5 Real-Life Famous Detectives Who Unraveled Historically Important Cases

Check out these real-life detectives who have used modern investigative techniques to solve historical complex cases and unmask the criminals.

6 years ago
5 Real-Life Famous Detectives Who Unraveled Historically Important Cases

We’ve always loved immersing ourselves in intriguing and mystery-filled detective fiction. Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade, and C. Auguste Dupin are some of our top-favorite fictional detectives of all time. But how about the real-life famous detectives? 

As a common adage says “truth is stranger than fiction”, the gumshoes in real life have achieved impressive feats and have had a great impact on history. They have unraveled baffling mysteries, solved intricate cases, and unmasked serial killers with their unparalleled shrewdness and larger-than-life personalities. 

Check out these detectives who amazed the masses and were involved in some of the most historically significant high-profile cases of their times.

1. John P. St. John (“Jigsaw” John)

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John Pierce St. John, or “Jigsaw John”, was a Los Angeles Police Department Homicide detective and a police officer well-known for investigating numerous high-profile cases of LA. In his 51 years of career, he reportedly closed two-thirds of over 1000 homicide cases.

John was popular in RHD (Robbery-Homicide Division) for his brilliant memory and unrelenting persistence to solve murder cases and obtain a conviction. John’s distinguishing track record earned him LAPD Detective Badge No. 1. 

Moreover, his cases influenced Los Angeles Times writer Al Martinez to write a book on him named “Jigsaw John”. Starring veteran character actor Jack Warden, the book also became an eponymous NBC TV series in 1976.

2. Raymond C. Schindler

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Raymond C. Schindler began working alongside San Francisco Police Department. Schindler eventually met Secret Service agent William J. Burns and became his protege while in San Francisco. By the 1910s, Schindler headed the New York–based Schindler National Detective Agency (or Schindler Bureau of Investigation). Schindler became a renowned investigator and held the status of being the country’s leading private detective for more than 50 years.

Much of his success and fame was because of the modern and latest technologies used by him including dictograph. Schindler even had exclusive rights to the dictograph used by him in several cases. In 1952, a TV drama ‘Case One’ was also made on him that starred the much-celebrated actor Rod Steiger.

3. William E. Fairbairn (“Dangerous Dan”)

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After serving British Royal Marines, William E. Fairbairn immigrated to Shanghai and soon joined the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP). He realized that working in Shanghai as a plainclothes detective was similar to serving in a war zone. Been involved in 600 combats against Shanghainese criminals, Fairbairn headed SMP from 1927-40 and organized one of the world’s first SWAT teams. 

He also developed a close-quarters combat fighting system Defendu. This fighting system trained officers about blocking and parrying knife thrusts and other potentially deadly attacks. At the time of WWII, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service hired him and trained British commandos in the manner of Defendu. Moreover, he developed a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife with Eric Sykes. 

Nicknamed as “Dangerous Dan”, Fairbairn has also known to be a supposed inspiration for the character of Q in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.

4. Ignatius Paul Pollaky (“Paddington” Pollaky)

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Hungary-born Ignatius Paul Pollaky, also known as "Paddington" Pollaky, born in Hungary, was one of the first and best-known professional private detectives of Britain. Pollaky also worked with London's Metropolitan Police and initiated alien registration in Britain.

5. Jerome Caminada (“Manchester’s Sherlock Holmes” or “Garibaldi of Detectives”)

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Also called Manchester’s Sherlock Holmes, Jerome Caminada was a 19th-century police officer and detective in Manchester, England. Serving in the police during 1868-1899, he earned a national reputation for policing in 1888. He was reportedly responsible for putting about 1225 criminals behind the bars and closing 400 public houses. 

In 1897, Caminada became Manchester’s first-ever CID superintendent. Caminada’s most famous case was the 1889 Manchester Cab Murder wherein he unmasked the initially unknown perpetrator and brought him to trial and conviction just 3 weeks after the murder.

A British historian and trustee of the Society of Genealogists Angela Buckley claims that the Victorian-era detective who featured in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels was based on Caminada's life. Buckley reported to Telegraph, “Caminada became a national figure at just the time that fictional detective Sherlock Holmes was being created. There are so many parallels that it is clear Doyle was using parts of this real character for his.”


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