Robbery at Gwinn

”On February 23, 1950, a gang of robbers invaded Gwinn,  the Mather home at 12407 Lake Shore Boulevard, and carted off with jewelry valued at $175,000.

At least three men stood watch outside the house while their companions crept into the house and upstairs bedrooms. Mrs. Mather awoke to see them and screamed, at which point one man slugged her on the head.

One robber rushed to Mr. Mather’s bedroom door and, flashing his flashlight into the room, ordered the 72-year-old male nurse into Mrs. Mather’s bedroom. The gunman then demanded the wall-safe combination, and Mrs. Mather told it to them. She repeated the number twice before two of the robbers succeeded in opening the vault.

After the thieves took the jewelry from the safe and a dressing table’s drawers in another room, they bound Mrs. Mather and the nurse and left the house. The sounds did not awake the other servants asleep on the third floor.

Mrs. Mather did not tell her husband of the robbery because of his health. He went to his office, returning in midafternoon.

The robbery, executed with perfect precision, by at least seven hooded and gloved burglars, was similar to several recent burglaries in the east. The nurse sitting in William Mather’s bedroom said the robbers entered the house through a servants’ entrance. One of the gang spoke with a foreign accent.

Bratenahl Police Chief William L’Estrange was impressed by the apparent familiarity with which the gunman moved about the Mather estate, indicating thorough preparation.

Because the robbers revealed good knowledge of jewelry while looting a bedroom and dressing table of the rings, necklaces, and other articles, detectives believed they were experience jewel thieves. Several items, including watches and brooches without gems, were left behind. One robber remarked, “We don’t want that; it’s junk.” They also took about $100 in cash from the dressing table.

The burglars had thoroughly disguised themselves. They wore socks over their shoes and gloves on their hands, indicating experienced thieves. All the robbers were armed with pistols, and one had a submachine gun. Chief L’Estrange said the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent men to the Mather home because of the machine gun. The FBI hadn’t entered the case but were keeping in close touch with developments.

Chief L’Estrange called in the Cleveland Police superintendent of the police identification bureau. He went over the Mather house and was unable to find anything that could be considered a clue. He said that $175,000 was a reasonable estimate of the missing jewelry. Still, the police could not determine an accurate valuation until the family could make a detailed list of uninsured items.

Because the thieves carried out the raid with precision, Chief William L’Estrange believed it to be the work of an out-of-town gang, possibly from New York. He speculated that they might have been furnished with a home layout by a person who had worked there as a domestic.

Chief L’Estrange said he had learned that the Mathers hired their servants through a New York agency in recent years. Some had left the Mather household, and the police checked their whereabouts. Police questioned a long list of former employees and reviewed a list of suspects but could not trace either the gunman or the jewels.

Several months later, Mrs. Mather received a letter from New York offering to return her jewels upon payment of $50,000. Postal authorities set a trap for the writer but failed to apprehend the letter writer.

Police believed that the robbers attempted to sell the jewels back to Mrs. Mather because they found them “too hot” to peddle. It was not known if the robbers were ever caught.