10/15/13

Detective Foo, A Chinese Sherlock Holmes, Solves A Murder!

In 1885 a Chinese laundryman, Wong Sing Lee, was found brutally murdered in Rome, New York. The laundryman had been stabbed numerous times but there was no sign that he had put up a struggle. The laundry had been ransacked and there was no money or jewelry to be found so it was assumed that robbery was involved as well.


Caucasian police sent from New York learned from witnesses that a foreigner wearing very fancy clothes had been seen a day before the murder arriving by train at Ogdensburg, New York. The evening he had been seen in Sing Lee's cottage. The next evening he had been seen at the Rome train station getting on the train to Montréal.  

Meanwhile, the New York Chinese community dispatched Detective Foo to work on the case, a move that, according to the newspaper reporter, was pooh-poohed by the caucasian police who a week later arrested a Chinaman in Burlington, Iowa, partly using identification by witnesses brought in from Rome.  However, local authorities found that he had a perfect alibi and released him.   

Detective Foo's investigation located two boys who said they had seen the stranger in the laundry on the evening of the day the stranger arrived in town.   Foo also had a surgeon re-examine the wounds on the corpse. His analysis led him to conclude that a left-handed person had inflicted the wounds.

After his investigation, this Chinese Sherlock Holmes concluded that the assassin was a Chinese laundryman who could speak, read, and write English fluently, dressed well in European style clothes, and was left-handed.  Foo surmised that the robbery was a cover-up for the real motive for the murder which was to put the victim out of the way so the assassin could retrieve some documents in his possession.  He concluded that the murderer was strong because the blows that he inflicted required strength, coolness, knowledge of the body's most vulnerable areas, and probably the work of a professional assassin.

Detective Foo sent a circular to all the Chinese friends and relatives of the victim to find out if they knew of any quarrels, lawsuits, business troubles, or love affairs involving the victim. He learned from them that the victim was the chief witness in a bitter lawsuit between two Chinese merchants in Montréal and that his testimony was considered significant because he had in his possession letters and documents harmful to the case for one of the litigants.

Foo assumed that the murderer had come from Montréal so the detective made inquiries at stops along the railroad route. He finally found another Chinese laundryman who told him that around the time of the crime a Chinese man had come and asked him for directions to the address of Wong Sing Lee. The stranger said that he came from Montréal and he was a cousin of a rich merchant there named Hong (that man was the litigant whose case would have been damaged had the murdered laundryman testified).

Foo then went to Montreal summoned the close acquaintances of the merchant, Hong, and gave them a description of the crime. He inquired which of Hong's friends and relatives wore European clothes and they all agreed that Fang Ah You was a likely suspect.  Detective Foo got a search warrant and went to Hong's place of business.  Everyone there denied knowing the whereabouts of Tong Ah You.   However, upon searching the premises thoroughly, the criminal was found hiding in a concealed room in the cellar of the establishment.  So within 48 hours after being on the case, Detective Foo was able to solve the crime.

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