Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Roasted To Death On The High Seas

In 1859 a ship's fireman who was accused of being too slack by his supervisor met a terrible death after a cruel punishment was meted against him.

Thomas Landor, a 44 year old miner from Cornwall had been mining in Chile before deciding to return home due to homesickness. He took a job on the Pacific Steam Navigation Company's ship Bogota, which sailed from Valparaiso to Liverpool via Rio, working as a fireman. However in Rio he began to complain of the intense heat and tried to pay other crew members to swap with him, but was unable to do so.

When the ship left Rio on 25th January, Landor came up on deck to try and cool down but was ordered to go back down the stokehole by John Buchanan and Archibald Mitchell, the first and second engineers respectively. When he pleaded with them Mitchell, on the orders of Buchanan, dragged him down and tied him to a ladder to make him continue his work, despite the desperate fireman's pleas for God to have mercy on him.

About half an hour later Landor was brought up but was not concious and died on deck of apoplexy and heatstroke. His body, fully clothed, was thrown overboard. The captain of the vessel had not interfered in the matter and the ship's surgeon was present as he was tied up and showed amazing indifference to the plight.

When the Bogota arrived in Liverpool on 6th March Mitchell and Buchanan were arrested and charged with murder, but after a hearing before the magistrates this was reduced to manslaughter. Despite the seriousness of the charge both were granted bail, which led to Buchanan absconding and he was never heard of again.

On 1st April Mitchell was tried and after the evidence of several crew members was heard he was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years penal servitude.

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