“I decline such mercy!”
Leon Boron was born at Gulvald, Poland on 17 April 1863 but his family left the following year and landed in Paris. In 1894 he moved to London where he bought nine ramshackle houses in Stepney in the East End. He rented them out for ten shillings a week and lived off the rental income. Despite his property portfolio Beron did not own a home and rented a room above a fruit shop at 133 Jubilee Street, Stepney, paying two shillings a week. Mr Beron was a man of habit —each day he spent one and sixpence on a meal at the Warsaw Kosher Restaurant at 32 Osborne Street, Whitechapel.
He dressed smartly, a large gold watch and chain dangled from his waistcoat, and his beard was trimmed neatly. In December 1910 he met another Russian Jew, Stinie Morrison, who had come to England in 1898. Morrison was a convicted thief with five terms for burglary behind him and a penchant for using false names. He had been released on license from Dartmoor on 17 September 1910.At 8.10am on New Year’s Day 1911 PC Joseph Mumford discovered the body of Mr Beron, then 48, beneath some furze bushes on Clapham Common. There was a horseshoe-shaped wound on his head, he had been stabbed three times, his wallet emptied and his legs crossed, right over left. An “S” was apparently carved into each cheek “like the f holes on a violin”.
On 8 January Morrison was arrested as he ate breakfast at Cohen’s Restaurant in Fieldgate Street. The police discovered that on the day of Mr Beron’s murder, Morrison had left a pistol and more than 40 rounds of ammunition in the left luggage office of St Mary’s Railway Station, Whitechapel. He had left his home to move in with Florrie Dellow, a 22-year-old prostitute from 116 York Road, Lambeth. He had informed his landlady, Mrs Zimmerman, that he was moving to Paris. Morrison claimed that he had not murdered Mr Beron and had spent the night at the Shoreditch Empire watching Harry Champion and Harry Lauder. However, three hansom-cab drivers recognized his photograph in the newspapers and placed Morrison at the crime scene. His trial began at the Old Bailey at 10.30am on 6 March 1911 and the result, after nine days, was a guilty verdict. The jury had deliberated for only 35 minutes. When Mr Justice Darling passed the death sentence he finished with the words, “And may the Lord have mercy on your soul”. Morrison yelled back, “I decline such mercy! I do not believe there is a God.”
Clapham Common, London, England
Sunday 1 January 1911
On 27 March 1911 the Court of Appeal upheld the death penalty due to be carried out at 9am on 20 April but Home Secretary Winston Churchill commuted the sentence to life in prison on 12 April. Morrison had a death wish and went on hunger strikes. He died on 24 January 1921 in Parkhurst Prison after being weakened by a lack of food.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The newspapers made great play of the “S” on Mr Beron’s cheeks. They were said to stand for Spy but Mr Justice Darling said, “Anyone who sees the letter ‘S’ in either of these scratches has either better eyes or a more vivid imagination than I can possibly claim to possess.”