Why isn’t anybody talking about the North London lockdown murders? You hear a lot about how domestic violence has risen by 24 per cent under lockdown, but nobody talks about the fact that in one area of London – the small, largely Jewish boroughs of Finchley, Hendon and Golders Green — the murder rate has shot up by over a thousand per cent since March.
The most confounding thing is that such a close-knit and incestuous community remains largely silent about the murders that have ravaged it. In many cases, the victims were prominent and well-known figures, but at Friday night tables the incidents pass largely without comment. Could it be because there’s hardly anyone at those Friday night dinner tables, or does this Jewish silence suggest a deeper reason?
Of the murder of his father, Rabbi Ovrohom Cohen, Shmully Cohen says, ‘I miss Tatty, but I almost forgot it happened actually. Since the levoya nobody spoke about it. They didn’t speak. It’s such a sadness not to remember the dead already, but it’s actually quite nice.’
The members of Princes Park Avenue Synagogue, where Cohen was the senior rabbi, should be missing him dearly but since services have been cancelled due to lockdown, none of them have had a chance to.
Rabbi Cohen was found on erev Pesach by his youngest grandchild lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. He had been stabbed six hundred and thirteen times but it took medical examiners nearly fourteen hours to establish the cause of death. The wounds had been carefully placed in the folds of his belly. The murder weapon was determined to be a small home-made knife carved out of the bone of a lamb.
Only days later, the body of Lesley Macher was mostly found in Finchley Central. The well-known philanthropist, who had been missing for several weeks, was gradually discovered as police involved the local community in a search operation. He had been cut into over fifty pieces, each of them left in one of his rental properties.
‘I was having a piss and I noticed something on the window sill,’ said James Goy, tenant. ‘I was about to ask the wife where she found such an unusual looking plant, when I realised that it was a human toe in a little pot.’
Despite the effort that went into finding Mr Macher, there has been little mention of him since the successful conclusion of the search operation. About the philanthropist’s legacy, Nigel Parsnip, the chairman of Macher’s charitable foundation J-BroP (Jewish Help for Brown People), said, ‘We miss his money but we don’t miss him.’
But it’s not just well-known community figures that have fallen victim to this plague of murder. The whole of class B4 at the Jewish Fee-Paying School went missing one Wednesday afternoon in April during a remote school lesson. In their respective homes, the children got up from their computers and walked out of the front door never to be seen again. The one survivor Levi Bubis, said they had been watching a music lesson with some kind of guest teacher, but he hadn’t been paying attention. ‘I couldn’t be fucked,’ he admitted. The video lesson in question has since disappeared and once again, with schools closed due to the lockdown, there has been little mention of what would under ordinary circumstances constitute an enormous communal and national tragedy. I spoke to one of the parents at their country home, who asked to remain anonymous, while sipping a daiquiri. ‘I don’t know nothing about no Pied Piper and I most certainly didn’t pay him,’ he said. ‘You think I’m made of money?’ Police recently discovered a large haul of human bones in an East End sewer that appear to have been gnawed by rats, but a spokesperson said that the remains are likely to be unrelated.
It’s surprising how many people missed the human skin that was stretched over the gates of the Sternberg Centre in East Finchley. I spoke to many local residents who were shocked and alarmed and said this was the first they’d heard of it. ‘I do go past there quite often,’ said Lionel Bloom of Hendon, ‘but I try not to look.’
These are not the only stories, and indeed it would be possible to go on for quite some time listing the husbands, wives, uncles, grandparents, children and siblings that have met grisly ends over the recent months. What I can’t understand is why nobody’s talking about them. Could these killings be related? Are they antisemitic murders, or is there perhaps a personal or financial connection? Are they vigilante killings attempting to right some perceived wrong? Nobody knows, but it also feels like nobody cares.
Something must be done. Someone should form a committee. We need meetings and donations and black-tie dinners urgently.