This story comes from the book Celebrated Criminal Cases of America by Thomas Duke. It is a work in the public domain. Some of the stories featured will be bonus episodes on Okie Investigations. At the end of the story, you can read the newspaper clippings that go along with the story. It’s incredible to see what was written about in each crime at the time.
On December 22, 1892, the bark Hesper, carrying a valuable cargo, sailed from Newcastle, N. S. W., for this port. On January 13, 1893, Second Mate Maurice Fitzgerald took command of the midnight watch, which consisted of three sailors, named Thomas St. Clair, Herman Sparf and Hans Hansen. It was a black, wild night, the seas were running high and the wind howled through the rigging. But above this noise, the captain’s wife heard a shriek; the dog on the deck began to bark, and then all was silent. The sullen conduct of the sailors above mentioned had already aroused suspicion, and it was at once decided that something was amiss.
The officers of the ship armed themselves and went aft with lanterns. A search was made for Mate Fitzgerald, but, instead of finding him, a considerable amount of blood was found on the deck near the ship’s side. An attempt had been made to wash it away, but the job was poorly done because of the blackness of the night. A hatchet was then found, upon which was blood and some of Fitzgerald’s hair.
The three sailors were then overpowered, placed in irons and brought to San Francisco. Sparf confessed that, when at sea a few days, Hansen, St. Clair and himself entered into a conspiracy to kill the officers, seize the ship and dispose of the cargo in Chile. He then made the following statement:
“On the night in question, we inveigled Fitzgerald to the side of the ship and then split his head open with a hatchet. He uttered one cry and fell. Then the dog began to bark. We threw the mate overboard, and, realizing that there must be considerable blood on the deck, although it was too dark to see, we washed it off as best we could, and then the officers appeared on deck.”
St. Clair and Hansen were tried in the Federal Courts and found guilty. On October 18, 1895, they were hanged at San Quentin.