4th October 1878

Clerk flees to Jersey with stolen fortune

William Ohmann Stafford disappeared from the Liverpool branch of the Bank of England, where he worked, with £15,000. The 26-year-old, who was married and had a child, had worked for the bank for eight years at the time of his disappearance.

When he’d been hired, Stafford, like all of his colleagues, was required to deposit £1000 of his own money with the bank which, it was believed, would prevent employees from pilfering from their employer. Thus, if he wasn’t apprehended, the bank stood to lose £14,000, and it offered a £500 reward for his capture.

Stafford’s journey

Eventually, he was found, and the story of his disappearance could be told. He had taken a train from Liverpool Lime Street station to London and met two people – an unnamed woman and a man called Macbeth. Macbeth took £3000 of the stolen money to the London branch of the Bank of England where, he said, he would have it converted into gold. However, Macbeth didn’t do as he’d promised. Instead, he paid the money, in the form of three £1000 notes, into an account and, upon returning to the hotel where he’d left Stafford and the woman, found they had disappeared.

Although police were initially working on the assumption that Stafford and the woman had fled to Spain, they were eventually arrested in Jersey on a boat he had hired in St Helier. He was brought back to London to stand trial. The evidence against him was convincing, and he eventually pled guilty to the theft of the notes. He was sentenced to seven years’ penal servitude.


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