The Suicide of Pigott
La Ilustracion Espanola y Americana, 05/03/1889
London – Hearing In the Court of Justice, February 22nd
The forger Richard Pigott on the witness bench
La Ilustracion Artistica
Richard Pigott on the defendants bench before the London court
Pigott examining the letters
Pigott's attitude during the reading of his correspondence with the late Forster
Pigott appealing to his judges
Pigott, during the examination of his case, twirls the “accusing weapon” with a nervous hand
1 March 1889
In the House of Commons, Sir Mattheus has stated that the Metropolitan Police have not done everything possible to obtain the extradition of Pigott from the Foreign Minister of France.
2 March 1889
An English Traveler
Half an hour after the arrival of the express train from Paris on February 28, an elegant gentleman in demand of lodging presented himself at the Hotel de Embajadores.
His age was between fifty-five to sixty years old; of a high stature; a long gray beard which formed a thick mane around his neck, gave the character in question a grave and majestic aspect, very much in harmony with the serious and reserved character of the people of Great Britain.
The clerks lodged him in room no. 3 on the first floor. After inscribing the name Moyerman in the hotel register, he washed, taking care that his toilette was as chic as possible.
An hour later, he delivered a telegram to the clerks for London, in these terms: "I arrived in Madrid without incident. I am at the Hotel de Embajadores”.
During the remainder of the day until five o'clock in the afternoon, the guest remained almost continuously locked up in his room, only leaving for meals, or returning shortly whenever he left the inn.
With great mystery (no doubt to avoid suspicion) the police arrived at five o'clock in the afternoon at the Hotel de Embajadores, asking for the room of an English gentleman who had arrived the day before, and whose name was Mr. Roland Ponsonby. Their description exactly matched those of the gentleman of whom we have spoken; But the name appeared different. In spite of the difference of names, the clerks understood both agents; and without hesitating for a single moment, they went to room no. 3 and knocked on the door three times.
There was a little hesitation, and an uncertain voice asked who it was.
"Open yourself to the authorities" was the only answer.
A minute went by without the door opening or any sound being heard in the room.
Tired of waiting, the agents were about to strike again, when the door was opened, and Mr. Roland, livid and trembling with a deep terror, protested such an unpleasant visit.
"You must accompany us in order to settle an outstanding matter," they replied.
More serene, as if enlightened by a sudden idea, he begged the authority to allow him to change into street clothes.
He entered his room again, without any of those present harboring the slightest suspicion of his intended act; But soon, the detonation of a firearm, which made the whole house tremble, made it clear to them that the persecuted Englishman could no longer be judged by the courts.
In effect, lying on the floor, in a puddle of blood, his skull horribly shattered and his face disfigured to the point that it appeared sinister, was the corpse of Mr. Roland Ponsonby.
Naturally, the facts were relayed by the inspector and logged in the event record by the [Court’s Guard], who dictated the transfer of the corpse to the South judicial deposit. He then seized a small suitcase, inside which were two sheets of white linen, a letter written in English addressed to a woman, two blank booklets, another book and a license to use a weapon. In the pocket of the vest were found four coins of five pesetas, two pesetas and some gold [cufflinks]. This operation was attended by all the employees of the hotel and the hotel-owner Mr. Garcia Alba, who came after hearing the shot,
The arrest of this individual was arranged by the authorities of Madrid as a result of a telegram received yesterday from England.
Regarding the gentleman, very little is known by those who ordered his arrest.
There are, however, some indications which suggest that the unfortunate man who arrived in the capital under an assumed name was the famous Irishman, Mr. Pigott, who has been widely spoken all over the world because of the falsified letters of the well-known Mr. Parnell.
Tomorrow the English ambassador, Sir Clare Ford and a large representation of the English colony will examine the corpse in order to facilitate the identification.
Last night, there were some gawkers who wanted to see the famous woman ripper of London.
Is it Pigott?
The Civil Governor received an attentive letter yesterday from Sir Clare Ford, the Ambassador of England, urging the immediate arrest of an English subject who had been staying at the Hotel de Embajadores, Room No. 3 since the previous day under the name of Mr. Roland.
Mr. Aguilera immediately commissioned this service to Deputy Inspector of Vigilance Mr. Visier.
Mr. Visier went to the mentioned hotel and asked for Mr. Roland. An individual of distinguished stature with a long white beard appeared in the corridor.
Through the interpreter, the deputy inspector told the Englishman:
"I beg of you to accompany me to the presence of the governor, my boss, who has to inform you of some news which will be of great interest to you."
"With pleasure," he replied, "but first let me take my hat and some cards."
Mr. Roland entered his room, and Mr. Visier remained in the corridor guarding the exit.
Pigott arrived in Madrid on the 28th [of February], bringing with him a small suitcase; and settled into room no. 3 of the Hotel de Embajadores for 15 pesetas a day. He asked the owner, Don Modesto García de Alba, to provide him with an interpreter.
With the interpreter, the unknown traveler was eager to tour the city, visiting the Royal Palace, the viaduct, the church of San Francisco the Great, the Archaeological Museum, the Paintings, the walks and some cafes.
Only a moment later [Pigott] departed from [the interpreter], at which time it was supposed that [Pigott] went to the Central de TeIégrafos to send a dispatch to London.
During the two days, the interpreter observed nothing about [Pigott] worth mentioning.
Hi Robert St Devil,
What might have alerted the authorities to the fact that the man who booked into the Hotel Des Ambajadores under the name Moyerman was in fact known as Roland Ponsonby, but whose true identity was Richard Pigott?
Nice work Robert.
Hi Simon. I'll be posting March 3rd tonight, and so on until I get thru the press coverage for 1889. I do not remember if it was ever explained who alerted Sir Clare Ford, only that a telegram was received from England by the ambassador. Since they knew the hotel and room number, is it possible that one of Pigott's telegrams was intercepted?
I'm curious about whom Pigott/Posonby sent that telegram to announcing his arrival in the hotel.
Also what were his intended plans? Did he hope to catch a ship for say Argentina from Spain? Argentina had no extradition treaty with Britain, as would be the problem a few years later regarding Jabez Balfour. But Pigott's behavior seemed to signal some problem with Spanish authorities about his right to be in Madrid.
Hi Jeff. I did catch another article about another similar apprehension some time later, the reference being Pigott, and the editorial being how Spain via France was becoming this port of escape. In that case, the destination was Havana.
The Spanish authorities were alerted by the British Foreign Office via the British Ambassador that Pigott was believed to be staying at the Hotel Des Ambajadores under the name Roland Ponsonby. The British Foreign Office obtained this information from Scotland Yard, via the Home Office, Chief Inspector Littlechild having been shown a telegram sent to William Shannon (a solicitor employed by the Times) on 28 Feb by a "Roland Ponsonby" from the Hotel Des Ambajadores asking for assistance.
When the British Ambassador requested that "Roland Ponsonby" be detained, a detailed description of Richard Pigott was, at the same time, provided to the Spanish authorities.
The notion that Pigott booked into the hotel under the name Moyerman may or may not be a journalistic error but the hotel interpreter obviously would have known that his guest had sent a telegram to London in the name of Ponsonby.
So when the Spanish police officer arrived at the hotel he knew he was looking for an Englishman (as a Spanish person would have understood Pigott to be) who looked exactly like Pigott looked (and he was quite distinctive looking). Now how many Englishmen of that description do you think were staying in the hotel, Simon? To add to this, it was known at the hotel that the man was using the name Roland Ponsonby.
How difficult do you think it was, therefore, for the Spanish inspector to locate Richard Pigott within the hotel?
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