COCH Bach Y Bala, Jac Llanfor, The Welsh Houdini, Little Turpin and Little Welsh Terror are just some of the names given to one of North Wales' most prolific criminal and thief who died 100 years ago last week.
Much of what is written regarding John Jones or Coch is surrounded in myth and half truths.
In a book by Ernest Jones called Coch Bach Y Bala we get a little closer to the real man.
Born in either 1852 or 1854 near Llanfor Bala, his crimes would go on to be reported nationally. A kleptomaniac and poacher who spent most of his life under lock and key in jails throughout Wales and England (if they could keep him in).
In 1871 he served his first jail term of one month for poaching and in 1872 Coch saw his first Christmas behind bars for theft.
Corwen police came after him on June 12, 1893 after a shilling, a penny and a key were stolen from Griffith Griffiths home in Llandrillo.
A similar crime happened three days earlier where three groats, half a farthing and a key were stolen amongst other small change.
The book states that the police noted that only Coch Bach would go to so much trouble for such small returns.
Coch was later picked up by police in Ruabon with small change and two keys in his pocket.
In July 1873 he pleaded not guilty but served three years for each crime and was released in 1878 for good behaviour.
John spent his seventh Christmas behind bars that year after being accused of being part of a crowd that threw rocks at police although he was not arrested at the time of the incident for this.
After his release John spent time around Wrexham and was arrested near Gresford on the crime of being a “rogue and a vagabond” spending his time between Ruthin and Chester jail.
Four days after his release John was in the clutches of the law again after one watch was stolen from a house in Llanfor, then the same night 13 watches were stolen from a house in Llanycil where John Richards a Bala watch shop owner lived.
The book explains while waiting for his court date he spent his eight Christmas behind bars at Ruthin Gaol but on the evening of November 30 he escaped for the first time from Ruthin Gaol.
Not only did he escape but he did so by walking through the front door of the prison.
He managed to open his own cell door along with three other cell doors and simply walked out while the prison wardens enjoyed their supper.
An award of £5 for his capture or information that would lead to his arrest was posted.
John was now becoming quite famous with his exploits reported in national newspapers but rather than deciding to go on the run further afield to evade capture it was widely rumoured that he returned to Llanfor and disguised himself as an old woman.
It is also claimed during Coch's trial he was there in disguise to hear his name being read out only for the judge to be told by the police that they did not have him in custody.
Coch managed to spend Christmas and New Year on the run but was finally caught sleeping in his bed at The Swan Hotel in Mochdre on January 3. 1880.
Coch had been hiding in plain site to by disguising himself as an upper class gentleman wearing gloves, spats and tailcoat.
Having learned English behind bars would have helped with this ruse.
Representing himself and pleading not guilty he was unsuccessful and sentenced to 14 years behind bars .
John then implied in court that he would escape by saying that he would not be spending that much time behind bars.
Released early for good behaviour in 1891 he was given financial aid from the Prisoner's Aid Society and travelled to Buenos Aires in South America, then Antwerp then Middlesbrough as a ship fire stoker before settling in Essex where he was implicated in the theft of a watch.
The watch was found in a nearby pawnbrokers and when John was caught he had the receipt for it in his pocket.
This trial was the first time that John pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time behind bars.
After his release he was sent to Caernarfon prison for theft where he was caught trying to tunnel out of his cell.
In 1906 Coch was accused of a crime that could have seen him sent to the gallows.
The Free Press continues with the adventures of Coch Bach Y Bala in tomorrow's paper (October 9).