Miss Laura Mabel Francatelli
First class passenger
“The dear brave officer gave orders to row away from the sinking boat at least 200 yards, he afterwards poor dear brave fellow, shot himself. We saw the whole thing, and watched that tremendous thing quickly sink...."
Although not found on passenger or crew list, she is listed in Philip Hind’s Encyclopedia Titanica. Miss Francatelli was Lady Duff Gordon’s secretary. At the age of 30 at the time of the sinking, she was of London birth. Her ticket number was PC 17485 (listed as “Mrs. Morgan” –the Duff Gordons for some reason traveled as “Mr. And Mrs. Morgan”). She occupied cabin E-36. (courtesy of Philip Hind, Encyclopedia Titanica (8.))
The Duff Gordons and their secretary Miss Francatelli made their departure in lifeboat No.1, which correct to Francatelli’s statement, was launched by Murdoch at 1:10am. The question is: how much could be seen from this lifeboat at 200 yards from the ship when the alleged suicide took place? According to Bill Wormstedt, her account is “questionable” because if a suicide did take place, it would have occurred a full hour after No.1 was launched and that it “is very unlikely that Miss Francatelli could have seen a suicide from a lifeboat 200 yards from the ship.” (Bill Wormstedt, Shots in the Dark (12.) )
Miss Francatelli’s account was found in a letter to someone named “Marion” dated April 18, 1912 and quoted in James Cameron’s Titanic by Ed Marsh. “The dear brave officer gave orders to row away from the sinking boat at least 200 yards, he afterwards poor dear brave fellow, shot himself. We saw the whole thing, and watched that tremendous thing quickly sink....” ((29.)).
The full letter is as follows:
April 18, 1912
I was just going to bed. Madame & Sir Cosmo were upon A deck the top, and I on E, the bottom deck for Saloon Passengers when I felt a shudder, then two gentlemen came up and told me that we had run into an iceberg, but were quite safe. I stood still there quite 20 minutes quietly, then the water was on my deck, coming along the corridor and I found all the people, running up and down the stairs. Oh Marion that was a sickening moment, I felt myself go like marble. Sir Cosmo then took us up on top deck.
Crowds of people were up there. Several lifeboats have been lowered, they were preparing the last two, on that side of the ship, the Starboard side, they cried out, Any more women, saw us, & came to try & drag Madame & I away from Sir Cosmo, but Madame clung to Sir Cosmo. After all the lifeboats had gone, everybody seemed to rush to the other side of the boat & leave ours vacant, but we still stood there, as Sir Cosmo said, we must wait for orders, presently.
An officer started to swing off a little boat called the "Emergency" boat, he saw us & ordered us in, they were then firing the last rocket beside us. Two other American gentlemen jumped in & seven stokers. They began to lower away, then the boat became hooked up on something, the officer said Look out below, and threw down a length of steel which jarred the lifeboat loose. The dear brave officer gave orders to row away from the sinking boat at least 200 yards, he afterwards poor dear brave fellow, shot himself. We saw the whole thing, and watched that tremendous thing quickly sink, then there was terrible, terrible, explosions, and all darkness, then followed the Awful cries & screams of the 1,600 dear souls, fighting for their lives in the water. Oh never shall I forget that awful night.
Laura Mabel Francatelli
In close analysis, it is unclear whether she is saying that she observed the suicide with her own eyes or not. The term “afterwards” does not necessarily mean of short duration after the event and could refer to over an hour after their lifeboat was launched. And when she says she “saw the whole thing” it is not apparent whether it pertains to the suicide or when she was watching “that tremendous thing [ship] quickly sink”.
Some time later she wrote her account in a signed affidavit which was presented to the official British enquiry (and in 2010 was sold for £20,000). It does not include her reference to the officer shooting himself, a detail she may have chosen to leave out, as it also excludes other details such as the boat being unhooked by the officer and his instructions to row 200 yards away.