When describing the Ipatiev House, the word "courtyard" turns out to be as misleading to the Romanov story as "corset"
To often, when envisioning the house, we fail to do so taking BOTH wooden palisades into account, along with their corresponding gates. We imagine the Fiat lorry to have backed into the "courtyard" located within the walls of the Ipatiev property, when - I hope to prove - that was either quite impossible or enormously difficult, particularly under the circumstances. When rereading the text and thinking of what was really meant by "courtyard", much becomes clear - so much, I believe, that the evidence linking one of the alleged shooters - Rudolf Lacher - is cast into serious doubt.
First, let us examine each item:
THE FIAT LORRY
Article 1: the Fiat lorry - incredibly important to the crime - and yet so rarely examined in any great detail. "a one-and-a-half ton Fiat, with a flat, open bed of wood slats measuring just 6 by 10 feet and enclosed by wooden side rails." (FOTR, p.300) Think also about this: no rear view mirrors, very crude gear and clutch mechanisms, no power steering, poor turning radius (just have a look at the wheels!), low HP
THE IPATIEV HOUSE GATE
Article 2: The gate to the house, built in 1897, was never intended for motorcars, but rather carriages; as you can see, it was quite narrow with two sizable stone pillars on each side.
THE NARROW LANE
Article 3: This is VERY IMPORTANT: "Voznesensky Prospect, some FIVE FEET HIGHER than the Ipatiev house, was separated by a steep bank and a narrow, secondary roadway marked by a small, ornate shrine dedicated to St. Nocholas.
One COULD NOT exit or enter Voznesensky Prospect from the Ipatiev Gate (as is so often described). One could only turn onto the narrow lane. Here is another view; you can see, to some extent, the embankment and line of trees separating the smaller road with the broad prospect:
THE OUTER PALISADE:
Article 4: There are many photos, 3D models, etc. of the Ipatiev House; inexplicably none include a crucial part of the landscape: the external wooden palisade. Remember there were two fences at the time of the murder, an internal and external. This created a DRIVEWAY or COURTYARD between the Ipatiev House and Outer Wooden Palisade.
THE PALISADE GATES
Article 5: The outer palisade lined the steep five foot bank and enclosed the narrow lane; the trees were included within the fence. Now - this is also very important - there were TWO palisade gates, one to ENTER and one to EXIT the PALISADE:
"The second fence had two gates - one facing the Vosnesensky Lane, the second right opposite them, in the opposite side of the fence, close to the gate of the house... ...The [second gate] was built when we were there, AS IT WAS FOUND THAT AUTOMOBILES HAD MUCH DIFFICULTY LEAVING THROUGH THE FIRST ENTRANCE ON ACCOUNT OF A STEEP HILL. That was the reason why the gates facing the Vosnesensky Lane were constructed. The motor cars entered through both gates, but they left only through the gate facing the Vosnesensky Lane." (Last Days, p.168)
Why was it important? Because to go the effort of building a second gate meant there was clearly trouble with the first one - and not with trucks, with automobiles. Notice that the main house gate isn't even mentioned here; it was never used for motorcars.
CONCLUSION: THE LORRY NEVER PARKED INSIDE THE "COURTYARD" NEXT TO THE HOUSE. It couldn't: the lane and fence made the confined space TOO NARROW for the turning radius of a long Fiat truck into the narrow house gate.
Why does this matter? Because, as I hope to show, it helps create a reasonable doubt for the involvement of one of the alleged shooters, Rudolf Lacher (it also helps us better understand the timing, movement of bodies, etc.).
Let us now examine the testimony by following the journey of the Lorry on the night of the murder from the Ekaterinburg Military Garage to the departure from the Ipatiev House (that is all that concerns me here; the remainder of the night I leave to others). I quote often from King and Wilson's FOTR as it gives a great blow by blow account.
Serge Lyukhanov, official chauffeur to the House of Special Purpose. This is quite important, as it means he was all too familiar with the difficulties of driving up the hill, turning into the wooden palisade gate, and exiting out the second wooden palisade gate. He'd done it often with automobiles, and it was likely his complaints which led to the construction of the second palisade gate leading out to Voznesensky Lane. This, however, was not an automobile, it was a truck, and one about to be weighed down, both literally and figuratively, by a henious crime.
The truck was supposed to have arrived at midnight; instead it arrived at 1:30 a.m. Having informed Botkin to wake the others, Yurovsky "retreated to his office."
"Within a few minutes, through the open windows, Yurovsky heard Lyukhanov's truck; with the curfew, it was the only vehicle on Voznesensky Prospect. The Fiat rumbled passed the square and turned through the open gates of the palisade into the sloped courtyard... Yurovsky told Lyukhanov to drive to the opposite side of the square where he was to wait for further instructions. He left the Fiat parked next to the cathedral, while he himself stood in the dusty street, smoking; above him stretched the dark sky, dotted with twinkling stars." p.301
Here "courtyard" clearly means the driveway between the outer palisade and the house, not the internal courtyard withing the property walls. If it was possible to park in the internal courtyard, as so many picture, it would have taken quite an effort. And in the end Yurovsky would have told him, "Graceful parking job, old boy, now head over to the church and wait for my command", leaving Lyukhanov with another delicate job of getting out again. The reality was that Yurovsky probably simply called out his direction through the open window and L. drove directly out the 2nd gate.
At this point Yurovsky moves into action handing out pistols, briefing men. Medvedev makes rounds and informs outside guards. The Romanovs are ready, Yurovsky brings them into the infamouse cellar room, tells them they "would have to wait until the arrival of a truck; he then disappeared... Yurovsky found Ermakov, and sent him across Voznesensky Prospect to summon the truck." (p.305)
This is an extremely tense moment; the Romanovs are actually waiting in the little room while all this is taking place! So getting to the house and parking the truck quickly, particularly given how behind schedule they already are, is CRITICAL. Here is what happens:
"Lyukhanov hopped into the cab, driving the Fiat across the prospect and through the open courtyard gates [here, again, "courtyard" is used interchangeably]. Because of the steep slope of the courtyard, he decided to BACK THE TRUCK through the gate, leaving it at the top of the incline beneath the archway; once loaded, he worried that the weight of the corpses would prevent the truck from making its way back up the incline and out the gate." (p.305)
The word "gate" and "courtyard" are very ambiguous, considering there are not one but THREE gates, and not one but TWO courtyards. In truth, Lyukhanov, having been through this before, was worried about the steep slope exiting THE MAIN PALISADE GATE. Such difficulty, after all, was the precise reason they constructed the second palisade gate. This places the lorry not in the internal IPATIEV HOUSE COURTYARD but rather in the area in front of the house enclosed by the palisade.
Let us suppose there was the remote possibility of backing the lorry in the narrow house gate. It would - at a minimum - have taken several guards, a very patient driver, forward, reverse, forward again, reverse again, wheel cranking, cursing, lurching into gear, etc. All while the Romanovs sat in a tiny room and wondered what on earth was going on. No, time was of the essence and even if it were possible, they could not afford to spend it on arduous lorry driving manuevers. And, for that matter, why? The entire area was enclosed by a massive fence!
Now, let us examine how the vehicle departs, with its eleven bodies and six additional passengers:
"Lyukhanov started the Fiat's engine, and slowly the truck eased its way up the sloping drive and out of the Ipatiev House courtyard onto Voznesensky Prospect. It passed down the borad, deserted avenue, bereft of all traffic." (p.315)
COURTYARD here clearly means the area in front of the house enclosed by the palisade. For if the lorry were parked in the INTERNAL IPATIEV COURTYARD, according to these directions, in order to turn onto V. Prospect it would have had to drive up a five foot embankment and through a wooden palisade! Quite unlikely...
Now imagine the truck parked in the area in front of the house, enclosed by the wooden palisade: the truck eased up the sloping drive of the narrow lane and turned right out of the front wooden palisade gate onto Voznesensky Prospect. Voila.
By now you are very likely dying to know, WHAT DOES ALL THIS HAVE TO DO WITH RUDOLF LACHER?
I will not hesitate any longer.
First of all, he was a real person; if he has any relatives, they carry with them the burden of the accusation of murder, a burden I hope to dispel, or at least cast all that should be necessary to exonorate him: REASONABLE DOUBT.
Here is his photo:
A good looking chap. The facts: Austrian prisoner of war. "Joined the Habsburg Army in 1914 and was sent to the Carpathian Front. In 1915 captured by Russian troops in Galicia and sent to labor camp in Urals. After the revolution, 'allowed to do work... provided I had authorization'... secured a job in Verkh-Isetsk factory, largely on strength of linguistic talents... speaking German and Russian... acted as official interpreter... rising quickly through the ranks of his comrades until he came to Yurovsky's notice. (FOTR, p.270)
He claimed on the night of the murders "Yurovsky had locked him into his room at midnight... insisted he had watched through the keyhole of his door as the victims passed, noting that all of the grand duchesses were sobbing as they descended the staircase. Later, he said, after a number of shots, he climbed on his bed and peered out of the window, counting 'eleven bloody bundles' as they were loaded into the waiting Fiat. (p.591)
THE CASE AGAINST RUDOLF LACHER
"Lacher's room, directly beneath Yurovsky's office, had one small window, with double panes of glass, sunk deeply into the two-foot-thick stone wall; between it and the courtyard gate, into which Lyukhanov had backed the Fiat, the first palisade was attached to the eastern facade of the Ipatiev House and, beyond this, the main stairs, with high concrete piers on either side, further obscuring the view and eliminating any possibility that Lacher could have seen what he claimed." (p.591)
The ONLY other evidence is "inferential": "Netrebin, who recalled that, of his comrades, only Lepa and Verhas did not participate in the shooting." (p.591)
Let us look at the case, point by point. We need to first see where this window and room were located.
You can see that photos of this window are hard to come by; nevertheless while the stairs obscure a small portion of the line of site, virtually all activity in this area in front of the house, once enclosed by a palisade, is visible from this window.
"Wait a moment!" says the prosecution. "What about the first palisade! Did you not read the testimony? "the first palisade was attached to the eastern facade of the Ipatiev House" thus obscuring his view.
"Have a closer look," says the defense. "The first palisade meets the wall precisely between the commandant's windows, splitting Lacher's window in two. He could, in fact, see quite clearly virtually any activity in this outer courtyard."
Here is a muddy photo of the first palisade (this too is often misplaced in models). You can see (barely) the visible half of the window. Look closely, it is indeed there. And more importantly, by viewing the placement of the fence directly between of the upper two windows, based on the location of the window in other posts one can better visualize the 50/50 split.
"But if the lorry was in the internal courtyard..." objects the prosecution weakly.
"No!" says the defense. "We have spent two previous posts and several hours proving otherwise!"
Recall the approximate location of the lorry, based on evidence and testimony:
Observe, if you will, his line of sight from said location:
"THEREFORE," thunders the defense, "Rudolf Lacher could very well have witnessed the loading of bodies into the lorry. Given the evidence surrounding the true location of the lorry, it is certainly far from IMPOSSIBLE he did not, casting REASONABLE DOUBT to his involvement in the shooting."
The judge, aroused from his slumber, looks about dazedly, finds Rudolph Lacher and claps the gavel. "Given the new evidence on the location of the Fiat lorry," he states judiciously (for isn't that what judges do), "You sir, are hereby free to go!"
A FINAL NOTE: Having read quite a bit about the murder of the Romanovs, do I believe that Rudolph Lacher was one of the murderers? Well, he certainly could have been. But as his attorney my job is only to demonstrate the weaknesses in the evidence against him, which I have done. Taking off that hat, because of the number of "Letts" used in the execution and Lacher's linguistic skills, it seems logical he may have been one of the shooters. We will never know for sure.