The Murder of Miriam Angel By Israel Lipski

In 1886 Isaac and Miriam Angel arrived in England from their native Poland.

By May 1997, Isaac had found permanent work as a boot riveter in George Street, Spitalfields and the couple moved into a first floor front room at number 16 Batty Street, just off Commercial Road.

A sketch of Isaac Angel
Isaac Angel. From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.

Isaac would set off for work each morning at between 6am and 7am and would often not return till gone 9pm at night.

On the night of Monday 27th June 1887, Isaac arrived home to find his 22 year old wife waiting for him at the door.

SHE WENT TO POST A LETTER

He later recalled how, having welcomed him home, Miriam sat down and wrote a letter, which she then left to post at just after 11pm that night.

She returned  at around 11.30pm bringing him a half a pint of 4d ale which he drank and, having finished it, he set the glass down on the table by the window and both he and his wife then went to bed.

HER FACE WAS SPLENDID

The next morning – 28th June 1887 – he awoke at 6am, said his prayers and, having chatted a while with his wife, he headed off  to work at around 6. 15am. Miriam, so he later recalled, was in bed “with her chemise or night-dress on – she was well…her face was as splendid and red as scarlet when I left her.”

SOMETHING HAD HAPPENED

At around 11.45am that day, a fellow lodger, Mrs Leah Levy, arrived at his place of work to tell him that something had happened to Miriam.

At 10 o’clock that morning Mrs Levy and and Mrs Leah Lipski, the landlady of 16 Batty Street,  had gone out to the market on Petticoat Lane and were gone for around an hour.

A sketch of Mrs Lipski the landlady.
Mrs Lipski, The Landlady. From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.

When they returned they had been greeted by Miriam Angel’s mother-in-law, Dinah, who had come to see where her daughter-in-law was, as she had not come around to her house for breakfast as she normally did each morning.

Dinah promptly headed upstairs and knocked on the door of the room occupied by her son, Isaac and his wife.

There was no reply.

She, therefore, called to Leah Levy who came upstairs and also tried the door.

Looking through the keyhole of the door, Mrs Levy could see that the key was still in the lock.

MIRIAM LAY ON THE BED

Mrs Levy hurried up to the next floor where a small partition window afforded a view into the Angels’ room.

Looking through it she could see Miriam Angel lying on the bed and later testified that “she looked very bad.”

She was joined at the window by Mrs Lipski who later recalled that she had seen Mrs. Angel on the bed adding that “she looked to me a little like fainting.”

The two women then raced back down to the floor below and, together with Mrs. Angel senior, they forced open the door and entered the room.

THE SCENE IN THE ROOM

Leah Lipski later recounted what happened next:-

“I was the first to get round there – I took her by one arm arm and shook her, and called to her; she did not answer me – her face was sideways, I could not tell you in what direction; see if any portion of her body was exposed; she was half covered, the other half was uncovered – she was wearing a chemise, no night-dress – I noticed that the front of the chemise looked burnt…I did not notice any sign of disturbance of the furniture – when I found this I began to run down and scream in the street, leaving the door open…”

Mrs Angel was close behind Mrs Lipski and she later reported the scene as she remembered it:-

“…I and Mrs. Levy both went into the room together, ran to the bed, and I thought my daughter-in-law was fainting; she laid with her hands so, and her head aside, and Mrs. Levy put her hands aside and moved her head, thinking she was fainting – she then saw she was dead, and went out and created an alarm – she was lying on the bed with her head aside and her hands behind, and the whole of her was uncovered, and her night-dress or chemise was up – I did not see where the covering to the bed was; I rushed out of the room at once – I did not look at the furniture in the room, but the window-blind was pulled down and the window was closed – I did not see the doctor come; I was in a fainting condition, and they took me out, and they would not let me in again…”

WHAT HARRIS DYWEIN SAW

Harris Dywein ran a general provisions store at 52 Fairclough Street, just around the corner from Batty Street.

He had seen Miriam Angel the previous night, a little after midnight, when she had come into his shop to address the letter that her husband recalled her writing. He later observed that “when she left she seemed cheerful in spirits and well in health.”

The following morning he had been standing in the street outside his shop at around 11.15am when he heard a commotion in Batty Street.

He raced round to see what was the matter and quickly ascertained that the screams were coming from number 16.

Entering the property, he made his way up to the first floor, encountering Dinah Angel on the stairs who spluttered out what had happened.

Going into the room he saw the deceased woman lying on her back on the bed.

Giving evidence later, he recalled how:-

“Her face was towards the wall, one hand was just on her chest and one hand behind her back – her hair was disarranged, all over the bed – there were several marks on the right side of her face, I could not tell whether scratches or what – her chemise or night-dress was right up to the breast – her person was exposed – I did not notice if a pillow was on the ground – I could not see any signs of a struggle in the room – I covered her up in some way…”

An excited crowd gathers outside 16 Batty Street.
A crowd gathers outside 16 Batty Street, scene of the murder. From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.

THE DOCTOR IS SENT FOR

Leah Lipski hurried to the nearby surgery of Dr John Kay, located at 100 Commercial Road at its junction with Batty Street. The doctor was out, but as she returned home she met his assistant William Piper and alerted him to the death.

He duly made his way round to number 16 where he found a number of people milling about the room where the body lay.

He later described his subsequent actions:-

“I saw the deceased on the bed lying on her back, with her head inclined to the right towards the wall, with her right arm more or less over her breast, her parts exposed, the chemise rolled up to just underneath the breast, so that I could see the lower parts exposed, the right leg was drawn up – I at once went to her and moved her head towards me – I moved her arm; I found she was dead – I put her back in the same position as I found her – I then looked round and cleared the room; I told the people to go out…I did not notice at that time how far the bedstead was from the wall – I saw a table in front of the window – there was a glass on the table which I looked at and smelt; it appeared to be beer or stout – that is all I noticed at that time, except that I saw yellow marks of acid on the floor and on the woman’s chemise and face, her mouth and lips and chin – I did not notice whether her face was injured at that time – that was all I noticed before I proceeded to leave the room…”

DR KAY ARRIVES

Leah Lipski, meanwhile had gone back to the surgery where there was still no sign of Dr. Kay.

However, as she headed back to number 16 Batty Street, she saw him coming along Commercial Road in his carriage, and raced over to alert him as to what had happened.

An image of Dr Kay.
Dr Kay. From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.

When he arrived at the room he was able to carry out a quick examination and later testified as to his findings:-

“Her mouth had a stream of yellow coming from the corner on the left-hand side – her neck had two or three splashes; her breast had a splash – her hands were covered with the stains of nitric acid – the yellow stains were nitric acid, commonly called aqua fortis – she was covered up to her breast with one of the German feather beds – I turned it down to see if any violence had been offered to her – her chemise was pulled up to the breast, and the body was exposed – I noticed blood on the feather bed; splashes of blood and acid mixed -the effect of administering this stuff would cause a person to cough very violently – there were no marks of violence on the lower parts of the body – I formed an opinion she had been dead about three hours…”

In his subsequent postmortem report he went in to further detail about the horrific injuries poor Miriam Angel had suffered:-

“The body was that of a well-nourished strong woman of twenty-one or twenty-two. She was-pregnant. On the right eye and temple there were marks of violent blows, but the skin was not broken and the blows were probably given with the fist. There were no other external marks beyond those of the corrosive poison.

On removing the scalp there was evidence of a tremendous blow on the right temple. The skull was not fractured, nor the brain injured, but it was a blow that would have stunned deceased. I traced the acid down the gullet, windpipe, and bronchial tubes into the lungs. The stomach was charred. The lunge were uninjured, but the whole of the gullet was charred.

I should say the acid was given deceased when on her back.

The organs were all remarkably healthy.

The heart was empty of blood on both sides, which would prove she died from suffocation the moment the acid was poured down the windpipe.

The cause of death was suffocation from the swallowing of nitric acid.

Deceased had been dead about three hours when I saw her, and the body was not quite cold.”

The doctor later recalled that, since the only marks could see on her face were the burns from the acid, he  looked around the room to see what she could have drunk it from and, in so doing, noticed the glass containing the remains of the beer that Isaac had enjoyed the night before.

ISAAC ANGEL ARRIVES HOME

By this time Isaac Angel had arrived home, having been alerted by Mrs. Levy.

However, those present advised him not to enter the room and he waited helplessly outside knowing that his wife and their unborn baby lay dead inside.

SOMEONE UNDER THE BED

Inside the room, Dr Kay was anxious to find the bottle from which the acid had come and, to that end, he instructed Harris Dyween to search under the bed and pull out anything he found.

Having removed a coat and and an old egg box that contained some clothing, the doctor asked Dyween if there was anything else there.

He replied that there was something under the bedstead and so Kay told him to go and see what it was.

Crawling under the bed he reached and, to his horror, felt a hand.

As Dyween pulled back in surprise Dr. Hay jumped up onto the bed and pulled the pillow away from the wall, crying out as he did so, “Why, it is a man.”

Kay pulled the bed away from the wall and stooped down over the prone form of the man who was unconscious. He felt his pulse, found that he was alive and so he slapped his face to revive him. The man’s eyes opened wide, although he said nothing and made no sound.

At this point Police Constables Alfred Inwood and Arthur Sack of the Metropolitan Police’s H- Division had arrived at the scene and Kay asked them to assist him in standing the man up. “I assisted to lift the man up from the ground,” PC Sack later recalled “he seemed to know a little – his eyes were opened when we lifted him up – I noticed yellow stains on his shirt and hands…”

The body of Miriam Angel lies on the bed as two police officers drag Israel Lipski from under the bed.
Israel Lipski is dragged from under the bed. From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.

THE PHIAL OF ACID

Meanwhile  Mr. Piper had discovered a bottle in the folds of the feather mattress.

“Here is the bottle,” he called to the doctor, who took hold of it and sniffed it. “There was no cork in it”, he later testified, adding, “it was a 2-oz. phial – a few drops of the stuff were left, and from those I could tell it was the ordinary nitric acid of commerce; it smelt of that, and I tested it on copper…”

THE MAN HAD DRUNK THE ACID

Examining the man further, he looked in his mouth and observed that “…he had taken some of the nitric acid; not so much as the woman…I had examined his arms and hands to see if there were any scratches; his forearms were bare – I saw there was a little stain of acid on his hands; although not much…”

THE MAN TAKEN TO THE POLICE STATION

At this point the doctor told the police officers to take the man away and PC Sack duly escorted him to Leman Street Police Station where he was taken into custody by Inspector David Final.

The man still seemed somewhat insensible, so Final asked the Divisional Police Surgeon, Dr George Bagster Phillips, to examine him. Phillips duly did so and ordered that he be given hot mustard and warm water in order to make him sick.

TAKEN TO THE LONDON HOSPITAL

This, however, proved unsuccessful, so Final ordered that he be taken to the London Hospital.

Before he went though, Final carried out a search of his pockets finding “2s. or 3s. silver and some coppers and a pawn ticket…” He then put the ticket and the money back in the man’s pocket, and he was duly sent to the London Hospital for treatment.

THE MAN WAS ISRAEL LIPSKI

The man had now been identified as Israel Lipski, a 22 year old Polish Jew who occupied a room on the top floor of 16 Batty Street. He worked as a walking stick maker and was engaged to his employers sister-in-law, Kate Lyons, who came to visit him as he lay in hospital.

A sketch of Israel Lipski.
Israel Lipski. Copyright, The British Library Board.

AN EXTRAORDINARY STATEMENT

Lipski was also visited by Inspector David Final and Detective Sergeant William Thicke, to whom, speaking through an interpreter, he made what several newspapers described as an “extraordinary statement.”

According to Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper Lipski explained his coming to be under the bed as follows:-

” At seven o’clock in the morning a man who had worked for me asked me to give him some work. I told him to wait; that I would buy a vice for him, so that I could give him work.

I went to purchase a vice, but when I got to the shop it was too soon.

As I was going along I met another workman, whom I knew, at the corner of Backchurch-lane, I went back to the shopkeeper, who wanted 4s for the vice, I offered 3s. He said he would not take it.

I returned to Batty-street, and got into the passage. I there saw the man I had seen in Backchurch-lane. He said, ‘Will you give me work or not?’ I said, ‘Come to the workshop. I am going to breakfast; then I will give you work.

I told my landlady to make some coffee, and I sent the two men for some brandy.

I afterwards went upstairs.

I there saw both these men, and saw them open a box. They took hold of me by the throat, threw me down, opened my mouth, and poured some poison into it. They said, ‘that is the brandy.’ They got my bands behind me, and asked me if I had any money. I said ‘I have got no more than the sovereign which I gave you to get the brandy.’ They then asked, ‘Where is your gold chain ?’ I said, ‘It is in pawn.’ They said, ‘If you don’t give it you will be as dead as the woman.’ They put a piece of wood in my mouth. I struggled, and they then put their knees on me against my throat. One of them said to the other, ‘Don’t you think he is quite dead yet ?’ The reply was, ‘Yes, he don’t want any more.’ They then threw me under the bed, and I then lay as if dead. One of the men I have known by the name of Simon.”

The newspaper went on to observe:-
“Lipski did not explain how it was that the bedroom door was locked on the inside, and that the only persons found in the room were himself and the dead young woman.”

It then went on to inform readers that:-

“A further examination of the place led to the discovery of Lipski’s hat and coat in the room. The bed was very much disarranged.”

LIPSKI PURCHASED ACID

That same evening an important witness came forward who was to cast a great deal of doubt on Lipski’s innocence.

Charles Moore, the manager of an oil and colourman’s shop in Backchurch-lane, contacted the police and told them that, on the morning of the murder, he had sold one pennyworth of aqua fortis (nitric acid) to a man he was certain was Israel Lipski.

An illustration depicting the shop where the acid was sold to Israel Lipski.
The Shop Where Charles Moore sold Lipski The Acid. From The Illustrated Police News.

He had, he said, asked the man what he wanted the acid for, to which the man had replied that he wanted it to colour sticks with.

Having heard about the murder, and the method employed, he went to the police who promptly took him to the London Hospital where he was able to positively identify Lipski as the man to whom he had sold the acid.

THE INQUEST VERDICT

The inquest into the death of Mrs Miriam Angel was presided over by Coroner Wynne E. Baxter.

The jury heard from all the aforementioned witnesses and, having considered all the facts, they unhesitatingly returned a verdict of wilful murder against Israel Lipski.

LIPSKI CHARGED WITH MURDER

Israel Lipski was duly charged with the murder of Miriam Angel and, on Saturday 2nd July 1887, he appeared at the Thames Police Court in the custody of Inspector Final and Detective Sergeant Thicke.

Israel Lipski in a a white shirt and waist coat.
Lipski In The Dock At The Thames Police Court. From The Illustrated Police News. Copyright, The British Library Board.

According to The Illustrated Police News:- “The Prisoner when placed in the dock looked very pale. He is a thinly-built man, clean shaven and boyish looking. He had no coat on and was of dirty appearance.”

Only two witnesses were called – Isaac Angel and Mrs Lipski, the landlady (whom the press were at pains to point out was in no way related to the accused).

The presiding magistrate, Mr Lushington, remanded Lipski for a week.

In the next instalment of this article, we shall cover the trail of Israel Lipski and discuss how his name would, a year later, crop up in the Jack the Ripper investigation.