There is fury over two commemorative plaques honouring Peter Piaktow that have been put on two blocks of flats (apartments) in Whitechapel in the East End of London.

Piaktow was the leader of an anarchist gang that was responsible for the the murder of three policemen

The Sidney Street Siege of 1911took place in the tough, darkly-lit streets of the East End of London (this was also just 23 years after the mysterious Jack the Ripper brutally murdered young women in the area)

A young Winston Churchill, who was then Home Secretary, led the siege. He narrowly escaped death after an anarchists's bullet passed through his top hat.

The anarchists were all Russians and Latvians and were wanted by the police for the murder of those three policemen.

Honouring an anarchist: Fury as Siege of Sidney Street killer gets tower block plaque

By Matthew Drake
26th September 2008
Daily Mail

Anarchist: Peter Piaktow

He is a sinister figure from the seething streets of the East End of London in the volatile years before the First World War.

Peter Piaktow, known as Peter the Painter, was the leader of an anarchist gang responsible for the murder of three policemen which was cornered at the Siege of Sidney Street.

In the final showdown in January 1911, Winston Churchill - the then Home Secretary who courted controversy with his orders at the scene - was nearly killed when an anarchist's bullet went through his top hat.

Nearly a century may have passed but the emotions caused by the Siege of Sidney Street have risen again over two commemorative plaques erected for Piaktow.

The plaques, on Peter House and Painter House in Whitechapel, read: 'This block was built in 2006 by Tower Hamlets Community Housing and named after Peter Piaktow, who was known as Peter the Painter, the anti-hero of the nearby Sidney Street Siege in 1911.'

Last night, the Metropolitan Police Federation and a councillor condemned the decision to 'glorify' deeds of a murderer.

Sarah Drury, of the federation, said: 'It's disappointing the local housing association has chosen to honour the anarchists in this manner when once again terrorism is at the forefront of people's minds.'

Controversial: Police chiefs have hit the warpath after housing bosses named two tower blocks after the leader of a gang of brutal cop killers

Tory councillor Peter Golds, who was the first to realise the significance of the plaques, said: 'It's extremely unfortunate that they've chosen to commemorate a murderer rather than cherish the memories of the three policemen. It's an insult to their families.'

Sergeant Thomas Tucker, 46, Sergeant Robert Bentley, 40, whose wife had given birth the previous week, and PC Joseph Choate, 32, were buried with the highest honours after a ceremony at St Paul's attended by King George V.


A young Winston Churchill, then Home Secretary, circled, directs the siege

The bodies of gang members William Sokolow and Fritz Svaars were found inside the siege building, but Piaktow's corpse was never discovered.

Many historians doubted he was ever at the scene.

Tower Hamlets Community Housing denied it was glorifying police killers.

On a mission: Soldiers from the Scots Guards take up positions around the Sidney Street house

Take aim: Scots Guards awaiting the order to fire during the siege

Chief executive Mike Tyrell said: 'There is no evidence that Peter the Painter killed the three policemen, so we knew we were not naming the block after a murderer.

'There is some doubt as to whether he existed, but he is the name that East Enders associate with the siege and Sidney Street.'

He added: 'These names were put to the officer in the council responsible for street naming, who consulted the police and fire brigade.'

Caught out: Peter the Painter - Peter Piaktow's house is marked with an X

On fire: Fireman tackle the blaze at the house in Sidney Street during the siege