Whilst researching the adventures of Detective Jerome Caminada for my book, The Real Sherlock Holmes, I came across some unexpected treasures in the Greater Manchester County Record Office, which helped me to piece together his extraordinary life and groundbreaking detective work.
Jerome Caminada was born in the slums of Deansgate in 1844. The son of immigrant parents, he endured a precarious childhood in the crime-infested streets of his neighbourhood and joined the Manchester City Police Force at the age of 23. Showing an early aptitude for detective work, he was soon promoted into the detective department and rose through the ranks to become one of Manchester’s finest police officers. A master of disguise and an expert in deduction, he tackled all manner of criminals, from pickpockets and thieves to ruthless con artists and even coldblooded murderers. I found information about one of his most fearsome adversaries in the Manchester Archives.
A desperate criminal
Bob Horridge was a blacksmith and a violent burglar who would stop at nothing to preserve his freedom. When Caminada encountered him for the first time as a constable, little did he know that Horridge would become his sworn enemy and their rivalry would last for two decades, ending in a deadly confrontation. In the archives I discovered the court record of the crime that brought the two rivals together. In 1870 Horridge stole a watch, which PC Caminada traced through a watchmaker, with whom the felon had left the watch to be fixed. When Horridge came to collect it, Caminada was waiting to arrest him. Due to his previous convictions, Horridge was sentenced to seven years’ penal servitude and, as he went down, he swore that he would kill the man responsible: Detective Caminada. Further court records from the Manchester City Sessions revealed that Bob Horridge re-launched his criminal career after his release. In 1876, he was tried for damaging the bellows of a rival blacksmith and two years later, he broke into a mill to steal a safe and £240 in cash (about £11,500 in today’s value). Both times he was acquitted due to lack of evidence. The register from Belle Vue Prison includes a graphic physical description of this notorious thief: he was 5 feet 6 3/4 inches tall, with a sallow complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. Slightly pockmarked, he had moles above his right armpit, on his back and left buttock! Bob Horridge had escaped justice twice in succession, but his luck was about to run out.
During the next decade Horridge committed a string of offences, with increasing severity. Mostly burglaries of shops and warehouses, every time he was caught in the act, he would commit a daring escape. On one occasion he broke through the ceiling of a house and fled through the lofts of adjoining properties, and another time he dived into the River Irk after knocking down a police officer. Before long he was sentenced to another seven years in Pentonville Prison, from which he attempted to escape and was shot three times in his bid for freedom. Surviving his injuries and after his second long stretch behind bars, Horridge was ready to get even with Detective Caminada.
The final showdown
On 30 July 1887, Horridge broke into a shoe shop in Rochdale Road. A passing constable spotted him and when he tried to arrest the thief, Horridge shot him. Fortunately the bullet only grazed his neck, but when a colleague came to his assistance, he was shot in the chest. After the attempted murder of two police officers, Detective Chief Inspector Caminada was instructed to run Horridge to the ground one final time. Caminada pursued his adversary to Liverpool, where he recognised him from a distance by the way he walked. Holding a loaded revolver to Horridge’s head, the detective threatened, ‘If there’s any nonsense with you, you’ll get the contents of this’. The thief was also armed, but after a fierce struggle Caminada apprehended him. Bob Horridge spent the rest of his life in prison and as Detective Caminada recalled later in his memoirs, ‘When Horridge was sent into penal servitude for life the public had the pleasure of knowing that the career of one of the most accomplished and desperate thieves that had ever lived in Manchester was brought to an end.’
The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada, by Angela Buckley is published by Pen and Sword Books. For more details, see http://victoriansupersleuth.com You can hear all about his adventures at the Manchester Histories Festival – Caminada: Manchester’s Sherlock Holmes, at 3 pm on Saturday 29 March in the Friends Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester. There is also a tour on Jerome Caminada by Emma Fox at 1.30 pm.