HC Deb 28 April 1870 vol 200 cc1967-8

I wish, Sir, to ask the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Whether he can give the House any information of a more recent date than has yet appeared, respecting the pursuit of that portion of the brigands who were reported, in the first instance, to have escaped the encounter which ended so fatally to our countrymen who were captives?


Sir, my noble Friend the Secretary of State lost no time in addressing to Her Majesty's Minister at Athens an inquiry on certain points on which—as has probably suggested itself to Members of this House—it is necessary that we should have fuller information in regard to the recent murders in Greece which have excited so much sympathy and indignation in this country. We have received from Mr. Erskine to-day a telegram which, with the permission of the House, I will read. It is dated Athens, April 27, 10 p.m., and it says— I have sent a list of the brigands still at large to Mr. Barron. Upwards of 500 troops are in pursuit, and no exertion will be spared to capture and bring them to justice. The heads of seven killed have been publicly exposed here, and five others are about to be examined. If convicted, they will be executed immediately. My noble Friend also entered into communications with the Turkish Government in regard to the probable attempt of the brigands to escape over the Turkish frontier, and they have been met by that Government—as it was to be expected they would be—with the most perfect willingness to do everything on their part to effect the capture of these brigands. From Mr. Barron, the Secretary of the Embassy at Constantinople, and now in charge of the Embassy there, we have also received the following telegram, dated the 27th of April:— Orders have been sent by telegraph to Janina and Tricala, and the military commander, for the arrest of the brigands on Turkish territory, and to deliver them to the Greek authorities. My noble Friend has received a further telegram from Mr. Erskine, dated this day, stating that the Antelope sailed at 10 this morning, for Malta, with the bodies of the three unfortunate gentlemen whose murder we so deeply deplore.


Sir, it appears, from the intelligence which has reached us, that all necessary arrangements were made for sending home the bodies of the murdered gentlemen from Athens in a vessel of war, but it was found that those on the station were too small. A telegram which has been received now tells us that the senior officer had decided to send the bodies to Malta in the Antelope. Now, I wish to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, What force of vessels he had in the Greek waters at the time of this lamentable occurrence, besides the Antelope, attached to the Embassy, and which the senior officer on the station stated was too small to convey the bodies home?


My hon. Friend only gave me notice of his Question this afternoon, and without telegraphing to Athens I am not certain whether on the day of the murders the Antelope had arrived at the Piræus; but the only vessel besides her there was the Cockatrice, a gunboat carrying two guns. The Caledonia had been recalled by the Commander-in-Chief to Malta early in the present month to join the rest of the fleet for the usual cruise at this season.