‘In 1972 I became the first woman Detective Constable on the regional Crime Squad based at brighton.’
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Detective Constable Carol Jones had to answer the salon phone and persuade callers to part with their names, addresses or phone numbers.
We found cards giving details of some of Auntie’s clients and their peculiar requirements.
I delegated the delicate duties of interviewing these men to a special team of detectives. They had to tread warily. All murder investigations call for tact but none more than those involving probes into sexual activities. A wrong move could wreck a marriage or an entire family.
Letters in the house were addressed to Mrs Viktoria Engerer.
We took the murder victim’s fingerprints as a matter of routine. It paid dividends. Supt De’Ath and I appealed for clients to come forward voluntarily so that suspects might be eliminated. Many did.
The Happy Hooker
The quiet old lady was internationally known as the ‘happy hooker’. She was born Viktoria Etel Klucsik in Yugoslavia, in October, 1896. She had been twice married and came to England in 1937. She was granted a British passport the following year because of her marriage to a Maltese called Engerer, who was a British subject.
She began her life as a prostitute in America, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. She saved money and in April 1965 paid £2,950 for the house in Over Street. Then she opened her Swedish HeaIth Centre. Business flourished and she spent £500 on a face lift. Among her clients for “relief” were many businessmen, some from London.
As Auntie Vicki was noted for her philanthropy, we looked to robbery as the motive. We learned that it was not unusual for her to have wads of banknotes carelessly stacked in her salon. Our officers circulated among local villains.
Then a neighbour recalled mentioning the money in the house to Christopher Willis, 27, unemployed, who had lodged in Over Street.
Willis, known locally as Chico, was brought into murder HQ, and seen by two detective sergeants, Bill Wheatley and Daryl Fromm.
Later, with Detective Chief Inspector Bill Taylor, I saw him in the cell block, and by that time he had admitted being present in the building with a man named Frank Briggs.
When cautioned, he said softly: “Yes, that’s right. I’ve told them all about it but I didn’t know he (Briggs ) was tooled’ (armed with a knife).”
Looking straight at me, he added: “I’ll never forget it. Have you ever heard the death rattle? I’ve heard that death gurgle every bloody day for a bloody month. I can’t get her out of my mind.”
As he talked, Willis sketched the murder scene and the knife Briggs had used.
They had decided to do the house, and Briggs had pushed his way in. He covered Vicki’s mouth with his hand to stifle her screams. Failing to get into the locked upstairs rooms, Willis returned to the salon where he saw Briggs stabbing the woman.
Briggs gave Willis about £50 and kept £200 to £300.
Frank Briggs, 34, wasn’t difficult to find. We saw him on June 25 at Wandsworth Prison. He was serving a thirty month sentence for burglary, deception and theft. Like so many villains who think they have committed the perfect crime, Briggs had bragged about his only murder. He confessed to the killing to another prisoner who became our surprise key witness at the pair’s trial at Lewes on December 5.
After six hours the Jury found Briggs guilty of murder, conspiracy and robbery. He was jailed for life for murder with a seven year sentence for the other offences to run concurrently. Willis got five years for conspiracy and robbery. The Engerer case ended as a murder with a motive as old as the days of footpads, a crime in which lonely elderly people are often the victims. In America, a chain on the front door is accepted furniture. It is now equally essential here.
Had one been fitted to Auntie Vicki’s door she might well be alive today