Murder #33, Eileen Jones, Bethnal Green
Eileen Jones, 73, was battered to death at a flat in Bethnal Green on March 23, 2011. Jones was found lying in a pool of blood. A postmortem gave the cause of death as blunt force injuries to her head and chest. Christopher Newton, 45, was charged with murder and went on trial on November 24, 2011. Newton was convicted of murder and was jailed for life with a minimum of 22 years before parole.
Most people are murdered indoors. Usually in their home by someone they know. I knew this when I embarked on this project. But I did wonder how this would play out for me as time went on. I knew the area well where Eileen Jones died. She died in Mandela House on Virginia Road which I must have passed by at least a hundred times, never taking notice of the nursing home where Jones was murdered. Mandela House was just a block down the road from the Columbia Flower Market, one of my favourite hangouts in London. So I turned up one freezing grey morning and soon found myself standing in front of Mandela House. No flowers or anything marked the fact that a murder had taken place inside. The building itself was as grey as the day. Nothing I did photographically seemed to work and I left defeated wondering where I was going with the project. Failure makes you question everything. I came back the next night after sunset determined to make a photograph . I figured the night would give me something more to work with then the previous morning’s grey light. I eventually chose a vantage point from across the road that was lit up by the warning lights of the zebra crossing and the street lamps.
I mention all this because sometimes I had nothing obvious to photograph when trying to convey murder, violence, death other than light. Light helps me suggest darkness, something ominous has taken place. I knew at the time that the crime must have been quite straightforward. The suspect must have been caught quickly, and the investigation wrapped up by 24 hours. No police tape littered the area as it usually did after a murder investigation. No flowers laid by the entrance to the building as it had in other murder sites I had visited. Nothing for me to hang my photograph on except the light.
Since March 2011, the place where Eileen Jones died is the one I come across the most of all the places I photographed. Nothing about Mandela House has changed or gives a hint to the passerby that a much loved grandmother was brutally beaten to death for apparently no reason while attempting to share some food with a blind neighbour. It has made me think how sheltered we are from death (violent or natural causes) in modern life.