THE FORTY ELEPHANTS
The ‘Forty Elephants’ or 'Forty Thieves’ were a London-based all-female crime syndicate in existence from at least the 19th century until the 1950’s. The gang specialised in shoplifting expensive clothes and jewelry worth thousands of pounds, dressing in coats, skirts and hats with hidden pockets to hide their loot. The women also used false references to work as housemaids and steal from their employers homes, and they blackmailed men after seducing them.
They tried to live the lives of glamorous movie stars and the 1920s flapper society, giving extravagant parties, spending money in restaurants and wearing designer clothes (they didn’t wear the clothes they stole, but sold them) . The leader or 'queen’ of the gang during part of the 1910’s and 20’s, the haydays of the gang, was Diamond Annie, called this because she punched people with a fist full of diamond rings. By this time most of London knew the gang, their raids were getting more fearless, and they used fast cars to get away. Diamond Annie herself was jailed in 1925 for taking revenge on a male crook, but continued leading the gang from prison until the 30’s.