Category: crime

“Kleptomania” and “kleptocracy” come from the same Greek word,

kléptein, “to steal.” Another descendant of 
kléptein

is
Kléftis.

In modern Greek, Kléftis
were highwaymen turned self-appointed anti-Ottoman insurgents. They were descendants of
Greeks who retreated into the mountains during the 1400s after the Ottomans conquered the Greek-speaking world, and they maintained a war of harassment against the Ottomans until the 1800s and Greek’s independence. Being an insurgent was a family tradition!

Inspired by the 1870 diamond rush in South Africa, the Kentucky-born cousins Philip Arnold and John Slack came up with a plot to “find” a diamond mine in the United States. They settled on the frontier territory of Colorado. So later in 1870s, Philip and John tried to deposit a bag of uncut diamonds at a San Francisco bank. But upon questioning, they quickly left.

The director of the bank, William Ralston, heard about this. And he got exactly the idea the cousins wanted him to get: Ralston decided to buy the “diamond mine” that must have produced those uncut diamonds. To help convince Ralston, the cousins salted (placed diamonds inside) a Colorado mine, then pretended to dig the diamonds up.

Convinced by their trickery, Ralston founded the New York Mining and Commercial Company and invested $600,000 in the cousins. This company was comprised of prominent individuals such as the founder of Tiffany & Co., a former commander of the Union Army, and a US Representative. In total, New York Mining Commercial Company ended up selling stock totaling $10 million. And diamond fever spread, too. Convinced that the American West must have many other major deposits of diamonds, at least 25 other diamond exploration companies formed in the subsequent months.

In 1872, things fell apart. A new-to-the-scene geologist Clarence King began to investigate, first finding the secret mine, then going through its deposits. King noticed that the seemingly random layout of diamonds and rubies was too neat to be natural. Plus, the jewels were only found in areas where the ground had previously been dug. No diamonds or rubies were found in untouched parts of the mine. Those two factors, put together, were enough to convince King that he had uncovered a hoax.

Apparently the cousins could not buy King off, because on November 26, 1872, The San Francisco Chronicle published a letter from King, explaining his findings. King became the first director of the United States Geological Survey thanks to his part in uncovering the hoax, so things turned out well for him.

But Ralston was only able to return $80,000 to each investor in the company, and the cousins disappeared with the $600,000 down payment the company had paid for the mine. Arnold lived out the few remaining years of his life in luxury in Kentucky before dying of pneumonia in 1878. Slack apparently squandered his share of the money, for he was last reported working as a coffin maker in New Mexico.

Too many spivs, 1954. Photographed by Bert Hardy.

Rarely seen photos of Blanche and Buck Barrow of the Bonnie and Clyde Barrow gang, 1931-1933.

In Ramsgate, a town on the coast of southeastern England, on September 20th, 1930, a mysterious murder occurred. At 6p.m., a 12-year-old girl was sent across the street to buy a blancmange powder (used to make jellies) from the neighborhood sweetshop. When the owner, 82-year-old Margery Wren, came to the door, the girl was shocked to see blood streaming down her face.

Wren was taken to the hospital and she suffered for five days before dying of her wounds. She had eight wounds and bruises on her face, and the top of her head had seven more. Wren gave multiple, conflicting statements including that she had fallen over the fire tongs, that a man had attacked her with the tongs, that he had a white bag, that it was another man with a red face, that it had been two men, and that it had been an accident.

Note these were all made to people other than the police – Wren refused to make a statement to the police. When the Ramsgate vicar visited, she promised him she would make a statement after he left, but she never did. At one point Wren said she knew her attacker but that “I don’t wish him to suffer. He must bear his sins.” Just before she died she said, “He tried to borrow 10 pounds.”

Wren had been seen alive and well at about 5:15pm by another schoolgirl. That meant she was attacked between about 5:30pm and 6pm. However no one reported seeing a man entering the premises. In the end, the police had three main suspects who stood to benefit from Wren’s death, but no hard evidence to tie any specific one man to the crime. The case was never solved.

In Ramsgate, a town on the coast of southeastern England, on September 20th, 1930, a mysterious murder occurred. At 6p.m., a 12-year-old girl was sent across the street to buy a blancmange powder (used to make jellies) from the neighborhood sweetshop. When the owner, 82-year-old Margery Wren, came to the door, the girl was shocked to see blood streaming down her face.

Wren was taken to the hospital and she suffered for five days before dying of her wounds. She had eight wounds and bruises on her face, and the top of her head had seven more. Wren gave multiple, conflicting statements including that she had fallen over the fire tongs, that a man had attacked her with the tongs, that he had a white bag, that it was another man with a red face, that it had been two men, and that it had been an accident.

Note these were all made to people other than the police – Wren refused to make a statement to the police. When the Ramsgate vicar visited, she promised him she would make a statement after he left, but she never did. At one point Wren said she knew her attacker but that “I don’t wish him to suffer. He must bear his sins.” Just before she died she said, “He tried to borrow 10 pounds.”

Wren had been seen alive and well at about 5:15pm by another schoolgirl. That meant she was attacked between about 5:30pm and 6pm. However no one reported seeing a man entering the premises. In the end, the police had three main suspects who stood to benefit from Wren’s death, but no hard evidence to tie any specific one man to the crime. The case was never solved.

Pedro Lopez is a Colombian serial killer. He was sentenced in 1980 in Ecuador for killing 110 girls, but who claims to have raped and killed more than 300 girls across Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and potentially other countries. That would make him the second most prolific known serial killer in history.

He was released in 1994, rearrested an hour later as an illegal immigrant and handed over to Colombian authorities, who charged him with a 20-year-old murder. Lopez was released by Colombia in 1998 on $50 bail and some conditions. He absconded. At present, Lopez is wanted in connection to a 2002 murder, and his whereabouts are unknown.

In 1876, James “Big Jim” Kinealy decided to steal Abraham Lincoln’s corpse to ransom it, in exchange for $200,000 and the freedom of his former partner-in-crime.

Kinealy’s scheme failed because a conspirator got drunk, told a lady friend in Springfield, IL, and rumors got started that someone was out to steal Lincoln’s body. Kinealy fled to Chicago.

He decided to try again, with new co-conspirators, because second time’s the charm, right? Where did Kinealy find his new pals? A tavern. One of the new guys was a paid informant, and once again, the plot was foiled.

Punch magazine, England, January 1, 1959

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The Illustrated Police News, London, England, June 8, 1867

The post Midnight Encounter with a Burglar appeared first on Yesterday's Print.