Unsolved Murders

Sagatiel Sagouni

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 28 Sep 1903

Place: 29 Nunhead Grove, Camberwell

Sagatiel Sagouni was shot with a revolver outside the house where he lodged.

He had been the president of the Huntchagist Society which was an Armenian society organised to free Armenia from Turkish rule.

After he was shot he was put to bed and another Armenian helped the police question him. When he was asked if he had been shot he said 'Yes, somebody shot me in the dark in the back.'. When he was asked who did it he replied 'A man who wore no overcoat, but only a jacket. He had a black moustache or whiskers'. He also described him as being stout.

The Coroner heard that the Huntchagist Society was often targeted by the Alfarists, another organisation focussed on fighting in the interests of oppressed Armenia but one which spent most of its money and efforts in hunting out members of the other organisation and killing them and defeating their work.

Sagatiel Sagouni had only been In England for a short while and had previously said that he had been watched by a man on board the boat that had taken him from Dieppe to Newhaven.

Members of the Armenians' Society said that they thought that the man on the boat and the man that had shot Sagatiel Sagouni were one and the same although they had no proof, just suspicion.

The Coroner's jury also heard about another member of the society who had been attacked in Switzerland, being stabbed in the back with a knife by an assailant who was also described as being a thick man with a moustache. The Secretary of the organisation had then sent two men to investigate, one of whom was Sagatiel Sagouni which was why he had recently gone to Switzerland.

When the Coroner asked the interpreter if Sagatiel Sagouni had said whether his killer was a foreigner the interpreter said that he was of the opinion that the man had been a foreigner saying that the man’s hat was made in the United states.

A man who had heard reports in Nunhead Grove around 8.10pm said that he had gone to the spot and when he got there he saw a man in an overcoat running away. He said that the man was about 5ft 7in and that he had seen him by the light of a lamp. When the Coroner asked the man why he didn't try to stop the man, the man said that he had heard four shots and concluded that the might still be one more left in the revolver.

The man who owned the house at Nunhead Grove said that Sagatiel Sagouni had lived with him for a year and ten months and that he had never spoken to him of the Society. He said that the murder took place at 8.25pm. He said that he and his wife heard the shots and when they went into their front room they saw a man firing shots at Sagatiel Sagouni from the gate which he was holding open with his right hand whilst crouching down and firing with his left hand. He said that he had no doubt that the man was a foreigner.

The police later found a revolver which had five empty chambers and one loaded chamber. They noted that the revolver was quite new and that it required locking after each shot.

The post mortem showed that Sagatiel Sagouni had two wounds to his back, on in his chest and two more in his abdomen.

It was thought that the assassin had escaped by boat along the Thames. Evidence indicated that the assassin had left Nunhead Grove and gone up the steep slope between the cemetery and the grass extension of Nunhead Waterworks, and then over towards the London playing fields with the golf links to the right. From there there was a wide expanse of open country with a pathway leading straight to Brockley and a man said that he saw a man that matched the description of the assassin along with a tall man who was unmistakably foreign hurrying along at an unusual pace. He said that the shorter of them was wearing a long fawn dust coat and a dark plaid cap and that they were talking rapidly in a foreign tongue.

They were also later seen in Brockly walking towards Greenwich. Then again they were seen by watermen on the causeway leading to the river, noted for their attire and general appearance. It was noted that just before dusk a vessel had anchored close to the place where they were seen and that by 11pm it had mysteriously disappeared.

The police later determined that two or three Alfarists had been living recently in a house in Peckham close to Nunhead Grove. They traced one of them down in Boston in the United States but determined that the Cunarder Ivernis that he had sailed over on had left England a week before the murder and so that he could only have been as an accessory before the fact. However, the man denied being involved with the murder saying that he had gone to America to study at Harvard College. He said 'I came to America to study at Harvard College. I knew Sagouni in London, and attended meetings of the revolutionary societies there before leaving, but I never belonged to any secret society. I have lived in London for the last three years, occupying my time in journalistic work. I am a correspondent of Constantinople papers, and am to send them articles on American customs. I don't know about any scheme to assassinate Turkish rulers.'

It was noted that on 4 November 1903 two other Armenian's were shot dead by an assassin in Peckham who then turned the gun on himself. It was thought that the assassin could have been the same man that had killed Sagatiel Sagouni. The two men were also of the Hentchegist Society and they had been attending the Convention that had been being held at the rooms of the society in Peckham Rye for the previous six or seven weeks.

The assassin had been lurking behind a high wooden paling in front of a coal depot in Peckham Rye. Two Armenians had then left the Convention and had walked past. However, they were not shot. Then three more Armenians left the building and when they were level with where the assassin was he shot the first through the head, then shot at the second but missed and then shot at the third behind the right ear. The assassin then shot again at the second man but missed again. He then turned to escape and ran up Earl's yard thinking that it was Philip Road but when he saw his mistake he turned to dash out of the yard and slipped, and dropped his revolver. However, he then rose himself up on his right hand and pulled another out of his pocket and shot himself above the left ear.

Sagatiel Sagouni had lived mostly in Russia in Baku where he was a mining engineer.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Beverley and East Riding Recorder - Saturday 31 October 1903

see Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Thursday 29 October 1903

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Thursday 05 November 1903

see Banbury Advertiser - Thursday 05 November 1903