Academic journal article Folklore

Browne, Kennedy and the "Tell-Tale Eye": A Response to Campion-Vincent

Academic journal article Folklore

Browne, Kennedy and the "Tell-Tale Eye": A Response to Campion-Vincent

Article excerpt

As a former criminal court and crime reporter and a folklorist, may I comment on Veronique Campion-Vincent's excellent paper on the "Tell-Tale Eye" (Folklore 110 [1999]:13-24)?

Michael Goss's reference in footnote 2 to The Trial of Browne and Kennedy by W. Teignmouth Shore says that the belief that the eyes of a dying person registered or "photographed" their last vision was tabloid invention and not widely held.

Shore's book is the only virtually verbatim report of the 1928 case and, in keeping with the publishers' rules about each of their "Notable Trials" series, it was prepared with access to judges, counsel and solicitors, legal papers and records. As a history of the case, publication might, as Campion-Vincent says, be "quasi-contemporaneous" but publication less than two years after trial was not at that time remarkable for such a diligently prepared report.

The "Tell-Tale Eye" angle comes, not from the tabloids or from Teignmouth Shore, but was inferred from Kennedy's own statement that he went round the car, and saw Browne with a Webley in his hand. The policeman was dying (and on his back) and Browne, still sitting in the car, addressing him, said, "What are you looking at me like that for?" and stooping down shot the policeman at close range through both eyes. Only four shots in all were fired (see The Trial of Browne and Kennedy, p. 49). The manner in which the statement was obtained by police was challenged at the magistrates' court committal proceedings, but the challenge was abandoned at the trial. …

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