Old lags’ photos under hammer

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BLACK and white mugshots of South Yorkshire crooks from yesteryear feature in the pages of a detective’s notebook being sold at auction later this month.

The hand-written scrapbook, complete with glued-in pictures, was compiled in the early 1900s by meticulous Edwardian Detective Inspector Robert Mather.

DI Mather, based in Manchester, is believed to have kept the 57-page rogues’ gallery for his own records.

He lists 65 ‘regular customers’ together with their descriptions, photos, aliases and convictions.

They include shady characters holding Barnsley Borough Police boards, nicked for crimes of ‘safebreaking’ and ‘shopbreaking’.

Some portraits are captioned simply with the name and ‘thief’ or ‘pickpocket’, while others have lengthy physical descriptions, lists of crimes committed nationwide, and convictions

“Lawrence Hy James, housebreaker, poses as a sewing machine agent, enters by false keys,” DI Mather wrote. “Wanted at Sheffield 25/4/1910.”

Glowering Samuel Pearson – alias Samuel Jackson – is described as having abscess scars around his neck, a scar on his cheek and eyebrow, and three dots on his right forearm.

In 1902 he was jailed for six months for stealing silver shields and, the detective notes, had committed ‘very many minor offences since 1882’.

Fellow crook Thomas Frith, aka Thomas Wilson, was a haggard-looking man with a moustache and a bowler hat, who had tattoos of flags and a globe on his arms. He was a ‘safebreaker’ who served 11 prison stints between 1883 and 1901.

And Ernest Searson, also known by the surname Crowther, was a distinguished looking fellow with brown hair, brown eyes, a light brown moustache – and a talent for making the tools needed for better burglaries.

Archivists discovered DI Mather was born in Stretford, Greater Manchester, and retired from the police in 1921.

A spokesman for Bonhams said: “It looks as if he compiled the book for his own use. He may have carried it around with him to spot criminals.”

It is set to fetch around £1,000 when it is auctioned at Bonhams in London on March 27.