Martin, a retired probation officer of 40 years’ service in
Manchester and Salford, is the author of several books on
Victorian murders. The 3 murders he told of had a nautical
nature and were all committed in the late 19th century.
His first story was of a murder on a Royal Navy ship. A
particular seaman serving on HMS Griffon was guilty of
insubordination after refusing orders. Unfortunately, matters
got worse when the seaman murdered an officer of the ship. He
was sent for trial at a court martial charged with wilful
murder. Found guilty, he was sentenced to death. Pleas for mercy
were received. The seaman himself tried to starve himself to
death before he was due to be executed. However, he was executed
for the dreadful deed that he committed.
The second took place on
a North Sea fishing smack out of Hull. Martin said it returned
to port after 3 weeks at sea without its youngest crew member, a
14 years old boy. The boy’s parents were informed of him being
lost overboard during a storm. Being lost as sea was a common
occurrence. However, within a year of the said incident 3 crew
members made a statement to police stating that 2 others, which
included the captain, on board were guilty of murdering the boy.
The case came to court and the boy’s death was due to a
prolonged and brutal treatment by the captain. The boy was said
to have angered him by a comment made about his family. The
captain was found guilty and was sentenced to death.
third incident took place on a yacht, the Mignonette, sailing
from England to Australia in 1884. A storm in the South Atlantic
badly damaged the yacht. The crew took to the safety dinghy and
were set adrift with little food for survival. After nearly 3
weeks the situation had become desperate. Lots were drawn to see
who would be killed, so giving the remaining crew a better
chance of survival. The victim, Richard Parker, was one who had
become delirious. His blood was drunk and his heart eaten. Days
later the survivors were picked by a ship and were taken back to
England. Statements were given that cannibalism took place but
the police suspected murder. Two were sent for trial. The
seafaring community supported the two who were said to have
acted out of necessity in an appalling situation.
Although the 2 were found guilty and sentenced to death but were
reprieved with a short prison sentence.
A twist to this
is found in a novel published by American writer, Edgar Allan
Poe some 45 years before called, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon
Pym of Nantucket. A tale of shipwreck, mutiny and cannibalism.
The victim in the tale is a Richard Parker.