Topic: Robert Herman Wallath "The Highwayman"

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The Highwayman

Robert Wallath, born in 1874 at sea off the Cape of Good Hope, son of Hermann and Catherine Wallath, emigrants to New Plymouth from Germany, was one of New Plymouth most famous villans. From a respectable family, whose family farmed in New Plymouth,  he went off the rails in his late teens,  and lived a double life of criminal and honest citizen. 

His escapades were fuelled by the stories of English renegade, Dick Turpin.  He doned a mask,  wore  militarty uniform and wore a long sword at his side which completed his disguise.  He was dubbed "The Highwayman" His exploits continued for 15 months, during which time he commited numerous burglaries and robberies, all the while his identity was mystery.  It is said he returned to establishments he had robbed and mixed with the patrons.  Women were  said to have "suffered the vapours" at the mere thought of him roaming the streets, ironically he is reported to have  escorted fearful women through the streets, protecting them from the villan at large.  His criminal exploits came to national attention and there was increasing pressure on officials to find the perpetrator.

Finaly he was captured in a bungled robbery of The Criterion Hotel, in 1893.  New Plymouth folk were shocked to see that the culprit was one known to them all.   He was arrested but made one last rebellious act and escaped from the gaol before his trial, but was captured.  He was tried and spent 4 1/2 years in jail, less that his original sentence of 8, as he had won the support and sympathy of the public.  It was concluded that his offending was due to "brain fever", "epileptic fits" and a "desire for notoriety".   When he was released, he returned to his respectable life, leaving all traces of his other life behind him.


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Robert Herman Wallath "The Highwayman"

Last Name:Wallath
Place of Birth:At Sea, off the Cape of Good Hope