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I've been in the Mets all my adult life and I've spent most of that time pounding the mean streets of west London. After the war the area around Ladbroke Grove was known as The Dustbowl. This was where smart property developers came to make their mint. Back in the fifties and sixties during those thirteen glorious years of Tory rule anyone who wanted to could make a bomb from the slums. Houses changed hands over and over again, with their values being inflated on each sale.

Before the introduction of ridiculously strict controls on building societies at the start of the sixties, it was common for property speculators to off-load houses to both tenants and other parties with one hundred percent mortgages which the seller had pre-arranged. Despite the prices paid under such arrangements being above market value, ownership still proved cheaper than renting. Unfortunately it was all too common for the new owners to take in lodgers to cover the costs of their mortgage, rather than working to earn their crust like a free born Saxon. The resultant overcrowding bred crime and this law breaking stretched police resources to the limit.

The investigation I've just completed took me back nearly twenty years to the early nineteen-sixties. I knew Jilly O'Sullivan was dead before I arrived at 104 Cambridge Gardens, and in many ways I considered it a miracle she'd succeeded in reaching the age of thirty-five. I'd first come across Jilly in 1962 when she was a naive young teenager and I was a fresh faced PC. I'm still a PC because rather than striving to rise through the ranks, I long ago opted to take horizontal promotion by becoming a Coroner's Officer. This job brings with it substantial unofficial perks, and I'm not the only cop who's avoided vertical advancement since that makes you more visible and therefore less able to accept the backhanders you deserve.

Returning to O'Sullivan, when she arrived in Notting Hill she rented an upstairs flat in Bassett Road for five years before moving to nearby Elgin Crescent in 1966. The bed in which Jilly died was but a few minutes walk from her Notting Hill homes of the nineteen-sixties. I'd first called on her at Bassett Road after the force was informed that one of her brothers was hiding out there. My colleagues and I knew parts of the O'Sullivan clan like the backs of our own hands. The family was involved in both burglary and protection.

Jilly and her brother had grown up in Greenock, but headed for The Smoke as teenagers. Jilly was doing well back in the early sixties, making good money in a high class Soho clip joint, and at that time she even had a pimp with a plumy accent and public school education. Jilly's brother was eventually nicked alongside a couple of his cousins while they were doing over a jewellers shop and that’s how I learnt he'd actually been hiding out with his gangster uncle in Victoria. After he'd served his time in a civil prison for burglary, Jilly's brother was sent to a military jail for being absent without leave from the army. By the mid-sixties when her brother was finally let out of nick, Jilly was the black sheep of the family. It wasn't prostitution but an involvement with beatniks, hippies and drugs that alienated O'Sullivan from her kith and kin.

If Jilly had been smart she'd have married one of her rich johns and faded into quiet respectability. She worked with a number of girls who had the good sense to do just that. Jilly was a good looker, or rather she'd been a good looker back in the day, anyone seeing her corpse would think she was in her late forties. That said, right up to her death O'Sullivan’s eyes remained as blue as a five pound note. When Jilly was teenage these baby blues had men falling all over her petite and innocent seeming self.

O'Sullivan’s eyes looked like pools of water that were deep enough to drown in and naturally enough she made sure her carefully applied make-up accentuated this effect. O'Sullivan lost her looks through hard living and since I knew the story of her life, I didn't need to take many details about her from the woman who’d found the body. I didn't even bother to ask Marianne May how she'd got into Jilly's flat, I'd already heard from Garrett that he'd left the door to the basement bedsit open after finding O'Sullivan dead in bed and making a hasty exit.

Being a dealer and a pimp, Garrett considered it wiser to disappear than inform the authorities of his girlfriend's death. Even if he wasn't fitted up for Jilly's murder, Garrett figured he'd get busted for something else if he stuck around. After I got the call to go to the back basement flat at 104 Cambridge Gardens to investigate a death, I'd headed first for Observatory Gardens where I found Garrett nodding out with Scotch Alex. Garrett lived with Jilly and since only one death had been reported, I'd figured that either one or both of them would be in 'hiding' at Observatory Gardens. Before I got to Scotch Alex's pad I hadn't known who'd died, and I'd entertained the possibility it might have been one of their heroin buddies.

Garrett told me what he knew which wasn't that much. He'd gone home after cutting some drug deals and found Jilly dead in bed, so he'd left again immediately. Garrett was inclined to think O'Sullivan had accidentally overdosed, although he considered it possible she’d been murdered by some gangsters who'd threatened to kill her after she ripped them off during the course of a drug deal. I told Garrett not to worry about a court appearance, since I wasn't about to drag him into my investigation if he was cooperative. He got the idea and handed me a wad of notes which he pulled from his right trouser pocket.

I patted down the left pocket of Garrett's jeans and he realised his game was at least partially up. He removed a wad of notes from the second pocket and gave them to me. After I'd prodded his abdomen he stood up and took more bills from a money belt that was tied around his waist. I then made Garrett take his shoes and socks off but he didn't have any cash secreted down there. Satisfied with my takings, I told O'Sullivan’s pimp that in my report I'd state that Jilly was living alone at the time of her death.

I didn't tell him that I'd have done this even if I hadn't succeeded in shaking him down, since recording that O'Sullivan lived with a heroin dealer would make matters unnecessarily complicated for me. Although Garrett was scum he wasn't stupid, so I didn't need to tell him it would be a good idea if he found a new place to live. Likewise, I had absolute faith in his ability to find some fool to rip-off in order to provide PC Lever with his cut from the drug money I'd purloined and cover various other debts he simply couldn't avoid meeting if he wished to remain alive and in reasonable health. While I was in Observatory Gardens I also took the opportunity to touch Garrett's junkie host and co-dealer Scotch Alex for a few quid.

Marianne May, the woman who'd called the authorities to report Jilly's death, was middle-class and respectable. What Marianne had in common with Jilly were some bizarre new age religious interests. Aside from this she was the ideal person to have found the body since she created the impression that O'Sullivan's friends at the time of her death were middle-class professionals. In all likelihood prior to Marianne's arrival, a stream of junkies had called at the flat hoping to score and having found the door open and Jilly dead in bed, departed without telling the authorities there was a corpse stinking up the bedsit.

Garrett wouldn't have left his drug stash in the pad, and there probably wasn't anything else worth stealing. If there had been it would have disappeared long before my arrival. There wasn't much I needed to ask May, but for the sake of appearance I had to make it look like I was doing my job properly. I told Marianne to wait upstairs with Jilly's neighbours while I made some further investigations. I was able to go through the flat removing used needles and various other signs of drug use before the medics arrived.

I then examined Jilly's body. As you'd expect it was cold to touch. O'Sullivan was lying on her side, naked on the bed. I removed the sheet that was partially draped over her but there were no stirrings in my groin. After the corpse had been loaded into an ambulance I went upstairs and told May she could go home, saying I'd contact her if there was anything further I needed to ask. I had no intention of troubling Marianne again but since she was a middle class professional, I had to make it look like I was doing everything by the book. May had fine manners and excellent verbal skills, so there was an outside chance that if she was moved to make a complaint about my investigation what she had to say would be taken seriously.

Because Jilly certainly had traces of heroin in her body, it was important I arranged things so that any need for toxicological analysis was avoided. That said, since I knew O'Sullivan was an intravenous drug user, there was nothing to worry about in terms of a purely visual inspection of the body. Indeed, even in instances of suicide brought about by the ingestion of pills, evidence of a drug overdose is only visually detectable in fifty percent of such cases. Likewise, there is necessarily a good deal of mutual understanding between all those involved in the investigation of a death, one which is sometimes greased by the circulation of used fivers.

I have many good reasons to request a particular result from a pathologist and the croaks I work alongside know this without my having to spell it out. Aside from anything else, I don't have time to properly investigate the circumstances surrounding every death that occurs on my beat. It would waste a considerable amount of tax payer's money and my time if the circumstances in which every miserable junkie overdosed were fully investigated. Every pathologist understands, regardless of whether or not a fistful of fivers are being pressed into their greasy palms, that the police know what's for the best.

Given that I wished to avoid an inquest into Jilly O'Sullivan’s death it wasn't much to ask of medical science that it should back up my false contention that she'd died from natural causes. Something will invariably be found in the lungs after death, so bronchopneumonia would provide a suitable explanation of Jilly’s death, as it had in so many other instances where I found it imperative to avoid a full scale investigation. Death, of course, is always the result of the failure of one of the major organs and according to the legal rule book what matters is the chain of events leading up to such a failure. In practice the letter of the law can be safely ignored in favour of its spirit.

Only the elderly and homeless die from bronchopneumonia in truly unsuspicious circumstances. Bronchopneumonia is often brought on by a drug overdose but my colleagues and I will nonetheless routinely treat it as a natural cause of death in a young addict. We see no point in arriving at an accurate conclusion that will only upset and confuse the family of some wastrel who didn't deserve the loving home they grew up in. Grieving is a difficult process and I've done countless decent parents a huge favour by making it possible for them to avoid facing up to the fact that their child was a good-for-nothing junkie degenerate..

To shift the focus once again to the particular, there wasn't much in O'Sullivan’s basement flat. Jilly and her pimp Garrett had only lived there for a few of weeks. They'd occupied an equally spartan Bayswater bedsit over the autumn. Junkies mainly use possessions as a form of collateral, they rarely hung onto stuff, personal items tend to be stolen and sold as required. However, Jilly's diary was in the flat and the final entry was dedicated to Garrett:


You lie there, legs straddled an easy lay
Like some 'gloomy fucker' (your words)
For hours you have put me through mental torture
Because I desired you
Sure I wanted love anyway I could
But you denied me both fuck & fix
And then dropping a Tuinal, like an over the hill whore you became an easy lay

I knew this nonsense was merely one of many proofs that Jilly's drug use had been ongoing. That meant jack shit to me because my considered professional opinion was that O'Sullivan’s death was entirely unsuspicious and solely due to natural causes. Any police officer worth their salt knows that to lie effectively one must stick reasonably closely to the truth. Therefore, in my official report I wouldn't gloss over the fact that Jilly had been a long term drug addict. Aside from anything else, the pathologist couldn't ignore the track marks on her arms. All I needed to do was claim that her addiction was well in the past.

After acquiring some cash from Jilly's landlord in return for overlooking the fact that drug dealing was taking place in his gaff, I phoned my chum Paul Lever to acquire suitable evidence to back up the fictional content of the report I was in the process of compiling. PC Lever had a thick file on Jilly and this included several of the fraudulent job applications he'd directed her to make. Back in the mid-seventies Paul had wanted to know exactly what was going on in various local drug charities, so he'd sent Jilly into them as a spy. He provided me with a copy of a successful application she'd made for a job as a social worker at the Westbourne Project. In this Jilly claimed to have a degree and postgraduate qualifications in philosophy from UCL, despite the fact she'd left school at sixteen and had never attended a university. Something else that made the document Lever handed me fraudulent was Jilly's claim that although she'd been a smack addict, she’d cleaned up in 1972. While I knew this was untrue, it placed her long term drug addiction seven years in the past, which was good enough for my purposes.

Since the general public is blissfully ignorant of the problems police officers face, people are often surprised to learn of my working methods should I choose to speak openly about them. What needs to be stressed in relation to this is that since it is impossible for the police to completely suppress the west London drugs scene, the next best thing for us to do is control it. Only dealers we approve of are allowed to carry on their business and cuts from their profits serve to top up our inadequate pay. Likewise, Paul Lever and various other police officers including me had been getting our jollies with Jilly during the early seventies. Lever had the evidence, both real and fabricated, to get O'Sullivan banged up for a very long time. To avoid jail Jilly had made a deal with him. O'Sullivan had to sell drugs on Paul's behalf and provide him with information about anyone who set themselves up as a dealer without his approval. She also agreed to see us once a week at the police station where we had a regular line-up with her.

Jilly wasn't the only junkie Paul had providing us with sexual favours, all of which might give the impression he's a hard man. Certainly this is the appearance he cultivates but actually he's somewhat sensitive about his macho self-image. Back in 1972, Jilly had the singular misfortune to be around just after a colleague made a crack about Lever always taking last place in our gang bangs. Paul, like any virile male, enjoys slapping whores around while he's screwing them, and on this particular occasion he was determined to prove through sheer ultra-violence that he did'’t harbour any unnatural sexual desires. As I gave Jilly a poke, Lever grabbed her right arm and broke it over his knee. O'Sullivan was in agony but Paul took great pleasure in amusing himself by making the bitch indulge him with an extended sex session before allowing her to go to hospital.

On the surface this might sound a somewhat sick but Paul is basically a good bloke, and he genuinely believes that being a bit psycho is the only rational way to deal with whores and crims. After all, the only thing these reprobates respect and understand is brute force. Indeed, what other way is there to deal with someone like O'Sullivan? In the early sixties she had offers of marriage from more than one of her upper class johns, but she turned them down and became a junkie instead. It was Jilly's decision to live the low life and what she got from us was no more than she had coming for choosing to subsist, as her extended Irish family have done since before the days of Cromwell, beyond the pale. Jilly wasn't just a junkie and a prostitute, she was also a pickpocket, a thief and engaged in cheque book and other frauds.

Any reasonable person will agree that without laws and police officers prepared to carry out a dirty job vigilantly, society would degenerate into pure jungle savagery. That said, there are still too many do-gooders about who love besmirching the name of the Metropolitan Police and an inquest into Jilly's life and death would in all likelihood bring to light the type of facts that fuel the enmity these bleeding hearts feel towards us. Police officers like me deserve whatever perks we can pick up providing this doesn't impinge upon the rights of law abiding citizens. Bending the rules goes with the territory of upholding the law, since if I stuck to official procedures my hands would be tied with red tape. Punks and whores really don't count as far as I'm concerned, and nor do the pinkos who bleat on about police oppression. In a sane society criminals wouldn't have rights, and the police wouldn't have to break the law to protect decent folk.

First published in London Noir edited by Cathi Unsworth (Serpents Tail, London 2006).

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The Web Sex Archive Of Karl Marx



Portrait of Stewart Home London 2010
Stewart Home playing dead with a pile of his novel Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie.