When The Ninja Struck In Liverpool

By Tom Slemen

We've all seen the legendary Japanese Ninja warriors in action in films and on TV, but, believe it or not, there was a gruesome murder case in Liverpool, England in the 1930s, and the killers were thought to have been two Ninjas.

Even today, Back Bedford Street South is a narrow, dimly lit alleyway that runs behind the Cambridge public house. Back in the 1930s, the street was just as secluded and not even as illuminated as it is today. One foggy night at 11.15 p.m. in 1937, a policeman was patrolling Mulberry Street, and decided to enjoy a cigarette. He looked about, and seeing there was no one around, the constable lit a woodbine cigarette and stood at the top of Back Bedford Street South in the shadows, smoking. About five minutes later, a figure emerged from the fog. It was somebody walking towards him with a hurried gait. As the stranger got nearer the policeman flicked his cigarette to the floor and turned to the man and put his hand on the handle of his truncheon. The stranger was about 5 foot 3 in height and of Far Eastern appearance. He bowed his head as he passed the policeman and darted down Back Bedford Street South, and kept looking around as he walked down the foggy alleyway. The policeman decided to have another cigarette, seeing as he hadn't been able to finish the other one in peace, and as he struck a match to light up, the officer of the law thought he felt something brush past him, but when he turned around he saw no one was there.

About three minutes later, the policeman heard a loud crack echo down the alleyway. He drew his truncheon and crept down the alleyway. It was so dark, he had to switch on his bulls' eye torch. The beam of the torch revealed a truly horrific sight. The oriental man who had passed him earlier was sitting up against the wall of his alleyway with a small handled hatchet buried in his skull. The blow from the killer had been so savage, it had divided the man's head into two equal halves, right down to the neck. As the horrified policeman looked on, blood started to stream down the man's neck and shoulders, and as it did, the two halves of his head fell further apart. This obviously meant that the killer had only struck less than a minute ago. The policeman put his whistle to his mouth and tried to blow hard, but he was so numb with terror, the whistle barely produced a peep. Six feet from the slaughtered victim lay a small black tube with a wisp of smoke rising from it. It looked like some sort of firecracker.

A subsequent investigation deepened the murder mystery. A single Japanese glyph was engraved on the handle of the hatchet, and an expert on Far Eastern culture said the Japanese letter referred to some ancient Ninja sect, and stood for 'revenge'. Detectives thought it might have been the work of the Chinese Tong, but all investigations and enquiries around Chinatown were met with a wall of silence.

Just as the investigation was about to be closed, a woman visited the local police station and told detectives that she had witnessed the murder near Cambridge Street. On the night of the murder, the woman had been about to retire, and had casually glanced out the window before drawing her curtains. Her window was situated opposite the scene of the crime, and she had seen a masked man in black creeping behind the policeman who was having a smoke at the top of the alleyway. This masked figure was incredibly agile, said the woman. He climbed up a pipe just four or five feet behind the policeman and tiptoed along the gutter of the roof that ran down Back Bedford Street South. The masked man then shinned down another pipe and in one swift silent movement, he dropped down on his victim and whacked him once on the head with something that looked like a hatchet. Meanwhile, another shadowy figure was coming up the alleyway from the other direction. The two figures came together and seemed to use sign language to one another. They then both climbed the pipes and as they got to the rooftops in Cambridge Street, one of them threw a firecracker down to the victim. The exploding firework distracted the policeman and sent him running towards the murder victim, and at that moment, the two masked men took the opportunity to escape down another pipe into Mulberry Street, where they ran off into the fog. All this took place literally within seconds.

The murder victim was never identified, and the woman who witnessed the well-planned slaying of the oriental was moved to another part of the city by police because they feared reprisals from the mysterious masked killers. An oriental expert who studied the case believed the murder victim had been slain by Ninja hitmen who had been acting out a classical revenge killing. Just why they killed the victim is still unknown.


Copyright Tom Slemen 1999.