Political murder of the day
May 9, 1898: In what became known as the Bava-Beccaris massacre, at least 118 and as many as 400 people were killed and several hundred were injured when riots broke out in Milan, Italy, over high food prices.
The protests and riots lasted several days, starting on May 5. By May 9, crowds were marching toward the palace when Italian Gen. Fiorenzo Bava-Beccaris ordered them to disperse. The demonstrators ignored the order, and Bava-Beccaris led the charge against the protestors, ordering his soldiers to fire on rioters with muskets and cannons.
Some historians estimate that the actual numbers of casualties were much higher that 400, and that thousands may have been injured. On the final day of the incursion, Bava-Beccaris’ troops broke into a monastery where militants were thought to be hiding, but they found only beggars looking for assistance. Italian
King Umberto I rewarded Bava-Beccaris with the Great Cross of the Order of Savoy for stopping the riots, but the general became hated by Italians because of the massacre. The general lived to an old age, but Umberto wasn’t so lucky — he was assassinated in 1900.
May 10, 1943: Three young Belgian Resistance fighters who were scheduled to launch an assassination attempt against Adolf Hitler were hanged by the German military.
Andre Bertulot, Arnaud Fraiteur, and Maurice Raskin were barely out of their teens when they joined the Resistance movement and were assigned roles in a plot to kill Hitler. First, they were sent to kill Paul Colin, the editor of two Belgian news magazines in Brussels who was collaborating with the Germans, and his collaborator, Gaston Brekeman.
When the fourth member of the Hitler assassination plot failed to show up, the three could not proceed with their plot. Bertulot and Raskin were arrested soon afterward, and Fraiteur was arrested when other Resistance members tried to smuggle him out of the country to France.
On May 7, 1943, the three were transferred to Fort Breendonk prison near Antwerp, where they were tortured and placed in chains. The three were hanged on May 10, exactly three years after the German invasion of Belgium began. After the war, three streets in Brussels were renamed to honor the three young Resistance fighters.
May 11, 1812: The only British prime minister ever to be assassinated was shot and killed in the lobby of the House of Commons by a bankrupt businessman.
Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was entering the lobby when John Bellingham approached him, drew a pistol, and shot him. Perceval was known as a self-righteous and straight-laced government leader who had drawn the ire of powerful business interests because of certain government economic policies.
Bellingham had been accused of fraud and was imprisoned in Russia, losing a fortune in the process. He wanted compensation from the British government, but Perceval refused to hear Bellingham’s petitions.
After the shooting, Bellingham was arrested immediately. There was a quick trial, and Bellingham was convicted and hanged, only one week after the assassination.
Great Britain was in the midst of a deep recession and credit crunch; Perceval’s murder reportedly was greeted with joy all over London in the hopes of reversing his economic policies. When the new minister, Lord Liverpool, took over, the economy began to recover.
A 2012 book, Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister, by Andro Linklater, offers another theory: Although Bellingham acted alone, he was supported financially by two businessmen whose fortunes were in peril if Perceval remained as prime minister and his economic policies continued.
Bellingham had publicly said he would kill Perceval if his petitions were rejected. The book posits that London merchant Thomas Wilson and U.S. businessman Elisha Peck supported Bellingham financially until he could carry out his threat. But we’ll never know for sure, will we?
A memorial plaque in St. Stephen’s Hall, near the spot where Perceval was killed, was dedicated to the assassinated prime minister in 2014. The dedication ceremony for the memorial plaque was attended by several members of Parliament, including Henry Bellingham, who was a descendant of the assassin.