4th November 1972

The death of Gentleman Johnny

Johnny Ramensky spent most of his life in prison on a variety of charges. However, during that time he developed a reputation for politeness and good behaviour that earned him the nickname Gentleman Johnny.

Born in North Lanarkshire in 1906, he developed a skill for breaking into business premises and cracking safes. This came in handy during the Second World War when he enlisted with the Commandos and was tasked with breaking into safes located behind enemy lines.

Escape attempts

As well as breaking into safes, he developed a reputation for breaking out of prison, having succeeded in doing so several times. The front-page headline of the Aberdeen Evening Express on 31 January 1958 announced “Ramensky on run – daring prison break”, and labelled him “Scotland’s No 1 crime personality”. “The 52-year-old master safe-blower and wartime Commando hero broke out from Peterhead Prison to-day – his third bid for freedom from the grim fastness of the North.”

One of his escapes resulted in a period of solitary confinement following his recapture. It was during this period that he became the last person to be shackled to the wall in a Scottish prison.

He died while in custody, at Perth Royal Infirmary, aged 67. He had suffered a stroke while serving a 12-month sentence for breaking into a shop. According to a post by the National Records of Scotland, “from his first incarceration in 1921 until his death, he was sentenced to almost 60 years imprisonment, spending over 45 years behind bars, [which was] most of his adult life”.



Other events that occured in November

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