Aubrey Dexter

by Mark Hodder

  • An introduction to this popular old character for the benefit of new readers.

Aubrey Dexter is a stylish and mannered British gentleman but also a master cracksman. He is fearless, determined and honourable. His significant others are: Roberts (his valet), Broadway Kate, and Sonia Yoseff.

Aubrey Dexter

From UNION JACK issue 998, (1922):

It is a considerable while since an exploit of that "Raffles" of real life, AUBREY DEXTER, appeared in the pages of the UNION JACK — and for a very excellent reason.

Dexter, drawling of manner, almost a dude in appearance, yet, under his easy-going, almost foppish mask, a man of indomitable will, iron nerve, and reckless bravery, long ago proved himself a master among cracksmen; but, in 1917, owing to the energies of Sexton Blake, his adventurous career received a check. The famous criminal investigator of Baker Street sent him to the Old Bailey, where he received a sentence he completed only some twelve to eighteen months prior to the opening of the story which makes its appearance in the present number.

This was after Dexter had taken part in an audacious gold-mining swindle out in Brazil, a fraud which involved a sensational law-suit in the Chancery Division of the London Law Courts. The appearance of one of the witnesses in this case was considered of such high importance that his life was insured for no less a sum the £20,000, and, for that reason, in Sexton Blake's reference books, the affair is indexed under the heading of the "PROBLEM OF THE £20,000 WITNESS." (See UNION JACK No. 716 — June 30th, 1917.)

Dexter believed that he had the laugh of Sexton Blake because he was on Brazilian soil, and neither Blake nor Detective-Inspector Martin, of Scotland Yard, who was with him, held extradition warrants for him. But, Sexton Blake trumped Dexter's ace when he enticed the prince of cracksmen aboard a British vessel. By law, Dexter was then counted to be on British soil, and before he knew where he was, he found handcuffs clapped upon his wrists.

Aubrey Dexter was the son of respectable, law-abiding parents, who gave him a Public School and University education, so that it was not environment that caused him to go wrong. What then was the cause of his slipping into doings not countenanced by the Law? Probably a passion for excitement out of the usual, which made him find delight in the thrill of stealing into another man's house by the dead of night.

At all events, as has been said above, Dexter long since convinced public and police alike that he was a cracksman second to none. One of his most amazing feats was when he opened a combination safe by means of pressing the rubber sounder of an ordinary doctor's stethoscope against the steel door in the region of the lock, by which means his acute ears could distinguish the sound of the tumblers falling as he twisted at the pointer. When Sexton Blake heard that he had gained a remission in his sentence for good conduct and was again at large, the detective predicted that it would not be long ere he again waged war against respectable society, and that London, and probably the whole civilised world, would soon be startled once more by the impudent daring of his exploits.

Chronology:

1. The Gentleman Crook (UNION JACK issue 549, 1914)
A ruthless millionaire, jealous of his rival's relationship with a beautiful girl, employs Dexter to frame the youth for a bank robbery. Ultimately, Dexter reveals the truth to Sexton Blake.

2. The Case of the Missing Britisher (UNION JACK issue 551, 1914)
Dexter steals an emperor's coronet and flees to America with Sexton Blake on his trail. In Mexico, he saves a Britisher who has been framed for murder but attempts to make money from the situation. Blake recovers the coronet and captures the cracksman but Dexter is set free by the grateful lover of the rescued man.

3. The Sheep Stealers (UNION JACK issue 562, 1914)
The Prince of Saxburg commissions Dexter to steal a valuable art collection from a country mansion. The cracksman organises a spate of sheep stealing in the region to distract the police. Unfortunately, by coincidence, Sexton Blake is holidaying in a nearby village and detects Dexter's hand in the incidents. He foils the cracksman's plans but fails to capture him.

4. The Case of the Blind Baronet (UNION JACK issue 568, 1914)
Aubrey Dexter is hired to ensure that Sexton Blake doesn't find a young man who has been disowned by his rich and blind old uncle. The banished man's cousin wants to ensure that his two relatives are never reunited, as this would deny him the position of sole heir. Dexter fulfils his mission but double-crosses his employer. Blake brings all the villainous schemes to an end and arrests Dexter. The cracksman's valet, Roberts, gets away.

5. The Case of the Secret Explosive (UNION JACK issue 580, 1914)
Dexter escapes from police custody and eventually makes his way to Scotland where he witnesses the testing of a new type of explosive. A German spy tries to gain possession of the formula for the new weapon but Dexter gets in his way. Sexton Blake arrives in time to arrest the spy but can't prevent Dexter from escaping.

6. The Mark of the Maimed Hand (UNION JACK issue 619, 1915)
Aubrey Dexter burgles the house of an explorer named Sir James Alastair. However, he is caught in the act and, in attempting to flee, comes close to murdering Sir James. He tries to pin the attack on an innocent man but Sexton Blake foils this scheme and captures the cracksman. Dexter goes to trial and is sentenced to fifteen years in prison. He vows to kill Blake. This marks a turning point in his career ... he now becomes a far more dangerous villain.

7. Sexton Blake — Special Constable (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series 28, 1917)
When an innocent man named Langton is convicted for embezzlement, he is sent to Bleakmoor prison. A year later, he escapes with Aubrey Dexter. Dexter tracks down the man who framed Langton in the hope that he can lay hands on the stolen money. Sexton Blake intervenes, clears Langton and comes close to recapturing Dexter. The cracksman escapes by the skin of his teeth.

8. The Case of the £20,000 Witness (UNION JACK issue 716, 1917)
Fleeing to Brazil, Dexter falls in with a couple of shady financiers who own a gold mine. They discover the precious metal on a neighbouring mine's land and begin mining it with the intention of swindling their company's investors. When a mine inspector arrives, they have him captured and held prisoner while Aubrey Dexter masquerades as him and covers up their illegal activities. Dexter's irregular behaviour arouses suspicion and Sexton Blake is called in to investigate. He rescues the real mine inspector, proves that the company is digging on its rival's land, and captures all concerned, including Dexter.

9. The Broken Bail (UNION JACK issue 734, 1917)
Blake, Tinker and Detective Inspector Martin are escorting Dexter back to England when their ship is attacked by German marauders. In the chaos, Dexter escapes with a fellow passenger, Clive Munroe. They are captured by the enemy and, while being held captive, Dexter steals a letter and other documents from his unconscious companion. He then escapes and makes his way to the home of Admiral George Challis, who Munroe had been travelling to meet. Challis's daughter elopes with her sweetheart, Dick Ashburton, who was once charged with a crime that Dexter committed and who broke his bail to join the army. Dexter steals bonds from Challis and Ashburton is accused of the theft. Sexton Blake is called in. He proves Ashburton innocent of all crimes and has Dexter sign a full confession in return for a promise that he will join up and fight on the front lines.

10. His Son's Honour (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series 150, 1920)
Although written after the next two issues, this adventure is stated as having occurred nine months earlier. Dexter burgles the strongroom of a shop owned by a miserly millionaire. The man's son is mistakenly blamed for this and it takes Sexton Blake to clear his name. The crime is ultimately correctly attributed to Dexter but he eludes capture and escapes with the loot.

11. The Case Of The International Adventurer (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series 43, 1917)

12. The Island Mystery (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series 69, 1919)
Having survived the knife attack by Broadway Kate, Dexter discovers a journal describing a fabulous treasure and a terrible betrayal. Using this information, he begins to 'haunt' one of the parties involved, hoping to scare him into handing over half of his fortune. Sexton Blake enters the scene and, after being distracted by a couple of red herrings, finally identifies Dexter as the culprit. Setting a trap, he catches the ace cracksman, who is arrested and taken into custody.

13. The Mystery Mandarin (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series 293, 1923)

14. The Great Shipyard Mystery (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series 288, 1931)

15. Dead Man's Bay (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series 358, 1932)

More to come... ...