The Townsend Case
The story of a remarkable murder trial. Even now, seventy years after the case went to the jury, no one knows whether or not the right man was tried
W. STEWART WALLACE
WATER has been flowing under the bridges for over three score years and ten since the excitement aroused by the Townsend case died away; and there are today few people, even in that corner of Canada where William Townsend pursued his nefarious career, who could say who he was or what he did. Yet the Townsend case presents-for anyone who has the industry and the curiosity to follow it through the files of forgotten news papers-features which make it probably unparalleled in the history of criminal law. That one man should have been compelled to undergo two successive trials for two successive murders, was in itself singular enough; but the amazing fact that a whole countryside was divided in opinion over the question of his identity at both trials makes the case perhaps unique.
In the early fifties of the last century there occurred in the Niagara Peninsula what is known nowadays as a “crime wave.” There was an epidemic of burglaries, highway robberies, and other crimes of violence, and even murders were not infrequent. It was clear that a
gang of bandits was at work in that beautiful and fertile countryside, and it was even suggested that several gangs of bandits, perhaps acting under a common head, were leagued together in a campaign of crime. So serious was the situation that the Government oJf Canada, as we shall see later, thought it necessary, when some of the band were apprehended, to send down the SolicitorGeneral of Canada to conduct the prosecution.
What brought the situation to a head was the murder of John Hamilton Nelles in his house in the village of Nelles Corners, a few miles north of Lake Erie, on the evening of October 18, 1854. Nelles was the owner of the general store at Nelles Corners, and was a young man of substance and respectability. He belonged to a well-known United Empire Loyalist family in the district, and with him there lived, besides his wife and infant child, his mother and his young brother. On the
night in question his sister-inlaw, Lucy Humphreys, was also staying in the house.
All the members of his household had retired to bed, and John Hamilton Nelles was sitting by himself, putting perhaps the finishing touches to his day’s work, when there came a knock at the door and three men burst into the house. That they were bent on no lawful errand was evident from the fact that they were disguised, two of them by means of blackened faces and one with a false mustache. Nelles asked them what they wanted, and they demanded money. This Nelles refused to give them, and without more ado the man with the false mustache drew a pistol and fired three shots in rapid succession into the body of the unfortunate shopkeeper.
The accounts of what followed vary, but the chief facts are clear. Mrs. Nelles and her sister, Lucy Humphreys, hearing the shots, rushed into the room, the former with her infant in her arms. Nelles was then lying on the floor. Mrs. Nelles handed the baby to her sister and sank on her knees beside her husband. Meanwhile, the bandits, ignoring the women, pushed past them in search of plunder. At the door of his room they met Nelles’ younger brother, Augustus, a youth of fourteen. They demanded of him where the money was, but the boy either did not know or would not tell, and they proceeded to ransack the house. Their search, however, was fruitless; and the only loot they obtained was John Hamilton N elles’ watch which they found hanging on a nail. Foiled in their objective and fearful of staying too long, they then made their departure. As they vanished into the night, the man with the black mustache turned and said to John Hamilton Nelles, as he lay in agony on the floor, “You scoundrel, you slammed the d cor in my face.”
The village doctor, Dr. W eichter, was immediately summoned, but he found on arrival that the stricken storekeeper was already beyond human aid. Nelles was conscious but was able to speak only with the greatest difficulty, and all he could say was that he did not know any of the men who had attacked him. Three hours later he was dead.
There were no telephones in those days, and it was not until the next morning that the high constable in Cayuga, the neighboring county town, heard of the
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The Townsend Case
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murder. He immediately swore in several special constables, and started out in search of the bandits. Almost immediately he picked up their trail. Information was obtained that, after leaving the Nelles house, the bandits, five in number—two of them had apparently remained outside the Nelles house—had accosted two farmers on the road from Nelles Corners to Cayuga, and had relieved them of their money. This information provided the police with a clue to the direction the bandits had taken. A little later a township constable named Robert Flanders, who had heard about the murder, came in with information that five men had spent the night in his barn near Canfield Station, and had taken the early morning train for Buffalo, across the American border—trains being then as effective a means of escape for criminals as motor cars are today. One of these men, who seemed to be the leader of the gang, he knew, and his name was William Townsend. From their description, he believed the five men were those who had attacked the Nelles house and killed John Hamilton Nelles.
Robert Flanders was sworn in as a special constable, and the police party, seven in number, took the first train for Buffalo. They reached that city about four o’clock in the afternoon and immediately got in touch with the Buffalo police. The Canadian constables were told off to accompany the American officers, and every outlet from the city was closely watched. It was soon found that the bandits had been at the United States Hotel at three o’clock in the afternoon, and during the night a search for them was conducted in Buffalo which ranged from the best hotels to the lowest groggeries. But the search was fruitless. As a matter of fact, the bandits had very cleverly doubled on their tracks and had immediately returned to Canada by way of Niagara Falls.
The Canadian police were compelled to return empty-handed, but it was not long before they picked up the trail once more. Word was received a few days later that Townsend and one of his companions had been seen near St. Catharines. He had actually traded away in St. Catharines the watch which he had stolen from John Hamilton Nelles. A posse of seven or eight men had trapped him in a ten-acre piece of bush; but Townsend, with a pistol in each hand, had pushed his way through the cordon that surrounded him and had made his escape. It was learned that he had shipped on board a sailing vessel at St. Catharines for Oswego, an American port on the south shore of Lake Erie; and a telegram was dispatched to the chief of police at Oswego asking him to arrest Townsend on arrival. To make assurance doubly sure, Robert Flanders was told off to follow him, and by hard riding reached Oswego before the sailing vessel, which had been held up by contrary winds, arrived in port.
When the vessel arrived, however, Flanders found that there was no William Townsend on board. The captain of the sailing vessel said that a man whose features and clothes resembled Townsend’s had indeed joined his vessel at St. Catharines, but at Port Dalhousie had jumped on board another ship bound for Kingston. From this ship, it appears, he had jumped ashore, and then made his way to the house of his brother-in-law, where he succeeded in lying low for several weeks, disguised—if one can trust local rumor—in woman’s clothes. Without question, William Townsend was a most resourceful person.
Some of his confederates, however, were not so clever or fortunate as he. Not long after Townsend had succeeded in throwing his pursuers off the scent, the police laid hands on two of his com-
panions, King and Blowes, in Hamilton, at the head of Lake Ontario. Blowes was caught in a house of ill fame in Hamilton, and King was arrested near Hamilton. Shortly afterward, a third member of the gang, William Bryson, was apprehended about seventy miles north of Toronto.
In April, 1855, these three prisoners were brought to trial at the assizes at Cayuga on the charge of murdering John Hamilton Nelles; and though it appeared from the evidence that none of them had fired the fatal shots, they were all found guilty of murder, since British justice regards as equally guilty with a murderer those who act in collusion with him. They were all condemned to death, and King and Blowes were actually hanged. But Bryson turned Queen’s evidence, and in view of this fact his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in the penitentiary.
Townsend’s Second Murder
"X/TEANWHILE, William Townsend
had again gone on the warpath. Having lain in hiding at his brother-inlaw’s for several weeks, he evidently found the enforced inaction irksome and sallied forth to resume his depredations. Early in December he robbed a farmer who lived near Port Robinson, on the Welland Canal. The farmer followed him into Port Robinson and found him at the village inn, which was kept by the Widow Jordan. He promptly went in search of the village constable, Charles Richards, and the latter proceeded to the Widow Jordan’s to arrest Townsend. He actually laid hands on him, but as he did so Townsend drew a pistol from his pocket and, in the presence of several witnesses, shot the constable dead. He then made good his escape, none of the bystanders daring to tackle him, and was believed to have gone “down the canal.”
A hue and cry was raised, and a day or so later the police received information that Townsend had boarded a train for the western part of the province. A telegram was promptly dispatched to the sheriff at Woodstock, where the autumn assizes were being held, describing Townsend and asking that the train be searched and Townsend arrested on a charge of murder. The sheriff told off the gaoler and four special constables to meet the train. What followed may best be described in the gaoler’s own words:
“We arranged to enter the cars, one at the forward end of each. I went into the forward car. About the middle of the forward car I saw' a man at whom I looked intently.
“He said to me, ‘Oh, I know what you are at. You take me to be Townsend.’
“I said, ‘Yes, I do.’
“ ‘Oh,’ said he, T do favor the description very much. I have been taken for him once before today, but I’m not he. I am going west and come from the east of Rochester.’
“He was so well dressed, and had such a smile on his face, that I did not arrest him. I went to take counsel with the other constables, and when I w-ent into the car again he was gone . . . We saw' him again afterward, on the platform, and concluded we would detain him. He said it was very hard, for he wanted to go west. We said it would only be for a short time, for people were coming on the next train who could identify him. He then stood still while the train was moving away, but, as it had attained a good rate of speed, he darted away like a deer and jumped on the last platform of the last car, leaving us behind.”
For some reason the Woodstock police assumed that the telegraphic dispatch they had received had been sent to other stations along the line, and so did not telegraph ahead themselves. Conse-
quently, Townsend—if it was he—once more got clear of the toils.
For over two years nothing was heard of Townsend, except that in August, 1855, the sheriff of Rock Island, Illinois, sent word to the Canadian police that he had found a man who resembled Townsend working as an actor in a side show. The constable Robert Flanders was dispatched to Illinois to investigate the matter, but when he arrived on the spot, he found that the bird had flown.
Then, in April, 1857, word came that led the Canadian authorities to believe that at last the elusive Townsend had been caught. A former Canadian named John lies, who had known Townsend in earlier days, had been washing glasses in his hotel bar in Cleveland, Ohio, when a railway conductor had brought in a man who had been unable to pay his railway fare but had offered his revolver as a pledge of its payment.
“This young man,” said the conductor, “owes me $3.50 for his fare. When he pays you that, and his lodging, let him have his revolver.”
lies immediately recognized the man as William Townsend. “I was so surprised at the appearance of the noted robber,” he afterward testified, “that I let a glass drop and it smashed.” lies lost no time in notifying the police, and the man he identified as Townsend was arrested. Later, extradition papers were made out; and in May, 1857, the prisoner was lodged in the county gaol at Cayuga, awaiting trial.
The trial began on September 27, 1857, and was a cause célèbre of those days. Mr. Justice (afterward Chief Justice) McLean, who had been an officer in the York Volunteers at the battle of Queenston Heights in the War of 1812, presided. The Crown was represented by the Solicitor-General of Canada, Henry (afterward Sir Henry) Smith; and the prisoner was defended by one of the most brilliant criminal lawyers in Canada at that time, S. B. Freeman, Q.C., of Hamilton.
Identified As Townsend
rT'HE prisoner pleaded not guilty; and, after the preliminary speech of the Crown Counsel, the witnesses for the prosecution were called into the box. The first of these was Lucy Humphreys, the sister-in-law of the murdered man. She told the story of what had happened in the Nelles’ house on the evening of the murder, and she identified the prisoner at the bar as one of those who had been in the house at that time.
The doctor who had attended the dying man was next called into the witness box; and then, having proved the fact of the murder, the Crown produced as a witness William Bryson, the member of the gang who had been convicted and was then serving a life sentence in the penitentiary at Kingston. Bryson told the story of the formation of the gang and of the crimes it had committed, hinting that the murder of Nelles was not the first which might be laid to its charge; and then he proceeded to identify the prisoner at the bar.
“I identified the prisoner,” he said, “the first time I came here. He wore whiskers then, but they are shaved off now. I have no difficulty in recognizing him. He is the man.”
Peter Brown, another inmate of the penitentiary, recognized the prisoner as William Townsend; and no less than ten residents of the Niagara peninsula identified him, including one of the farmers who had been robbed on the night of the murder of John Hamilton Nelles, and John lies who had been the means of apprehending him in Cleveland.
With such an array of evidence against him, it might have seemed that the prisoner’s fate was sealed. But the
j defense had not yet put its witnesses in ¡ the box; and when it did so, the state of affairs began to assume a very different complexion. In all, the defense called into the box no fewer than forty-nine witnesses; and all of these, with varying degrees of certainty, testified that the prisoner at the bar was not William Townsend.
The evidence of some of these witnesses might perhaps be regarded as suspect, such as that of Townsend’s two sisters, i his stepfather, his brother-in-law, his I sister’s father-in-law, and others who were closely connected with him. Suspicion might properly, for example, be attached to the testimony of a man who had formerly boarded with Townsend and who swore that he did not know the prisoner at all, as well as to that of a gentleman who had formerly been a partner of Townsend’s when the two went about the country giving negro impersonations.
But the greater number of the defense witnesses were above suspicion. One of them was the reeve of Cayuga Village; another was a witness who had been subpoenaed by the Crown; and a third was Robert Flanders, the constable who had taken such a prominent part in the pursuit of Townsend, and who had arrested Blowes and King. Flanders said that he had advertised in a Buffalo newspaper that he was willing to bet one thousand dollars—a large sum of money in those days—that the accused was not Townsend, but that no one had accepted his offer.
Particularly convincing was a witness who said:
“Looking at the prisoner when facing him, it is Townsend; looking at his profile, it is not.”
The jury, after it had been charged by the judge, withdrew; and then, after having been out six hours, they returned,
! and reported that there was no possibility of their coming to an agreement. It was said that one of the jury swore that he would “set on his seat till he was carried out a corpse, rather than convict the prisoner.” They were almost evenly divided, seven being for conviction, and five for acquittal. The judge thereupon discharged them, and the prisoner was returned to his cell in the adjacent prison, to await a second trial.
The Second Trial
’ I 'HIS second trial which the prisoner was destined to undergo was, however, to be on a different charge—that of murdering not John Hamilton Nelles at Nelles Corners, but Constable Charles Richards at Port Robinson. While the ! jury in the first trial was considering its verdict, the deputy sheriff of Welland County had come forward and served on the prisoner in the dock a warrant charging him with the murder of Constable Richards in November, 1854; and it was evidently the view of the Crown that there was a better chance of convicting the prisoner of the second murder than of the first.
The second Townsend trial took place at Merrittsville, now the city of Welland, in the Niagara peninsula, on March 26, 1858. But before it opened the prisoner carried the war into Africa by writing a letter to the newspapers. During the course of the first trial he had maintained an almost contemptuous silence. Now he gave to the papers a statement ridiculing the idea that he was William Townsend. His name, he said, was Robert J. McHenry; he had emigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1837, and had eventually drifted to Cleveland, where he had obtained a job as a mariner on Lake Erie. He had, he asserted, been only once in Canada, and that was when the ship on which he was employed had been storm-bound for a short time in the mouth of the Grand River, near Cayuga. Later, he had gone to California, in the wake of the “gold rush” of ’49, and he
maintained that he had been in California in the autumn of 1854 when the murders of John Hamilton Nelles and Charles Richards had taken place. He was very bitter against the jurors who had failed to acquit him, and prophesied that the day would come when the expression, “As ignorant as a Townsend juror,” would be proverbial. He brought the letter to a close with an apt quotation from Byron:
“The white rose shall bloom in his bonnet again,
Should he prove the true son of Donald McBane.”
This epistle naturally roused public interest in the forthcoming trial to fever heat, with the result that the trial was reported in the newspapers with a fullness and minuteness unusual at that time. The trial judge was again Mr. Justice McLean, and the prisoner was again defended by S. B. Freeman, Q.C.; but the Crown was now represented by other counsel, Ronald Macdonald, Q.C., of St. Catharines, and Robert A. Harrison, a very able lawyer who was destined to become Chief Justice of Ontario. In view of the evident intention of the prisoner to try to prove that his name was McHenry and that he had been in California in the autumn of 1854, the prosecution redoubled its efforts to obtain a conviction and brought forward a flood of new witnesses.
The first witness was young Augustus Nelles, the brother of John Hamilton Nelles. Young Nelles testified that on the occasion of his brother’s murder in 1854 he had noticed that one of the murderers wore what appeared to be a false mustache. He could not positively identify the prisoner as the man with the false mustache, but he swore that he was about the same build.
Then the Crown put again into the witness stand William Bryson, who had been convicted in 1855 of the murder of John Hamilton Nelles, and who was now serving a life sentence in the penitentiary. Bryson described the events which had taken place on the evening of October 18, 1854.
“I was present,” he said, “at the murder of Nelles on the Grand River. Five of us were in the gang, but only three entered the murdered man’s dwelling. These three were Blowes, Townsend, and myself.”
“Where is Townsend now?” asked the Crown prosecutor.
“That’s him,” replied the witness dramatically, pointing at the prisoner.
Later, however, under cross-examination, Bryson was compelled to admit that he had at first failed to identify the prisoner as Townsend the year before at Cayuga.
“I saw the prisoner,” he testified, “at the side door of the Cayuga Court House last year. I knew he was going to be exhibited to me. At first I said he wasn’t Townsend. Then I was taken back to my cell, where I saw the Solicitor-General, and I told him I had not had a fair chance to see the prisoner. I suggested that Townsend should have his beard removed, so that he would appear as he was at the time of the Nelles murder. The prisoner was then shaved, and I identified him as William Townsend, the murderer of John H. Nelles. Townsend asked me if I recognized him, but I did not answer the question. Instead of so doing, I asked him if he wore earrings, and looked to see if his ears were pierced, but they were not. Townsend had worn earrings on the day of the murder of Nelles. I have heard of earring perforations having healed without leaving a mark. On the Tuesday following that murder I had seen Townsend in Buffalo, and he had removed his earrings previous to entering a barber shop.”
Bryson added the information that Townsend was “noted for his agility” in imitating voices and dialects—in other words, that he was clever at impersonating
other people. But the fact that Bryson had said at Cayuga that the prisoner was not Townsend detracted greatly from the force of his evidence; and when he repeated that he had said this before he had an opportunity of examining the prisoner carefully, the judge observed severely:
“You should have had a good view before giving your decision.”
The next witness was Jacob Eviner, Jr., who had been robbed by the Townsend gang on November 2, 1854, between the murder of Nelles and that of Richards. Eviner said that he had identified the prisoner as Townsend at the time of the Cayuga trial in 1857; but, although he now declared that the voice of the prisoner was that of the bandit leader who had robbed him, he could not be induced to swear definitely that the prisoner was the man.
'T'HUS far the prosecution had not had •*much luck with its witnesses, but it now brought forward a number of persons who had witnessed the shooting of Constable Richards at Port Robinson, and the evidence of these was a little more conclusive. The police magistrate who had accompanied Constable Richards when he lost his life in attempting to arrest Townsend said that the prisoner “acted the same as Townsend, his voice and motions were the same, though the prisoner seemed the larger of the two.” Another witness of the shooting said, “I don’t think I’d recognize Townsend again, but the prisoner is the same height as the murderer.” “To the best of my knowledge,” said a third witness, “the prisoner is Townsend.” “I think,” said a fourth witness, “that I could identify the man who sat at the head of the table in Mrs. Jordan’s hotel on the night of the tragedy. I believe that man in the criminal dock is the person.” And a fifth witness gave evidence to the same effect.
Then there entered the witness box the Woodstock gaoler from whom Townsend had so unceremoniously escaped in November, 1854. This officer described the circumstances attending the escape, and testified that the man whom he had lost on that occasion was the prisoner at the bar. His evidence was corroborated by the constable who had been with him. “He is the prisoner,” said the constable. “I haven’t the least doubt of it. I swear it against all Creation beside.” Crossexamination not only failed to shake the evidence of these witnesses, but actually strengthened it. When cross-questioned the constable remembered that “there was a scar on the left cheek of the man who forsook us so unceremoniously at Woodstock.”
“Look,” broke in the counsel for the Cr-wn, “and see if you can see the scar now.”
“Oh, yes, it is there,” the prisoner hastily interpolated.
“Yes,” answered the cohstable, more slowly, “it seems to be the same; only it was longer and fresher three years ago than it is today.”
Equally emphatic was the evidence of John lies, the man who had been instrumental in bringing about the arrest of the prisoner in Cleveland in 1857. lies, who created a sensation in court by asserting, through counsel, that he had been several times threatened by the prisoner, and by asking that the latter should be searched for concealed weapons, testified that he “had known William Townsend quite intimately during the past eight or nine years.” He described the circumstances under which he recognized the prisoner as Townsend, and the events leading up to his arrest. He swore that the prisoner had called him (lies) by name, although his name had not been mentioned in his hearing previously; and that he had asked him to help him to escape. When arrested, the prisoner had had three bowie knives
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in his possession; he had admitted having been in Canada, and knowing King, Blowes and Bryson.
Under cross-examination, lies admitted having known that a large reward was offered for Townsend’s arrest and conviction, but denied that even a large reward was sufficient to induce him to swear away the life of an innocent man. His account of the circumstances attending the arrest of the prisoner was corroborated by two witnesses from Cleveland.
Next, the Crown put on the witness stand a man who had gone to school with ‘‘the notorious William Townsend,” had known him well, and had met him in Chicago in 1856. This witness testified that Townsend had then changed his name, and that he was going to California or Australia; but when the prosecuting attorney pointed to the prisoner and said, “There is your California man,” the witness rather disconcertingly replied:
“I do not undertake to identify the prisoner as the man in question.”
And so, for two d ays, the procession of witnesses for the prosecution continued. About thirty-five witnesses swore positively that the prisoner was Townsend, and several others saw resemblances between Townsend and the prisoner, though they would not definitely pledge themselves in regard to his identity. Finally, two doctors took the stand to give evidence in regard to the extent to which climate and other factors may alter a man’s appearance, and on this evidence the Crown rested its case.
If the prosecution had piled Pelion upon Ossa in an attempt to prove the identity of the prisoner with William Townsend, this was nothing compared with the effort which the defense now put forth. To every witness which the prosecution had brought forward, the defense now brought forward two. Several of these swore emphatically that the prisoner was McHenry, and that he had been in the autumn of 1854 in California. One of these said:
“I saw the prisoner in August, 1854, at Chipps Flats in California. He remained there until the autumn of the following year. His name was McHenry.”
A number of the defense witnesses threw doubt on the evidence of the witnesses for the prosecution, asseverating that they had told different stories in other places and at other times. One witness, a Mrs. Walters, declared with flashing eyes that if she were a man she would shoot John lies, “who had done so much against the prisoner. Perhaps,” she added, “it is unfortunate I am not a man.” On the whole, it would appear that the defense witnesses were not only more numerous, but were also more respectable than the witnesses for the prosecution.
After the counsel on both sides had addressed the jury, and the judge had delivered himself of a charge which lasted five hours, the jury retired. This time, as it happened, there was among the jurymen no disagreement. After a careful consideration of the case, the juryfiled in, and the foreman announced their unanimous verdict: “That the prisoner is McHenry, and is not guilty.”
Doubt Still Exists
OWING to the fact that the charge of murdering John Hamilton Nelles was still hanging over his head, the prisoner was not immediately discharged; but the verdict of the Merrittsville jury seems to have disheartened the prosecution, and in a short time the prisoner was
permitted to go free on bail of £100 as a guarantee of his returning to appear for trial should the Crown want him. But no attempt was ever made to subject him to a third trial, and to all intents and purposes he was a free man.
Was the accused really Robert J. McHenry and not William Townsend? It is clear that there were many people in Canada at that time who believed firmly that he was McHenry, and there is evidence that even the Crown prosecutor was later converted to such a view. In the Toronto newspapers of August 17 and 18, 1858, there was reproduced a paragraph from a Hamilton newspaper which ran as follows:
“McHenry and the Queen’s Counsel, Ronald Macdonald,
Esq., of St. Catharines, have returned from the United States, whither they went to hunt up proof of the genuineness of the documents produced at the recent trial. They went to New York, and thence to Washington. We understand that they have been completely successful, and that there is no longer any doubt of the truth of the statements made by McHenry and his witnesses.”
There were even rumors that the supposititious McHenry was about to prefer against the government of Canada a claim for compensation.
And yet one cannot get rid of the feeling that perhaps the accused was Townsend, and not McHenry, after all. There are some questions that any other hypothesis leaves unanswered. Why did the prisoner not assert during the first trial that he was Robert J. McHenry, and had been in California when John Hamilton Nelles was murdered? Was it because his alibi was not yet fully arranged?
Again, if he was in California in the autumn of 1854, and had never, as he said, been in Canada, how was it that the Woodstock gaoler and his assistant identified him so positively as the man who had escaped arrest by them at this time? This identification the prisoner virtually admitted when he said of the scar on the face, “Oh, yes, it is still there.” Was it possible that by this time he had returned from California, and that there were two men in the country so much alike that they could hardly be distinguished the one from the other? One hears of doubles in fiction but seldom in real life. In this connection it is worthy of note that Townsend had been a professional impersonator. Had he succeeded in altering his appearance to such an extent as to mystify people who had known him well? Was he an extremely adroit and clever criminal who succeeded in hoodwinking even the lawyers for the prosecution?
I find another curious circumstance. The statement is made, in an account of the case contained in the late Mr. D. B. Read’s Lives of the Judges, that after the second trial the putative McHenry travelled about the province with one of the sisters of William Townsend, exhibiting himself for money “much after the manner of Sir Roger Tichborne.” Did this indicate a desire on the part of the Townsend family to capitalize the notoriety they had acquired, or did it indicate a consciousness of innocence on the part of Robert J. McHenry so great that he could afford to identify himself, to this extent with the Townsend family?
He would be a man of great perspicacity who could solve this riddle.