Gentleman thief

A gentleman thief, gentleman burglar, lady thief, or phantom thief (Japanese: 怪盗, Hepburn: kaitō) is a stock character in fiction. A gentleman or lady thief usually has inherited wealth and is characterised by impeccable manners, charm, courteousness, and the avoidance of physical force or intimidation to steal. As such, they steal not only to gain material wealth but also for the thrill of the act itself, which is often combined in fiction with correcting a moral wrong, selecting wealthy targets, or stealing only particular rare or challenging objects.

In fiction

In fiction, the phantom thief is typically superb at stealing while maintaining a gentleman's manners and code of honour. For example, Robin Hood is a former earl or yeoman who steals from the rich to give to the poor; A. J. Raffles steals only from other gentlemen (and occasionally gives the object away to a good cause); Arsène Lupin steals from the rich who do not appreciate their art or treasures and redistributes it; 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 steal from other thieves and criminals.

Gentlemen/lady thieves

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

Phantom thieves

"Phantom thief" (「怪盗」, "kaitō") is the term for the gentleman/lady thief in Japanese media such as anime and manga. It draws inspiration from Arsène Lupin and elements in other crime fictions and detective fictions.

Notable phantom thieves in Japanese popular culture include the following:

In real life

  • 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.[6] Considered a gentlemanly bandit with a reputation for style and sophistication,[6] he was one of the most notorious stagecoach robbers to operate in and around Northern California and southern Oregon during the 1870s and 1880s.
  • 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. A flight attendant described him as calm, polite, and well-spoken, not at all consistent with the stereotypes (enraged, hardened criminals or "take-me-to-Cuba" political dissidents) popularly associated with air piracy at the time. Another flight attendant agreed: "He wasn't nervous," she told investigators. "He seemed rather nice. He was never cruel or nasty. He was thoughtful and calm all the time."[7] He ordered a bourbon and water, paid his drink tab (and attempted to give a flight attendant the change),[7] and offered to request meals for the flight crew during the stop in Seattle.[8]
  • Christophe Rocancourt is a modern-day, real-life example of the gentleman thief.
  • William Francis "Willie" Sutton Jr., a gentleman bank robber of the 1920s who never harmed a person during his robberies and carried only unloaded weapons during the heists.
  • Vjeran Tomic, an art thief from France involved in the 2010 heist of the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, taking paintings worth about $110 million, and various other heists of wealthy painting owners in Paris.[9]
  • Janoš Vujčić, a Serbian "gypsy" thief from Yugoslavia who stole Picasso's painting, worth 80 million Swiss francs.

See also


  1. Bleiler, Richard. "Raffles: The Gentleman Thief". Strand Magazine. United States. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  2. Bertetti, Paolo (Winter 2013–14), "Uomini meccanici e matrimoni interplanetari: La straordinarissima avventura del cinema muto italiano di fantascienza", Anarres, 2, retrieved 21 November 2016
  3. Denby, David (28 October 2009). "An Education". The New Yorker.
  4. "Lupin the". Lupin the Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  5. "'Mysterious Joker' Manga Getting Anime Adaptation". The Fandom Post. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  6. Hoeper, George (1 June 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 25 July 2011.
  7. Gray, Geoffrey (21 October 2007). "Unmasking D.B. Cooper". New York. ISSN 0028-7369. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  8. Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, p. 22.
  9. Halpern, Jake (14 January 2019). "The French Burglar Who Pulled Off His Generation's Biggest Art Heist". Retrieved 9 January 2019.
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