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Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 16:20 UK
Not such a dandy highwayman
Tim Dale
By Tim Dale
BBC York & North Yorkshire

Picture shows Clive Haywood as Dick Turpin
New evidence casts doubt on the romantic legend of Dick Turpin

He's one of England's most notorious criminals and Dick Turpin along with his horse, Black Bess, have ridden into legend.

The real man though was very different to the legend as a new exhibition at York's Castle Museum will reveal.

As part of the exhibition a modern police e-fit of the highwayman has been commissioned.

The picture reveals the real face of Turpin for the first time and he was certainly not a romantic hero.

The creation of the e-fit is part of York Castle Museum's new interpretation of its authentic cells, where Turpin spent his last night alive. Dr Katherine Prior, researcher for the new gaol project, said: "Richard Turpin is one of the most infamous highwaymen in the world, but interestingly very little information on what he actually looked like survives."

Modern E-Fit poster of Dick Turpin
Wanted for murder, burglary, highway robbery and horse-stealing.

The real Richard Turpin was born in Essex in 1705. It appears that he became a butcher and rather than operate legally he was soon stealing livestock, a crime punishable by death at that period. He later became involved with a notorious gang and his criminal career took off eventually leading him to highway robbery, murder and the hangman's noose.

With no drawings or paintings of Turpin surviving, police used descriptions from the London Gazette newspaper in 1735 and 1737, when a reward for his capture was offered. One article, published on June 21 1737 and offering a reward of £200, read:

"Richard Turpin was born at Thacksted, in the county of Essex, is about 30 years of age, by trade a butcher, about 5ft 9ins high, of a brown complexion, very much marked with the smallpox, his cheek bones broad, his face slimmer towards the bottom, his visage short, pretty upright and broad about the shoulders."

The new picture shows a man with broad cheeks and a narrow chin, wearing a light-coloured wig and with heavy small pox scarring to his face. The poster claims he is wanted for murder, burglary, highway robbery and horse-stealing. A marked contrast to the modern-day romantic image of Turpin as a dashing, devilishly handsome rogue and heroic highwayman.

Ian Greaves, an e-fit specialist at North Yorkshire Police, said: "It is nice to think that North Yorkshire Police are able to assist in putting a true picture together of the infamous highwayman, who spent his last days in York."

Turpin was eventually captured and tried for horse-rustling in York. He was condemned to death and was executed in the city, 270 years ago, in April 1739.

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17 Jul 09 |  TV & Radio
Police release Dick Turpin e-fit
17 Jul 09 |  North Yorkshire



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