Unsolved Murders

Walter Choate

Age: 34

Sex: male

Date: 19 Dec 1910

Place: 11 Exchange Buildings, Houndsditch

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Sergeant Charles Tucker, Sergeant Robert Bentley, Constable Walter Choate and George Gardstein were all shot and killed during a robbery on a jewellers in Hounsditch.

Sergeant Tucker, Sergeant Bentley and Constable Choate were policemen whilst George Gardstein was one of the robbers who was shot by another one of the robbers as he shot a policeman, the bullet passing through the policeman and hitting George Gardstein.

Constable Choate was shot twelve times.

George Gardstein was carried home where he died. He was also known as Morountzeff.

It was thought that George Gardstein himself had fired many of the bullets that killed the policemen.

The robbers were Latvian revolutionaries who had come from Latvia after the failed Russian revolution of 1905. They were trying to raise funds through crime to pay for more revolutionary activity and decided to rob HS Harris Jewellers in Exchange Buildings. To carry this out they rented out three other buildings in Exchange Buildings so that they could have access to the back and get in from the house next door. They had heard that the safe in the jewellers shop had £20k worth of diamonds in it. When the police went in they found a hole in the wall with boards and ladders to allow access between the two. They also found a fire burning in the fireplace of 11 Exchange Buildings and food on the table.

They used explosives to get through the safes. They used drills and saws to get through the walls but the sound had disturbed a neighbour who had sat listing to forty five minutes of the sound of drilling, sawing and the general breaking of brickwork. They went to find a local policeman who had a listen and then decided to knock at 11 Exchange Buildings. When the door was opened the policeman asked if the missus was home and the man replied in a Russian accent that she had gone out. The policeman decided that he needed back up and went off to report it.

He then found a number of policemen including Constable Choate and another constable who kept an eye on the jewellers whilst the first policeman went off to Bishopsgate Police Station where he gathered further help including Sergeant Bentley and another man. When they returned they were joined by a further two plain clothes policeman and two other sergeants including Sergeant Tucker. By that time it was 11.30pm.

Sergeant Bentley and another policeman then went to 11 Exchange Buildings and knocked on the door. The door was opened and they asked if anyone was making a noise and then went in but as they got to the passage they saw a man come from the back-door with a gun who shot at least 3-4 shots. They were both shot, Sergeant Bentley was killed whilst the other policeman was shot in the arm and chest. The man who was shot in the arm and chest said he saw Constable Choate and another policeman lying outside in the carriage way.

An inspector said that he was standing a few yards from 11 Exchange Buildings when he heard four shots and then saw the door open and saw Sergeant Bentley fall out. He then saw a hand held pistol thrust through the door in the direction of another policeman which was then fired rapidly hitting the policeman. A man then came out of the doorway and went into the roadway firing rapidly towards where the inspector and Sergeant Tucker were. Sergeant Tucker was hit and as the inspector was helping him get away two more shots were fired.

Atone point some of the robbers who had been inside 9 Exchange Buildings came out and Constable Choate tried to grapple them but was shot and killed. It was said that during the shooting of Constable Choate a stray bullet hit George Gardstein from which he later died.

The inspector then said he saw another figure firing from the door. He later identified one of the men as being George Gardstein.

The robbers then fled taking George Gardstein with them.

The police later went to 59 Grove Street where they saw the body of George Gardstein lying dead in the first floor front room. He had a bullet hole under the left shoulder blade. They also found thirty cartridges on him as well as a key that fitted the door to 9 Exchange Buildings.

They also found an overcoat with a corresponding bullet hole in the shoulder and a clip containing seven cartridges for a Dryse pistol.

They also found a Dryse pistol in the room that was loaded with seven cartridges. They also found thierteen loose cartridges in a soft cap, and seveteen rifle cartridges as well as a cardboard box containing 50 cartridges, a cartridge belt, a dagger with the name removed, a mandolin, a tambourine, a fiddle and a colour picture signed Yurka and dated December.

The police then found a woman in a back room burning some papers and photos. She denied that she had committed the murders or that she was one of the women that had been seen with the robbers.

Several people were charged with lesser offences but no one was convicted of the murders.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see City Of London Police

see Dundee Courier - Monday 19 December 1910

see Dundee Courier - Tuesday 17 January 1911

see The History Student

see Greater London Murders

see Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 7.2, 10 July 2016), April 1911, trial of DUBOF, Zurka (24, painter) PETERS, Jacob (24, tailor's presser) ROSEN, John (26, hairdresser) VASSILEVA, Nina (23, cigarette maker) (t19110425-75).