Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Peace: King of the Cat Burglars

The Murder of Arthur Dyson

At some point in mid-1875, Peace began stalking the Dysons. He sent them threatening cards followed by letters pleading for Katherine to return to him. Peace would spy on the couple through the windows of their home, and was likely responsible for Arthur Dyson's termination from the North Eastern Railway, for dereliction of duty. In that unforgiving era, a domestic disturbance which kept an employee away from his appointed place at work was an unpardonable sin.

As a result, Dyson, a docile giant who shunned confrontation, threw a calling card into Peace's yard, in a forlorn attempt to rid his family of its tormenter. The card read "Charles Peace is requested not to interfere with my family." Instead, the card had the opposite reaction. "Peace later in the same day tried to trip up Dyson in the street," Birkenhead wrote. "Producing a revolver, he threatened to kill both him and his wife."

Finally, on the evening of July 1, 1876, Peace pushed the Dysons too far. As Katherine stood in her garden talking with neighbors, Peace appeared. "His eyes were wild and his manner agitated," Hall recounts. Taking his ever-present revolver from his pocket, Peace pointed it at his one-time paramour.

"I'll blow your bloody brains out and your bloody husband's, too," he growled.

Immediately after Peace left, the Dysons swore out a complaint against him, but Peace skipped out on the summons. Undoubtedly, an appearance before a magistrate by an ex-con like Charles Peace would have meant additional jail time. Peace and his wife fled from Darnell to Hull, where they opened a restaurant.

But Charlie wasn't finished with the Dysons. He had disappeared for approximately six months, and in the meantime the Dysons decided to move from Darnell to Banner Cross, another suburb of Sheffield. They assumed that by moving they would have seen the last of Peace, but they were mistaken.

When the Dysons approached their new home in Banner Cross, sitting in one of their chairs where the moving van had left it, was Charles Peace.

"You see," he said, "I am here to annoy you, and I'll annoy you wherever you go."

The threat posed by Charlie had become more ominous.

"I used to be especially afraid of him at night because he had a habit of continually prowling about the house and turning up suddenly," Katherine recalled later. "He would, too, assume all sorts of disguises."

On November 29, Charlie Peace spent the better part of the day playing his fiddle in a tavern near Banner Cross, being rewarded by patrons with drinks. The mixture of drink and lust was too much for the little man and he made up his mind to pay a visit that night to the Dysons. He sat in the shadows for several hours watching their quiet home, when at about 8 p.m., Katherine came outside to use the outhouse. On her way back inside she was stopped by Peace, brandishing his pistol.

Her cry of alarm brought her husband and he charged at Peace. Charlie's first shot was a warning shot into the air, but still Arthur Dyson came on. Backing away, Peace aimed at his rival and fired, striking Dyson in the head. He fell to the ground dead.

Peace fled into the night as Mrs. Dyson's cries of "Murder!" alerted the neighborhood.

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