|Jewellery Displays at the Ritz Paris|
re-shuffles that have dominated the press so far this year, there has been one story which has had more elements of farce than even the Prime Minister can conjure up: the recent jewellery heist at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. For those of you who missed it, a group of thieves (one dressed as a builder) armed with small axes smashed through a window and assorted display cases and stole items with a value of several million euros.
Not surprisingly their actions triggered the alarms: the hapless thieves (who were all known to police), ran, scattering their loot like confetti, and were pretty much immediately caught by security. More Wallace and Gromit than the Pink Panther. Perhaps they should have spent a bit more time studying history than the hotel layout and acquainted themselves with the shop-looting tactics of the Forty Elephants, a female-run gang which dominated parts of the London crime scene for almost two hundred years.
The gang worked out of the Elephant and Castle district and, although they are primarily documented between the 1870s to the 1950s, appear to have grown out of the Elephant gang of highwaymen operating around the area's Elephant Coaching Inn in the eighteenth century.
|Lilllian Rose Kendall, the Bobbed Haired Bandit|
Many of the women involved in the gang have colourful reputations but also stories of lives begun in terrible poverty. Alice was one of eight children born in the dreadful conditions of a workhouse and her father was a violent and illiterate petty criminal. Life had few choices for women in her position so perhaps the path the glamour-loving Alice chose is not so hard to understand. Last year it was announced that Marnie Dickens is developing a series for the BBC about the gang and its members - with so much 'glamour' involved it's easy to see why this could be a female Peaky Blinders but let's hope it tells a rounded tale. For anyone interested in finding out more, there are a number of books about the gang, including one by Brian McDonald whose uncles led the male Elephant and Castle gang who the Forty Elephants were linked to. It's quite a story.