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Murder as a Fine Art: A True Story of Fraud, Betrayal and Murder Across Two Continents

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On 5th February 1890, four young people left Liverpool ,sailing for New York on the S.S. Britannic. They were Reginald Birchall, his wife Florence, Frederick Benwell and Douglas Pelly. Both Benwell and Pelly had been hoodwinked into believing that part-ownership in a luxury farm holding awaited them in Niagara Falls. The scam turned into disaster. Benwell was murdered, his On 5th February 1890, four young people left Liverpool ,sailing for New York on the S.S. Britannic. They were Reginald Birchall, his wife Florence, Frederick Benwell and Douglas Pelly. Both Benwell and Pelly had been hoodwinked into believing that part-ownership in a luxury farm holding awaited them in Niagara Falls. The scam turned into disaster. Benwell was murdered, his body left to rest in the grim confines of a Canadian swamp. John Wilson Murray, acknowledged as the founder of the Ontario Provincial Police Force, was the detective given charge of the investigation, his work leading to one of the most remarkable trials in the history of the Canadian judicial system. Reginald Birchall would be at the centre of his enquiries. Can there be any doubt as to the identity of the murderer? Was the murder premeditated? Was Florence Birchall fortunate to be found guiltless of any criminal offence? Is it possible that the murderer's familiarity with Thomas de Quincey's essay "On Murder, Considered as One of the Fine Arts" , influenced his future behaviour? Following extensive research in both Canada and England, the author describes the history of the crime from its origin in a farm-pupil emigration scam, through to post trial events, concluding with reference to Canadian commemorative ceremonies and staged re-enactments held over the past twenty five years. The unearthing of previously unidentified correspondence is central to making this richly illustrated book an important addition to earlier recorded accounts of a crime which attracted media attention across North America and Europe.


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On 5th February 1890, four young people left Liverpool ,sailing for New York on the S.S. Britannic. They were Reginald Birchall, his wife Florence, Frederick Benwell and Douglas Pelly. Both Benwell and Pelly had been hoodwinked into believing that part-ownership in a luxury farm holding awaited them in Niagara Falls. The scam turned into disaster. Benwell was murdered, his On 5th February 1890, four young people left Liverpool ,sailing for New York on the S.S. Britannic. They were Reginald Birchall, his wife Florence, Frederick Benwell and Douglas Pelly. Both Benwell and Pelly had been hoodwinked into believing that part-ownership in a luxury farm holding awaited them in Niagara Falls. The scam turned into disaster. Benwell was murdered, his body left to rest in the grim confines of a Canadian swamp. John Wilson Murray, acknowledged as the founder of the Ontario Provincial Police Force, was the detective given charge of the investigation, his work leading to one of the most remarkable trials in the history of the Canadian judicial system. Reginald Birchall would be at the centre of his enquiries. Can there be any doubt as to the identity of the murderer? Was the murder premeditated? Was Florence Birchall fortunate to be found guiltless of any criminal offence? Is it possible that the murderer's familiarity with Thomas de Quincey's essay "On Murder, Considered as One of the Fine Arts" , influenced his future behaviour? Following extensive research in both Canada and England, the author describes the history of the crime from its origin in a farm-pupil emigration scam, through to post trial events, concluding with reference to Canadian commemorative ceremonies and staged re-enactments held over the past twenty five years. The unearthing of previously unidentified correspondence is central to making this richly illustrated book an important addition to earlier recorded accounts of a crime which attracted media attention across North America and Europe.

10 review for Murder as a Fine Art: A True Story of Fraud, Betrayal and Murder Across Two Continents

  1. 5 out of 5

    J.M.

    Couldn't get into it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    m.michaelis

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Draper

  4. 4 out of 5

    Donna Maguire

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina Christian

  6. 4 out of 5

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  7. 5 out of 5

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  8. 5 out of 5

    Sam Miller

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alison Diem

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carol

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