I was involved in my first murder case when I was a uniformed PC on the beat in South London one night duty. It was high summer and didn't get dark until about 9.pm. I started walking my beat at 10.pm going along Albany Road, Camberwell, when I was approached by a worried man who lived in a tenement block called Waleron Buildings, which consisted mostly of one room flats, but they should be described as Dickensian hovels
There were four floors, and a central courtyard, which the sun never reached, and he told me that on looking across the void of the courtyard from his fourth floor room, he could see another fourth floor room on the other side, and a man in that room was trying to force the window open, which had obviously been nailed down, or to smash the glass. He said the man looked demented and he was positive that the man was trying to throw himself out. I went to the block he indicated, and climbed to the fourth floor, where there were two flats.
There was no answer to one, but the people in the other flat told me that a middle aged couple lived next to them. They both worked in a pub, and frequently argued when in drink. They thought that as it had been quiet for a week they had gone away. They thought the man could be quite violent.
I decided to break in, and it was easy enough to open the front door, but found myself in a tiny lobby where the coats were hung. It was impossible to open the inner door to the room, although it wasn't locked, there was something solid behind the door preventing any movement.
There was a glass opening fanlight above this door, and borrowing a chair from the neighbours, I climbed on it, opened the glass fanlight and peered through. Shining my torch down to see what the obstruction was, I could see the body of the wife lying full length behind the door, surrounded by a huge pool of blood, which had dried, effectively sticking her body to the floor. I realised that she had been dead for some time in order to be in that situation, and then I saw that her skull had been caved in and a large clawed hammer was beside the body.
The most awful thing was that her eyes were both open and staring at the bed in the room, and shining my torch in that direction, the eyes of that dead woman were staring accusingly at her husband who was sitting on the edge of the bed. He looked up at my torchlight and I could see that he was completely deranged.
He had killed her in a fit of rage a week before, and she had effectively trapped him in that room, just staring at him. I tried speaking to him but could get no sense, and then saw him with a razor blade try to cut his wrists. I had to stop him somehow, and clambered up through the opening of the fanlight and climbed through, but there was nothing to hold the other side and promptly fell on the body. I took the blade from him, but it was old and rusty and had only scratched his wrists, and I noticed other cut marks on his body.
The neighbours on the other side of the door called out and asked if everything was alright, and I told the husband to get to a telephone and dial 999 to get me some assistance. This he did, and soon CID officers had climbed through that aperture to take photographs before they could prise the body from behind the door.
As we took the demented husband from the room, I could swear that her eyes followed him from the bed to the door to go out onto the landing.