Murder #28, Ram Bhasin and Sunil Koosuru, Shadwell
Ram Bhasin, 80, and his lodger Sunil Koosuru, 29, were killed in a house fire in the early hours of Monday 7 March, 2011. Their bodies were found by firefighters after a blaze at their maisonette in Chapman Street, Shadwell, east London. A postmortem gave the cause of death for both men as smoke inhalation. Mr Bhasin’s son Aaron Bhasin pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The court heard he started to suffer psychotic delusions after a heart attack in December 2010 left him brain damaged. Bhasin, 53, was sentenced to indefinite imprisonment for public protection with a minimum of six years before parole.
I normally waited a couple of days to visit a murder site but after I heard about the murder on Chapman Street I made my way there the day after. I exited the DLR line at Shadwell and made the short walk down to the building where the fire had occurred. I was confronted with a scene still guarded by many policemen and police tape everywhere. I approached from the east and could see the flat that had burned. I could also smell the smoke and dampness associated with it. I was photographing a policeman guarding the front door but was very unhappy with the position I was in. It did not help that the police on the scene wanted to me stay further back. A woman who was watching me from a neighbouring flat called me and suggested I go to the other side of the building for a better shot. I followed her advice and was relieved to find it free of police and it allowed me to shoot straight into the second floor flat.
Shadwell has one of the oldest Asian communities in London and it continues to have a strong Asian presence to say the least. Just a hundred meters south is Cable Street mural which marks the spot where the Cable Street riots happened as anti fascists battled Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts. Chapman Street runs parallel with the DLR rail line and the passing trains provided a constant rumble. The area was heavily bombed during the Blitz and this is illustrated by the lack of building and housing stock around Chapman Street that predates the war.
As I started shooting from my new vantage point I soon attracted a crowd of mostly Bangladeshi men quite content to watch me work without asking questions. I sensed they were unsure if I was Asian or not. Something about my whole demeanour seemed to tell them I was not. I had photographed two previous fires and they had both involved Asian victims. I started to wonder if this was a trend. It was also the third time I had photographed a scene that involved a double homicide. A woman suddenly emerged from the flat next to the fire. She was elderly and in her night gown and stared at me while I photographed. It looked like she was wondering why a crowd of men with a camera had gathered across the way.
I tried to photograph other things. The police standing guard, the vast amounts of police tape at the scene at street level. I even tried to get the small crowd around me in the frame by backing further back but they just followed me. The light was harsh and I wished for clouds. I kept expecting someone to lay some flowers at the scene but no one did. No one seemed to be grieving the loss of two men. Sunil Koosuru was from India and had only been in London a short time working as an IT manager. The other victim was the perpetrator’s elderly father.
One more fact about the case that seemed to be recurring in my project so far. Sunil Koosuru was the 11th victim be foreign born or a recent immigrant. His body returned to his homeland, dreams unfulfilled. Murder seemed to be stalking the immigrant communities of London.