THE GREATREX CASE

In October 1866, bank officials of the Union Bank of Scotland, Glasgow, noticed that a large number of forgeries of their notes were in circulation and reported the matter to the Glasgow Police. Superintendent McCall (photo right) took charge of the investigation. Discovering that the forged notes had not only been circulated in Glasgow but also in Greenock and Stirling, he and his fellow detectives realised the extent of the crime. Printing experts were consulted and it was discovered that the photographic process of lithography had been used to produce the notes.

Information reached McCall that some printing equipment had been recently sold by a photographer, John Henry Greatrex, of Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. The items were examined by the police and experts in lithography, and it was found that the equipment had, in fact, been used to produce the forged notes. The chase was on......

Two accomplices of Greatrex were arrested, but Greatrex and one of his lady assistants, Jenny Weir, had left Glasgow and were distributing large quantities of the forged notes northwards to Aberdeen. Hearing that his two accomplices had been arrested he headed for London, then to Southampton where Greatrex and Jenny Weir boarded separate ships bound for America.

As soon this information was passed to Superintendent McCall, he immediately set off in pursuit, taking with him a civilian witness who knew Greatrex well as the police did not have a photograph of Greatrex from which he could be identified. On their arrival in New York, McCall put an advertisement in some newspapers for a female photographic assistant ending with the words "a Scotch girl preferred". Among the many replies was one from Jenny Weir, giving an address in the 'Hells Kitchen' area of the City. Along with a New York detective, McCall and his witness went to the address and kept it under observation. After while, a man emerged from the house and the witness positively identified him as Greatrex. He was quickly arrested and extradited to Glasgow. Jenny Weir was not arrested but returned to Glasgow on the advice of Supt. McCall

In May 1867, Greatrex and his accomplices stood trial in Edinburgh High Court. He was sentenced to 20 years penal servitude and his accomplices received 15 years each.

Superintendent McCall had pursued Greatrex relentlessly and displayed all the qualities of the great detective that he was. He went on to become Chief Constable of Glasgow in 1870 and died in office in 1888.

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