With the look of an American Wild west gunslinger, convicted felon John Quinn, alias Thompson, maintains his poise in front of the lens. Well dressed in a velvet waistcoat and warm overcoat and with a neatly trimmed moustache and goatee beard, he appears confident, a slight trace of mockery in his dark eyes. This fascinating mugshot is part of the collection of the Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives, featured recently in the Manchester Evening News. The accompanying description reveals that he was 5 feet 4 inches, with a scar on his cheek and on the bridge of his nose, and at the age of 31, he was sentenced to seven years’ penal servitude for theft. It adds that he was ‘well known to the ace Victorian detective Jerome Caminada.’ I had to investigate…

In October 1875, PC Fraser of the Lancashire Constabulary had been enjoying a day out at Belle Vue pleasure gardens when his watch was snatched. Giving chase, he arrested the perpetrator and as they struggled, the police officer felt something being slipped into his pocket. Later he discovered that it was a different watch, this time belonging to another day-tripper.

In court Detective Sergeant Jerome Caminada was called as a witness to testify to the previous convictions and character of the inveterate thief. Caminada recounted Thompson’s full history: three years earlier, he had received nine months’ hard labour, followed by five years’ police supervision for pickpocketing, once again in Belle Vue. He was discharged in 1873, but never presented himself to the police. When the detective followed up his absence, Thompson’s wife claimed that he had died. In fact, a man had been buried from the house that very day. Nothing was heard of Thompson again until PC Fraser apprehended him in 1875. This time he was sentenced to seven years’ penal servitude and the same term of police supervision.

You can read more about the ‘rogues’ of 19th century Manchester at the Manchester Evening News.


Many thanks to the Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives and the Manchester Evening News for their kind permission to use the image.