Dillinger Gun Steals Spotlight

A .38 caliber revolver used to kill notorious bank robber John Dillinger is going on the auction block Monday.

More than 50 years after the ambush in which Indiana police killed the outlaw, Butterfield & Butterfield planned to auction the 1905 Smith & Wesson. It has been valued at between US$20,000 to $25,000.

The 1934 shooting is wrapped in mystery, from Anna Sage, the elusive "lady in red" who lured Dillinger to the Biograph Theater where he was slain, to claims that it wasn't really Dillinger who died that night on a Chicago sidewalk.

Dillinger, born in Indianapolis in 1903, quit school at the age of 16 and began a life of crime. He was caught after his first robbery in 1924 and was locked up until 1933.

But when he emerged from behind bars, he proceeded to organize a skilled gang of bank robbers. In 1933 and 1934, his band of thugs robbed 11 banks in the Midwest and stole US$318,000.

In an attempt to evade arrest by the army of FBI agents on his trail, Dillinger had plastic surgery and attempted to live quietly as Jimmy Lawrence. But his girlfriend, Polly Hamilton, was renting a room from a Romanian immigrant who was being threatened with deportation.

That woman was Anna Sage, and she knew Lawrence was in fact Dillinger.

On July 20, 1934, Sage contacted a friend, East Chicago police Sgt. Martin Zarkovich, and offered to trade Dillinger for the reward on his head and help in fighting her deportation.

A deal was struck, and she told authorities she and Hamilton would be going to the movies with Dillinger on July 22. Authorities, including Zarkovich, surrounded the entrance to the Biograph while Dillinger was inside enjoying Clark Gable in "Manhattan Melodrama."

When Dillinger exited at 10:30 p.m., agents chased him into an alley, where he was hit by three bullets. According to an affidavit accompanying the gun, the fatal shot was fired by Zarkovich's .38 caliber revolver.

The auction house also expected to sell about 1,000 lots of European and U.S. arms and armor worth about $1.5 million.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed