"Occupation?" asked the undertaker. "Cat burglar," I replied. "Hmm," said the undertaker. We were filling in the form for the cremation of Peter Scott, also known as the "king of the cat burglars" and "the human fly", who died in March. Scott was a crook who stole tens of millions of pounds' worth of jewellery and artworks, was the author of Gentleman Thief, and the subject of He Who Rides a Tiger, the 1965 Charles Crichton film, starring Tom Bell and Judi Dench. He lived the last of his 82 years on a tough estate near King's Cross, just up the road from the Guardian offices. I used to meet him for lunch or a drink every so often. When I saw him last summer, after a gap of a few months, he looked suddenly very ill, and I remarked on the fact. "I'm not ill, Duncan, I'm dying!" he said. "Write a nice obituary."

© Guardian News & Media Ltd

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