Friday, 16 August 2013

The machine gun inventor who vanished

An absolutely fascinating story on the BBC website today. The mystery of William Cantelo. The sounds of rapid gunfire from the basement in a house in Southampton in the 1880s – an inventor called William Cantelo tells his sons that he has invented a new type of gun that will fire bullets in rapid succession. He packs it away and sets off – presumably to sell it. He vanishes into thin air.

A couple of decades later, another inventor, Sir William Maxim, is getting rich from an invention of his own – the Maxim gun, mowing down thousands of men in the First World War.

 But Maxim and Cantelo look uncannily alike. And Cantelo’s sons put a private detective on the case. They spot ‘Maxim’ at Waterloo Station and shout "Father"…but the elusive figure gets away. And money disappears from Cantelo’s account after he vanishes. Maxim meanwhile has a reputation for ‘brain-sucking’ – stealing people’s ideas. Were Maxim and Cantelo the same man? Did Maxim somehow steal Cantelo’s invention? Who knows? A murky Victorian melodrama? Read it here.

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