The Unusual Suspect

The Remarkable True Story of a Modern-Day Robin Hood

Ben Machell

The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell (Paperback ISBN 9781786897992) book cover

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The remarkable true story of a modern-day Robin Hood, from Times feature writer Ben Machell

The remarkable true story of a modern-day Robin Hood, from Times feature writer Ben Machell

It is 2007, a time of recession and impending climate crisis, and one young man decides to change the world.

Meet Stephen Jackley, a British geography student with Asperger’s Syndrome. Aged just twenty-one, obsessed with the idea of Robin Hood, and with no prior experience, he resolved to become a bank robber. He would steal from the rich and give to the poor.

Jackley used disguise, elaborate escape routes and replica pistols to successfully hold up a string of banks, making away with thousands of pounds. He committed ten robberies in south-west England over a six-month period and bank notes marked with ‘RH’ – ‘Robin Hood’ – began finding their way into the hands of the homeless. The police, despite their concerted efforts, had no idea what was going on or who was responsible. That is until Jackley’s ambition got the better of him.

This is his story.

“Completely fascinating … reads like a deep psychological thriller, but it’s real. Is truth stranger than fiction? You bet”
Lee Child

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“One of the strengths of Ben Machell’s compelling book is its patient unearthing of the various motivations for his subject’s behaviour … This splendid book … does full justice to his complexity”

“Stephen Jackley, the “Robin Hood” bank robber, is an Asperger’s student with an incredible, increasingly dark story, which Machell tells with Hollywood box-office wit, compassion and brio. With every page, you find yourself screaming “OH MY GOD – WHAT ARE YOU DOING, STEPHEN?”, all the way up to him ending in US jail. How one young man’s misguided plan to save the world went increasingly, dangerously wrong”
Caitlin Moran

“Truly affecting true crime. I’ve heard it said that a villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told – this big-hearted, fascinating, meticulous book made me feel that way about Stephen Jackley”
Marina Hyde

“Fascinating … In Machell, [Jackley] has found the most sympathetic and intelligent of biographers … The Unusual Suspect raises important questions about our ideas of guilt, idealism and the nature of responsibility … a tremendously invigorating book, scrupulously researched, sympathetically told, a picaresque tale of modern life, by turns funny and sad”
mail On Sunday

Ben Machell

Ben Machell is a feature writer for The Times and The Times Magazine and a contributor to publications including VICE, ES Magazine and Esquire. He has been shortlisted for Feature Writer of the Year at the British Press Awards. Ben has full and exclusive access to Stephen and his surviving diaries, as well as access to law enforcement and the key characters involved in Jackley’s story on both sides of the Atlantic.