When the patrolling police constable on Regent’s Street arrested an Italian boy and his baboon he probably thought it was a fairly routine procedure. The lad was begging and the monkey was there to help attract a crowd and perhaps elicit some sympathy. This appears to have been no ordinary papio however and while the report in the Morning Chronicle gives no exact details as to which species of baboon it was, what happened next suggests it was quite a large one.
The policeman went to arrest the boy and his pet it was ostensibly because the animal had bitten another boy in the street. The baboon then attacked the officer, biting him and when he was brought to the police house he bit the gaoler there too! This was quite an angry monkey.
The magistrate at Marlborough Street, a Mr Conant, sentenced the boy to a month’s imprisonment and – for the safety of the public at large – ordered that the baboon be destroyed. This death sentence, however, proved quite hard to execute.
Two or three officers fetched pistols and fired at the beast, but this seemed to have little effect as the reported noted: ‘the balls entered the body of the animal but they appeared to have no other effect than that of exciting the monkey’s fury, and that peculiar sort of chatter that is heard from such animals when excited by rage or fear’.
The bobbies tried again.
This time the shots simply made him more furious and he raged around shaking the walls in his cells. A bullet entered his mouth, knocking him over, but didn’t kill him. Somehow he now managed to break free of his chains.
Pandemonium ensued as the police scattered and the baboon escaped from custody and scaled the wall of the police house.
For two hours the police searched for him before he was found, next door, when he attacked a footman and leapt away. The animal was eventually tracked to a house at the rear of the police house in Queen’s Row. He was quickly surrounded by police armed with pitchforks and bludgeons. Pinned down, the animal was finally dispatched by PC Avis who thrust at him with a cutlass.
What might seem to us to be a case of extreme and unnecessary cruelty on behalf of the Metropolitan Police was seen as a victory by the press of the day. The streets had been secured from the ‘extraordinary ferocity’ of a wild animal, which should never have been allowed to ‘be exhibited in the public streets’ of the capital.
[from The Morning Chronicle , Thursday, May 8, 1834]