Image of a criminal
Time and the writers pretty worked on the image of Richard (Dick) Turpin. In sagas and ballads, he is depicted as a noble hero, who knows no fear, greed, and cruelty. In addition, he is extremely handsome, gallant and educated. Rushing on a horse named Black Bess, and behind the robber's back, of course, was a black cloak waving from the main road. Even in Ainsworth's most famous novel, Rockwood, Turpin is presented much better than he was in reality. Actually, many are inclined to believe that this particular book gave an impetus to the romanticization of the criminal.
However, the book image, unfortunately, has nothing to do with the true one. In fact, Richard was greedy, greedy, cruel and merciless. And it is difficult to call him beautiful, because the Englishman’s face was covered with numerous scars and traces of smallpox.
Turpin was born in 1705 in Hempstead, Essex. He had a big family - 5 brothers and sisters. My father kept a butcher shop, but he had enough money. At the age of twenty, Richard married Elizabeth Millington. In search of a better life, the newlyweds set off to conquer London. Since the only thing Dick knew how to do was carve carcasses, he, of course, opened a butcher shop in the city.
Things with the Turpin couple went badly. It affected a lot of competition. Therefore, one day Dick decided to improve his well-being at the expense of his neighbors. And, seizing the right moment, stole a couple of oxen from them. In his own shop, he butchered carcasses, and then resold the meat. True, this crime was quickly uncovered. Fearing harsh punishment, Turpin fled from London, leaving his family behind. Upon reflection, he decided to return to his native Essex county. But honest work did not attract him anymore ...
Soon, Richard met the Gregory brothers. They suggested that the young robber should engage in an extremely profitable, albeit dangerous business - to hunt deer. The fact is that in England the shooting of these animals was prohibited by law. Caught the poacher was waiting for the death penalty. The highest measure, by the way, threatened cattle thieves as well. But the Gregory brothers did not disdain this occupation, because it brought a good income. The authorities of England, as they could, fought with criminals. The person who issued the poachers could count on a generous reward in the form of 10 pounds sterling. And in 1733, this figure was increased to 50 pounds.
Poachers needed Turpin, because he was a professional butcher. Dick, of course, agreed. True, the gang wielded a short time. Soon they were issued by one of the "colleagues". Many were then caught by the police, but the brothers Gregory and Turpin themselves managed to sneak away from the law enforcement officers.
Nobody wanted to return to ordinary life. But they did not shoot the deer. Gregory and Turpin invented a new kind of income, and much more profitable: the bandits began to rob the rich. But with the poor, contrary to the legends, they did not share.
For that time, the gang was distinguished by sophistication and cruelty. And although they did not kill the unfortunates for the sake of fun, torture fire became their signature handwriting. When the gang broke into the house, Gregory and Dick first asked to give money and valuables, as they say, in an amicable way. In most cases, the victim, of course, did not agree. Then one of the criminals began to defiantly kindle a fire. Sometimes right in the middle of the room, sometimes in the fireplace.
The most famous raids that stirred the county occurred in the winter of the year 1735. The first victim was a rich old man Joseph Lawrence, who made a fortune in the ranks of the farm. The bandits tied up his servants, and then lit a fire in the fireplace. When the flames broke out as it should, the criminals removed their pants from the old man and sat them in the fireplace. Lawrence, of course, could not bear the terrible pain and agreed to give his savings. Mining was not as big as the bandits had expected. They got hold of only three dozen pounds.
The next raid was planned more thoroughly, therefore the victim was richer. At night, the criminals broke into the house of an elderly lady Shelley. They did not try to torture her, they decided that they would achieve their commonplace fright. Therefore, acting on a streamlined scenario, they tied her servants and son, and put the old woman herself in the fireplace. Waving guns, they promised to burn her alive if they did not receive money and jewels. Surprisingly, Shelley was a woman not a timid, so remained silent. The situation was tense. Gregory was already ready to set fire to the firewood in the fireplace in order to beat out the confession from the old woman, but ... First, her son's nerves could not stand. Fearing torture and cruel reprisals, he gave the bandits a hundred pounds, as well as various jewels and just expensive things. According to estimates, that night the criminals got rich on pounds sterling 600-700. For those times it is a fortune.
Having received a generous ransom, the criminals were stupid. Instead of immediately leaving the woman’s house and hiding for a while, they began to empty the contents of her cellar. After drinking a few bottles of wine and ale, the robbers finally relaxed. At that moment they were covered by the police. According to one version, the son of Shelley was able to call the law enforcement officers. According to another, one of the gangsters, a fifteen-year-old boy William, wanting to get a big reward, turned in his friends. As a reward for his labors, he received pounds sterling 50.
Almost everyone went to jail except ... brothers Gregory and Dick Turpin. How they managed to avoid arrest is a mystery. There is a legend that Richard warned the horse about the approach of law enforcement officers. Here it must be said that there is a discrepancy in the legend. The fact is that the legendary Black Bess appeared at Turpin a few years later. There is a version according to which Dick warned William. Like, he gave a debt for some help ... Together with him, Gregory also avoided arrest. But none of these versions can be neither confirmed nor refuted.
Whether the horse helped Richard, the young thug, or he somehow managed to escape - it doesn't matter. It is important that a month later the brothers were still caught. According to one version, at the time of the arrest they were very drunk and could not fight back. And another companion passed them, flattered by the authorities for reward and forgiveness.
Jasper Gregory was hanged first. Jeremy hurt his leg badly, trying to hide from the representatives of the law. He did not live to see the gallows, he died in prison. The third brother, Samuel, was tortured before being on the scaffold. And then the whole trinity, chained, hung out for all to see.
Gentlemen from the high road
Understanding that he was being hunted, Dick decided to temporarily retire and lie down on the bottom. But soon he got bored, and he again took up the looting. Only now the robber did not raid rich houses, but preferred to catch single travelers on the forest road. Such an activity did not bring as much money as the gangster wanted, but he was afraid to risk excessively.
Once Richard noticed a young, well-dressed man who slowly rode on a horse through the forest. To Turpin’s surprise, the victim turned out to be an excellent swordsman. That battle did not reveal the winner. It turned out that on the forest road Dick got along with another equally well-known at the time robber - Tom (according to another version - Matthew) King, nicknamed the Gentleman-Robber. He was so called for manners and pathos, since he presented the robberies as a theatrical performance. And although the criminals were very different from each other and the nature and methods of "work", they agreed. In the forest, Dick and Tom found a suitable cave and turned it into a warehouse.
Not without conflicts. So, once the bandits attacked a cart with two girls. During the search, they found more than a dozen pounds sterling. But they liked King so much that he decided not to rob the girls. Richard did not like it. A quarrel broke out between the bandits. In the end, Turpin managed to pick up his share.
In the meantime, a real hunt was announced on the bandits from the main road. People eager to get the head of Turpin, every day everything increased - he was awarded an award in 200 pounds sterling! For the time being, they were frankly lucky. While Richard was not stupid. He has snagged a thoroughbred black horse, which Bess called. And instead of selling it, I left it to myself. Soon the horse and tracked them. King was killed in the shootout (there is a version that Dick killed him on purpose so as not to share the loot), and Turpin himself managed to escape again.
Richard for some time decided to stop playing with fire. Together with King, he had enough money to start a new life under a new name.
The new John Palmer moved to a neighboring county and opened a horse buying and resale company. But the measured and quiet life quickly bored the bandit. He with great difficulty restrained his violent temper and desire to return to the robbery. But once Dick still could not resist ... During the transaction, he was not able to agree with the client. Furious Turpin shot, but missed. Richard threatened another unsuccessful customer with a massacre. These actions could not pass by representatives of the law. They appeared unexpectedly and managed to arrest the robber.
Who he really was, nobody knew. Therefore, Dick hoped that he would be able to get out from behind the bars without problems. He needed only to enlist the support of some wealthy and respected person. In the role of savior, he saw the husband of his sister, a prosperous gentleman. Dick wrote him a letter, but miscalculated. The relative, having seen the letter from unfamiliar to him John Palmer, did not begin to pay postage. Letters returned to the post. And at this moment Turpin was fatally unlucky. As if someone had revenged him for numerous bloody crimes. The returned letter was seen by James Smith, the man who had once taught Richard literacy. Learning the handwriting of his student, Smith bought the envelope and finally became convinced that he was right. Without a moment's delay, he told the authorities about everything and received 200 pounds sterling.
Richard Turpin especially did not resist. And in April 1739, he was sentenced to be hanged. The robber climbed the scaffold in York from the main road. According to legend, he was wearing new expensive clothes, which he asked to buy specifically for the "holiday". He also became generous and hired several mourners to create an atmosphere of sorrow and grief.
There is a version that his old acquaintance Thomas Hadfilt acted as the executioner. Once he passed his buddies to get a pardon. Thomas received it, and at the same time the position of executioner.
Turpin was buried in the cemetery near the church of St. George. But the next night the body was stolen. According to some information, he was taken away for the sake of medical research (at that time it was quite common). True, literally in a day or two, Richard's body was found in the old place. He was buried again. But many historians do not believe that the legendary robber rests in the cemetery of St. George.
Dick Turpin’s appearance became famous in 1737, when the London Gazette published his verbal portrait: “A swarthy man 30 years old, about 175 centimeters tall, a triangular face with wide cheekbones, all scarred and pockmarked.” And although the lifetime image of Turpin has not survived, not so long ago, the police created his photograph for the York Museum. He needed to design the exhibition dedicated to the famous criminal. Face on identikit turned out pretty unpleasant and repulsive, as reported by the museum staff. But in numerous stories, stories, legends and songs he is the complete opposite. Romantic look, you know ...