Revealed: What 'devilishly handsome' highwayman Dick Turpin REALLY looked like

Legend has it that the legendary British highwayman Dick Turpin was "devilishly handsome" and a bit of a ladies' man.

But now, thanks to modern forensic experts, we know that the opposite was true.

North Yorkshire Police have produced an e-fit of Turpin using the same techniques that they use to make pictures of modern criminals.

The image, for an exhibition at York's Castle Museum, shows that Turpin had ordinary features and his face was scarred by smallpox.

According to legend, Turpin was born at the Spaniards Inn in Hampstead, North London. However, according to parish records, Turpin was baptised on September 21 1705 in Hempstead, Essex, having been born at The Bluebell Inn (later renamed the Rose and Crown), where his father was inn-keeper.

As a boy, Turpin often stole sheep, lambs and cattle which, in Britain at that time, was an offence punishable by death (in fact, just stealing a loaf of bread could lead to a person - even a child -being hanged under Britain's harsh Bloody Code which operated from the 15th Century until the 1850s).

As he got older, Turpin supposedly rode throughout England on his famous horse Black Bess - even supposedly riding on Black Bess from London to York, a distance of 200 miles, in just 15 hours, despite the fact that sounds impossible - and also became a member of the Gregory Gang, who stole game set aside for the King (George II), an offence punishable by being brutally Hanged, Drawn and Quartered.

On one occasion, Turpin wanted to rob an old woman, Widow Shelley, in Loughton, Essex, who possessed 700. When the woman refused to tell Turpin the whereabouts of the cash, Turpin threw her on the fire to make her say.

Turpin's first killing was probably Thomas Morris, on 4 May 1737. Morris was a servant of Henry Thomson, one of the keepers of Epping Forest, who, during a walk in the forest, came across Turpin at Fairmead Bottom, near Loughton. Morris tried to capture the highwayman as there was a reward for his capture, so Turpin shot him dead.

Turpin was executed at Tyburn in York on 7th April 1739, at the spot where York horseracing course is now situated. On the scaffold, Turpin spent half an hour chatting to the watching crowd and even his executioner, Thomas Hadfield, who was once Turpin's friend. Hadfield was a member of the Gregory Gang, who would only be pardoned if he executed Turpin. Your executioner also being a friend who would be pardoned if they executed you was a common occurrence, by no means unusual. It was a ploy often used by the authorities to catch a very much wanted criminal.

During the hanging, Turpin apparently threw himself off the ladder rather than the executioner having to do it.

Revealed: What 'devilishly handsome' highwayman Dick Turpin REALLY looked like

By Chris Brooke
17th July 2009
Daily Mail

He is the legendary highwayman who roamed the countryside ruthlessly robbing almost anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path.

Over time Dick Turpin has been wrongly romanticised into a swashbuckling and carefree rogue.

And his image as a strapping and handsome villain boldly riding his trusty steed Black Bess is also fictitious, it has been revealed.

For police experts and historians have teamed up to produce the first 'real' image of Turpin in the 270 years since he went to the gallows.

Devilishly handsome? Forensic experts used the latest technology to recreate the face of Dick Turpin, 270 years after he was hanged for his crimes

Instead of a 'dandy highwayman' with the rugged good looks to send ladies swooning, Turpin had a pock-marked face with distinctly ordinary features.

Using the latest technology, staff from North Yorkshire police have produced an e-fit image of the notorious criminal for an exhibition at York's Castle Museum.

'The results are not pretty,' said Dr Katherine Prior, a museum researcher.

'Richard Turpin is one of the most infamous highwaymen in the world, but interestingly very little information on what he actually looked like survives. There are no drawings or paintings of Turpin created during his lifetime. All we have to go on are the descriptions from newspapers which were issued to aid his capture.

'We have worked with North Yorkshire Police to create an e-fit of Mr Turpin, just like they would do from a description of a criminal today.'

The real story of Turpin is very different to the romanticised one depicted in many books and on television.

The son of a farmer and publican from rural Essex, Turpin was born in 1705 and probably became a butcher's apprentice on the outskirts of London.

His life as an outlaw began when he was caught stealing two oxen and fled into the countryside to escape arrest.

He tried his hand at smuggling before teaming up with the Gregory Gang to carry out more serious, violent and unpleasant crimes.

Wanted poster: Forensic experts worked with York's Castle Museum to create an E-fit of Turpin, just like they would do from a description of a criminal today

The gan targetted isolated farmhouses and terrorised and tortured the occupants into giving up their valuables.

In one raid in Loughton, Essex, in 1735, Turpin heard of an old woman known as Widow Shelley rumoured to keep 700 in the house. She refused to divulge the hiding place until Turpin hoisted her into an open fire.

Turpin and his crew robbed their way around the Home Counties, frequently torturing their victims.

In 1735, King George II offered a 50 reward - around 8,500 at today's prices - for his capture. The London Gazette gave his description as 'a tall fresh-colour'd man, very much mark'd with the Small-Pox, about twenty-six years of age, about five feet nine Inches high, liv'd some time ago at Whitechapel, and did lately lodge somewhere about Millbank, Westminster, wears a blue-grey coat, and a light natural Wig.'

Within two years the bounty on his head doubled after the gang committed another heinous act.

By this time Turpin had teamed up with 'Captain' Tom King, one of the best known highwaymen of the day, with a carefree nature and code of honour that was later falsely attributed to Turpin. King laughed in Turpin's face when he pulled a gun on him and demanded his money as he rode on horseback and they became partners in crime.

Before long King was accidentally shot dead by Turpin. King was arrested when he went to collect a horse and Turpin, who had been wating nearby, fired at the constables and killed his accomplice instead.

Realising he had to change location, Turpin rode to Yorkshire.

But the story that he rode from London to York in less than 24 hours was pure fiction. This most famous Turpin tale was invented a century later by the author William Harrison Ainsworth in his 1834 novel 'Rookwood.'

In reality Turpin ended up living under a false name and his identity was revealed after he was arrested for a minor misdemeanour. Suspicions were aroused as allegations of his criminal behaviour surfaced. But he was trapped by a letter he sent to his brother from the dungeons at York Castle.

His hand-writing was recognised and he was revealed as Dick Turpin and sentenced to death. On 7th April 1739 Turpin rode through York in an open cart bowing to the crowds. After chatting to the guards with his head in a noose he then boldly threw himself off the ladder to his death.

Today a new interpretation of his 18th Century death row cell in York opens at the Castle Museum. And his realistic image is the final piece in the jigsaw.

Ian Greaves, one of the police e-fit specialists, said: 'It is nice to think that we are able to assist in putting a true picture together of the infamous highwayman, who spent his last days in the city of York.'

A gravestone opposite St George's Church in York, recording the spot where friends brought Turpin's body to be buried, although he was supposedly dug up by bodysnatchers working for anatomists.

Turpin's life of crime:
* Turpin was a notorious member of the Essex (or Gregory) Gang who ruthlessly robbed farmhouses across the Home Counties.
* In one raid at Loughton, Essex, in 1735, they escaped with an old woman's huge cash savings of 700 (120,000 at today's prices) after Turpin is said to have hoisted her into an open fire to give up the treasure.
* After a 50 reward (8,500 today) was put on his head, Turpin narrowly escaped arrest by smashing through a window.
* He teamed up with 'gentleman' highwayman Tom King after trying to rob him at knifepoint. King laughed and said:'What dog eat dog? Come brother Turpin. If you don't know me, I know you and shall be glad of your company.'
* In May 1737 he became a murderer when he shot a gamekeeper named Morris who tracked him to Epping Forest and challenged him at gunpoint.
* Turpin killed his partner King by accident when he shot at constables who were arresting him.
* Adopting the name John Palmer, he was arrested for a minor crime and revealed as the notorious highwayman when a letter from his jail cell in York gave him away.
* Turpin's infamous non-stop ride from London to York was actually carried out by a 17th Century highwayman John 'Nick' Nevison but used in a book about Turpin.

The Loughton incident

On 8 February 1735 Read's Weekly Journal reported: 'On Saturday night last, about seven o'clock, five rogues entered the house of Widow Shelley at Loughton in Essex, having pistols, and threatened to murder the old lady, if she would not tell them where her money lay, which she obstinately refusing for some time, they threatened to lay her across the fire, if she did not instantly tell them, which she would not do. But her son being in the room, and threatened to be murdered, cried out, he would tell them, if they would not murder his mother, and did, whereupon they went upstairs, and took near 100, a silver tankard, and other plate, and all manner of household goods. They afterwards went into the cellar and drank several bottles of ale and wine, and broiled some meat, ate the relicts of a filet of veal. While they were doing this, two of their gang went to Mr Turkles, a farmer, who rents one end of the widow's house, and robbed him of above 20, and then they all went off, taking two of the farmer's horses, to carry off their luggage, the horses were found on Sunday the following morning in Old Street, and stayed about three hours in the house.'

This raid took place on 1 February 1735 and widow Shelley's house was in Traps Hill, Loughton. It was reported the gang made away with 700, a huge amount. It is the best account of the gang

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Last edited by Blackleaf; Jul 22nd, 2009 at 11:26 AM..
Cool...I guess
Ew. Did you see his fat thighs? Someone needs to work their glutes.

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