In a previous article I featured an interview with Albert Heidman, a.k.a “Shiner Bob”, who in the early 20th century gained the unenviable reputation of being the “worst man in London.”
In the interview he spoke of some of the crimes he had been charged with over the years, and I thought that it might prove interesting to trace his criminal career through the newspapers of the day to see what they revealed about this infamous Spitalfields character.
CHARGED AT WORSHIP STREET
The earliest mention of him I have been able to locate is from The Islington Gazette of Thursday 28 December 1899:-
“Albert Heidman, 29 bootmaker, was charged at Worship Street Police Court with feloniously wounding George Squibb, and the latter charged with feloniously wounding Heidman.
Heidman, it was said, was suffering from a stab, and had been removed to the infirmary.
In his absence, evidence of the arrest of the two men was taken, and Squibb, who had a bandaged head, was said have been wounded by a glass.
He was, it was added, a well known violent character.
Mr. Coreer remanded both cases.”
“TERROR OF SPITALFIELDS.” BIOGRAPHY OF “SHINER BOB”
His next appearance in the newspapers was in 1904, when the case occurred that brought him to the attention of the Australian newspaper that published the biography of him.
The Derby Daily Telegraph was one of the newspapers that covered the story in its edition of Friday, 22nd January, 1904:-
“Shiner Bob” is a terror of Spitalfields. Thus much was stated at a Stepney inquest on Thursday. It had reference to the death of James Jones (45), hawker.
Outside his sobriquet “Shiner Bob “is known as Mr. Albert Heidman, a Spitalfields citizen, whose name suggests “the undesirable alien.”
HE SHOOK HIM
Mr. Heidman lives up to his reputation.
According to the witnesses, Jones accidentally pushed against his wife in the kitchen of a common lodging-house, for which he apologised, when the terror “shook him,” and he died soon afterwards with the exclamation on his lips “Shiner Bob has done for me!”
THEY MADE HER LIFE A MISERY
Mary Ann Neville, manageress of the lodging house, said it was difficult to deal with “Shiner Bob” and his wife. They made her life a misery.
“When “Shiner Bob” was in gaol, his wife had another husband just as bad as he was.” They walked into her place with impunity, and her deputy dared not turn them out.
EVERYONE AFRAID OF HIM
Even the police were afraid of “Bob.”
There was not a ma inn Spitalfields who was not.
Medical evidence was that Jones died from phthisis, and verdict of natural causes was the result.”
LIFE IN SPITALFIELDS
The London Daily News, in its edition of Friday, 22nd January, 1904 published a brief article on the inquest into the death of James Jones:-
“Yesterday, Mr. Wynne E, Baxter, held an inquest touching the death of James Jones, 45, a hawker, who was alleged to have been shaken to death in a common lodging house in Flower and Dean-street, Spitalfields.
A well known character of the district, named Albert Heidman, alias “Shiner Bob” was present in custody, being under remand charged with the manslaughter of the deceased.
Dr. David Hume deposed having made a post-mortem examination. Death was due to phthisis.
The Coroner:- “Do you think what took place Saturday night accelerated the death ?”
Doctor: “I do not.”
A verdict of death from natural causes was recorded.”
WAS HE THAT BAD?
These are just some of the case in which Heidman featured, and there can be little doubt that he was not the sort of character you would wish to meet on a dark night – nor on a bright summer’s morning for that matter!
But, whether he deserved his reputation as the worst man in London, well, I’ll leave it for you to decide.
Personally, I can’t help but think that there were many more Spitalfields characters whose behaviour was equal to, if not worse than, that of “Shiner Bob”, and he was just a better self-publicist than they were!