Spoke Zero.1 – Muswell Hill Mystery Solved

East Grim Echo, Tuesday, 14th April 1896.

Albert Wattle (32) and Henry Daub (31) were arrested at Bath on Monday morning for the murder of Manmountain Ortiste, a retired wrestler, at Muswell Hill.

Returned to London, they were extracted from Paddington via the milk platform abutting the London Road to avoid the crowds gathered at the station demanding to lynch them for the gruesome murder of the elderly wrestler who, though six foot tall and seventeen stone, was arthritic and partially deaf.

The alleged murderers, along with Wattle’s wife (25) and son, who all lived with Mrs Wattle’s mother in Kensal New Town, had gone on the run after being identified by the intrepid aeronaut, Captain Goffey RN, who, by an amazing coincidence, found himself in Coldfall Wood, Muswell Hill, on 13th February last.

Captain Goffey had been giving an aeronautical demonstration to crowds at The Alexandra Palace. Two miles above the ground his ingenious engine ran into difficulties, and he had to jump out of the basket attached to a parachute which he had designed whilst shipwrecked in the Southern Hemisphere last year.

Captain Goffey had been confident that he could manoeuvre his invention back to Alexandra Palace. He soon discovered that his hands were frozen and, unable to steer, he drifted northwards landing awkwardly, though without serious injury, in the branches of an oak tree in Coldfall Wood.

When he came to, it was dark. He noticed two gentlemen approaching who he later identified as Wattle and Daub. He was about to call out when intuition stopped him. He told this journal that he had a long-standing interest in the criminal mind and had made a particular study of phrenology. Dangling upside down as he was, he was well-placed to get a view of the two heads bobbing through the thickets below him illuminated by the green light of a child’s lantern. One of them had a very pronounced brow ridge, and his eyebrows met in the middle. ‘This is only an indication of criminality, not conclusive proof’ explained Captain Goffey. ‘However, combined with his furtive demeanour and the lateness of the hour, it was enough to put me on my guard. Also, he was carrying a monkey wrench and a carpenter’s bag.’

When the pair returned sometime later, Captain Goffey noticed that they no longer had their tools or lantern and both men had blood splatters on their clothes.

‘My deductive powers are no better than anyone else’s,’ explained Captain Goffey, modestly. ‘This could mean nothing else but foul murder.’ When eventually rescued by a dog walker at about 6 am, Captain Goffey made his way to Highgate Police Station to raise the alarm.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Earthenware_phrenological_bust,_areas_are_marked_off_with_an_Wellcome_L0057601.jpg
Earthenware phrenological bust. J. De Ville, London, 1821. (c) Creative Commons.

The Echo spoke to Mr Ortiste’s son, who takes up the story.

‘My father was a gentle giant who had lived alone since my mother died. His reputation as a recluse was not fair, but it is true he generally preferred his own company. He was, in his temper, somewhat rapid and hasty but of a kindly, sweet disposition, void of all design; and so innocent in his own intentions, that he suspected no one; so that, as Sterne said of his father, ‘you might have cheated him ten times in a day, if nine had not been sufficient for your purpose’. Wattle and Daub had done some work for him, removing an old greenhouse from the garden, and they had found out that my father distrusted banks and kept all his money at home in a safe. He showed them his various security arrangements which he was proud of, including a tripwire attached to an elephant gun (he wouldn’t have heard anything with a smaller calibre).’

‘With this knowledge, the murderers returned at night and entered the garden of the villa from Coldfall Wood, neutralised the tripwire by the simple expedient of taking the elephant gun from its stand and placing it on the floor, and broke into the house through a downstairs window. I dare not think of my father’s suffering at these two criminals’ merciless hands.’

The Echo described the murderers’ flight last week. It has since come to light that the murderers, who had been in indigent circumstances and suddenly displayed considerable means, spent their time on the run in the company of a travelling phrenologist and his clairvoyant wife.

‘Such people,’ explained Captain Goffey, referring to the so-called Professor and his wife, cast phrenological science in a bad light. But they are not the norm. They are rotten apples in a barrel of quite superb forensic psychology and deductive science. ‘I was saved by an oak tree that day,’ he continued (though The Echo has to admit, it struggled to keep up with Captain Goffey’s ingenious theories at this point). ‘But I am convinced that an invisible mushroom intelligence guided me to Coldfall Wood at the exact time that the villains put into operation their dastardly plan. Sadly, I couldn’t prevent murder, but I flatter myself that I was able to play a small part in the operation of justice. These opportunities don’t come along very often, though I seem to have been blessed with more than my fair share of them.’

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