Early Bank Robbery

A few days before Christmas 1890, George Henry Wilson (alias Grieve) and Alfred Grieve (alias Graham) managed to rob the Pyrmont branch of the English, Scottish, and Australian Chartered Banking Company.

They first introduced themselves to bank staff as detectives, sent by Detective Inspector Camplin, to warn them that the bank was to be “stuck up” the next day – and they suspected that one of the tellers was complicit.  The manager and teller were convinced:

Accused had a notebook and made notes as detectives do; before leaving he stated that that evening he would inquire as to the habits of the clerks at the bank, and would see witness again on the following morning.

Next day they returned to warn the staff that they would be raided at 12.30.  There was no cause for alarm, because a detective and two plain clothes police were outside, waiting to arrest the robbers.  They did suggest, however, that the staff stay in the strong room for their own safety.

The bank clerks were not entirely bamboozled, but the robbers did pilfer £100 while the tellers were distracted by other duties. They then suggested that the bank raid must have been called off, and they left, promising to return.  Not until the accounts were balanced later that day was the theft discovered.

They did not get far.  Although both took the precaution of shaving their beards, Wilson was arrested on Christmas Eve in the private bar of the Tarragon Hotel, King and Sussex Street.  Grieve was taken the next day in the Grand Central Coffee Palace, Clarence Street, with a bag containing new clothes and two revolvers, one loaded.

When the matter came to trial, the men insisted that they were indeed NSW police detectives, working for Inspector William Camplin.  Camplin and the brothers had perhaps met when they were convicted of forgery, so their defence collapsed at once:

William Camplin, inspector of detectives, knew both the accused as brothers by the name of Grieve; he had known them for 20 years; they had no connection with the police force; he did not instruct them to go to the E. S. & A. C. bank.

Adding insult to injury, the jury took three minutes to agree on the verdict.

They were each sentenced to seven years’ penal servitude.

The foreman handed his Honor a letter signed by the whole jury, in which they wished to place on record the waste of time and serious inconvenience to which they were subjected owing to the frivolous line of defence.

His Honor stated that he entirely concurred in the statement made by the jury. He was of opinion that if the case had been properly conducted it would have been concluded at 4 o’clock the previous day. (Evening News, 21 February 1891)


Related Items