Gentleman thief

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A gentleman thief, lady thief, or phantom thief (Japanese: 怪盗 Hepburn: Kaitō?) in the East, is a particularly well-behaved and apparently well-bred thief. A "gentleman or lady" is usually, but not always, a person with an inherited title of nobility and inherited wealth, who need not work for a living. Such a person steals not to gain material wealth, but for adventure; they act without malice. These thieves rarely bother with anonymity or force, preferring to rely on their charisma, physical attractiveness, and clever misdirection to steal the most unobtainable objects—sometimes for their own support, but mostly for the thrill of the act itself.

In popular culture[edit]

Raffles, the gentleman thief, as portrayed by David Niven.

In fictional works, the phantom thief is typically superb at stealing while maintaining a sophisticated front and/or a thief's code of honor: Raffles steals mostly when he is especially in need of money; Lupin steals more from the rich who do not appreciate art or their treasures and redistributes it (like a modern Robin Hood); Saint Tail steals back what was stolen or taken dishonestly, or rights the wrongs done to the innocent by implicating the real criminals. Sly Cooper and his gang steals from other thieves and criminals, as it is their honorable code.

Western gentlemen/lady thieves[edit]

Notable gentlemen thieves and lady thieves in Western popular culture include the following:

Eastern gentlemen/lady thieves[edit]

Kaitō (怪盗, "phantom thief") is a Japanese variant of the gentleman thief subgenre in anime and manga, which draws inspiration from Arsène Lupin and elements in other crime fictions and detective fictions.

Notable phantom thieves in eastern popular culture include the following:

In real life[edit]

  • Charles Earl Bowles (b. 1829; d.after 1888), known as Black Bart, was an English-born outlaw noted for the poetic messages he left behind after two of his robberies.[4] Considered a gentleman bandit with a reputation for style and sophistication,[4] he was one of the most notorious stagecoach robbers to operate in and around Northern California and southern Oregon during the 1870s and 1880s.
  • Christophe Rocancourt is a modern-day, real-life example of the gentleman thief.
  • D. B. Cooper, the only unidentified hijacker in American aviation history, who, in 1971, extorted $200,000 from an airline before parachuting out of a plane during the cover of night. Said to be polite and well spoken.
  • Janoš Vujčić, a gypsy thief from Yugoslavia who stole Picasso's painting worth 80 million Swiss franc.
  • Apollo Robbins, American sleight-of-hand artist, security consultant and deception specialist. Self-proclaimed gentleman thief.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bleiler, Richard. "Raffles: The Gentleman Thief". Strand Magazine. United States. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Denby, David (2009-10-28). "An Education". The New Yorker. 
  3. ^ "Lupin the". Lupin the Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  4. ^ a b Hoeper, George (June 1, 1995). Black Bart: Boulevardier Bandit: The Saga of California's Most Mysterious Stagecoach Robber and the Men Who Sought to Capture Him. Quill Driver Books. ISBN 978-1-884995-05-7. Retrieved July 25, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Biography - Apollo Robbins - The Gentleman Thief". Retrieved 2014-02-22. 

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