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but the earliest known citation of the currently used 'caught red-handed' phrase is in the English novelist George Alfred Lawrence's work My companion picked up the object; and we had just time to make out that it was a bell-handle and name-plate, when the pursuers came up - six or seven "peelers" and specials, with a ruck of men and boys. The fact of the property being found in our possession constituted a 'flagrans delictum' - we were caught "red-handed." Incidentally, there's no connection between 'caught red-handed' and 'paint the town red'.

Although anyone caught painting the town red would probably be red-handed the two phrases were coined independently.

One of the many myths as to its origin is the tale of how, in a boat race in which the first to touch the shore of Ulster was to become the province's ruler, one contestant guaranteed his win by cutting off his hand and throwing it to the shore ahead of his rivals.

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