It was, the newspapers announced breathlessly, the greatest mail robbery in US history, and it had been pulled off by a duo known as the Gentlemen Bandits, whose notoriety reverberated across the land.
They were Gerald Chapman and George Anderson. They met in jail and developed an extraordinary taste for high living top restaurants, theatre trips, lavish parties. Their big coup came on October 24th, 1921, when they robbed a mail train leaving Wall Street of cash and securities worth well over £2 million an unheard-of sum in those days.
The high living didnt last for long. Chapman paid his landlord with a bearer bond from their loot and he and Anderson were arrested in July 1922.
While in custody Chapman escaped but was recaptured. Both men were sentenced to 25 years, but eight months later Chapman escaped again. Bloodhounds ran him down in a cotton field but he was shot before he gave up. Taken to hospital, then back to prison, he escaped yet again. This time he holed up in Indiana where Anderson, who had also escaped, joined him.
For 12 months the Gentlemen Bandits terrorised the mid-western states. When the law got too close for comfort, they split up, and Anderson was killed later in a shoot-out with lawmen. Chapman found another accomplice and together they used nitroglycerine to crack a department store safe in Connecticut. The police, alerted to the burglary, arrived, and Chapman shot dead police officer James Kelly.
He was then relentlessly hunted down, and finally caught in January, 1925. On Tuesday, April 6th, 1926, he walked unaided to the gallows in Connecticut State Prison and died there without flinching.