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5 famous bounty hunters

Image of Big Rig Bounty Hunters

While the Big Rig Bounty Hunters may have it rough sometimes the history of Bounty Hunting has more than its fair share of talented, tough, and in some cases morally questionable agents.

1. John of the Priests

The 1709 Penal Act demanded that all Catholic priests take the Oath of Abjuration and recognise the Protestant Queen as Supreme Head of the Church of England and Ireland. Any cleric who refused was sentenced to death. John Mullowney was arrested as a horse thief in Castlebar, Ireland in the early 1700s. He was offered a choice: hang or become a Priest Hunter. He chose the latter. A “talented rogue”, John excelled at clergy hunting, being paid as much as £100 for the capture of an Archbishop or Bishop. His favourite method of ensnaring priests was to feign a deathbed confession then pull out a concealed weapon and do for the Holy Man. Mullowney was fatally stabbed in the act of killing the last remaining Catholic priest in his parish. His body was thrown into a lake by local Catholics. John’s body was eventually retrieved and buried in un-consecrated ground, nearby. There is a tree near the spot which local legend says has grown but never blossomed since.

2. Thomas Tate Tobin

In 1863 three Mexican National cousins, the Espinosas, went on a killing spree, murdering more than thirty English-Americans in the San Luis Valley, Colorado in retaliation for relatives killed in the Mexican-American War. When the authorities failed to capture these men – Wanted: Dead or Alive – they called in renowned adventurer, tracker, trapper, mountain man, guide, and US Army scout, Tom Tobin. Tobin was given fifteen men to assist him but went out alone instead. Upon returning he was asked how his trip went. Tobin is said to have replied “So-so”, before throwing down a sack which contained the severed heads of all three Espinosas.

3. Patrick Floyd “Pat” Garrett

In November 1880, the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico resigned and the county appointed Pat Garrett – a man well known for his skills with a gun - as his replacement. A  former saloon owner, Garrett was charged with tracking down an old acquaintance from his bar-keeping days. Twenty-one year old Henry McCarty had escaped from prison and was said to have murdered as many men as years he’d lived. McCarty was better known then, as now, as Billy the Kid. New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace offered a $500 reward for the Kid’s capture. After a bloody game of cat and mouse in which members of the Kid’s gang were gradually killed or arrested by Garrett, the lawman finally did for the outlaw; ambushing him in the dark and killing him with a single blast from his Sharps rifle. Garrett never received the reward as it was conditional of Billy being captured, not killed. To this day there are some who still maintain that Billy the Kid did not die that night, and that Garrett staged the whole thing so that his old friend could disappear once and for all.

4. Ralph “Papa” Thorson

Said to have apprehended more than twelve-thousand fugitives, Ralph “Papa” Thorson’s life as a Bounty Hunter was the basis for Steve McQueen’s final film "The Hunter" (1980).  Sometimes using the somewhat eccentric method of utilising astrological charts to locate criminals, Thorson also favoured the use of non-lethal force in the form of his self designed and built “Prowler Fowler” which fired buckshot filled beanbags at assailants. He was killed in 1994 by a car bomb, presumed to have been placed by one of the more than twelve-thousand enemies he’d made during his career. 

5. Domino Harvey

Domino Harvey was born in 1969 to actor Laurence Harvey, and fashion model Paulene Stone. Always a “tomboy” Domino had an interest in martial arts and action figures which was not shared by many of the other girls at her upper-class English boarding schools. Domino attended four such schools being expelled from more than one for her “unladylike” conduct. Dropping out of education, initially to pursue a career in modelling, Domino eventually found herself living in the USA. In 1993, having unsuccessfully applied to the Los Angeles Fire Department, she enrolled in a short course to become a bail recovery agent, or bounty hunter. Domino primarily went after drug dealers and thieves, but also tracked murderers during her time as a Bounty Hunter. She was incredibly good at her job and earned as much as $40,000 per year. Tragically, Domino became addicted to drugs and died of an overdose in 2005.

John Reppio