This story was told to Laura Jacques by her Auntie Pat while walking her Jack Russell terrier on Clapham Common in the late 1960s. It was told to her Aunt Pat by a young motorcyclist and it’s his story we pick up from…
I felt good after a great evening with friends in their lovely house on the edge of Clapham Common. It was just after midnight when I left and I was looking forward to the ride home in the foggy November chill. As I got ready to mount my motorbike, I heard a rustling in the trees on the common next to where I’d parked and saw a small frail looking figure emerge from the shadows. It was a young girl, no older than 17 or 18, shivering in the cold night air. She looked frightened and pale, without a coat on and just a scarf to keep her warm.
“Are you ok?” I asked, slightly surprised to see anyone on the common at that time of night.
“I’m lost,” she whispered. ”I need to get home to my mum, it’s late.”
Discovering that she lived on my route home to Balham, I offered her a lift on the back of my motorbike. She didn’t hesitate and hopped on, holding on tight as we went.
She was deathly quiet on the way home and didn’t answer any of my questions, but seemed very relieved when we reached her house. I watched her climb the old stone steps towards her front door, then lost sight of her in the mist.
I made my way home in the cold night air and it was only when I reached my own flat that I noticed the girl had left her scarf behind on the back of my bike so the next day, I set off on my bike to the girl’s house. I dismounted my motobike and climbed the same stone steps she had climbed a few hours before. I then knocked on the door and and an older woman answered.
“Hello,” I said. “I’ve just come to drop your daughter’s scarf back, I gave her a lift home last night and she left it on my bike.”
I watched as the colour drained from the woman’s face. She took the scarf slowly and held it to her face.
”Yes,” she murmured, ”this is my daughter’s scarf. But she died five years ago, aged 17.”
I looked at her on shock. “I – I don’t understand.”
“She was murdered on Clapham Common at midnight….strangled by her own scarf, the police said…”
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