The Worst Man In London

The Sydney Evening News, on Saturday, 19th March, 1904, published an interview with a man who it described as, “the worst man in London” and, fittingly, the location chosen for the conducting of the interview was a tavern in what, at the time, was being described as “the worst street in London” – Dorset Street, in Spitalfields.:-


The ‘worst man in London’ was interviewed by an ‘Express’ representative lately.

The interview took place in a tavern in ‘the worst street in London -Dorset Street, Spitalflelds.

A sketch showing Dorset Street.
Dorset Street, Spitalfeilds. From Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, 2nd June 1901. Copyright The British Library Board.


‘Shiner Bob,’ or Albert Heidman, is the man who was recently charged at Worship Street Police Court with the manslaughter of James Jones, by shaking him. But James Jones died of consumption, and Heidman was discharged.

He has been many, many times in the police courts, and has spent much time in gaol. He is spoken of as a ‘terror to the police.’ But he himself says that he is not so bad as he is painted, which is probably true.

To look at, he is by no means the typical ruffian of the imagination, nor has he the build of a man who would kill a man by shaking him.

He is thin as a lath, slippery rather than lithe, sunken in the chest, but fairly tall. His right arm is paralysed – the result of a stab – and he carries his shrunken right hand in his jacket pocket. His face is thin, flushed, and scarred, but not especially repulsive; cheek bones somewhat high, chin somewhat square, eyes fairly clear. He might have been a good-looking youngster. His moustache is thin and the colour of straw; his white teeth are now broken and irregular.


“I was horn in Spitalfields,” he said, “and shall be thirty-three in February.” (He would not speak of his father and mother, except to say that they were both Jews, and dead.

“I went to the infants’ school in Wentworth Street (off Petticoat-lane); then to the Jews’ Free School, then to the Castle Street Board School, Whitechapel, which I left at the age of twelve, having passed the sixth standard. I was then apprenticed as a boot-riveter in Whitechapel, and worked at my trade till I was nearly twenty. I was a good workman,

Then I fell out of work for a while, and got mixed up with bad company.


The first time I was in custody was in January, 1890, and I got six months. When I came out I worked at my trade again until July, 1892.

One day twelve men interfered with me in Ernest Street, White Horse Lane, Stepney, which is worse than Dorset Street. I stabbed three of them, and got eighteen months for it at the’ Old Bailey.


When I came out, I worked again until the week before Easter,1894. I went to the bad then. I was 23 years old, and I have never worked since.

I got seven days for gambling in1894, three months for loitering in the city in 1895. I was fined 10s, or seven days, for gambling in 1896. I paid the Sum. In 1896 also I was convicted innocently, and suffered twelve months’ imprisonment for stealing a purse out of a handbag.

I came out in December, 1897. In 1899 ——–.”

“What were you doing between?”

“I was out thieving. I think it was in August, 1899, that I got three months for stealing a pocketbook out of a man’s pocket Limehouse way. I got my discharge on November 3rd. You see, I went in as a Jew, and came out at 4 o’clock on Friday night – a day earlier. They never keep a Jew over Saturday.


On December 23rd, I got into a bit of a row in Dorset Street. I had a fight with a man. He stabbed me in the shoulder-blade, and I lost the use of my right arm. With that I cut the man open with a glass. I spent four months at the infirmary, then, we were both discharged, because we refused to prosecute each other.

In February, 1901, I was fined 5s, or five days, for being drunk.


In the following July I had a few words with a man, and he pulled out a revolver and a knife. With that I told him to wait a minute, and when I came back I had a chopper in my possession.

I bought a twopenny cigar, and stood smoking it at the corner of White’s Row, Spitalfields.

He came over to me, pulled out a knife, and made aim at me. I pulled out the chopper, and struck him across the scalp. He was in the hospital for two or three weeks.

I got twenty months at the North London Sessions.


In October, 1903, I was talking to a young woman one night, when a policeman accused us of attempting to pick pockets. I got three months.”

“Were you picking pockets?’

“No; but I knew, they could give me twelve months for pocket-picking, so, to get off lightly, I said I had done it.


The day I came out I was shot at in a public house in Brick Lane, the Three Compasses, better known as “The German. House.”

The man had no heart or intention to shoot me.

I was charged with being drunk, and got fined ten shillings, or seven days. I did the days.


Six days after I was out, I went to a lodging house to get warm and the incident happened for which I was charged the other day.

The lodging-house keeper said that me and my missus were a terror to the neighbourhood. I’m telling you the truth, guv’nor. With that he went to the door and called to a crowd of children who were playing in the street outside.

“Who am I?’ he asked.

“Shiner Bob!’ they shouted.”

“How do you live, Bob?” his interviewer asked. “Stealing”, he said.”