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The Negretti Murder Case

The Golden Anchor, a pub in London EC1, owned by ex-policeman Frederick Shaw, was the scene of a brawl that had extraordinary repercussions for Henry Negretti, senior partner of Negretti & Zambra, the well-known scientific instrument makers.  On Boxing Day in 1865 a fight broke out between a group of Englishmen and a group of Italians, resulting in the death of one of the Englishmen.  One of the Italians, Serafino Pelizzioni, also wounded at the scene, was accused of the murder.

Mr Negretti, a well-esteemed and reputable member of the local community, had in the past acted as unofficial judge amongst his fellow countrymen.  This case puzzled him and he set about investigations.  The murder weapon was discovered 20 yards from the pub, but the accused had not been able to leave the building and could not have dropped or thrown it after allegedly stabbing the Englishman.  Further questioning revealed that Pelizzioni had been at another pub at the height of the fray and that it was his cousin, a Gregorio Mogni who resembled him, who was responsible.  However, despite Mr Negretti’s interventions, Pelizzioni was charged with ‘Wilful Murder’ and sentenced to hang.

Mr Negretti knew that an innocent man had been convicted.  Through his contacts he discovered the whereabouts of Mogni, confronted him and obtained a confession.  This confession was repeated to the Superintendent at Kings Cross police station.  However, it was not taken seriously and Mr Negretti resorted to the British prerogative of arresting Mogni himself.  The Crown refused to prosecute so it was up to Mr Negretti to bring the charge of murder in a private case.  Evidence that had been ruled out as hearsay at the trial of Pelizzioni could now be told and several eyewitnesses identified Mogni as the person who had wielded the knife.  Mogni was committed to stand trial at the Old Bailey, charged with wilful murder, later amended to manslaughter.

Following the very strong case that Mr Negretti presented, the Grand Jury had no hesitation in returning a verdict of manslaughter and Mogni was sentenced to five years imprisonment.  Mr Negretti was commended for his public-spirited action and the authorities were seriously rebuked for their mistake.

The English Justice system was now faced with an extraordinary situation – two separate individuals had both been prosecuted and convicted of killing the same man.  However, on Easter Monday of that same year, Henry Negretti’s detective work had its reward: he was notified that Her Majesty had been pleased to grant Serafino Pelizzioni a full pardon and had ordered his immediate release.

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