Sophie Lyons’ Adventures in Stockholm

Sneak thief, con man and husband of Sophie Lyons, Billy Burke pulled a bank heist in Sweden during the summer of 1911. He got caught while attempting to grab a stack of kronor off a bank counter, employing his favorite technique of pincers on the bottom of his walking stick. This led to his conviction for grand larceny and landed him in Långholmen Central Prison.

Billy Burke’s 1911 arrest photo taken in Stockholm. (Stockholmspolisens signalementsfotografier)

Back in Detroit, Sophie was not about to sit idle while her Billy languished in a filthy Scandinavian prison. She sailed to Europe as soon as she could and headed right to Stockholm. She tried to get into the prison to see Billy, but the authorities turned her away.

She’d come a long way and rather than waste the trip, Sophie spent some time in Stockholm checking out the upscale shopping districts. The Summer Olympics would be held there later that year and she figured she could gather information to assist with future criminal endeavors, either her own of those of her friends.

Source: Wikipedia

Lured by the crowds and the opportunities for pickpocketing and shoplifting, the Swedish police realized the games would attract criminals throughout Europe and America, so they were keeping an eye out for anyone behaving suspiciously. Sophie caught their attention and was arrested. She was booked at the main police station and her mugshot was taken.

Sophie’s 1912 arrest photo taken in Stockholm. (Stockholmspolisens signalementsfotografier)

In true Sophie style, she knocked 14 years off her age, claiming a birth year of 1861. Looking at the state of her hair, she put up a bit of a fuss over being hauled in, and who can blame her? Based on her sly smile it appears she knew the police didn’t have enough on her to keep her in jail, and she was right.

Read more about Sophie’s European adventures in Queen of the Burglars: The Scandalous Life of Sophie Lyons.

My thanks goes to Jim Potter for asking a question that led to me stumbling upon Sophie and Billy’s Swedish mugshots. The moral of the story is: never say, “I’m done” when you’re researching history.

You can see more of these fascinating Stockholm mugshot photos here. If you read Swedish and are able to decipher the full text on the back of Sophie’s photo, please get in touch!

16 thoughts on “Sophie Lyons’ Adventures in Stockholm

  1. I like the mugshot of Sophie because it’s different than the ones in Queen of the Burglars. Also, some of the Swedish mugshots show a special mirror which allows a profile of the criminal along with the frontal view. Pretty cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was kicking myself for not finding it in time for the book, but oh well…! They also used the mirror for mugshots taken at San Quentin Prison in California. Seems to have been a popular “time-saving” device for awhile! Thanks again, Jim!


  2. Shayne,
    I have a wish, a hope, and a prayer. I hope that you won’t beat yourself up about finding new stuff that could have gone into your book, Queen of Burglars. What you have accomplished is a monumental task. I can’t imagine anyone willingly taking on the task. If you hadn’t written it, I don’t believe it would have ever been written.
    Thank you,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You should be proud for getting the book done and published. There will always be something more to be found. I wonder when I will decide I’ve done “enough” research for my book! Actually, I hope when I do finish, that more information will start coming out of the woodwork.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sophie made numerous trips to Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries —sailing across the ocean was never a problem for her. Early on she brought back lots of loot, which made it worth her while. Thanks, Brad!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Shayne’s book on Sophie has been a great hit across my family. Aunts Uncles Cousins. Sophie was married to Jim Brady who was the brother of my great great grandmother. We (my family) had heard many stories about Sophie and Jim, from my Grandmother (born in 1901) . Shayne answered many questions about Jim Brady and his daughter for us, through her research. Great Book Shayne and thank you….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello Shayne! Stumbled upon this post while searching for photos of Sophie Lyons. As a Swede I was immediately interested to learn her European travels took her to Stockholm, my hometown, as well. Have you gotten the text for her mugshot translated yet, or would you like my help with that?

    Liked by 1 person

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