The Chieftain - Detective Chief Inspector George Clarke
On 20 November 1877 Detective Chief Inspector George Clarke, known to criminals and his Scotland Yard colleagues as ‘The Chieftain’, shared the dock at the Old Bailey with three of his Scotland Yard colleagues, all waiting for the jury’s verdict in their trial for corruption. In ‘The Chieftain: Victorian True Crime through the Eyes of a Scotland Yard Detective’ (published by The History Press in October 2011) I have sought to reveal the contribution that Clarke made to Victorian crime detection, which has previously remained hidden within the shadows cast by the corruption trial. I have also located many of Clarke’s original case reports and have used these, and other resources, to set the Chieftain’s investigations within the social and political context of the time. Clarke was a colleague of Inspectors Whicher, and Tanner. Thus, the many sensational cases described in the book, including a re-evaluation of the 1877 ‘Trial of the Detectives’, will be of particular interest to those who have read ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’ (Kate Summerscale; Bloomsbury Publishing) and ‘Mr Briggs’ Hat’ (Kate Colquhoun; Little, Brown).
Born in Therfield, Hertfordshire, Clarke joined the Metropolitan Police in 1840 and worked as a uniformed police-officer in S Division (Hampstead). Though a 'slow-starter', Clarke's career took off when he was transferred in 1862 to the small team of detectives based at Old Scotland Yard, subsequently being promoted to Chief Inspector in 1869 and second-in-command of the Detective Department. He investigated several sensational murders and suspicious deaths, including the 1864 murders on the North London Railway and Plaistow marshes, the Stratford murder of Samuel Galloway, the suspicious deaths of Elizabeth Brigham and Madeline de Tourville and the poisoning of Charles Bravo. Between 1865 and 1868, Clarke was also involved in policing the Fenian Conspiracy, followed by investigations of theft, burglary, arson, baby-farming, abortion and several notorious frauds, whose perpetrators included the Tichborne Claimant, Harry Benson and William Kurr, amongst others. In 1877, Benson and Kurr became the principal witnesses in the corruption trial which ended Clarke's career.
The essence of Victorian true crime is captured through Clarke's experiences. During research investigations of Clarke's career, diverse sources of archived information have been unearthed, including many of Clarke's own case-reports as well as numerous contemporary newspaper reports of his cases.
Features and Reviews of 'The Chieftain'
To see these, click on the links below :
Interviews: To hear an abbreviated version (9 mins) ofJim Harold's Crime Scene interview of Chris Payne on 18 Dec 2011 click on interview . To listen to the full interview (30 mins) click on Chieftain podcast
Additional information about 'The Chieftain'
If you are interested in finding out more about Chief Inspector George Clarke, and the environment in which he worked, some supplementary information which could not be included in the book for space reasons, has been included on this website. To see these items, read on!