6th May, 1897.
REPORT ON THE LETTER WRITTEN ON A TORN TELEGRAM FORM SIGNED "F.R.", BY MR. T.H. GURRIN, EXPERT IN HANDWRITING.
Mr. THOMAS HENRY GURRIN, of 59, Holborn Viaduct, London, E.C., is a professional expert in handwriting, recognized and employed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Home Office, and the authorities at Scotland Yard, and is constantly engaged by them in that capacity. He is also frequently engaged in the same capacity by the Bank of England and other public bodies.
He has acted as handwriting expert in a very large number of civil and criminal cases at sessions, assizes, and before the High Courts, for over twelve years past, and can conscientiously say that his experience in the identification of genuine handwriting and the detection of forged and altered documents is very extensive.
Mr. Gurrin begs respectfully to submit the following report:—
'Having been instructed by Mr. Braunstein, solicitor, of 27, Great George Street, Westminster, I have examined a photograph of torn portions of a letter written on a telegram form of the South African Republic.
'My attention has been directed to the evidence of Major Sir J.C. Willoughby, appearing at page 302 of the Minutes, in which he has given his version of the missing portions of this document.
'I have compared this version of the missing words with the vacant spaces, and I find that the words supplied in question 5,571 would occupy, as near as can be estimated, the missing spaces, judging from the other writing in the document.
'I read the first portion of the document as follows:—
"The rumour of massacre in"
"Johannesburg that started you to our"
"relief was not true. We are all right;"
"feeling intense; we have armed"
"a lot of men. Shall (not 'I shall') be very glad"
"to see you. We are not in possession of"
'Major Sir J.C. Willoughby reads line 6, "We (or the Boers)." It cannot possibly be "the Boers," as the first letter is clearly a portion of a capital "W," and corresponds with the first portion of the "W" as made at line 3; and further, there would be no room for the two words "the Boers," between the portion of the letter "W" and the word "not."
'Again, I am of opinion that the last word in line 6 was "of," as there is still visible an ascending curved stroke corresponding to that with which the writer terminates the letter "f."
'With reference to the rest of the version as contained in question 5,573, I respectfully submit that the missing words supplied are absolutely inconsistent with the spaces which these words would occupy if written naturally by the same writer.
'The words "I will bring at least three hundred" do not correspond with the still existing marks on line 7. The portion of a letter appearing in the middle of the line would not, as far as I can judge, be a part of any of the words suggested which would come at the centre of that line. It might be a part of a capital "W," or an initial "p," or it might be a final "d" turned back to the left, and the last letter in the line looks as though it was intended for an "e." In support of this theory, I compare it with the "e" at the end of the word "true" in line 3, and the "e" at the end of "intense," line 4. The writer, when making a final "d," makes the latter portion of the letter something like this, but in the instances in this document he exerts more pressure than we find here, see, for instance, the "d" in "started," at line 2, the "d" in "glad," in line 5, and "d" in "armed," line 4. Besides, I cannot think that this can be the end of the word "hundred," as, judging from the length of the word "started," the word "hundred" would have occupied from the third vertical line, and this would certainly leave no room for the other words suggested in the version given by Major Sir J.C. Willoughby, viz.: "We will bring at least, or about three." If the words "will send out some," or "we will send out some," are written in line 7 after the word "town," adopting, as nearly as possible, the space that would have been occupied by the writer for these words, they will just fill the line. In like manner, with regard to line 8, there is just room after the words "men to" for the two words "meet you," and the small mark appearing before the full stop might have been the terminal of the letter "u," but it would have been impossible to get into this small space the words "meet you at Krugersdorp," and even if the words "meet you at" were omitted, and if it be assumed that the word which originally stood there was "Krugersdorp," then the mark appearing before the full stop could not by any theory be construed as having been a portion of the letter "p," as I have examined various specimens of Colonel Rhodes' handwriting, and have seen him write specimens containing the letter "p" and find that he does not terminate a "p" with any stroke of this description, but that he terminates it inside the oval portion of the letter near the downstroke. With regard to the rest of the line, the last two letters appear to have been "ne," and there is a dot just in the position that would apparently have been occupied by the dot had the previous letter been "i." Consequently, I am of opinion that the theory that the words "will send," or "we will send out some men to meet you," "you are a fine fellow," is perfectly consistent with the spaces left in the torn document, but that the theory that the words which were originally in the spaces were "I will bring at least or about three hundred men to meet you at Krugersdorp, you are a gallant fellow," is not only inconsistent with the amount of space available, but does not fit in with the letters and portions of letters still visible.
Contents of the letter according to a statement signed by Dr. Jameson, Sir John Willoughby, Major Robert White and Colonel Raleigh Grey:—
'The rumour of massacre in Johannesburg that started you to our relief was not true. We are all right, feeling intense. We have armed a lot of men. I shall be very glad to see you. We (or the Boers) are not in possession of the town. I will bring at least, or about, 300 men to meet you at Krugersdorp. You are a gallant fellow.'
According to Colonel Francis Rhodes and Mr. Lionel Phillips, the contents are as follows:—
'The rumour of massacre in Johannesburg that started you to our relief was not true. We are all right, feeling intense. We have armed a lot of men. Shall be very glad to see you. We are not in possession of the town. We will send out some men to meet you. You are a fine fellow.'
'We, the undersigned, were present in the Reform Committee's room when Colonel Rhodes despatched the letter to Dr. Jameson, which commences, "Dear Dr.—The rumour of massacre." We read the letter, but cannot now recall the exact words on the missing fragments; but we do hereby declare on oath that there was no offer of 300 men, nor of any other specific number of men, nor was the word Krugersdorp mentioned. The spirit of the letter was to suggest that a few men should or would be sent in the character of a complimentary escort to show Dr. Jameson his camp.
'GEO. W. FARRAR.
'J. Percy FitzPatrick.
'Johannesburg, 10th April, 1897.'