This is Peter the Painter - fashionably dressed and with a splendid moustache. He looks like a pillar of the establishment. In fact, he was quite the opposite and part of a long line of anti-heroes in the East End of London.
Peter was a Latvian anarchist and nationalist who was believed to be a central figure in two sensational incidents of violence. The first was in December 1910, when a group of Latvian emigres were interrupted while trying to break through a party wall into a jeweller's shop in Houndsditch in the City of London. Three unarmed policemen were shot dead - and one of the gang died from shots fired by an accomplice.
A couple of weeks later - in January 1911 - two of the suspected gunmen were tracked down to a room at 100 Sidney Street in Stepney. A shoot-out lasting six hours ensued, and ended only when the house caught fire. Both gunmen died at the scene.
It's probable that Peter the Painter was neither at Houndsditch at the time of the shoot-out nor involved in the 'Siege of Sidney Street', but helped by his alliterative nom de guerre and the wanted posters put out by the police, he became something of a legend: the criminal mastermind who managed to get away.
The conventional account of Peter the Painter is that his identity has never been ascertained. In fact, the City of London police were confident that they could put a name to him by the close of 1912. But he wasn't in Britain and they had no evidence sufficient to secure extradition, so they kept quiet.
The anarchist and historian Phil Ruff has told the story of the afterlife of Peter the Painter, in as much as it can be retrieved, in his book A Towering Flame.
At the weekend, I strolled round the City and adjoining East End in the footsteps of Peter the Painter.
Harris's jewellers was on the north side of Houndsditch just beyond the junction with Cutler Street. Nowadays there's not a single building within 100 yards of the spot that was there back in 1910. But the street layout is much the same. (And there at the eastern end of Houndsditch you can see St Botolph's, Aldgate - often regarded as the entry point to the East End.)
The gang sought to burrow in from the back of the shop, having taken a tenancy on a tiny house in 11 Exchange Buildings, the outside loo of which shared a wall with the jeweller's. Those buildings are long gone - but what was Exchange Buildings remains a yard with an entrance on Cutler Street.
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