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Colonial Cases

R. v. Callan, 1898

[attempted murder]

R. v. Callan, 1898

Consular Court, Tangiers
Source: The Northern Miner (Queensland, Australia), 6 August 1898


An extraordinary charge of murder (writes J. M. D. in the "Australasian") is at present being heard by the British consul in the Consular Court at Tangier.

   A wealthy Englishman named Birkin accuses his secretary, or travelling companion, said to be a son of the late Phil Callan, ex-Panelize M.P., of attempting to murder him.  Birkin is a curious product of the end of the century.  His ancestors, French Huguenots named Berquin, emigrated from the Pass de Calais to England, took with them the secret of machine lace-making, and set up works in Nottingham, lace-making being now the principal manufacture there.

   Birkin, now of Tangier, in Morocco, when quite a young man, became heir to some hundreds of thousands sterling.  He is said to have been a highly cultured and intellectual person, with aesthetic and poetic leanings.  In London he drifted into a Bohemian set, and ultimately contracted tastes which have led to misunderstandings now and then. His command of money, however, procured him the best assistance and advice when in scrapes, and he seems to have formed an acquaintance with Mr. Barney Abraham, the eminent solicitor of Marlborough Street.

   One of the latter's clerks was Mr. Callan, son of the illustrious Phil - now dead, I believe.  Phil Callan was a patriot of the old school: he was accused by his Nationalist colleagues - jealous, ...

As to the Tangier case, it is said that young Callan's defence to the charge of attempted murder will prove to be of an astonishing kind.  Birkin has, however, many friends.  He spent his money freely, and when a rather notorious dramatist and poet was released from prison last year was one of three persons who subscribed £1000 a-piece to give the poet in question a fresh start in life.


Source: The Brisbane Courier (Queensland, Australia), 26 August 1898


LONDON, August 25.

Callan, who was arrested in Tangiers in July last, charged with attempting to murder Hubert Birkin, has been tried at Gibraltar, and on conviction sentenced to ten years' imprisonment.  Callan was secretary to Birkin, and, it is alleged, hoped to benefit under his will and from certain insurances.

   During the preliminary hearing of this case before the Consular Court at Tangiers on the 20th July, it was stated that Birkin's life was insured for L. 50,000.  Birkin was drinking heavily, and Callan told the landlord of the Bristol Hotel that he had come from England to take Birkin home to England, and that if it was advisable he would put him in the Gibraltar Asylum.  On the night of the shooting affray the report of the shot was heard, and cries for help, and a witness, on going to the room whence the sounds proceeded, saw Birkin covered with blood, and Callan supporting him.  Callan said, "He is a madman; I shot him with a revolver."  Birkin recovered from the wound.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School