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The rise and fall of the first Gangster in London and his hold over the City during the emerging dominence of money - 1721
1703: Jonathan WILD leaves his wife and small child to the mercy of the bailiffs, boarding the coach to London, to make his fortune. But he is soon in prison for debt. Refusing to remain idle, Wild forms a network of talented criminals while inside. On his release he sets himself up as a small time fence and pimp, for and with MARY. Vicious and uncompromising, he soon accumulates enough wealth to buy a house – a base where he gathers his wayward band of followers: FISTS, his bodyguard; SMITH, as counterfeiter and book keeper; TOFF, as confidence trickster and lawyer and ROUSER, as chief whip and riot instigator. Together they will form the most powerful gang in London, with Wild at its head. To the public he now offers his Enquiry Service, for the retrieval of stolen goods and the apprehension of villains, proclaiming himself ‘The Thieftaker General of Great Britain and Ireland’. He has the goods stolen with one hand and returns them with the other, making a tidy profit on the way. Joining with City Marshall HITCHEN, Wild is virtually untouchable. When Mr. PARGITTER, an attorney is attacked and robbed however, Wild’s fortunes begin to change. He makes an enemy of the young and dashing thief and housebreaker JACK SHEPPARD, who swears revenge. Pargitter himself expects The Thieftaker General to apprehend his attackers, but Wild refuses to divulge where the goods have come from. Sheppard is then captured, BLUESKIN BLAKE (his accomplice) appeals to Wild to get him released but again he refuses to help. When Sheppard escapes they vow never to deal with Wild again. Wild attends a lavish ball at Goldsmith’s hall, the mark of respectability, where he meets the vivacious and calculating MOLLY. He decides he needs to move on: Mary is brutally punished and left for dead in the gutter, Hitchen is discarded, used as a scapegoat, in the fastidious crack down on crime and Wild takes Molly as his new wife. In an effort to curb Wild’s power a new law is passed in Parliament: “Receiving” stolen goods becomes a crime. Wild merely drops the enquiry fee and arranges the clandestine return of goods instead. He has Sheppard and Blueskin committed to be hanged, but while he gloats Blueskin pulls him to the bars and slits Wild’s throat. Blueskin is hanged but Sheppard escapes again. Wild’s gang is fractured, with everyone trying to take over their own patch. But Wild has survived the attack. Within weeks Sheppard is caught and hanged. The Thieftaker General returns. However he has lost the support of the public. Sheppard’s death only turns them against him more. Pargitter, among others, finally drag Wild to the Old Bailey kicking and screaming. In the dock he has condemned so many others he stands trial and is sentenced to death.