Opportunist thieves, disgraced perverts and crooked railway staff: Mugshots of notorious early 20th century transport criminals released

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Chancers photographed after swiping unattended luggage, while organised felons used their connection to the railways to steal whisky supplies

British Transport Police have released dozens of mugshots of early 20th Century transport criminals, including a sorry array of opportunist thieves, disgraced military perverts and crooked railway staff.

Taken between the late Victorian period and 1920, the images are an enlightening snapshot of the hugely varied criminal classes that operated on Britain’s rapidly expanding railway network.

From John Moir, the lowly one-eyed goods checker fined for stealing tea, to career criminal Robert Lewis who was jailed with hard labour for the theft of parcels, the mugshots reveal the railways to be a place where all manner of crime flourished.

Click here for a full gallery of the mugshots

The majority of criminals appear to have been operating classic distraction robberies; using the chaos of a bustling railway station to swipe expensive luggage while the owner worried about mundane travel necessities like purchasing tickets and asking guards for directions.

Some, however, appear to have been members of organised gangs who targeted goods or postal trains for their expensive cargo, or low-paid railway employees who wrongly assumed that their privileged position put them beyond suspicion when the occasional item went missing.

The later certainly seems to have been the case with North British Railway employee Thomas Drummond, who was photographed wearing his elegant uniform before being jailed for 20 days over the theft of 12 bottles of whisky.

North British Railway employee Thomas Drummond was photographed wearing his elegant uniform before being jailed for 20 days over the theft of 12 bottles of whisky. North British Railway employee Thomas Drummond was photographed wearing his elegant uniform before being jailed for 20 days over the theft of 12 bottles of whisky.

Other thieves include Mitchell Steadman-Turner, who was sentenced to six months in prison after stealing a Japanese basket from Waverley Station in Edinburgh in 1920, and the smartly dressed, fashionably bearded James Whilton – alias Charles Wharton – who stole a bag from London’s Paddington Station in 1887.

Servicemen, it appears, were not immune to the temptations of vice of railways either, with two of the mugshots showing men in military uniform.

Private Gordon Marr of the 16 Battalion Canadian Scottish Regiment was sentenced to 10 days in prison for theft of a box of fish in 1918, while disgraced RAF Lieutenant Jack Graham-Parker was convicted of indecent exposure at a railway station over a three-day spell in March 1920.

Private Gordon Marr of the 16 Battalion Canadian Scottish Regiment was sentenced to 10 days in prison for theft of a box of fish in 1918 Private Gordon Marr of the 16 Battalion Canadian Scottish Regiment was sentenced to 10 days in prison for theft of a box of fish in 1918

Women are also seen among the mugshots, with Cumbria’s notorious travelling railway thief Margaret Leck seen wearing an extravagantly collared coat in a police photograph taken on Christmas Eve 1904. She had been arrested over the theft of a trunk in Edinburgh.

Cumbria’s notorious travelling railway thief Margaret Leck seen wearing an extravagantly collared coat in a police photograph taken on Christmas Eve 1904. She had been arrested over the theft of a trunk in Edinburgh. Cumbria’s notorious travelling railway thief Margaret Leck seen wearing an extravagantly collared coat in a police photograph taken on Christmas Eve 1904. She had been arrested over the theft of a trunk in Edinburgh.

Although the typical punishment for those arrested appears to have been a small fine or few days in prison, it seems some judges considered seemingly minor transport crimes to be far more serious than charges of organised theft.

Poor old Edward Meitchie, for example, was sentenced to a full three months with hard labour in prison for the relatively minor offence of loitering at Derby Station in 1922.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...