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  • Ric Brady

Study The Cases: The Real Bob Harper

In these blog posts, I’m taking you through the details of cases in Lady Justice, an Interactive Fiction series you can play on Tales. While the cases in Lady Justice are fictional, they’ve been inspired by real Victorian crimes. Read on to find out more.

Bob Harper. He strikes down men with a sledgehammer. He founded a gang that now controls Manchester’s underworld. And he mysteriously ran away from Victorian Manchester seven years ago…


But now he’s back.


This master criminal is one of the most formidable foes you’ll come up against in Lady Justice. He seems to be behind every crime you investigate, not to mention the riots that rock Deansgate. But when you finally get the chance to question this monstrous man, what will you learn about him?


Links to the Past


Bob Harper in my series, Lady Justice, is fictional. The gang he ‘founded’ is loosely based on the real gangs, or scuttlers, that plagued Victorian Manchester. However, key elements of Bob Harper’s character are based on a real criminal.




Bob Horridge was one of the nastiest pieces of work Detective Caminada ever tracked down. Born to a respectable family on Rochdale Road in Manchester, Bob became an armed burglar who terrorised Manchester for years.


Bob’s father was a blacksmith, and Bob learned the trade from him. Despite his respectable upbringing, Bob was imprisoned twice as a child for theft. Detective Caminada first investigated him for organising a scam where he sent boys into the city to steal packages from couriers.


After serving another prison sentence, Bob set himself up as a successful blacksmith in Manchester. He seemed to be keeping himself out of trouble, but shops and businesses near to his were having their safes stolen. The safes would be found several days later, busted, and empty.


Detective Caminada was set on the case and tracked down Bob. Caminada tried to arrest him, but Bob was a fit, burly blacksmith, who struck down the officers and outran them. The pressure on Caminada to arrest Bob intensified after Bob stole £500,000 (in today’s money) from a mill in Bradford.


Caminada tracked Bob down to another house in Manchester, but again, failed to catch him. Bob escaped by jumping into the River Medlock and swam out of town. However, Bob was finally caught by some officers in the outskirts of Manchester.




Another stretch in prison didn’t deter Bob Horridge from committing more crime. As soon as he was released, he broke into a shoe shop during which he opened fire on a police officer. He wounded one in the neck and struck another in the chest.


Caminada was ordered to start a manhunt. He quickly learned Bob Horridge was in Liverpool and searched the city in disguise, as he’d heard Bob was planning to shoot him. Caminada walked past Bob in the street. Unable to identify Caminada, Bob carried on walking, giving Caminada the chance to arrest him.


Bob was sentenced to penal servitude for life and never left prison. Caminada concluded on their joint history by saying: “As I see it, there are two interesting points about this case. The first is that he was not driven to crime by poverty or deprivation, for his father was a hard-working and reasonably prosperous blacksmith. The second is that two long stretches of penal servitude seem to have had no effect on him. […] The problem with Robert Horridge was that he was an intelligent man who refused to learn from his mistakes.”*


The inspiration behind Bob Harper, who you face off against in Lady Justice, seems a worthy challenge for Manchester’s first female detective.


You can play Lady Justice on Tales and explore Victorian Manchester. If you want more details on my historical crime fiction, you can sign up to my monthly newsletter. When you do, you instantly receive an exclusive Lady Justice Game Manual for free.


* Jerome Caminada, 1996, Caminada the Crime Buster, London, The True Crime Library.

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