Suckered! Plus Quadrilogy Part 3
We saw in part 2 that, while there is evidence that William Joyce from the Irish Office was happily providing assistance to The Times in its case against Parnell at the Special Commission, Scotland Yard (especially the C.I.D.) was not involved in this, albeit that it had to respond to requests for assistance from the Irish Office.
One thing that both Anderson and Monro were agreed on is that detectives at Scotland Yard had no part to play in helping The Times. Thus, to the Morning Post of 8 April 1910, Anderson said:
'Neither before nor during the Parnell Commission did the Criminal Investigation Department either directly or indirectly render any assistance to the Times.'
In a letter to The Times dated 11 April 1910 (in Times of 12 April 1910), Anderson said:
'...at no time did the Criminal Investigation Department render any assistance to The Times in the Parnell case.'
James Monro, in a letter to the Permanent Under Secretary at the Home Office dated 13 April 1910 (HO 144/A49962), said:
'I may say that I certainly endorse Sir Robert Anderson's statement in his letter to the Times of April 11th viz "that at no time did the Criminal Investigation Department render any assistance to The Times in the Parnell case." '
Wolf Vanderlinden thinks these gentlemen were lying through their teeth.
His first charge against the Scotland Yard is that 'threats and inducements were offered to Fenian prisoners held in British jails.'
'Thomas Scott and Michael Harkins, the Jubilee bombers, were interviewed by Littlechild in Chatham Jail, in March of 1888, in order to try and get them to give evidence linking Parnell and his supporters with the bomb plots.'
Pausing there, it is certainly true that Chief Inspector Littlechild visited Thomas Scott, a.k.a. Thomas Callan, while he was in Chatham prison shortly after he had been convicted at the Old Bailey, with Harkins, of conspiracy to cause an explosion, on 3 February 1888. The letter of request for an order for Callan and Harkins to be visited by Chief Inspector Littlechild was submitted to the Home Office by Assistant Commissioner Monro on 20 March 1888 and approved the following day (HO 144/209/A48131).
However, the timing of the visit, being within a few weeks of Callan's conviction, and some five months before the Special Commission Bill had even been passed, had nothing to do with trying to get Callan to give evidence linking Parnell et al with the bomb plots.
Littlechild saw Callan for the genuine policing purpose of establishing how the dynamite that was in Callan's possession had been brought over from America to England, how his fellow dynamiters had come over, what their plans were and where the detonators were that Callan had thrown away. In other words, Littlechild was attempting to gain intelligence about the dynamite conspiracy. This is clear from documents authored by Monro and Littlechild in HO/144/209/A48131 which are quoted at length by Christy Campbell in 'Fenian Fire' (p. 286-287) and in which it is stated that Callan made 'a full confession' to Littlechild. Goodness knows why Vanderlinden thinks there was anything suspicious about this interview at all.
As for Harkins, it is clear that his visit would have been for precisely the same purpose although he 'gave no information' (HO/144/209/A48131).
Then we have this:
'Littlechild was also said to have made another prison visit to interview an Irishman named Thomas Clarke who would claim that Littlechild offered him his freedom if he would testify against Parnell.'
Littlechild certainly did visit Thomas Clarke, a.k.a. Henry H. Wilson, in Chatham prison on 19 February 1889. And it is true that in a book published in 1922 entitled, Glimpses of an Irish Felon's Prison Life, Clarke alleged that Littlechild offered him his freedom if he would testify against Parnell. According to Clarke, Littlechild said to him:
"Well, you must know that there has been a Special Commission to investigate certain allegations that have been made against the Irish Parliamentary Party...everyone is anxious to go forward as a witness. Certain persons in London, knowing that you came from America in connection with the skirmishing movement, believe that you were in a position there to enable you to speak authoritatively on the subject. These persons have sent me down here to see you as to give you an opportunity of also going forward as a witness before this Commission to say what you would wish to say about the matter.'"
Clarke said he refused but Littlechild 'threatened, he appealed, and when his bullying did not work he tried gentleness.'
So that is the allegation. But is it true?
Well, the first thing to bear in mind is that Chief Inspector Littlechild visited eight prisoners in Chatham prison over a two day period on 19 and 20 February 1889, all of them having been convicted of terrorist offences relating to Ireland. The request to see them was made to the Home Office by Robert Anderson on 18 February 1889 under the instructions and responsibility of James Monro (HO 144/925/A46664). Clarke was the only one of these prisoners who alleged that Littlechild asked him to give evidence against Parnell at the Special Commission.*
*Allegations have been made - but not, it seems, by Daly himself - that Littlechild asked John Daly the same thing; but a report by the Governor of Chatham Prison dated 13 September 1889 (HO 144/925/A46664) does not support those allegations.
Secondly, it does not make sense for Littlechild to have made offers to any prisoners in exchange for them giving evidence to the Special Commission. Had any such prisoners presented themselves for cross-examination, the first question they would have been asked is how they came to be giving evidence in the first place and what inducements had been offered. One can only imagine the scandal if they had said (as they surely would have done) that a Scotland Yard detective had promised them the world if they would testify against Parnell. Yet, if part of the deal with Littlechild was for them to perjure themselves on oath before the Commission, by denying that they had even spoken to him, or that he had made any promises, that scandal had the potential to be much greater, probably leading to criminal charges against Littlechild for conspiracy. The likelihood of Littlechild getting involved in that kind of messy business which was almost certainly bound to be exposed in a courtroom is, frankly, zero.
There was no point in Littlechild getting his hands dirty in this way, bearing in mind that Soames and his agents were perfectly capable of interviewing prisoners in prison and did so, after requesting permission from the Home Office to see them.
Furthermore, let us consider the timing of Littlechild's visits. It was a fortnight after Le Caron had given evidence at the Special Commission and caused a sensation by revealing the role of Robert Anderson in providing him with documents. While it is true that criticisms of Anderson had not yet been made in the House of Commons, which was not sitting, it seems very unlikely that Monro would have been so reckless as to send Littlechild in to Chatham prison to assist The Times at that time, especially as we have seen from Joyce's memorandum that Monro was reluctant to hand over his papers to the Irish Office because of all the problems that had been caused by Anderson giving Le Caron his letters back.
Littlechild's visit to Chatham Prison in February 1889 also came a little over three months after a story appeared in Freeman's Journal of 6 November 1888 in which the Freeman's correspondent stated:
'I have unimpeachable authority for stating that recently the government made overtures on behalf of the Times to the Dynamiters confined in Chatham prison with a view to inducing them to give evidence that would be useful to the Times and the Government in the present inquiry.'
It is not so much the fact of this (false) report which is important but the fact that it was seen by James Monro who forwarded it to Godfrey Lushington at the Home Office on 7 November 1888 (HO 144/925/A46664) with the comment:
'You may care to note this fiction.'
It makes it inconceivable that Monro would, a few months later, instruct Littlechild to do exactly what the newspaper was alleging had already been scandalously done by the Government. Furthermore, we may note that Lushington was not content to ignore the report. He asked for the matter to be investigated (HO 144/925/A46664).
Internal Home Office papers also support the notion that Littlechild's interviews were conducted for the legitimate operational purpose of obtaining intelligence about Irish terrorism. Monro told the Home Office on 7 March 1889, in a briefing note to respond to a question in the House from Tim Healy, that Littlechild's interviews were carried out 'under my instructions & responsibility, for police purposes' (HO 144/925/A46664 - underlining added).
At the same time, the Home Office prepared two schedules for its own internal purposes, one entitled 'Return of Visits to Prisoners in English Prisons, in connection with the Special Commission':
The second schedule prepared by the Home Office for its own internal use was entitled 'Return of Visits to Irish Prisons in English Prisons, other than those in connection with the Special Commission' (HO 144/925/A46664). The eight visits conducted by Littlechild 'on application from Commissioner of Police' were included only in the latter schedule.
What probably happened is that Littlechild made Clarke various offers if he would 'squeal' on his comrades and that Clarke, when released from prison and aware of the importance of the Special Commission at the very time he was being interviewed, simply assumed that Littlechild's questions must have been designed with Parnell in mind and his memory was affected as a result.
When it comes to Vanderlinden's next allegation against Littlechild we can dismiss it very easily. According to Vanderlinden:
'Littlechild also spied on Parnell's personal life, writing reports on the Irish leader's affair with Kitty O'Shea. The O'Shea affair would eventually lead to Parnell's downfall.'
Vanderlinden has got confused here. Littlechild didn't write any reports on Parnell's affair with Kitty O'Shea. He seems to have misread Christy Campbell (p. 352) who makes clear that it was Nicholas Gosselin who wrote a report to Balfour about Kitty O'Shea in January 1890. And Campbell gets himself into a right mess on the subject. At page 352 of his book he writes this:
'The Secret Department had a new task. On Christmas Eve 1889 William O'Shea filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Mr C.S. Parnell was cited as the co-respondent. Reports from Inspector Littlechild in Anderson's private papers reveal that from mid-November onwards he was watching the house - 'St John's Lodge, Tresilliam Road, Lewisham (or Brockley)' - where Parnell and Katherine O'Shea were trysting.'
Unfortunately, Campbell has misread the date on Littlechild's note. It was written on 19 November 1887, not 19 November 1889 as Campbell clearly seems to think.
And what Campbell does not reveal is that Parnell had taken the house in Brockley (in January 1887) under a false name. He was calling himself 'Charles Preston'. Undoubtedly this is the reason why Littlechild became involved. What was going on?
There is actually nothing in Littlechild's note to suggest he was 'watching' Parnell's house but he was clearly making enquiries in respect of a file that was already open in 'P' Division (i.e. Camberwell) so it wasn't even a Special Branch matter. After noting the address of the house, Littlechild writes: 'The address of Mr. Smee is 89 Finsbury pavement.'. Smee was a furniture manufacturer which suggests that Littlechild's queries were not specifically related to Kitty O'Shea but directed to why Parnell had moved into a house under a false name. He also notes: 'The address of the agent I cannot give.'
The fact that Littlechild's note is dated 19 November 1887 is very interesting, for on that very day The Times carried the following story about Parnell:
'It is stated that Mr. Parnell's health has been slowly but steadily improving since the rising of Parliament. He will not, however, take any part in public affairs during the recess, as he has been advised to avoid all exposure to chills or fatigue from undue exertion. On Wednesday he left his residence at Brockley for Hastings, and his medical attendant hopes that the comparatively mild climate of the south of England will enable him to get through the winter without risk and without the necessity of going abroad, in which case Egypt would be selected.'
This story, which was actually taken from a Central News report of the previous day, came in response to reports in various newspapers in the preceding few days about Parnell having gone 'missing'.
On 21 November, a news agency reporter managed to collar Parnell somewhere in London and was told by him that he had been advised by his doctor to avoid all exposure and fatigue and needed to 'keep as quiet as possible during the winter'. He denied that he had been staying at Eltham for a long time past, something which might have baffled readers of the report (published in The Times of 22 November) but Eltham was home to a property owned by the O'Shea family at which Parnell and Mrs O'Shea would meet.
Littlechild may not have been the only person making enquiries about Parnell's whereabouts a this time. A few days later, on 26 November 1887, The Times carried a follow up report:
'With reference to the mystery which has attached to Mr. Parnell's recent movements we are enabled to inform the public, as a result of inquiries on the spot, that the leader of the Irish Nationalist party has been living, under the name of Mr. C. Preston, at 112, Tressilian-road, Brockley, a house which he took in the name of Preston about a year ago. He has received letters there under the same name. Mr Parnell has been at Brockley within the last fortnight.'
While it is, of course, possible that The Times was getting its information about Parnell directly from Robert Anderson (who was not then the Assistant Commissioner but seems to have been informed about Parnell by Littlechild), we may note that Littlechild recorded Parnell's address as 'St John's Lodge, Tressilian Road' whereas The Times gave the house number, 112, rather than the name of the house, which might suggest a different source had supplied the information.
Anyway, whatever Littlechild was doing in November 1887 it had nothing to do with the Special Commission which was about a year away from coming into existence.
For his next allegation against Special Branch and Scotland Yard, Wolf Vanderlinden goes coy on us. He says:
'...it was even suggested by Sir Charles Russell, later Lord Russell of Killowen, Parnell's chief counsel, that the reason Pigott was able to disappear so easily from London and make his way to the Continent was that he had been hustled out of the country by two Scotland Yard detectives.'
So, on this occasion, we simply have a suggestion by a third party - and presumably the reason for the mention of Sir Charles Russell's title is to give the claim some credibility - but Wolf does not seem to want to go so far as to make the allegation himself that Pigott was hustled out of England by a couple of Scotland Yard detectives.
On the face of it, it is not a very impressive allegation. Anyone could 'disappear so easily' from London by simply catching a train to the coast and then a ship to France. There was nothing difficult about doing this. Such a journey required money, for sure, and Pigott claimed not to have any in the days before his death, but Pigott was a liar and his claims of poverty might simply have been designed to extract more money from The Times.
Indeed, it is unlikely that he was flat broke because on, 22 February 1889, three days before he fled from London, he posted £25 in cash to his housekeeper in bank notes, twenty pounds of which, it was established (from their numbers), had been drawn by Houston and Soames in August and September 1888 (and almost certainly given to Pigott at that time), with a further £5 having been drawn by Soames on 14 February 1889, the week before Pigott gave evidence (HO 144/477/X22687) and presumably given to Pigott to cover his expenses (which was perfectly legitimate).
Furthermore, shortly after his disappearance, newspapers reported that, on the day of his departure, Pigott went to a tradesman in the Strand and cashed a cheque for £25 which he had received from Sotheby's book mart for the sale of some rare books, and that would easily explain where the money to finance his escape came from (Western Times, 28 February 1889; Hampshire Advertiser, 2 March 1889; The Irish Canadian, 7 March 1889).
We are not told by Vanderlinden when Sir Charles Russell made the allegation but he is presumably referring to a statement in court, on 26 February 1889, the day that Pigott was discovered to be missing, when, as plain Sir Charles Russell (not Lord Russell of Kilowen), he said:
'According to my instructions, the man Pigott was under the charge of the Royal Irish Constabulary and also of two Scotland Yard detectives.'
If this is what Vanderlinden is referring to, then two things are immediately apparent. Firstly, Sir Charles Russell was speaking on the instructions of his solicitor, George Lewis. Secondly, he was not making any allegation here of Pigott being hustled out of the country by anyone. Indeed, when the President of the Special Commission put it to Russell that he had 'asked to be allowed to show that this witness [Pigott] had been spirited away', Sir Charles protested: 'I did not say that...I regret that your Lordships have entirely misapprehended me.' (Times, 27 February 1889).
The myth of two Scotland Yard detectives being involved in this escapade seems to have originated from claims made by Pigott in the days before his disappearance that he was being followed by two men. The men certainly existed because one of the two R.I.C. officers protecting Pigott at Anderton's hotel, where he was staying while in London, gave the following evidence:
'On Saturday evening, in the smoking room, I saw two men sitting near him, and he drew my attention to them and he told me he suspected they were watching him...I saw them on two or three occasions when I went out...' (Times, 27 February 1889).
There is absolutely no evidence, however, that these men were from Scotland Yard. In fact, in the House of Commons, twenty-one years later, on 14 April 1910, Winston Churchill, the then Home Secretary, stated that Pigott, 'was not in any way under the surveillance of Scotland Yard officers.' So who were the two mystery men?
Well perhaps they were the same two men reported in this Dublin news agency story, relating to an incident which occurred at Pigott's house in Dublin on the night 1 March 1889, published in The Times of 26 March 1889.
'On the night of the 1st of March two men, who had a key which opened the door of Pigott's house, entered it and upon being questioned by an old woman, who acted as a housekeeper stated that they had an execution against Pigott's goods at the suit of Mrs Shields and would make a levy unless the money were paid. The money, of course, was not forthcoming, and the two men said they would remain in possession. The housekeeper went to bed, and on getting up in the morning found 'the bailiffs' were gone. Two drawers and a desk had been opened during the night and certain papers abstracted, which included the diary and a number of letters. The two men who had acted the part of bailiffs were seen by some Kingstown police on the road to Kingstown, but were not interfered with. Subsequently, on the police being communicated with, investigations were made, with the result that Mrs Shields stated that she had never authorized any person to visit Pigott's house on her behalf, and, besides, had never taken any legal proceedings whatever in the matter. Warrants were then issued for the arrest of the two men who had entered the house, but it is stated that though they are well known in Dublin, they have so far evaded the vigilance of the police.'
It may not be coincidence that in the House of Commons on 20 March 1889, Timothy Healy said that the Parnellites 'had captured Pigott's diary' . Shortly afterwards, George Lewis was reported as saying that the diary was 'in the hands of Mr Parnell's solicitors' (story filed to New York World on 23 March 1889, in New Zealand Tablet of 24 May 1889). These were obviously not empty boasts because, in his 1904 book, The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland, Michael Davitt actually published extracts from Pigott's diary, which, he said, was 'found after his suicide'.
As for who instructed the two men to watch Pigott at his hotel, it really does not take Sherlock Holmes to solve this particular mystery. According to Michael Davitt, in his 1904 book (p.584):
'He [Pigott] was closely watched in London and in Kingstown while I had made arrangements for his arrest in Paris in the event of our surveillance of his movements in London being at fault.' (underlining added)
Further, Davitt says (p.585):
'On the evening of February 22nd, immediately after Pigott had shattered The Times case under the terrible fire of Russell's cross-examination, I crossed to Paris, expecting the forger would try and bolt that night and make for that city. Mr Parnell and George Lewis were expected to have him watched as usual, and he was shadowed until Monday afternoon.' (underlining added)
The 'Monday afternoon' being referred to was Monday, 25 February, which was the day that Pigott fled from London. That it was George Lewis who had instructed the two men to watch Pigott would have come as no surprise to Joseph Soames for, in his evidence to the Special Commission on 26 February 1889, Soames was asked by Sir Charles Russell: 'Were there not two detectives from Scotland Yard there [in Pigott's hotel] also? ' to which he replied: 'Not to my knowledge; but I understand that Mr. Lewis was having him watched.' (Times, 27 February 1889). Lewis denied this in his evidence on the same day, saying that he had not had Pigott watched since 27 October, but there were others who might well have been involved in hiring private detectives to watch Pigott, such as Labouchere, who was conducting a watching brief at the Special Commission on behalf of Patrick Egan, or Parnell, who could have instructed them himself without involving Lewis.
We may also note that additional allegations have been made in respect of Pigott's flight from the Special Commission. According to Simon Daryl Wood in his 2015 book, Deconstructing Jack, Pigott:
'whilst under twenty-four hour surveillance by two officers from the Royal Irish Constabulary, fled to Madrid where in a first floor room of the Hotel Des Embazadores, booked in under the name of Roland Ponsonby, he shot himself in the head with a pistol as two detectives sent from Scotland Yard arrived to arrest him.'
There are two factual errors in that sentence. The first is that Pigott was under 'twenty-four hour surveillance'. He was not. He wasn't even under surveillance at all by officers from the Royal Irish Constabulary. Evidence about the role of the two Royal Irish Constabulary officers was given to the Special Commission on the morning after Pigott's escape. The R.I.C. officers had been sent to Pigott's hotel by representatives of The Times (Shannon and Soames). The first was Head Constable Gallagher, who was sent by William Shannon (a Dublin solicitor employed by The Times), who said:
'It was entirely my idea that Gallagher should go to that hotel at all, and the reason I suggested [it] was that after Pigott's examination a crowd used to remain outside for his coming out of the consulting room, and it was solely to prevent him being mobbed at the hotel, or going to the hotel, that I made the suggestion.' (Times, 27 February 1889).
Head Constable Gallagher, when asked if he was supposed to keep an eye on Pigott, said:
'No; my instructions were to remain in the place to see that he was not mobbed.' (Times, 27 February 1889).
Soames appears to have been responsible for instructing Shannon to send Sergeant Faussett to the hotel in addition to Gallagher. In his evidence, Soames said:
'I put him there for the express purpose of seeing that nobody interfered with the witness.' (Times, 27 February 1889).
Soames also stated in evidence:
'The Irish constable was not put in the hotel for the purpose of watching Pigott. His instructions were not to follow Pigott.' (Times, 27 February 1889).
Sergeant Faussett also gave evidence to the Commission. He said that that Shannon had asked him after the court had adjourned one day during the previous week to see Pigott safely to his hotel. At Gallagher's request he then moved into Anderton's Hotel on Friday 22 February. He explained:
'Gallagher told me he had received instructions to join Pigott at the hotel and see that Pigott was not interfered with, and I was to help him.' (Times, 27 February 1889).
The likelihood is that the main reason for the two officers from the Royal Irish Constabulary being sent to Anderton's hotel by representatives of The Times was, as Soames hinted (and he was in overall charge), to prevent agents employed by George Lewis, Henry Labouchere or Michael Davitt from interfering with Pigott.
Soames was well aware that Lewis and Labouchere had been in secret communication with Pigott prior to his giving evidence and was clearly worried that inducements would be made to him to confess to having forged the letters. The use of the R.I.C. officers in this way, who were in London anyway under subpoena to give evidence to the Commission, was perfectly sensible. But they were not keeping Pigott under surveillance, either for twenty-four hours a day or at all. Nor did they have any powers or instructions to stop Pigott leaving the hotel and going wherever he wanted to go. This is why there is no mystery at all as to how Pigott was able to evade the two officers and flee to Paris.
The second factual error made by Simon Wood is to say that two Scotland Yard detectives arrived in Madrid as Pigott committed suicide. In the footnote reference for this statement, he identifies Inspector Patrick Quinn and 'Sergeant Richard Owen' as the two officers. However, Pigott committed suicide on 1 March 1889 whereas Inspector Quinn and his fellow officer (who was, in fact, Constable Richard Lowe), as we shall see, did not leave London until 2 March, arriving in Madrid on 5 March. They were not, and never were, in pursuit of Pigott. They went to Madrid to identify his body and secure his papers. It follows that there is no question of them arriving at Pigott's hotel while he was shooting himself. It was the arrival of a Spanish officer at his hotel that caused Pigott to take his own life.
Although, in his book, he refers to Pigott shooting himself, Wood really seems to think that Quinn and 'Owen' formed part of a Scotland Yard assassination squad, although he does not quite say this in so many words. However, in a post on JTR Forums, dated 7 February 2010, in the thread 'Anderson and Parnell Commission', #91, Wood said that after having made two different confessions about forging the letters:
'a penniless Pigott managed to evade the RIC constable and two Scotland Yard detectives keeping him under surveillance [they were never called to account for their tardiness] and travelled to Paris, from where he posted his Labouchere-Sala confession to Mr. Shannon. He then moved on to Madrid, with Inspector Patrick Quinn and Sergeant Richard Owen hot on his heels, and "committed suicide" in the Hotel Des Ambassadeurs.'
The fact that Wood puts the words 'committed suicide' into inverted commas shows that he does not believe that is what happened. To bolster his evident but ludicrous belief that Pigott was assassinated by Scotland Yard, he says in his 2015 book that George Sims 'challenged the story of Pigott's suicide suggesting he had been murdered'. But he didn't really. The reference Wood gives is to The Referee of 17 April 1910 but what Sims said in a short paragraph in that publication was that it was 'rumoured at one time that the story of Pigott's suicide in the hotel at Madrid was untrue.' Then he said: 'But though the whole story of this dramatic incident in the story of "Parnellism and Crime" was never told, Pigott undoubtedly died of a bullet wound.' He concluded by hoping that Robert Anderson would 'tell us the true story of the death of Pigott.'
In other words, while Sims was less than clear, he seemed to be saying that Pigott did commit suicide but that there was more to the story of Pigott's death than was publicly known. He certainly did not suggest that Pigott was murdered by Scotland Yard detectives.
At this point, we may note that Vanderlinden says of the allegation about Pigott that 'Joyce also says as much.' Yet, Vanderlinden does not think to inform the readers of his post, that, one of his key sources, Bernard Porter, said of Joyce's claims:
'Joyce's most serious charges are unreliable, partly because they are not based on first hand knowledge...for example, that they spirited the forger (Pigott) out of England when he was rumbled, and then murdered him in Madrid to stop him blabbing...But it is probably not true. All of it was retailed simply as a rumour by Joyce; and there is no positive evidence for it.' (Bernard Porter, Plots and Paranoia: A history of political espionage in Britain 1790-1988, Unwin Hyman, 1989).
Before we conclude this topic, we need to deal with the suggestion that Robert Anderson was not terribly interested in locating Pigott after he left London. Christy Campbell, when writing about this, says:
'Robert Anderson moved ponderously into action.'
There is no reason at all, however, to say that Anderson moved 'ponderously'. It may be that Campbell had in mind a note from Henry Matthews dated 26 February 1889 which is in Anderson's papers (HO 144/1538), in which the Home Secretary wrote to the Assistant Commissioner:
'My dear sir,
It is suggested that there is some delay in dealing with the warrant against R. Pigott. I trust there is no truth in this. I should be glad if you would come over to the Irish Secretary's room here and speak to me.
However, on the basis of what the Anderson told him, the Home Secretary was able to respond to the suggestion of delay in the House of Commons later that evening, at around midnight, as The Times of 27 February 1889 reported:
'Mr. Matthews replying to Mr. Fulton said there had been no delay by the police in endeavouring to execute the warrant issued by the Special Commission against Mr. Pigott, but that the warrant had not been taken to Scotland Yard by Messrs Lewis and Lewis until 6 o'clock that evening.'
Although the Special Commission had granted Parnell's legal team a warrant for the arrest of Pigott first thing in the morning of 26 February (with the warrant being addressed to the Commissioner of Police) it was suspected that Pigott was already in Paris, so that a warrant for an extraditable offence was required. Thus, when the proceedings of the Special Commission concluded at 2:35pm that day, a group consisting of Lewis, Parnell, Labouchere, Davitt and Campbell trooped off to Bow Street Police Court where, after waiting for the conclusion of the day's normal business, they successfully obtained from the magistrate, Mr Vaughan, a warrant for Pigott's arrest on a charge of perjury, which, it was hoped, meant that he could be extradited from France (and Spain) if, of course, he could be found and detained.
The time it took for the magistrate to hear the evidence and grant the perjury warrant that afternoon is no doubt why Scotland Yard did not receive both warrants until after close of business at 6pm. The best answer to show that there was then no dithering by the authorities in attempting to execute the warrant is to set out the full chronological sequence of events between the receipt of the warrant by Scotland Yard late on 26 February (meaning that nothing could be done until the morning of 27 February) and Pigott being found (and his suicide).
27 February - The Commissioner, James Monro, applied to the Home Office for the Home Secretary to communicate with the Foreign Office regarding the arrest of Richard Pigott in France under the Extradition Treaty between Great Britain and France (HO 144/477/X22687).
27 February - Edward Leigh Pemberton, the Under Secretary of State at the Home Office, wrote on behalf of the Home Secretary, to the Foreign Office to apply to the French government for the provisional arrest of Richard Pigott (HO 144/477/X22687).
27 February - At 2:55pm, a telegram was sent by Julian Pauncefote on behalf of the Foreign Secretary, the Marquis of Salisbury, to the Earl of Lytton, the British Ambassador to France, containing a detailed description of Pigott. It also stated that his address was believed to be the Hotel des Deux Mondes in Paris (a letter from Pigott addressed to Shannon having been received from the hotel that morning). The telegram stated: 'Apply immediately for provisional arrest on charge of perjury. Documents follow.' (FO 146/3131).
27 February - A Reuters telegram from Paris to London in the evening (published in The Times on the following morning) said: 'Inquiries made at the Hotel des Deux Mondes elicited the following facts:- An Englishman with a white beard and a fresh complexion, wearing spectacles, arrived at the hotel at 6 o'clock yesterday morning [26 Feb] and left again between 8 and 9 o'clock without giving any name. He had some breakfast, and afterwards asked for some letter paper with the name of the hotel printed on the head. He wrote a few words, and then enclosed the paper in a long envelope of English form, together with some other papers. The letter was addressed to London and was weighed before being despatched. The weight was 25 grammes, or rather less then 1 oz.'
28 February - At 11:00am, the Earl of Lytton replied to the Marquis of Salisbury saying: 'I acted at once last evening officially and privately on your telegram of yesterday.' (FO 185/713; FO 146/3132). But Pigott had left the Hotel des Deux Mondes the day before the Earl of Lytton had received the telegram.
28 February - A warrant, provided by the C.I.D. to the Home Office, was despatched from London to France for Pigott's arrest and extradition (HO 144/477/X22687).
28 February - Pigott arrived in Madrid and sent a telegram in the afternoon to Shannon at 58 Lincoln's Inn Fields as follows: 'Please ask Mr S to send me what you promised, and write to Roland Ponsonby, Hotel Embajadores, Madrid.' The telegram was received at Lincoln's Inn by Joseph Soames, who, immediately upon receipt, contacted Chief Inspector Littlechild and showed him the telegram (Evidence of Soames to Parnell Commission, Times 13 July 1889).
28 February - Leigh Pemberton wrote to the Under Secretary at the Foreign Office saying that 'from a telegram received to-day it appears to be probable that this man is now in Madrid under the name of Roland Ponsonby giving the name of Hotel de Embajadores' and requested that a telegram be sent to the British Ambassador in Madrid, giving him Pigott's description and instructing him to apply for a provisional arrest warrant' (HO 144/477/X22687).
28 February - At 7:05pm, the Marquis of Salisbury sent the following telex to Sir Clare Ford, the British Ambassador to Spain: PIGOTT, late witness before Parnell Commission, supposed to be in Madrid, under name of Roland Ponsonby, at Hotel de Embagadores, whence he addressed a telegram, to day, to Shannon, London [Pigott's description was then given] If appearance corresponds, apply at once for provisional arrest with a view to extradition on charge of perjury. Telegraph immediately if arrest made.'
1 March - Sir Clare Ford in Madrid to the Marquis of Salisbury: 'On receipt of your Lordship's telegram last evening, I took measures to have the arrest of the fugitive effected this afternoon. An agent of the police went to the hotel indicated and inquired after the man, who, no doubt, having his suspicions aroused, committed the fatal act of suicide.' (FO 185/713).
2 March - Leigh Pemberton to the Foreign Office: 'Inspector Patrick Quinn of the Criminal Investigation Department accompanied by another officer will start for Madrid by to-night's mail ...' (HO 144/477/X22687).
2 March - Marquis of Salisbury to Sir Clare Ford at 1:50pm: 'Officer will be sent to identify Pigott, and to take charge of all articles found on him. Keep body unburied until identification, and have it photographed. No property should be given up to any one except to police officer authorized to receive it. Officer starts tonight.'
2 March - Sir Clare Ford to the Marquis of Salisbury: 'No doubt whatsoever can exist that the person who committed suicide yesterday was Pigott...' (FO 185/713).
2 March - Sir Clare Ford to the Marquis of Salisbury at 7:50pm: 'Have taken immediate steps to have burial deferred until officer's arrival. Photograph of body will be taken. All his papers are in safe custody.' (FO 185/713).
5 March - The Times reports that a Scotland Yard officer was expected to arrive in Madrid that morning.
6 March - In a report filed on 5 March, The Times reported: 'The officers sent by the Criminal Investigation Department, Inspector Quinn and Sergeant Lowe of the Metropolitan Police, arrived here this morning and made a careful examination of the body of Pigott in the presence of the Spanish civil authorities and Consul Macpherson.'
8 March - The Times reported that both Scotland Yard officers 'left for London to-night'. (They returned to London on 11 March).
The short point is that Scotland Yard discovered on the evening of 28 February that Pigott was at a hotel in Madrid and the very next day an officer of the Spanish police was knocking at his hotel door. There was no way that a British officer from London was going to be able to get his man in that timescale. By the time the warrant was sworn on 26 February, Pigott had already left Paris and was on his way to Spain, so he was traced in the quickest time possible, albeit due to his sending a telegram to Shannon.
Moreover, it was the Commissioner, to whom the Special Commission's warrant had been addressed (i.e. not Anderson), who commenced proceedings on 27 February by applying to the Home Office to arrange for Pigott to be arrested in France so it cannot be said that Anderson moved ponderously or moved in any way at all. It was Monro who was in charge of the matter.
To finally put to bed the allegation that Scotland Yard somehow let Pigott escape to France, we may note that James Monro wrote to the Home Office, on 27 February 1889, making clear that instructions had been sent to all Scotland Yard officers watching the ports to detain Pigott if they saw him (but Monro was worried about the legality of this). Thus wrote Monro (MEPO 2/186):
'The question of arrest under misdemeanour is very pressing. The matter has just been brought very prominently to notice in connection with the flight of Mr Pigott, and I have to point out that had that individual been seen at one of the ports, which were warned as to his absconding, he could not have been legally arrested, except by the officers in whose possession the warrant for his apprehension was.' (underlining added)
The issue of whether the police could legally arrest a person against whom a warrant had been issued if they did not have that warrant in their possession is one which we look closer at in Part 4, because it was a factor in Monro's resignation as Commissioner, but the point to note for our purposes now is that Scotland Yard officers based at ports had been warned to look out for Pigott and detain him.
The final allegation made by Wolf Vanderlinden against Scotland Yard - although he presents it at the start of his post - relates to a letter received by the Home Office in April 1910. Says Vanderlinden:
'There is an interesting addendum to the above political brouhaha. Robert Anderson's old friend, boss and ally, James Monro, using a circuitous route, was able to pass a note to Herbert Asquith, the Prime Minister, in which was stated: "Mr. Monro is desirous that the Home Office should be made aware that should they desire to 'interview' him, any account which he might be able to give of certain past events (and which might not agree with some things which have appeared), he is at their disposal." [Christy Campbell, Fenian Fire, Harper Collins Publisher, London]) "any account which he might be able to give of certain past events (and which might not agree with some things which have appeared)," is an apparent warning to the Powers That Be that should he, Monro, suffer further scrutiny, or inquiry, on the matter of Anderson, the Times and Parnell, he could open a can of worms which was best left untouched. Or, as Campbell, puts it, the note hinted "at something nasty in the Whitehall woodshed." '
The first flaw with this point is the claim that James Monro, in April 1919, was communicating or attempting to communicate, with the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, by way of a 'circuitous route'. In actual fact, he wasn't communicating with the Prime Minister at all.
As we know, in April 1910 it was revealed by Robert Anderson that he had been the author of some of the articles in the 'Parnellism and Crime' series in The Times in 1887, claiming, at the same time, that this had been done with the approval of the then Assistant Commissioner of the C.I.D., James Monro. On either 7 or 8 April 1910, Sir Melville Macnaghtan, the A.C.C., sent to Monro, who was then living in Aberdeen, a cutting from the Westminster Gazette of 7 April 1910 in which Anderson was reported as saying that it had been arranged with Monro that he should write the articles for The Times in 1887, and asked for his views.
Monro was clearly fuming and replied to Macnaghtan on 9 April 1910 saying that Anderson's statement in the Westminster Gazette was 'absolutely incorrect' (underlining in original). He made clear that he was willing to place himself at the disposal of the Home Office and to give the fullest explanation of his advice in the matter, and he told Macnaghtan, 'you have my authority to inform the Commissioner of Police and the Home Office to this effect.'
Christy Campbell gives the impression (p.38) that this was a private letter written by Monro to 'a key confident' in whom 'he could trust absolutely' but Macnaghtan immediately forwarded the letter to Sir Edward Troup at the Home Office, allowing Churchill, in his speech to the House of Commons on 13 April, to make reference to the fact that Monro did not admit the accuracy of Anderson's statements. Campbell merely notes in parentheses that Churchill had seen the Macnaghtan letter (p.43).
At the same time as Monro was replying to Macnaghtan on 9 April, his brother-in-law, David Littlejohn, was writing to Eugene Wason (the Member of Parliament for Ayrshire) saying that Monro had been reading Anderson's articles in Blackwood magazine, as well as his recent interviews in the newspapers, and was 'desirous that the Home Office should be made aware that if they should desire to 'interview' him, any account which he might be able to give of certain past events, (and which might not agree with some things which have appeared) is at their disposal.' (HO 144/926/A49962).
The odd thing about the letter is that Littlejohn does not expressly say that he was writing it on behalf of Monro at his request. It is unclear if he knew that Monro was, on the very same day, writing his own letter to the Assistant Commissioner in which he offered an interview to the Home Office, i.e. precisely the same thing that Littlejohn was asking his M.P. to tell the Home Office! Monro had undoubtedly mentioned to his brother-in-law that he would like to speak to the Home Office and that he could tell them some things but whether he authorized Littlejohn to write to a member of Parliament is another matter.
Littlejohn seems to have believed that Monro was too frail to write for himself. Thus, his letter says that Monro's physical health is 'completely broken' with the additional comment that, 'I am naturally much concerned and jealous over the unauthorized use of his name, while he is for the present tongue-tied.' But Monro was hardly tongue tied if he was writing to Macnaghtan.
Littlejohn only asked for the Home Office to be informed of the contents of his letter but Wason, off his own bat, sent it to the Prime Minister's office from where it was forwarded to Sir Edward Troup at the Home Office on 11 April. This, together with the receipt of Macnaghtan's letter, triggered Troup to write directly to Monro on 12 April, asking him various questions, so that Troup could brief the Home Secretary for his next appearance in the House of Commons. In reply, on 13 April, Monro wrote a long three page letter. The strange thing is that we don't find in that letter Monro hinting at 'there being anything nasty in the Whitehall woodshed'.
Instead, what we find is Monro repeating that he had not given any permission to Anderson to write articles for The Times. He said: 'As a matter of fact, no such authority was asked by Mr. Anderson, and none was given to him by me.' But this is also the letter in which he confirmed that 'at no time did the Criminal Investigation Department render any assistance to The Times in the Parnell Case'.
Taking everything into account, therefore, it would seem that when David Littlejohn wrote to an M.P. that his brother-in-law might not agree with some of the things that had recently appeared (in the newspapers) he was doing no more than saying that Monro did not agree with Anderson's account of how his articles in The Times came to be published in 1887. For, in his letters to the A.C.C. and the Home Office, that was the one point Monro made very strongly. There is no reason to suppose that Monro did not agree with anything else that had recently appeared in the newspapers.
In fact, the only controversial thing in the newspapers at that time was Anderson's claim that he had acted with Monro's knowledge and approval, so his denial of this is really the only thing that Monro could have said to his relative. He certainly was not saying that the C.I.D. (and thus Anderson) had played any part in assisting The Times with its case at the Special Commission - which is what Vanderlinden seems to think was meant in Littlejohn's letter - because he categorically denied this to have been the case in his letter to the Home Office a few days later.
While we know that Monro handed his confidential papers to William Joyce in May 1889, there is no reason to believe that he had this in mind when he apparently told his brother-in-law that he did not agree with things he had read in the newspapers. Although Parliament would, a few days later, debate the whole issue of the Parnell Commission, this debate had not started on 9 April when David Littlejohn wrote to Wason, and, it is worth repeating, there was nothing else appearing in the newspapers to which Monro could have objected. Consequently, Littlejohn's letter could not have contained an apparent warning to the powers that be that, should he suffer further scrutiny, Monro could open up a can of worms that was best left untouched. It was no more than an indication to the Home Office that Monro did not think that Anderson had told the truth and that there was going to be a rather unfortunate difference of recollection between the former Chief Commissioner and his Assistant.
And that disposes of that.
First published: 18 September 2015