tained some severe remarks on the conduct of certain members of the House of Commons, and which was declared a breach of privilege by that assembly, arrested and imprisoned in Newgate.

A few weeks after his incarceration the death of George III. occurred, in 1820, by which Parliament was dissolved, and he obtained his liberation. At the gene. ral election of that year he was elected M.P. for Westminster. In February, 1832, he entered Earl Grey's Govern. ment as Secretary of War, which office he held till April, 1833. He was Chief Secretary for Ireland in April and May, 1833 ; Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests in 1834, but resigned in Novem. ber of that year. He was President of the Board of Control from April, 1835, to September, 1841, and from July, 1816, to February, 1852. He was M.P. for Westminster from 1820 to 1833; for Nottingham from 1834 to 1817; and for Harwich from 1818 to 1851. He was made a P.C. in 1832, and a G.C.B. in 1852. He succeeded his father as second baronet August 15, 1831, and was raised to the peerage of the United Kingdom as Baron Broughton de Gyffard February 26, 1851. His Lordship married Lady Julia Hay, youngest daughter of George, seventh Marquis of Tweeddale, and by her (who died April 3, 1835) had thre daughters.

THE EARL OF DERBY, K.G.

Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley, fourteenth Earl of Derby, who died at bis residence at Knowsley, near Liverpool, on the 23rd of October, was born at Knowsley, on March 29, 1799, being the eldest son of the thirteenth Earl, tben only called Lord Stanley. He was educated at Eton, and at Christ Church

« PreviousContinue »