Scotland Yard is built on a crime scene related to an unsolved murder – the Whitehall Mystery

Tijana Radeska
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New Scotland Yard

The Metropolitan Police headquarters in London expanded beyond the capacities of their buildings, so in 1887 the construction of a new one began. It  took place at Whitehall Place on the Victoria Embankment, overlooking the River Thames.

The sign outside the current New Scotland Yard building, located in Victoria, London

The sign outside the current New Scotland Yard building, located in Victoria, London

Back in September 1888, the arms of a female body were found in the Thames in London and a month later the headless torso to which the arms belonged was found in a vault. The vault was soon to become a section of the new police headquarters of New Scotland Yard.

The remains were discovered by a construction worker who claimed that it had been placed there after 29 September because that was the date when the cellar was last visited by the workers. The body had been wrapped in cloth and tied with a string.

19th century illustration of the Whitehall murder case

19th-century illustration of the Whitehall murder case

The police surgeon Thomas Bond matched the previously discovered arms in the Thames with the body. Some people believed that the arms were placed on the Themes shore as a prank by medical students. Newspapers speculated that it’s one of Jack the Ripper’s victims but the Metropolitan Police claimed that the cases were not related.

According to the forensics, the woman was at the age of 24 and probably belonged to an upper social class since she had nice skin and had been “well nourished.” They also concluded that her body had been dissected by someone with a knowledge of anatomy because it had been tourniquet to stem the blood flow and her uterus had been removed from the body.

The original New Scotland Yard, now called the Norman Shaw Buildings. Photo credit

The original New Scotland Yard now called the Norman Shaw Buildings. Photo credit

The current New Scotland Yard building in Victoria Street. Photo credit

The current New Scotland Yard building in Victoria Street. Photo credit

When she died, the woman was dressed in a broché satin dress manufactured in Bradford. Remains of the dress were found along with pieces of newspapers – the Echo dated 24 August and the Chronicle from an unknown date. Except for the uterus, all the other organs seemed to be in place. It was estimated that she had been dead for approximately two months before found.

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With the permission of the police, a reporter found the left leg of the body with the help of a Spitsbergen dog. The head and the rest of the limbs were never found, just as the woman’s identity was never discovered.

It has become a point of trivia and irony that Scotland Yard, one of the world’s best-known police agencies, is built on a crime scene related to an unsolved murder.