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A Swell Thief Part 2

A Swell Thief Part 2

By hayburn33


Arthur Thomas Miller was the senior partner in Miller & Sons, Lamp Manufacturers and Oil Merchants with offices in Piccadilly, London. As might be expected, he was well-to-do and lived in a substantial house in Leatherhead, Surrey. In July, 1883 he and his wife arrived at the Alexandra Hotel in Oban for a three week stay.
Miller and his wife occupied a bedroom and he had a dressing room some doors along on the same level. On the evening of 30th July, he was in the smoking room of the hotel “which was the last place I was in before I went to my dressing room. I remember seeing a man in the smoking room answering to the description of the accused. He was smoking. When I went to my dressing room that night I remember distinctly leaving my pocket book in my coat pocket……..When I left my dressing room I did not lock the door.”
Mr. Miller was either very trusting or extremely careless. Either way he was in for a shock early the following morning. “I got up about 5am as I was going on a trip by steamer. When I entered my dressing room the first thing that struck me was seeing the elastic band of my pocket book lying on top of my shirt. I at once looked for my pocket book and found it was gone.”
The landlord was summoned and informed of the theft. He immediately called the police and Inspector Campbell went round to the hotel. The first step was to ascertain the extent of the loss.
“The pocket book contained between £40 and £50 in Bank of England notes; a gold wedding ring; a season ticket; some visiting cards; a few postage stamps; Christmas card and a hair dressing ticket.”
There were two £10 notes and Miller was able to supply the numbers, an unheard of feat these days, for who would bother to write down the numbers of every £10 note in their possession. However, in the 19th century the value was considerably greater and there were fewer such notes in circulation. It was several weeks’ wages for many people, most of whom would never handle such a precious piece of paper, unless in their line of work.
In Oliver Twist, Noah Claypole finds that a stolen £20 note is not a lot of money.
“Not when it’s in a note you can’t get rid of,” Fagin retorted. “Number and date taken, I suppose? Payment stopped at the bank? Ah, it’s not worth much…..It’ll have to go abroad…..couldn’t sell it for a great deal in the market.”
There were also four or five £5 notes, numbers unknown, but they all had markings on the back, made by Miller or his clerk. The Inspector duly entered all the details in his notebook and went off to pursue his enquiries. Later that day MacArthur, the hotel proprietor, met Inspector Campbell on the Esplanade.
“I called his attention to [Lyon] and another gentleman who were also walking on the Esplanade between the Alexandra and Great Western Hotels. I pointed out Lyon and said I was suspicious of him. The other gentleman I did not know…….They were coming towards us when I drew the Inspector’s attention to them, but before he could see them well they turned. The Inspector was in uniform.”
By that point of time, the Bostonian had quit the Alexandra and moved into the Great Western Hotel.


“Who’s there? What’s wanted?”
Mina Beith, wife of Donald, was wakened by a noise in their bedroom at the Great Western Hotel. She received no answer, but her cry brought her husband out of his slumbers.
“I got up, lit the gas, went to the door and found it unlocked and slightly open. I saw no person. I am not sure as to the hour. It must have been early in the morning as it was quite dark. I thereafter went to bed.”
A cool customer indeed! Most people would have made more of the incident, especially as he insisted the bedroom door had been locked when they retired. Mrs. Beith thought it might have been one of her daughters, who were sleeping in a different room, and then thought possibly somebody had entered the wrong room. Either way, the couple made no effort that night to clear up the mystery.
It was not until after breakfast the following morning that Mr. Beith realised that a roll of bank notes was missing from the left hand pocket of his trousers. The total amount was £27 or £28, a reserve fund for the Beith family’s holiday; luckily, Mrs. Beith was carrying the travelling money and this was untouched.
“I cannot say whether the money was lost or stolen,” professed Mr. Beith, a Writer to the Signet (solicitor practising in the Supreme Court), from Edinburgh.
A search was made of the smoking room and water closet where he had been after breakfast, but with no result.
A man called Ward, a railway contractor aged 72, also reported losing an unknown amount of money, but the hotel manager said his guest had been the worse for drink and could have lost it anywhere.
“I was certainly not the worse for drink when I went to bed that night,” protested Ward. “For the first three or four hours I sleep soundly and during that time anyone might have entered my bedroom without wakening me.”
His case was weakened, however, because he was in the habit of wandering into the wrong room. His pocket book, with £1 in it was found in another bedroom, but not that previously occupied by James Lyon.
“I think it quite likely his pocket may have been picked outside or in the smoking room when he had fallen asleep for a while,” the manager dismissively stated. “Afterwards he probably dropped the pocket book by mistake in the gentlemen’s room.”
It all sounds very convoluted, but whatever the facts of the case, the police apparently believed the hotel manager and no further action was taken on behalf of Mr. Ward.
The Head Housemaid remembered James Lyon and his ‘wife’ and thought they were particular about the accommodation. They were in the room next to Mr. and Mrs. Beith and left the same day he complained about being robbed on the 12.30pm train bound for Glasgow. Only three years earlier they would have had to board a coach as the rail track stopped at Dalmally, but now there was a connected service which would take them down to Euston. But the Bostonian had no intention of going that far. In fact, he only went a few miles down the line to Loch Aweside; there were still rich pickings in Argyll!
The law, however, had sprung into action. On the same day the couple arrived at the Lochawe Hotel, Saturday 4th August 1883, posters were being distributed giving details of the stolen banknotes with their serial numbers and marks.
It is strongly suspected that the above thefts were committed by a ‘Swell’ Thief residing in the Hotels.
Bankers, Hotel-Keepers and others are requested to keep a sharp look-out upon parties paying in money, and if any of the numbers above stated be tendered, to give immediate information to the Inspector of Police at Oban.
It is here, at the Lochawe Hotel, that Joseph Dowling comes into the picture. The Housekeeper remembered a gentleman arriving and asking for a room. There was none available, but the enquirer was told he would get the first chance of a room should any of the visitors leave. He was also informed that there were rooms available at the Dalmally Hotel, three miles away. Both hotels were under the same ownership. Later some of the guests did leave and the housekeeper looked for the gentleman, but he had gone, so she gave the room to somebody else.
“The following day I saw the [same] gentleman come into the hotel. I knew the accused, Lyon and Thorpe, as they had stayed in the hotel on a former occasion. I cannot remember when it was.”
The proprietor of the hotels, Duncan Fraser, received the gentleman sent from Lochawe, but there was no visitors’ book and it was left to a waiter, Duncan Sinclair, to identify Dowling from a photograph. His employer later made a statement that:
“On Sunday 5th August about 2pm I saw Dowling accompanied by Lyon and Thorpe come into the Dalmally Hotel. I showed the three of them into the coffee room and sent the waiter to them.”
According to the latter’s testimony his customers settled down cosily together and ordered coffee with milk and whisky. Dowling said to put it on his bill. “The impression the accused made on me was that they were very intimately acquainted.”
Duncan Fraser continued: “Sometime afterwards they went out together. Lyon asked me if I was going down to the Lochawe Hotel. I told him I was and he then asked if I would give him and his wife a drive down to Lochawe, which I did. Dowling was left at Dalmally.
“The next morning I saw both Lyon and Thorpe at breakfast. They both left the Lochawe Hotel by the mid-day train going south and with which train I came myself to Dalmally. Just as I was going into the train at Lochawe, the Boots told me that Lyon was leaving, but that he was coming back again and was leaving part of his luggage. He said that Lyon was going to Killin.”
Later that morning Duncan Fraser made the return journey to Lochawe to be greeted by an upset guest, Mrs. Hannah Thomson from Cheltenham.
“I had a diamond ring when I arrived on Friday, but this morning I found it was missing. I put the ring on my dressing table in Room 33. It was a half loop ring with five diamonds. My daughter and I both heard a noise, but as we had been disturbed before we thought it was rats.”
The response of the hotel proprietor to this statement is not recorded, but no doubt he was far from being pleased that a guest should even contemplate the possibility of rats in his fine hostelry.
“We complained to the Housekeeper about being disturbed during the night,” Mrs. Thomson continued. “We had no thought of anyone entering the room as the door was locked.”
An immediate search was instigated for the missing ring, but there was no trace of it.


James Lyon and Eliza Thorpe proceeded to Killin at the head of Loch Tay. It is a pretty village beside the Falls of Dochart, described by a 19th century guide book as “possibly more painted by artists than any other in Scotland”. However beautiful the scenery might be, it was not long admired by Lyon and his companion. They stayed only one night before proceeding on by the Loch Tay steamer.
“I do not know where they were going or where they had come from,” stated the Boots at the Killin Hotel.
They were going to Dunkeld where they stayed at the Royal Hotel..
“They arrived on Wednesday 8th,” stated the proprietor, John Fisher, “and stayed till the morning of the 10th when they left by coach for Braemar. The coach starts from my hotel, which is the booking office for it, and I booked [Lyon and Thorpe] for Braemar. While in my house they occupied the same bedroom and conducted themselves as husband and wife. They occupied No. 14 bedroom.
“I also recognise Dowling (from a photograph). He booked also for Braemar on the same morning and travelled along with Lyon and Thorpe. He told me when booking that he had been staying at Pople’s Hotel at Birnam and that he had come from there that morning. I did not observe him in conversation with Lyon or Thorpe…….Nothing has been missed from my hotel since then.”
That was true enough, but after the arrest of Lyon a constable examined all the bedroom locks and found that the key of No.16 had marks on it recently made by some sharp instrument, as if it had been caught by a pair of nippers or something similar.
Birnam, where Dowling stayed, is a short distance downstream from Dunkeld and across a graceful bridge built by Thomas Telford. Its main claim to fame is the wooded hill supposed to have been that in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
The Boots at Pople’s Hotel remembered Dowling, though ignorant of his name. “I saw him in the smoking room that evening and I carried his luggage to the Braemar coach about half a mile. He went to Dunkeld before me and he was standing on the pavement opposite the coach when I arrived with the luggage. A young woman, very like Eliza Thorpe, came out of Fisher’s Hotel and the man referred to crossed the street and spoke to her about her seat on the coach. They were on familiar terms and appeared to have known each other previously. I saw no-one like the prisoner Lyon.”
By an unexpected quirk of fate there was an old acquaintance working at the Royal Hotel.
“I am George Crammond and I am the Boots at Fisher’s Royal Hotel in Dunkeld. From photographs I identify James Lyon and Joseph Dowling, both of whom were well known to me about ten years ago. At that time Dowling was a hotelkeeper in Bootle and I was billiard marker in his employment. He was then a man of respectable character. At that period Lyon was a traveller and resided at Bootle. He frequented Dowling’s hotel and both men were well known to each other. They were well known in different hotels in Liverpool, particularly the Washington and Angel. I have not seen either of them for about ten years. I cannot recognise the photograph of the female prisoner.”
The coach took James Lyon and his friends to Blairgowrie and thence to Braemar where they arrived at the Invercauld Arms at 6pm on Friday 10th August. Fifteen minutes later they asked for tea and cutlets.
“I told Captain Lyon that Table d’hote was at 6.30 and that I did not think he would get anything till then. He said he had dined at the Spittal [of Glenshee].”
The Invercauld Arms stands on the site where the Earl of Mar raised his standard in 1715 at the start of the Jacobite Rising. Two years before the arrival of the Bostonian and his companion, Robert Louis Stevenson had begun to write Treasure Island in a cottage nearby.
In 1846, on one of his many perambulations around the country, Lord Cockburn, a Circuit Court judge, stayed at Castleton, as Braemar was then called. “The little, nice, clean hostel we are in has one party of nine, and another party of seven, delicate ladies and gentlemen, some with titles, besides our party of five, and sundry individual ‘heads without name’, most of whom seem to have nothing to do but stare and lounge about this spot; and who look as if adventure and community of purpose gave them a sort of right to confer with each other as fellow-pilgrims.”
‘Captain’ Lyon seemed intent on conferring with only one fellow-pilgrim – Joseph Dowling. That individual was seen walking in front of the hotel in company with the American, both in animated conversation. That was Sunday evening. The following morning Lyon jumped up from the breakfast table as soon as the coach pulled up. He wanted to see off Dowling, even though Eliza Thorpe advised him to get on with his breakfast as they would see each other in Ballater.
Lyon went out to the coach where he “got up on the coach wheel so that he and Dowling might whisper to each other”. On coming back inside, Lyon immediately asked how quickly he could get a carriage and pair to take him to Ballater.
“About half an hour,” he was informed.
Lyon used a £5 Bank of England note to pay his bill. His behaviour in the Invercauld Arms mirrored that in the Oban hotels.
“Captain Lyon made himself very disagreeable in the hotel.”
“Lyon complained of his bedroom as noisy and wanted a room upstairs.”
Once again, instead of remaining quietly in the background, unremarkable and unremarked, he made himself a man the staff would not easily forget. It was going to cost him dear.
When the coach carrying Dowling arrived at Ballater a dramatic event occurred. The police were there to arrest him!


Archibald McNab, Keeper of the Fife Arms at Braemar, had barely finished entering the payment made five minutes earlier by the only guest departing that morning, when he was confronted by William Lavington Marchant.
“I’ve been robbed.”
McNab was aghast. He had no wish to encourage thieves to his hotel; it was bad for business.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I am.” Marchant, who hailed from Richmond and was a man of means. He sounded indignant at the suggestion that he might be mistaken.
“What was taken?”
“Two hundred pounds in ten pound Bank of England notes.”
McNab went ashen. That was a lot of money; and to think it had to happen in his hotel!
“The money was in my pocket book,” Marchant continued, “which was in the coat I wore last night. It’s a black coat and I hung it behind the door of my bedroom, which is also occupied by my wife.”
“You’re No. 14, aren’t you?”
“Yes, yes – 14,” snapped Marchant.
“Ah.” A suspicion was quickly growing. Next door but one, No. 16 , had been occupied by the lately departing guest, Joseph Dowling.
“I came down for breakfast wearing this grey coat and left the black one hanging up. I forgot to remove my pocket book. When I left my room I saw a man standing in his door looking along the passage and I caught his eye. He had on trousers and shirt.”
“Did Mrs. Marchant come down with you?”
“No, I left her in the room. She joined me about twenty minutes later. She didn’t say anything about the pocket book.”
“When did you miss it?”
“A few minutes ago. I was smoking a cigar outside the door. My son, Alfred, was with me so I sent him up to my room for the pocket book, telling him where it was. He brought it to me.”
“The pocket book was still in place?”
“Yes, but empty. As soon as I touched it I knew my money was gone.”
“Have you looked for the money in case it….in case….”
“It fell out of my pocket book?” Marchant gave the hotel keeper a scathing look.
“Perhaps….perhaps you’d previously taken it out and put it down somewhere,” McNab hopefully suggested.
“I checked, of course I checked. I went out into the passage, opened the pocket book, saw my money wasn’t there and went up to my bedroom with my son, examined my clothes, found nothing there and came down to inform you. And here you see me.”
“Aye, I do indeed,” McNab unhappily responded. “I have an idea who the culprit might be.” He turned away and called through an open door. “Jimmy, will you come here?”
A stocky young man came out from a back room. He was wearing a black apron and carried a shoe in one hand, whilst the other held a brush.
“Aye, sir?”
“Jimmy dae you ken where Mr. Dowling was going from here?”
“Aberdeen he said. I explained the arrangement of trains north and south from there. But I dinna think he was listening.”
“A wee bit of a hurried departure, wouldn’t you say?”
“Och, aye. He sent me to the shoemakers this morning, with never a word about leaving, then when I came back a few minutes later his luggage was packed. I saw it masel’ when I took his boots up to the room.”
“Aye, I thought as much. Thank you, Jimmy.”
The Boots returned to his work.
“Do you think this man is the thief, Mr. McNab?” Marchant enquired.
“Aye, likely as not.”
“Hadn’t we better call the police?”
“He might get clean away if we waste time doing that.”
“So what do we do?”
“Follow him ourselves, Mr. Marchant.” McNab grabbed up his coat. “Follow him ourselves.”
“I asked Mr. Marchant to accompany me to Ballater,” the Hotel Keeper later stated. “We both took the coach at the Invercauld Arms. After Dowling left my hotel I came on him there. I watched him to Inver Arms half way to Ballater. There I took a dog cart and preceded the coach. On my requisition the constable at Ballater detained Dowling immediately on arrival of the coach. We waited for the arrival of Inspectors Cran and McHardy.”
At this time Ballater was the local rail-head as Queen Victoria objected to the continuation of the line past Balmoral to Braemar. No doubt the railway accounts for the speed with which the two Inspectors arrived – all the way from Aberdeen!
The elder of the two policemen – by four years – was George Cran. Fifty years old, he had a full beard and wore a top hat, a frock coat tightly buttoned across his chest, dark trousers and polished boots. He also carried a walking stick. His partner was almost identical and together they presented a uniform picture every bit as much as those humbler policemen who actually wore a uniform.
“On Monday 13th August 1883,” George Cran would later record, “Inspector McHardy and I apprehended Joseph Dowling at Ballater Police Station where he was detained on suspicion. We charged him with the theft of £200 from the pockets of a gentleman’s coat then lying in the Fife Arms Hotel, Braemar. The witnesses Marchant and McNab were there also.
“After a short consultation it was proposed to search their persons. Marchant and McNab were willing, but Dowling wished to know what the charge was. I said the charge was theft of money from the Fife Arms Hotel, Braemar.”
Dowling shrugged. “Got nothing to do with me.”
“May I ask your name, occupation and address.”
“Ask all you like.”
“Come, sir, an innocent man has nothing to fear.”
“And you say you are innocent,” interposed McHardy. “Do you not?”
There was a short silence as Dowling considered his position, scowling and chewing his lip.
“Joseph Dowling, Club Manager, 98 Regent Street, London. Someone’s going to have to pay for this.”
“Can you give me a reference?”
“I can.”
There was a pause.
“But I won’t. I’m damned if I should have given you my address. You weren’t entitled to it. You’re not getting anything else out of me.”
“Do you object to being searched?”
“I do, but I’ll allow it – under protest!”
Dowling stood up and was searched quite thoroughly by both policemen; every pocket, every inch of lining. There was nothing.
“Luggage?” Cran gruffly enquired.
Dowling silently pointed to his bags which were duly opened and examined. Nothing.
Despite the lack of evidence connecting him to the theft at Braemar, the two policemen took Dowling into custody and accompanied him to Aberdeen. The following day he made a statement.
“My name is Joseph Dowling. I am a Club Manager and at present I am travelling for my health [with no] fixed place of abode. I am 41 years of age and not married. From Friday last till yesterday morning I was living in the Fife Arms Hotel, Braemar. When I left Braemar I was coming to Aberdeen…….I knew no-one at Braemar, but there was a person in the hotel whose name I didn’t know, but whom I knew by sight and who told me that he was there in charge of a party. I don’t recall speaking to any lady at all on Sunday or to any gentleman near the Invercauld Arms. I spoke to two or three gentlemen on Sunday.
“I don’t remember leaving my room door open yesterday morning when I was dressing, but I may have left it open after taking my boots in………I didn’t enter any bedroom except my own while I was at the Braemar Hotel. I took no bank notes or anything else from my pocket book. I know nothing whatever about the theft which is said to have been committed.”
Dowling was further examined and no doubt certain statements made by hotel employees were read to him. He subsequently changed his tune slightly.
“I came to Braemar by coach from Dunkeld. There was a lady and gentleman on the coach whose names I did not know, but whom I had met previously, I think, either at Killin or Blair Athole. That lady and gentleman came to Braemar. I left them on the coach and as they didn’t come to the Fife Arms they probably went to the Invercauld Hotel. I didn’t see the lady after Saturday, but I spoke to the gentleman once or twice while I was at Braemar. I didn’t see either of them yesterday morning except that after I was on the coach I saw the gentleman standing at the Invercauld Arms and that he told me he was going to Ballater that day.”
Meanwhile, back at Lochawe………


Peter Campbell, Inspector of Police at Oban, was hot on the trail of his prime suspect for the thefts committed in the hotels within his jurisdiction. On 13th August he received information that some luggage had been left by James Lyon at Lochawe railway station with instructions that it should be forwarded on receipt of a telegram from him. Campbell rushed post haste to the station and was shown the luggage.
“I saw that it was labelled with the labels of the Alexandra Hotal, Oban, Great Western, Oban and Palace Hotel, Edinburgh. I told the Stationmaster to let me know when it was sent for.”
The telegram arrived the following day. The luggage had to be sent to Mr. Lyon, Cloak Room, Edinburgh. The intrepid policeman boarded the same train as the luggage and wired to the Chief Constable of Edinburgh arranging a meeting at the station. Inspector McEwen and two other officers were present at Waverley Station to see the luggage put into the cloak room. Campbell pointed out the Palace Hotel label and Detective Mill was sent to make enquiries.
The Head Boots, Angus McLeod, the fount of all knowledge in a large hotel, remembered a Mr. and Mrs. Lyon coming and putting up on Monday 23rd July. They stayed until the following Monday.
“I remember them leaving quite well,” McLeod informed the policeman.
Oh? Why’s that?”
“Mr. Lyon found fault with me for not taking his luggage to the station. I called a cab instead. They drove to Waverley to catch the 12.25 for Oban.”
“And is that the last you saw of him?”
“Och, no. The pair of them are back again. Room 15. Arrived last night about 11 o’clock. Came in on the last train from the north.”
Detective Mill thrust his notebook back in his pocket and hurried back to Waverley Station where he reported the presence at the Palace Hotel of the two suspects, Lyon and Thorpe. The policemen patiently waited and watched until the luggage was picked up at 9pm by a porter from the hotel. A discreet observation was maintained on the American and his ‘wife’ through the night, but nothing unusual occurred.
Lyon had given hotel staff the impression that he intended to stay for some time, but at breakfast time the following morning he announced his departure on the 10am train for London. The sudden change took the police by surprise, but nevertheless, they were ready for him when he emerged from the coffee room.
“I stopped him and asked if he was Mr. Lyon,” stated William Henderson, Chief Constable of Edinburgh. “He replied that he was and I told him that I wished to have a word with him. He demurred at first, but on my saying that I wished to see him about a matter of great importance he accompanied me to a room on the first floor.
“The female prisoner came out of the coffee room just at the back of Lyon and without being allowed to communicate with him she was ushered into another room and left there under the charge of P.C. Buchan, who had also accompanied us to the hotel. On getting Lyon into the room upstairs I told him who I was.”
Lyon looked impressed. “Chief Constable of Edinburgh! You sound a very important personage. It’s an honour to speak to you, sir. What do you want of me?
“I believe you’ve been staying in several hotels in the Oban area.”
“You may be interested to know that a number of thefts were reported at those hotels shortly after your departure.”
Lyon frowned. “What are you suggesting, sir?”
“Either you are the victim of a series of unfortunate coincidences or you know something about the thefts.”
“My God!” Lyon roared, indignantly. “Are you telling me that I’m a suspect?”
“I’m saying I’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“I’ll not leave this hotel under any circumstances until this matter has been cleared up.”
Lyon sat on the bed and folded his arms in a gesture of defiance.
“All I want from you is a reference as to your respectability.
“Respectability!” Lyon jumped up again. “Are Messrs Baring Brothers of London respectable enough for you? They’re my bankers.”
“And your place of residence?”
“I’m an American citizen. My home is in Boston and my father is a retired merchant there.”
“And you, Mr. Lyon. What is your profession?”
"I travel for pleasure.” He resumed his seat on the bed.
Henderson made a note in his book and then looked at the suspect who fidgeted slightly with his fingers.
“I would wish you to refer me to someone in Edinburgh.”
“I can’t do that. I don’t know anybody here. Maybe this will convince you of my innocence.”
Lyon produced from his pocket an American letter of credit for £1000 or £800 on Messrs Baring of which £550 appeared to have been drawn. There was also a letter of credit for £600 on Messrs Gilligs American Bank, Strand, London.
“Here.” Lyon held them out to the policeman. “Will these be sufficient to convince you of my respectability?”
Henderson later reported that he was “somewhat taken aback on seeing him possessed of such an amount of funds, but after reflection, I said to him I couldn’t look at these documents except as evidence that he was possessed of so much money. He then demanded to see the American Consul and I went and got this gentleman. Inspectors McEwen and Campbell were left in charge of Lyon.
“While away for the Consul, or after getting him, I forget which, I received word from the Aberdeen police that a warrant had been issued for Lyon’s apprehension. On my return to the hotel with the Consul, and after he and Lyon had had some conversation in our hearing, I gave orders that Lyon should be searched and this was done on the spot by Inspector McEwen.”
The first things discovered on Lyon’s person were two pairs of curling tongs used for curling hair. Their other – not intended – purpose was to allow a burglar to open a locked door. They would only work if the key was left in the lock, but it was common practice for hotel guests to be obliging in that way. The end of the key was almost flush with the outside of the door. Gripping it with the tongs, a burglar could turn the key and gain entry to the room. It was a method adopted for many years by expert hotel thieves.
Inspector McEwen stated that the tongs “do not seem to have been used for curling hair. They do not look as if they had ever been heated and they look as if they had been made, not for curling hair, but for some other purpose…….At the points the surface was roughened or prepared so as to grip a hard substance. I locked and unlocked a door in the Palace Hotel with a pair of the tongs.”
The Chief Constable, Henderson, also found several bank-notes on the person of James Lyon. These were examined, but none of them proved to be those stolen at Braemar. However, on referring to the numbers of the notes stolen in Oban, Henderson saw that several of them corresponded. Lyon’s luggage and all his belongings were searched before he was removed to the Police Office in a cab.
It was then the turn of Eliza Thorpe to be questioned. She was asked if she had any money; she gave up a purse and turned out her pockets. “She appeared to be very ill and faint,” reported Henderson. “I told her she would have to go to the office and offered to drive her there in a cab, or she could walk if she liked.”
No doubt Eliza would have preferred not to go at all, but as that was not an option offered to her she indicated indifference to either method. Henderson opted to walk and they went by the Mound. It was here that George Calver enters and the story takes on a new twist.

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13 Jul, 2011
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