Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Blackest of Black Sheep

The Uncommon Criminal: 
The Extraordinary Life of 
Edwin Turner Osbaldeston

by Noel G. Siver & Kenson J. Siver

Edwin Turner Osbaldeston
(ETO), cut a swath of criminal destruction through Europe, Australia, New Zealand and in the USA. Great-grandchildren Noël and Kenson Siver tell a vivid story of their great-grandfather. Not having to rely solely on family word-of-mouth stories passed down from older relatives, the writers were fortunate to be able to access a wealth of personal letters, diaries, and photographs about ETO’s life that the family had miraculously preserved. Pairing their extensive family material with exhaustive research of newspapers, census records, and court transcripts adds depth and dimension to the story of ETO that few family tales can achieve.

While many families, including mine, can count a ‘black sheep’ or two in their gene pool, it is the sheer volume, variety and violence of ETO’s crimes that put him in a class by himself. It seems that during every waking moment he was imagining, implementing or escaping from some nefarious act. He approached criminality with a fervor that implied he enjoyed thumbing his nose at society and could not imagine living life as an honest, law-abiding citizen.  

ETO was a real-life depiction of Robert Louis Stevenson’s fictional character, “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde”. As Dr. Jekyll, he charmed everyone he met with his genuine
intelligence, dapper appearance and personality. These traits were merely misdirections masking his false credentials, fabricated exploits, phony medals, and fraudulent boasts. People met the engaging Dr. Jekyll but to their dismay discovered, too late, it was none other than Mr. Hyde, who took their property, and on more than one occasion took their lives.

No one was safe from the treacherous ETO. He variously explained his first wife Ann’s mysterious disappearance while in Australia by saying, “…she was captured and killed by cannibalsand by telling others, “the kangaroos got her.”   

He would go on to marry again and father children by his second wife and a mistress. However, in a pattern of
ETO the Senior Citizen
incredible luck that followed him for his entire life he usually avoided paying the penalty for his illicit behavior. With shocking boldness and determination, he escaped  from jail, not once, not twice, but three times. He could talk his way out of situations that would have stymied a lesser con artist. ETO even managed to convince a British judge that a man of his stature would never stoop to shoplifting. If there was a constant theme to ETO’s life it was that the rules of civilized society did not apply to him.

Some people mellow in their ‘golden years’. But not ETO. It seems that as long as there was breath in his body there was larceny and deception in his heart. Attempting to categorize and understand their nefarious relative, the authors theorize about his pyromania, kleptomania, narcissism, and pathological lying. They seek explanations for his scandalous and corrupt behavior in his childhood. Maybe the simple answer is that he was born to be bad. The story of ETO’s outrageous life makes for good reading, 


1 Uncommon Criminal: The Extraordinary Life of Edwin Turner Osbaldeston, Sivers (53)