Autumn WTC #4 Sweeney Todd & Co.


October 9th 2010  Rhianna climbed the stairs, noticing the pink carpet could do with a clean. Abby and Shana were waiting for her at the top of the stairs. Business was crap at the moment, apart from Saturday.

“Hey”, she said. “Good day off yesterday?”

Rhianna’s hair was dyed russet in contrast to her black hair. Shana had a jewel piecing in her nose, Indian complexion. Abby? Properly brassy. Peroxide hair, very orange skin. They all sported long acrylic nails, pink for Abbey, pierced with jewels for Shana and Rhianna’s elaborately patterned in blue green and silver.

They washed up some brown mugs, made some tea. The appointment book was empty until 11.30. Time to spruce things up a bit. The floor was messy with nail clippings and some towels needed washing.

“Rhianna, Shana. We’re in this together and we’re mates, right? I’ve got something to tell you and sis, it’s big. Its like The Apprentice has come down our street and we’re going to win. Business can look up in ways you never dreamed of, right?

So, you know the Roma boys down the phone shop? And you know I had that date with Donut? Seems he’s really called Ionis but anyway Donut suits him. Well, he and Dragos they’re not bad boys really, least not all the time.

“Donut actually does church on Sundays and he goes ‘Meet me outside the Romanian Church in Fleet St.’

“And I go ‘WTF?? Church?’ And I don’t know where he’s talking about.

“So I went there and he’s just coming out of the service. Plenty of Romanian boys in there, it was pretty cool.  A whole crowd of them work in the phone business unlocking stuff and selling.

“Well there we are in Fleet St which is like full of old buildings and he goes ‘Did you know Sweeny Todd was a real barber who stored bodies underneath this Church?’

I’d seen the posters for that film but it looked well gross. He creeped me out but it was like, when you see a movie and you have to see the rest?

“And then he goes ‘It started to stink so they made the bodies in to pies!’ Pies! How gross is that?

“But then he looks me in the eye and goes ‘See this?’ And he pulls out a great wad of notes from the pocket of his leather jacket.”

November 15 2012 “And that. M’Lud, is how the whole horrible affair began. Ionis Arcos, twice previously deported to Romania to face charges, returned to London to a life of crime and to become a mass murderer with his accomplices present today, chief amongst them being Abbey Lovett.”

The prosecutor gestured to the others. Rhianna, Shana, Dragos and a host of others handcuffed and seated on the benches. Abby and Ionis were in the dock.

November 16 2012 The Daily Mail reported “Romanian gang in North London killing spree. Residents remain in shock. The crimes of a gang relating to murder, cannibalism and the theft of mobile phones were read out yesterday to a packed court.

What you can do to prevent these horrific crimes from happening again.

SIGN OUR PETITION. In an open letter to Downing St, we urge the Prime Minister to block Romanian entry to the EU and deport all Romanian citizens from this country. We call upon him to stop Romanians taking our jobs and killing our fellow citizens! “

Indeed, in other reports the crimes described were considered to be of a very gruesome nature. Dragos and Donut (Ionis) who’d been stealing phones for several years and exporting them to Romania had become greedy and wished to expand their empire. Their plot, if you can call it that, was certainly imaginative – enterprising even. And it made full use of all the local trades so loved by the community, bringing prosperity to a variety of businesses.

Donut had reviewed it like this

1)      Plenty of schools in area

2)    Plenty of mobile

3)     Teenagers commuting out of area

4)    Kebab shop doing good business

5)    Beauty shop in trouble – but hot chick work there

6)    Farmers market selling weird food

 Here’s what happened next.

Ionis encouraged the girls at Beauty Worx to open a nail salon and he paid the rent on the proceeds of his existing business. This new shop, Tips and Toes, would attract the school age teenagers and young mothers with its trade in nail art and acrylics. And they’d all have phones. In a side cubicle there’d be waxing for the boys. ‘Chest, Backs and Crax.’ Get those dudes all buffed up.

Of course, the premises contained toxic substances – all of them legal. And hot wax.

Many of the kids were attracted by the numerous special offers. They’d be settled in before they’d notice the staff  masked up against the fumes as the heat was turned up and the smell became overpowering. Acetone. Bit like those old pear drop sweets. They say it’s the scent of death. And death it was.

The phones would be stolen first but before they had a chance to notice they’d be knocked out by those fumes and if that didn’t get them Abby might call on Ionis to make the poor kids drink it. A very nasty poison.

And the bodies? What happened then got pretty messy. A giant cement mixer at the back did some of the business and a favoured local butcher did some too. A real sense of community, you see. The owner of the Turkish kebab shop said  that his customers reported the doner kebab had never tasted as good. He denied selling meat unfit for human consumption and denied a new charge of enticing cannibalism.

Meanwhile, another favourite with the locals had become involved. As more and more teenagers went missing, their phones never traced or opened by any ‘find it’ App, a stallholder from the Saturday Farmer’s Market was placed under arrest.

The middle class taste for new pies and terrines had expanded. Having previously been challenged by the likes of squirrel or ox cheek pie the owner had moved his recipes on to establish a new trend in British pie cookery.

Gut wrench pie with leeks

Braised buttock and mushroom pie

Thigh and walnut pie

 The new flavours were well received by local foodies.

The neighbourhood was aghast when the story became national news. The mobile phone shop had locked the phones and exported to new and bigger markets including China and  India.

An estimated 100 teenagers had died. Disappeared yet barely missed. Didn’t live in the neighbourhood. Pies had been eaten. Doner kebabs. New joints appeared at the butcher’s.

But the community had worked together to support new business. And they’d relished the results.

 Astrid Sutton

Hobson Judkin

Hobson Judkin, honest solicitor. Well known in Holborn, housed in a beautifully appointed office near the river. Small and elegant, it’s been said that people seem to disappear into the light. I presume it’s the high ceilings and a trick of perception.

I keep a civilised appearance, dress well but not too well and I ensure that I am recognised in the guilds, give alms to the poor and keep my apprentice close. I chose him carefully and pay in accordance with his duties. These have escalated slowly, after his initial, official training, he’s had personalised, personal development. My previous apprentices were discreet, smaller in stature as there was no need for the level of understanding that my present practice necessitates.

The offices are near the courts, skirting the river, ensuring that any dubious sailor, petty criminal and those of the fallen classes, congregate surreptitiously nearby, ready to stumble through my door, the first legal door they notice as their eyes skim the streets under their pulled down and hooded hats.

I was trained in Lincoln’s inn, in Montefiore’s chambers dealing in criminal law. When articled, I could hardly feed myself and my lodgings were damp, eerie, cold, even on a warm summer’s evening.

A while of getting to know felon after felon, I became increasingly aware that a good percentage of low life were living the higher life that I couldn’t afford and I set to dreaming.

Hobson Judkin innocuous, a pretty weedy specimen, pale from being hunched over ledgers and law. Low lights flickering silhouetting my thin shoulders closed in and my spine, a knobbly, dark string of pearls.

Day dreaming, walking over a hill into bright air, I gnawed, unsettled as my future promised days of dogged legal drudgery.

Good fortune strode in, as Benwell Hoist, a sailor, unkempt, foul mouthed, and staggered through my door, the stench reaching me before his wretched presence.

He spoke quickly, whispering fervently, requesting help. ‘Just a day or two and I’ll be back for sure.’ I almost politely ousted him, but his gnarled hand dug into his breeches, pulling out silver, gold and glitter which clattered and spread onto my desk.

Benwell fervently assured me of his honesty, stressing his legal ownership.  ‘Keep them safe ‘til I sail on Thursday.’ Benwell knew the worth of my safekeeping and was prepared to pay for my integrity and secrecy. I accepted.

With the storage complete, I left my dim office, much, much later to walk along Thames side to my meagre lodgings. The taverns were teaming with ribald and drunken humanity. Several ships had docked. Taverners and women were determined to earn money and sailors to spend it.

Lanes, loud with jostling and brawling, heaved as I wove my way to be brought up short, to witness the final, ugly, blood gushing death of Benwell.

I kept my silence close, as I kept his goods, planning my practice, plotting my path.

A respectable lawyer had no problem discreetly selling  items, whilst I looking for more suitable premises, close to the Thames tide.

From the front, the offices had an almost funereal appearance, promising efficiency and discretion, two rooms, both clean and efficient, the back one differently so.

Some special clients were encouraged unctuously into the back room, nursing a special alcoholic concoction, obsequiously to be denuded of valuables and of that which is even of more value.

My assured apprentice, in the back office, easing the client to relaxation, helping them into the most comfortable of chairs. The sad sack swilled the dreadful dregs, anaesthetized when the surreptitious chord tightened, the body fleeced, sluiced into the father.

Naked and unknown, at high tide a corpse slipped unnoticed into the channel.

Eventually, there will a plaque for Hobson Judkin in St Dunstans, a skull garlanding the honest solicitor.

Janice Walsh


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