Jumpers, Pill Poppers and the indoor BBQ.
Why people decided to kill themselves on a Saturday, I don't know. Neither is this place for a detailed examination of the causes of suicides. But, it goes without saying that life in Hong Kong places a lot of pressure on people. Some snap with tragic consequences.
Within the Police, a black humour exists around death. This is not insensitivity, but a coping mechanism. You need that psychological distance to function. Jumpers became "high divers without a pool" or "he forgot the parachute." Believe me you need that to cope; otherwise, it would overwhelm you.
At the start of my career "jumping from height" was the primary method of ending it all. The high-rise environment lent itself to that option. Then, over time, that changed.
Overdosing on medicine was also popular. Yet, for those of us who had to deal with the aftermath of blood and gore, the change to the indoor BBQ came as a relief.
This method emerged in the late 1990s. Locked in a room, then lighting a charcoal BBQ; death resulted from hypoxia. The media portrayed this method as easy and painless. This didn't help matters. The truth is some folks lapsed into unconsciousness and didn't die. Others survived to suffer brain damage.
The police response to these charcoal cases is straightforward. The sealed room, valuables intact, the preparation and planning are indicators of no foul play. Plus the lack of a mess or gory scene meant our job is less stressful.
Dealing with dead bodies became routine. Believe it or not there is are a lot of dead people. Later in my career when working at the Airport, I had to pull a large dead German out of a business class lavatory.
The crew had placed him there after he passed away due to a heart attack. This happened as the plane departed Amsterdam.
His accompanying wife demanded the plane turn around. The captain was having none of that. Explaining it would take time to dump fuel, land, then rearrange a new crew. He opted to go on. The dead guy was going to Hong Kong, stuffed into the toilet with the door locked.
By the time the plane arrived in Hong Kong, he had slipped down between the door and the toilet bowl. Moreover, he was stiffening up as rigour-mortis set in. It took four of us pulling and bending him before he was finally freed from the toilet. These days the option of toilet storage is not used.
One of the bizarre cases I handled started as a call for help. The manager of a hair salon was not responding to his staff after he entered a toilet. We arrived and knocked on the toilet door without an answer. With no windows or other access, I decided to force the door. Inch by inch the door gave way. Using a hand mirror, we managed to get a view inside.
The sight that greeted me was troubling. The manager was kneeling on the floor, his trousers around his ankles, with a porn mag resting on the toilet seat. Meanwhile, the handle of a toilet cleaning brush was inserted in his bottom. The floor was awash with blood.
We removed the door by its hinges. The poor chap had suffered massive blood loss after from a burst a blood vessel in the anus. I have to state that it’s not true that we carried the body out by the toilet brush handle.
Some of the saddest scenes I saw resulted from initial reports of "odd smell found." The neighbours would call us stating that a strange smell was coming from a flat. The tenant was out of contact. The fireman would break in for us.
The stench told you what to expect. A maggot-riddled corpse and a room clouded with flies buzzing around. Meanwhile, the person's possessions laid undisturbed: family photographs, records of younger days.
We trawled through phone books looking for relatives to contact. In one case, an old lady had remained undiscovered for six days. Her family had moved to the USA and lost contact. I called her daughter in New York to pass on the news. All she wanted to know is had we located the deeds for the flat.
The smell of a rotting corpse would linger in my nose for days. You could taste that smell. I took repeated showers, had my uniform dry cleaned, but still, it was there. Even as I write the smell has returned to haunt me.