The Idols Eye

I had a story published in The Best New True Crime Stories – Well-Mannered, Crooks, Rogues & Criminals, edited by Mitzi Szereto and published by Mango Publishing. I’ve shared a link to the book below, under which I have the shared the introduction to my story, The Monk, The Brain, and the Marlborough Diamond.

“In the winter of 2018 just as the world was settling into the new year, Gary Jenkins, a good friend of mine who is also a former Kansas City, Missouri police intelligence officer with thirty years of service, asked me if I would take part in a true crime podcast about a London robbery. My role was that of a fictitious prisoner in an English prison located on the Isle of Wight (HMP Parkhurst). I was to be serving time with two “made men” of the Italian American Mafia, portraying the only fictitious character in the podcast. The story grabbed my attention. I immediately wanted to know more about the events that had taken place in London. I had unanswered questions. Who instructed them, and why would two men from America, made men in the Mafia, fly all the way to England to commit such an audacious robbery?” The Monk, The Brain, and the Marlborough Diamond in The Best New True Crime Stories – Well-Mannered, Crooks, Rogues & Criminals.

It was while researching about the robbery at Graff’s in September 1980 where I stumbled upon, not literally, another famous diamond, the Idols Eye. It was a mysterious diamond.

Mysterious because, although the diamond dates to the 1600s, the first known recording of the Idols Eye was in 1865, at Christies auction house in London.

On July 14, 1865, under the direction of the will and by order of the executors of the estate of Edward Strutt Hallum Esq of Southampton (who died June 15, 1865), an auction took place at Christies Great Rooms, King Street, St James Square, London. Included in the auction was a diamond known as the Idol’s Eye. The winning bid for lot eighty-seven, the Idol’s Eye, came from a gentleman with the name Benjamin Benjamin who paid £740.

Little was known about Edward or how he came to be in possession of the Idol’s Eye. It is debated as to how the Idol’s Eye arrived in England, and when.

Edward Strutt Hallum, had previously served in India, for the East India Company in the Bombay Army. He had joined as a cadet in 1817, promoted to lieutenant on May 2, 1818, and promoted again on September 8, 1826, to captain. On March 22, 1840, Edward was part of a reinforcement force sent to Aden. On October 28, 1841, he was once again promoted, this time to major. He was then sent to Dapoolee to command the Native Veteran Battalion made up of men no longer fit for frontline action. Edward was ‘invalided’ on February 25, 1842.

Edward then set up home in Southampton. He saw out his days as a collector and dealer of diamonds, gems, and antiques from his premises, 8 Brunswick Place.

8 Brunswick Place

I did think that Edward brought the diamond back following his time in India. However, a story does exist that incorrectly identifies the journey of the Agra diamond to England. In a story told to Edwin Streeter in 1896, Lord Donegall (George Chichester the 5th Marquess of Donegall) described how a young officer within the same regiment, 11th Hussars Cavalry Regiment, gained possession of a diamond which he had taken from Bahadur Shah II during the Siege of Delhi in, 1857, the same year as the Indian Mutiny.

At dinner one evening, whilst discussing how to smuggle the diamond back an officer stood up and said “I have it. We will conceal the diamond in a horse ball and make the horse swallow it.” However, at the departure port the horse became sick. The horse was shot, and the diamond removed from its stomach and the diamond made its way to London.

I then decided it wasn’t Edward who brought the diamond back, so carried on digging and found out that, in Stoke Newington, London, on June 25, 1839, Edward married Caroline Massey.

Caroline’s father, Benjamin Massey, was a goldsmith, silversmith and jeweller based at 116 Leadenhall Street, London, in what was known as the East India Warehouses. In 1891, work was completed on the Lloyds Bank which has occupied the site to this day.

In 1822, Benjamin Massey took on an apprentice, Frederick Scott Archer, who became a famous photographer and Sculptor. Frederick’s brother was George Archer.

What I found out about George was, he was born in Hertford, Hertfordshire in 1807, and had died April 30, 1871, in Warneford hospital, Leamington Spa.

On April 27, 1836, George married Elizabeth Jones (who was born in West Bengal, India) in Utter Pradesh, Meerut, India. George was also the recipient of a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his part in the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Battle of Balaklava, on October 25, 1854. George served as an officer in the 11th Hussars Cavalry Regiment.

Now, I’m not suggesting George was the officer being spoken about by Lord Donegall to Edwin Streeter, but it would make sense as to how the Idols Eye ended up in the possession of Edward Strutt Hallum.

I’m still trying to find out more, especially about Benjamin Benjamin. There are a few in the frame.

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