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Friday, July 17, 2015

Cold Case Solved

"Extradition requests are confidential state-to-state communications, so the Government of Canada cannot confirm or deny the existence of such a request."
Ian McLeod, spokesman, Department of Justice
Carnaby Street as it looks today
Carnaby Street as it looks today    Getty

This is about a young woman who walked the streets of Soho 70 years ago when it was a rundown, seedy district, home to underworld characters, prostitutes and their clients, and the poor who had nowhere else to live than in a slum area. Carnaby Street in Soho was decades from becoming the fashion hub it would later present to the world when the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were to be seen and heard in the then-fashionable area.

A young woman by the name of Margaret Cook (born Margaret Willis), lived west of Soho, and worked at the Blue Lagoon club, employed there as an exotic dancer. She plied the oldest trade in the world on the sidelines, a means by which she could keep body and soul together, as the saying goes of young women who resorted to selling the last thing they had of value when no other avenues of life-support appeared available to them.

In the 1940s Soho was a dim, dark nasty place where poverty and crime intersected. The Blue Lagoon, now a men's clothing store, back then was anything but upscale, but rather known for a prostitution hub. Young Margaret Cook, all of 26, was found murdered, shot to death, one of a handful of young women whose lives were violently taken leading Londoners to the belief that another "Jack the Ripper" was on the loose.

At that time in London's history a press report described the shooting that "took place in a narrow passage between a bricked-up emergency water tank and the door of a club". Writing of the violence in London's underworld, Donald Thomas in his book The Murder Room described a scene where a former policeman saw a couple arguing and heard the woman shout: "This man has got a gun!".

The man said, "Get on your way, chum, this has nothing to do with you", and the ex-policeman did indeed continue on his way until he heard a shot and saw the man on the run. Mr. Thomas further that three people gave chase but lost the shooter in a crowd. They did, however, give police a fairly interesting description of the fugitive: 25 to 30 years of age, about 5'-8" in height, dark complexion, clad in a raincoat and a pork-pie hat.

Police appeal  in The Evening News

After all that time having passed with no solution to the identity of the murderer, a war veteran who left the United Kingdom five years after the murder had taken place, has confessed. The man is now 91 years old. He had emigrated to Canada, married, and raised a family. He took out Canadian citizenship, and now at his advanced age, lives in a care home.

He has recently been diagnosed with skin cancer. "He is not in good physical health, but is mentally alert. He wanted to clear his conscience before he dies", an unnamed source explained. He had walked into an Ontario police station to confess to having murdered a woman. He was unable to recall the name of the woman but when British detectives interviewed him he selected the correct photograph of the woman he claims to have shot, out of a photo lineup.

He explained that he shot the young woman over a disagreement relating to payment for sexual services. Canada, it seems, has expressed reluctance to the extradition request "because of his age and the mitigating factor that without his confession, nobody would ever have been any the wiser".

It is a bit of a puzzle to a rational mind how confessing to having committed a murder, killing a young woman and escaping detection for 70 years while getting on with his life would bring this man to a clear conscience. If he was a murderer at age 21, bringing death to another human being in a sordid setting for a dispute over handing over to her what was due her, he is no less a murderer at a doddering 91 years of age.

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