William Melville was born in the town of Sneem, County Kerry in the South West of Ireland. He first joined the Metropolitan police in 1872 and he quickly rose through the ranks. A friend of the magician Harry Houdini, during the 1880s he headed up the Special Irish Bureau designed to deal with the problem of Fenian ‘dynamitards’. He was part of the team that foiled the 1887 Jubilee Plot, which was supposedly an assassination attempt against Queen Victoria. In reality it was a state sponsored covert operation, approved by the Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, run through the spy Francis Millen with the aim of discrediting Irish nationalism. It is possible that Melville was not in the loop and as far as he was concerned had foiled a real plot.