The real Peaky Blinders: Victorian mugshots reveal vicious gang who sewed razors into their caps before headbutting and blinding teenagers and the elderly

Yahoo! News.11 September 2013
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The Peaky Blinders gang terrorised Birmingham in the late 1800s. (SWNS)

Police have revealed the previously-unseen faces of the terrifying 'Peaky Blinders' street gang, who terrorised Birmingham in the late 19th century.

The vicious Victorian thugs ran riot in the Midlands for more than two decades in the late 1800s.

They would sew razor blades into their caps and headbutt their victims - often blinding teenage girls and the elderly in vicious street fights.

And with the explosive history of the gang set to be revealed in a TV show, police have dug up the gangsters' original charge sheet.

The police file remained hidden for over 100 years, but now reveals the early crimes of the thugs who mugged the vulnerable and made cash from illegal betting and protection rackets.

The Peaky Blinders were behind an 1880s crime wave that saw them rob people, attack their rivals and even assault the police.

West Midlands Police museum worker David Cross, 69, said the pictures were dug up from the largest collection of Victorian and Edwardian prisoners in Britain.

Describing the gang's trademark razor caps, he said: 'If you can think of your grandfathers ratting cap, it would have had a very hard peak.

'When they would hit someone on the nose with their cap, it would bring tears to their victims eyes and cause temporary blindness, that's when they'd thump you and rob you.

'It is a very quick manoeuvre - that is how they worked.

'They would target anybody who looked vulnerable, the gentleman on his way to work who didn't look strong or fit.

'The ladies, the teenage girls, anyone, they would take anything they could convert into money.'

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Court reports from the time refer to the gang members as 'foul mouthed young men who stalk the streets in drunken groups, insulting and mugging passers-by.'

The official police mugshots of members baby-faced Harry Fowler, Ernest Bayles, Stephen McHickie and Thomas Gilbert reveal they were jailed for relatively minor offences of 'shop-breaking', 'bike theft' and 'false pretences' in October 1904.

The black-and-white snaps show the four gangsters sporting distinctive donkey jackets, silk scarfs, bell-bottom trousers, steel-capped boots and a cap worn on the side of the head.

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Police records show that Fowler and Bayles stole a bike from Ralph Youster after he left it outside a factory in Henrietta Street for just four minutes.

And McHickie, who lived on Cuckoo Road, was charged with breaking into a drapers shop just 11 doors up from his own house.

McHickie's charge sheet shows he stole stock worth £6 and told the court in mitigation he was trying to feed his wife and two young children.

[Scars, eyepatches and missing teeth: Edwardian female drunks barred from pubs in early 1900s]


The Peaky Blinders' previously unheard story is set to be told in the new BBC 2 six-part drama which was written by Birmingham-born Steven Knight.

Irish actor Cillian Murphy plays Tommy Shelby, the leader of the Peaky Blinders, along with Sam Neill and Helen McCrory.

The plot focuses on the Peaky Blinders era of the early 20th century, highlighting the gang members who returned to the poor and crime-ridden streets of Birmingham after World War One.

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MORE PICTURES OF YOUNG CRIMINALS FROM VICTORIAN ENGLAND:



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