Romanian Csaba Siklodi, 42, was battered and stabbed to death at a bungalow in Sydenham, south London, in the early hours of February 9, 2011. Police were called the house in Mayow Road at 2.10am following reports of a disturbance. Mr Siklodi had suffered 18 stab wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene. Gheorghe Mihai Teodorescu,46, and Marcea Corbu, 51, both of no fixed address, were charged with his murder. They went on trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court on November 21, 2011.The prosecution claimed the victim was beaten with a crowbar and stabbed repeatedly by his housemates after an argument about what music to play during a drinking session in the bedroom. Corbu and Teodorescu were convicted of murder and jailed for life. Teodorescu will serve a minimum of 20 years before parole and Corbu a minimum of 18 years before parole.
I remember getting up early hoping to use the morning light but instead being met by cold dreary rain. When I got to Mayow Road the forensic team was still working inside the house and outside a lone officer sat in her car looking bored out of her mind. She stepped out to ask me for some ID and then let me get on with my photograph. I knew nothing about what had happened except that someone had been murdered. Normally someone would come up to me offering me some clue as to what had occurred but on this miserable wet day everyone seemed in a rush to get to work and out of the rain. The only clue to I could derive was the Liverpool FC flag in the window. I imagined that someone from Liverpool had been involved. The forensic officers came in and out in their white boiler suits like ghosts. I kept wondering what kind of scene was inside. I took very few photographs and generally I wasn’t happy with the photographs. It was one of those days that I doubted the journey I was on.
It was the 5th murder site I had photographed that an immigrant or foreign national had been murdered since the beginning of the year. Romania, Poland, Sri Lanka, Russia and Ireland were the countries the victims had come from. Csaba Siklodi ended up in a squat and spent his last night on earth drinking, arguing and dying violently. I am sure he had bigger dreams than that.
Siobhan Kelly, 39, was found battered to death at her home in Upper Norwood, south London, on February 7, 2011. Police had to force entry to the flat at around 8.20pm after relatives in Ireland became concerned she had not been in contact. She was pronounced dead at the scene and a postmortem gave the cause of death as internal bleeding due to blunt force trauma. She suffered several fractured ribs, cuts to her head and bleeding and bruising to her brain. It is claimed she was stamped on, punched and beaten with a large candle and a lamp. Stephen Foad,41, had killed Kelly on the night of January 15, 2011 and her body had lain in her flat for 3 weeks. Foad was charged with murder and he eventually pleaded guilty. He was sentenced for life in prison.
When I got to Tudor Road I knew instantly which flat Siobhan Kelly had died in. Steel grilled plates covered the two windows that faced the street. A couple of bouquets of flowers also lay at the entrance to the building. I had walked from Penge East Station for some reason which was not the closest station and it had been a seemingly long walk through hilly neighbourhoods and Crystal Palace Park. So when I arrived at Tudor Road I was tired. I set up and tried different positions. The one I eventually settled on was very close to the entry to the walk of flats. It made me uncomfortable to be so close to the door as I felt I would impede anyone coming and going. I also knew that it would make others uneasy to see a photographer suddenly as they came out of their homes. My fears were unfounded as I saw not a single person during the whole hour I was there.
Later when I read the details of the case it was clear that Siobhan Kelly was a troubled and lonely individual. London it seemed to me was full of people who come and go and sometimes are eaten up by the city. The fact that Kelly had lain dead in her flat for three weeks was really troubling. I would come across the histories of lots of people like Kelly in the two years of my project, of both the victims and the guilty. After two years I came to the conclusion that though London was actually a very safe city in comparison to most cities its size, but I also came to regard London as a cruel city, a destroyer of the vulnerable. A city whose ugly side is kept far away from prying eyes.
Murder #16, Kunaliny Alagaratnam & Santhirapathy Tharmalingam, Deptford
Kunaliny Alagaratnam 42 and Santhirapathy Tharmalingam,59, died in afire on the 16th floor of a tower block in Deptford , South London. Sandra Clarke, 50, started the blaze in her own flat using two cans of lighter fuel after a dispute over her rent arrears. Alagaratnam and Tharmalingam who were in a neighbouring flat, died of smoke inhalation during a fire in which 50 firefighters were involved. Sandra Clarke was charged and found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for 16 years.
I had an assignment in Greenwich late in the afternoon of February 4th and I was on a train when I went by Marine Tower in Deptford. I saw the smoke rising from the building and wondered how bad the fire was. And then I forgot about it. Until the next day or so when I found out someone had died in the blaze and that it was probably murder. So I went to the building and saw the usual signs of police activity at the ground floor which of course I photographed. A young man who was studying photography came up to me and asked me a lot of questions about my work and technical questions about my cameras. I was happy for the distraction because I was not happy with the photographs I was making and it gave me time to think. A few more people came up to the two of us and told me what they knew of the case. They told me that the male relatives of the two women had killed them. Honour killings and the such they said. Of course not knowing much about the case I believed them. So in one ear I am being told that Asian men dont like being disrespected by their women and in the other ear I am being asked questions about the future of Photojournalism. I finally had to make my excuses and get back to the task at hand. I decided that I needed a photograph that showed the fire damage to the building and show it was the top floor. I walked several blocks west and north of the building until I was far enough away to see the top clearly. I had to use a telephoto lens, which I dont really like, to get what I wanted. I photographed until the sun went down. The whole time I watched distant planes fly by, the beautiful sunset light come in and out of the clouds, flocks of birds go by. Women with their children stopped to stare at me and one man came out wondering if I was photographing his flat. I said no and satisfied with my explanation stood with me for a few minutes pondering the black stain on the building. The smoke from the fire had blackened the northwest corner of Marine Tower. Santhirapathy Tharmalingam was visiting her cousin Kunaliny Alagaratnam and I wondered if Santhirapathy had ever been to London before. I wondered what had brought Kunaliny to London and if that reason had been poverty, family or even war. To die in such way in a tower block so high up in freezing grey London. So different from the Sri Lanka.
Lorna Smith, 45, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend after being lured to his flat at Morrish Road in Brixton. She had broken up with Clifford Mills in 2006 but they remained friends until she started a new relationship in October 2010. Lorna tried to cease contact but he set up a false Facebook account in the name of Charlie Manning to keep in touch. Smith arrived at his flat at 3pm on February 2, 2011. Twenty minutes later Mills left the address with two bags packed with his belongings and spent the rest of the day travelling around London. At 1am he turned up at the accident and emergency department of St Thomas’ Hospital and confessed to Lorna’s murder. While in the hospital Mills told hospital staff that ‘Stan’ had in fact killed Lorna. He said “You need to call the police, Lorna’s dead. Stan’s killed her. Stan hates her, he killed her.” When asked who Stan was Mills replied “Stan is in my head.” Police broke into the flat in Morrish Road and found Lorna sitting in a chair with her throat cut and a plastic bag placed over her head. Clifford Mills was given a life sentence after being found guilty of the murder.
Coming out of Brixton Tube always reminds me of when I first came to London. Brixton was as famous to me as Westminster or any other part of London. I was expecting to see a “ghetto” like some of the inner cities of the United States. What I saw instead was a vibrant community and I said to myself that if this is as rough as London gets, I am gonna really love living here. I still love Brixton but I also expected to visit the area a lot for my project. Brixton is associated with a lot of crime, unfairly I knew, yet those preconceptions filter into my head just like anyone else. I also expected Lorna to be a black woman just because she met her death in Brixton. I don’t like writing things like this because it forces me to admit my head is full of dumb shit that clouds my judgement and forces me to constantly challenge what I think I know. I caught the No. 45 bus that went down Brixton Hill and got off near Morrish Road. I walked up and down the road looking for the murder site but saw nothing. I sheepishly went into a women’s hairdressing salon and asked them if they knew where it was. They said it was at the west end of the road where “the white lady” had died. They also told me it was some sort of domestic dispute. They told me to look out for the boarded up window facing the street in a block of flats. When I saw the ground floor flat I wondered how I missed the broken window. From what I read later it was the police that broke the window when forcing their way in. It was cold and windy and I struggled to make a photo. I ended up being drawn to the solitary piece of police tape flapping in the wind. One of the women that I had met in the salon came up to me and asked if I was with “the Sun”. It was a question that I would get a lot during the course of two years and anyone who knows me would know nothing annoys me more than being confused with a tabloid snapper. I said no and told her what I was doing. She looked at me like I was nuts but smiled kindly and walked away.
Anthony Bates, 36, was tortured to death at a squat in Vauxhall, south London, on January 31, 2011. He was burned with a hot poker, scalded with hot syrup, stabbed in the neck with an apple skewer and beaten with a broom handle. Police found his mutilated body in the kitchen of a house in Fentiman Road at 5.30am the next day. Gary Speight was charged with murder on February 3. On April 28, Dean Swift and his girlfriend Corina Lowe, were charged with murder. They went on trial at the Old Bailey on November 8, 2011. The prosecution claimed Speight killed Mr Bates for having an affair with his girlfriend while he was in jail. It was claimed Swift and Lowe joined in the attack. On December 21, 2011, Speight and Swift were convicted of murder. Lowe was cleared of the charge.
Fentiman Road is a long road and I wasn’t sure which end I should go to first. I chose the south end and got off at Oval Station on the Tube. Facing me across the street was St. Mark’s Church, which was once the site of the Surrey County Gallows. I walked west down the A3 past the usual array shops that are everywhere in London and turned right into Fentiman. Suddenly I knew I was on a well to do street of large victorian houses. I walked slowly looking for signs of a police presence as I was sure the forensic teams had finished their work. I stopped at a small council block of flats betraying my own prejudices that thought this must be the place. I asked a passerby if he knew the scene of the crime and he directed me to keep going north. I found the murder site which was across from Vauxhall Park. Traffic cones and discarded forensic clothing littered the front of the house. The windows to the front room and door were smashed betraying what must have been a very violent crime scene. The street was unusually free of traffic and I set up my camera and tripod in the middle of the road. Soon many local residents started coming up to me explaining that the house was a squat and that people of the sordid type came and went. I was told lots of negative things about Anthony Bates and it was clear that I was being told that the murder was not surprising. No one expressed any sadness. I doubt if any knew at the time of the horrific death that Mr. Bates had suffered. He had been tortured to death. Of course I did not know that at the time either and my notes clearly state that I was inclined to believe the stories I was being told. I headed back to Oval Station and stopped to stare at St. Mark’s Church. It’s a beautiful building. It was hard to believe that this was the site of an execution place, where men were hung and tortured, their hearts thrown into fires. Cruelty, Death and Murder, all things i just could not comprehend.
Murder #13, Daniel Graham, East Dulwich
Daniel Graham, 18, was stabbed 24 times during an assault in Grove Vale, East Dulwich, South East London, just after midnight on January 29 2011. The assault happened in front of passengers on bus 176 which he boarded and then left after fleeing a fight at a birthday party. He had been followed by up to six youths who repeatedly kicked, punched and stabbed him on the pavement as bus passengers watched. Daniel Graham was taken to hospital but died a couple of hours later. 3 members of the GMG (Guns, Murders and Girls) gang, an offshoot of the Peckham Boys – were arrested and found guilty of murder.
A man came up to me as I started taking photos. “How much does a guy like you make to make photos of dead black boys ?” My first answer was “Not that much really” and then I tried to engage him in conversation hoping to explain to him what I was trying to do. He was having none of it. “The only time I ever see the media is when something bad happens to us, you make me sick! ” I tried to tell him about my project, the kind of work that I do and the last thing I want to be is exploitative. The man had been in the corner shop behind me and said ” You are standing on the spot where he died and your camera is pointing the wrong way”. He got into his car and continued to berate me for what I was doing. He drove way shaking his head in disgust. Soon after another man came up to me asking when the photo was going to be published. “I dont know” I said and again tried to explain what I was doing, but he too seemed disgusted about what I was doing and walked away. It was early days for my project and I was still trying to to figure out how to express to what I was doing to myself let alone other people. Yes I knew from the very beginning I wanted to have these encounters, these very conversations I was having in East Dulwich. At the time I only intended to photograph for a year and my hope was that by using a tripod for every photo I would make my self visible. Photographers who work in the streets dont want to be noticed and it was counter intuitive for me to make myself visible. A few other people talked to me that rainy afternoon in East Dulwich but the last one said to me “You are late, the police have been here and gone” I said I knew and didn’t bother to explain why. I packed up and walked across the street to board a train back to London Bridge.
Murder #12, Ezekiel Amosu, Walthamstow
Ezekiel Amosu, 17, was knocked down and killed by a bus as he attempted to escape a teenage gang. Ezekiel and four friends were approached in Essex Close, Walthamstow, on Monday January 24, 2011. After demanding his phone they chased him into the path of a 123 bus on Forest Road at around 7.15pm. He was hit by the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene.
I was surprised to find myself in Walthamstow again for the project. Just down the road from where Ezekiel Amosu was killed on Forest Road was Palmerston Road where Fiza Asif had been murdered a few weeks earlier. The photograph above had been my second attempt at making a photograph. The previous night after dark many people had gathered to lay flowers and remember Ezekiel. By the number that had shown up it was obvious Ezekiel was well loved by family and friends. Because of the way i had set out to work on this project, none of the photos I had made were of any use. I didn’t want to use a flash and there were a couple of other news photographers there as well working with flash and I just didn’t want to add to it. I also didn’t want the photograph I made to look like what you would expect a news photograph to look from a situation such as this. So I came back the next day and instead of the crowd the previous night I made photos in the cold overcast day as people wandered up to the memorial by the bus stop. The photograph doesn’t reflect how well loved Ezekiel was and I regret that. Yet it was the first photograph in my project that I felt captured what I was trying to do. It gave me the confidence to continue the work but I still felt unsure where I was going.
Murder #11, Rhys Lawrie, Erith
Three year-old Rhys Lawrie died from severe head injuries on January 21, 2011. The boy, who had been diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy, Dravet’s Syndrome, was taken to hospital after he was found collapsed at around 3.30pm. He was pronounced dead in hospital and a postmortem revealed up to 40 separate injuries including a broken leg, brain damage and bruising which suggested he had been picked up by his ears. At the time he was living with his mother Sadie Henry, 26, and her 16 year-old boyfriend Cameron Rose at a flat in Erith, Kent. Henry and Rose were arrested on January 26 on suspicion of grievous bodily harm. They were later re-arrested on suspicion of murder in September 2011. Five months later on 22 February 2012, detectives decided to caution Rhys’ mother for perverting the course of justice and charge Cameron Rose with murder. On October 30, 2012, the jury acquitted Rose of murder but convicted him of the lesser charge of manslaughter on the grounds he did not intend to cause serious bodily harm. Rose, then 17, was also convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in relation to the injuries in January 2011 but cleared of a similar charge in relation to the December injuries. On November 29, 2012, Cameron Rose was jailed for five years.
The last photograph I took for my project, The Landscape of Murder, was the 11th murder to have occurred in London in 2011. I made the photograph in February, 2013. A lot of the details were not available to me until after November 2012 and before then I had given up on making a photograph of the site of Rhys Lawrie’s death. I knew a child was involved and from what I knew of the case I wondered if it would be declared a murder or an accidental death. In the course of my project I did not want to include a murder site photograph of a case that was later to be declared not a murder but an accident or something not malicious. So I waited and sort of forgot about making a photograph until I found out the mother’s boyfriend had been found guilty of manslaughter. Rhys Lawrie suffered a lot before he finally died. The details of the case are hard to read.
I was having trouble finding the address of where Rhys died and in my research I came across Trevor Lawrie’s website . It was more painful reading. The site is run by Rhys Lawrie’s grandfather. Mr. Lawrie is fighting for what he feels is justice for his grandson. He details his battles against the courts, the police and Bexley Council. You can’t helped but be moved by the site as you read through what is a very thorough and passionate case. I sheepishly emailed Mr Lawrie and asked if it would at all be possible to get the address after explaining my project to him. He kindly emailed back with the address.
I dont think I had ever been to Erith for any reason. Walking from Erith railway station I made my way southeast along the busy A206 and then headed east along Manor Road. You could see the Thames between the terraced houses if you look north. A giant wind turbine looms over the houses of Erith and Slade Green if you look south. I turned into a pathway that led me to the small council building that contained the flat in which Rhys died. The estate was a bit unkempt which betrayed the obvious poverty of the area. I struggled to make a photograph but was drawn to broken toys, the graffiti at the entrance to the building and a baby’s cot abandoned in the parking lot.
When I finished it suddenly dawned on me that I was finished photographing the project. It was a relief to be done documenting such a dark morbid subject. I walked back to Erith station feeling a bit empty and unsure what I had accomplished over the last two years.
As always I am indebted to the website Murdermap for their reporting and help. I will write a lot about the site in the future as the blog progresses.
links to the case below
Murder #10, Kasey Gordon, Tottenham
Schoolboy Kasey Gordon, 15, was stabbed to death in a busy high street in Tottenham, north London, on January 20, 2011. He was one of four pupils injured by paranoid schizophrenic Serif Aslan on West Green Road. Another 16 year-old boy was stabbed in the chest, a 14 year-old boy suffered a wound to the hip and another 14 year-old received a superficial cut to his face. Kasey, a pupil at the nearby Park View Academy, died despite receiving emergency surgery at the scene.
West Green Road is a long high street and I wasn’t quite sure which stretch of shops Kasey Gordon had been murdered in front of. The murder scene had been cleared quite quickly and there was no visual clues to where it had happened. I asked in a few shops and soon figured out where I needed to go. While asking I soon realised that there seem to be a certain animosity to the kids involved in the incident. Aslan, the man who wielded the knife that killed Gordon was well known and everyone seem to know he was mentally ill. A lot of people told me a lot of the local school kids teased him. They must have found him both strange and harmless. Did the incessant teasing lead Aslan to carry a knife? Who knows but it seem to me that a lot of locals felt that way, specially Asians and Turkish people I talked to. A lot of people came up to me and gave me their thoughts on the murder as I set up my camera on a tripod. Afro Caribbeans felt completely different. Nothing could justify the murder of a schoolboy. It was one of the few times that underlying tensions in the community surfaced in front of me while I photographed a murder site. Only Kasey’s schoolmates seemed united in their feelings for him. The flowers for Kasey Gordon adorned the gates of his school and not the murder site. His friends mourned him not where he died but where he lived his life. As such the place where he died bore no scar.
Murder #9 , Igor Vinogradov, Forest Gate
Igor Vinogradov, 37, a Russian national, was found dead at a squat in Forest Gate, east London, on January 31, 2011. Police were called to the address at 112 Capel Road at 1pm and he was pronounced dead at the scene. A postmortem later revealed he had suffered severe blunt trauma injuries to the head. Mr Vinogradov was kicked, punched and stamped to death as he slept at the squat by Paulius Korsakas, a 27 year-old Lithuanian, in a drunken fury, believing he had been humiliated or slighted during a row.
I knew when I started this project I would go to places very unfamiliar to me. What I didn’t expect for it to take me places very close to my heart. Forest Gate is where some of my closest friends live. The house where Igor Vinogradov died was just around the corner from my friends. I must have walked by the house where he died over a dozen times. The house faces Wanstead Flats on Capel Road and all the houses on that stretch of the road are very nice. I don’t think I ever noticed an abandoned house on my walks or anyone squatting in one. So I was quite surprised when I showed up to photograph the murder site to be in such a familiar place. How did I never notice the dilapidated house? I had thought many times it would be a nice road to live on facing the Flats. Even the house next door was a modernist house that you would bet was the kind that an architect lived in.
A lone policeman sitting in his patrol car guarded the scene while forensic detectives worked inside. He seemed bored out if his mind and seemed happy to break it to ask me a dozen questions about what I was doing. Soon I think he was bored with me and let me get on with my work.
One of the themes I have pursued in this project is how we don’t really grasp the landscape around us. We are all guilty of it as individuals and as a society. Everywhere in London there are clues to the inequality that still plagues the city. I have been confronted by this many times over my project. Places I thought I knew very well and suddenly I see it in a new light. In the course over the project I am always surprised by hostels I never noticed or the poor quality housing amidst wealthy expensive neighbourhoods. I have become aware of a London I never knew existed or more likely, I chose to ignore, pay little attention to or never visit.
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