We'll probably never know the full extent of the garotting craze that gripped London in the 1860s, culminating in the great panic of 1862. The recording and statistical analysis of crime and policing in general were not then what they are now, and sociologists and certain kinds of historian have now spent decades telling us - as they are prone to do - that it was all just a storm in a teacup, a 'moral panic' in which a relatively small number of crimes were blown out of all proportion.
Be that as it may, or not, there are few more dramatically iconic figures in the annals of London crime than the garotter, the fiendish character - or characters, as they seem often to have worked in pairs - who learned (probably from the Indian thugees) that the chances of a successful street robbery were much enhanced by putting their respectable victims in a choke hold from behind first, by way of an introduction.
As the panic spread across deep, dark Victorian London, the newspapers were full of both horrific reports of such crimes, and ideas for and jokes about anti-garotter street wear (see illustration above). Whether clever people will be as sanguine about our current troubles with armed moped gangs in a hundred years time cannot be known, but for anyone interested in the more colourful aspects of London's dark criminal past the garotters can't be beat.
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