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Documentary Review - Secrets of Scotland Yard (2013)

By Edited Dec 10, 2015 0 0

Introduction

London’s Metropolitan Police Service is known to Londoners as “the Met.”  The service has a long history of tenacity, bravery, and persistence in crime detection.  The documentary traces the origin of the Met’s headquarters back to its earliest days when it was located on a small London street which gave it its name.

There are 15 million people in the city of London.  There are 33,000 Scotland Yard officers safeguarding its citizens by patrolling ten thousand miles of streets, more than 200 miles of waterway, and 600 square miles of airspace.  They work at this 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  They have been doing this since the beginning of the 19th century, over 200 years ago.  A Mounted Branch was instituted in 1840 which included 27 horses used for crowd control, riots and demonstrations.  It was in existence for eleven years.  They were not military spies, and worked without uniforms.

                  

Robert Peel

                                                             Robert Peel - Wikimedia

Robert Peel

The Met had its beginning in 1829 through the work of Robert Peel, its founder.  Police officers are known as “Bobbies” and “Peelers.”  People often thought they were government spies; they are only there for the prevention of crime.  In the beginning, they were trained to investigate crime, which at that time was against the law.  Finally, in 1842 they were given investigative powers.  What was secret and technically illegal became open and legal.  What precipitated the change was the murder of Lord William Russell, a former member of Parliament, killed by his valet in his home on Mayfair Street.

The Railway Murder

The public’s imagination was stirred.  Fiction writers composed stories of detectives tracking down evil criminals.  Scotland Yard had its own Sherlock Holmes, Dick Tanner of the Yard.  In 1864, he investigated the first homicide   perpetrated on a train.  It was called “The Railway Murder.”  Dick Tanner was 31 years old at the time; his work on this case would make or break him.  Thomas Briggs, the chief clerk of a bank went missing.  His body was discovered after it was thrown off a train.  The motive for the murder was obviously robbery because Briggs’ gold watch and chain, as well as his gold eye-glasses, were missing.  A jeweler identified a German man, Franz Muller, who exchanged a gold chain at the jeweler’s shop.  It was learned that Franz Muller had left for America on a slow boat, lacking the money for a faster one.  Two detectives sailed for New York on a faster ship, reaching their destination three weeks before Muller.  He had in his possession the missing watch as well as a hat that belonged to Briggs.  Muller was brought back to London where he underwent a public hanging observed by 50,000 spectators.

                          

Scotland Yard

                                                        New Scotland Yard - Wikimedia

Professor Moriarity

A criminal named Adam Worth inspired the character of Professor Moriarity, Sherlock Holmes’ chief nemesis.  He arrived in London in 1874 and soon became known as the most clever, most ingenious criminal to be investigated by the Met.  His greatest feat was the theft of Thomas Gainsborough’s painting of Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, which was created in 1876.  Worth had a great love for art and refinement.  He kept the painting under his mattress for 20 years.  It was returned eventually to its owner and Worth received $25,000 upon its return.

An interesting event took place in 1877, called The Trial of the Detectives, or The Great Turf Fraud.  Three high-ranking detectives from Scotland Yard were implicated in a two million dollar horse racing scheme, in which they took bribes.  They were convicted in a trial at Bow Street and went to prison for two years.

In 1878, the Met’s Detective Department was abolished and was supplanted by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).  It started to keep criminal records, detailing thousands of crimes, necessitating the recruitment of more men.

                                            

British Bobbie

                                                            British Bobby - Wikimedia

Jack the Ripper

The most famous serial murder case was that of “Jack the Ripper” who terrorized the Whitechapel section of the East End of London in 1888.  The victims were five female prostitutes, all killed over a period of five weeks.  Their bodies were all disfigured and mutilated in a similar way.  At the time, forensic evidence was not invented; fingerprints were never examined.  Sir Charles Warren, Met Commissioner at the time, was criticized for not solving the murders.  Jack the Ripper has never been identified down to this day.  The use of several investigative methods, such as the use of bloodhounds, were created to track down the killer, and are still in effect today.

Another famous case investigated by the CID was that of the murder of Cora Crippen, whose husband Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen was accused of killing his wife.  He claimed that she had gone to America, but bricks in his basement were taken up, revealing that human flesh had been buried there.  Cora had undergone a hysterectomy, and a scar indicating this was found in the remains in the cellar.  Dr. Crippen fled to America with his lover, but was returned and executed for his wife’s murder.

Fingerprint Evidence

The Stratton Brothers, Alfred and Albert, were the first men to be convicted in England based on fingerprint evidence.  The brothers were accused of killing the owner of a paint shop and his wife, and taking money from a cash box.  A thumb print left on the cash box matched perfectly with Alfred’s right thumb, and the brothers were sentenced to death in 1905.  Fingerprint evidence is now used commonly in criminal trials.

                                          

British Policemen

                                                          British Policemen - Wikimedia

The Flying Squad

In 1903, the first police cars was used by the Metropolitan Police Service.  They were known as the Flying Squad which was a jewel in the crown of Scotland Yard.  The Squad was allowed to exceed speed limits throughout London.  Their most important case involved a plan to steal the Millennium Diamond valued at over 200 million English pounds.  The officer in charge at the time was Jon Shatford.  Video surveillance first came into play during this case.  Five men, using a bulldozer crashed into the dome in an attempt to get to the Diamond.  Seventeen members of the Flying Squad were waiting for them.  With this coup, Scotland Yard defied the best criminal brains.  Because the Flying Squad necessarily had close ties with criminal sorts, a number of scandals involving bribery and corruption were disclosed.  The Flying Squad fell from grace for a time.

To most people, Scotland Yard, aka The Met, has a positive reputation for efficient service to the people of London and its environs.  It is clearly the oldest and most widely known police force in the world.

The Yard (Scotland Yard's Murder Squad)
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