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A London Artist's Big Project: Photograph the Site of Every Homicide

A London Artist's Big Project: Photograph the Site of Every Homicide
Antonio Olmos

There were 210 homicides in London between 2011 and 2012, and Antonio Olmos has photographed the site of each one. Seventy-nine of those scenes are featured in the photographer's new book, The Landscape of Murder.

He began the project when a woman near his house was killed by her boyfriend. The story never made it onto the local news; it hardly registered with Olmos's neighbors. This made the photographer realize that other unreported tragedies were happening all the time. He took to the streets to document each one himself.

First, he visited the local police for reports of homicides. He'd wait a couple of days (Olmos wasn't interested in dead bodies or gruesome scenes) before visiting each site. That delay also meant not having to worry about crowds or police telling him to stand behind yellow tape.

When Olmos encountered mourners, he'd ask them permission to photograph the scene. "It was very hard approaching people who were going through that," Olmos says. "Surprisingly, most said yes after I explained myself and my project." Some did say no, leaving him to come back a few days later.

Olmos figured his collection would end up looking rather dramatic. "I am surprised how quiet the majority of photographs are," he says.

Spending so much time absorbed in London's day-to-day tragedies gave Olmos a much better sense of how the city looks at its own problems. "Domestic violence is a greater problem in London than gang violence but gang violence gets way more attention," he says, adding that if you ask a typical Londoner, "they will attribute most murders to drugs and gang violence. But those are the murders the media highlights." 

 

"Tia Sharp, New Addington, August 3, 2012" Tia Sharp, 12, was found dead at her grandmother's home in New Addington. Sharp had been reported missing by her family seven days earlier. It took police four visits to the house before finding Sharp’s body in the loft. Stuart Hazell, 37, partner of Sharp’s grandmother was charged with murder. The court heard Hazell sexually assaulted Sharp before killing her. Hazell pleaded guilty to murder. Hazell was jailed for life with a minimum of 38 years.

"Cheryl Tariah, Barkingside, February 7, 2012" Cheryl Tariah, 17, was found strangled at a flat in Barkingside after police were called to a disturbance above a high street shop. A postmortem gave the cause of death as compression of the neck. Tariah’s boyfriend, Ako Amin, 18, tried to flee the country after the murder but was discovered clinging to the bottom of a lorry at Dover three days later. Amin pleaded guilty to the murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

"Luke Fitzpatrick, Dollis Hill, May 19, 2012" Luke Fitzpatrick, 25, was stabbed to death in Dollis Hill. Luke and his father had been among a crowd watching the Champions League final on TV at a pub. An altercation started inside the bar before spilling outside. Both Luke and his father were stabbed a short distance away. Two people were convicted of murder and jailed for life. A third man was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

"Negus McClean, Edmonton, April 10, 2011" Negus McLean, 15, was stabbed to death in Edmonton after being chased by around 7 young men riding bicycles and wearing hooded jumpers and facemasks. Negus was then beaten with metal poles before being stabbed in the thigh and chest with such force that the blade snapped off in his body. He was found injured in Westminster Road and died after being taken to hospital. Four young men were charged and convicted of the murder.

"Kunaliny Alagaratnam & Santhirapathy Tharmalingam, Deptford, February 4, 2011" Kunaliny Alagaratnam 42 and Santhirapathy Tharmalingam,59, died in a fire on the 16th floor of a tower block in Deptford. Sandra Clarke, 50, started the blaze in her own flat using lighter fuel after a dispute over her rent arrears. Alagaratnam and Tharmalingam who were in a neighboring 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.

"Regina & Rolls Say, Borough, February 13, 2011." Rolls Say, 10 and his sister Regina,8, were stabbed to death by their father on February 13, 2011. Their throats had been cut and Rolls had suffered a head injury. They had also suffered knife wounds as they attempted to defend themselves. Jean Francis Say, 62, was arrested at the scene and charged with two counts of murder. Say admitted to the murder of both children. He was jailed for life with a minimum of 30 years before parole. 

"Yemurai Kanyangarara, Welling, July 1, 2011" Yemurai Kanyangarara, 16, was stabbed to death in Welling after getting off a bus with a friend. He suffered a single knife wound to the neck and died in hospital. The killing was the culmination of a feud between pupils at Kanyangarara’s school, St Columba's Catholic Boys' School in Bexleyheath, and the nearby Blackheath Bluecoats. Three teenage men were arrested and two were found guilty of murder.

"Kelvin Easton, Mile End, March 27, 2011" Kelvin Easton, 23, was stabbed to death in a nightclub in Mile End. He was found collapsed at the bottom of the stairs at Boheme nightclub. Easton was pronounced dead at the scene and a postmortem gave the cause of death as a stab wound to the heart. Twelve men were arrested during the investigation and one charged but no one was found guilty of the murder.

"Michael Dye, Wembley, September 6, 2011" Michael Dye, 44, died after being attacked outside Wembley stadium on the night of the Euro 2012 qualifying match between England and Wales. Dye suffered head injuries and died in hospital.  The accused, Ian Mytton, 41, told police that he thought Dye was 'aggressive in his looking at him.' A postmortem gave the cause of death as blunt trauma to the back of the head. Mytton was charged with murder and convicted of manslaughter. 

"Nana Darko-Frempong, Tulse Hill, June 6, 2011" Nana Darko-Frempong,18, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Tulse Hill. Darko-Frempong was shot in the face and chest outside his home in Purser House and died at the scene. The car used by the gunmen was later found burning on the nearby Wyndham Estate. Four men were charged with murder but only one, Christopher Gabriel, 24 was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

"Seydou Diarrassouba, Oxford Street, December 26, 2011" Seydou Diarrassouba, 18, was stabbed to death in Oxford Street during the sales on Boxing Day 2011. Diarrassouba suffered two knife wounds to the chest after being attacked near a shoe store. He collapsed near Bond Street station and was pronounced dead at the scene. A postmortem revealed the cause of death was a stab wound to the heart. Two men were charged with murder but were cleared of the charge after they successfully claimed self defense.

"Colin Hammond, Fulham, October 25, 2012" Colin Hammond, 65, was stabbed to death in Fulham High Street on October 25, 2012. Police and paramedics were called the scene and Hammond was pronounced dead at the scene. A postmortem later gave the cause of death as a single knife wound. A 27 year-old man was arrested nearby and charged with murder. The accused is due to stand trial after time of publication.

All images courtesy Antonio Olmos

H/T Wired

Keywords: London, Crime, Photography

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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