Yard asks delay in sale of gun that shot Jesse James Auction firm indicates it would comply

April 09, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

Scotland Yard has asked an English auctioneer to withdraw the revolver used to kill outlaw Jesse James from a planned April 28 sale at which it was expected to fetch at least $150,000.

The .44-caliber Smith & Wesson, owned by the late Henry G. Lingenfelder of Towson, was stolen in 1968 from a museum in Missouri to which he had lent it for display.

Det. Sgt. Tony Russell, of the Scotland Yard Art and Antiques Squad, said yesterday that he spoke with auctioneer Roy Butler, senior partner at Wallis & Wallis in Sussex, and will confer with him again early next week as the investigation proceeds.

"We asked him to take it out of the sale until we can make inquiries into its ownership," Sergeant Russell said.

Last week Mr. Butler said he would withdraw the weapon from sale only on instruction from the seller, an anonymous American.

Mr. Butler was unavailable for comment yesterday. However, his son, Glenn Butler, who is also in the firm, confirmed that Scotland Yard had contacted the company.

L "If we are given a directive, we will withdraw it," he said.

Sergeant Russell said the auctioneer told him the seller is a man of good reputation who is well known to the firm. There is no indication, however, of when or how the man acquired the stolen gun.

"It remains stolen property," despite the passage of 25 years before it surfaced for sale, the detective said. "The loser [of stolen property] never loses title because there is no statute of limitations on stolen property," he added

Robert L. Preller, lawyer for Henry A. Lingenfelder of Carroll County, son of the pistol's owner, said Scotland Yard's action "is just what we wanted." He said he hopes Mr. Butler will identify the seller "so we could have some dealings with him and avoid all this nonsense."

Mr. Preller, who wrote to Mr. Butler Tuesday asking him to stop the sale, said that if necessary he would begin litigation in English courts to force disclosure of the seller's name.

The actual owner of the gun may well be the Firemen's Fund Insurance Co., which paid the elder Mr. Lingenfelder $9,000 to settle the claim in 1968.

Bob Hope, commercial claims manager for Firemen's Fund in Kansas City, said he is obtaining affidavits from Richard Hahn, owner of the museum in Sullivan, Mo., from which the pistol was stolen and from Evelyn White, widow of the insurance agent who wrote the policy.

Historians believe the revolver was used by Bob Ford, a member of the James gang, to shoot Jesse James in the back of the head on April 3, 1882, while the outlaw leader was dusting pictures in a rented house in St. Joseph, Mo.

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