Edging further into what was once the “living room”, her view of the mutilated corpse became clearer. Martha felt a sudden rush of guilt, unable to maintain her professional demeanour. Within minutes her mind became overwhelmed with that guilt, and it was not long before she found herself being consumed by a dark cloud, finally succumbing to the sweet embrace of oblivion.
Another day in the office, paperwork still covering most of my desk. I wonder how long I can make my next break last? Martha thought. She had been in the office since 6:30 am and found that time was dragging. It already felt as though she had been in situ for the whole day, but it was only 8:40 am. Just over 2 hours. Come on, come on! Lunchtime couldn’t come quick enough.
“Martha?” Fellow Detective, Nick Hardy, walked through the open door. He was holding a folder with UK NCLB: MSMI Department, #3796, CS – M. (UK National Criminal Law Bureau: Manslaughter and Murder Investigation Department, folder #3796, Crime Scene – Murder) printed on the front.
“Yes, Nick?” Martha replied, clearly agitated by the presence of the folder.
“We have a case,” Detective Nick Hardy made his way to Martha’s desk. “A call just came in. A young woman found dead and beaten in a back alley. We’re needed at the scene.”
Grabbing her coat, Martha made her way out of the office, Nick following close beside her. It’s going to be a long day, she thought.
Arriving in Nick’s black unmarked Mazda CX-3, Martha prepared herself mentally for the scene to come. After working on many cases and always remaining one of the best at her job, she still found herself getting nervous and queasy when facing a murder scene up close.
The wind was bitterly cold as Martha and Nick exited the car, the blast of frigid cold air prompting Martha to place her hands into her coat pockets. Making their way down the no-named back alley in Whitechapel East London, just off the Commercial Road, the smell of death slowly reached her nose. Police tape was spread across the alley to keep unwanted pedestrians from entering the crime scene. It was a narrow, quiet place, still awaiting the renovations the area was undergoing to bring it back into use. Discoloured bricks and broken windows made up a large disused building on one side, on the other a more modern-looking building with barred windows, also disused, towered up, enclosing the area completely. The ground was an old and broken cobblestone walkway, many of the cobbles missing, leaving holes and an uneven surface to trip up the unwary.
Great day to have chosen heels. Flats in future, Martha thought. She made her way under the tape with Nick, ID at the ready to gain access to the scene.
“I’m Detective Martha Willis and this is my partner, Detective Nick Hardy.” She held her ID at a short distance from a uniformed officer’s face and was given immediate access. They made their way over to the small forensic tent which covered the body, protecting any possible evidence and hiding the corpse from prying eyes. Forensics was already busy taking notes and photographing the body and the surrounding area, examining what they could on the scene. Once satisfied that they had gleaned all possible information on site, they would give the thumbs up to transporting the body back for a full post-mortem.
The dead woman’s eyes had been pale blue and emotionless, already clouded over with the mist of death. Her strawberry blonde coloured hair was thickly clotted with blood and dirt. She looked so young, perhaps early 20s? Her lips were cut and bruises covered her naked body, indicating she had faced a brutal beating before having her life cruelly taken away. Her legs appeared as though they had been forced apart, and as a result, had been broken near the top, her hip bone looking as though it was severely damaged.
“Hello, I am Jessica Heath,” a woman of around 30 approached the two detectives and held out her hand to Martha in greeting. They shook. “I am a Forensic Anthropologist,” she said in a clipped, precise manner.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Detective Willis. Can we confirm an age for the victim? And have any clothes been found belonging to this young woman?”
“From her appearance, we can only estimate her age between eighteen to late twenties, we can give a more accurate age once a full autopsy is held. No clothes have been found anywhere near the crime scene, so no paper ID, such as a driver’s license, to tell us who she is. We are searching for any evidence that might tell us if she was wearing clothes when she arrived here, but as of yet we have not found any.”
“The bruises and cuts?”
“The bruises appear to be consistent with that of a severe beating and being forcibly restrained. There also appears to be wounds on both of her hands that are consistent with the victim attempting to defend herself. I believe, under the circumstances, that we can safely deduce that the bruising place whilst she was still alive. A quick examination indicates that the cuts were probably caused by a blunt weapon. With the volume of blood present and the placing of the body, we can confirm that this is where our victim died.”
“Was she,” she didn’t want to bring herself to say the next word. She forced it. “Was she raped?”
“We cannot give a definitive report on what happened until we have carried out a post-mortem. Until then, we can logically assume that a sexual attack may have taken place due to the breaks in her ischium and the excessive bruising around her wrists and both thighs. Particulates found in the flesh wounds on her wrists seem to indicate she was tied up with rope at some point. The ligature markings around her cheeks and behind both ears suggest she was gagged by some kind of rough cloth. Also, it looks as though she suffered multiple amounts of sexual abuse. Until a full autopsy has taken place, I am afraid I cannot help much for now and can only give educated guesses.”
“Thank you, Miss Heath.” Martha made her way over to Nick who had gone over to interview the woman who found the victim.
“I was just, I was walking home from work and she was just, laying there! I just . . .” she broke down into tears, renewing the trail of dried tears with new ones.
“Thank you for your co-operation. If we’ve any more questions to ask we will let you know.” Nick walked off to the side with Martha, notebook in hand. “Her name is Leanne Baker. She doesn’t know much; just found the body by accident. I doubt she’ll be sleeping any time soon. She works night shifts, left for home about 6 this morning. She called the police the moment she found the body at around 6:45.”
“We don’t have an ID for the victim, and her clothes have yet to be found,” Martha informed him.
“Forensics and Missing Persons may help us find the answer to that. Anything else?” He folded his notebook away into his coat pocket and blew on his hands, rubbing them together to try and get some warmth back into them.
“Forensics won’t confirm anything as fact until they’ve run a full autopsy. With no clothes on the scene and the state of the body, they will only assume this to be a possible rape and murder victim.”
“And no witnesses by the looks of things. Unless we catch a break with DNA this could be a long one.”
The interviews, examinations and photography continued until around 14:30. The afternoon was much colder than before, and after 5 hours on the scene everything was eventually packed up and taken away for further investigation. Martha slid lazily into Nick’s car, hunger written across her face, with her stomach doing summersaults. Okay, okay, I’ll feed you!
“Burger King?” Nick asked as though he had read Martha’s mind. She smiled in agreement, easing herself into a comfortable position for the half-hour journey back.
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