Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Adam Worth: The World in his Pocket

Mr. Raymond Takes a Wife

"Increased means and increased leisure are the two civilizers of man."
— Benjamin Disraeli

The diamond theft in Africa began just one more sideline to Worth's constantly growing list of illegal businesses. Upon returning to London after the escapade, he hired a clever and educated crook unknown to Scotland Yard by the name of Ned Wynert. With him in place as the overseer of the new enterprise, he established a pseudo-legitimate corporation called Wynert & Company and opened shutters in the middle of London's jewelry center, Hatton Gardens. By marking their merchandise a pound or two less than the standard retailer, they fared well. The take from the diamonds stolen at Port Elizabeth was £90,000.

"The 1880s were years of consolidation and prosperity for Worth," reads Ben Macintyre's The Napoleon of Crime. "He had become what Pinkerton called 'a silk glove man,' a gentleman crook and sporting gentleman of leisure luxuriating in his loot and a cut above the vagabonds and rascals with whom he had once associated. From Hatton Garden, Ned Wynert...ran the day-to-day criminal business while Worth enjoyed his yacht and his horses, traveling whenever the fancy took him, gambling and entertaining his friends, some criminal but many of unimpeachable respectability."

Friend Eddie Guerin, whose memoirs give insight into Worth during these years, visited him in 1887, the year of the Queen Victoria's Jubilee. Guerin hadn't seen Worth since his Paris days and was amazed to see how far an German-born Jew had come in the City of London. He writes, "If ever a man in this world could be pointed out as an exception to the rule that no crook ever makes money it was Adam Worth. He owned an expensive flat in Picadilly, he entertained some of the best people in London who never knew him for anything but an apparent rich man of Bohemian nature."

Victorian bride and groom (Courtesy Leeds Art Gallery)
Victorian bride and groom
(Courtesy Leeds Art Gallery)

The decade began with promise. In November, 1881, the two centrals behind Wynert & Company robbed the central post office in the Hatton Garden district and walked away with more diamonds, uncut. Worth's establishment, literally down the street from that post office, mounted them so that they were untraceable, and sold them for £30,000.

It was in the early 1880s that Worth took a wife. When he first had come to London from Paris, as "Henry Judson Raymond," he had stayed in a small hostelry in Bayswater, run by a widow and her two daughters. The family treated him kindly and they remained friends, even as Raymond became a man of leisure. Months after his brief lodging, after he moved into his estate in the Common, Worth learned that the family was in dire financial straits. He began to help them, furnishing them with a residence for free and putting the daughters through school. As the children grew, the youngest of them blossomed into a particularly beautiful young lady to whom Worth suddenly found himself attracted. Feeling himself now a suitable member of the upper class social caste, he thought it befitting that he marry. He asked for the girl's hand in marriage; she accepted with delight.

She nor her family never knew Worth's real identity; to them he had always been Henry Raymond, American gentleman come to England, sporting blood, businessman, benefactor and now diamond merchant. The wedding was a social affair and the Raymonds settled down to a blissful marriage in West Lodge. Worth sold off his Picadilly apartment, no longer desiring a "bachelor flat".

None of Worth's biographers are able to give a name of his bride, but evidently she was a domestic woman of virtue and much unlike the ambitious women he had known, far removed from energized Kitty Flynn. While Sophie Lyons' reminiscences claim theirs was not a romance of passion, they were nevertheless happy. Worth proved to be a faithful husband and, when his wife gave birth to a son, Harry, in 1888, and a daughter, Constance, in 1891, a joyous father.

"Worth was riding on the leaf of his silk hat - wealthy, respectably married and increasingly powerful," Macintyre notes. "He would periodically carry out a robbery to keep his hand in and demonstrate his prowess, if only to himself - he being the only critic whose opinion he truly valued." Jobs were easy to the criminal whose mastery had become second nature. To illustrate, he walked into the Bank of London carrying a forged note of delivery for £35,000 worth of gems - and walked out with the gems.

Macintyre continues: "Peacemaker, job provider, receiver...Worth had become a sort of criminal paterfamilias, offering counsel and crime on contract...But his fame was rapidly expanding beyond the criminal fraternity to a wider public...(Scotland Yard Inspector) Shore kept constant surveillance on the Worth mansion in Clapham Common." Newspapers ran articles about him, sometimes accompanying them with the most sinister-appearing photo they could find. One particularly knowledgeable story in the New York World went so far as to print his alias and address in London, followed by a list of the major crimes in his career. Somehow, he managed to keep the evidence from his wife.

William Pinkerton (Ben Macintyre)
William Pinkerton (Ben Macintyre)

But, his notoriety was beginning to worry him. The Pinkertons, who obviously fed the World information, had been on his tail for years; this latest article proved the extensiveness of William Pinkerton's dossier. Still, he was untouchable, there was nothing that could incriminate him - except the Duchess of Devonshire. Like a consort threatening the harmony of his wedding bed, Georgiana had to go. Not willing at this point to bid adieu to his consort, however, he secreted her in other climes. Making a brief voyage to America in 1887, he stored her in the Saratoga trunk in a security warehouse thousands of miles away from Mrs. Raymond.

In the meantime, William Pinkerton was hard at work breaking up the control of outlaws throughout his jurisdiction, the entire United States. He seemed to be everywhere. Criminals complained that he had a vision to the world no one else possessed, and began calling him "the Eye". Bandits and killers - from Harvey Logan and "Kid" Curry of Wyoming's Hole-in-the-Wall Gang to the intrepid "Texas Jack" Searcy - were all rounded up through the investigative work of the Pinkertons.

The Eye himself continued to travel abroad to counsel other countries on American fugitives. Government officials north of the border in Canada found him a valuable resource and aide, over and over helping the Mounties extradite runaway criminals back to the Dominion. Junka Phillips, the wide-girthed butler with the monster greed, had left London for Quebec after Worth's upbraiding and, thanks to Pinkerton's dossier, was slapped with a maximum sentence for years of passing bad checks.

William Pinkerton always found time to visit London's Scotland Yard to keep abreast of Adam Worth's latest activities. During one of his visits in the mid-1880s, the two men - policeman and prey - met by chance in the Criterion Bar. Unlike the stifled conversation in Paris, this time the men seemed to greet each other as old friends and the dialogue took on a bit of sarcastic whimsy. Pinkerton overstressed the name Mister Raymond as if to let him know he understood his real identity, and Worth alluded to and joked about the ineptitude of the law's chase for him around the globe. They bought each other drinks as gentlemen and when the brief meeting ended, they shook hands as acceptant competitors. But, before they parted, Worth made one unexpected gesture. "Sir," he said, "I think Inspector Shore is a bumbling idiot - but as for you - well, I have great respect for you and your people. I want you to know that."

The detective later said that he wasn't the least surprised by the man's graciousness. "A crook notwithstanding, he was and always has been a gentleman."

Picadilly Street and the Criterion (Courtesy The Queen's London)
Picadilly Street and the Criterion
(Courtesy The Queen's London)

Worth wasn't fraternizing, for he actually admired Pinkerton's gumption. Several of his closest London cohorts who had traveled to the U.S. had been either killed in a gun battle with the agency or now rotted behind bars because they had underestimated Pinkerton's ability. Both Little Joe Elliott and the Russian Carlo Sesicovitch had recently succumbed in jail where Pinkerton's agents put them. Scratch Becker had flown England and, the last Worth heard, was in hiding in the Midwest.

While these men had almost begged for their fate - they had, in the end, ignored what he had always emphasized, "Exercise your brain!" - poor Charley Bullard's ill fortune was, Worth felt, a different story. After leaving Kitty Flynn in London, he wound up in New York where he roved from gang to gang, performing jobs far below his capacity, slowly depreciating his own value as a big-time thief in a violent run for alcohol. The once-glamorous piano-playing rake, emaciating, often-hallucinating in caramel-colored fantasy, still dreamed of Kitty and winning her back. Perhaps that was why he was so easily duped by and convinced to take part in a foolish enterprise with "The Baron" Max Shinburn.

Shinburn, ever trying to overshadow Adam Worth, still wore derbies and silk scarves, still smoked dollar cigars, still soaked his hide with the most expensive bay rum, but he had lost his European holdings and his fortune. Concocting a plan to rob a bank in an outlying Belgium town, he and puppy-dog Bullard were arrested in the process, drawing a dozen years in the Prison de Louvain near Liege.

Piano Charley's outcome bothered Worth immensely, knowing that Shinburn had taken advantage of the hapless drunk, and, in September, 1892, decided to make a trip to Liege to see how bribe-able the Belgium bureaucrats might be. He kissed his wife goodbye, hugged his children, then crossed the English Channel to France; from there, he grabbed the Calais Express to Belgium. When he reached the border, he heard that Bullard had passed away. He was devastated.

A dissipated Piano Charley (Pinkerton's, Inc.)
A dissipated
Piano Charley
(Pinkerton's, Inc.)

Arriving in Liege, he wandered about town, acting lost. Almost as if in after-thought to his friend's death, he decided to commit a robbery. One might assume he wanted to strike back at the Belgium authorities. The operation that followed was contrary to anything Worth ever professed; it seemed to be based on emotion, not practicality; it was spontaneous, unrehearsed and unresearched; it occurred in a foreign environment he knew little about, it utilized an untried staff of accomplices; and it madly followed a modus operandi that had already proven faulty - that near-tragic hold up of a diamond convoy in Africa.

The plan, on paper, looked easy. Liege banks received most of their money from Swiss banks that delivered cash on certain mornings, via railway. Two men in an express van would pick up the strongboxes, full of cash, from the depot and deliver them to one bank at a time throughout the day. Observing the van's path through the streets of Liege, Worth noted that at several points along the destination the van, which was nothing more than a small, two-wheeled canvas-topped postal cart, was momentarily left unguarded — in increments of no more than three minutes. Worth had emptied vaults in that time and, as agile as he was at age 48, and with a sturdy crowbar, he could easily break the padlocks from at least three or four boxes at any stop along the route.

Dutch Alonzo (Pinkerton's, Inc.)
Dutch Alonzo
(Pinkerton's, Inc.)

He hired two lookouts: Johnny Curtin, an American bank robber on the lam from America, and "Dutch Alonzo" Henne, a local small-timer. On the morning of October 5, 1892, the three men assembled on the Boulevard Frere Orban, down from the bank where the van would stop first. A steeple across the street read 9:30 when Curtin mumbled under his breath, "Don't look now...it's coming." The latter took his position left of the bank, Alonzo to the right, and Worth, lingering with a nonchalant aire, remained in place until he saw the two deliverymen disappear through the bank's portals. Spinning around, he leaped onto the driver's seat, flipped open a flour sack, grabbed the nearest strongbox, wrenched it open — then spotted his helpers tearing away. Someone was crying, "Stop, thief!" followed by the shriek of a police whistle. Obviously, a gendarme had witnessed the affair and, by the time Worth was able to size up his situation, several other policeman were closing in. Dropping the strongbox, the cash, then the crowbar with a clang, he ran. But, before he could blend into the crowd on the Avenue Veronique, he was tackled and brought to the ground.

A delivery van similar to the one robbed by Worth in Liege (Courtesy British Telcom)
A delivery van similar to the one
robbed by Worth in Liege
(Courtesy British Telcom)

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