An acrobatic Raffles

Robert Fabian, in his book Fabian of the Yard, wrote about a new type of burglar.

image found here

Robert Augustus Delaney will be remembered at Scotland Yard as the man who started a new fashion in crime that was to become known as cat burglary.

image found here

Delaney trod the crags and precipices of Park Lane’s roofs with nonchalant skill. Wearing faultless evening clothes, he could apparently climb the sheer side of a house. I think he imagined himself as a kind of acrobatic Raffles.

Raffles found here

He certainly made the great criminals of the past, like Charles Peace, who carried a collapsible ladder disguised as firewood, look clumsy. In his pocket was a slender tool like a putty-knife for slipping window catches. Around his trimly tailored waist coiled four yards of black silk rope. 

image found here

In 1924, when the rich and noble residents of Park Lane were trooping splendidly into dinner, Delaney would crouch beneath their windows, unwinding his gossamer rope. It was not really my case, nor was my pal Tommy Sykes assigned to it. But we kept an eye on the area hoping for a lead.

One night in October we saw a shadowy intruder flit across one of the white balconies. Tommy raced into the house and through bedrooms and corridors, with the alarmed householders behind him. The thief reappeared on the balcony, made no attempt to descend, but ran light footed and leapt a nine foot gap to the next balcony then vanished. The last thing I saw was the glint of a diamond stud in a dress shirt front.

world’s most expensive dress shirt found here

The next morning we went to the scene of the previous night’s burglary. By daylight that leap from one balcony to another seemed no less remarkable. I noticed a footprint on the ledge, so small and so exquisitely pointed that it might have been made by a woman’s dancing shoe. We found another imprint clearly showing the porous tread of crepe soles. “Rubber soled evening shoes” exclaimed Tommy. “He’d need to get those made specially.”

Louis Vuitton evening shoes found here

I spent the day visiting the exclusive shoe emporiums of Jermyn Street and Shepherd’s Market, where craftsmen took pride in handmade shoes to suit clients’ whims. In Albemarle Street I was lucky. The proprietor gave me an address in Half Moon Street which proved to be false but I thought it worth investigating the bars and lounges nearby.

image found here

A man wearing good evening clothes passed me. A diamond sparkled in his laundered shirt bosom, his tiny pointed shoes moved soundlessly on the tile floor. I followed him back to a house in Vine Street…..

On his first conviction he received three years penal servitude at the Old Bailey. That was in 1924. Would you like to know what this daring, well educated and quick witted young man did with the rest of his life and that superb acrobat’s body that fate had given him?

image found here

By the time he died in Parkhurst Prison in 1948, he had spent twenty years in various gaols. In his brief intervals of freedom, his pointed immaculate shoes had scarcely time to become worn down at the heels…..”

Published in: on December 28, 2011 at 11:01 am  Comments (44)  
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  1. Two thieves decided to break into a rich man’s house one night. To avoid being seen by anyone, they decided to enter through the chimney. Unaware that the rich man was at home, the first thief began to climb down the chimney, quite noisily.

    “Who’s there?” asked the rich man.

    “Meow, meow,” said the first thief, imitating a cat. Convinced that it was only a cat, the rich man went back to watching television.

    After awhile, the second thief began to make his way down the chimney, just as noisily as the first thief.

    “Who’s there?” asked the rich man once again.

    Convinced that he could trick the rich man, the second thief replied, quite confidently:

    “It’s just another cat, Sir!”

    • How did the rich man get rich?

      • An inheritance ?

  2. All of us young boys were in love with and enchanted by Catwoman. We used to go to Mrs Weir’s house(a dozen of us) to watch Batman on Thursday evening. You see she had a COLOR TV RIGHT THERE IN HER LIVING ROOM and oh what a thrill it was to watch Batman in color just like at the movie theater.

    • I used to go next door to watch Lassie in black and white 😦

      We were behind the times in New Zealand

  3. I take it you mean A.J. Raffles, the fictional character created by Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law, and not Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, of the eponymous hotel?

    • Thankyou, I was about to say that. Mind you, Singapore in the old days would have been ideal Raffles territory!;-)

      • Duh…. thanks guys. I didn’t get the reference. Silly me.

  4. See that is how you get caught thieves. Don’t wear the flashy stuff.

  5. A waste of his talent, but then again, if he didn’t do what he did, we wouldn’t be reading about it here.

  6. If only he wore cheaper stuff….

    • Some people can’t dress down

  7. So the lesson here is: when choosing a false address, don’t use one in your own neighborhood.

    • I thought the lesson was “crime does not pay”. Obviously I was dead wrong

      • That’s what I’m here for.

  8. Black silk gossamer rope and those natty shoes are no fashion crime. Oh, it says “fashion IN crime”.

    • I rather fancy being immobilised by gossamer ropes

  9. Since I forgot, myra,I hope you had a Merry Christmas.
    And since I’ll probably forget again, Happy New Year!!!!

  10. Cat burglars always seem to have a certain enviable style.

    • Cary Grant certainly gave that impression in the movies

  11. oh, julie newmar! my first girl crush!

    • My first girl crush was my high school sports mistress

      • I rather liked Olivia Newton-Jon, but I recovered …

  12. If I tried something like that I’d probably manage to get myself all tied up in knots and be stuck waiting for the police to come and cut me loose.

    • You have other talents

  13. I have a chair/step ladder similar to that one – so ingenious.

    • I only have a metal step ladder. not nearly as nice 😦

  14. I would fall for any man wearing those shoes – have a wonderful 2012 Nursey xxxx

  15. I think I shall try to wear a diamond stud in the front of my shirt today and see if I am that much more memorable.

  16. One of my treats as a young girl – if I had cleaned enough chimneys for the day – was to be allowed to watch “Fabian of the Yard” on TV. Pipe-smoking Inspector Fabian was played by the incredibly smooth 11th Baronet Major Sir Bruce Lovat Seton of Abercorn whose sister, Toppy, later married Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, Eisenhower’s second-in-command for the invasion of Europe.

    Not a lot of people know that.

    • I bet Michael Caine does! 😉

  17. So he spent 20 years between 1924 and 1948 banged up…he may have been a natty dresser but it sounds like he wasn’t very good at his job.

    • No I hadn’t. Good Lord!

  18. Once a thief, always a thief I suppose. Should have been a bit more creative with the false addresses, though.

  19. I am with you on the gossamer ropes: but cheap sash cords from Bunnings are more in line with my budget.

  20. Looks like her never learned his lesson. 😛

  21. I’m still thinking about the 9 foot leap to the ledge… Pretty amazing.

  22. I would shout for Sherlock Holmes, but, I never liked being called Watson…and especially don’t like being called Elementary.
    Great research and reporting as usual.
    Happy New Year
    Bless You

    • Hi Paul, I’m still having trouble with akismet spamming my comments. Can you check your spam – I left a comment on your blog but it didn’t show up

  23. Cat burglars are my favorite kind of burglars.

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