14 February 1927
- VOLUNTARY RETURN TO CAPTIVITY -
AFTER ESCAPE 39 YEARS AGO.
From OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, Wokingham, Berkshire , Sunday.
A footsore, half-starved, wizened little man with grey hair and wrinkled face walked up to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum late on Friday night and begged to be allowed to enter.
He declared that he escaped from the institution 39 years ago, and after roving all over the world had come back to set his conscience at rest and die in peace. The attendant summoned an official, who was incredulous when the story was told and a telephone message was sent to the police at Wokingham, 4 ½ miles away, asking them to remove a lunatic! The man was brought to Wokingham and charged with being a lunatic wandering abroad.
The story he told of his friendless flight from justice, the ever-haunting fear that he might fall into the hands of the police, and the constant dread as old age approached that he might die alone and unknown, beats any scenario ever written for the film millionaires.
He declared that he was James Kelly, who in July 1883 was sentenced to death at Old Bailey for the murder of his wife. At that time he was 23 years of age and was an upholsterer. He was under the delusion that his wife had been associating with other men and in a fit of passion stabbed her.
At his trial he was defended by the famous Criminal Lawyer, Mr. Montagu Williams, who made a passionate appeal to the jury to find Kelly insane. This plea did not succeed, but the jury added a recommendation to mercy. Shortly before the day fixed for his execution he was reprieved and sent to Broadmoor "during her Majesty's Pleasure".
At the asylum he harboured a grievance that he was being unjustly treated and plotted to escape. In his spare time he made a key to fit his cell and on January 23, 1888 nearly five years after he arrived at the Criminal Lunatic Asylum, he walked out and disappeared.
There was a widespread hue and cry but no trace could be found of Kelly, who however, was hiding close to the Asylum.
Later he made his way to the east coast. At one port he was working in a ship when a policeman recognized him and went aboard to arrest him. Kelly however saw the constable and again disappeared.
A few weeks later, he says, he worked his passage in a Channel boat to France and earned a precarious livelihood in the Montmartre quarter of Paris. He returned to England and then went to Rotterdam. Later he became a seaman, and as such travelled all over the world.
Some weeks ago he worked his passage from New Orleans to Liverpool whence he tramped to London. Since then he has walked the streets, getting a few pence by doing odd jobs.
"I have no friends and am all alone in the world" he said. "I have wandered all these years feeling that I am a fugitive who might be pounced on by any policeman I passed. I am getting feeble now from the constant fear and I dreaded the idea of dying alone."
When Kelly appeared before the magistrates yesterday he appealed to be allowed to end his days at Broadmoor. Later in the day an order from the Home office arrived and Kelly was removed to the asylum, where he is in a ward near Ronald True.