A missing hunter
When a man doesn’t come home from a hunting trip, it can mean a lot of things. Maybe he’s just late. Maybe he really didn’t go hunting, is doing something he isn’t supposed to, and just lied about it. Maybe he’s lying somewhere out there in the wilderness, injured and in need of help. Or maybe it’s even worse. He could be murdered.
As the hours tick by and he still doesn’t come home, family members at home slip into whirlpools of anxiety. When they search for him and can’t find him, their fear deepens. Is there any torture worse than not knowing?
One wife in 19th century Seville experienced the same situation, but the case is even stranger because the pet dog knew exactly what happened. He had witnessed his master’s murder. But how can a dog communicate that fact to his human family?
It’s an unusual case in which a dog solves a murder. But it actually happened. This is case in which a dog attempted to communicate what he knew and actually succeeded. It was reported in a 19th century German true crime anthology, and I’ve translated and abridged it for you.
The dog knows….
Juan, a butcher in Seville, had the habit of going hunting every Saturday with his godfather and trusted friend, Marquez, and staying out until Monday. They left together as usual on a Saturday in November, but on Monday, only Juan came back. When Marquez’s wife asked him where her husband was, he said they had separated during the hunt and he thought Marquez was already home. “He must be coming back any time now,” he reassured her.
The day passed without Marquez’s return, but towards the evening, his dog, “Como tu,” who accompanied him everywhere, came home alone. “Como tu, where is your master?” asked Marquez’s wife. The dog became very agitated, and by grabbing her dress with his teeth, tried to pull her out of the house.
At first the wife paid no attention to the dog’s behavior. She thought her husband might be socializing with some of his hunting friends and decided pay them a visit to check on them. While she was dressing, Como tu continually tried to drag her to the door.
She went to Juan’s house, but Como tu, who was usually friendly with Juan, sprang for his throat. The wife had to pull Como tu off. Juan protested that Como tu must have rabies and should be shot, but she resisted him and went to the police station. Como tu was quiet at the police station, but became aggressive as soon as he heard Juan’s voice. The police commissioner thought Juan might have abused Como tu. She told the police her story and included the dog’s behavior.
On Wednesday, she took Como tu out for a walk in the area where her husband had gone hunting to see what she could find. They came to a cliff over a river where people customarily threw dead animals and all sorts of garbage from Seville. Forcefully grabbing her dress, the dog tried to pull her forward. He howled and then tried to pull her to the edge of the cliff. Because the bottom of the cliff was heaped with garbage and stank, she pulled back, and despite Como tu’s efforts, quickly returned home. As they passed Juan’s butcher shop, Como tu jumped up on a table and again tried to attack Juan.
A police officer finally understands dogspeak
Marquez’s wife now returned to the police station to find out if the police had discovered anything about her husband while she was gone. She told an officer what had happened with the dog. The police officer didn’t say anything, but the following morning, he went to the cliff with four pall bearers. When they arrived, they noticed people at the bottom. One of them was Juan. They were trying to pull the blood-smeared clothing off a human body. The men were arrested.
The police removed the body. It was Marquez. They found entry wounds from a full load of shot in Marquez’s face and on the left side of the head. The back of the head had been smashed, probably by the butt of a shotgun. The two men with Juan testified he had offered them a handsome reward for helping him remove the body and throwing it in a river.
Juan was charged with Marquez’s murder and confessed in court. He had killed his godfather over a fight about a partridge both had claimed to have shot. Both hunters had loaded their shotguns, and as the fight intensified, both threatened each other. Juan aimed at Marquez and fired just to disable him, but angry and slightly drunk, he finished the job by cracking him on the head with the shotgun butt.
The court found no evidence of premeditation and some evidence to support self defense. It sentenced Juan to five years punishment in the galleys. The other two men were sentenced to six months in prison.
A dog solves a murder
Como tu had been there and witnessed the murder, and the amazing thing was that he was able to communicate that and lead people to his dead master. He even indicated a suspect. The annals of history record at least one case in which a dog solved a murder.
Do you know of any cases in which a dog helped solve a crime? Has your dog ever been able to communicate something to you?
Literature on point:
Hitzig, “Ein Hund verräth den Mörder seines Herrn,”Annalen der deutschen und ausländischen Kriminal-Rechtspflege, Heft 4 (Berlin: Fernidand Dümmler, 1828) 93- 96.