London, 1910 – the city is rocked by its first encounter with foreign gangsters. In December, a group of Russian anarchists were surprised while burgling a jeweller’s shop in Houndsditch. They shot and killed three policemen and wounded two others. Within two weeks, most of the gang had been captured. Then the police were informed that the last two members of the gang were hiding at 100 Sidney Street. The police called in the military, local residents were evacuated and the firefight raged for six hours, culminating in the burning of the house and the discovery of the two agitators’ bodies i the ruins.
On New Year’s Day, Leon Beron, a middle-aged Russian Jew, was found battered to death on Clapham Common. Knife cuts on his cheeks, inflicted after death, formed the shape of a rough ‘S’ – rumour said it was the revenge murder of an informer, ‘S’ being the initial letter for ‘spy’ in both Russian and Polish. Steinie Morrison, who had been seen in his company the night before, was arrested and charged with Beron’s murder, and sentenced to hang. This was later commuted to life in prison. Morrison protested the change of sentence and for the next ten years, demanded that the original sentence be carried out, proclaiming his innocence and staging hunger strikes. He never changed his story, not even by the smallest detail, and died ten years later in prison. Was an innocent man convicted? And did the murder of Beron have any connection to the Siege of Sidney Street? With black and white photographs.