Molly in the morgue: The eccentric memoir of the woman who worked on 8,000 autopsies alongside the legendary pathologist Keith Simpson and the hangman Albert Pierrepoint
World War II saw many women pitched into tough professions, but Molly Lefebure was the only young female working in the morgues of London. Now 93 and living in a nursing home in Winchester, Hampshire, she has written a memoir recalling some of her most tantalising cases.
The young man I was supposed to be going out with that night was incredulous. Not only had I just cancelled our date but — as far as he was concerned —— I’d betrayed a morbid, unfeminine streak.
‘Why do you not prefer me to a corpse?’ he wailed. ‘There must be something wrong with you — it’s so unnatural.’
Wearily, I delivered my stock speech about how fascinating I found my work, but he wasn’t listening. Instead, like more than one of my war-time boyfriends, he nastily accused me of necrophilia.
The catalyst for all this upset was my boss, Dr Simpson, who’d telephoned just as I was doing my hair. He sounded excited: there was a very interesting shooting case at a South London mortuary, he said, and he suggested picking me up on the way.
It was always a strict rule with me that my job came first. But, to be honest, I felt much more inclined to spend the evening in a mortuary than with a hysterical young man who was lacking in imagination.
How could I expect him to understand that corpses all had fascinating stories — of hopes unfulfilled, joys that ended in sorrow, love, sacrifice, broken hearts, stupidity, depravity and crime of every description? And my goodness, how they talked!
Everything about them talked. The way they looked, the way they died, where they died, why they died.
They were all there on the post-mortem (p.m.) table: the tart who picked up a killer; the baby left to starve; the soldier who came home to find his wife in bed with another man and gassed himself; the sailor who came home to find his wife in bed with another man and shot her.