The Mystery of the Severed Hand

Ah, the Mystery of the Severed Hand; it’s a great title for a post and if you want to know more about said hand, its severing and why it is important for the history of insurance fraud in New Zealand you should either track down a copy of Robyn Gosset’s book `New Zealand Mysteries’ (Bush Press of New Zealand, 1970, chapter 13) or look up the mysterious disappearance of Arthur Howard in 1885ACE. I’m just here to quote this from Gosset:

The case proved to be one of the most interesting heard in this country. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty in the case of the Godfreys but found Howard guilty of a charge of conspiracy.

When the judge pointed out that this was an impossible verdict as Howard could not conspire with himself, the jury retired and returned with a verdict of not guilty against Mr and Mrs Howard on the charge of attempting to defraud and not guilty against the two Godfreys.

I’m curious about the jury finding only one person guilty of being in a conspiracy. As the judge wisely counsels his jurors, this seems impossible.

Is it?


About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.