A real-life mystery surrounding 'Sherlock Holmes' creator Arthur Conan Doyle

The 'Sherlock Holmes' author was the victim of fake evidence created by police after Doyle decided to try to investigate a real legal case, according to new evidence.

Matt Dunham/AP
Curator Timothy Long is silhouetted as he poses for photographers with a Sherlock Holmes style pipe and deerstalker hat beside an internal window forming part of the exhibition 'Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die' at the Museum of London.

Is any “Sherlock Holmes” mystery as strange as one involving “Sherlock” author Arthur Conan Doyle himself?

The story goes like this: According to the Guardian, Doyle was solicited for help from a man named George Edalji. Edalji had been accused of writing negative letters and harming horses. Although he insisted that he was innocent of such charges, he was convicted in an English court and ended up serving three years in prison. When he came out, he asked Doyle to help him clear his name.

It's a story that intrigued contemporary British author Julian Barnes, who wrote a novel based on the incident titled “Arthur and George”. Barnes told the Guardian that Doyle thought “colour was involved” in the Edalji case, because Edalji was half-English and half-Indian. 

So Doyle investigated. But now, newly found papers show that Doyle may have been prevented from succeeding in his detective work. It appears that the police of Staffordshire may have made up evidence to intentionally mislead him – perhaps because they didn't like an amateur, however famous, interfering with their work? A report has GA Anson, Staffordshire chief constable at the time, saying that he created a fake letter and asked people to mislead Doyle about its origins. 

“The notion that it was actually the chief constable is quite discombobulating,” Barnes told the Guardian. “You could see [Anson] would have been incredibly irritated by this case, which had been long solved.”

It may be unsettling for "Holmes" readers as well. Was the creator of the iconic detective an easy victim for a real-life police force? Some things are perhaps best left mysterious. 

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