Martin McBreen or Patrick Breen (died October 4, 1911) was an American saloonkeeper and criminal associate of the Gopher Gang. A well-known and colorful Hell's Kitchen figure known as Paddy the Priest,[1] he was the owner of a Tenth Avenue saloon frequented by the Gophers and other underworld figures. Traditional accounts claim that McBreen was shot and killed by close friend and Gopher member John "Happy Jack" Mulraney. Mulraney had a facial disfigurement, caused by a partial paralysis of his face, which resembled a permanent "crooked-like" half smile. When McBreen asked why he did not smile on the other side of his face, Mulraney killed him over the perceived insult and robbed the till.[2][3] When apprehended by police, Mulraney reportedly remarked to officers "I ain't smiling on either side of my face !".[4][5] His murder was one of the first major trials during the first decade of the 20th century and, quoting then Governor William Sulzer, was one of the most violent to have occurred in the city's history.[6]

Paddy the Priest
Died(1911-10-04)October 4, 1911
Cause of deathMurdered
Other namesMartin McBreen
Patrick McBreen
Patrick Breen
Known forHell's Kitchen personality and criminal associate of the Gopher Gang.

The shooting, according to news reports of the time, was committed by Mulraney and John J. Dowling in a night-long crime spree. He and Dowling were arrested with two other men, Martin Fay and Michael Saltzer, a week or so later by police detectives at Park Street and 108th Street. Following their arrest, Dowling confessed to breaking into the saloon with the intention of robbery and claimed that Mulraney had shot McBreen in self-defense when he appeared to be going for a gun. The two then fled and split up with Mulraney taking a trolley to Harlem while Dowling walked to the Bronx. Dowling, as well as the two others who accompanied them that night, were used as witnesses for the defense. Mulraney later admitted in a signed confession that he and Dowling hid in a cellar on West 52nd Street where they attempted to destroy evidence of their crime by disposing of the gun and scattered papers. These were later found by detectives and used to trace the murder to them.[1] Mordecai Saltzman, an undercover detective for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, testified at the trial that his conversations with both Mulraney and Dowling that an unpaid debt of $50 may have also been a motive for the murder.[7]

The crime was later referenced in the 2003 historical novel And All The Saints by Michael Walsh.

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Admits Saloon Murder; Mulraney Tells How He Shot Man Known as "Paddy the Priest"." New York Times. 17 Oct 1911
  2. ^ Asbury, Herbert. The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the New York Underworld. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928. (pg. 236) ISBN 1-56025-275-8
  3. ^ English, T.J. Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. (pg. 116) ISBN 0-06-059002-5
  4. ^ English, T.J. The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob. New York: G.P. Putnam's Son, 1990. (pg. 30) ISBN 0-312-92429-1
  5. ^ Chiocca, Olindo Romeo. Mobsters and Thugs: Quotes from the Underworld. Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2000. (pg. 14) ISBN 1-55071-104-0
  6. ^ "Reprieved By 'Phone On Eve Of Execution; Moved by John Mulraney's Special Delivery Letter, Gov. Sulzer Grants Delay". New York Times. 17 Mar 1913
  7. ^ "Pinkerton Agent Trapped Mulraney; Takes the Stand at Inquiry and Tells How Prisoner Frequently Admitted Guilt". New York Times. 10 Apr 1913