Unsolved Murders

Sarah Ellison Brookstein

Age: unknown

Sex: female

Date: 22 Oct 1921

Place: 120 Sword Street, Dennistoun, Glasgow

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Sarah Brookstein was murdered between 18 and 23 October 1921.

Two people were charged, a man and a woman, with her murder one was found not guilty and the other not proven. They both had an alibi. It was said that they had previously threatened Sarah Brookstein with violence on a variety of dates between 1 September 1921 and 9 October 1921 in Hope street, St Vincent Street, Gordon Street and elsewhere. It was said that the woman had incited the man to use violence against Sarah Brookstein and that they had later murdered her, acting in concert.

Sarah Brookstein was the wife of a Jewish tailor that was residing in London. She was said to have been an unfortunate. The police said that she had been convicted for importuning on several occasions.

She had been shockingly injured and gagged.

She was found dead in her house by the police on 23 February 1921 after friends said that had been unable to get in for some days and found the shutters down and doors locked. The police forced the door and found her partially clothed and lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Her head was badly mutilated and there was evidence that she had been outraged.

The police said that the house was a single apartment one which was well furnished and clean. They said that Sarah Brookstein was lying on her back with her right foot resting on the fender. They said that there was blood on the sole of her right shoe and on the left stocking. They said that she had a wound on her head and had a bloodstained towel thrown across her face, one portion of which was stuffed into her mouth. They said that there was a large quantity of blood on the floor with splashes on the furniture and walls and that it was apparent that there had been a severe struggle.

They said that her clothing was either torn or cut right up and then thrown back to expose her body

The contents of a trunk and several drawers in her home had been ransacked.

When a doctor examined her body, he said that she had been dead for not less than sixty hours and probably longer, from the time that she was found. The doctor noted that her hair was voluminous in quantity and that it was saturated with blood in a semi-fluid condition. He said that on her head there was a lacerated wound that extended two inches above the left ear and that the skull was exposed in two places, and that in each case the bone was fractured. He said that in his opinion her cause of death was due to severe injuries adn fracture of the skull, and loss of blood and that the injuries were caused by the force of blows which might indicate the use of a claw hammer.

A witness that had lived next door to Sarah Brookstein said that she heard a scream on the night of 19 October 1921.

A compositor said that he had gone into the close on the night and met a man with a blood-stained forehead that had approached him and asked him for a cigarette. He later identified that man as the man that was tried for Sarah Brookstein's murder.

A woman said that he had seen Sarah Brooksteinin the street on 19 October 1921 whilst she was standing on the corner of St Vincent Street and West Nile Street with another woman. She said that she then saw the accused man talk to her and then get into a green car and go off in the direction of Dennistoun at about 8pm. she said that Sarah Brookstein had been wearing a brown costume, a red hat, and a dark fur. she noted that Sarah Brookstein and the woman that was tried for her murder had had a quarrel on the Monday before. She said that she had seen them but that all she had heard of the quarrel was the woman saying, 'I wish I had someone to hold my fur'. She said that she had been walking past at the the time but shortly after found Sarah Brookstein crying. she said that Sarah Brookstein didn't say what the quarrel had been about but had said 'She may wear her diamonds, but my diamonds are by my side day and daily', meaning her children.

The woman said that she met Sarah Brookstein on another evening about a week before she was murdered and said that she had told her that some chaps had come to her door but that she would not open it and that they then ordered her to open it. She said that Sarah Brookstein told her that she asked them who they were but that they would not answer and that they then ran away and didn't come back. The woman said that she told Sarah Brookstein that she should tell the police about the men as she had seemed frightened.

When the woman was asked how she came to be in Glasgow on the evening she said that she had been to the pictures with a lady friend. when asked if she was a woman of the streets she had said 'Not exactly'. Then, when asked 'Is it not the case that you go about the streets? Now, be honest?' she had replied 'Yes'.

She also admitted that it was the first time, on 19 October 1921, that she had seen the man that had gone off with Sarah Brookstein and who she identified as the man on trial and that she had only had a momentary look at him. She also admitted that when she had first gone to the police station she had failed to identify the man that was on trial. However, she said that she didn't identify him because she was afraid. When she was asked what she was afraid of she said 'I wasn't well at the time. I was too excited to identify him'. When it was put to her that what she had said on the Tuesday was entirely different or contrary to what she had said on the Saturday, she said 'Yes'.

In court, another woman that said that she knew Sarah Brookstein but was not her friend said that she saw her on the evening of 19 October 1921 while she was standing on the corner of St Vincent Street and West Nile Street with her little daughter. she said that she saw her get into a green car with a man. she later went to the police station on 29 October 1921 and told the police that she had identified the man that she had seen get into the car with Sarah Brookstein, outside and showed the police. When she was later asked to pick out the man from a group of other men, she did so without difficulty.

At the trial a tramcar conductor was shown a ticket and he confirmed that it had been issued by him on the evening of 19 October 1921 and said that it would have been issued for a journey to Shettleston between Wellington Street and Buchanan Street and that the car would have passed the corner of West Nile Street and St Vincent Street at about 7.55pm.

The woman that had lived next door to Sarah Brookstein and had heard the scream, gave evidence in court. She said that she had heard the scream at about 9pm on the night of 9 Ooctober 1921 and said that it was just one scream and not very long and that it had come from below her. She said that as soon as she heard the scream she ran downstairs but heard no repetition of it and noted that there was a fight going on outside and that she thought that the scream had come from outside. She said that she didn’t know Sarah Brookstein personally but had passed the time of day with her when they had met.

The compositor also gave evidence in court. He said that he had gone into the close at 120 Sword Street shortly after 9pm to light a cigarette and that he had heard a shuffling of feet at the back of the close and that he then saw the form of a man in a recess at the back of the stairs. He said that the man made as if to come out, but had seemed on seconds thoughts to turn as if wavering. He said then that the man came right forward towards him and pulled out a packet of cigarettes and asked for a light and that he lit a match and in the light saw that the man had a lot of blood across his forehead. He said that the man was making it worse by wiping a handkerchief across it. The compositor said that he asked the man if he was cut and said that the man told him that it was blood that he had received in a scuffle at the back. He said that he told the man that he should get it washed and said that the man seemed excited and then asked what car he should take to reach the centre of the city and that he told him to go to Duke Street and get a green car. He said that the man then left and went off towards Duke Street. He said that the man had been wearing a bowler hat and grey trousers although he said he was not positive as his coat was buttoned up. He later identified the man that he had seen as the man that was in court accused of Sarah Brookstein's murder. He said that he had had a good look at the man's face and said that he had no doubt that the man in court was the man that he had seen with the blood on his forehead.

In court, a collar was found at a house at Arlington Street that had what was said to resemble mammalian blood on it.

A motor garage owner gave evidence in court saying that the man accused of the murder had garaged his car at about 8pm on the 19 October 1921 and said that he was certain that it was before 8.30pm. However, he admitted that he only had a vague recollection of the time.

The man that was tried said that he had gone to Kilwinning Police Station on 25 October 1921 and said that he saw his partner there and said that he was greatly surprised to hear about Sarah Brookstein's death and that it was the first that he had heard of it. He said that he then gave an account of his movements to the police and was then left, saying that the police seemed quite satisfied with his statements.

He said that at the time he didn't take it too seriously but that he was later read his description in the newspapers and was asked to go back on the Monday when he was asked yo line up. He said that he lined up between two policemen and three boys and said that he was the only one that resembled the description.

He said that on the 19 February 1921 he had arrived home at 7.45pm and after having tea he garaged his car between 8.20pm and 8.30pm. He said then that at 8.50pm he went to a pub and then returned home. He said that he had never been in Sword Street that night. when questioned about the evidence of he man that had said that he had lit a match for him in the close he said that it was not true and said that he was a pipe smoker and did not smoke cigarettes. He also denied that the other woman on trial had instigated him to do violence to Sarah Brookstein. He also denied that he had ever worn the bloodstained collar.

The jury retired for 38 minutes and found the woman not guilty and the case against the man not proven.

Four and a half years later an ex-policeman confessed to her murder but he was not thought to have done it and had been in an asylum.


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


see Dundee Courier - Thursday 02 February 1922

see The Scotsman - Saturday 21 January 1922

see Western Times - Tuesday 25 October 1921

see Sunday Post - Sunday 06 November 1921

see Dundee Courier - Wednesday 26 October 1921

see Dundee Courier - Thursday 02 February 1922