In That Irishman I point out that Arthur Conan Doyle’s arch-villain, Professor Moriarty, shares traits and background with the Fenian leader, John O’Connor Power. That Irishman, Moriarty, represents the Fenian threat to the British Empire. pp.125-127.
I quote a paragraph from O’Connor Power’s The Making of an Orator (1906), the same year Conan Doyle took up the George Edalji case. In the chapter on ‘Logic and Debate’ he describes a criminal lawyer, who in Sherlock Holmes fashion, deliberates on a prisoner’s guilt or innocence:
He shows in the first place that, although the prisoner’s boots agree with the footmarks in size and shape, there is one peculiar impression missing: those footmarks which they must have received if they had been made by the boots of the prisoner. Both boots have on the outside heel a half-tip, which stands well above the heel sole, the impression of which would be plainly visible if the footmarks really belonged to the prisoner. The footmarks are without this impression and are perfectly smooth and level.
O’Connor Power practised as a criminal lawyer and was well aware of Arthur Conan Doyle’s interest in the George Edalji miscarriage of justice. Edalji was an Anglo-Indian solicitor, who lived with his family in a Staffordshire village, where his Parsi father, a convert, was the Church of England vicar. George’s mother was Scottish. Irish Nationalists made common cause with Indian Nationalists and had helped elect a Parsi to the Finsbury Central seat in 1892, thus giving India a voice at Westminster.
Conan Doyle threw his weight behind the appeal, providing positive publicity. Carrying out intensive investigations, he revisited the scene of the crime, interviewing key witnesses and the defendant. He was the protagonist of his own real life detective story.
The persecution of the Edalji family was long-standing, virulent and racist. In 1903, horses were cruelly mutilated and George Edalji was arrested. Constable Cooper gave evidence at the trial, producing one of Edalji’s boots which had a very worn heel. It was circumstantial and no plaster of paris cast or image of the actual footprint had been made for the purpose of comparison.