Monday, 16 February 2009

Friday 16 February, 1894

RH says.....
The following day, the Times reported the Greenwich Park explosion of the 15 February. The reporter, focusing on the idea of an anarchist conspiracy, does not seem to have thought that the Observatory could have been a premeditated target, believing rather that Bourdin was trying to get rid of explosives before being found by the police. There are arguments against this account, not least the fact that the path Bourdin was on was by no means isolated and that it led only to the Observatory. If you were trying to dispose of a bomb there would be better places to try than this!

Last evening an explosion was heard by a keeper of Greenwich Park on the hill close to the Royal Observatory. Proceeding thither he found a respectably-dressed man, in a kneeling posture, terribly mutilated.
***One hand was blown off and the body was open. The injured man was only able to say, "Take me home," and was unable to reply to a question as to where his home was. He was taken to the Seamen's Hospital on an ambulance, and died in less than half an hour.
***A bottle, in many pieces, which had apparently contained an explosive substance, was found near the spot where the explosion took place, and it is conjectured that the deceased man fell and caused its contents to explode.
***The deceased, who was not known in Greenwich, is a young man of about 30, supposed to be a foreigner. The only evidence of identification was a card bearning the name "Bourbon." Several letters, which the police have taken possession of, were found upon him, and it is stated that his hands were covered with a black substance, which cannot be got off.

The Central News says: - The London police have discovered an Anarchist conspiracy. These facts, among others, are beyond dispute - that the inquiries of the detectives, although cautiously made, frightened the plotters, that the gang hurriedly scattered, and that its chief met with his death last evening when endeavouring to carry away to some place the explosives which were to have been used against society either in this country or in France.
[The report goes on to say that the police had been watching a particular house off Tottenham Court Road in London - a district that had "long been notorious as the favourite domicile of the most advanced section of the Socialist party and of the Anarchists, English and foreign" - especially following a bombing of the Cafe Terminus in Paris by one Emile Henry. On 15 February only two men entered...]
***.....One of them, a foreigner, who had all along been considered a leader among the conspirators, made his way to Charing-cross Station, South Eastern Railway, and there, it is now known, took a third-class ticket to Greenwich.
***For the moment, the subsequent movements of this man can only be conjectured, for he is now lying dead in a suburban mortuary. But there is practically no room for doubt that he was fleeing from the police, and that his immediate desire was to rid himself safely of the explosives which he had taken away with him..... it may be assumed that, it now being quite dusk, the man stumbled and fell, with the result that the infernal machine or machines which he was carrying exploded on his own person. It is possible that at the last moment, remembering that the Observatory was a Government building, he decided to expend his explosives against it. But this theory does not fit in with known facts. The sound of the explosion was heard as far away as the Chatham and Dover Railway station.....
***The park-keepers who heard it thought something had gone wrong at the Royal Observatory, and rushed thither without delay. ...

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