Death of the real Sherlock Holmes

Posted on March 10th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

A 19th-century police officer named Jerome Caminada died 100 years ago today. Angela Buckley, author of The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada, explains what newspapers can tell us about the detective’s incredible life.

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On 10 March 1914, just five days before his 70th birthday, Detective Jerome Caminada died at home. Born in the slums of Manchester, he had enjoyed an extraordinary career, earning him a place in history as one of the city’s finest police officers and a real-life Sherlock Holmes.

Local and national newspapers printed obituaries celebrating his success. The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser summed up his unique achievements:

Jerome Caminada's death reported in the Manchester Courier

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Wednesday 11 March 1914
Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

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A deadly confrontation

The article described some of ‘Mr Caminada’s most exciting adventures’, including his deadly confrontation with violent thief Bob Horridge, who had terrorised the city for two decades. Horridge’s criminal career reached a dramatic climax when he shot two police constables during a burglary.

Detective Caminada was instructed to run him to ground and he tracked his archenemy to Liverpool, where he faced him in one final struggle. Knowing that Horridge would be armed, the detective held a revolver to his head and with the chilling words, ‘If there’s any nonsense you’ll get the contents of this’, he finally brought him in.

Another episode recounted in the press was Caminada’s arrest of fugitive MP, William O’Brien, who had escaped from a police court in Ireland. When O’Brien turned up in Manchester to give a speech against the prime minister, Detective Caminada was ready and waiting. Amid violent clashes with hundreds of fervent supporters, Caminada apprehended O’Brien and escorted him back to Ireland.

 

The Manchester Cab Mystery

Detective Caminada’s signature case was widely reported. Known as ‘The Manchester Cab Mystery’, the story bears all the hallmarks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

The Manchester Cab Mystery

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Wednesday 11 March 1914
Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

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Intelligence work for the British government

Admiration for Detective Caminada’s work was also expressed in the Manchester Evening News:

‘As a skilled detective officer Mr Caminada enjoyed a world-wide reputation and had a remarkable career… He was a man of unbounded courage and resource, and was never debarred by fear of personal injury from getting to the root of any affair he was investigating, and bringing the offenders to justice.’

In addition to the cases already mentioned, the obituary made reference to a famous betting raid masterminded by Caminada, which resulted in the closure of 22 illegal gambling clubs. It also recalled the time, during the 1880s, when Detective Caminada was involved in secret intelligence-gathering missions for the British government, to counteract potential acts of terrorism by the Fenians. He trailed ‘suspicious characters’ through Ireland, France, Germany and America, even shadowing one of the alleged perpetrators of the Phoenix Park murders.

 

A fitting tribute

The Manchester Evening News concludes Jerome Caminada’s obituary with a fitting tribute for the great detective:

Jerome Caminada’s obituary in the Manchester Evening News

Manchester Evening News – Wednesday 11 March 1914
Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

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Buy a copy of Angela’s new book, The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada, from Pen and Sword Books