The Murder of William Doherty

The Murder Of William Doherty


In 1921, Gandhi helped cover up the murder of an American citizen by Gandhians who were rioting during the second Satyagraha movement. The murdered man was William Francis Doherty, an engineer working in Bombay. His wife dictated a sworn statement to a Los Angeles notary in 1929.

Mrs. Doherty’s Sworn Statement

State of California County of Los Angeles

ANNETTE H. DOHERTY, being first duly sworn oath, deposes and says:

My deceased husband, William Francis Doherty, an American citizen, was a mechanical and electrical engineer and business associate of Mr. Richard J. Brenchley, engaged in sand extraction at Mumbra, adjacent to Bombay, India.

On November 19th, 1921, as he was quietly proceeding to the Bombay Improvement Trust work-shops, he was set upon, his eyes were gouged out and eventually he was beaten to death by a group of rioters in a public street of Byculla, a suburb of Bombay.

This was during the visit of the Prince of Wales to India, when Gandhi was at the height of his popularity as a saint and political leader, and had, through his violent speeches against the British, worked his followers into a frenzy of race hatred. My husband was probably mistaken for a Britisher when he was murdered by Gandhi’s followers.

Within three days following this killing of my husband, word was brought me from Gandhi that he greatly desired an interview with me, begging me to set a time when I would receive him. I was then stopping with an American family in Bombay. Gandhi’s emissary was Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, the Indian poetess and politician.

Mrs. Naidu was greatly agitated, and made many statements to me that I feel she would now like to unsay. Her chief concern, however, was that the American public should never be allowed to hear of this outrage committed upon my husband; and she very frankly asked me my price for refraining from ever discussing or advertising the affair in America and from myself returning to America. Under no condition, said Mrs. Naidu, would they be willing that the American public should learn that they were killing people so promiscuously that even a white face cost a man’s life.

As to Gandhi’s request for an interview with me:

At that time he was going about so unclothed that Mrs. Naidu suggested I call upon him rather than that he come to the American home where I was stopping – inasmuch as this latter might prove embarrassing. It was therefore determined that I should see him at his own headquarters in Bombay, which I did, a motor car having been sent by him to fetch me.

Upon this occasion of my visit with Gandhi he repeated to me in substance what Mrs. Naidu had said, but even more emphatically stressed the point that Americans, because they were so much in sympathy with him in his political views, must on no account learn the details of the murder of my husband lest it hurt the success of his movement in America and prejudice our people against him.


Subscribed and sworn to before me this 4th day of January, 1929,

W.J. SCHISEL Notary Public in and for the County of Los Angeles, State of California. My commission expires Jan. 18, 1931.

Proving the Murder and Gandhi’s Involvement

Doherty’s death is also well-documented elsewhere.

  • The Nov. 23, 1921, New York Times reported: “A dispatch to the Morning Post today from Bombay says that William Francis Dogherty, an American engineer, was killed in the course of last week’s rioting in that city.”
  • The Dec. 16, 1921 Times printed a list of casualties in India which included “one American, William Francis Doherty.”
  • The July-December, 1921 New York Times Index includes the note: “W.F. Dogherty, Amer, was killed in Bombay riot.”

There is no other record of Gandhi’s meeting with Mrs. Doherty beyond her deposition. However, research does prove many of her claims, including an association between the two.

  • Gandhi had a reputation for using bribery. In “A King’s Story: The Memoirs of the Duke of Windsor,” Prince Edward VIII, who was in India at the time, wrote: “Mahatma Gandhi and his followers went to rather unusual lengths of intimidation and bribery.” To prevent crowds gathering to see Prince Edward, he says: “Storekeepers along the routes of my procession were ordered to close their shops, students to boycott their classrooms, and the rest to remain out of sight in their homes. The Party men spread the rumor that the police had been ordered to shoot any native who approached the route of my procession. It was even said that the Government would poison the food at the ‘feeding of the poor.’ The dispensing of this bounty was customary on the occasion of a visit by the Viceroy or by some other exalted person.”
  • In “Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity,” author Col. G.B. Singh says: “Careful scrutiny into the literature has revealed that Sarojini Naidu was in Bombay during the time period of Doherty’s murder.” Additionally, “It is absolutely clear…that Gandhi was in Bombay during the time period.”
  • In the 1923 book “India in Ferment,” Prof. C.H. Van Tyne, who was in India at the time of Mr. Doherty’s death, wrote: “Knowing full well the race hatred with which Gandhi, willingly or not, had filled his disciples, and recalling the fate of an American in the recent Bombay riots…. Gandhi went to see the widow of the murdered American, actually begging her, as I heard from another American present, not to let the news get to America lest it hurt the NCO cause.”
  • There is an edition of the “Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi” published by the Indian Government on CD-ROM in 1999. Included was a “list of persons to whom Gandhiji wrote frequently or have been mentioned in his writings” on which is found the name “Doharty, Annette Helen.” So the Indian Government confirms an association between the two.


Mohandas Gandhi incited the murder of an American citizen and appears to have been directly involved in covering up Mr. Doherty’s murder for the purpose of ensuring his continued popularity.

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