A childs lantern, left at the murder scene, trapped the two burglars who killed Henry Smith, a widower and near-recluse, at his north London home, Muswell Hill Lodge.
Smith was paranoid about burglars. He had devised and installed his own alarm system, a series of trip wires around the house connected to a detonator. It was the job of his gardener, Charles Webber, to set the alarm system last thing at night. This Webber duly did on the evening of February 12th, 1896, before retuning to his own quarters in the nearby lodge house.
Next day Webber discovered there had been a break-in. Peering through the kitchen window he saw his employer lying dead on the floor, in a pool of blood. Mr. Smiths arms and legs were bound, and there was a gag in his mouth. His head had been beaten to a pulp.
Smashed crockery and upturned furniture lay all over the floor evidence that Mr. Smith had struggled for his life.
The killers had obviously left in a hurry, leaving behind a basket containing a gold watch and jewellery and the clue that was to send them to the gallows the childs lantern. The old mans bedroom had been ransacked, and the mattress slashed open in an attempt to reveal hidden money. The safe in the bedroom was open and empty, and a notebook kept by Mr. Smith revealed that it should have contained at least £50.
Under the broken window were two distinct sets of boot prints, and in the garden police found a brass tobacco tin. Neither the dead man nor his gardener were smokers.
Another clue was that the burglars were professionals. The alarm system had been meticulously dismantled.
Information from a coppers nark led police to two ex-convicts, Albert Milsom, 33, and his partner in crime, Henry Fowler, 31, a giant of a man possessed of enormous strength.
Intrigued by the clue of the childs lantern, Superintendent Froest of Scotland Yard placed it on the pavement outside Milsoms door. While he watched unobserved, a group of lads swooped on the lantern and began a dispute about its ownership. It was finally claimed by a 15-year-old, who happened to be Albert Milsoms brother-in-law, living in Milsoms house.
Milsom and Fowler had meanwhile vanished. Police finally discovered them in a travelling waxworks show, which billed itself as The Chamber of Horrors and was currently exhibiting in Bath. The massively built Fowler put up a terrific struggle, but Milsom surrendered weakly.
When the pair appeared at the Old Bailey in May 1896, the evidence against them was overwhelming. Milsom made a statement in which he said they took £112 from Henry Smiths safe. They battered the old man, then finished him off with a knife.
Fowler killed him, Milsom claimed. I begged and prayed him to save the old mans life, and I ran away, and Fowler ran after me and fetched me back, and Fowler went and done the robbery.
Fowler responded: My pals a dirty dog. He had half the money, and he put his foot on the old mans neck until he was sure he was dead. Then we went upstairs, him first, and we found the old mans trousers with the keys of the safe in the pocket.
While the jury went out to deliberate, for some unaccountable reason Milsom and Fowler were left standing in the dock. Fowler sprang at Milsom like a tiger, intent on killing him, hands outstretched to grasp his neck. Women in the court screamed as he swung four warders around like dolls before five constables subdued him.
Found guilty, the two men were hanged on Tuesday, June 9th, 1896, at Newgate Prison. They were joined on the scaffold by a third man, a sailor aptly named William Seaman, whose story follows.