26 August 1929
Unlikely That Wensley, Great Detective, Will Come to United States
London: Law abiding citizens of Chicago who were elated over the prospect that Chief Constable Frederick Wensley, who has recently resigned from Scotland yard, would be added to the Chicago police force, seem doomed to disappointment.
It has not been made public who originated the plan to bring the famous British detective to America, but it is believed that the idea was sponsored by certain groups who think that some drastic efforts should be made to clean out the heavily entrenched crime syndicate in Chicago if the city expects to attract many visitors to its fair in 1933.
It was reported here recently that Constable Wensley had been offered a very large salary to go to Chicago, but the identity of the person or group making the offer was carefully concealed. As soon as his retirement was announced and the Chicago bid made public, Paris also made him a flattering offer to take charge of its police force. Constable Wensley has not yet announced his future plans. He is now sixty four years old, which is the age limit for chief constables, although a special five year extension was offered him by Scotland Yard because of his remarkable record. There are indications that he may accept this tender.
It is admitted that he would confront one of the hardest tasks of his long career if he accepted the Chicago offer. He would encounter dirty politics, some indifferent judges, professional juries, many corrupt co-workers, and the world's boldest criminals, and his best efforts might go for naught.
It will be a great day for British and international crooks when Constable Wensley or "Fred," as the underworld usually calls him, retires to private life, for during his 42 years of service on the London police force he has become the terror of the underworld; for many years he has been head of the criminal investigation department, of the C.I.D., devoting all his time to detective work.
He is not in the least spectacular in his methods; he is quiet and slow of speech but remarkably alert of mind and has solved some of the most difficult cases from an armchair in Scotland Yard.
Constable Wensley joined the London police force in 1887. The following year occurred the famous "Jack then Ripper" murders, which horrified the world and kept London, especially the Whitechapel section, in a torment of fear for months. There were seven "Ripper" victims, and the murders, all alike in the maniacal fury with which the criminal carved and mutilated, occurred over a period of five months.
The identity of "Jack" was never disclosed, although Sir Melville MacNaghten, former chief of the C.I.D., said, after his retirement, that the Ripper committed suicide on November 10, the day following the last of his atrocious crimes, and that Scotland Yard knew who he was, where and how he died. It was assumed by the public that he was a man of education and position who succumbed to the impulses of a criminal streak and committed suicide when the police were about to close in on him.
While divisional detective inspector in charge of the Whitechapel area, in 1910, Wensley discovered the whereabouts of the famous gang of anarchists led by "Peter the painter," who had killed a police sergeant and wounded four of his fellows. Wensley rounded up the suspects in a house in Stepney, and the famous "siege of Sidney street," a battle that lasted seven hours, took place before the suspects were captured.
Scots guards, police and a battery of artillery were engaged under the direction of that doughty warrior, Winston Churchill. During the spectacular battle a policeman was wounded in the street. Wensley dashed from his shelter when he saw the man fall to the pavement, and amid a hail of bullets from the entrenched anarchists in the building he carried the injured man to safety. For this feat he received the King's medal.
The following year another gruesome murder occurred in London. Leon Beron, an elderly Frenchman, was found in Clapham common; he had been stabbed 19 times, and on each cheek a letter "S" had been carved. Quietly and patiently Wensley pieced together the bits of evidence that linked the murder with the Houndsditch murders which had led up to the "battle of Sidney street."
Leon Beron had given information that had led the police to the hideout of the gang in Sidney street. Stinie Morrison was the man Wensley wanted for Beron's murder, and it was not long until he walked into a restaurant which Morrison frequented, called the murderer outside, and strolled with him to the nearest police station, without handcuffs, as though this were the most casual arrest and not the capture of an international crook.
One of the most famous murder cases in which Wensley figured as chief detective was the Edith Thompson - Frederick Bywaters case in 1922, which was an English version of the Snyder - Gray case in America five years later.
Like Ruth Snyder, Edith Thompson was fond of gaiety, while her husband, a shipping clerk, found his greatest pleasure in boating, fishing and swimming; like the Snyders, the Thompsons lived in a middle class suburb near the great city, and Edith found relaxation from the humdrum of domestic life with her uninteresting husband by flitting to the city to meet a lover - Bywaters - as often as possible. And each time she met him, for months prior to the murder, she and her paramour had discussed getting rid of her unwanted husband. Again and again she tried to poison him, but each time she failed, as many notes to Bywaters, later found in his room, indicated.
Finally the wife decided upon immediate and drastic action. She invited her lover to dinner, for he was friendly with her husband, and afterward suggested that they all go to see a motion picture. On the pretext of going by a shorter route the lovers led the doomed husband down a dark and narrow street and there he was stabbed; the wife immediately afterward screaming for help, while the lover disappeared.
Here again was a case that at first seemed to offer no clews. But Wensley was a master at getting the information he wanted by a few adroit questions. Sir Richard Muir, who was for many years chief crown prosecutor, and who naturally came into frequent close contact with Wensley's work, once said to him: "His methods are his own, and many a criminal who made the mistake of underestimating him learned too late how clever he really was. By a few well chosen questions he has the rare gift of laying bare a man's innermost thoughts."
A few questions put to the guilty Edith Thompson resulted in her telling the whole story, which brought her and her lover to the gallows. Unlike the Snyder - Gray pair, however, their love did not cool after their arrest, and they sent loving messages to each other constantly until the end.
Another murderer whose crime was uncovered by Wensley's detective methods was Norman Thorne, who murdered his sweetheart, Elsie Cameron. at his poultry farm at Crowborough, in December 1925. Following the girl's disappearance, Thorne wrote anxious letters to her parents asking where she was, and even inserted personal messages in the newspapers, begging her to communicate with him, saying that no matter what had happened he forgave all, and ending: "You must realize, dear, the almost intolerable agony your silence is causing not only to your parents, but to me."
Wensley concluded that the lover was protesting too much and sent men to search Thorne's little farm. The girl's body and suitcase were found buried behind his chicken house and Thorne was hanged for his crime.
One of Wensley's most recent and remarkable pieces of work was that of directing the inquiry into the murder of Police Constable Guttenridge (sic), who was shot and killed one night on a lonely road in Essex by two motor bandits. There were apparently no clews to work on, and the C.I.D. for weeks, under Wensley's direction, combed the underworld of London for any slight shreds of evidence on which they could begin to build up a case. Finally their work was rewarded and the two guilty men captured, convicted and hanged.
During his long warfare with the underworld Wensley has frequently received threats against his life and had a number of narrow escapes from the attempted vengeance of criminal enemies, but he has gone imperturbably on his way making Scotland Yard famous for always getting his man.