Ok, I don’t really. But I have got to the bottom of the bone in the concrete planter. If you don’t know what I’m talking about read the post beneath this one first. Then come back. Go on, go and do it. I’ll wait.
Right. Now you’re up to speed.
So, it turns out the bone I found in the planter, is indeed a human bone. A fibula. That’s one of the two bones between your knee and ankle, the smaller and weaker of the two (the other’s the tibia). And it’s quite long and straight. No really curvy bits. This is important.
I know this because the police got back in touch. In fact I’m sitting in a cell right now, typing this out on my phone (relax mum, I’m not - they let me use my laptop).
The police were very prompt, which I guess they have to be when someone calls and says they’ve found some human remains. A detective inspector at Shoreditch called to say that the bone was indeed human. They took it to the Homerton to get a doctor to look at it that night, and the doc said it was human. I like to imagine the doctor did this in a slightly embarrassed manner.
Then a professor at Durham university took a look at it. I assume over the internet, unless the prof happened to be in Hoxton having a night out. I like to imagine there was a twinge of embarrassment there too (over the bone rather than a night out in Hoxton … although thinking about it…).
Anyway, after anatomical consideration, said the DI, the medical experts concluded that the bone is around 50-60 years old. So it’s been naked since around the 1950s. And although it’s completely devoid of any material needed to work out who its owner was, or how old he or she was when they died, it’s very likely they were Asian, probably from Pakistan.
At this point I’m thinking, ‘Bloody hell, they’re good - no DNA and they can tell all that already? CSI Hackney kicks Gil Grissom’s ass!’ (Whaddya mean he’s been replaced with Ted Danson?). However, my illusions were soon to be shattered.
Turns out the block of flats I live in, which was bought for £4.12m in 2002 by a very rich man (the whole freaking block!), used to be owned by Queen Mary, university of London, which had merged with Barts in 1995. As part of that merger the building was used to house medical students (you can see where this is going now).
It turns out it was common practice for teaching hospitals to buy bones/skeletons in bulk from Asia to use in lessons. As part of the teaching, students would be allowed to take the bones home to study.
Not only that, but a favourite student practice was, and probably still is, to use bones like this one as planters because they’re long and straight (see, I told you that was important) to grow - as the DI said - “tomatoes and (dare I say it cannabis!)”.
So basically medical students get to take bones home and then use them as a free version of those little green canes you get in gardening centres to grow their sweetpea or sativa. This, no doubt, has been going on for years (doctors feel free to comment below), and why I hope there was at least a smirk of embarrassment when the professionals were asked to identify the bone.
They could tell based on the colouration that one end had been in the soil, and one exposed for the plant to climb (and obviously the fact it was found in what is effectively a window box). So, due to the bone’s condition, where it was found, the agreement of medical opinion, and the building’s prior occupants, the police are pretty sure that no crime has been committed.
They’ve also decided not to dig up the other planters in the building, or the garden, but instead will drop a little note through everyone’s door to let them know what’s happened and what to do if they find any bones (won’t I be the popular neighbour!).
In one way, I’m a little disappointed. I was hoping there was going to be some intriguing murder mystery involved, but on the other hand relieved that nothing grim has happened to anyone and their body parts aren’t spread around the neighbourhood. I’m still fascinated by whose bone this is, how it ended up halfway around the world, and what sort of life they lived (although I can imagine if their body has ended up in bits on a different continent). But I’m not sure I’ll get answers to any of those questions.
One thing I can say is that I know of a good window box if you’ve got anything you need buried…