Sunday, September 6, 2009

Detecting a Murderer

"The origin of the curious custom of making persons suspected of murder touch the murdered body for the discovery of their guilt or innocence is interesting. This method of finding out murderers was practised in Denmark by King Christian II.

The story goes that it arose in the following way; Certain gentlemen being on an evening together in a tavern, fell out among themselves, and from words grew to blows, insomuch that one of them was stabbed with a poniard.

Now the murderer was unknown, by reason of the number, although the person stabbed before death accused a pursuivant who was one of the company.

The king, to find out the homicide, caused them all to come together, and, standing round the dead body, he commanded that they should, one after another, lay their right hands on the dead man's naked breast, swearing that they had not killed him.

The gentlemen did so, and no sign appeared against them. The pursuivant alone remained, who, condemned before in his own conscience, went first of all and kissed the dead man's feet, but as soon as he laid his hand on his breast, the blood, we are told, gushed forth both out of his wound and his nostrils, so that, urged by this evident accusation, he confessed the murder, and was, by the king's own sentence, immediately beheaded."

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