< Back to Files

London Gangs

More

I don't know what made me do it

Diamond’s shoplifters were no strangers to the courts. Veteran thief Alice Turner protested her fur stealing was a moment of madness. She also turned on the tears in court. But the sympathy of the magistrate evaporated as fast as her crocodile tears when it was revealed that when she’d been arrested, along with the fur, there were 25 other stolen items. He gave her three months.
Diamond’s prolific shoplifting spree had changed the perception that women were innocents incapable of crime. When she and eight others appeared in court, they could no longer rely on their sex to escape sentencing. The prosecution went in hard. They stated that only the intervention of the police prevented the nine accused being charged with murder.
They all pleaded not guilty. Diamond’s alibi was that she was with her married sister at the time of the attack. Her criminal father testified this was the case. Few believed him.
Alice and many of the others were sentenced to 18 months in prison with hard labour.
After prison, Diamond returned to her gang. But in her absence, many of them had fallen out with each other. Some had gone independent. And a few had gone semi-respectable. The Blitz meant a lot of the old neighbourhoods had been literally blown away. Old gang members had followed a lot of the London East End out into the new housing developments in Essex.

Shops and department stores had upped their game and trained their security. And women were no longer seen as the weaker sex. During the Second World War, with the men away fighting, mothers and daughters had largely kept the wartime economy running. If women could be workers, no doubt, they could be criminals as well. Shoplifting had become riskier.
“Of course crime pays. It’s getting caught, that’s the f*****g problem.”
Shirley Pitts