Guilty or Innocent Oscar Slater and the Murder of Miss Gilchrist Part 1

About the murder of Miss Marion Gilchrist, account of the search for the murderer and the capture of suspect Oscar Slater.

Oscar Slater--The Great Suspect

On Dec. 21, 1908, a stormy night in Glasgow, Scotland, Marion Gilchrist, a fastidious and cultured spinster in her 80s, sat reading in her dining room at 15 Queens Terrace. Precisely at seven o-clock, her servant girl, Helen Lambie, left the tenement to fetch a newspaper. She returned at 7:10 and was surprised to see Mr. Adams, the downstairs tenant, pacing the landing. He had heard funny noises, he said, "like sticks breaking," coming from the apartment. As Helen unlocked the door, a man darted from the bedroom, walked by her in the hall, then stepped briskly down the stairs past Mr. Adams. To Adams's surprise, Helen uttered not a word. Then he heard screams coming from the dining room, where Helen had found Miss Gilchrist lying on the floor with every bone in her head brutally smashed and the hearth awash in blood. Adams bolted down the stairway, but the assailant had already vanished into the gloom of that rainy night.

Clues were sparse. Adams and Lambie described the man as 25 to 30, 5 ft. 8 in. tall, clean-shaven, and wearing a long gray overcoat and dark cap. Under a lamppost, Mary Barrowman, 14, had collided with a man fleeing the apartment, but she described him as tall and thin and wearing different clothes. Of all Miss Gilchrist's jewels, only a diamond brooch was missing.

On Christmas Day, the Glasgow police received a tip that a man about 30, 5 ft. 8 in. tall, clean-shaven, and living only a few minutes' walk from Miss Gilchrist's apartment, had pawned a diamond brooch. The police were directed to a flat occupied by A. Anderson, Dentist, otherwise known as Oscar Slater, gambler and trafficker in jewelry. Suspiciously, Slater had left only an hour before, bound for Liverpool. The next day, he and his mistress, Andree Antoine, embarked aboard the Lusitania for America under the alias Mr. and Mrs. Otto Sando.

Certain Slater was their man, the Glasgow police cabled New York, and when the Lusitania dropped anchor, six detectives boarded and arrested him for the murder of Marion Gilchrist. In his pocket, they found a pawn ticket for a diamond brooch.

Lambie, Adams, and Barrowman then crossed the Atlantic to identify Slater. Adams was hesitant, but Lambie and Barrowman, upon seeing Slater enter the courtroom handcuffed between two U.S. marshals, were sure he was the man. During the extradition proceedings, Slater surprised everyone by volunteering to return to Scotland.

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