An outrider from the Special Escort Group swept into Scotland Yard, closely followed by a green Jaguar and an unmarked Land Rover, while two police motorcycles brought up the rear, completing the royal convoy. They all came to a halt as Big Ben chimed eleven thirty.
A close protection officer leapt out of the front seat of the Jaguar and opened the back door. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Peter Imbert, stepped forward and bowed. ‘Welcome to Scotland Yard, Your Royal Highness,’ he said, and was greeted with that warm, shy smile with which the public had become so familiar.
‘Thank you, Sir Peter,’ she replied as they shook hands. ‘It was kind of you to agree to my unusual request.’
‘My pleasure, ma’am,’ said Sir Peter, before turning to the welcoming party of senior officers who were waiting in line.
‘May I present the Deputy Commissioner . . .’
The Princess shook hands with each of the officers in turn until she reached the end of the line, when she was introduced to the head of the Met’s murder investigation teams.
‘Commander Hawksby is known as “Murder One”,’ the Commissioner told her. ‘And Chief Inspector William Warwick will act as your guide this morning,’ he added as a little girl stepped forward, curtsied and offered the Princess a small bouquet of pink roses. She received the broadest smile of all.
The Princess bent down and said, ‘Thank you, and what is your name?’
‘Artemisia,’ the bowed head whispered to the ground.
‘What a pretty name,’ said the Princess.
She was about to move on when Artemisia looked up and said, ‘Why aren’t you wearing a crown?’
William turned bright red, while his number two, Inspector Ross Hogan, stifled a laugh, causing Artemisia to burst into tears. The Princess leant down again, took the little girl in her arms and said, ‘Because I’m not a Queen, Artemisia, just a Princess.’
‘But you will be the Queen one day.’
‘Then I’ll wear a crown.’
This seemed to satisfy Artemisia, who smiled as her father led the Met’s royal guest into the building.
The door was held open by a young cadet, who the Princess stopped to have a word with, before William guided her towards a waiting lift. A long discussion had taken place prior to the Princess’s visit, as to whether she should walk up the stairs to the first floor or take the lift. The lift had won by five votes to four. An equally fraught decision was who shouldaccompany her in the lift. The Commissioner, Commander Hawksby and William made the shortlist, while the Princess’s lady-in-waiting would take the second lift, along with Inspector Ross Hogan and Detective Sergeant Roycroft.
William had his script well prepared, but was immediately thrown off course by HRH’s first question.
‘Is Artemisia your daughter, by any chance?’
‘Yes, ma’am,’ said William, remembering that the Hawk had told him that ‘ma’am’ had to rhyme with ‘spam’, not ‘harm’.
‘But what evidence do you have?’ he asked, forgetting for a moment that he wasn’t addressing one of his junior officers.
‘If she hadn’t been your daughter, you wouldn’t have blushed,’ came back the reply as they stepped into the lift.
‘I did tell her not to speak to you,’ said William, ‘and certainly not to ask you any questions.’
‘The fact she disobeyed you probably means she’ll be the most interesting person I’ll meet today,’ whispered Diana as the lift doors closed. ‘Why did you call her Artemisia?’
‘She’s named after Artemisia Gentileschi, the great Italian Baroque painter.’
‘So, you must have a love of art?’
‘A passion, ma’am. But it was my wife Beth, who’s keeper of pictures at the Fitzmolean, who chose the name.’
‘Then I’ll have another chance to meet your daughter,’ said the Princess, ‘because if I remember correctly, I’m opening the Fitzmolean’s Frans Hals exhibition next year.
I’d better make sure I’m wearing at least a coronet if I’m not to be told off again,’ she added as the lift doors opened on the first floor.
‘The Crime Museum, ma’am,’ began William, returning to his script, ‘more commonly known as the Black Museum, was the brainchild of an Inspector Neame, who in 1869 felt it would assist his colleagues to solve and even prevent crimes if they could study well-known cases. He was assisted by a Constable Randall, who gathered together material from various notorious criminals and crime scenes, which made up the first exhibits in this rogues’ gallery. The museum opened five years later, in April 1874, but it still remains closed to the public.’
William glanced back to see Ross Hogan, chatting to the Princess’s lady-in-waiting. He led his guest down a long corridor towards room 101, where another door was being held open for the royal visitor. William found himself wondering if the Princess ever opened a door for herself, but quickly dismissed the thought and returned to his script.
‘I hope you won’t find the museum too disturbing, ma’am. The occasional visitor has been known to faint,’ he said. They entered a room whose dim lighting only added to the macabre atmosphere.
‘It can’t be worse than four days at Ascot,’ replied the Princess, ‘when I regularly want to faint.’
William wanted to laugh, but managed to prevent himself.
‘The first exhibit,’ he said as they approached a large glass cabinet, ‘includes the early pieces of memorabilia collected by Neame and Randall.’
The Princess looked closely at a collection of weapons used by seventeenth-century criminals to murder their victims, including a walking stick that, with a twist of its knob, became a sword, along with various flick knives, heavy wooden cudgels and knuckle-dusters. William quickly moved on to the next cabinet, which was dedicated to Jack the Ripper, and included a handwritten letter he’d sent to the London Central News Agency in 1888 at the height of his serial killings, taunting the police by predicting they would never catch him. But then, as William reminded his guest, that was before the Met had begun to use fingerprinting to identify criminals, and more than a century before the discovery of DNA.
‘I haven’t fainted yet,’ said the Princess as they moved on to the next cabinet, which contained a pair of antique binoculars. ‘What’s so special about them?’ she asked.
‘They weren’t designed for Ascot, ma’am,’ said William.
‘They were a gift from a particularly unpleasant individual to his fiancée a few days after she had jilted him. When she held them up to her eyes and adjusted the focus, two nails shot out and blinded her. At his trial the accused was asked by prosecuting counsel why he’d done such an evil thing, and he simply replied, “I didn’t want her to look at another man ever again.”’
Diana covered her eyes and William quickly moved on. ‘This next exhibit, ma’am, is particularly fascinating,’ said William, pointing to a small, plain metal box. ‘It provided the vital clue in the first case solved by the Met using fingerprints as evidence. In 1905 the brothers Alfred and Albert Stratton were arrested for the murder of a shop owner, Thomas Farrow, and his wife, Ann. They would have got away with it if Alfred hadn’t left a single thumb print on the empty cash box. They were both found guilty and hanged.’
They moved on to the next cabinet, where the Princess glanced briefly at a photograph before turning to William and saying, ‘Tell me about him.’
‘On the eighteenth of February, 1949, John Haigh killed Olive Durand-Deacon, a wealthy widow, while she was visiting his engineering workshop in Crawley. After Haigh had removed everything of value she had with her, he dissolved her body in a drum of sulphuric acid, believing that if the police were unable to produce a body, he couldn’t be charged with murder. However, he didn’t take into account the expertise of a certain Dr Keith Simpson, a pathologist who discovered three gallstones and a couple of the victim’s false teeth in a pile of rubble at the back of the workshop. Haigh was arrested, convicted and hanged.’
‘You do like to take a girl somewhere romantic on a first date, don’t you, Chief Inspector?’ said the Princess, which caused William to relax and laugh for the first time. ‘Another first,’ he continued as they stopped in front of the next cabinet, ‘was the arrest of Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen, an American homeopath who murdered his wife Cora in London before fleeing to Brussels accompanied by his lover Ethel Le Neve. From Brussels they went on to Antwerp, where Crippen purchased two tickets on the SS Montrose, a steamship bound for Canada. Ethel disguised herself as a young boy, so they could pose as father and son. The captain of the vessel had been shown a wanted poster before the ship set sail, and became suspicious when he saw Crippen and Le Neve holding hands and kissing. He telegraphed Scotland Yard, and Chief Inspector Walter Dew, who was in charge of the case, immediately travelled up to Liverpool and boarded the SS Laurentic, a much faster vessel, which reached Montreal some time before the Montrose. Dew, disguised as a pilot, boarded the ship as it sailed into the St Lawrence river, arrested Crippen and Ethel, and brought them back to England to face trial. The jury only took thirty minutes to find Crippen guilty of murder.’
‘So he also went to the gallows,’ said the Princess cheerfully.
‘But what about Ethel?’
‘She was acquitted of being an accessory after the fact. However, the jury did take considerably longer reaching their decision.’
‘Interesting how it’s so often the women who end up getting away with it,’ said the Princess as they moved into the next room, which didn’t look any more inviting than the previous one.
‘You will now get to meet some well-known East End gangsters,’ declared William.
‘I’ll start with the most notorious of them all, the Kray brothers, Reggie and Ronnie.’
‘Even I’ve heard of them,’ said the Princess, standing in front of black and white mugshots of the notorious twins.
‘Despite committing countless vicious crimes over many years, including murder, on more than one occasion, they proved almost impossible to charge, let alone convict, because no one was willing to come forward and testify against them, being too frightened of the consequences.’
‘So how were they eventually caught?’
‘The police finally arrested them after Reggie murdered a criminal associate called Jack the Hat McVitie in 1967. The Krays were both sentenced to life imprisonment.’
‘And the person who gave evidence?’ asked the Princess.
‘Didn’t celebrate his next birthday, ma’am.’
‘I’m still standing, Chief Inspector,’ teased the Princess as they moved into the next room, where she was greeted with a display of jute ropes of different lengths and thicknesses.
‘Up until the nineteenth century, large crowds would gather at Tyburn to witness public hangings,’ said the Commissioner, who was following close behind. ‘This barbaric form of entertainment ceased in 1868, after which executions were carried out behind prison walls with no members of the public present.’
‘As a young officer, Sir Peter, did you ever witness a hanging?’ asked the Princess.
‘Just one, ma’am, and thank God, never again.’
‘Remind me,’ said the Princess, turning back to William, ‘who was the last woman to be hanged?’
‘You’re one step ahead of me, ma’am,’ said William, moving on to the next cabinet. ‘Ruth Ellis, a nightclub hostess, was hanged on the thirteenth of July, 1955, after she shot her lover with a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver, which you can see here.’
‘And the last man?’ asked the Princess, staring at the gun. William racked his brain, as that hadn’t been part of his prepared script. He turned to the Commissioner, but he didn’t respond.
They were rescued by the museum’s curator, who stepped forward and said, ‘Gwynne Evans and Peter Allen, ma’am, were hanged for the murder of John Alan West on the thirteenth of August, 1964. The following year, a private member’s bill to abolish hanging became law. However, it may interest you to know, ma’am, you can still be hanged for treason, or piracy with violence.’
‘I think treason is more likely in my case,’ said the Princess, which caused them all to laugh.
William guided his guest through to the last room on the tour, where she was introduced to a row of bottles containing various poisons. William explained that was a woman’s preferred means of committing murder, particularly of their husbands. William regretted the words the moment he’d uttered them.
‘And that, ma’am, brings us to the end of the tour. I hope you found it—’ He hesitated, before replacing the word ‘enjoyable’ with ‘interesting’.
‘Fascinating, Chief Inspector, would be a better description of the past hour,’ replied the Princess as William accompanied her out of the museum.
They walked back down the long corridor towards the lift, passing a lavatory that had been specially set aside for the royal visitor. Two young policewomen were in attendance, but they hadn’t been required. They were disappointed. She sensed it, and stopped to chat to them, before moving on.
‘I look forward to seeing you again, Chief Inspector, and to meeting your wife when I open the Frans Hals exhibition,’ said the Princess as she stepped into the lift. ‘That should at least prove a jollier occasion.’
William managed a smile.
When the lift doors opened on the ground floor, the Commissioner took over once again, accompanying his royal guest to the waiting car, where her close protection officer was holding the back door open. The Princess stopped to wave at the crowd that had gathered on the far side of the road.
‘I noticed you didn’t waste much time before chatting up her lady-in-waiting,’ said William, when Inspector Hogan joined him.
‘I think,’ said Ross without missing a beat, ‘I’m in with a chance.’
‘Punching above your weight, I would have thought,’ came back William.
‘It never worried you,’ said Ross with a grin.
‘Touché,’ said William, giving his friend a slight bow.
‘The Lady Victoria told me that the Princess’s close protection officer is retiring at the end of the year, and they haven’t found a replacement yet. So, I was hoping you might put in a good word for me.’
‘Which word did you have in mind?’ asked William.
‘Unreliable? Louche? Promiscuous?’
‘I think that’s pretty much what she’s looking for,’ said Ross, as the lady-in-waiting climbed into the back of the car ahead of the Princess.
‘I’ll think about it,’ said William.
‘Is that all you can say after all I’ve done for you over the years?’
William tried not to laugh when he recalled how their most recent escapade had ended. He and Ross had only just got back from Spain, where they had been on the trail of Miles Faulkner. They had finally caught up with their old nemesis in Barcelona and dragged him back to Belmarsh prison – the same prison Faulkner had escaped from the year before. Triumphant as William and Ross felt, they were aware of the inevitable consequences they were certain to face, after having broken every rule in the book, to quote the commander. William reminded his boss that there were no rules in Miles Faulkner’s book, and if they hadn’t broken the odd rule, he would surely have escaped their clutches yet again.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, the commander had reminded them.
But how long could they hope to keep Faulkner locked up, wondered William, when his corrupt lawyer was only too happy to bend those same rules to breaking point if it would guarantee his ‘distinguished client’ would get off all the charges and be released from prison without a stain on his character?
They also accepted that Mr Booth Watson QC wouldn’t be satisfied until William and Ross were made to face a disciplinary hearing, before being ignominiously dismissed from the force for unacceptable behaviour while serving as police officers. William had already warned his wife that the next few months weren’t going to be plain sailing.
‘What’s new?’ Beth had reminded him, before adding that she wouldn’t be satisfied until Booth Watson was behind bars with his ‘distinguished client’, where they both belonged. William snapped back into the present when HRH climbed into the back of the car and the police outriders revved up and led the royal cortège out of Scotland Yard and on to Victoria Street.
The Princess waved to the crowd from her car, and they all responded except for Ross, who was still smiling at her ladyin-waiting.
‘Your trouble, Ross, is that your balls are bigger than your brain,’ said William as the convoy made its way slowly out of New Scotland Yard.
‘Makes for a far more interesting life,’ responded Ross.
Once the Princess’s convoy had disappeared from sight, the Commissioner and the Hawk walked across to join them.
‘Good idea of yours,’ said Sir Peter, ‘to have two young officers showing our guests around the museum, rather than us old fogeys. Especially as one of them had so obviously done his homework.’
‘Thank you, sir,’ said Ross, which elicited a wry smile from the commander. ‘In fact, I think Warwick’s earned the rest of the day off,’ suggested Sir Peter, before leaving them to return to his office.
‘Not a hope,’ murmured the Hawk, once the Commissioner was out of earshot. ‘In fact, I want to see you both in my office along with the rest of the team, soonest – and soonest means now.’