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August 14: A Victorian Murder Trial

August 13, 2015

Israel_Lipski_bedIn one of the most sensational murder trials of the Victorian era, the lawyer for Israel Lipski, convicted of the murder of Miriam Angel three months earlier, sent a telegram to the Queen on this date in 1887 asking her to stay Lipski’s execution to allow for the introduction of new information that would, said the lawyer, prove his client’s innocence. Miriam Angel had been found dead in her bed in London from having nitric acid poured down her throat; she was six months pregnant. Lipski had been found unconscious under the bed, with acid burns in his mouth. He claimed that Harry Schmuss and Henry Rosenbloom, who worked for him in the umbrella trade, had done the deed, but a jury convicted him after eight minutes of deliberation. The verdict aroused a hue and cry about anti-Semitism, which gained Lipski a one-week reprieve from execution — during which time he made a full confession to London’s East End rabbi, Simeon Singer: “I will not die with a lie on my lips,” Lipski wrote. “I will not let others suffer even in suspicion for my sin. I alone was guilty of the murder of Miriam Angel. I thought the woman had money in her room, so I entered, the door being unlocked and the woman asleep. I had no thought of violating her, and I swear I never approached her with that object, nor did I wrong her in this way.” Lipski was hanged on August 21, 1887, in the yard of Newgate Prison.

“The climate of pervasive anti-Semitism in East London during this time sealed Lipski’s fate. London’s Jewish population, largely impoverished Polish and Russian refugees, was ever liable to blame for a wide variety of social problems. On top of everything else, Lipski’s legal defense was abysmal and the judge clearly biased. He might have been guilty, but the fairness of his trial is questionable.” —