A Burglary Comedy, 1933

Do people still have “spirit guides”? They used to be pretty popular among fraudulent Victorian mediums, stage psychics and Jim Morrison in that film about The Doors.

They’re usually supposed to be helpful, I thought, but not this one, who encouraged the excitingly named phrenologist Cosmo Leon Kendal to reveal his previous conviction for shooting at a police officer during his trial for inciting to cheat an insurance company. His counsel advised him not to reveal he’d been in prison for 14 years for the former offence, but “he said he had been guided by the spirit world to lay his past frankly before the jury.” His argument was that the policeman investigating knew fine well of his past offence and he was being harassed on account of it – “I am a marked man.”

I suppose you could commend him for his honesty, but it was enough to help convince the jury he must be a wrong ‘un and he was convicted and sentenced to 12 months hard labour.

Edinburgh Evening News, 10th February 1933

Edinburgh Evening News, 10th February 1933


Cosmo Leon Kendal (43), described as a phrenologist, of Streatham, London, revealed in evidence at the Old Bailey today, that in 1911 he was sentenced to 14 years penal servitude for shooting at a police officer.

He was now charged with inciting another man to conspire with him to cheat and defraud an insurance company.

Mr S. T. T. James, defending, said that Kendal had revealed his 14 years sentence against the advice of counsel and solicitor. Mr James added: “He said he had been guided by the spirit world to lay his past frankly before the jury.”

It was alleged that Kendal asked another man to commit a burglary at his house, and promised him £10 when a claim was made on the insurance company. While Kendal was away expecting the man to commit the burglary, somebody else got in and removed a considerable quantity of goods. Kendal put in a claim for £514. The other man read of the burglary and told the police.

Kendal, after being sentenced to twelve months hard labour, made a statement. “On November 8,” he said “when Inspector Roberts called on me in reference to the burglary, he knew I was the man who shot Detective-Inspector Askew and had received a sentence of 14 years penal servitude. He was prejudiced and suspicious. I am a marked man.”

The Common Serjeant, Mr Holman Gregory, K.C., said that it was wholly untrue that a man who had been convicted was harassed by the police. “It was your own stupid conceit,” he added “which led you to tell the jury you had been previously convicted. Had you taken the legal advice given you, the jury would have known nothing about it.”

Kendal: Can I appeal?

The Common Serjeant: Yes.

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