What’s the most secret room in London? According to GQ’sTony Parsons, it’s the crime museum at New Scotland Yard. Tucked away deep inside the building, it has been inaccessible to all but a notable few since its inception (at the original site) in 1874; the visitors’ book includes names such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, King George V – and Parsons, of course, who drew on it for his Max Wolfe series of novels.
Now, for the first time, its macabre contents are going on public display in The Museum Of London’s exhibition The Crime Museum Uncovered. Herewith, six intriguing objects from inside…
1. Electrical generator belonging to the Richardson gang, 1960s
The Richardsons – arch-rivals of the Kray twins – did not use this hand-cranked generator to keep the lights on. No, they preferred to attach its wires to their enemies’ nipples and genitals to extract information and intimidate would-be transgressors. If necessary, they placed victims in a bath of water to enhance the effects.
2. Laptop recovered from Glasgow Airport terrorist attack, 2007
This laptop was in the car that smashed through the glass doors of Glasgow Airport in 2007, before bursting into flames when its bomb failed to detonate. Despite the damage, experts were able to recover 96% of its data, providing crucial leads in the subsequent investigation.
3. The death mask of Franz Muller, 1864
Franz Muller, a German tailor, robbed Thomas Briggs on the railway between Fenchurch Street and Chalk Farm and threw his body onto the tracks. It was the first murder on a British railway – but Muller left his hat at the scene, a clue that eventually led to his arrest. He was hanged at Newgate Prison in front of 50,000 spectators on 14 November 1864; this was his death mask.
4. Replica Millennium Star diamond, 2000
The Millennium Star, one of the most flawless diamonds in the world, was housed at the Millennium Dome as part of a temporary exhibition. Except on 7 September 2000, that is, when it was switched for this replica following intelligence of a planned heist. That day, a gang burst into the Dome in a JCB digger armed with smoke bombs and nail guns, only to be arrested by undercover armed police.
5. Ronnie and Reggie Kray’s briefcase, 1968
Kitted out with a spring-loaded syringe, this briefcase was designed to kill a witness at the Old Bailey – the poison inside would have done so within eight seconds. It was, fortunately for the intended victim, never used.
6. Veuve Clicquot champagne bottle, 1963
After the Great Train Robbers fled the Royal Mail carriages from which they had stolen £2.6m on 8 August 1963, the gang headed to Leatherslade Farm. When the police eventually located the hideout, they recovered various possessions including this champagne bottle.
Until 10 April 2016. 150 London Wall, London EC2Y.
Tickets from £10. Museumoflondon.org.uk