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LOOKING BACK: Islanders' movie star dreams end in charges of fraud

LOOKING BACK: Islanders' movie star dreams end in charges of fraud

Wednesday 06 March 2024

LOOKING BACK: Islanders' movie star dreams end in charges of fraud

Wednesday 06 March 2024

Many people dream of appearing on the silver screen as a movie star and would jump at the chance to take part in a film production... But, in 1923, when islanders were asked if they wanted to take their shot at fame, little did they realise that it was nothing more than a ruse to get them to part with their hard-earned cash...

The story began on a ferry crossing from Weymouth to Jersey on 14 November that year when William Frederick Condliffe, who was a steward of the Great Western Railway Company and also worked on the SS Ibex and SS Reindeer, spotted luggage under the name of ‘Victory Photoplays’.

The luggage belonged to Alfred Henry Turpin, who William approached on behalf of his daughter, Elfreda, who wanted to star in films. He showed Turpin a photograph of Elfreda, who was born in April 1907 and would have been 16 years old at the time.

Turpin arranged for William to bring Elfreda to Minor’s Hotel in St Helier and she was accepted for a part in a film. William was asked to pay £50 in advance with the promise that the money would be returned in six months’ time.


Pictured: A prison register documents Northcote's sentence. (Jersey Heritage)

Unfortunately for Elfreda’s dreams of stardom, the film company was a fake and William was not the only one to be caught by the fraud. Court records held at Jersey Archive show that Turpin later appeared in court, along with Sydney Webber Northcote, his wife Kathleen Glynne Kerr, May Violet Palmer, and Reginald Charles Rawlins of Minor’s Hotel, the Esplanade.

Their appearance in court on 29 November came after a number of Islanders answered an advert that Northcote had placed in the local papers a month earlier in October asking for local people to appear as the stars of a new film production.

Those who answered the advert included Lynette Brigstock, who told the court that she and several other friends decided “for a rag” to send in their photos. Lynette also met with Turpin, who told her that the film was to be called ‘The Rose of Rozel’ and that she would be given a small part as a fisher girl.

Captain Guy Janvrin Robin and Mrs Dorothy Milicent Robin also applied for parts in the film with Mrs Robin also promised a part as a fisher girl.


Pictured: The identity card of one of the would-be film stars, Guy Robin.

The charges against the defendants, Turpin, Northcote, Kerr, Palmer and Rawlins, were that they had obtained money by false pretences and false representations from various individuals in Jersey.

They claimed to represent a filmmaking business called ‘Victory Photoplays’, which was supposedly based at Bagot Manor. Northcote claimed to be the Director of Productions of the company.

On 26 November 1923, just days before the court case, the Evening Post had published a warning to anyone who had contacted Victory Photoplays after the advert for local stars. Following the appearance of the warning, the Constable of St Helier received a telegram from Brixton Police regarding Northcote.


Pictured: Northcote's features are detailed in this prison register. (Jersey Heritage)

It appeared that Northcote had frequently been in trouble with the police, obtaining money whilst pretending to be a reputable producer of films.

This was not the only time that Victory Photoplays had been involved in a film scam either. In March 1923, Northcote had persuaded a man to invest his life’s savings to make a film in Maderia and in July of the same year, he had been caught in Bournemouth duping a number of individuals and leaving his hotel bills unpaid.

Northcote, who was viewed as the brains behind the scheme, was found guilty by the court in Jersey and sentenced to four months hard labour.

Turpin was sentenced to two months’ hard labour and the other defendents were found not guilty and discharged.


Pictured: A witness statement from the proceedings. (Jersey Heritage)

However, Northcote’s latest brush with the law didn’t seem to deter him.

In 1935, he was arrested again in London and sentenced to three years penal servitude for fraud.

He was sentenced for fraud again in Ireland in 1950.


This story was told as part of a series in collaboration with Jersey Heritage. To uncover more stories like this, visit Jersey Archive or check out its online catalogue here.


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