HC Deb 04 May 1885 vol 297 cc1501-2

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If his attention has been called to the following Letter in The Times of 1st May:— The Mahdi's Prisoners.—A Letter has been received at Cairo, on the 20th of March of this year, from Sister Therese Grigolini, dated February 3rd, written with a pencil on a cotton pocket handkerchief. It briefly narrates the terrible sufferings of herself and the other sisters and priests imprisoned by the Mahdi at Omdurman, and suggests a plan to relieve them which it is not prudent to publish, but which is very hopeful. Another Letter, dated February 28th, was received at Cairo on March 18th, sent by M. Santoni. This last contains categorical replies to certain questions which it is not prudent to publish. M. Santoni went first to Abu Gussi, thence via Kordofan to Ambiliba, thence to Omdurman. At that place he actually saw and conversed with the priests and sisters. He was arrested and imprisoned as an English spy, but was subsequently released, and worked his way back with the Letter of Sister Therese sewn in a fold of his shirt; and, if any steps can and will be taken by Her Majesty's Government to endeavour to obtain the release of these unfortunate prisoners from their terrible captivity?


The first of the letters referred to by the hon. Member has been forwarded to Her Majesty's Government by Sir Evelyn Baring; but they have no knowledge of the second letter. The subject is receiving the attention of the Secretary of State, who is in communication with the Italian Government in case any means may offer themselves of securing the release of these unfortunate women, who are believed to be Italian subjects. I must, however, add that, in a recent telegram to the Secretary of State for War, Lord Wolseley states that Sir Charles Wilson reports that there are at present no means of communication for ransoming any Europeans who may be captives in the hands of the Mahdi.