This is again an episode of a series I never saw, but I can explain what the story is about. It is an interesting criminal puzzle.
On Monday evening, December 21, 1908 Mrs. Marion Gilchrist, a wealthy Glaswegian, was alone at home after sending her only servant, Miss Helen Lambie, out on some chores. Lambie came back to a scene of horror
Mrs. Gilchrist was battered to death. Her apartment seemed ransacked,
and the police were soon on the scene. The chief detective involved was Lt. John Trench, a brilliant and honorable man. He was soon convinced that the murder was deliberate, and that while the apartment was ransacked it was not for ordinary theft. But his suggestions were ignored, and the murder said to be a jewel robbery murder. Within a few months a piece of Mrs. Gilchrist's jewelry was found to have been presented to a fence by a shady foreign German Jew named Oscar Slater. Slater was on the high seas headed to the U.S. (with some grisly irony, he was on board the future disaster ship R.M.S. Lusitania). He was extradited back from the U.S., and put on trial for the Gilchrist murder. He was convicted, and sentenced to death, but this was reduced to life imprisonment.
The reason for the reduction in sentence was some disquieting points brought out (but ignored by the government) that Helen Lambie apparently arrived earlier at the apartment house than she admitted, and saw someone she and Mrs. Gilchrist knew leave. This, the activities of Slater's solicitor, and the comments of Lt. Trench forced the reduction in sentence. But the solicitor and Trench were marked men. Both would face criminal charges and terms of imprisonment for their activities for Slater.
Soon other figures of note joined Slater's defenders. The noted criminologist and writer, William Roughead, became a big supporter of Slater. But more important was the entrance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The author was always ready to offer help on criminal matters - he had helped George Edalji get freed and exonerated from charges of maiming and blinding cattle and horses in a case in 1904-06 (the basis of the play EQUUS, and also the story that appeared in the series THE EDWARDIANS, in the episode on Conan Doyle). Doyle studied the evidence and wrote an elaborate pamphlet showing his Sherlockian abilities brought to bear on the evidence in the Gilchrist murder scene. And he concluded, like Trench, that Lambie did know who was there, and had kept her mouth shut for her own reasons.
It took 20 years but finally the public pressure led to Slater being exonerated and released (and paid several thousand pounds for his imprisonment. Conan Doyle never had much use for Slater (whose background was shady) but he did not approve of the miscarriage of justice involved.
Who killed Marion Gilchrist? In recent decades it appears Helen Lambie probably saw a relative and heir of Mrs. Gilchrist, a Dr. Charteris, who was socially very well connected. The scenario that has appeared in the last twenty years is that Charteris went to Gilchrist's home with a goon he used - a mentally disturbed young man - to force Gilchrist to give the doctor an important paper she had. The young man got carried away, and killed the old woman. Charteris and the young man ransacked the apartment, and found the paper (but took some jewelry to make it look like a robbery murder). Lambie saw the doctor (and possibly the young man) but kept quiet for self preservation reasons (Lambie, by the way, refused to answer further questions about the case when the case was reopened in 1928 - she was living in the U.S. by then). Dr. Charteris lived into the 1960s, and died a "respectable" member of the upper class. Oscar Slater died in 1948.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?