Head and shoulders of bearded man
Official photograph, c. 1890
Wikimedia Commons

Jerome Caminada (1844 – March 1914) was a 19th-century police detective in Manchester, England. He served with the police between 1868 and 1899, and has been called Manchester’s Sherlock Holmes.[1] In 1897 Caminada became the city’s first CID superintendent. His most famous case was the Manchester Cab Murder of 1889, in which he discovered and brought the initially unknown perpetrator to trial and conviction only three weeks after the murder.[2]

Following Caminada’s retirement from the police force in 1899, he became a private detective, an estate agent, and served as a Manchester city councillor for Openshaw between 1907 and 1910.

Early life

Jerome Caminada was born in Deansgate, Manchester in 1844, to Francis Caminada from Italy and his Irish wife Mary. The main thoroughfare of Deansgate was a business area full of warehouses and mills, but its side streets consisted mostly of public houses, gin palaces, brothels, and inner-city slums. Crime was rife, and the district was considered to be one of the most dangerous in the city.[3] As Caminada wrote in his memoirs, “Few cities in the world have within them so many thieves as Manchester”.[4]

The young Caminada attended the local St Mary’s Roman Catholic School, and the family worshipped at the nearby St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, known as the Hidden Gem. After leaving school Jerome spent six years in the Royal Lancashire Militia, and by the 1860s he was employed by Mather and Platt at their Salford Ironworks. The hardship of work in the foundry may have been a factor in his decision to join the Manchester City Police Force in February 1868, at the age of 23.[3]

Police career

In 1872 Caminada was promoted to sergeant, and transferred to the newly formed detectives division based in Manchester Town Hall. During the course of his thirty-year career he earned the respect of colleagues, judges and criminals alike; he was often known as Detective Jerome to the local criminals, who struggled with pronouncing his last name.

In 1888 Caminada’s national reputation for policing – he was reportedly responsible for the imprisonment of 1225 criminals and for the closure of 400 public houses[5] – earned him promotion to inspector. Threats on his life were commonplace; he often carried a Colt Lightning revolver, and had cause to use it on more than one occasion.

Caminada’s policing style was eccentric by modern standards, and often involved dressing in disguise to gather evidence on suspects. He maintained a large network of informers, whom he would often meet on the back pew of St Mary’s Church, known as the Hidden Gem. But his methods were effective, and he was soon made Detective Superintendent.

Later life

Caminada retired from the police force in 1899, and became a private detective, an estate agent, and a Manchester city councillor for Openshaw between 1907 and 1910. He died in 1914 at his home in Moss Side at the age of 70, as a result of injuries he had received in a bus accident in North Wales the previous year. He is buried in Manchester’s Southern Cemetery.[6]

Angela Buckley, a British historian and trustee of the Society of Genealogists, claims that the Victorian-era detective who featured in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels was based on Jerome Caminada’s life. “Caminada became a national figure at just the time that Sherlock Holmes was being created. There are so many parallels that it is clear Doyle was using parts of this real character for his”, Buckley was quoted by the Telegraph as saying. Caminada rose to prominence shortly before Conan Doyle’s debut Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet; Caminada’s death in 1914 coincided with the publication of the last of the four novels, The Valley of Fear.