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  • Skinny White: the Cleverest Pickpocket in Europe October 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    Beach continues to enjoy pickpocket stories. This one was told of James White (skinny White) a pickpocket, who died in 1895 and who was ‘the cleverest pickpocket in Europe’. His obituary is willfully quiet about some of his exploits. It for example, tells us nothing of the ‘curious tales’ about his fun at Monte Carlo. It does have this nice story though.

    A well-known London barrister received two £100 notes from bookmaker and placed them in his waistcoat pocket. White followed him, and succeeded in stealing the notes whilst the barrister was watching the next race through his binocular glasses. White was at once pounced upon by two London detectives, who had watched his movements. The thief, who was a well-dressed man, saw he was overpowered, and called loudly for assistance. [the detectives of course were in plainclothes] The barrister who had just been robbed mistook the detectives for swell mobsmen robbing innocent gentleman, and nearly choked one of them, before the situation was explained to him. On this occasion White was convicted and sentenced to term of hard labour. Mid Sussex Times (3 Dec 1895), 3

    White it transpires, found watches and coins uninteresting but specialized in bank notes.

    His chief occupation, and that in which he excelled, was in relieving careless people of their well-lined pocket books. The better to carry on this branch of his profession, he kept a banking account, and haunted the precincts of banks until he espied a victim. His great height enabled him to effect many robberies when men were buttoning up their coats over what they believed were their pocket-books. Lancs Eve Post (19 Nov 1895), 4.

    Beach would love to know more about Skinny White: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com. It sounds as if he was a late Victorian folk hero and there must be other stories sloshing around. Interestingly a convict in 1903 is connected to Skinny ‘the cleverest pickpocket in Europe’: his name evidently lived on. Quite an achievement for a criminal to be treated in positively the sanctimonious late Victorian press.

    31 Oct 2016 Stephen D writes: Largely overlapping account from New Zealand, of all places (I could have understood the Aussies being professionally interested):