Professional card player targeted millionaire passengers on Titanic to swindle money

A professional card player targeted millionaire passengers on the Titanic to fleece them of their money, a new document shows.

George Brereton had a list of all the first-class travellers when he boarded the ill-fated ship for its maiden voyage to New York in 1912.

He had identified the wealthiest people and circled or starred their names on the list as a potential “mark”.

He even wrote the word “millionaire” next to the name of Charles Hays, a VIP guest of White Star Line boss Bruce Ismay.

Brereton spent his days in the luxury liner’s first-class smoking room where he played high-stake card games with his “marks”.

When the Titanic struck an iceberg, he was recorded as being in the room “at work”.

The card shark survived the sinking, which claimed the lives of 1,500 people, by clambering into a lifeboat along with Mr Ismay.

In Brereton’s pocket was the booklet given to first-class passengers when they boarded the ship after it set sail from Southampton.

His name appeared on the list under his alias of George Brayton, so as not to arouse suspicion.

Even after being rescued by RMS Carpathia, he focused on making money.

Brereton, then 38, befriended fellow survivor Charles Stengel who he tried to ask for a handout. After the rescue ship arrived in New York, he tried to involve Mr Stengel in a horse racing scam.

Brereton, an American, died by suicide 30 years later. His 20-page copy of the first-class passenger list is being sold at auction in Devizes, Wilts, this weekend and is expected to fetch £60,000.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: “These first-class passenger lists are like hen’s teeth.”

The 7ins x 5ins booklet was owned by the late Ken Schultz, a top collector of Titanic memorabilia.

He bought it from Brereton’s great-niece in the 1980s.

Although more than a century old, the booklet is in good condition.

Mr Aldridge said: “Only a handful of them are known to be in existence.

“They were given to passengers and contained all the information they would need on board from Wireless Telegraph rates to the hire of steamer chairs and blankets.

“They also listed in A-Z order the names of the first-class passengers.

“This document came off the ship with George Brereton, also known as George Brayton and George Bradley.

“He was a professional gambler – a card shark – and he was on the ship to make money.”