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Britain’s Most Prolific Burglar (Hardback)

Flannelfoot and the Scotland Yard Men Who Hunted Him

P&S History > British History P&S History > Social History P&S History > True Crime World History > UK & Ireland > England > London

By Martyn R Beardsley
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 13 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399054836
Published: 23rd January 2024

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Harry Edward Vickers, aka Flannelfoot, was possibly Britain’s most successful ever burglar. Not financially - he stole cash and low-value items (even, bizarrely, false teeth!). The success was in his hundreds of burglaries spread over many years without being caught. The lives of career criminals are invariably dotted with prison sentences, but thanks to his caution and cunning, Flannelfoot operated night after night, year after year with an impunity which embarrassed the police.

In the twenties and thirties, Londers were deserting the overcrowded capital for the burgeoning suburbs of ‘Metroland’. Flannelfoot was equally attracted to these areas, and one of his hallmarks was to steal a bicycle at the scene of his last break-in of the night and cycle to the nearest tube station.

Burglars and burglaries are never glamorous, but one reason why the Flannelfoot saga engendered fascination more than fear is that he was never confrontational, never violent, and in fact so stealthy that few ever saw him.

His one-man crime epidemic led to Scotland Yard assembling a team more used to solving murders than the plundering of gas meters. After a lengthy and painstaking investigation, a carefully planned night-time surveillance operation involving several teams of officers led to the sensational capture of Flannelfoot.

Flannelfoot routinely features in crime anthologies and was the subject of a feature film, but this is the first full biography of the man who became a legend in his own lifetime.

4 out of 5

It's a very light, informative and entertaining read.

Read the Full Review Here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

Britain's most prolific burglar: How a WWI veteran evaded the Met for 16 years as he broke into 1,000 homes, and was nicknamed 'Flannelfoot' for the way he covered his shoes to muffle his footsteps

Read the full article here.

Mail Online

A very interesting book on the most notorious burglar in 19th-century Britain. Full of historical background and the method of investigations available at that time. The author meticulously researched the topic.

NetGalley, Meg Gajda

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I had never really heard about Flannelfoot so I was excited to read this book. It had a great knowledgeable feel and I was hooked from the first page. I’m glad I got to learn about this as it was really interesting and well written.

NetGalley, Kathryn McLeer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Reading like an Ealing Comedy, which patently these crimes were far from humorous for the burgular's victims. (I should know in the early 70s our newly built house was burgled - along with dozens in our road that night). This meticulously researched story, is one of Flannelfoot, who between the wars was Britain's most prolific burglar. His modus operandi was to target the new estates springing up mostly around London, gaining entry into these modest properties by way of piercing the wooden window surround and lifting the catch. He would wrap his shoes in cloth to deaden any sound (hence his moniker), and make his excape using a stolen bike to cycle to a railway station.
To give some indication as to the status this small-time thief had attained, when he appeared in a special Saturday court after decades of police detection, 35 detectives were present from all over London, in addition to a chief constable and the assistant commissioner of the Met.
What could have been a prosaic list of historic failed police procedures the author has written a page turner the equal of any crime novel. He also includes data from between the wars with those of today, the results are a shameful evidence of today's rise in crime rates.

NetGalley, David Styles

About Martyn R Beardsley

Martyn Beardsley writes for both children and adults, but history is his big passion. He is from Nottingham but visits the coast as often as possible, and has witnessed the Fowey lifeboat go into action on several occasions – on one of which he helped coax a troubled woman from the chilly waters of Polruan harbour. His other non-fiction works include Charles II and his Escape into Exile, and Waterloo Voices, a compilation of first-hand accounts of the famous battle.

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