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Moriarty and Hatton Garden

'The relationship between crime and crime fiction is one of the oldest and oddest of cultural phenomena. The more sophisticated crooks often read books and gain ideas from them; novelists plunder real crime for inspiration. Reality and imagination feed off one another in an extraordinary cycle. Villains avidly study their own mythology: only spies, the police and the mafia are more fascinated by reading about themselves in fiction.'

Ben Macintyre's brilliant column in The Times this morning relates the recent Hatton Garden robbery ( to the life of Moriarty, who in real life was known as Adam Worth, the Napoleon of Crime. Macintyre, who has written a book about Worth, tells the story of the 1869 Boylston Bank Robbery in Boston.

A man called William Judson set up a shop purporting to sell 'Gray's Oriental Tonic' next to the bank, and then ordered his accomplices to tunnel in through the basement. They escaped with 30 tin trunks containing diamonds, cash, other jewellery and securities. The proceeds enabled Judson to move first to Paris, then to London, where he ended up with a flat in Piccadilly, a 110-foot yacht, and a collection of race-horses. In Europe he was known as Henry J Raymond, but detectives (one of whom, Thomas Pinkerton, was a great friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's) knew him as Adam Worth.

Conan Doyle was open about the fact that Moriarty was inspired by Worth. My favourite aspect of the story Macintyre tells relates to my weakness for wordplay. Worth was a bit of a romantic - he refused, for instance, to condone violence - and in 1876 stole Gainsborough's portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire from Agnew's art gallery in Mayfair because the image resembled his former lover. In Conan Doyle's depiction of Moriarty, he has a painting by Greuze called 'La Jeune Fille a l'agneau.' Literally this means young girl with a lamb, but linguists will appreciate that it could also be read as a pun on 'The Girl from Agnew's'. Art imitating life, imitating life imitating art. Wonder if they'll manage to get that into 'Sherlock'.

Ben Macintyre The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief

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