In the 1880s Batty Street was considered part of Whitechapel in the public imagination. Perhaps no better proof of this is in the fact that when a murder occurred in this building in 1887 it was dubbed the 'Whitechapel murder'. Before the sensational Jack the Ripper murders of the following year overshadowed it, the murder, and its aftermath, was considered a major scandal. The case seemed a strange one: Rachael Angel, a young pregnant woman, was found dead from poisoning in her bed with a young man insensible on the floor. That young man was a tenant in the same building, and though he had seemingly had no previous contact with the woman, was charged with her murder. The case garnered particular attention as it was taken up by the crusading Pall Mall Gazette, and Israel Lipski, the young man, was defended by a particularly active solicitor, a Mr Hayward.
The victim, the murderer, and most of the witnesses were part of the recent wave of Jewish immigrants from Poland. Without any overt anti-semitism in the reporting, the coverage does clearly lay out the actors in the case as 'others' who need translators despite living and working in the heart of London. After fervent campaigns to get Lipski a reprieve, and rumours of new evidence that would exonerate the man, he suddenly provided a full and rather eloquent confession.
However, clearly for the neighbourhood, lingering problems remained. The widower of the young victim was himself in court not long after Lipski's execution. He had been harassing and even physically assaulting the landlady at the property where his wife was killed and he had recently been resident. No explanation was ever forthcoming as to why he held a grudge against his landlady, and what it might have had to do with the most sensational murder trial of the year.
The afterlife of 16 Batty Street never matched such drama, and yet like all buildings in Whitechapel, its afterlife reflects the dynamic changes of the neighbourhood. The house was rebuilt in 1887-8 and later served as a Yemeni seamen's mission. In more recent years it was transformed into a mosque before being extensively renovated and transformed back into a private home.
'Hanging an Innocent Man: Conversion of Mr Justice Stephen', Pall Mall Gazette, 13 Aug 1887, p. 11
'Police Intelligence: Thames', London Evening Standard, 25 Aug 1887, p. 2
'Murder? It doesn't bother me', The Times, 29 May 1999, p. 16