Two stories of murder – 1895

Below, are two stories of murder in the year 1895, both captured in print by Brazilian newspaper O Paiz, as well as the American-owned paper The Rio News. Unfortunately, both papers, as well as many others of the time, surely, had sizeable sections dedicated to murder and misfortune. I feel like an entire blog could be dedicated to the types of strange and sordid stories one could find perusing these sections. Some of the mysteries within them are personal – such as why three friends having a drink would end in a blood bath – while others are institutional – such as why dotting i’s and t’s on police forms were more important than medical emergencies.

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From O Paiz, dated February 18th, 1895:

“There were three friends, Americans Happ Bell, Samuel Cleary and John Kelley, the day before yesterday, togtether at a dingy bar on Rua da Saúde, sitting around a table, chatting loudly, all laughing and constantly drinking.

What happened, witnesses don’t know how to explain other than there was a large altercation, in which Happ Bell, armed with a knife, lunged towards his two companions. There was a quick and terrible fight, among the strong and agile aggressor, and those assaulted.

Samuel Cleary fell dead and soon after John Kelley received a serious injury. He was taken to the Misercórdia hospital and the body of Samuel Cleary transported to the morgue and autopsied by Dr. Thomaz Coelho.

The criminal was arrested and presented to the police chief at the 3rd precinct.”

From The Rio News, same date,

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What was three Americans becomes three foreigners from different countries. Even “Happ Bill” becomes “Happy Bill”. In both reports, John Kelley was sent to the hospital to get medical attention. It’s not mentioned if this was immediately following the attack or – as will be stated at the end of the second story – only after the police were able to take statements.


In this second story, it is again discovered that both papers gave slightly different reports, each with their own added details.

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From O Paiz:

“The day before yesterday, at Building 22, on Rua da Conceição, Sampaio train station, the Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil security guard Benedicto Jorge da Costa – seriously injured with a knife in the abdomen – was interrogated by the police chief of the 16th precinct.

The victim stated, at great cost, that on the day prior six men had attacked him on Morro do Pinto, and then evaded him. Benedicto perhaps did not finish his statement, having passed away in the presence of the authority, who had the body removed to the morgue.”

From The Rio News:

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Here, it is discovered that there used to be a “police regulation which forbids relief until a police official has taken his notes”, causing the victim to die. I employed a few different tricks up my sleeve to dig up more information on this regulation but I fear they fell short.

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