Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Bungling 1900s Burglars

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Bungling 1900s Burglars

Article excerpt

on his true identity.

He wasn't the only criminal looking to profit from pants.

My investigation into the mugshot for John Ferguson, a 27-year-old cartman from Berwick, revealed that on May 14, 1906 (under his alias Robert Wilson) he was charged with stealing four pairs of men's drawers, valued at 6s, from the shop door of the Cash Clothing Company, Saville Street West. Ferguson had a number of previous convictions and these seem to have been held against him since he was sent to prison for three months for what was a fairly minor crime.

Ferguson also went under a third name, Martin Farrell, and his use of two aliases probably didn't help his image in court.

The cases I've investigated so far also include several cases of break-ins to sweet shops.

One of the cases involved a 20-year-old Newcastle labourer, John William Atkinson, who broke into not one but two confectioners on July 28, 1904. The Shields Daily Gazette for 4 August 1904 reports that Atkinson was: "charged with breaking and entering two shops on the Grand Parade, Tynemouth and stealing goods to the value of 8s 3d, the property of John Harker Graham and to the value of PS1 1s 6d, the property of Maynard Ltd.

"The evidence for the prosecution was to the effect that the prisoner had in both cases effected an entrance through the fanlights above the doors, ransacked the shops and filled his pockets with the articles mentioned in the charge.

"After leaving his second shop, he stood awhile in the Grand Parade where he was seen by PC Telford, whose suspicions were at once aroused".

What followed was a long chase over the sands reminiscent of a scene from the film Get Carter.

The Shields Daily News continued: "As soon as the prisoner caught sight of the constable, he bolted over the sea-banks and along the sands, the policeman in hot pursuit. …

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