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Remarkable detection of a murderer — his likeness photographed from the dead Victim's eye.

Scientific circles in Europe are just now much interested in a remarkable murder and detection of the murderer in Florence, Italy:

The Florence correspondent of the Morning Post reports the details of most remarkable photographic experiments on the eye of a murdered person. It appears that, on the 13th of April, 2d of June and 22d of August, last year, three murders were committed in Florence, in almost precisely similar circumstances, the victims in each case being lodging-house keepers. In each case the "corpse was discovered lying on the floor, with the throat cut from ear to ear, a pool of blood below her head, but only there — no marks of blood in any other parts of the room — and a pocket-handkerchief, the property of some one unknown, close to her person. The trinkets and money which she was supposed to have about her had disappeared, as well as other articles in the house. As no cries had been heard by the neighbors, the conclusion come to by the Florence police was to the effect that the murder had been perpetrated, in all probability, by two assassins, who had obtained admittance into the house when the poor woman was alone under the pretext of wishing to see and hire her rooms; that one of them had suddenly thrown a pocket-handkerchief over her mouth and brought her to the ground, and that, when thus held fast, and her cries effectually stifled, his accomplice had cut her throat."

Such was the conclusion come to by the police, and, in particular, by its chief officer, --the Cappo Commesso di Publica Vigilanza, Leopoldo Viti, --who, amongst other steps taken by him in each case, applied to the higher administrative and legal authorities on whom he was dependent for permission to have the eyes of the murdered woman photographed — an application which, in the belief that the granting it could lead to no practical result, was twice refused. Suspicion meantime pointed to a young man, Benjamino de Cossimo, who, on the occasion of the first murder, suddenly disappeared from Florence, and was known to have re-appeared at the time of the third murder. He was arrested, and in his possession were found articles belonging to the last murdered woman, Emilia Spagnoli, and a blood-stained knife, the blood freshly shed. Meantime the application by the Chief of Police in the third case was granted, and the experiments, with the results, are thus reported by the correspondent:

Under the direction of Marabotti, the examining judge, or Giudice d'instruziene, a series of photographic experiments have been carried on, not for the special purpose of furnishing additional criminal evidence for conviction, (as the other evidence, with that view, is believed to be superabundant,) but in order to establish a general principle, or law, of universal or very frequent application. Emilia, Spagnoli was found lying on her left side, her large, glazed right eye being turned upwards. The eye was photographed immediately after her decease. The photograph then taken has been reproduced in a greatly magnified form; so greatly magnified as to allow the lineaments of a human face, two inches in length, to stand out distinctly from the same. From the tracing of the dim and nebulous outline, as actually found on the eye, to the completed outline of the face executed from that tracing by an artist who had never seen Benjamino de Cossimo, or any portrait of the man, and again from that completed outline to the, two photographs of himself found in his possession at the time of his arrest — the transition, whether viewed as an artistic study or as a great question of medical jurisprudence, opens up inquiries of unsurpassed interest and importance. I am not, indeed, prepared to affirm that the first tracing in the series, as shown to me yesterday, so completely resembles the photograph of the living man, that were I placed in a jury box, my verdict would be determined by the belief of their identity, but of the following fact there cannot be the possibility of a doubt. Whatever there is of the marked, prominent or individual in that first nebulous profile, has exactly corresponding features in the likeness of the living prisoner. A peculiar dilation of the nostril, a depression in the centre of the upper lip (Benjamino de Cossimo has lost his two front teeth), an unusual elongation of the mouth, a square but double chin, a certain massiveness about the region of the cheek-bone, and the outline of a whisker, are common to both. I purposely confine myself, in the present letter, to a simple statement of facts — of the circumstances under which these murders were perpetrated, the consequent photographic experiments instituted, and the result obtained, of which I was myself yesterday an eyewitness. There are very distinguished anatomists — persons, too, deeply versed in all the laws of optics — who affirm that the whole thing is a mere freak of nature, to which no importance whatever should be attached. I am happy to say that Signor Marabotti, with whom, from his official position, the prosecution of these inquiries rests, has evidently brought to his task a spirit worthy, in all respects, of a countryman of Galilee. The photographs, with all the accompanying and illustrative details, have been transmitted not only to the medical college of Florence, but also to the medical colleges of Naples and Milan; and, by the authority of the Perfect of Florence, Count Cantelli; a series of photographic experiments will be instituted on the eyes of the patients in the hospital immediately after their decease.

The same correspondent, writing at a later date, says:

‘ As the phenomenon revealed by the enlarged photographic view of Alinari in the eye of the murdered woman, Emilia Spagnoli, if worthy of being examined at all, ought to be investigated thoroughly. I have made it the object of a second inspection. On this second visit I enjoyed the advantage of being accompanied by six other observers — a member of the Royal College of Physicians of London, long established as a medical practitioner in this city; a great American sculptor, scarcely more renowned for the grace and beauty of his ideal creations than for the wonderful fidelity with which his busts reproduce the features of his contemporaries; an English portrait painter, resident during the last twenty years at Florence, whose power of seizing and perpetuating the minutest shades of expression is not merely recognized by his own friends, but has often been made familiar to the English public by engravings of his likenesses of still living or lately deceased English worthies; a well-known London banker, and equally well-known Kentish squire, and a friend of the last. Of these six gentlemen the first five have addressed to me — with permission to give them full publicity — their separate narratives of what they were chiefly struck by in their examination of the enlarged photograph. My own impressions at this second visit remained, I confess, pretty much as I have already recorded them after the first inspection, and may be summed up in the two following propositions:

  1. 1. That the cloudy outline in question bears a greater resemblance to a human face than to any other object in nature or art with which I am acquainted; and,
  2. 2. That in those points where its resemblance to a human countenance can be unhesitatingly affirmed, it corresponds in a remarkable degree with the features of the supposed murderer. On the a priori reasons for the possibility or impossibility of such a reproduction I do not intend to enter.

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