HC Deb 28 June 1844 vol 76 cc103-4
Mr. B. Cochrane

wished to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether he had received any direct account from Dr. Woolf respecting the fate of Colonel Stodart and Captain Conolly; and he also wished to know whether Her Majesty's Government had given their support to Dr. Woolf on his mission to Bokhara, and whether he went into that country with the sanction of Her Majesty's Government.

Sir R. Peel

said, that Dr. Woolf did not undertake his journey to Bokhara with the direct sanction of Her Majesty's Government, because their means of working on the fears of the governor of that country were very ineffectual; but they told Dr. Woolf that, if he undertook the journey on his own responsibility, he should receive every assistance that Her Majesty's Government could afford; and they had an acknowledgment from Dr. Woolf, thanking Her Majesty's Government for the assistance which he had received in his journey from British agents. Communications had been received from Dr. Woolf, and Colonel Sheil, Her Majesty's representative at Teheran. The letter of Colonel Sheil was dated so recently as the 6th of May; and the letter of Dr. Woolf was dated the 12th of April, at which time he was within three days of Bokhara. Colonel Sheil's letter of the 6th of May, contained the information of a native of Teheran, named Jacoob, who was released from captivity at Khohan, near Khiva, by Captain Conolly, whom he accompanied to Bokhara; and when the two officers were thrown into prison, he shared their fate, being actually imprisoned with them. He remained upwards of a year at Bokhara, and witnessed the execution of a Greek servant of Captain Conolly, named Yousouf. During the time that he remained at Bokhara, no public execution took place, or, at least, he had not heard of any, and he could not have failed, had it taken place. This Jacoob had a strong hope that Colonel Stodart was still alive; but he was not so sanguine as to Captain Conolly, because he was looked upon as a spy. It was right to say that Colonel Sheil did not participate in the hope expressed by this person; and it was remarkable, that two years had now elapsed without the slightest communication from Colonel Stodart, although previously he had always found means of communicating with British authorities. He could not help fearing, that the murder of both these officers was likely to have taken place; but still the most recent accounts confirmed the impression that no public execution had taken place. It was highly probable that the next accounts would give the impressions of Dr. Woolf on the spot; when they arrived, he should be happy to communicate them to the House; but, in the latest account, he was within three days of Bokhara. He feared it was his duty to discourage the expectation that they would contain assurances of the safety of the two officers.

Mr. Cochrane

said, it would be satisfactory to know how far these officers, at the time when they were imprisoned at Bokhara, were employed in the service of the Government.

Sir R. Peel

said, that Colonel Stodart had been authorised to repair to Bokhara, and was directly employed by the Government to make communications at Bokhara. Captain Conolly had been sent by the Indian government to make communications at Khiva and Khohan. He had no express mission to Bokhara, but an intimation was made to Colonel Stodart, that Captain Conolly was at Khiva, and if he thought he could be useful to him, he had authority to send for him to Khiva. Captain Conolly had not any direct instructions to proceed to Bokhara. He had authority to go to Khiva; but, acting on his own discretion, and doing that which he believed to be for the service of his country, he went there when Colonel Stodart sent for him. Colonel Stodart had direct official instructions, and Captain Conolly did, from a sense of duty, repair to Bokhara.*