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Master Thief Hits L.A., February 1959

February 24, 2009 | 10:00 am


The Times spelled the name Attebery; The Mirror used Atterbery,

Max Hurlbut writes:

1959_0222_atterbery_2 Your Evening Mirror News article on burglar GORDON E. ATTERBERY
being pursued in 1959 brings back memories.  I was a young policeman
assigned to Hollywood Division in 1960.  ATTERBERY was tearing us,
West Hollywood Sheriffs, & Beverly Hills P.D. apart.  He would hit house-
after-house, leaving his loot piled near the street where he would pick it
up, before sunup, in his stolen Chevy with cold plates.

Officer IAN J. CAMPBELL (murdered in the "Onion Field" in March 1963)
& I worked 6X15.  [6 designates Hollywood Division & "X" is an "extra" car
deployed in reporting district 615 (Los Feliz/Griffith Park District)].  We
believe we once spotted ATTERBERY, but he outran us.  A Las Vegas park-
ing checker, who had a hobby of checking his daily "hot sheet" against all
Chevrolets he cited, finally nabbed him.

ATTERBERY, as a condition of sentencing,  told all in a special report for
police officers on "How to Catch a 459."  (Old penal code section for burglary). 
He wore suits and walked a dog so as to say he was out strolling.  He studied
the neighborhood & could answer questions for the car in the area.  If un-
covered, he would dash through the worse brush & snags, as he knew
policemen (then) paid for their uniforms and did not want to tear them up. 
He would hide in trees, as we seldom looked up at night.  (Favorites were
dirty palm trees with skirts of dead spiny fronds to crawl up & under).  Better
not reveal more, but an excellent primer on burglary, even today. 

ATTERBERY was only 24, but an intelligent, complex, man and master burglar. 
{P.S.---He knew big city police officers would not (usually) shoot a fleeing burglar;
but was afraid of running into an irate & armed home-owner who did not read his

GORDON, you are now 73.  If you are out there, let us know how the rest of
your career panned out....

LAPD (Retired)
Bellingham, WA