Friday, 10 March 2017

Scandinavian Shooting

A Norwegian sailor who shot his friend dead was sentenced to just a year's imprisonment. 

For three weeks over the Christmas period at the end of 1911 two Norwegian sailors, Alfred Martinsen and Alfred Karlsen, slept in a dormitory at the Scandinavian Hotel in Great George Street. The pair got on well but things took a turn for the worse at on Saturday 6th January 1912 when drink got the better of them.

Scandinavian Hotel in 2013
 At around 11pm they returned to their lodgings with Karlsen being in a merry mood. He put on cap then pretended to be an officer, walking up and down the aisles giving orders to men who were asleep. Without warning, Martinsen appeared and produced a revolver, firing it straight at Karlsen. A bullet entered Karlsen's eye and he collapsed and died instantly. 

Martinsen, realising what he had done, desperately tried to revive his friend but could not do so and after surrendering the gun went to his bed where he laid down to await his inevitable arrest. He offered no resistance when taken into custody by Constable Jennings, saying he could not bear the thought of what he had done. On being told he would be charged with murder he said simply 'Go ahead.' He appeared before magistrates on the Monday morning and was remanded in custody.

On 25th January Martinsen was brought before the police court, where the prosecutor Mr Duder asked for the case to be sent to the assizes before the inquest had taken place. This was an unusual step, but Mr Duder stated that they were imminent and the cost of bringing witnesses from Norway later in the year would be expensive. Mr Duder admitted he could find no motive for the attack and suggested that Martinsen was in a state of semi drunkenness and mistakenly thought he had quarrelled with his friend. 

Alfred Martinsen
Another Norwegian seaman named Segrid Wille said that shortly before the incident he had been in a public house with the two men and Martinsen had shown them the gun. The licensee asked them to leave and they did so, being best of friends at that time. A lady called Mathilde Odegaard recalled seeing Martinsen and Karlsen together on the night of the tragedy and they had been on good terms. One of the men who had been asleep in the dormitory, Hilding Olsson, recalled that Karlsen was parading up and down shouting to people 'Get up and work'. Olsson went on to say that on hearing a gunshot, he got up and saw Martinsen leaning over the body of his friend, who had blood coming from his eye. 

The shooting had been witnessed by Sedberg Hermansson, who described both men as being sober but having had some drink. He said that they were only ten feet apart when the shot was fired and Martinsen immediately went forward and said 'What is the matter Karlsen are you dead.'  Martinsen, who was rubbing Karlsen's head, immediately handed the revolver to a Danish seaman when asked to do so.

Dr Naughton Dunn from the Southern Hospital revealed the results of the postmortem which took place after Karlsen had been pronounced dead at 11.45pm. The bullet had passed through the eye and passed right through the brain and bounded off the skull, causing instant death. After Constable Jennings gave evidence as to the arrest, Martinsen was committed for trial at the forthcoming assizes which were just two weeks away.

When Martinsen appeared at the assizes on 12th February, it was accepted by the jury that he had not had any malice aforethought and not intended to kill. He was found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment. 

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