What a versatile swindler

Hertfordshire Mercury, 16th May 1914


At Middlesex Sessions, Roderick Rennie, alias Douglas Campbell, described as an army coach, was convicted of two robberies at Highgate. The evidence was that Rennie called at two houses in Highgate on 17th March and presented himself as an insurance agent, confirming that he had been called ‘by appointment’ made by the mistress of the house.  The prisoner thus induced the servants to allow him to look over the house, getting them also to draw up an inventory of all valuables within the house.  Whilst they were thus employed, he stole jewellery to the value of £26.

Before sentence was passed, a detective recounted the prisoner’s career.  He was, the detective said, a man of superior education and was from a good family.  He had been twice previously convicted and had been sentenced to penal servitude for forgery and fraud.  The prisoner had held scholastic appointments in Surrey, Great Yarmouth, York and Bodmin.

In 1903, he had obtained possession of a college in Holloway by representing himself as a university graduate, and he had then swindled the proprietors out of £200. On one occasion, he had given an account of his adventures in South Africa during the Boer war to an audience of students and their friends, many of whom were moved to tears by the prisoner’s supposed sufferings.

As a matter of fact, he had never been to South Africa.  He had also impersonated an army officer, and had had cards printed “Captain W.G. Rennie, 7th Dragoon Guards”.  In this way, he had committed numerous frauds upon firms in Glasgow and in the west end of London.  When the real Captain Rennie returned from India, he placed the matter in the hands of the Public Prosecutor.

The prisoner protested his innocence, and alleged that during the time he had been at Dartmoor, there had been a man who had been so much like him that the two were always taken for brothers.  The man, he believed, was released in February last and had harboured a grudge against him.

The prisoner, a short time before his arrest, had entered into negotiations with the Rev. Waller with a view to taking over St Catherine’s School, Broxbourne, which Mr Waller, having been appointed vicar of Radwell, was giving up.  The purchase price was agreed upon, and negotiations had proceeded to the point of Rennie ordering furniture etc for equipping the school, and he had also advertised the change of proprietorship.

Mr Montague Sharp, the Chairman, sentenced the prisoner to 4 years’ penal servitude.

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