Flea market photo shows ‘Billy the Kid and man who shot him’


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Frank Abrams

Image caption

Historians believe the photo shows Billy the Kid (second from left) and Pat Garrett (far right)

A photo discovered by a US lawyer at a flea market may be a rare image of western outlaw Billy the Kid and could be worth millions, experts have said.

The tintype photo was purchased in 2011 by Frank Abrams in North Carolina for $10 (£7) and had been hanging in his bed-and-breakfast guest room.

He sought out experts after watching a television programme about the discovery of another photo of the Kid.

Historians told him his photo may show the Kid posing with his future killer.

The tintype photo, or an image produced on a thin sheet of metal, was purchased near Asheville at a flea market, according to Mr Abrams, who works as a criminal defence lawyer in the area.

Mr Abrams decided to have it analysed by experts at the Billy the Kid museum in New Mexico after watching a programme in 2015 about a photo discovery of the gunslinger playing croquet, he told BBC News.

That photo was valued around $5m, prompting Mr Abrams to look more closely at his own image.

After years of examining the photo, he came to suspect that one of the five men pictured was Pat Garrett, the Kid’s friend who later became the sheriff and who is said to have gunned him down in 1881.

Garrett and the Kid, also known as William Bonney, were reportedly close friends until Garrett became the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico.

The photo – which is dated 2 August 1880 – had been hanging in a rental guest room in his home for several years, he said.

“If I had known it was one of the most famous photos in history, I would have charged more for the room!” he laughed.

He enlisted Robert Stahl, professor emeritus at Arizona State University, as well as several other forensic experts to identify whether the image featured the pair.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, told the New York Times the photo was probably taken between 1875 and 1880. He worked with forensics expert Kent Gibson to conclude that the two men were pictured.

A Los Angeles forensic video expert said facial recognition software suggested that it was most likely a photo of them while a handwriting expert in Texas compared a signature from Garrett on the photo with 10 documents that included his handwriting. He also found them to match, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Although experts say the photo may be worth millions, Mr Abrams says he is no rush to sell it.

“I’ve never put a price on it,” he said in a telephone interview with BBC News on Wednesday.

“My interest is in the history,” he added.