Jody Baker: Inspector Baynes Requests Help On Adventure Of The Empty House

Sunday, November 4, 2012 - by Jody Baker

Ronald Adair was murdered on March 30, 1894, between 10-11:20 p.m.  

“His head had been horribly mutilated by an expanding revolver bullet, but no weapon of any sort was to be found in the room.”[EMPT]

It didn’t take long for the very perspicacious Sherlock Holmes to know, from reading news accounts, that the murderer was Col. Sebastian Moran, now the most dangerous man in London. Holmes returned from a three-year tour of the continents and set an elaborate trap to capture and prosecute his arch enemy, Moran.

Holmes set a wax dummy of his torso in the window of 221b Baker Street. Then, having baited their trap, Holmes with Watson  took up station directly across Baker Street in Camden House which was vacant at the time. With Lestrade out of sight but within whistle-distance, they awaited their prey.  Moran appeared armed with a custom-made air-gun loaded with soft-nose (or hollow nose) expanding bullets.

From Camden House, Moran  fired through an open window, and the shot struck the head of the wax figure of Holmes. Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes subdued the perpetrator, and the whistle was blown.  Lestrade and others burst in and took Moran into official police custody. Holmes asked what charges Lestrade intended to prefer. 

"What charge, sir? Why, of course, the attempted murder of Mr. Sherlock Holmes."

 "Not so, Lestrade. I do not propose to appear in the matter at all. ….Yes, Lestrade, I congratulate you! With your usual happy mixture of cunning and audacity, you have got him." 

"Got him! Got whom, Mr. Holmes?"

"The man that the whole force has been seeking in vain --  Colonel Sebastian Moran, who shot the Honourable Ronal Adair with an expanding bullet from an air-gun ….That's the charge, Lestrade.” 

Holmes and Watson then retired to their quarters at 221b, the scene of critical evidence. 

Holmes said to Mrs. Hudson: "Excellent. You carried the thing out very well. Did you observe where the bullet went?"

Mrs. Hudson replied: "Yes, sir. I'm afraid it has spoilt your beautiful bust, for it passed right through the head and flattened itself on the wall. I picked it up from the carpet. Here it is!" 

Later Holmes was explaining to Watson the solution to the crime, “There was not a doubt of it. The bullets alone are enough to put his head in a noose.”

Now, when Holmes makes a statement, he stands by it. Nothing wishy-washy about this man, no sir. Not this man of iron will. When Holmes said – “I do not propose to appear in the matter at all” -- neither he nor Watson will be involved. They will distance themselves entirely from the case. It’s Lestrade’s ball. Let him run with it. 

MY REQUEST FOR HELP AND SERIOUS QUESTION IS THIS: If Holmes and Watson do not testify for the prosecution, how does Lestrade prove Moran guilty of the murder Ronald Adair?

1. Holmes and Watson are the only witnesses who saw Moran fire the air gun into 221b. 

2. Holmes (or Watson) is the essential link in the chain of custody of the flattened slug that went through the head of the dummy and hit the wall of 221b. 

3. Lestrade could visit Mrs. Hudson and retrieve the remnants of the soft-nose bullet that had expanded upon hitting the wax figure and flattened upon hitting the wall.  

4. What good would that do?  Forensic ballistic experts can match the striations on a bullet to the rifling in the bore of a weapon. [A Von Herder custom-built special was sure to have rifling as does a Crossman 2100 Classic of today.]  It is highly unlikely that a soft-nosed bullet that had mutilated the head of Ronald Adair and mushroomed would retain any striations that could be matched with the rifling in the bore of the air gun found in the hands of Col Sebastian Moran.  

SO HOW DOES LESTRADE PROVE HIS CASE AGAINST MORAN? 

Fellow Sherlockians, the old Inspector is in a jam and really needs your help. Any help will be greatly appreciated by a guy that may be called upon to answer questions during a discussion soon.

Respectfully Yours,  

Insp. Baynes


(Jody Baker is a Chattanooga attorney, who specializes in Sherlock Holmes lore. He can be reached at josiahbaker@bkhcw.com.)


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