The British Soldier Who Pantsed A Lawyer To (Successfully) Win A Case
We were recently talking about Alfred Wintle, who fought in both World War I and World War II and who, when he was first refused entry into the military, demanded to start his own Air Force, landing him a prison sentence. But that wasn't the most notable story in the life of Wintle, or even his most notable prison sentence. Not if you believe his obituary, which opens with these words: "Col. Alfred Daniel Wintle, whose colorful career included a six-month prison sentence for pulling the pants off a lawyer ... "
This story happened after Wintle returned from his WW2 fight, and after the death of his cousin, Kitty Wells. Kitty was rich; she'd inherited around £4 million in today's money. She was also very eccentric, which is a word that means "mentally ill, while being rich." Every day, she wrote herself a new letter and sent it to herself, by post. She stored these letters, and all others she received, in her handbag. When her handbag became full, she put it under the bed and bought a new handbag. When space ran out under the bed, she moved the bags from there to a closet.
During Kitty's last days, Wintle's sister Marjorie cared for her full-time. But when she died, Kitty's will left her estate to her lawyer, Frederick Nye, rather than to Marjorie. Given that Kitty didn't fully understand the concept of money and Nye had drawn up the will himself, this seemed like illegal shenanigans on Nye's part, but Wintle was unable to draw any attention to the case.
So here's what he did. He phoned Nye, pretending to be a friend, Lord Norbury. He set up a meeting in an apartment. And then when Nye arrived, Wintle took out his gun. He forced Nye to sign a check to Marjorie for around 1 percent of what Kitty had left behind. And then he made Nye strip off his pants, at gunpoint, and also put on a dunce cap on his head made of newspaper. Wintle took photos, so he could distribute them widely to humiliate Nye. Then he kicked him out onto the street, still pantsless.
This is what's generally known as a sex crime, and Wintle was soon arrested (also, the check was never cashed). He pleaded guilty and accepted a six-month sentence, saying, "It will be a sad day for this country when an officer and a gentleman is not prepared to go to prison when he thinks he is in the right."
He spent his time in prison reading up on law, as he had no money for a lawyer himself. When he got out, he took his now-famous fraud case against Nye to the House of Lords, Britain's upper House of Parliament. In a completely unprecedented move, they sided with Wintle unanimously, even though he wasn't a lawyer.
The press had a lot to say about Wintle's story, and in response, he wrote the following to The Times:
I have just written you a long letter. On reading it over, I have thrown it into the waste-paper basket. Hoping this will meet with your approval.
I am, Sir, Your Obedient Servant,
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Top image: Ian Smith, Peter Tillemans