- This article is for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character. For other versions of the character see Versions of Sebastian Moran.
Sebastian Moran was born in London in 1840, the son of Sir Augustus Moran, CB, sometime Minister to Persia. After being educated at Eton College and the University of Oxford, he went on to a distinguished military career. Formerly of the 1st Bangalore Pioneers (Madras), he served in the Jowaki Expedition of 1877-1878 and in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, seeing action at the Battle of Char Asiab, 6 October 1879 (for which he was "mentioned in despatches"); the Battle of Sherpur, 23 December 1879; and at Kabul.
An accomplished marksman and prolific big-game hunter, Moran authored the books Heavy Game of the Western Himalayas in 1881 and Three Months in the Jungle. Years later, Holmes remarked that Moran's "bag of tigers" was still the record in India, and no single British hunter had taken more.
Reading this portion of Moran's biography, John Watson commented that it was the history of an honorable soldier, with no hint of the arch-criminal he and Holmes later confronted. Holmes agreed that Moran had several noteworthy qualities, especially his iron nerve, which made him outwardly admirable. According to Holmes, many of Moran's feats were still legendary in India, such as when he "crawled down a drain after a wounded man-eating tiger."
Holmes whimsically speculated that Moran's criminality was the result of some "hereditary disease," similar to a blight which affects offshoots of otherwise healthy trees. Whatever the reason was, Moran went to the bad, and, although there was no open scandal, he was obliged to retire from the army and return to London. Outwardly respectable, with an address in Conduit Street, Mayfair, and a member of the Anglo-Indian Club, the Tankerville Club and The Bagatelle Card Club, he still acquired an evil reputation in London's underworld, which led to his recruitment by Professor Moriarty, who employed him as the chief of staff of his criminal empire. In addition, Moran was employed for select assassinations that required his uncanny marksmanship.
Moran followed Professor Moriarty to Switzerland, and, after Moriarty perished at the bottom of the Reichenbach Falls, attempted to kill Holmes by rolling boulders down on him. Holmes escaped, but was forced to remain officially dead for several years, knowing that Moran would be gunning for him as soon as he revealed himself. Instead, Holmes waited for Moran to slip up and incriminate himself.
After the collapse of Moriarty's criminal organization, Moran returned to London and earned a living by playing cards at several clubs. When one of the other players, Ronald Adair, noticed that Moran won by cheating and threatened to expose him, Moran murdered Adair with a silent air rifle that fired revolver bullets, crafted especially to Moriarty's specifications by a blind German mechanic.
Dr. Watson and a returned Holmes took the case, and Moran attempted to kill the detective by firing his air rifle from a vacant house opposite Holmes' residence at 221B Baker Street. Holmes having anticipated this, Moran shot a wax effigy of Holmes while the real Holmes, with Watson and Inspector Lestrade, hid nearby to seize Moran.