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An essential guide to criminology, exploring the most infamous cases of all time, from serial killers to mob hits to war crimes and more. From Jack the Ripper to Jeffrey Dahmer, The Crime Book is a complete study of international true crime history that unpacks the shocking stories through info-graphics and in-depth research that lays out every key fact and detail. Examine the science, psychology, and sociology of criminal behavior, and read profiles of villains, victims, and detectives. See each clue and follow the investigation from start to finish, and study the police and detective work of each case. Find out how pirates, the Japanese yakuza, Chinese triads, and modern drug cartels operate around the world. Dive deep into the Black Dahlia murder investigation and follow other high-profile cases, including Lizzie Borden with her ax and the Patty Hearst kidnapping. Learn how media coverage changed through history, from the tragic assassination of President Abraham Lincoln to romanticizing Bonnie and Clyde's doomed fate to the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh's baby, which is considered the first international crime tabloid story. The Crime Book is a complete compendium for crime aficionados to add to their collection.

Dorling Kindersley
ISBN 13:
Big Ideas Simply Explained
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foreword by

peter james



Helen Fewster

Ellen Dupont

Michael Duffy

Nick Avery

Angeles Gavira Guerrero

Nathan Joyce

Karen Self

Thomas Keenes

Liz Wheeler

Abigail Mitchell, Dorothy Stannard,
Guy Croton, Debra Wolter

Jonathan Metcalf
Mark Cavanagh
Claire Gell
Sophia MTT

Autumn Green, Joseph Persad
Simon Webb
Dave Jones
Marie Lorimer

First published in Great Britain in 2017 by
Dorling Kindersley Limited, 80 Strand,
London, WC2R 0RL
Copyright © 2017
Dorling Kindersley Limited
A Penguin Random House Company
Foreword © 2016 Peter James/
Really Scary Books Ltd
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
001 - 305378 - Apr/2017
All rights reserved.
Without limiting the rights under the
copyright reserved above, no part of this
publication may be reproduced, stored in or
introduced into a retrieval system, or
transmitted, in any form, or by any means
(electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise), without the prior
written permission of the copyright owner.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is
available from the British Library.

Andy Hilliard, Gillian Reid

Susannah Jayes

Anna Vallarino

Marion Dent

Printed and bound in Hong Kong

original styling by


James Graham

Dhirendra Singh
Priyanka Sharma
Harish Aggarwal
Saloni Singh


ISBN: 978-0-2412-9896-1



Shanna Hogan is an award-winning journalist and The New York
Times best-selling author of three true; -crime books including
Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story. An Arizona State University
journalism graduate, Shanna has written for numerous publications,
received more than 20 awards for her feature writing and investigative
reporting, and has appeared on numerous shows, including The
View, Dateline, 20/20, CNN, Oxygen, and Investigation Discovery.
Shanna lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband and two dogs.

Rebecca Morris is The New York Times best-selling author of
A Killing in Amish Country, and If I Can’t Have You, with Gregg
Olsen. An experienced journalist, she is also the author of the
best-selling Ted and Ann: The Mystery of a Missing Child and
Her Neighbor Ted Bundy. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

Michael Kerrigan was educated at University College, Oxford. His
many books include A History of Punishment, The War on Drugs,
The American Presidency: A Dark History, The Catholic Church:
A Dark History, and A Handbook of Scotland’s History. He writes
regular reviews for The Times Literary Supplement and lives with
his family in Edinburgh.

Lee Mellor, Ph.D. (abd) is a criminologist, lecturer, musician, and
the author of six books on crime. He is currently finishing his
doctorate at Montreal’s Concordia University specializing in
abnormal homicide and sex crimes. As the chair of the American
Investigative Society of Cold Cases’ academic committee, he has
consulted with police on cold cases in Pennsylvania, Missouri,
Ohio, and London, Ontario. He resides in Toronto, Canada.

Cathy Scott, a Los Angeles Times best-selling author, is an
established crime writer and investigative journalist for The New
York Times and Reuters. Best known for writing The Killing of
Tupac Shakur and The Murder of Biggie Smalls, she has written
extensively about street gangs and organized crime, including
mob daughter Susan Berman in Murder of a Mafia Daughter, and
drug kingpin “Freeway” Rick Ross. She is the author of several
other true crime works, including The Rough Guide to True
Crime, The Millionaire’s Wife, and Death in the Desert, which was
adapted into a full-length movie starring Michael Madsen in 2016.





I stole from the wealthy so I
could live their lifestyle
John MacLean


Sing of my deeds, tell
of my combats… forgive
my failings
Phoolan Devi


The fire becomes a
mistress, a lover
John Leonard Orr


It was the perfect crime
The Antwerp Diamond Heist


He was an expert in
alarm systems
The Theft of the Cellini Salt Cellar


Weird and unbelievable,
but it’s a very real
criminal case
The Russia–Estonia
Vodka Pipeline


Old-school London
criminal gents
The Hatton Garden Heist


Father of all treasons
Thomas Blood


A civil, obliging robber
John Nevison


Damnation seize my soul
if I give you quarters
Edward “Blackbeard” Teach


Burke’s the butcher, Hare’s
the thief, Knox the boy that
buys the beef
Burke and Hare


They were brave fellows.
They were true men
The James-Younger Gang


It’s for the love of
a man that I’m gonna
have to die
Bonnie and Clyde


Under the influence of bad
counsels… I fell a martyr
The Affair of the
Diamond Necklace


People took their hats off
to such a sum
The Crawford Inheritance


The smoothest con man
that ever lived
The Sale of the Eiffel Tower


Domela’s story rings with the
high lunacy of great farce
Harry Domela


If my work hangs in a
museum long enough, it
becomes real
Elmyr de Hory


It’s not stealing because I’m
only taking what they give me
Doris Payne


They inflated the raft and left
the island. After that nobody
seems to know what happened
Escape from Alcatraz


At the time, virtue was
not one of my virtues
Frank Abagnale


You’ll never believe it –
they’ve stolen the train
The Great Train Robbery


Addicted to the thrill
Bill Mason


To me it is only so much
scrap gold
The Theft of the World Cup


I was on a train of lies.
I couldn’t jump off
Clifford Irving


Miss, you’d better look
at that note
D.B. Cooper


Originally I copied Hitler’s life
out of books, but later I began
to feel I was Hitler
Konrad Kujau


Without weapons, nor
hatred, nor violence
The Société Générale
Bank Heist


If this is not a ring-in I’m
not here
The Fine Cotton Scandal


100 Money… has often been
a cause of the delusion
of multitudes
The Mississippi Scheme

101 Nothing is lost save honour
The Black Friday Gold Scandal

102 The old game of robbing
Peter to pay Paul
Charles Ponzi

108 You can’t convict a

million dollars
The Teapot Dome Scandal

110 Citizens were dying

right, left, and centre
The Bhopal Disaster

114 The world’s

biggest mugging
The City of London
Bonds Theft

116 It’s all just one big lie
Bernie Madoff

122 I know in my mind that
I did nothing criminal
The Enron Scandal

124 He put in peril the

existence of the bank
Jérôme Kerviel

126 Bribery was tolerated
and… rewarded
The Siemens Scandal

128 Not just nerdy kids up to

mischief in their parents’
The Spyeye Malware
Data Theft

130 The irregularities… go

against everything
Volkswagen stands for
The Volkswagen Emissions

136 The most hazardous of all

trades, that of the smuggler
The Hawkhurst Gang

138 In Sicily there is a sect
of thieves
The Sicilian Mafia

146 They dare do anything
The Triads

150 No more villainous, ruffianly
band was ever organized
The Wild Bunch

152 Prohibition has made
nothing but trouble
The Beer Wars

154 If the boss says a

passing crow is white,
you must agree
The Yakuza

160 When we do right, nobody
remembers. When we do
wrong, nobody forgets
Hells Angels

164 They were the best years

of our lives
The Krays and the Richardsons

166 All empires are created
of blood and fire
The Medellín Cartel

168 It was always about business,
never about gangs
“Freeway” Rick Ross

176 He valued her less than

old swords
The Abduction of Pocahontas

177 Marvellous real-life romance
The Tichborne Claimant

178 Anne, they’ve stolen our baby!
The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping

186 Since Monday I have fallen

into the hands of kidnappers
The Kidnapping of John Paul
Getty III

188 I’m a coward. I didn’t

want to die
The Kidnapping of Patty Hearst

190 I still sleep with a night

light. I can’t ride a subway
The Chowchilla Kidnapping

196 I always felt like a poor
chicken in a hen house
The Kidnapping of
Natascha Kampusch

202 An unusually clear case,
like a “smoking gun”
The Neanderthal Murder

203 Perpetrated with the sword
of justice
Jean Calas

204 Not guilty by reason
of insanity
Daniel M’Naghten

206 Gave Katherine warning
to leave
The Dripping Killer

208 Lizzie Borden took an axe and
gave her mother forty whacks
Lizzie Borden

212 Fingerprinting alone has

proved to be both infallible
and feasible
The Stratton Brothers

216 Thank God it’s over. The

suspense has been too great
Dr Crippen

217 I was driven by a will that had
taken the place of my own
Madame Caillaux

246 I’m afraid this man will
kill me some day
O.J. Simpson

252 Foul play while in the Spy
Craft store
Craig Jacobsen

254 People are afraid and

don’t want to talk to us
The Murders of Tupac Shakur
and Biggie Smalls

218 She was very good looking
with beautiful dark hair
The Black Dahlia Murder

224 The artist was so well

informed on chemicals…
it was frightening
Sadamichi Hirasawa

226 I have been a victim of

many unusual and
irrational thoughts
The Texas Tower Massacre

230 Now is the time for
Helter Skelter
The Manson Family

238 A dingo’s got my baby!
The Death of Azaria

240 I was Mr Nobody until I

killed the biggest
somebody on Earth
The Murder of John Lennon

241 Who has sent you

against me? Who has told
you to do this thing?
The Murder of
Roberto Calvi

242 I was on death row, and
I was innocent
Kirk Bloodsworth

244 An act of unparalleled evil
The Murder of James Bulger

262 Murdering people… for
sheer sport
Liu Pengli

263 The said Dame Alice had a
certain demon
Alice Kyteler

264 The blood of maidens will
keep her young
Elizabeth Báthory

266 I will send you another
bit of innerds
Jack the Ripper

274 They’d rather be dead
than be with me
Harvey Glatman

276 I just like to kill
Ted Bundy

284 Calculated, cruel, cold-blooded
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley

286 More terrible than words
can express
Fred and Rosemary West

288 This is the Zodiac speaking
The Zodiac Killer

290 In his own eyes, he was

some sort of medical god
Harold Shipman

292 A mistake of nature
Andrei Chikatilo

293 I was sick or evil, or both
Jeffrey Dahmer

294 A danger to young women
Colin Pitchfork

298 Read your ad. Let’s talk
about the possibilities
John Edward Robinson

304 Insatiable and disgraceful

lust for money
The Assassination of Pertinax

305 Murdering someone by craft
The Hashashin

306 Sic semper tyrannis!
The Assassination of
Abraham Lincoln

310 Dreyfus is innocent. I swear it! I

stake my life on it – my honour!
The Dreyfus Affair

312 If they shed my blood, their
hands will remain soiled
The Assassination of Rasputin

316 There has to be more to it
The Assassination of John F.

322 I kiss you for the last time
The Abduction of Aldo Moro

324 Barbarity was all around us
The Kidnapping of Ingrid

326 Barbaric and ruthless

The Poisoning of Alexander




owe my career as a writer to crime – in more ways
than one. In 1982 soon after my first novel, a spy
thriller, had been published, our Brighton home
was burgled. A young detective, Mike Harris, came to
take fingerprints, saw the book and told me if I ever
needed any research help from Sussex Police to give
him a call.
Mike was married to a detective, Renate, and over
the next few years my former wife and I became firm
friends with them. Almost all of their circle of friends
were also in the police force, in all fields, like Response,
Homicide, Traffic, Child Protection, Antiques and
Fraud. The more I talked to all of them, the more I
realised that no one sees more of human life in a
30-year career than a cop. They encounter every single
facet of the human condition.
All investigated crime involves an inseparable
trinity of perpetrator, victim and police. Even offences
that disgust us, such as rape, domestic abuse, theft
from charities, preying on the elderly or child abuse,
hold us as much in thrall as other seemingly more
“glamorous” ones. And there are some crimes which
captivate us with their sheer verve, where the
personality of the villains transcends the ruin, despair
or even death inflicted on their victims. I’ve long held a
sneaking admiration for brilliant con-man Victor Lustig
who sold the Eiffel Tower to scrap dealers, and the
brazen, skilfully planned, but almost Ealing Comedy
nature of the Hatton Garden Jewellery Heist.
Much in the same way, the 1963 Great Train
Robbery captured the nation’s attention – it was at the
time the most audacious, and largest robbery ever
committed in England.
I had lunch with the gang’s getaway driver, Roy
John James, after his release from prison some years
later. He was looking for finance to resume his motor
racing career. A charismatic man, he ruefully told me if
they had not made the mistake of coshing the traindriver, causing him permanent injury, they would all

still be considered heroes today. But that of course is
the problem with true crime – someone does get hurt.
The glamour and vitality of the Bonnie and Clyde story
grinds to a brutal and sobering halt in a relentless
torrent of bullets.
But that doesn’t stop our endless fascination with
monsters, whether real or fictional, from Jack The
Ripper, through to fiercely intelligent and charming
Ted Bundy, estimated to have raped and killed over
100 young female college students. Nor with crime in
general. Why are we so fascinated by crime, from both
the pages of fictional detective novels, crime dramas
and movies, to the utterly addictive murders in our
tabloids, broadsheets and on our television news?
I don’t believe there is a one-size fits all answer, but
many. Top of my list is that we are programmed by our
genes to try to survive. We can learn a great deal about
survival through studying the fates of victims and the
make-up of their perpetrators.
And there is one aspect of human nature that will
never change. I was chatting with former serial bank
robber, Steve Tulley. As a teenager, in prison for his
first robbery, Tulley met Reggie Kray, and persuaded
him to let him be his pupil and teach him everything
he knew. At 58, broke, Tulley is living in a bedsit in
Brighton. I asked him what was the largest sum he had
ever got away with. He told me it was £50k in a bank
job. So what did he do with the money? He replied,
excitedly that he had rented a suite in Brighton’s
Metropole Hotel and, in his words, “Larged it for six
months until it was all gone.”
I asked Steve if he had the chance to live his life
over again would he have done it differently? “No,” he
replied with a gleam in his eyes. “I’d do it all again. It’s
the adrenaline, you see!”
Peter James
Best-selling author of the Roy Grace novels





rimes – the illegal actions
that can be prosecuted and
are punishable by law – are
all around us, from comparatively
petty misdemeanours to truly
heinous acts of unspeakable evil.
The perpetrators of these varied
transgressions have long fascinated
academics and the wider public,
who have sought answers to
questions about whether some
people are more likely to commit
crimes than others, and whether
there are certain characteristics
unique to criminals.
Indeed, the Ancient Greeks
were fascinated by the “science”
of physiognomy – the study of how
certain facial features can reveal
something about a person’s
character or nature. While such
a thought now sounds somewhat
ridiculous, physiognomy was
widely accepted by the Ancient
Greeks and underwent periodic
revivals over the centuries, the
most notable spearheaded by Swiss
writer Johann Kaspar Lavater in
the 1770s.
What unites the crimes covered
in this book is their status as
“notorious” in one way or another.
Whether it is because of their
breathtaking ingenuity, brazen
opportunism, machiavellian
scheming, or abominable

malevolence, these crimes stand
out over the centuries. While many
of the perpetrators are viewed with
distaste and disgust, some have
been highly romanticized over the
years for their rebelliousness and
contempt for obeying the rules.
This is often in spite of the
extremely serious nature of their
crimes, such as with Bonnie and
Clyde, the Great Train Robbers,
and Phoolan Devi.
Some cases have broken new
ground, and in some instances
have led to the swift passage of
new laws to protect the public
and deter others from committing
similar crimes. Public outrage
during the investigation into the
highly publicized Lindbergh Baby

Laws are like cobwebs,
which may catch small flies,
but let wasps and hornets
break through.
Jonathan Swift

kidnapping in 1932 prompted the
US Congress to enact the Federal
Kidnapping Act just one month
later. Also known as the Lindbergh
Law, the Act made kidnapping a
federal crime punishable by death.
Other cases have involved
pioneering legal defence strategies,
such as with the 1843 case of
Daniel M’Naghten, the first of its
kind in UK legal history. M’Naghten
was acquitted of a high-profile
murder based on a criminalinsanity defence, and remanded to
a State Criminal Lunatic Asylum
for the remainder of his life.

Crime through the years

Throughout history, pivotal
moments have brought new crimes
to the fore. In the late 19th century,
for example, lawlessness increased
with the growth of towns and
cities, in part because of a lack
of official police forces to rein in
outlaws and bring them to justice.
One of those was the Wild West’s
Jesse James and his infamous
James–Younger Gang, who
became the first gang in the US
to rob trains and banks during
daylight hours.
During the Prohibition period
in the US, from 1920 to 1933,
organized crime proliferated
when outfits such as Chicago’s


Sheldon Gang vied to become the
major illegal alcohol suppliers in the
city’s southwest Irish belt.
The number of offences in the
US increased so much during that
time span that the International
Association of Chiefs of Police
began to compile crime statistics.
This culminated in the release of
the Uniform Crime Reports – the
first published in January 1930
– which were pulled together via
a voluntary cooperative effort
from local, county, and state
law enforcement agencies. This
became a vital tool to monitor
the number and types of offences
committed across the US. It caught
on and inspired law enforcement
agencies in other countries around
the world to follow suit.

found evidence that he or she had
been bludgeoned to death and
thrown down a cave shaft.
There is an undeniable public
fascination with serial killers –
especially those where the culprit
has never been caught. The cases
of Jack the Ripper in London and
the Zodiac killer in California
are both enduring sources of
contemporary analysis and
speculation. Some crimes are so
horrifying that the name of the
perpetrator becomes indelibly
linked with indescribable evil.
Ted Bundy, who committed the
gruesome murders of dozens of
young women in the 1970s in the
Pacific Northwest, is a case in
point. The fact that Bundy seemed
a charming, respectable man

The ultimate transgression
When it comes to murder, it is
invariably savage and disturbing.
Whether an organized hit-for-hire,
a crime of passion, or a wanton act
of violence against a stranger, the
act is final and tragic.
History’s first homicide is
believed to have taken place some
430,000 years ago. However, it
was only discovered in 2015,
when archaeologists working in
Atapuerca, Spain, pieced together
the skull of a Neanderthal and

He who commits injustice is
ever made more wretched
than he who suffers it.

heightened the shock factor: he
did not conform to a stereotypical
vision of a monstrous serial killer.

Villains and technology

The 1962 escape from Alcatraz
Federal Penitentiary caused
an international sensation.
Investigators concluded that the
fugitives died trying to make their
way across San Francisco Bay –
but evidence unearthed in 2015
calls this into question. If such
an escape were to happen today,
a massive manhunt would be
streamed live across the internet,
making it more difficult for the
criminals to get away.
The technological improvements
in the detection and solving of
crimes, such as DNA fingerprinting,
is accompanied by an increasing
sophistication in the techniques
criminals use to commit them and
to evade capture. In 2011, Russian
hacker Aleksandr Panin accessed
confidential information from over
50 million computers. In February
2016, hackers stole $81 million (£64
million) from the central Bank of
Bangladesh without even setting
foot in the country. While criminal
methods may have evolved over
time, though, our fascination with
crime and its perpetrators remains
as strong as it ever has been. ■


, AND


Irishman Thomas
Blood attempts to
steal the English
Crown Jewels from
the Tower of London.

Pirate Edward
“Blackbeard” Teach
plunders ships in the
Caribbean and along the
East Coast of America.

Jesse James leads
the James–Younger Gang
in train and bank
robberies across the
American Midwest.








In England, highwayman
John Nevison rides 320 km
(200 miles) in a single day in
order to construct an alibi.

Scottish graverobbers
William Burke and William
Hare turn to murder to
make money selling
corpses for dissection.

Bonnie and Clyde go
on a crime spree
across several US
states, kidnapping
and murdering
when cornered.

he general public has long
romanticized bandits,
admiring their courage,
audacity, and unwillingness to live
by the rules of others. Many have
been regarded as daredevils rather
than simply common criminals.
Such was the public’s perception
of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow,
outlaws operating in 1930s
America, who travelled in a Buick
sedan and hid out in boarding
houses and empty barns between
robberies and murders. Bonnie
and Clyde’s crimes were heinous,
but they captured the public
imagination and attracted throngs
of supporters who relished reading
reports of their latest exploits.
It was no different for the Great
Train Robbers, a 15-member gang
who targeted the Glasgow to
London mail train in 1963. Wearing

helmets, ski masks, and gloves,
they stole 120 mailbags containing
more than £2.6 million (about
£49 million today) in cash and
seriously injured train driver Jack
Mills. Yet sections of the British
public glorified the Great Train
Robbers, pleased that some of them
evaded justice, and ignored their
violent and illegal exploits.
Like other famous robberies and
criminal partnerships, the stories
of the Great Train Robbery and
Bonnie and Clyde have been made
into movies that appealed to the
public’s age-old love of villains.
The notion of the lovable rogue
is not entirely fanciful. John
Nevison, a British highwayman of
the 1670s was renowned for his
gentlemanly manner. Holding up
stagecoaches on horseback, he
apologized to his victims before

taking their money. Bizarrely, it
almost became an honour to be
robbed by Nevison. His legendary
status was cemented through his
impulsive 320-km (200-mile)
journey from the county of Kent
to York to establish an alibi for a
robbery that he committed earlier
in the day—a feat that earned him
the nickname “Swift Nick”.

Ingenious crimes

Sometimes we cannot help but
admire the breathtaking audacity
of certain crimes. One of the
boldest robberies in modern times
occurred in midair over the
northwestern US in November
1971. The hijacker of a Boeing 727,
who became known as D.B. Cooper,
fled from the scene by parachute,
taking with him a ransom of
$200,000 (£158,000) in $20 bills.

The Great Train
Robbers steal more
than £2.6 million (about
£49 million today) from
the Glasgow to London
mail train.

In Uttar Pradesh, India,
Phoolan Devi, known as the
Bandit Queen, carries out
dozens of highway robberies.

In Belgium, thieves break
into the vault of the
Antwerp Diamond Center,
stealing diamonds worth
£60 million.





In Washington state, a man
going by the name of D.B.
Cooper hijacks a plane,
extracts a £158,000 ransom,
and escapes by parachute.

In the French town of Nice a few
years later, thieves committed what
was then the biggest heist in
history when they drilled their way
into the Société Générale bank
from the city’s sewer system. In
2003, a gang of thieves showed
similar ambition when they broke
into a seemingly impregnable
underground vault two floors
beneath the Antwerp Diamond
Centre, to commit what they
dubbed the “perfect crime”. The
gang made off with a haul worth
around £60 million. The ringleader
made one fatal mistake, however,
leaving traces of his DNA close to
the crime scene.
Art heists also tend to capture
the public’s imagination, because
they often demonstrate brazen
opportunism with little thought
for the consequences. Take, for



Professional fire investigator
and secret arsonist
John Leonard Orr sets a
series of deadly fires in
southern California.

Veteran thieves loot
the Hatton Garden
Safe Deposit Company
in central London, in
the largest burglary
in UK history.

example, the 2003 case of amateur
art thief Robert Mang, who climbed
up the scaffolding outside a
museum and squeezed through a
broken window to steal a multimillion dollar work by the Italian
artist Benvenuto Cellini. However,
there was no market for the
miniature masterpiece and he was
forced to bury it in the woods.

Darker acts

Not all bandits and robbers
inspire a grudging respect for the
remarkable nerve of the offender.
The case of bodysnatchers William
Burke and William Hare – who, in
early 19th-century Edinburgh,
turned to murder to supply
cadavers for Dr Robert Knox’s
anatomy classes at the city’s
university – is a grisly tale. The
spate of arson attacks committed

by fire investigator John Leonard
Orr in California were especially
dark and disturbing. This case was
fiendishly difficult to crack, because
much of the evidence was destroyed
by the fire. A partial fingerprint left
on an unburned part of his
incendiary device led to his arrest.
Unlike Bonnie and Clyde and
the Great Train Robbers, who
became legendary figures courtesy
of the media, Orr created his own
legend, and earned a reputation for
being the first investigator at the
scene of the crimes he secretly
committed. But Orr’s fearlessness
and skill as a master manipulator
are what he shares with the
bandits and robbers featured in this
chapter. They have all entered
criminal history on account of their
notoriety, which in some cases
extends to mythic status. ■



Tower of London, UK
Jewel theft
1303 Richard of Pudlicott, an
impoverished English wool
merchant, steals much of
Edward I’s priceless treasury
of gems, gold, and coins at
Westminster Abbey.
11 September 1792
Thieves break into the Royal
Storehouse, the Hôtel du
Garde-Meuble de la Couronne,
in Paris, and steal most of the
French Crown Jewels; many,
but not all, are later recovered.
11 August 1994 Three
men make off with jewellery
and precious stones worth
£48 million at an exhibition
at the Carlton Hotel in
Cannes, France.


rish-born Thomas Blood
(1618–80) fought for the
Parliamentarians against
Charles I’s Royalists in the English
Civil War (1642–51), and the
victorious Oliver Cromwell
rewarded him with estates in his
home country. These lands were
confiscated during the Restoration
of the Monarchy under Charles II,
which Blood deemed a wrong that
needed to be put right. He hatched
a plan to steal the Crown Jewels,
not only for financial gain but also
to symbolically decapitate the king,
echoing the fate of King Charles I,
in 1649.
Early in 1671, disguised as the
fictitious clergyman Reverend
“Ayloffe”, and with a female
accomplice posing as his wife,
Blood paid the Master of the Jewel
Office, the elderly Talbot Edwards,
for a tour. “Mrs Ayloffe” feigned
illness during the tour, and
Edwards and his wife came to her
aid. A grateful Reverend Ayloffe
made further visits, gaining the
Edwards’s trust. On 5 May, Ayloffe
persuaded Edwards to bring out

the jewels, and immediately let in
his waiting friends. Overpowering
and beating Edwards, the gang
flattened the crown and sawed the
sceptre in half to make it easier to
carry. They attempted to escape on
horseback but were quickly caught.
The king confounded his
subjects by offering Blood a royal
pardon. Some suggested that the
king had been amused by Blood’s
boldness; others that the king had
recruited him as spy. Either way,
Blood subsequently became a
favourite around the royal court. ■

It was a gallant attempt,
however unsuccessful! It was
for a crown!
Thomas Blood

See also: The Société Générale Bank Heist 44 ■ The Antwerp Diamond Heist
54–55 ■ The Affair of the Diamond Necklace 64–65



Gad’s Hill, near Rochester,
Kent, UK
Highway robbery
1491–1518 Humphrey
Kynaston, a high-born English
highwayman, robs travellers in
Shropshire, allegedly giving
his takings to the poor.
1710s Louis Dominique
Garthausen, known as
“Cartouche”, commits highway
robberies in and around Paris.
1735–37 Highwayman
Dick Turpin carries out a series
of robberies in the Greater
London area. He is captured in
York in 1739 and is executed
for horse theft.


ighwayman John Nevison
(1639–94) was supposedly
nicknamed “Swift Nick”
by King Charles II after the truth
was finally revealed about his most
famous exploit. After robbing a
traveller near Rochester, Kent,
Nevison was in desperate need of
an alibi, so he devised a cunning
plan. He crossed the River Thames
and galloped 320 km (200 miles) to
York in a single day, then engaged
the Lord Mayor of York in
conversation and made a bet over a
game of bowls. Nevison made sure
that the Lord Mayor knew the time
(8pm). The ruse paid off, and the
Lord Mayor later acted as Nevison’s
alibi during his trial. The jury could
not conceive that a man was
physically able to ride the distance
Nevison covered in a single day,
and so he was found not guilty.
Nevison was a veteran of the
1658 Battle of Dunkirk and was
skilful with horses and weapons.
He was also courteous and elegant,
which he believed put him above
the rank of a common thief. The
Newgate Calendar, a publication

See also: The Great Train Robbery 30–35

Nevison’s flamboyant style and
courtly manners are evident in this
1680 depiction of his alleged meeting
with King Charles II.

that details the exploits of fabled
criminals, said he was “very
favourable to the female sex” on
account of his courtesy and style.
This elevated his standing and had
the bizarre effect of making it
something of an honour to have
been robbed by him. ■


The Caribbean and East
Coast of North America
1667–83 Welsh privateer and
later Royal Navy Admiral Sir
Henry Morgan becomes
famous for attacks on Spanish
settlements in the Caribbean.
1689–96 Captain William
Kidd, a renowned Scottish
privateer and pirate hunter,
plunders ships and islands
in the Caribbean.
1717–18 Barbadian pirate
“Gentleman” Stede Bonnet,
nicknamed for his past as a
wealthy landowner, pillages
vessels in the Caribbean.
1719–22 Bartholomew “Black
Bart” Roberts, a Welsh pirate,
raids hundreds of ships in the
Americas and West Africa.


lthough far from the most
successful pirate, Edward
“Blackbeard” Teach is
undoubtedly the most notorious.
Originally an English privateer
during Queen Anne’s War (1702–
13), he turned to piracy when the
hostilities ceased.
In 1716, Blackbeard travelled to
the “pirate’s republic” of Nassau
in the Bahamas. There, he met
Captain Benjamin Hornigold who
placed him in charge of a sloop.
Together the pair plundered
ships in the waters around Cuba
and Bermuda, and along the East
Coast of America.
Hornigold and Teach soon
encountered the Barbadian pirate
“Gentleman” Stede Bonnet, who
had been seriously wounded
battling a Spanish man-of-war.
Half of Bonnet’s crew had perished
and the remaining 70 were losing
faith in his leadership. The three
men joined forces, with Bonnet
temporarily ceding command of his
sloop, the Revenge, to Blackbeard.

Taking charge

During a raid near Martinique in
November 1717, Hornigold acquired
the 200-ton frigate La Concord de
Nantes. Hornigold placed

Blackbeard’s fearsome appearance
matched his reputation, but evidence
suggests he only used force as a last
resort. His swashbuckling was greatly
romanticized after his death.

Blackbeard in charge of this prized
vessel. Blackbeard renamed it
Queen Anne’s Revenge.
In December, King George I
passed the Indemnity Act, which
pardoned any pirate who officially
renounced his lifestyle. Hornigold
– who had been replaced as
captain by his and Blackbeard’s

See also: The Hawkhurst Gang 136–37

combined crews after he voted
against a decision to attack any
ship they wanted, including British
ships – took the King’s pardon and
parted ways with Blackbeard.
Eventually, Bonnet’s men
deserted him, choosing to serve
under Blackbeard’s command.
Blackbeard put a surrogate in
charge of the Revenge and kept
Bonnet as a “guest” on his ship.
Soon after, Blackbeard sailed to
North Carolina, where he blockaded
the port of Charleston, capturing
nine ships and ransoming a
wealthy merchant and politician.
Upon sailing away from
Charleston, the Queen Anne’s
Revenge ran aground. Anchoring
their fleet at Topsail Inlet, Bonnet
and Blackbeard travelled by land to
Bath, North Carolina, in June 1718
where they were granted pardons
by Governor Charles Eden.
However, while Bonnet remained
there, Blackbeard crept back to the
fleet, plundered the Revenge and
two other ships in the fleet and
transferred the goods to his sloop,
the Adventure.

Let’s jump on board, and
cut them to pieces.
Edward “Blackbeard”

Having violated the conditions
of his pardon, Blackbeard now
had a sizable bounty on his head.
On 22 November, 1718, two Royal
Navy sloops commanded by
Lieutenant Robert Maynard
caught up with the Adventure at
Ocracoke Harbor.

Last stand

Outmanoeuvring the Royal Navy’s
ships, Blackbeard lured them onto a
sandbar. Rather than escaping, he
fired two broadside attacks at

“Legal” piracy

Privateer Sir Henry Morgan
attacks and captures the town of
Puerto del Principe in Cuba in this
engraving from 1754.

Sociologists have long recognized
that crime and deviance are
situational – that they change over
time and from one location to the
next. Piracy is a good example of
this phenomenon.
In the mid-13th century,
Henry III of England started to
issue licences, called “privateering
commissions”, which allowed
sailors to attack and plunder
foreign vessels. After 1295, these
licences were known as letters of
marque. Privateers became much
more numerous in the 16th to 18th

Maynard’s ship. When the smoke
cleared, only the lieutenant and a
few crew members remained on
deck. Blackbeard ordered his band
of 23 pirates to board the vessel.
As his men clambered onto the
ship, 30 armed sailors emerged
from below decks. A bloody battle
ensued. Maynard and Blackbeard
both aimed their flintlock pistols at
each other and fired. Blackbeard’s
shot missed but Maynard’s struck
Blackbeard in the abdomen.
Blackbeard recovered, however,
and broke Maynard’s sword in two
with a mighty blow of his cutlass.
Before he could capitalize on his
brief advantage, though, one of
Maynard’s men drove a pike into
Blackbeard’s shoulder. Outgunned
and outnumbered, Blackbeard’s
crew surrendered, but he continued
to fight. He finally fell dead after
taking five gunshot wounds and
20 sword wounds.
Maynard ordered his men to
hang Blackbeard’s head from the
bowsprit. Later, it was mounted on
a stake near the Hampton River as
a warning to other pirates. ■
centuries, with some working
without royal consent, including
Francis Drake, who carried out
raids on Spanish shipping.
During Queen Anne’s War,
British privateers regularly
plundered French and Spanish
ships. However, when hostilities
between the nations ended,
these same professional
plunderers suddenly found
themselves on the other side
of the law. Clearly, what is
considered criminal depends on
shifting social structures, which
are in turn dictated by larger
political and economic realities.


Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Bodysnatching and
multiple murder
November 1825 Thomas
Tuite, a bodysnatcher, is
captured by a sentry in Dublin,
Ireland, in possession of five
bodies and with his pockets
full of sets of teeth.
7 November 1876 A gang
of counterfeiters breaks into
Oak Ridge Cemetery in
Springfield, Illinois, to steal
Abraham Lincoln’s body and
hold it for ransom. The plot is
foiled by a Secret Service
agent posing as a member
of the gang.


pair of Irish immigrants
became unlikely grave
robbers – and ultimately
killers – in 19th-century Scotland
when greed got the better of them.
William Burke and William Hare
worked as labourers in Edinburgh,
where they met in 1827 after
Burke and his companion, Helen
McDougal, moved into a lodging
house in Edinburgh run by Hare
and his wife Margaret.
When an elderly lodger died of
natural causes and still owed rent,
Burke and Hare sneaked into the
cemetery, dug up his coffin,
snatched his body, and carried
it in a tea chest to Edinburgh
University’s medical school.

Dr Robert Knox, a popular anatomy
lecturer who urgently needed
corpses for dissection lessons,
paid them £7 and 10 shillings
(about £585 today) for the body.

A unique business idea

Inspired by their success, and
delighted by such an easy stream
of income, the pair repeated it
again and again, robbing newly
buried coffins and selling the
cadavers to Knox. However, they
soon tired of digging up graves in
the middle of the night. So, in
November 1827 when a lodger
became ill, Burke expedited the
man’s demise by covering his
mouth and nose while restraining
him – a smothering technique that
became known as “burking”.
That first murder was the start
of the duo’s killing spree, targeting
strays and prostitutes on the streets
of Edinburgh. Their modus
operandi involved plying a victim
with drink until they fell asleep.
Then, Burke smothered them using
Hare (left) and Burke (right)
financially exploited a shortage in the
legal supply of cadavers at a time when
Edinburgh was the leading European
centre of anatomical research.

See also: Jack the Ripper 266–73

Robert Knox was a pre-eminent
Scottish anatomist whose career was
overshadowed by his involvement in
the Burke and Hare case.

his unique technique. They loaded
the body into a tea chest and
transported it at night to Dr Knox’s
surgery. They received £7–10
(£550–800 today) for each body.
Burke and Hare got away with
murder for 11 months until the body
of Irishwoman Margaret Docherty

was discovered by two guests at
Hare’s boarding house, Ann and
James Gray. The Grays notified the
police, and an inquiry led them to
Dr Knox. Docherty’s body had since
been moved to the university
lecture hall, which had become
Knox’s dissecting theatre.
After a newspaper report
pointed the finger at Burke and
Hare, there was a public outcry for
their prosecution. William Burke,
William Hare, Helen McDougal, and
Margaret Hare were all arrested by
police shortly afterwards and
charged with murder. Dr Knox was
questioned by police, but was not
arrested as he had not technically
broken the law.

Every man for himself

Requiring more evidence for a
conviction, the court’s Lord
Advocate attempted to extract
a confession from one of the four,
and he chose Hare. He was
offered immunity from prosecution
and testified that Burke had
committed the murders. Burke was
subsequently convicted of three

Diagnosing psychopathy
The Hare Psychopathy Checklist
(named after Canadian
psychologist Robert Hare) is a
diagnostic tool used to identify
a person’s psychopathic
tendencies. Originally designed
to assess people accused of
crimes, it is a 20-item inventory
of personality traits assessed
primarily via an interview.
The subject receives a score for
each trait depending on how
well each one applies to them.
The traits include lack of
remorse; lack of empathy;

inability to accept responsibility
for actions; impulsivity; and
pathological lying.
When psychopaths commit
crimes, it is likely that their acts
are purposeful. The motives
of psychopathic killers often
involve power or sadistic
gratification. Not all violent
offenders are psychopaths,
but FBI investigations found
that psychopathic offenders
have more serious criminal
histories and tend to be more
chronically violent.

I am sure … that in the whole
history of the country –
nothing has ever been
exhibited that is in any
respect parallel to this case.
Lord Meadowbank

murders and, on 28 January, 1829,
hanged in front of a cheering
crowd numbering up to 25,000.
People were said to have paid up
to £1 (about £80 today) for a good
view overlooking the scaffold.
Burke’s body was publicly
dissected by Dr Knox’s rival,
Dr Monro, at the anatomy theatre of
Edinburgh University’s Old College,
attracting so many spectators that
a minor riot occurred. His skeleton
was later donated to Edinburgh
Medical School. Hare, although he
confessed to being an accomplice,
was freed, and fled to England.
With his reputation in tatters, Knox
moved to London to try to revive
his medical career.
In all, Burke and Hare killed 16
victims in what became known
as the West Port Murders. The
murders led to the passing of the
Anatomy Act 1832, which
increased the supply of legal
cadavers by authorizing the
dissection of unclaimed bodies
from workhouses after 48 hours.
This proved effective in reducing
cases of body snatching. ■


Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky,
Arkansas, Iowa, Texas,
and West Virginia, US
Armed robbery
1790–1802 Samuel “Wolfman”
Mason and his band of
followers prey on riverboat
travellers on the Ohio and
Mississippi rivers, US.
1863–64 William “Bloody Bill”
Anderson, a pro-Confederate
guerrilla leader during the
American Civil War, leads
a band of outlaws against
Federal soldiers in Missouri
and Kansas, US.
1897 Al Jennings, a
prosecuting attorney-turnedoutlaw, forms the Jennings
Gang, and robs trains in
Oklahoma, US.


rom February 1866 to
September 1876, the JamesYounger Gang robbed 12
banks, five trains, five
stagecoaches, and an exposition
ticket booth. Their crime spree
began in the wake of the American
Civil War (1861–65) when the James
brothers – Jesse and Frank – joined
forces with the Younger brothers
– Cole, Jim, John, and Bob. They
all fought as Confederate
bushwhackers attacking civilian
Unionists during the Civil War.
After the hostilities ended, Jesse
James turned the group into a
bank-robbing posse.
Some historians credit the gang
with the first daylight armed
robbery in the US when they
targeted the Clay County Savings
Association in Liberty, Missouri, in
1866. In all their train robberies, the
gang only robbed passengers
twice, when their takings were
especially low. They committed
robberies every couple of months,
hiding out in between jobs to avoid
the law. They were aided by
sympathizers who offered their
homes as hideouts. The gang used
maps and compasses, and avoided
well-travelled roads, making it
difficult to pursue them.

Jesse James (left) posing with two
of the Younger brothers. Despite Jesse’s
romanticized image and comparisons
to Robin Hood, there is no evidence
that he gave their loot to the poor.

The gang grew, and they drifted
between Midwest states, pulling
off robberies of banks, trains, and
stagecoaches, in Missouri, Kansas,
Kentucky, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas,
and West Virginia. On 3 June 1871,
they robbed a bank in Corydon,
Iowa, but were identified as
suspects. From then on, they
became known as the JamesYounger Gang.

See also: Bonnie and Clyde 26–29


The Wild Bunch 150–51

The posse rides into town and divides
into three groups

Two wait outside the bank
as guards

Three go into the

Two remain on the road
as lookouts

The three grab the loot

The group reunite, shoot their
way out, and gallop out of town

Tracking them down

In 1874, following a train robbery
in Missouri, the Adams Express
Company, which suffered the
biggest loss during the robbery,
enlisted the services of the
Pinkerton National Detective
Agency to catch the gang.
In March 1874, Allan Pinkerton,
the agency’s founder, sent detective
Joseph Whicher to pursue James,
but Whicher was found dead the
day after he arrived. An outraged
Pinkerton sent a group of detectives
to track the gang down in January
1875, but they succeeded only in
killing Jesse’s eight-year-old half
brother and wounding Jesse’s
mother with an incendiary device
during a botched raid. Condemned
for this act, Pinkerton withdrew
and the gang continued unabated.
The James-Younger Gang
dissolved in 1876 when the Younger
brothers were arrested during an

ambush while attempting to rob
the Northfield First National Bank
in Minnesota. The James brothers
were both wounded in the legs, but
escaped on horseback and kept low
profiles until three years later, when
Jesse formed another gang. The

James Gang’s reign ended in 1882
when fellow gang member Robert
Ford betrayed and shot Jesse in the
back inside James’s home in St
Joseph, Missouri, in order to collect
the $10,000 bounty (about £189,000
today) on his head. ■

The romanticization of outlaws
The exploits of Old West outlaws
have been exaggerated and
romanticized, despite the fact
that many were killers. The
captivating allure of criminals
seems to be based on conflicted
feelings of both attraction and
repulsion, of love and hatred.
Outlaws embody freedom in
their refusal to obey laws,
representing the boundarycrossing children that we used
to be. They are also eulogized
for unexpected benevolence: the
courteous highwayman and

figures, including Robin Hood,
were popularized for their
supposed altruistic motives and
for “serving” the people.
The public reaction to
Robert Ford’s murder of Jesse
James in 1882 is a case in point,
as it caused a national
sensation. Newspaper articles
were published across the US,
including in The New York
Times. Such was James’s allure
that people travelled from far
and wide to see the body of the
legendary robber.



Central US
14 July 1881 The outlaw
known as “Billy the Kid” is shot
dead by Sheriff Pat Garrett in
Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
3 February 1889 Myra
Maybelle Starr, better known
as Belle Starr, is gunned down
near King Creek, Oklahoma.
22 July 1934 Depression-era
gangster and notorious bank
robber John Dillinger is killed
by federal agents while fleeing
from arrest.
27 November 1934 FBI
agents kill George “Baby Face”
Nelson, a bank robber and
gangster then labelled “Public
Enemy Number One”.


n the late night hours of
13 April 1933, two police cars
pulled up to an apartment on
Oak Ridge Drive in the windswept
city of Joplin, Missouri. Living
inside the rented apartment were
five infamous outlaws known as
the Barrow Gang, including
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
The gang had spent the past 12
days in hiding, after carrying out
a series of armed robberies and
kidnappings in Missouri and
neighbouring states.
As police yelled for the
occupants to get out, Barrow
grabbed his favourite weapon – a
M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle –
and opened fire through a broken

See also: The James-Younger Gang 24–25


The Wild Bunch 150–51

No man but the undertaker
will ever get me … I’ll take
my own life.
Clyde Barrow

cigar between her teeth and holds
a pistol in her hand. Soon the story
of the outlaw lovers dominated the
front pages of newspapers across
the country.

Criminal superstars

window. His paramour Parker laid
down cover fire with her own gun,
the bullets splintering the
surrounding trees. Amid the hail
of gunfire, the gang killed two
Missouri police officers, Detective
Harry McGinnis and Constable
J.W. Harryman.
Bonnie and Clyde escaped,
leaving behind possessions
including an arsenal of weapons,
Parker’s handwritten poems, and
rolls of undeveloped film, which

Wearing her iconic high heels,
Bonnie playfully points a shotgun at
Clyde in 1932. Parker later sustained
serious burns to her leg in a car crash,
leaving her barely able to walk.

would turn the young lovers into
folk legends and eventually lead
to their downfall.
In the photos, the pair playfully
posed with automatic weapons,
standing in front of a stolen vehicle.
In one picture, Parker is clenching a

Their four-year crime spree, during
which they robbed banks and killed
police, titillated the American
public. Far from their glamorized
image, however, the Barrow Gang’s
crimes were punctuated by narrow
escapes, bungled robberies, and
fatal injuries.
With the FBI still a fledgling
agency without the power to
combat interstate bank robberies
and kidnappings, the period
between 1931 and 1935 become
known as the “Public Enemy Era”
– a period when a number
of high-profile criminals wrought
significant damage across the
US against the background of the
Great Depression.
From their first meeting in
1930, Parker and Barrow shared an
instant connection and she became
his loyal companion. Shortly after
their romance sparked, Barrow was
arrested for burglary and sent to
the Eastham prison facility in ❯❯

Texas. There he committed his first
murder, using a lead pipe to beat
an inmate who had assaulted him.
After Parker smuggled a gun inside
the prison, Barrow escaped, but
was later recaptured.

The spree begins

In February 1932, Barrow was
paroled, emerging from jail a
hardened and bitter criminal
seeking revenge against the prison
system for the abuses he suffered
behind bars. Reuniting with Parker,
Barrow assembled a rotating core of
associates, robbing rural petrol
stations and kidnapping and killing
when cornered.
Between 1932 and 1934, the
gang is believed to have killed
several civilians and at least nine
police officers. Barrow was officially
accused of murder for the first time
in April 1932, when he shot and
killed a storeowner after a robbery.
A few months later, Barrow and
another gang member killed a
deputy and wounded a sheriff who
approached them at a country
dance in Oklahoma. It was the first
time a Barrow Gang member had
killed an officer of the law.
In April 1933, Clyde’s brother
Buck was released from prison.
He and his new bride, Blanche,
joined the gang at the apartment
in Joplin, Missouri, eventually
attracting the attention of the
police after 12 days of loud, alcoholfuelled parties. The gang’s
newfound notoriety after the
shootout made it increasingly
difficult to evade capture, hunted
by the police, pursued by the press,
and followed by an eager public.
For the next three months, the
gang moved from Texas to
Minnesota and Indiana, sleeping at
campgrounds. They robbed banks,
kidnapped people, and stole cars,
committing the crimes near the

The Dallas Morning News issue
announcing the death of Bonnie and
Clyde sold 500,000 copies. A group of
Dallas newsboys later sent the largest
floral tribute to Parker’s funeral.

borders of states to exploit the preFBI “state line rule” that prevented
officers from crossing state lines
while in pursuit of a fugitive.

Public opinion changes

Eventually the killings became so
cold-blooded that the public’s
fascination with the duo soured.
The Texas Department of
Corrections commissioned former
Texas Ranger Captain Frank A.
Hamer with the specific task of
taking down the Barrow Gang.
Hamer formed a posse, comprising
a unique collaboration of Texas and
Louisiana police officers. It was one
of the most highly publicized and
intense manhunts in US history.
By the summer of 1933, the
gang began to fall apart. Then
on 10 June, while driving near
Wellington, Texas, Barrow
accidentally flipped their car into a
ravine, and Parker sustained thirddegree burns to her right leg. Her

injuries were so severe that she
could hardly walk and was often
carried by Barrow.
A month later, during a 19 July
shootout with police in Missouri,
a bullet struck Buck in the head.
Blanche was also wounded and
blinded in one eye. Despite his
terrible injuries, Buck remained
conscious and he and the rest of
the gang escaped.

The trail ends

Days later, on 24 July, Buck was
shot in the back during another
shootout, and he and Blanche were
captured. Buck was taken to a

It is much better that they
were both killed, rather than
to have been taken alive.
Blanche Barrow

hospital where he died on 29 July,
from pneumonia after surgery, but
not before doctors injected him
with stimulants so that he could
answer police questions.
Barrow and Parker’s trail ended
on a road that cut through
Louisiana’s Piney Forest on State
Highway 154, south of Sailes.
Led by Hamer, the posse of police
officers had tracked and studied the
pair’s movements and discovered
that the gang camped on the edges
of state borders.
Using a tip that the couple
would be in the area, Hamer
predicted their pattern and set up
an ambush point along the rural
Louisiana highway. At around
9:15am on 23 May 1934, six officers
concealed in the bushes saw
Barrow’s stolen Ford V8
approaching at high speed and
sprayed the car with a total of 130
rounds. Barrow and Parker were
shot dozens of times, each
sustaining multiple fatal wounds.

When the bullet-ridden Ford was
towed to town, with the bodies still
inside, a crowd of curious onlookers
surrounded the car. Spectators
collected souvenirs, including
pieces of Parker’s bloody clothes
and hair. One man even tried to cut
off Barrow’s trigger finger. Items
belonging to the pair, including
stolen guns and a saxophone, were
also kept by members of the posse
and sold as souvenirs.
The ambush remains highly
controversial, given that there were
no attempts to take the pair alive.

Prentiss Oakley, the Louisiana
officer who fired the first shot, later
expressed regret that the outlaws
had not been offered a chance to
surrender to them.
The bloody end of Bonnie and
Clyde was the end of the “Public
Enemy Era” of the 1930s. By the
summer of 1934, the federal
government enacted statutes
that made kidnapping and bank
robbery federal offences – a legal
breakthrough that finally allowed
FBI agents to apprehend bandits
across state lines. ■

Celebrity criminals

magazines, newspapers, and
radio programmes covering their
daily exploits.
Bonnie and Clyde’s legend
intensified with the 1967,
Academy Award-winning film
Bonnie and Clyde, which
exposed the couple’s exploits to
a new generation. It was
considered groundbreaking for
its relaxed presentation of sex
and violence. However, such a
glamorized portrayal elicited
troubling questions, as several
couples have attempted similar
sprees, claiming to have been
inspired by the famous outlaws.

The death car became the subject of
so much interest that fakes began to
appear. The local sheriff tried to keep
the car but was sued by the owner. It is
now on display at a casino in Nevada.

The 1967 adaptation of the pair’s
crime spree starred Warren Beatty
and Faye Dunaway and presented
them as attractive and even chic.

Bonnie and Clyde emerged as the
first celebrity criminals of the
Depression era, partly due to the
intense newspaper and radio
coverage of their crimes.
Outlaws like George “Baby
Face” Nelson and “Pretty Boy”
Floyd also became legends, with
their deadly stories appearing
on front pages of newspapers
across the country. During this
time, a disillusioned, angry
public, faced with unemployment
and extreme poverty, held the
gangsters in high esteem, with


8 AUGUST 1963

Buckinghamshire, UK
Train robbery
15 May 1855 Approximately
91 kg (200 lb) of gold is stolen
from safes on board a South
Eastern Railway train running
between London Bridge and
Folkestone, UK.
12 June 1924 The Newton
Gang carry out a postal train
robbery near Rondout, Illinois,
and steal around $3 milllion
(£33 million today), making it
the biggest train robbery in
history at that time.
31 March 1976 A train
travelling from Cork to Dublin,
Ireland, is robbed near the
village of Sallins by members
of the Irish Republican
Socialist Party.

Ronnie Biggs


t the beginning of the
1960s, life for many
Londoners was povertystricken and drab. The austerity
of postwar rationing was a
recent memory, ending only
six years before.
Having acquired the taste for
easy money by taking advantage
of his work in a sausage factory to
sell black-market meat, Ronald
Christopher “Buster” Edwards,
was graduating to robberies with
his friend Gordon Goody. Their
brushes with the law brought them
into contact with Brian Field, a
lawyer’s clerk. His services did not
stop at preparing their defences.
For a cut of the proceeds Field
would pass the duo details of his
firm’s clients as potential targets.
Early in 1963, Field introduced
them to a stranger known only as
“the Ulsterman”. Believed to be
Belfast-born Patrick McKenna, this
corrupt Manchester postal worker
brought intriguing news: large cash
sums were being carried on the
overnight mail trains from Glasgow
to London. A tempting target – if
above Goody’s and Edwards’ paygrade. They took the information to
an experienced South London

He objected to being dismissed as
the gang’s “teaboy”, but Ronnie
Biggs’s role could hardly be
considered crucial in the Great
Train Robbery. Born in Stockwell,
south London, in 1929, he was a
somewhat hapless burglar and
armed robber when he met Bruce
Reynolds in Wandsworth Prison.
The Great Train Robbery was to
be his first and only major heist.
His main responsibility was the
recruitment of “Stan Agate”, the
gang’s replacement driver, who
was not actually able to move the
train because he was not familiar
with the type of locomotive used.

Am I one of a minority in
feeling admiration for the skill
and courage behind the Great
Train Robbery?
Graham Greene

criminal called Bruce Richard
Reynolds. In the months that
followed, Reynolds started to put
together an adhoc gang.

Best-laid plans

The plan was elegantly simple. The
gang would stop the train in open
countryside in Buckinghamshire at
Sears Crossing, close to the village
of Ledburn, where a signal could be
interfered with. While this was the
perfect place to stop the train, high
embankments made it unsuitable
for unloading the loot. For that, the
train would be moved to nearby
Biggs’s fingerprints were found
on a ketchup bottle at the gang’s
hideout and he was arrested
three weeks later. He escaped
Wandsworth Prison using a rope
ladder on 8 July 1965. He
travelled to Brussels, then on
to Australia before settling in
Brazil in 1970, which did not
then have an extradition treaty
with the UK. Eventually, Biggs
returned to the UK on a jet paid
for by The Sun newspaper in
exchange for exclusive rights to
his story. Biggs was arrested
minutes after landing at RAF
Northolt on 7 May 2001.

See also: The James–Younger Gang 24–25


The Wild Bunch 150–51

The train was halted just before
Bridego Bridge where the gang formed
a human chain down the embankment.
They loaded the loot onto a lorry where
the black car is in the image.

Bridego Bridge. The mail train was
typically long, its cars manned by
up to 80 postal workers who spent
the journey sorting letters and
packages. The gang discovered
that High-Value Packages (HVPs)
were stored in the second coach
from the front, so the gang planned
to uncouple just the first two
coaches. Once they reached
Bridego Bridge, they could unload
sacks of registered mail using a
human chain from the high
embankment to a drop-side lorry
waiting on the road below.
Reynolds refused to leave
anything to chance, so in case the
hijacked driver refused to carry out
their demands, one of the gang
would spend months studying
locomotive manuals. Posing as a
schoolteacher, he persuaded a
driver on a suburban line to take
him along for a ride: watching
closely, he picked up certain basics.
Reynolds also recruited a fully
experienced driver to make sure.
Field, meanwhile, negotiated the
purchase of the abandoned
Leatherslade Farm, roughly
50 km (30 miles) from Sears
Crossing, which would be their
hideout after the robbery.

Signal victory

Just before 7pm on Wednesday,
7 August, the train left Glasgow,
with veteran driver Jack Mills at
the controls and his co-driver David
Whitby beside him. The HVP coach
was carrying over £2.6 million
(about £49 million today) in cash

rather than the £300,000 or so the
gang had been expecting because
of the public holiday on the
previous Monday, during which
the banks had been closed.
By the time the train reached
Sears Crossing, gang members
had tampered with the signal
lights; they slipped a glove over the
green light to blot it out and wired
the red “stop” sign to a separate

It is the British press that
made the “legend” that you
see before you, so perhaps I
should ask you who I am.
Ronnie Biggs

battery. A surprised Mills brought
the train to a halt and Whitby
went to investigate. When he tried
to report in from the trackside
telephone, he found that the wires
had been cut.
As Whitby made his way back
towards the train, he was hurled
down the steep embankment by
men in motorcycle helmets and ski
masks. Meanwhile, gang members
wearing masks and gloves climbed
into Mills’s cab and knocked him
unconscious with an iron bar;
others uncoupled the coaches from
the rear of the HVP coach, and
overpowered and handcuffed the
postal workers.
It soon became clear that the
replacement driver – a retiree
known as “Stan Agate” to the gang
– was unable to operate the stateof-the-art Class 40 diesel-electric
locomotive. So, having knocked out
Mills, the robbers had to revive him
so he could take them up the line to
Bridego Bridge. Passing the ❯❯

First two
carriages moved
to Bridego

Train halted
by modified
signal light


to T



To L

Grand Union


To Leigh

The plan started with a
tampered signal at Sears
Crossing. The train stopped and
two carriages were driven on to
Bridego Bridge.

mailbags along a human chain
down the embankment, the gang
quickly loaded the lorry. Warning
the handcuffed postal workers
in the HVP coach not to call the
police for 30 minutes, the gang
made their triumphant way back to
the hideout at Leatherslade Farm.

Bridego Bridge



Cargo taken
back to

loaded into truck
by human chain

evenly, so as not to cause division,
which would have added a
potential source of danger.
However, the high number of
people involved in the operation
carried risks, such as a gang
member being indiscreet with his
loot or talking about the robbery.

An inevitable slip-up

It was indeed a “great train
robbery”, and if it all sounds like
something from a film, that is
because in recent decades, such
elaborately organized heists have
been much more popular with
movie makers than with criminals.
Not only are crimes like this
risky, but they are enormously
labour-intensive. Up to 17 men
appear to have been involved in the
robbery, although to this day, a few
participants remain unidentified.
The gang members split the loot

Obviously you are a thief
because you like money, but
the second thing is the
excitement of it.
“Buster” Edwards

To Mentmore

In the end, an acquaintance of the
ringleaders – in prison himself and
hopeful of a deal – passed on some
gossip that he had heard through
the grapevine, providing a vital
lead for the investigators to pursue.

The plan unravels

Meanwhile, in the robbers’
farmhouse, confidence had given
way to tension. The plan had been
to lie low for a week, but it was
soon apparent that the police –
systematically sweeping the
surrounding countryside – were
closing in. Detectives had noted
the robbers’ 30-minute warning
to the staff of the HVP coach,
which suggested a hideout within
half-an-hour’s drive. Police
searched Leatherslade Farm after
a neighbour reported unusual
activity at the farm. The robbers
had gone, but fingerprints were

Leatherslade Farm, later dubbed
“Robber’s Roost” by the press, was
searched by police after farmworker
John Maris tipped them off, convinced
that the robbers were hiding there.

found on a Monopoly game they
had played – using real cash – as
well as on a ketchup bottle. The
conspiracy’s collapse was as abrupt
and chaotic as its planning had
been patient. Eleven of the robbers
were quickly caught together in
south London.
The majority of the 11 were
jailed for 30 years, a severe
sentence for a crime in which
nobody had been killed. However,
it helped generate sympathy for the
robbers. Two of them escaped
prison – in August 1964, friends of
gang member Charlie Wilson broke
into Birmingham’s Winson Green
Prison to snatch him; the next July,
Ronnie Biggs climbed over the wall
at Wandsworth Prison, London.

Mythical status

The robbery’s audacity could not be
denied, but the long-term trauma
inflicted upon the train crew was
easier to ignore. Mills suffered from

post-traumatic headaches for the
rest of his life and never fully
recovered from his injuries. Whitby
died a few years later, at the age of
34, from a heart attack. However,
these tragedies were overshadowed
by an increasing romanticization of
the crime, intensified by the fact
that only a fraction of the £2.6
million haul was recovered. The
robbery occurred at a time when
brazen irreverence towards
old-fashioned authority was in

vogue – and at a time in which
artist Andy Warhol claimed that
everyone would be famous for
15 minutes. Biggs recorded music
with the Sex Pistols and Edwards
became the subject of the film
Buster (1988) – his part played
by rock star Phil Collins. Just
three years after the crime, The
Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery
was released, playing on the
idea that serious crime could be
comic entertainment. ■

Compassionate release
On 6 August 2009, after falling
gravely ill with pneumonia,
80-year-old Ronnie Biggs was
released on “compassionate”
grounds – a rarity in the UK.
Under the Prison Service Order
6000, a prisoner can only apply
in the event of “tragic family
circumstances” or if he or she is
suffering from a terminal illness
with death likely to result within
a few months. Biggs survived
until December 2013, but this
caused little controversy. By
contrast, two weeks after Biggs

was released, Abdelbaset
al-Megrahi, convicted of the
1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight
103, was freed on compassionate
grounds by the Scottish Justice
Secretary, a decision condemned
by the British and US press.
Megrahi had been diagnosed
with terminal prostate cancer,
but his release from hospital
caused an outcry, as did the
arrival of Colonel Gaddafi’s
personal aircraft to repatriate
him, and the hero’s welcome he
received back home in Libya.

Three men arrested in connection
with the robbery are led away by
police, holding blankets over their
heads. The intense media interest is
evident at the top left of the image.


BILL MASON, 1960s–1980s

Dr Armand Hammer’s
apartment, southern
Florida, US
Jewel theft
1950–1998 Peter Scott, a
Northern Irish cat burglar,
commits some 150 burglaries
before he is caught in 1952;
in 1960, he steals a $260,000
(£206,000) necklace belonging
to actress Sophia Loren.
2004–06 Accomplished
Spanish thief Ignacio del Rio
confesses to more than 1,000
burglaries committed in Los
Angeles over just a two-year
period, taking $2 million (£1.5
million today) in jewellery and
a painting by Degas worth $10
million (£7.4 million).


ill Mason was an
unexceptional property
manager by day, but by
night he was a notorious cat
burglar. While unsuspecting
owners slept he scaled walls,
tiptoed across parapets, clambered
onto balconies, and shimmied
through barely open windows.
On a wet and windy night,
Mason executed a plan weeks in
the making. Straining every sinew,
he climbed a full 15 floors up the
outside of the apartment building
of oil tycoon Dr Armand Hammer,
where he found the balcony door
unlocked. He tossed the contents
of Mrs Hammer’s jewellery box,
worth several million dollars, into
one of her pillowcases.
Ironically, on his way out,
Mason found the front door secured
by an easily pickable single lock.
He made his escape through an
open window on the third floor and
used a grappling hook to help lower
himself to the ground. Mason
diligently concealed his tracks at
every turn; the police did not
identify a single suspect.
See also: John MacLean 45
■ Doris Payne 78–79


To the astonished
occupants, it would seem
as if the jewels had
simply evaporated.
Bill Mason

Over a 20-year period of targeting
the rich and famous – including
swimmer and actor Johnny
“Tarzan” Weissmuller, who lost an
Olympic gold medal – Mason stole
approximately £120 million in
jewellery. The adrenaline surge he
felt during the robbery and the
glamour of these furtive brushes
with the stars were addictive.
Mason was eventually caught
in a sting operation, and later wrote
the memoir Confessions of a Master
Jewel Thief, published in 2003. ■

The Antwerp Diamond Heist 54–55




Central Hall, Westminster,
London, UK
Priceless trophy theft
9 October 1964 Jack Roland
Murphy, a surfing champion,
breaks into the Gems and
Minerals Hall at the American
Museum of Natural History
and steals the J.P. Morgan
jewel collection.
19 December 1983 The Jules
Rimet Trophy is stolen again,
this time from the Brazilian
Football Confederation in Rio
de Janeiro. It has never been
4 December 2014
Sixty Formula 1 trophies are
stolen by a group of seven men
who drive a van through the
doors of the Red Bull Racing
headquarters in England.


or England’s football fans,
1966 lives in the memory as
the only year in which their
team ever won the World Cup. The
theft of the famous Jules Rimet
Trophy four months before the
tournament started, however,
meant that England captain Bobby
Moore nearly had to hold an
imitation trophy in celebration.
On display in Westminster’s
Central Hall, London, the cup was
guarded, but thieves sneaked in
between patrols and forced open its
glass case. Despite a full-scale
investigation, the Metropolitan
Police were no nearer a solution
when a note arrived demanding
£15,000 (£196,000 today) for the
trophy’s safe return.
An attempt to entrap the sender
did catch a petty criminal named
Edward Betchley but failed to
produce the trophy. Not until
Pickles, a collie dog being taken for
a walk by his owner David Corbett,
unearthed a parcel beneath the
hedge outside his owner’s home in
Upper Norwood, south London, did
the missing cup come to light.
See also: Thomas Blood 18


The story is still striking in terms of
calculating “value” when it comes
to crime – and whether some items
are too well-known to be worth
stealing. The original trophy,
melted down – the only way a gang
could have disposed of it – would
have been worth little in monetary
terms. Its symbolic significance,
however, was priceless. A replica
was produced in the original’s
place and fetched £254,000 at
auction in 1997. ■

Pickles the dog netted his owner a
£5,000 reward, which he used to buy a
house in Surrey. Pickles was later
awarded a silver medal by the National
Canine Defence League.

The Theft of the Cellini Salt Cellar 56




40 D.B. COOPER
Between Portland, Oregon,
and Seattle, Washington,
Aircraft hijacking
31 October 1969 Raffaele
Minichiello, a decorated US
marine, hijacks a TWA flight
in Los Angeles and is
apprehended in Rome, Italy.
10 November 1972 Southern
Airways Flight 49 is hijacked
by three men who demand
$10 million (£8 million). They
are eventually apprehended in
Havana, Cuba.
3 June 1972 Willie Roger
Holder hijacks Western
Airlines Flight 701 from Los
Angeles to Seattle, demanding
a $500,000 (£396,000) ransom
and the freedom of imprisoned
black activist Angela Davis.


n the afternoon of
24 November 24 1971,
an unidentified man in
his mid 40s, wearing a dark suit
and black clip-on tie and carrying
a black a briefcase, jumped into
criminal folklore. The man, who
later would be dubbed D.B. Cooper
by the press, boarded Northwest
Orient’s Flight 305 from Portland,
Oregon, to Seattle, Washington.
During the flight, he passed flight
attendant Florence Schaffner a note
telling her he had a bomb in his
case. After showing her the device,
he stated his demands: he wanted

The Northwest Orient Boeing 727
that D.B. Cooper hijacked is shown
here at Portland airport, Oregon, in
1968. Its rear stairway is situated
directly underneath the tail.

four parachutes, a fuel truck
waiting for the plane when it
landed at Seattle-Tacoma Airport,
and $200,000 (£158,000) in $20
banknotes, or he would blow up the
plane. What happened later that
evening, though, is one of the most
perplexing mysteries in US
criminal history.

rear stairs and jumped out of the
Boeing 727 and into the dark, rainy
night. He left behind two of the
parachutes and his tie.
The FBI launched a massive
manhunt and the military was
called in. Helicopters and a
thousand troops on foot searched
the area where they guessed
Cooper might have landed,
conducting door-to-door searches.
A military spy plane even

Parachute escape

When the plane landed in Seattle,
Cooper allowed the passengers and
two of the three flight attendants to
leave. Officials handed over the
money and the parachutes. Cooper
ordered the pilots to fly towards
Mexico City at a maximum altitude
of 3,000 metres (10,000 ft) and at
the minimum airspeed possible
without stalling. About 45 minutes
into the flight south, he sent the
flight attendant to the cockpit and
put on his parachute. Somewhere
north of Portland he lowered the

Back in the early ’70s, late
’60s, hijackings weren’t
uncommon. The philosophy of
the day was ‘Cooperate,
comply with his demands, and
we’ll deal with it when the
plane lands.’
Larry Carr

photographed the Boeing 727’s
entire flight path. None of them
found anything.
All the authorities had to go on
was that the unidentified man had
apparently bought a ticket in the
name of either Dan or Dale Cooper.
When police interviewed the man
who sold the plane tickets that day,
they asked if any of the passengers
looked suspicious. Without
hesitating, he replied, “Yes, Dale
Cooper.” The police subsequently
told a reporter the suspect’s name
was “D. Cooper”. However, the
reporter, who didn’t quite catch the
name, asked “D or a B?” The police
officer responded, “Yes.” And thus
the legend of D.B. Cooper was born.

Profiling Cooper

Schaffner gave police a physical
description of the hijacker – in his
mid 40s, between 1.7 metres (5 ft 10
inches) and and 2 metres (6 ft) tall,
77–81 kg (12–13 stone), and with
close-set brown eyes. She told
police that the hijacker was wellspoken, polite, and calm. He was
a bourbon drinker, and paid his
drinks tab, even attempting to give
her the change. Schaffner also
disclosed that the hijacker asked if

the flight crew wanted any food
during the stop at Seattle. He had
said that McChord Air Force Base
was a 20-minute drive away from
Seattle-Tacoma Airport – a detail
that most civilians would not have
known. His choice of plane – a
727-100 – was also ideal for a bailout escape. These factors indicated
that he may well have been an Air
Force veteran.
However, his lack of safety
equipment, thermal clothing, or
helmet, which would have afforded
him little protection from the -57°C
(-70°F) wind chill, seems to throw
doubt on the claim he was a
military man. FBI investigators at
the time of the incident argued
from the outset that he simply
would not have survived the jump.

Money discovered

More than eight years later, in
February 1980, eight-year-old
Brian Ingram and his family were
picnicking by the Columbia River
close to the city of Vancouver,
Washington. As the family cleared
a spot for a campfire, Brian
unearthed a packet of money in the
sand near the river. His remarkable
find, totalling $5,800 (£4,590) in $20

Criminal profiling

The FBI produced a composite
drawing of D.B. Cooper in 1972
based on recollections of the crew
and his fellow passengers.

Criminal profiling is the process of
identifying the most likely type of
person to have committed a
particular crime. Investigators
look at behaviour, personality
traits, and demographic variables,
including age, race, and location
to build up a psychological picture
of a suspect.
In the case of D.B. Cooper, his
knowledge of the aviation industry
and of the Boeing 727 suggest
that he may have spent time in
the Air Force, but his lack of
skydiving skills suggest that he

I’m not so convinced that the
investigation is dead or this
story is over by any stretch.
Geoff Gray

bills – of which he was allowed to
keep $2,850 (£2,460) – matched
the serial numbers of the ransom
money handed over to Cooper on
the tarmac in Seattle.
The FBI searched the beach and
dredged the river but found nothing
else. Nevertheless, the search
reignited the public’s interest in the
legend of D.B. Cooper, and in the
missing $144,200 (£114,000).
The D.B. Cooper hijacking had
all the ingredients of a legend – he
got away with it, no one was hurt,
and his fate remains a mystery.
Public interest was periodically
reinvigorated by news that the FBI
was still looking for D.B. Cooper. ❯❯
worked as an ancillary aviation
worker, such as a cargo loader.
It is possible that he lost his job
during the economic downturn
in the aviation industry in
1970–71 and this provided the
financial motivation to commit
the crime.
The fact that the FBI could
not find anyone local who
disappeared from the area
shortly after the crime opens up
the tantalizing possibility that
D.B. Cooper may have been a
local man who simply returned
home and did his normal job as
usual on the Monday morning.

Shortly after takeoff,
Cooper orders a
bourbon and soda.

D.B. Cooper boards a
Boeing 727 in Portland,
bound for Seattle.

Cooper orders the
pilots to tell air
traffic control that
he wants $200,000
in $20 notes and
four parachutes.

Cooper passes a note
to flight attendant
Florence Schaffner,
which states, “I have a
bomb in my briefcase.”

At one point they decided to treat
the case as if it were a bank
robbery and appealed to the public
in a bid to extract any relevant
information. They released
previously unknown facts about the
case, including that he was
wearing a clip-on tie, and the D.B.
Cooper frenzy started up again.

Comic theory

Cooper is informed
that his demands
have been met and
the plane lands at

When Seattle Special Agent
Larry Carr took over the FBI’s
investigation in 2008, he disclosed
that most of the messages he
received were from people asking
him not to solve the case. It seemed
that D.B. Cooper had become a folk
hero to some.
Nevertheless, Carr went
diligently about his business. He
thought it was possible the hijacker
took his name from a FrenchCanadian comic book. In the
fictional series, never translated
into English, Royal Canadian Air

Cooper is given four
parachutes and a
bag containing

Force test pilot Dan Cooper takes
part in adventures in outer space
and historical events of that era.
One episode, published around
the date of the hijacking, features
an illustration of Dan Cooper
parachuting on the cover. This led
Carr to suspect that the hijacker
had been a member of the Air
Force, but also that he had spent
time overseas where he could have
read the comic book.
With the development of DNA
profiling, FBI agents took another
look at the clip-on tie Cooper left
behind on the plane. They found a
partial DNA sample on the tie but it
did not match up with any suspects
they had looked at over the years.

Promising leads

One intriguing suspect was
Vietnam veteran L.D. (Lynn)
Cooper. His niece, Marla Cooper,
contacted the FBI in 2011, claiming
she had been keeping a 40-year-old

family secret – that her uncle Lynn
Doyle Cooper was D.B. Cooper. She
said she was eight years old when
her uncle came home badly injured,
a day or two after Thanksgiving in
1971. He claimed that he had been
hurt in a car crash. She said she
heard him tell the family “our
money troubles are over.” Cooper,
who had died by the time his niece
went to the FBI, worked as an
engineering surveyor, which may
have given him some of the
training he needed to make the
successful jump and knowledge
of the safest places to land
in the area.
Marla Cooper loaned the FBI a
guitar strap she thought would
contain his DNA but no DNA was
found on it. She put investigators in
touch with her uncle’s daughter,
but the woman’s DNA did not
match the sample on the clip-on
tie – which may or may not have
D.B. Cooper’s DNA. Still, the FBI

The plane lands safely
at Reno Airport and is searched
by police and military officials.

A warning light alerts
the pilots that the plane’s
rear stairway has been

The plane is refuelled and
takes off again. Cooper
explains his flight plan to
the pilots and orders them
to remain in the cockpit
until they land.

called it “a promising lead,” but
investigators were never able to
definitely connect L.D. Cooper to
the hijacking. At the end of the
investigation, the FBI was still
attempting to match a fingerprint
to prints the hijacker left on the
Boeing 727.

Lasting legacy

The D.B Cooper case prompted
a spate of copycat crimes,
particularly in the two years
immediately after the hijacking. In
1972 alone, 15 similar skyjackings
were attempted, but all of the
perpetrators were captured. In
total, approximately 160 planes
were hijacked in American airspace
between 1961 and 1973, after
Dan Cooper was the name that the
unidentifed man gave to the airport
cashier. Along with the clip-on tie and
the money recovered in 1980, this
ticket is the only proof of his existence.

The plane experiences
a sudden upward
movement; the pilots
bring the plane back
to level flight.

which security was improved
markedly and both passengers and
their luggage began to be screened.
Whether D.B. Cooper survived
the jump or not, his legacy lives on
through an aircraft component that
was named after him. In 1972, the
Federal Aviation Authority (FAA)
ordered all Boeing 727s to add what
was later named a “Cooper vane”, a
mechanical aerodynamic wedge
that prevents the rear stairway
from being lowered in flight.

The sequence of events on
24 November 1971 is clear enough
through the testimony of witnesses,
but the fate of D.B. Cooper after he
exited the plane remains a mystery.

The enigmatic D.B. Cooper case
is the world’s only unsolved
skyjacking. After investigating
thousands of leads over 45 years,
the FBI announced in July 2016
that it was ending active
investigation of the case, but
insisted that the file remains
open. Meanwhile, the legend of
D.B. Cooper lives on in music, films,
documentaries, scores of books,
and in the lives of thousands of
armchair sleuths. ■



16–20 JULY 1976

Nice, France
Bank vault heist
January 1976 The British
Bank of the Middle East in
Beirut, Lebanon, is robbed
by guerrillas, who make off
with safe deposit boxes
containing £22 million (about
£140 million today).
19–20 December 2004
An armed gang steals
£26.5 million in cash from the
vaults of the Donegall Square
branch of the Northern Bank
in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
6 August 2005 Thieves
tunnel into the vault of a
branch of Brazil’s central bank
in the city of Fortaleza and
steal more than $65 million
(£52 million) in cash.


uring the 1976 Bastille Day
weekend in Nice, France,
a team of 20 men, led by
French photographer and former
paratrooper Albert Spaggiari, broke
into the Société Générale bank.
They had spent two months drilling
a 7.5-metre (25-ft) tunnel from the
city’s sewers into the vault.
Once they made it to the vault,
the gang spent four days prying
open over 400 safe deposit boxes,
while cooking meals, drinking wine,

All the pleasures that come
with the life of a crook do not
make up for the heavy
“Amigo”, a member of
Spaggiari’s team

and using antique silver tureens as
toilets. The “sewer gang” escaped
with $8–10 million (about £15–18.5
million today) in gold, cash, jewellery,
and gems. Before fleeing, Spaggiari
scrawled on the vault’s wall in
French, “sans armes, ni haine, ni
violence” (“without weapons, nor
hatred, nor violence”), identifying
himself as a higher class of criminal.
Dubbed the “heist of the
century” by the press, it was then
the largest bank theft in history.
However, by the end of October
1976, Spaggiari had been arrested
and confessed to the crime. During
a trial hearing, he made a daring
escape by distracting the judge,
jumping through a window and
onto a parked car, before driving
off on a waiting motorcycle.
He was later convicted in
absentia and sentenced to life in
prison but remained hidden until
his death in 1989. Six other men
were arrested; three were acquitted
and the others sentenced to
between five and seven years in
prison. The loot from the heist has
never been recovered. ■

See also: The Antwerp Diamond Heist 54–55


The Hatton Garden Heist 58–59


Florida, US
Cat burglary
1850s–1878 English burglar
Charles Peace carries out
multiple burglaries in
Manchester, Hull, Doncaster,
and around Blackheath,
southeast London.
2006–09 A gang of thieves
dubbed the Hillside Burglary
Gang burgle 150 houses of
wealthy residents in the area
overlooking Sunset Boulevard
in Los Angeles.
1983–2011 Accomplished
Indian thief Madhukar
Mohandas Prabhakar commits
at least 50 burglaries in
wealthy areas of Mumbai,
India, amassing a fortune.


ubbed the “Superthief”,
John (Jack) MacLean
was estimated to have
committed some 2,000 burglaries
during the 1970s. He targeted
wealthy victims and made off with
more than $100 million (£80 million)
in loot. His most renowned raid
was a $1 million (£80,000) jewellery
theft at the mansion of a Johnson &
Johnson company heiress in 1979.
Although he stole only from the
rich, he was far from a Robin Hood
figure. He used his millions to fund
a lifestyle like that of his victims,
buying a helicopter, a speed boat, a
sea plane, and a summer home.
MacLean was finally caught in
1979 after a crystal-studded walkietalkie linked him to the Fort
Lauderdale robbery. He used the
time in prison to write a memoir
entitled Secrets of a Superthief,
which was published in 1983.
While MacLean was
incarcerated, investigators noticed
that a series of rapes and sexual
battery cases, which detectives
had attributed to a man with a
talent for slipping past locks and

See also: Bill Mason 36


The mugshot of John MacLean in
1979 after he was arrested for the Fort
Lauderdale robbery. He later boasted
about this crime in his memoir.

alarms, had completely stopped.
In 1981, MacLean was charged
with two offences, but the cases
were subsequently dismissed.
However, after scientific
advancements in DNA testing,
MacLean was arrested in October
2012 for two of hundreds of rapes
he is believed to have committed
decades ago. ■

Doris Payne 78–79


Uttar Pradesh, India
1890s The Big Swords Society,
a peasant self-defence group,
is formed in northern China to
protect against bandits.
1868 Vigilantes break into a
jail in New Albany, Indiana,
killing three members of the
train-robbing Reno Gang.
1980s The Sombra Negra
(Black Shadow) group forms
in El Salvador, murdering
criminals and gang members.
2013 Self-styled “Diana,
Huntress of Bus Drivers” kills
two in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico,
as vengeance for alleged
murders and rapes perpetrated
by the city’s bus drivers.


s the villagers of Behmai
in Uttar Pradesh, India,
prepared for a wedding on
Valentine’s Day 1981, 18-year-old
Phoolan Devi plotted her revenge.
Seven months earlier, the lowcaste teenage gang member had
been kidnapped by a rival, largely
high-caste gang in Behmai. For
three weeks, Devi was locked up
and repeatedly raped. She escaped
with the help of two members of
her gang and a low-caste villager,
before rallying the rest of her gang
and returning to the village.

Phoolan Devi’s weapon of choice
was a rifle, which gang leader and
partner Vikram Mallah taught her to
use. She eventually laid down the rifle
in front of cheering supporters.

Her gang rounded up 22 of
Behmai’s male villagers, including
two of her rapists, and on Devi’s
orders, shot dead each one. Known
as the Behmai massacre, it was
then India’s largest mass execution
and prompted a huge manhunt.
The legend of the “Bandit Queen”
was born.

See also: The James–Younger Gang 24–25

I alone knew what I had
suffered. I alone knew what it
felt like to be alive but dead.
Phoolan Devi

Robin Hood figure

Devi became a heroine to India’s
lower caste, her crimes glorified as
retribution for the oppression of
women in rural India.
Born on 10 August 1963, to a
low-caste family in rural Uttar
Pradesh, Devi grew up very poor.
At 11, her parents forced her to
marry a man three times her age
in exchange for a cow. In 1979, after
fleeing her abusive husband, she
was shunned by her parents, who
considered her a disgrace.

Crime and candidacy


The Wild Bunch 150–51

At 16, with limited options for
survival, she became the sole
female dacoit (armed bandit) in
a local gang. Devi soon rose
to lead the gang, carrying out
dozens of raids and highway
robberies, attacking and looting
upper-caste villages, and
kidnapping rich people for ransom.
In one of her most famous crimes,
her gang captured and looted a
town, then distributed the goods to
the poor, further cementing her
status as a Robin Hood figure.

Catch and release

Bandit Queen, a film about Devi’s life,
was released in 1994. It was initially
banned by the Indian censor for being
subversive and for its frank depiction
of the brutality of rape.

Devi spent two years evading
capture, concealed by the villagers
she spent her life protecting. But
in February 1983, she negotiated
both her own surrender and the
surrender of her gang members for
considerably reduced sentences.
Devi was arrested in front of
thousands of cheering onlookers
and later charged with 48 crimes,
including 30 charges of robbery and
kidnapping. She spent the next
11 years in prison awaiting trial,
but remained a beacon of hope for

the poor and downtrodden. Devi
was released on parole in 1994, and
all charges were dropped.
She took up politics and was
elected as a Member of Parliament
(MP). However, on the afternoon of
25 July 2001, three masked men
ambushed and fatally shot her.
One of her killers claimed that
Phoolan Devi’s assassination was
carried out as revenge for the
upper-caste men murdered during
the Behmai massacre. ■

In some countries, criminals guilty
of committing certain crimes are
not permitted to run for public
office. The rationale is that serious
criminal conduct is inconsistent
with the obligations of citizenship,
and if someone is incapable of
being a citizen, they should not be
entitled to hold office. However,
there is also evidence to suggest
that voters perceive citizens who
break the law for their own ends
much less favourably than people
who break the law for what they
believe to be the public good.
Nothing prevented Phoolan Devi,
charged with multiple serious

crimes including kidnapping and
banditry, from running for office.
A champion of the lower castes
and a heroine to oppressed
women, she had a sizable
following. However, she was
far from universally adored,
particularly among higher
castes, many of whom were
outraged that she was allowed
to stand as a candidate. She
was elected as an MP in the
1996 Indian General Election,
winning with a majority of
37,000 votes. Devi lost her
seat the following year but
regained it in 2001.




Southern California, US
Serial arson
1979–80 Bruce Lee (born
Peter Dinsdale) committed
11 acts of arson in and
around his hometown of
Hull, Yorkshire, UK.
1985–2005 Thomas Sweatt,
a prolific American arsonist,
set close to 400 fires, the
majority of which were in the
Washington, D.C. area.
1992–93 Paul Kenneth Keller,
a serial arsonist from
Washington state, set 76 fires
in and around Seattle during
a six-month spree.

While the vast majority of
arsonists are insurance
fraudsters or attention seekers,
the pyromaniac is a unique
breed, fascinated by fire to the
point of compulsively setting
them. Even rarer than the
pyromaniac is the pyrophile –
Greek for “fire-lover” – a person
who is sexually aroused by the
flames, the smell of smoke, the
intense heat, and (sometimes)
the whirr of sirens racing to
combat the inferno. Numerous
entries in Orr’s mostly


ith its arid climate and
expanses of wilderness,
California is a magnet
for firestarters. But none of them
have come close to the level of fiery
devastation wrought upon people
and property by John Leonard Orr.
In the early 1980s, a series of blazes
began in the Los Angeles area,
sometimes as many as three a day.
In one incident, 65 homes were
reduced to smouldering ash. But it
was not until 10 October 1984, that
human lives were extinguished by
the flames.
At 7pm, the public address
system at Ole’s Home Center in
South Pasadena blared
an emergency warning. Noticing
smoke pouring out of the hardware
department, cashier Jim Obdan
rushed to help customers flee the
store, and was badly burned in the
process. Fortunately, though, he
lived to tell the tale. Co-workers
Jimmy Cetina and Carolyn Kraus
were not so lucky. Nor were
customers Ada Deal and Matthew
Troidl, a loving grandmother and
her two-year-old grandson.
The following morning, arson
investigators searched the
blackened ruins for the point of
autobiographical Points of
Origin indicate that the lead
character, Aaron Stiles (i.e.
Orr himself), possessed this
dangerous paraphilic disorder.
Joseph Wambaugh, who
worked as a detective sergeant
in the Los Angeles Police
Department for 20 years before
he became a bestselling author,
chronicled Orr’s life in his book
Fire Lover. Wambaugh reported
that the linking of fire and sex in
Orr’s manuscript is continuous,
and a key facet of Orr’s
motivation, a theory shared by
investigator Marvin Casey.

John Orr wanted to be a
Los Angeles police officer for a
long time. He applied in 1981.
He passed all of the tests
except one. It was the
psychological test.
Joseph Wambaugh

origin – where a fire first begins –
to determine its cause. Unable to
locate it, they concluded that it
was an electrical accident. But one
seasoned arson investigator –
Captain Marvin Casey of the
Bakersfield Fire Department –
was certain the fire had been
intentionally set in a stack of
flammable cushions.
In January 1987, a number of
suspicious fires broke out north of
Pasadena in the city of Bakersfield.
At a craft shop, Marvin Casey
discovered an incendiary device in
a bin of dried flowers. It was crude
but effective – three matches
bound to the middle of a cigarette
by a rubber band and concealed
within a sleeve of yellow lined
paper. After lighting the cigarette,
the offender would have ample
time to leave the scene before the
cigarette burned down far enough
to ignite the matches and start
the fire.
Later that same day, a second
conflagration erupted in a bin
containing pillows and foam rubber
at Hancock Fabric store in
Bakersfield. The trail of arson
continued in rapid succession with


one fire in Tulare followed by
another two in Fresno. With the
exception of the Bakersfield craft
store, Casey determined that every
fire had begun in a pile of pillows.

An audacious theory

This modus operandi (MO) did not
escape Casey, who noted that the
arson attacks had progressed
sequentially from Los Angeles
north along Highway 99 to Fresno.
Nor did the troubling realization
that the fires had occurred
immediately before and after an
annual arson investigator’s
conference in Fresno.
Casey began to develop a
controversial theory: the fires were
set by one of the 300 arson

investigators who had attended the
Fresno symposium. He obtained
a list of the attendees, reducing the
list of suspects to the 55 who had
travelled alone through Bakersfield
on Highway 99.
Unsurprisingly, when Casey
shared his suspicions with his
fellow arson investigators he was
either ignored or ostracized. Yet
he persevered, convincing the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and
Firearms (ATF) to conduct
scientific testing on the yellow
paper recovered from the craft
store. The ATF lab applied
ninhydrin (a chemical used to
detect ammonia) to the paper on
the off chance that it would react
to amino acids from fingerprint

The “Pillow Pyro” started a fire that
swiftly became a firestorm in Glendale,
California, in June 1990. A total of 67
properties were damaged or destroyed
in the blaze, including this house.

residue. To the technician’s
and Casey’s surprise, a partial
fingerprint appeared. Using a
special photographic filter to
deepen the contrast and reveal the
ridge detail, the technician was
able to render a usable print. It
was entered into the Automated
Fingerprint Identification System
(AFIS) where it was compared to
the fingerprints of criminals across
the country. When the AFIS failed
to produce a match, Casey asked
the ATF to compare the print ❯❯

After lighting the
cigarette, Orr had time
to flee before the device
burst into flames

A sleeve of lined
yellow paper hid
the device

Orr’s incendiary device comprised
three matches tied to the centre of a
cigarette. In all but one of his arson
attacks, Orr left the device in a pile
of highly flammable pillows.

to the fingerprints of the 55
conference attendees on his list.
His request was denied.
For two years, the case sat in
limbo. Then, in March 1989, a
series of fires flared up again, this
time along Highway 101, the road
that led directly to Pacific Grove,
the venue for the annual arson
investigators’ symposium.
Reinvigorated, Casey compared the
list of Pacific Grove conference
attendees to the previous one,
narrowing the number of his
suspects down to 10. Certain that
the arsonist was among them, he
convinced Fresno ATF agents to
steathily obtain the fingerprints of
his 10 suspects and compare them
to the partial print. To Casey’s
shock and disappointment, the
results came back negative.

Catching a break

Beginning in late 1990, a series of
fires in Los Angeles prompted the
development of the “Pillow Pyro

A rubber band
was tied around the
matches and
the cigarette

Task Force”, deriving its name from
the offender’s MO. Like the earlier
blazes, the fires had been set in
retail outlets during business hours.
In March 1991, the head of the
task force, Tom Campuzano,
distributed a leaflet containing
information about this MO to the
Fire Investigators Reaction Strike
Team (FIRST), an association of fire
departments without an arson
investigator as a permanent staff

It’s my opinion that he set in
excess of 2,000 fires over a
period of about 30 years.
Michael J. Cabral

The matches
ignited once the
cigarette had burned
down far enough

member. After reading the
pamphlet, Scott Baker of the
California State Fire Marshal’s
Office told Campuzano about
Marvin Casey and his muchmaligned theory.
At long last, Casey had found an
influential arson investigator who
was sympathetic to his cause.
Campuzano and Casey met to
discuss the case, and Casey
handed over a copy of the partial
fingerprint to the taskforce. They
ran the print through a database of
every person who had ever applied
for a job with the LAPD, and this
time they struck gold. The partial
print matched the left ring
fingerprint of John Leonard Orr: one
of the 10 names on Marvin Casey’s
list. Whether by sheer luck or
professional incompetence, Orr had
avoided being matched in 1989.
Orr was a 41-year-old fire
captain with many years of
experience investigating arson. He
was well liked, charming, and had

Orr’s day of reckoning arrived at
the conclusion of his murder trial in
June 1998. His defence lawyers argued
that faulty wiring was to blame for the
Ole fire, but the jury found Orr guilty.

developed a legendary reputation
for always being the first to arrive
on the scene. As a result of Casey’s
findings, howev