Hunter, Elizabeth
In this despatch, Douglas acknowledges the receipt of a handbill that describes a child who is supposed to have been recently stolen from her parents at Islington.1 According to the handbill, which Douglas published in the Government Gazette of British Columbia, the child in question was Elizabeth Hunter. She was kidnapped on 30 March 1862 by a respectably dressed man.2 By 9 May 1863, she was still missing, and the British government offered several incentives for any information regarding her disappearance. This included a reward of £50 for the discovery and conviction of the person or persons who decoyed away the said Elizabeth Hunter, the grant of pardon to any accomplice providing evidence leading to the conviction of the offender, and an additional £50 for anyone with information leading to the recovery of Hunter and the conviction of the offender.3 She is described as having a pale complexion, light hair and eyes, a large scar on one of her cheeks, and had been wearing a pair of gold earrings.4
According to an article published in The Daily News, Hunter was with her older sister when they were approached by an older man on William Street in Islington. This man, named William Henry Clarke, asked Hunter to deliver a letter for him, offering twopence for the task; however, the older sister prevented her from accepting. The man proceeded to take Hunter by the hand and walk away with her. The older sister followed but lost sight of them, and that was the last she ever saw of her sister.5
The Daily News criticized the Islington police force for their inadequate handling of Hunter’s abduction, stating that no house-to-house inquiries were made on the street where she disappeared, and that they had failed to examine other local cases of recent crimes against children. Had these actions been taken, the police would have sooner identified Clarke, who worked at the nursery where Hunter’s remains were found, and had two previous incidents of tampering with female children. The article ends by noting that a more scandalous instance of general police incapacity has rarely come under our notice.6
  • 1. Douglas to Newcastle, 14 August 1863, no. 47, 9504, CO 60/16, 87.
  • 2. "Child Stealing", Government Gazzette II (1863): 1.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. "Our Alleged Defective Police System", Public Opinion 4 (1863), 66.
  • 6. Ibid.
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Douglas, James

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British Columbia

The Colonial Despatches Team. Hunter, Elizabeth. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. The Colonial Despatches Team. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/hunter_e.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)