“Another Sensation”: A 1912 Robbery in Downtown St. John’s

The Newfoundland news cycle has been somewhat dominated this month by a slew of bank machine robberies using stolen heavy equipment. A front-end loader sliced open a TD Bank on Elizabeth Avenue in St. John’s, a backhoe smashed through the window of Sobeys on Kelsey Drive, an excavator struck a Scotiabank in CBS, and finally another hot front-end loader smashed into a wall of a BMO branch on Newfoundland Drive. The last of the thefts resulted in the arrest of two men who are currently facing charges related to the Newfoundland Drive robbery.

With all the recent talks of the town transitioning from parking meter bandits to construction equipment outlaws, we thought it was fitting to jump back 107 years to take a look at the local media’s longstanding fascination with crime in the community. In the case of this clipping from The Evening Telegram on August 30th, 1912, there is no attempt to hide the sensationalism. I mean that quite literally, as the headline simply brands the story: “Another Sensation”…

The thief got into Mr. Ritchie’s office first but not before he had cut himself badly by the piece of glass which rained in the sash of the window as every document in the building was besmeared with blood. All of the drawers in Mr. Ritchie’s desk were forced open, but unfortunately for the marauder no money was got.”

In 1912 St. John’s, newspapers still relied on British news sources for the juiciest byline credits, so there is no doubt local journalists were hungry for stories like this Water Street B&E. The colourful coverage is worth the read, and you can find the full transcription below, as well as a scan of the original printed story.

And yes, the officer’s name was Sergeant Savage. Y’know, like the G.I. Joe.

Another Sensation – August 30th, 1912

Offices of Messrs. Anderson and Ritchie Broken into Last Night — Suspect Arrested.

   Sensational doings are getting prevalent in the city just now.
   A few days ago the town was alarmed of the sensational robbery at Harbor Grace, followed by a grave crime committed on the West Coast, and today mercantile people generally were amazed on hearing the startling report that a business premises on Water Street had been broken into last night at an unknown hour.
   At 7 o’clock this morning Mr. A. T. Ritchie and Mr. G. I. Anderson were telephoned at their residences by Sergeant Savage who acquitted them that someone had broken into their offices. Both these gentlemen referred to are commission merchants and their offices are in close proximity to each other situated off Water Street where the Newfoundland Produce Co. formerly carried on business. At 9 o’clock this morning they visited their place of business and found it in a wrecked condition as reported by the police officer. Mr. Anderson was interviewed by a Telegram reported and gave a few facts of the case.
   The place was locked up at 6 o’clock (l)ast evening and between that time and 6 o’clock this morning the robbery was attempted. It appears the daring culprit gained ac(c)ess to the place through a eleven by twenty pane of glass. The glass was taken out with a cutter, but not all of it. The thief got into Mr. Ritchie’s office first but not before he had cut himself badly by the piece of glass which rained in the sash of the window as every document in the building was besmeared with blood. All of the drawers in Mr. Ritchie’s desk were forced open, but unfortunately for the marauder no money was got. He then visited the adjoining office used by Mr. Anderson, took a quantity of stamps, broke open drawers and desks and made an unsuccessful effort to open the safe. He threw a brand new Underwood typewriter worth $130 down off a desk and smashed it.
   On leaving the disappointed robber got through a different pane of glass then the one he got in through which proves he must have been disturbed in his operations.  Evidently he heard men belonging to a schr at the wharf talking and this made him decamp promptly.  If the fellow had got the safe open he certainly would have struck a bonanzo, as it contained a few thousand dollars. A fortunate thing for the own, is that Mr. Anderson had $1,500 in his desk last evening but when close up time came his clerk, Mr. Lang secured it in the safe.
   The police are now working on the case and hope to make an arrest shortly. They have a good clue as the miscreant, whoever he is, must be badly cut by contact with the glass.  A man named Humby has been arrested as a suspect in the Ritchie robbery.”

Clipping made available via the Memorial University Archives Initiative – Evening Telegram, 1912-08-30

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