A list of Famous Outlaws who committed numerous crimes and went on the run from the law.
Billy The Kid (1859 – 1881) It is said that Henry McCarty who took the nickname ‘Billy the Kid’ killed 21 people, for each year of his life. This included his first killing at the age of 12. He was convicted of four murders, including two officers of the law. He was tried and convicted in April 1881, but escaped before his execution – shooting two officers in the process. He went on the run for two months before being shot by Sheriff Pat Garret on 14 July 1881. Billy the Kid is seen as emblematic of the notorious American Old West and that era of lawlessness.
Butch Cassidy (1866 – 1908). Butch Cassidy led a notorious criminal career. He started out with petty crimes before progressing to major bank robberies. He created a criminal gang known as the Wild Bunch which included including Kid Curry and Harry Longabaugh a.k.a. the “Sundance Kid” They became famous for the huge sums they managed to steal over $200,000. In 1901, Cassidy and Longabaugh fled to Argentina to escape law enforcement agencies. They were discovered in 1908, and were killed in a shoot out with soldiers and law enforcement officers.
Robin Hood (13th Century) A famous legend of an outlaw who – “stole from the rich and gave to the poor” – fighting the Sheriff of Nottingham and fighting back against the unjust ruler of usurper Prince John. The legends say Robin Hood created a ‘band of men’ who worked together in Sherwood Forest to evade capture and plan raids on the rich and powerful. Difficult to know how much is a legend and how much is true but some stories may be based on factual events and outlaws who lived outside the law in the 13th and 14th century.
Sam Bass (1851 – 1878) – Bass was an Old West robber and outlaw who pulled off major robberies and heist. After squandering his wealth on gambling he took to crime and began holding up stagecoaches and later trains. He was part of a gang which stole $60,000 ($1.4 million) from a train on the Union Pacific Railroad. It was the first large scale train robbery in America. Buoyed by his success, he grew greedy for more and continued to hold up stagecoaches and trains, but this led to the Texas Rangers beginning a manhunt for Bass and his gang. He was eventually caught and died from gunshot wounds.
Thomas Dun (12th Century) – An outlaw in Bedfordshire and Yorkshire around 12th Century. Dun was notorious for launching highway robberies and terrorising people on the road. He was particularly active on the Great North Road and was said to be a master of disguise. He escaped justice for 20 years, in part because of sympathies of the local peasants who Dun was generous to.
Henry Plummer (1832-1864). Henry Plummer was a prospector, lawman and in 1863 he became a sheriff in Montana and helped to clean up crime in the area. He cleared up all crime except a notorious highway robbery gang called the “Innocents” who Henry Plummer was the secret leader of. Eventually caught, Henry was sent to the gallows.
Juro Janosik (1690-1713) – Described as the Slovak Robin Hood. He served in the Hapsburg army before deserting and becoming the leader of a bandit gang who stole from Hapsburg officials distributing some to local peasants. His life as a criminal was expanded as he became mythologised to represent a symbol of resistance to oppression
Jesse James (1847-1882) On the outbreak of civil war, Jesse James joined a confederate guerrilla army which terrorised the north. He was accused of atrocities against Union soldiers and abolitionist campaigners. After the war, Jesse James led a gang of outlaws which robbed banks, trains and stagecoaches. Despite the violence of their crimes, he became a public celebrity and a high price was put on his head. He was shot by a fellow gang member Robert Ford seeking the high price on Jesse James’ head.
Bonnie and Clyde – Bonnie Parker (1910 – May 23, 1934) and Clyde Barrow (1909 – May 23, 1934) – A pair of lovers who became famous in depression hit America as they travelled through America holding up banks and being involved in many crimes. They robbed numerous small stores and gas stations and they were believed to have killed 13 people including several police officers. Their exploits were covered in the national press and it led to a major manhunt. They were killed in a shoot-out with police in May 1934 in Louisiana.
Dick Turpin (1705 – 1739). Famous English highwayman. He was a poacher, burglar and horse thief and later took to being a highwayman on the London to York road. In 1735, some of his gang members were arrested, so Dick Turpin went into hiding and assumed a pseudonym John Palmer. However, his lavish lifestyle raised suspicions and he was arrested in York on suspicion of horse theft. He was executed on 7 April 1739 in York. His life was later romanticised in a novel by William Harrison Ainsworth 100 years after his death, the novel depicted Dick Turpin making a 200 mile overnight ride on his horse, Black Bess.
Al Capone (1899-1947) American gangster who rose to fame during the prohibition era. He was an uncompromising boss of the Chicago Outfit – behind the St Valentine’s Day Massacre. Eventually convicted of income tax evasion. Capone is an iconic representative of the mafia mobster and the dark side of the ‘Roaring Twenties’.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Outlaws”, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net Published 22 April 2020.
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