Murder #32, Wlodzimierz Szymanski, Willesden
Wlodzimierz Szymanski, 59, died at his home in Willesden on March 18, 2011. Police were called to the address in Chandos Road and found the victim had suffered a head injury. He was pronounced dead at the scene. A postmortem revealed the cause of death was a broken neck. Detectives first treated the case as suspicious. A 56 year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of murder but was later released. The death is listed as an undetected homicide.
A murder takes place according to the police but then no more information. Eventually it is listed as an undetected homicide. I hesitated for months about going to Willesden to photograph the site where Wlodzimierz Szymanski died. I was sure that the police would eventually classify it as something else, anything but murder. Over the course of my 2 year project this would happen occasionally. But after months it remained on the books as murder. So I eventually made my way to Willesden Green Tube Station which I was very familiar with. I used to live in Kilburn and one of the first stories I ever worked in London on was on a large Squat and its inhabitants, just around the corner from the tube station. Finding Chandos Road, I proceeded to ask local residents about the murder. I got enough info to figure out which house Szymaski died in. Its hard to explain why I didn’t go with a photo that had a direct look at the house. But I didn’t and chose the one above.
I had googled Szymanski + Murder a lot since then and still very little info. The police arrested a partner or a spouse but its not clear. And then released her. Not even the local papers reported the death. A very silent murder. One whose privacy was airtight. I wondered if Szymanski was a Polish national who had made his way to London looking for work and a better life and just disappeared into its void.
The photo above was taken from Melrose Avenue in Willesden where Dennis Nilsen killed 12 boys and men in the 70s and 80s. He later moved to Muswell Hill and murdered 3 more people. I had never heard of Nilsen before I came to London but sometime in the late 90s I had an assignment for the Observer Newspaper to do a portrait of a writer who lived a few doors down from Nilsen’s former house. He told me the whole story. I now live in North London and not very far from the place where Nilsen continued his murder spree in Muswell Hill. Luckily in the two years of my project no murders took place committed by a serial killer like Nilsen. Killers like Nilsen though have a huge influence of how we view murder. Its easy to imagine someone like Nilsen but quite hard to imagine someone we know, who are close to being the one who ends our life. Nilsen embodies the idea of evil being behind murder. Its rarely the case.