Jabez was a businessman, philanthropist, politician, temperance campaigner and chamer. He was also an astonishing scoundrel - a liar, adulterer and cheat - who perpetrated the most destructive fraud of the nineteenth century. When the Liberator building society collapsed under the weight of extravagant malpractice, thousands of people were left defrauded and destitute. Jabez immediately took flight to Argentina, accompanied (scandalously) by a female ward half his age. Eventually, a determined Scotland Yard detective caught up with Jabez, and kidnapped him on a high-speed train across South America from whence he was hauled back to justice.
David McKie joined the Guardian in 1965. He was deputy editor from 1975 to 1984 and now writes the 'Elsewhere' and 'Smallweed' columns for the paper.