History Feature

“Cammi” by Paul Miller


‘Cammi’ Grizzard was for years, an underworld king and a notorious ‘fence’. His speciality was organising jewel robberies which cost insurance companies thousands. In 1913, he almost cost Lloyd’s of London £135,000. In 2021, that would be over £11.5 million.


Grizzard had set his eyes on a necklace of 61 perfectly matched rose-coloured pearls, formerly part of the Portuguese Crown Jewels and considered the finest string in the world. The owner, Max Meyer of Hatton Garden insured it with Lloyd’s for £135,000. He hoped to sell it for at least £150,000 and had sent it to an agent in Paris, Henri Soloman. Suddenly hearing of a possible client in London he asked for the return of his necklace. Soloman packed it in a wooden box, sealed with Mayer’s initials and sent it by registered post. The package arrived in Hatton Garden. Instead of the necklace, it contained 11 lumps of sugar wrapped in a French newspaper. The box had been opened, re-sealed with a different wax and Mayer’s initials forged. 


Chief Inspector Ward of Scotland Yard was called in and soon cleared the French postal authorities and both Mayer and Soloman of any complicity. The hunt was on to fill the vital 16 hours from the posting of the registered package in Paris and its arrival, minus the necklace in London’s Hatton Garden. The Lloyd’s underwriters faced with a claim of £135,000 contacted their assessors who circulated a full description of the stolen property and offered a reward of £10,000 for information. It soon attracted two diamond brokers in Antwerp, cousins named Quadratstein and Brandstratter, who had heard from a certain Gutwirth that he was looking for a client for the missing necklace. They pretended to be interested but soon put the assessors on the alert. Ward guessed that only a receiver of Grizzard’s class would dare such a coup. A ‘tail’ was put on his movements, with no result. Meanwhile, the two cousins kept in touch with Gutwirth and finally introduced him to a client, who was in fact, a French dealer named Spanier, briefed by the insurance assessors to play his dangerous role. After much cloak-and-dagger activity and when Mr. Grizzard realised he was being watched, a meeting was arranged with Spanier at the First Avenue Hotel in High Holborn. 


‘Cammi’ produced three of the pearls, which he offered for a million francs. He then put a loaded revolver on the table. Spanier offered him 100,000 francs in French bank notes, marked in advance by the assessors. He was given two pearls in exchange. Mayer soon identified them as part of his necklace. Grizzard was now a marked-man but was difficult to catch. He was finally trapped when in an attempt to sell the remaining pearls, he arranged a meeting at the British Museum. A squad of detectives was waiting to arrest him and two of his gang. Grizzard’s house was searched but the pearls were not found. 


One morning the following week, a piano-tuner picked up a matchbox in a gutter in Highbury. It contained some coloured ‘marbles’ as he thought. They were confirmed as imitation pearls at the local police station. Luckily, they were sent to Scotland Yard’s Lost Property Office. There, a sharper eyed detective examined them. They were soon established as all but two of the pearls from Mayer’s necklace. It seemed that the wife of one of Grizzard’s accomplices had either thrown them away in panic when he was arrested, or had arranged to sell them and was spooked when a constable passed.


In the dock at the Old Bailey, with Cammi and his two accomplices was another man named Silverman. He had an office close to Mayer’s in Hatton Garden. A diamond broker, he had arranged for his post to be delivered to him personally. Through careful planning, masterminded by Grizzard, he had extracted the package from Paris and substituted the worthless one, already sealed and stamped with Mayer’s initials.


Cammi and his gang were found guilty in court and given heavy sentences. The Lutine Bell rang at Lloyd’s to celebrate the return of the missing pearls.

History Feature

July 7th 2022

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