12th March, 2 Comments
By John Watson
Over Christmas I amassed a pile of books to review and one of these is this set of official documents, published by MX Publishing on behalf of Detective Inspector Kieron Freeburn (retd.) of New Scotland Yard. Freeburn discovered a dusty folio at an auction in Exeter. As a result of his examination of the contents he believes that they are the original police case files that detail the investigation by Scotland Yard represented by our good friend, Inspector Lestrade and various members of the Devon County Constabulary into the story that I recalled under the title “The Hound of the Baskervilles”.
This is the first time I have seen the witness statements, medical files and original police reports that chronicle the police view of the case covering the death of Sir Charles Baskerville, the killing of the hound and the tragic aftermath.
At the outset, I must state that I have not seen the original documents although I understand that the publishers have received a request from the USA to purchase the originals. The set I have been provided with (which you can obtain for yourselves here) are facsimilies of the originals which are said to be in a delicate condition. The author, possibly on the advice of the publisher, has decided to type up many of the documents in a copperplate script to make them easier to reproduce and read than the original handwritten and typed versions.
However, there do appear to be some discrepancies between these documents and my own records of the case. I am, in this repect, grateful to Roger Johnson of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, pointing out to me that the post mortem report on Sir Charles gives Sir Henry’s name; Selden’s name changes from Arthur to Albert; Mrs Lyons is referred to as Miss Lyons, and Barrymore once refers to his wife as his sister! Some of these errors may have occurred in the transcription from the orginals. In the original publication of my version of the events in the Strand, the death of Sir Charles were stated as occurring at the beginning of May. This was later changed to June when the account was published in book form but the police records still refer to these events as occurring in May rather than June. The “tone” of some of the police reports has, I think, something to do with the resentment that the police felt about Holmes becoming involved in the investigation.
The Annotated Sherlock Holmes and the volume on The Hound of the Baskervilles from the Sherlock Holmes Reference Library are useful aids in checking the validity of these documents. My own view is that whilst they do not shed any further light on the events they do provide a useful background to Holmes’ investigation and an insight into the official police view at the time.