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For the next nine years almost everything that could go wrong for him did go wrong, and every official mistake that could be made was made.So far as Beck was concerned, Justice was not only blind, but deaf and mute as well.On 16 December, a little after 4.30pm, he was standing at the street door of the building where he lived when a woman named Ottilie Meissonier walked up and looked him full in the face.He had time to smile - as Meissonier put it later, "very sweetly" - before she spoke the four words that doomed him.Beck was placed in an identification parade with seven men brought in off the street and both women picked him out without hesitation. He was charged and remanded in custody, protesting that it was a dreadful mistake.The story of the Victoria Street swindler appeared in the newspapers and, to general surprise, a procession of women presented themselves to the police, declaring that they were the victims of identical frauds. Kate Brakefield, who said she had been cheated and robbed the previous June, picked him out of a line-up of eight: "I am satisfied he is the same man," she said.On the centenary of its dramatic conclusion, Brian Cathcart reveals why you can't always trust your own eyes Even before the events that earned him his place in legal history, Adolf Beck was a stranger to luck.

He liked to keep up appearances, so when he ventured out he cut a dapper figure, with monocle, top hat, cane and waxed moustache.Even before the events that earned him his place in legal history, Adolf Beck was a stranger to luck.Beck borrowed and scrounged, concocted pathetic financial schemes, lived cheaply and wore his clothes till the thread was bare.He walked out of his tiny flat - and straight into legal history.For almost a decade, the once dapper Mr Beck would be ensnared in the most sensational case of mistaken identity that Britain had ever seen.

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By now Beck had the services of a solicitor, but the outlook was bleak.

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