If the notorious cat burglar and double-murderer Charlie Peace had turned his mind to honest work he would undoubtedly have been a great success in life. A master of disguise on account of his rubber-like features, he evaded arrest for more than 20 years. He often carried his housebreaking tools in an old violin case, and he is said to have played the instrument like a maestro.
His first murder occurred when he shot dead 21-year-old Constable Nicholas Cook in Manchester. The killing was attributed to a young Irishman, William Habron, who was sentenced to death for it but reprieved at the last moment because of doubts about his guilt.
In the summer of 1876 Peace went to Sheffield, where he tried to re-kindle his affair with his former mistress, Mrs. Katherine Dyson. One night her husband Arthur arrived and Peace shot him dead.
On the run for two murders, he fled to London, changing his name to John Ward. But while robbing a house in Blackheath, south-east London, he fired at Constable Edward Robinson. He was arrested, tried for attempted murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
No sooner had the jail doors closed on him than John Ward was recognised for what he was Charles Peace, wanted for the murder of Arthur Dyson.
He was returned to the north to face trial and on the journey attempted to escape from the train by throwing himself through the window. The escort managed to get him to Leeds Assizes where he was convicted and sentenced to death.
Peace was already the stuff of legend, but it has been said that a man who becomes a legend in his own lifetime probably doesnt have long to live. That was true of Charlie Peace. He was hanged on Tuesday, February 25th, 1879, at Leeds Prison, after confessing to the murder of Constable Cook in Manchester an admission that resulted in William Habrons immediate release from prison with compensation for his suffering.