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Death: railways

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63158.  Fri Mar 31, 2006 3:53 pm Reply with quote

What would you do with a Muller Light?

Drink it.
Eat it.
Flush it.

Peep through it.

The first railway murder was that of Thomas Briggs, aged 70, on July 9 1864. He was travelling on the new line from Fenchurch Street to Hackney Wick; when the train arrived at Bow, travellers boarding found the carriage empty but for a black bag, a cane, a pool of blood and a top hat.

Briggs was eventually found on the track, dying of his wounds. He’d been bludgeoned, and his gold watch and chain, and gold specs, had been stolen.

The case was an immediate public sensation. There being no sign or sighting of the killer, it looked like a tough one to crack, but Inspector William Tanner of the Yard had a bit of luck: the top hat didn't belong to the victim. In his hurry, it seemed, the killer had picked up his victim’s hat and left his own behind.

Tanner’s offer of rewards for information paid off: a Cheapside jeweller called John Death had bought a chain matching the description for three pounds ten, from a young German tailor named Franz Muller. Then a cabman named Matthews identified the top hat as being Muller’s - he'd bought it for the lad, in fact, before Franz had cruelly broken off his engagement to Matthews’s daughter. So: not only a killer, but a cad, to boot.

Muller was by now on a sailing ship for New York. Inspector Tanner and his trusty sergeant pursued him by steamship - taking their two witnesses with them. They arrived in America two weeks ahead of Muller. Upon his arrest, Muller was found in possession of a gold watch - and a hat.

The hat had been cut down and sown back together again, evidently by an amateur, presumably to make it fit its new owner, and to remove identifying marks. It was (said the prosecution) the hat taken from Mr Briggs on the night of his death.

The two hats were central to the trial at the Old Bailey. Strangely - by modern standards, at least - no evidence was offered concerning the relative hat sizes of the two men, and no hairs found in the hats were produced (which would have been useful, since Muller’s hair was blond and Briggs’s silver).

Muller was found Jolly Guilty Indeed, after a 15-minute ponder by the jury, and - still protesting his evidence - was hanged at Newgate, before a good turnout of 50,000. It was said that Franz wanted the stolen gold to finance his new life in New York (perhaps to get away from his jilted fiancee and her family?)

Posterity took note twice of the hanged man: “Muller cutdowns” became the fashion in headgear for a while; and public fear of travelling in single railway compartments - where one might be murdered to death and no-one else on the train any the wiser - became so great, that railways companies cut peepholes between the compartments. These were known as “Muller Lights.”

Links to:
Death and disaster.
Death sentences.

Picture ideas:

A piece by crime writer Peter Lovesey in CADS magazine, October 2005

406038.  Thu Sep 11, 2008 8:04 pm Reply with quote

another fascinating story that deserves resurrecting

406042.  Thu Sep 11, 2008 8:23 pm Reply with quote

I agree - fascinating stuff ...

449077.  Tue Dec 02, 2008 2:34 am Reply with quote

There is an urban legend in New York City Subway system. Apparently it doesn't happen that often, but a person can fall between the platform and an oncoming train.

A few things happen according to the legend:J First the train twists their hips around while keeping their chest staid. Thus causing massive trauma of the organs. But they don't die immediately due to pressure.

The horror of it is that a the person is alive, but once they move the train....their twisted organs give way. The victim is usualy provided a phone to call loved ones before they die. They are also given a big injection of morphine.

According to this article:

No, it doesn't, says Dr. Jesse Blumenthal, head of the trauma service at St. Vincent's Hospital. "Totally ridiculous — like something out of a horror movie," pooh-poohs Blumenthal, whose team handles about 100 serious subway accidents a year. "People who fall between the platform and the train are crushed, not squeezed." post


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