Exciting Capture In Whitechapel

It is always interesting to catch a glimpse of the other types of crime that were taking place in Whitechapel at around the time of the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888.

Not only do we get to see that the Victorian police had many other misdemeanours to deal with, but we also get a glimpse of how law and order worked and was enforced at the time.

It is also interesting to see how the London police interacted with other police forces across Europe, given that the Victorian East End was very much a melting pot to which numerous overseas criminals were attracted, and where an alert police officer might score a major coup.

One such case was reported in The St James’s Gazette on Thursday, 11th May 1899:-


“The re-capture of an escaped prisoner was effected yesterday afternoon in Whitechapel under somewhat sensational circumstances.

In November last Sam Karmazyn, a German, was charged at Bow Street with larceny in Germany.

It appeared that a few weeks previously he had stolen the jewellery and wedding garments of a Frau Bertha Ludwig, at Charlottenburg railway station, in the suburbs of Berlin, and was arrested in the East-end of London with the proceeds of the robbery in his possession.


The prisoner said that the dresses and jewellery belonged to an actress with whom had been living, but he was committed for extradition, and a Metropolitan police officer conveyed him to Hamburg, in order that he might be tried in Germany.

On arriving at Hamburg, Karmazyn shammed illness, and for a long time was detained in a hospital.

In January last, instructions were received to convey him into the interior to undergo his trial.


The German officer in charge of him understood from Karmazyn that he was suffering from a bad leg.

He accordingly treated him as a perfectly harmless prisoner, and did not think it necessary to use handcuffs.

When nearing a police station, in which he was to be detained, however, the prisoner forgot all about his infirmities, and he darted off down the street.

Without slackening his speed the “invalid” ran into the barracks of the 2nd Lancers of the Guard, and disappeared over a wall twenty feet high.

Where he went to is a mystery, and all inquiries made as to his whereabouts were in vain.


Yesterday afternoon Detective Inspector Bartels was strolling down the Whitechapel Road with Detective-Sergeant Wegner when he saw the missing Karmazyn walking towards him.

The recognition was mutual, and Karmazyn immediately darted off at full speed.

The inspector and sergeant went off in rapid pursuit, blowing their whistles. The chase was taken up by a police-constable and Karmazyn was finally captured.

A crowd quickly collected, and an attempt was made to rescue the prisoner, but he was conveyed to Bow Street, where he will be detained until the German authorities have been communicated with.”

A photograph of Whitechapel Road.
Whitechapel Road, With The London Hospital To The Right.


The London Evening Standard, on Wednesday, 14th June, 1899, reported on his court appearance at which, having previously tried to claim that he had already been acquitted of the crime, he changed his story and admitted everything:-

“Sam Karmazyn, 18, a Russian barber, was charged before Sir James Vaughan, on remand, with obtaining goods by fraud in Germany.

The Prisoner is alleged to have stolen the luggage of a lady on her honeymoon trip at Charlottenburg Railway Station, Berlin, in September last.

He was extradited on this charge in December, but managed to escape from the custody of the German police and returned to this country.


He was again arrested by Inspector Bartels in the Whitechapel Road on May 10th, and he would have been extradited a fortnight ago had he not declared that he had been tried and acquitted on this charge in Germany, upon which he was remanded that proof of his escape might be sent from Germany.

The Prisoner now, however, withdrew his statement, admitting that he escaped before the trial, and he was accordingly committed for extradition.”

A line drawing of Bow Street Police Station
Bow Street Police Court And  Station


The Nottingham Journal, on Thursday, 15th June, 1899, reported on the end of his travels and adventures:-

“Sam Karmazyn’s adventures are nearing their end.

He is a young Russian barber who has given considerable trouble to the police of more than one country.


Last autumn he was arrested while in possession of a quantity of luggage containing women’s clothing and some valuable jewellery, which he was charged with stealing.

He asserted that he was taking charge of the property for a woman with whom he had lived.

The German police, however, were able to prove that the luggage had been stolen from a lady while on her honeymoon trip Charlottenborg Railway Station, near Berlin, and in December he was extradited.

Somehow, he managed to give the German police the slip and he returned to England.


On May 10th last, Detective Bartels caught sight of him in the Whitechapel Road, and captured him after a smart chase.

Karmazyn, however, maintained that had been tried and acquitted of the charge in Germany, and was, therefore, remanded for inquiries.


When he was brought to Bow Street on Tuesday, however, he confessed that his statement was false, and that had escaped before the trial.

Accordingly, he was once more committed for extradition.”