Another B.B.C. Series Regarding Classic Crimes That Was Never Shown In The U.S.
Like several dramatic series on the BBC, this one is based on historical crime mysteries. It was more than just the Leon Beron Murder of January 1, 1911 that was in the series - there were other cases such as the Crumbles Bungalow Case of 1924, involving Patrick Mahon.
This particular murder involved the immigrants from Eastern Europe (mostly from the Russian Empire, and mostly Jews) who congregated about a restaurant called the Warsaw Restaurant every day. One was a Mr. Leon Beron, who supposedly had an income from the rental of various properties and stores. In December 1910 it was noticed that Beron was frequently in the company of a younger man, Morris Stein (a.k.a. Stinie or Steinie Morrison). They made quite a pair: Stinie was a good looking, well dressed fellow, and Beron was a short and bald man with a pointed beard and mustache. Beron liked to brag about his money...a subject that Stinie found fascinating. On New Years Eve, they left the East End Restaurant that they usually met at together. Some witnesses saw them walking to a cab stand. And that was the last that anyone really knows about them being together. Stinie appears to have been carrying a wrapped object when they left. He later said it was a musical flute, but it could have been a lead pipe.
Beron did not reappear, and his family and friends (especially his brother) began to worry. Then his body was found on Clapham Commons which is across London from the East End that he lived in (it is like a denizen of Coney Island - which is in the southernmost portion of Brooklyn - disappearing, and his corpse turning up in the Bronx's Pelham or Van Courtland Parks, miles to the north).
The police investigation was handled by Chief Constable of the Scotland Yard forces, Frederick Wensley. A legendary good detective, he had two case in his career where errors of judgment (no matter how well intentioned) created controversies to this day. A later one was the Thompson - Byswater affair of 1923, where he may have moved a step or two beyond his duty in entrapping Edith Thompson into incriminating statements. That did not happen here, but a foul up with a wanted poster did hurt the investigation.
Wensley's case, logically, centered on Stinie. He was aware of certain historical details about the young man that made him a potentially big suspect (more later). But witnesses did not put him and Beron together at Clapham Common, a very large park. A poster concerning Stinie was distributed. Suddenly a cabbie showed up who remembered driving two men to the park, one looking like Beron and one similar to Morrison. This was plausible. Earlier another cabbie recalled driving Stinie and Beron too, from the Warsaw Restaurant area, but to a point miles from Clapham.
Stinie was arrested, and charged in Beron's murder. His barrister was a prominent one in the East End, Edward Abinger. No Marshall Hall or Edward Carson, Abinger was still a very spirited and (up to a point) clever barrister. He certainly made the evidence against Stinie very shaky. Abinger kept attacking the witnesses - some of them had questionable backgrounds (one ran a bordello, for example). At one point Beron's brother, who had a weak mind, went insane and attacked Abinger. The barrister did show that the cabbie who put the fellow who looked like Stinie with Beron in the Park only seemed to recognize Stinie when he read about a large reward for information offered by Scotland Yard. Abinger made an effort to present an alibi for Stinie on the evening of the murder (but this fell apart in the prosecution case).
Prosecutor Richard Muir (who helped convict Dr. Crippen) was a no-holds-barred old school type. He went for the jugular. Since Abinger had brought up character issues towards prosecution witnesses, Muir was able to bring in Stinie's long police records of violence and burglaries. Yet in cross-examining Stinie, Muir crossed the line and was brought up sharply by Mr. Justice Darling.
Stinie was convicted, and sentenced to death. But Darling advised the Home Office that while the jury could find Stinie guilty to some extent, it was not proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. So the Home Secretary (one Winston Churchill) reduced the sentence to life imprisonment (in Pentonville Prison). Stinie was a violent prisoner, and attacked guards. He consistently claimed he was innocent. Finally he went on a hunger strike, and starved himself to death in 1921.
Did he do it? Most criminal historians feel Stinie may have set up Leon Beron, but was not the man who beat him to death. Was the motive robbery? Supposedly so - Leon like to flash money around. But what was the source of his income anyway? It was noticed when his body was found that some mark was sliced on his forehead, which might have been an "S" for "spic" the Russian term for "spy". Could Leon have been a police informer - tipping off the authorities about the local Russian anarchists? About the same time that Leon was murdered the anarchists were fighting the police in "The Siege Of Sidney Street" (see the originally MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH). Could there have been a connection?
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