In March 1873 the Bank of England was defrauded of over £100,000 – a financial heist of unprecedented proportions in Victorian England. When news of the crime broke, it caused a sensation, not only in London but all around the world.
This professional and audacious fraud was planned and executed by an American criminal gang made up of two brothers, George and Austin Bidwell, and their accomplices, George Macdonnell and Edwin Noyes Hills. This book tells the full story of their fascinating crime for the first time, detailing their somewhat surprising backgrounds, their meticulous preparations, and the life of luxury they enjoyed in London from the proceeds of their daring fraud.
The book also chronicles the international investigation that was launched to solve the crime, involving police forces on both sides of the Atlantic and even the famous Pinkerton National Detective Agency. The efforts made by the perpetrators to escape justice, along with the determination of their pursuers to have them arrested, became every bit as intriguing as the crime itself. The hunt led the investigators to Ireland, Scotland, France, the United States and even Cuba, where one of the gang members was living as a respected member of the community.
The Great Fraud on the Bank of England reads more like a crime thriller than the true story it actually is, with bank robbery, daring escapes, exotic international locations, opulent lifestyles, danger, violence, romance and treachery. As one eminent judge put it at the time, the crime was ‘for the audacity of its conception, the magnitude of the fraud perpetrated, and the misdirected skill and ingenuity with which it was attempted to be carried into effect . . . without a parallel’.