An acrobatic Raffles

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

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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?

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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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