Unsolved Murders

Barney Plotska

Age: 7

Sex: male

Date: 26 Dec 1907

Place: Wardour Street, Soho, London

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Betsey Plotska 8, Barney Plotska 7 and Hyman Plotska 3 were all killed in a suspicious fire at their home in Wardour Street.

The fire broke out just as their mother was putting them to bed after Barney Plotska's birthday party.

The fire brigade were called and put out the fire but later said that the fire was suspicious and appeared to have been started in three separate places with suspicions marks on the third floor and the landing that looked as though some highly inflammable material had been burnt which had left scars on the floor.

A man who occupied rooms at the top of the house said that he was in the front room on the top floor at the time when he heard cries from the street. His partner then ran to the window and looked out and screamed 'There's a fire in the place'. He said that they left the window open and ran downstairs giving the alarm. He said that he used incandescent gas in his room but no candles that the he had had a gas stove which was on when he ran out. He also said that his furniture was not insured.

His partner said that when they ran down the stairs there was no fire in their room, and neither was there anything burning. they were later censured by the Coroner's jury for having left the building whilst there were other people still in it.

A man who had been outside waiting at the corner of the street said that he heard whistles blown and when he went towards the street he saw about fifty people looking up at the first floor of the house which was on fire with fire and smoke coming out.  He said that he then ran into the house and as he was going up the stairs he saw a man coming down about halfway with a bundle under his arm. The man said that he asked the man if there was anybody in the house but the man had said 'There is nobody in the house, they are all saved.' He said he asked if the man was sure and he told him that he was. however, the man continued up the stairs and where he saw fire and smoke coming from beneath the door of the first-floor front room. He said that he burst open the door and then two policemen came up and they all went in together. he said that the room was alight and the furniture was on fire, in particular a big wardrobe. He said that the window was open but that he didn't smell anything strange.

When the man was questioned by the Coroner he said that the furniture seemed to burn in a funny way and was flaring up more than he thought ordinary furniture would and that it was burning very quickly.

A Superintendent of the London Fire Brigade said that he had examined the building after the fire and said that it appeared that a first fire had been started in in the back room on the first floor and had travelled upstairs to the third floor past the doors on the second floor which were shut. he said that the landing of the third floor looked suspicious as though something had been spoiled there and said that he was strongly of the opinion that the fire on the third-floor top room was a separate fire to the one started on the first floor. He said that in total he thought that there had been three separate fires, one in the first-floor front room, the second in the first-floor back room and the third in the third-floor front room.

However, the insurance surveyor and assessor said that after he had examined the premises he came to the conclusion that there had only been one fire which had started on the first floor and that after the door had been burst open had shot up the staircase, going past the closed doors on the second floor and then going into the rooms of the third floor that had been open.

The Coroner said that there was no evidence to indicate arson although there was some suspicion that there had been two or even three fires and that the fire remained unexplained.

He also pointed out that there was no truth in the allegations that the fire brigade had been later getting to the fire and that some of them had been drunk.

The Coroner's jury returned an open verdict.


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


see Evening Star - Wednesday 15 January 1908