Sunday, 28 July 2013

Jerome Caminada - A Real-life Sherlock Holmes

Way back in the latter part of the nineteenth century Manchester did have it`s own equivalent of Conan Doyle`s legendary sleuth.  This was one Jerome Caminada, who amassed an incredible arrest record that is probably unsurpassed.  He was a detective who used intelligence gathered as a weapon against criminals and developed an enviable network of informants.  He also was brought up in the areas he worked so he knew the people and how they thought.  He was a virtual pioneer in undercover work where he would adopt numerous disguises to mingle with the criminal elements.  One trait he learned growing up in the rough areas of Manchester was how to use his fists, and it stood him in good stead when confronted by violent villains.

    Caminada was born in Peter Street in 1844 to Italian immigrant parents, where his father was a clock and watch maker, but they were frequently like many families; short of money.  But Caminada always stayed on the right of the law, and upon leaving school, St Mary`s Catholic school, he found work at an engineering firm in Failsworth.  He was one of the lucky children to receive an education at that time.  At the age of 23, he quit his job to join the Manchester Police Force, in 1868.  He was one of 31 men that joined the same day, but after a couple of years, most had fell by the wayside through poor wages and working conditions, plus drunkenness on duty was a big problem.

   He tackled domestic quarrels, drunks and everything that is thrown at the old time beat officer.  One day, he answered a scream of "murder" and found a very large and overweight prostitute known as "Fat Martha" with stab wounds.  She had stolen a roast joint so the angry man of the house had stabbed her.  Caminada summoned assistance and used a large wooden rack as a makeshift stretcher, but the hospital would not take her in, owing to her "Job".  They then had to take her to a workhouse but she awoke when they arrived and got up and quickly went off, not wanting to go in the workhouse.  Caminada quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant, and then went into the detective Division.  He studied law and how to conduct himself in court.

    Caminada was involved in Police operations against the then terrorists of the "Fenian Society" that was prevalent at that time.  In fact, he travelled abroad on terrorist cases, which was virtually unheard of then.  There were also anarchist movements who held weekly meetings in public.  He went and arrested agitators despite the huge crowds.  He also eradicated the "Quack" doctors, charging extortionate fees foe useless remedies.  He worked around the north west, tracking villains, one in particular, was a violent burglar called Bob Horridge, who had shot and wounded a fellow officer.  He traced him to Liverpool where he arrested him but only after putting a gun to his head, after Horridge reached for a gun.

    One big arrest he led was to a house that was hosting a party for men only, which was advertised as a "Fancy Dress Ball".  When they raided it, men were dressed as women, dancing together, and indulging in "acts".  Homosexuality was a serious crime with heavy sentences.  All had to appear before the magistrate.  Caminada retired in 1899 after 31 years and he worked afterwards in property, then as a private investigator, then into local politics.  He died in 1914.  He really was a real-life Sherlock Holmes.