The waiting is over for tragic family

By Jennifer Lipman, July 14, 2011
Daniel Benoliel

Daniel Benoliel

The long-lost relatives of a man stabbed to death 92 years ago have been reunited after a chance sighting of an advert on the JC's weekly email newsletter.

The surprising reunion has its origin in the 1919 murder of garment factory foreman Solomon Franks, by a Russian Jewish worker who had been traumatised in the battlefields of the First World War.

The story of the murder, in the Wilks raincoat factory, was dramatised this year by Mr Franks' great-grandson Daniel Benoliel, as part of a one-man show on family and fatherhood called Waiting Like A Man. The case sent shockwaves around the Manchester Jewish community where Mr Franks, a 49-year-old grandfather, had been a well-known member of the Cheetham Hill Old Hebrew Congregation. In an article on the "tragic occurrence", the JC described him as "highly respected by a large
circle for his amiable disposition".

Hyman Perdovich, the murderer, was found guilty and despite an appeal, hanged the following January.

It emerged during the trial that Perdovich had often been absent from work because he was receiving treatment for injuries sustained in the trenches, and had been cautioned by Mr Franks as a result.

Hyman Perdovich

Hyman Perdovich

Keen to escape the tragedy, several members of the Franks family emigrated to Australia and Canada, and the different branches of the family lost touch.

Mr Benoliel, 28, grew up hearing the "strange story," and became more interested in his family history after his father died in 2006. His research led him to write Waiting Like A Man, which is currently being staged at a London theatre.

But he was not expecting the play to bring him closer to an unknown relative. When Jill Whitehead, the great-niece of Solomon Franks' wife Betsy, spotted a small advert for the show, referrring to the Franks murder, she got in touch with Mr Benoliel. The two, who are second cousins, have exchanged emails and now hope to meet in person.

In an unlikely twist, Ms Whitehead had also been investigating her family tree, using the JC's archives, and recognised Mr Franks' name. She had known of Mr Benoliel's father, but had no idea that he had had a son.

"I just happened to see the unusual name and I knew we had a connection," said Ms Whitehead, who was not brought up Jewish but has long been interested in her Jewish origins.

Last updated: 2:02pm, July 14 2011