by Jason Lever
Posted on Sun, 01 Dec 2013 18:04:16 GMT
Enticement by bogus policemen
As reported on the front page of The Daily Express on 20 July 1959, ‘The telephone at AMHerst 5319 rang yesterday. The call lured a man to his death – the second London telephone murder in a week’.
Solomon Lever’s phone rang at just after one o’clock in the morning of Sunday, July 19 1959. The caller identified himself as a detective and told Solomon that a fire had broken out next to an office he was responsible for and that if he wanted to save documents and valuables he would have to hurry.
Solomon was acting general secretary of The Workers’ Circle Friendly Society and secretary of the Pietrokow Provident and Investment Society. Their offices at Circle House, No 13 Sylvester Path, were shared with the London Jewish Bakers Union. The building, behind the Hackney Empire, was described by the press as ‘a tall thin house... [that] used to be a day nursery... [and now was] full of little offices’.
The Workers’ Circle Friendly Society had been formed in 1910 as The Workers Circle Relief Society. Members paid a small weekly subscription and could obtain small loans. In 1959, it had 1,478 members. This was down from a peak of about 3,000, and £32,153 in assets (Jewish Chronicle, 24.07.59).
According to his caller, the chair factory next to Circle House was ablaze. A police car was on its way to his home at 49 Victoria Park, Hackney, to take him there (less than a mile away). Solomon was aware that the funds in the office safe were due to be distributed to club members taking their summer holidays.
Just seven minutes later, the door bell rang and a tall, dark man was anxious to whisk Solomon to his offices, brushing aside his wife, Annie’s, offer to come along too. She said later to the police that she had asked her husband if he had checked the “policeman’s” credentials, but he had said there was no time as he hurried out to the waiting car with a suitcase to move the money and papers.
According to the Jewish Chronicle (24.07.59), the bogus detectives said:
‘A police car would be called to take him there to remove any money to a place of safety. Mr Lever dressed and waited. A detective called and Mr Lever went to the waiting car. After binding and gagging him and leaving him in the car the thieves went to the office using Mr Lever’s keys to enter the building.
'They robbed the safe which contained envelopes made out to individual members of the loan club, and left the premises only a few minutes before the policeman on the beat came along the street.’
While they missed some other money in the safe, they still took £7,869 of club funds (which it transpired could have been much more but much of it had very recently been paid out) and also Solomon Lever.
That was the last time she saw him alive.
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