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Lizzie Borden, 1860—1927




Lizzie Borden is known worldwide through a poem which was written about her. It goes:

Lizzie Borden took an axe And gave her father forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, She gave her mother forty-one.

This cruel verse refers to the fact that Lizzie Borden was accused of having killed her father and stepmother by chopping them to pieces with an axe at their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892. She was tried for the two murders and acquitted, but the trial has become a legend, and many books have been written about it



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Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, 1882—1910

Crippen is famous as a murderer mainly because he was the first one to be caught by the use of wireless telegraphy. He was an American-born doctor who settled in London in 1900 with his wife Cora who had theatrical ambitions and used the stage name Belle Elmore. In 1910 Crippen's wife vanished in suspicious circumstances and when the house was searched her dismembered body was discovered buried in a cellar. She had been poisoned. Meanwhile Crippen had fled with his girlfriend Ethel Le Neve, who was disguised as a hoy. They thought that they were safe once they boarded the liner Montrose for America, but the authorities used the newly invented wireless to pass on a warning to the ship's captain Shortly afterwards 'Mr. Robinson' and his 'son' were recognised and Crippen and Le Neve were arrested in New York and returned to Britain. Largely due to Crippen's insistence that she knew nothing of the crime, Ethel Le Neve was freed, but the mild, inoffensive looking little man was hanged at Pentonville prison on 23^ November 1910.

Bonnie and Clyde (Bonnie Parker andClyde Barrow), d. 1934

In the days of the Depression in America after 1929, these two young people made a great name for themselves robbing stores and committing murders quite casually and often for the sheer fun of it, Bonnie Parker was a waitress when she met Clyde Barrow, and she ended up a legendary figure known for her love of red dresses, cigars and firearms- Working in the southern states of the USA they left behind a trail of destruction. On several occasions they were trapped by the police, but seemed to bear a charmed life and escaped even through a hail of bulleis. On one occasion they held up a prison farm killing a guard and helping a friend to escape. Huge rewards were by then offered for their capture Following a tip-off, the police finally ambushed Bonnie and Clyde at a crossroads and killed them in the gunfight that followed. In 1967 a film was made of their exploits, which resulted in the two becoming almost cult figures, and a pop song was written about them, which became a best-selling record

'Ma' Barker, d- 1935

'Ma1 Barker's gang was mostly composed of her own four sons, and she led them to criminal fame. She was never arrested, but


Reader. Part III 227

her sons often were. Ma would appear in court and protest tht-ir

innocence or raise bail. By the time the gang was cleared up by

the FBI it had been responsible for the deaths uf four policemen, a

civilian and one of

their own number

who talked too much.

The Barkers hit the

big time when they

started kidnapping

rich men. for ransom,

but this increased the

pressure by police and

the FBI on the gang

and its members had

to split up. When Arthur Barker was captured, Ma's hideout in

Florida was revealed. The FBI's G-men surrounded the house and

called on Ma Barker and her son Fred to surrender. "To hell with

all of you", she replied and opened fire. The FBI used tear gas, but

the gunfight continued until both Ma Barker and her son were dead.

Bruno Hauptmann, d.1936

Kidnapping, which means the taking of a person.—-sometimes a child — by force and asking the family, friends or even employers of the person lor ransom in return for his or her release, has always been regarded as a serious crime. One of the best known kidnappings of modern times took place in America in March 1932, when the ninetcen-months old son of American aviator Colonel Charles Lindbergh was taken from his New Jersey home while he was asleep in the nursery. Charles Lindbergh was the first man to fly the Atlantic non-stop single-handed in 1927 and a great American hero. A large sum of money — $50,000 — was demanded by the kidnapper and this was eventually paid over by Lindbergh in April. However, the boy had already been murdered and his body buried under leaves and twigs in a wood only four miles from the Lindbergh home. As a result of the Lindbergh case the crime of kidnapping was made a Federal instead of just a State offence with the passing of the "Lindbergh Act" (Federal Kidnapping Act) in 1933. This allowed the FBI to become involved in the search for kidnappers and their victims, making an arrest so much more likely, The kidnapper of Lindbergh's child, Bruno Hauptmann, a carpenter from New York, was finally arrested in September 1934 after a massive search, and executed in 1936- The publicity which followed



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the kidnapping was so great that the Lindberghs eventually left America to live in England and continued to do so until 1939,

Hans Van Meegeren, 1889—1947

Van Meogeren wiil go down in history as one of the greatest of all art forgers. His work fooled all the experts. Before the Second World War Van Meegeren was a struggling artist in Holland who gradually became embittered by the fact that his own painting was not appreciated. He therefore painted a number of works in the style of Vermeer, which were accepted as the real thing. The six 'Vermeers' he painted were sold for huge sums of money: five to Dutch museums and the sixth to Hermann Goering, the German Nazi leader, for l6fr,000 pounds during the war. When the war was over, the sale of the picture to Goering was traced to Van Meegeren, who was accused of collaborating with the Germans. To save himself, Van Meegeren confessed to having forged the painting, but had to paint another 'Vermeer' while the experts watched, before anyone would believe him. He was tried in 1947 on a charge of forgery and sentenced to one year in prison. Six weeks later he died, having finally achieved tame as a painter.

Alphonse Capone, 1899—1947

'АГ Capone is possibly the best-known of all American gangsters, though by no means the most important His home ground was Chicago. He was brought into the rackets by Johnny Torrio and Torrio's uncle 'Big Jim' Colosimo. Capone seized his chance when Prohibition was declared in 1920, which made the manufacture and sale of alcohol illegal in America. He soon rose to control a large part of the illegal liquor market in Chicago and the Middle West A fierce and vicious man, he was responsible for many gangland killings, including the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in which seven rival "bootleggers" (men selling illicit liquor) were trapped by gunmen dressed as police and machine-gunned to death, He was imprisoned in 1931 on income tax charges, became a model prisoner and was released in 1939.

'Lucky Luciano', 1897—1962

'Lucky' Luciano, so called because he led a charmed life and avoided assassination, was one of the most powerful leaders of the Mafia in the USA, Having risen to be a trusted lieutenant of Joe


Reader, Part III 229

Masseria ('Joe the Boss'), he had him killed in 1931. This was the first step Luciano was to make in getting rid of the old guard of the Mafia, to make way for younger men like himself. In the reorganisation that followed Luciano became capo or head of one of the five New York Mafia 'Families', He became the most powerful

chieftain in the Mafia, and formed alliances with gangsters of other national groups such as the Jews and Irish «Americans. In 1936 he was sent to prison but paroled in 1945 because of his and the Mafia's secret work for the U.S. government during the Second World War. Afterwards he was deported to Italy, from where he ran the European end of the Mafia's drugs operation-Frank Costeilo, 1891—1973

Known by American newspapers as 'the Prime Minister of Crime', Costeilo was born in Italy and came to America in 1896. Though not well educated, he had a very good brain, and rosy steadily through the ranks of the Mafia until in 1936 he took over 'Lucky' Luciano's position as capo di capore, or head of all the Family heads. He avoided violence whenever possible, but was not afraid to use it where necessary. By 1943 he virtually owned New York, appointing city officials, judges and even mayors. He was jailed in 1954 on income tax charges and the resulting publicity made him less valuable to Meyer Lansky's National Crime Syndicate, and he lost much of his power. An attempt was made on his life in 1957, but he was then allowed to retire in peace.







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