Many popular fictional TV shows like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos make crime appear exciting and engaging. A late night drunken act of violence outside a kebab show in your town doesn’t hold the same allure. But why do we glamourise some criminals who commit real crimes and feel what appears to be genuine affection for others?
In the UK there is a long love affair with crime. From Robin Hood and Dick Turpin through to more recent criminals such as the Kray Twins and The Great Train Robbers, crimes have been romanticised and even celebrated by the media of the day.
Essex murders 1998
The gruesome murders of three drug dealers in Rettendon, Essex in 1998 has so far produced five films. Each new re-telling of the story shifts further from the grimy reality with the victims shown as successful criminals with all the trappings some assume comes with that – big houses, beautiful women and an enviable lifestyle. In reality, their murder was a horrifying, violent event in a bleak field when even the car in which they were killed was not taxed and driven by a driver who wasn’t legally allowed to drive. Not much glamour here ?
Violent crime is only accepted by the wider public for career criminals such as the Krays, where the perception is that they have only harmed other people in the same game. The snappy dressing, parties and celebrity friends certainly add to the glamour.
In the UK, the affection tends to come from crimes against authority where nobody is hurt. Robbing the rich to help the poor and other ‘victimless’ crimes are seen as harmless and the general attitude is good luck to them. Is this all connected to our UK love of the underdog?
The Hatton Garden Heist
This was seen most recently in the Hatton Garden robbery in 2015 which saw this gang affectionately described in mainstream media as Dad’s Army, The Diamond Wheezers, The Old Blaggers, or in the French press, “le gang du papys” (the grandads’ gang). Our sympathy for the victims was limited as we questioned what dodgy wealth and secrets were held in these high security deposits. We loved the details from the trial which reminded us of films we have watched, for example, when Bill Lincoln gives evidence about his alibi (buying fish at Billingsgate market on Good Friday), we learn that he is known by friends as “Billy the Fish”. James Creighton, a friend of Billy’s who he meets for his regular Turkish bath, is known as “Jimmy Two Baths”. This is straight out of Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels or Oceans Eleven.
Some argue that these crimes are now finished as the real rewards are in cyber crime. The stats back this up as the number of large-scale bank robberies and break-ins have dramatically fallen as security and technology improve. From 1992 to 2012 the national figures for these crimes fell from 847 to 108 and in London from 291 to 26. However, the traditionalist in me still quite likes the thought of a bunch of old career criminals in their seventies planning the next heist – as they said from the Great Train Robbers to the Hatton Garden Heist, time for ‘one last job’.