'The Derby Day', William Powell Frith, 1856-8

‘The Derby Day’, William Powell Frith, 1856-8

Detective Caminada encountered all sorts of shady characters, especially on duty at the races: ‘A racecourse is the centre of demoralisation to a neighbourhood for miles around, and drawn to it, as if by magnetic force, the scampdom of the country.’

One ‘scamp’ that Caminada met at the Lincoln Races took advantage of the MNaghten Rules outlined in my earlier post (see 19 Sept). One evening when the detective was leaving the racecourse, he noticed a man on the railway platform behaving in a ‘very suspicious manner’. He was pushing his way through the throng and raising his hands, but without entering a compartment. Taking him for a thief, Caminada went in pursuit.

The man resisted arrest and a struggle ensued with Caminada dragging the suspect into a nearby earthenware shop. They fought as bowls, basins and crockery crashed around them. After a while Caminada managed to get the ‘snaps’ on and he dragged the man to the nearest police station. Despite the fact that the man had been coherent enough to attempt to bribe Caminada on the way with the offer of a dinner of oysters and brandy, when he arrived at the police station, he suddenly assumed an erect position, threw his hands by his sides and exclaimed, ‘Whir, whir, whir!’

Many efforts were made to induce him to speak, but even a can of water poured over his head failed to bring back his lucidity. The next morning when the prisoner appeared before the magistrate, he repeated the words, ‘Whir!” and nothing else. He was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. After two months in prison, he finally found his tongue and admitted that he had been acting.

Further enquiries revealed that he was a convicted jewellery thief, who had already escaped from Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum – the plea of insanity was obviously his fallback.

Taken from ‘Twenty-Five Years of Detective Life’, by Jerome Caminada, (1895)