Edward Wynne's brush with death
Translated from German from a Liegen (?) paper - 29 April 1878:
A robber story, of the most exciting description we wish to relate this day to our readers - a real, true robber story, a midnight housebreaking with pursuit by horses and on foot, with revolver shots, and a bloody struggle for life or death - ! We will enter upon the description at once, as we have not many minutes to spare, taking it from the most reliable source, viz the personal account given by the chief hero of our sketch.
To business, therefore! - - Well known are the owners of the firm, "The West Prussian Mining Company, Limited," the Messrs Wynne who reside in the village of Niederfischbach near Kirchen on the Sieg, occupying a fine house with garden and stables adjoining, whilst the coachman's house is close by.
Last Thursday the male element in the house was represented by Messrs Edward and A Wynne. The lower storey of the house contains the kitchen and in the 1st floor are the dining and billiard rooms and a few sitting rooms whilst the bedrooms are in the upper storey. On Friday night the above named gentlemen were awakened at about three o'clock in the morning by a noise which seemed to come from the lower storey, and which at first they did not heed further, until there was mingled a sharp metallic clang. Both gentlemen at once dressed, descended the stairs and saw to their amazement the whole of the first floor brightly illuminated; imagining as they saw the tables and chairs standing in a disorderly manner, that one of the maids had turned the room topsy turvey at an unusual hour, soon however they were of another opinion.
They found the cupboards bare, the bolts torn out, the silver, the billiard table cover, the billiard balls together with other things and also some money abstracted, whilst the burglars who had forced their way into the other rooms had vainly expended their art on the money safe. Meanwhile there was not a trace of the thieves, only a few objects strewn outside the house amongst others a silver fork (the fall of which upon the stones accounted for the clang which had been heard at first) and some footprints in the flower beds gave a clue to the direction taken.
Mr. E. Wynne resolved at once - the only proper thing to do - to follow after the thief in the direction of the railway. The coachman who was already awakened immediately saddled a horse and our Mr. W. having completed his equipment and taken a revolver with him, trotted off by dawn of day towards Kirchen. The distance is about two hours. For some time nothing to excite suspicion appeared, till at last, not far from the Kirchener Hutte Mr Wynne espied 2 very well dressed people each provided with a bundle, who appeared to be resting themselves.
"These are my lads!" thinks W. He is however sufficiently polite to ride past them with the most innocent air in the world, so much so, as to wish them good morning, which in a friendly manner they returned. Still considering in his own mind how best to apprise the policeman who lived near, without being seen, he met a workman with whom he was acquainted and quickly gave him instructions. The bearers of the bundles had in the meanwhile withdrawn: W. recognised the foottracks of one of these precisely those seen at the house.
The gendarme arrived and they followed, after Mr W. had left his horse at some distance from the men suspected, who however had not struck as they expected the way to Kirchen but to Betzdorf. Having reached the spot the gendarme advised Mr. Wynne to direct his course to the Station, whilst he himself bent his steps towards Hohenbetzdorf, in order in any case not let the two out of their sight. As Mr. Wynne was on his way to the Station he saw the gendarme hastily make a sign to him, and at once he set out to run in order to clear the 200 paces which lay between, perceiving however as he reached the neighbourhood of a factory with the policeman the guilty parties in rapid flight, and already at some distance while the totally unarmed gendarme asked him hastily for a weapon. Wynne gives the revolver into the hand of the official - (this proved afterwards unfortunate for him - ) who loudly ordered a halt, fired without result, ran a few more paces, and declared it then an impossibility that he could run any further. The long and quick race in the thick overcoat had completely exhausted the man.
Mr. Wynne has now the two thieves here separate and now one has already vanished out of sight and the other climbed a height by the way, in order to escape into a wood; and anger at his apparent failure gives him (W.) new strength. With that cold-blooded courage which is acknowledged to be a national virtue of England, W. follows him uphill. Already he hears the breathing of the rogue before him, already stretches out his arm, to seize his man by the collar, when at 3 paces distant the latter dives into his breast pocket, draws a revolver and fires. Mr Wynne throws himself to one side, stretches out his right arm to shield himself, and receives the ball above the wrist of his outstretched arm, upon which the shot striking a bone, runs along it to near the elbow. W. staggers somewhat and the bandit, in cold blood, aims the murderous weapon straight at the breast of the unarmed man. The latter in desperation seizes the barrel in the act of its being discharged. The shot goes off and only scorches the skin a little between the thumb and forefinger. W. now throws himself with his entire strength upon his antagonist who falls, struggles up once more; a third shot grazes his chest without penetrating. With the desperate struggle however the fellow falls, and this time Mr. Wynne succeeds in wrenching the revolver from him. It was high time. The finger of the right hand had already failed through loss of blood. The left hand only was able, if need be, to thrust away the deadly shot. W. however put on an appearance of full strength. Holding the revolver close to the head of the rascal he said "Villain! If you stir, I'll fire!" and shouts aloud "Gendarme, come on. I have him!" The miserable fellow on the ground cringingly besought him to spare his life. He, who a moment past as victor, had wantonly and without any consideration levelled his revolver at the wounded man's breast, lamented now and cursed his hard fate, that he should miserably die here.
This time, however, it will not cost him his life. The Gendarme arrived at last at the spot, and quickly secured the villain. So for the present made fast, they began to examine his person and things, and found in the bundle nothing but objects from the robbery of the Wynnes' house. In his coat pockets were also the billiard balls etc. Now then the fellow who cried for mercy and who sought to give himself out as the paid Porter of the 2nd, was put on the right track for Kirchen and soon after various young folk of the neighbourhood succeeded in capturing the man who had escaped, though, as before, not without the discharges of several (fortunately harmless) revolver shots. The fellows who must have come from Deutz on the Rhine, and had already repeatedly rendered unsafe the district round Kirchen, are now all the more carefully guarded as one oft time after he knows how to release himself from his chains has already nearly succeeded thereby in an attempt at breaking loose. In any case they are most dangerous persons whose handicraft will cease now for a long time.
They wore very good, almost splendid, garments, but took blouses with them as well, to enable them in case of need to reconnoitre the houses as travelling journeymen. For this reason it must have been, that the day before, one of them had been in the Wynnes' house under the pretext of begging for charity.
The hero of our story having received medical assistance has apparently past through the desperate struggle without dangerous consequences. The day before yesterday he seemed quite well as he visited our place of business, complaining only of pain in the injured arm (which was bandaged) but which he thought would go off without fever or partial damage to the wounded arm.
This then is the conclusion of a robber story which fortunately stands alone in our neighbourhood. It shews what dangerous people coming to and fro from a distance, roam over our land, and how necessary it is that the man of means living alone should be upon his guard. Foresight in each case and indomitable courage in danger. Mr Wynne has displayed the latter in a really brilliant manner.