The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell review – a modern-day Robin Hood?

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A splendid account of Stephen Jackley, whose bank robberies were an attempt to fight poverty and injustice
The homeless man sitting with his dog on a cold December night in Sidmouth must have thought it miraculous when a passing stranger dropped a roll of GBP20 banknotes in his hat. The stranger didn’t stop or say anything, just walked away. Even odder, every note had been marked with two letters: RH. The stranger wasn’t acting out of Christmas charity but from a sense of righteousness: he saw himself as a 21st-century Robin Hood, duty-bound to rob the rich and give to the poor. To which end, a few hours before, he’d held up the Lloyds TSB bank branch in nearby Seaton and made off with nearly GBP5,000.

A hard-up geography student at the University of Worcester, Stephen Jackley was the unlikeliest of bank robbers. It’s not just that he wasn’t out for personal gain (though he enjoyed using some of his winnings to travel). He also acted entirely alone, albeit after learning from the methods of illustrious peers such as the American Carl Gugasian, whose example taught him the importance of meticulous planning, physical disguise and how to escape and hide your loot in woodland areas. From his first, botched attempt to rob a bank in Exeter the police had a record of Jackley’s DNA. But because he didn’t graduate to bank robbery through petty thieving, they had no match for it on their files and assumed the culprit must be a foreigner, perhaps part of a criminal gang. Undetected, he continued towards his goal of raising GBP100,000 for what he called the Organisation, his one-man mission to save the planet from poverty and injustice. Continue reading…

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