ADAM WORTH 1844-1902
The Napoleon of Crime makes Moriarty look like a pussycat!
In the annals of fictional crime one name stands above the rest. That, of course, is Professor James Moriarty. Yet the arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes didn’t spring from nowhere, he was inspired by the exploits of Adam Worth, nicknamed “the Napoleon of the criminal world”, just like his fictional counterpart.
German-born Worth emigrated to the USA with his family at young age. He fought in the American Civil War but, when he was wrongly listed as killed in action, he absconded and lived for a time as a bounty hunter. Captured and thrown into Sing Sing, he escaped to Europe and plunged into a new life as a thief. Here he employed a variety of pseudonyms to cover his audacious criminal network, all funded by a lucrative illegal gambling den in Paris!
When Worth was finally captured during a robbery in Liège in 1892, there was precious little evidence of his previous crimes. He served just five years in prison and after his release, he funded his retirement by selling a Gainsborough painting that he had stolen in London a quarter of a century earlier.
Adam Worth died in 1902 but in Professor Moriarty, he is immortal.
Adam Worth might have inspired Moriarty, but his son made his name upholding the law!