William Bremner’s cunningly inventive mind, audacity and rubber-like limbs made him a prince among Kirriemuir’s thieves.
He drained the wine cellars of grand houses, emptied their larders and plundered warehouses, all without breaking a lock.
The crimes baffled police across Angus, Perthshire and Dundee and alarmed the owners of large properties and country houses.
Perhaps Bremner’s greatest feat of daring was his escape from Dundee prison in August 1892 after he was eventually sentenced for theft.
Bremner had trained as a blacksmith and cartwright and showed an ingenuity which might have brought him fame had he turned his talents in an honest direction.
Such was his skill that warders called on him to carry our repairs and alterations. This gave him a valuable understanding of the prison layout.
At 7pm on a Sunday evening, Bremner was locked in his cell. By 6am on the Monday, he was gone.
It seems he had made a tool to allow him to remove the inspection eye slide on the outside of the cell door. He then managed to remove the eye, stretch his arm through the aperture and pick the door lock.
He then picked the lock of a prison section door and an attic door and broke into the joiners’ workshop.
From there Bremner got out of a skylight, carried an 18-foot scaffolding plank 20 yards, placed it against a boundary wall, ascended and dropped down the other side.
Bremner was wearing only underpants when he escaped and there were reports he fled Dundee dressed as a woman.
He was on the run for five weeks before caught stealing a horse in Inverness and jailed.
Life could have been so different had he not taken a wrong turn in early life. He was born in Kirriemuir in 1858 and founded a business in Dundee.
He sold it to fund emigration to America but instead spent the proceeds on a two-month drinking spree during which time he fell into bad company.
It was then the break-ins began. It appears Bremner made skeleton keys which he used to enter and leave premises at will. His favourite targets were shoe shops and mansions.