Places to Hide Bodies – Istanbul by Barbara Nadel

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Continuing on from last week’s exploration of where one might hide a dead body in London, here is the Istanbul version.

1) On the roof of the Grand Bazaar. James Bond may well have motorcycled over the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar in ‘Skyfall’ but I’ve been up into the workshops that pepper the upper reaches of that structure and I can tell you it is a labyrinth up there. Whether actually on top of the roof or in the workshops and passageways just underneath it, put a body there, and it will disappear. Especially if you wrap it up in a carpet.

2) Aboard a Bosphorus ferry. As the Tube is to London, so the Bosphorus ferries are to Istanbul. Although it must be said that these days they do have competition from the city’s excellent metro and tramway systems. But ferries still plough up and down the Bosphorus on many and various routes and they are always packed. And, like the Tube, it’s possible and very easy to overlook a particularly quiet passenger as he or she takes what is later found to be his or her final voyage in this world.

3) The Church of St Mary Draperis, Istiklal Caddesi. One of Istanbul’s lesser known Catholic churches, St Mary Draperis, though in the heart of the city, is hidden away down a long flight of stairs and behind iron fences. Although of only 18th century vintage it feels much older and inside it has a dark, fear of God atmosphere which reminds me of the church where Robert de Niro, in his guise as the Devil, met Mickey Rourke in the 1980s thriller ‘Angel Heart’. Nobody bothers you in St Mary Draperis in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in there. An apparently praying and motionless figure may well pass unnoticed for some hours.

4) Underneath the Hippodrome. There’s not much to see of the old Roman Hippodrome at ground level now. It is actually part of a park where its three surviving ancient structures, the Serpentine Column, The Egyptian Obelisk and the Walled Obelisk can be seen. It’s easy to pick out the shape and size of the Hippodrome but it is only when one gets underneath it that the real glories can be seen. That however is rather more easily said than done. There is an unobtrusive and small metal door at the southern end of the Hippodrome which does give access to the glories beneath. I know it exists because I’ve seen film of it. But to actually go in there you need to be an archeologist, with a boat (very wet underneath there) and/or a person going about something nefarious. It’s a marvellous place to hide a body. Truly marvellous.

5)Topkapi Palace Harem. Oh the poetic irony! Where once hundreds, sometimes thousands of girls waited for the call to the Sultan’s bed and the possibility of raised status and wealth that sex with the Lord of the Golden Horn could bring, a girl is found murdered in the opulent apartments of the Valide Sultan (the Sultan’s mother). The Royal Mother (Valide) was almost always opposed to any girl her son took a shine to and more than a few concubines were killed by successive valides. How apt therefore to find a young and attractive girl’s body in such a place.

6) The Botter House. This is on Istitklal Caddesi in Beyoglu and is one of my favourite Istanbul buildings. Constructed at the beginning of the 20th century in the art nouveau style, it was designed by the Italian architect Raimondo D’Aronco. It was built for the Ottoman court tailor, the Dutchman Jean Botter and his family by the then Sultan, Abdulhamid II. However the Botter house fell into disrepair many years ago and is now a blackened and damaged shadow of its former self. Apparently there is some dispute as to who now actually owns the building which means that it is not only empty but neglected too. I’ve squeezed myself as far as I can behind the corrugated iron plates that now aim to defend it and I can tell you that it looks dirty, derelict and distinctly pigeon filled in there. If you really wanted to hide a body that wouldn’t be found, that would be your place.

7) Cicek Pasaj. In English this the ‘Flower Passage’ which is a small curving alleyway that leads from Istiklal Caddesi to the Balik Pazar (Fish Market). It’s a very lively area full of small restaurants and bars which, you might think, would be a very bad place to do a murder or hide a body. But I disagree. I see Cicek Pasaj as the perfect location to bring back my favourite poison, arsenic, and here is why. At most of the little restaurants and bars in that area a delicacy known as Cig Kofte, raw lamb meatballs, are served. I have eaten this dish in people’s homes but never ‘out’. Because the meat needs to be very fresh and absolutely spotless those who do eat it ‘out’ tend to come unstuck, as it were. And like arsenic poisoning, food poisoning via raw meat acts very quickly on the human body necessitating a flight to the toilet in very short order. And when one is groaning in pain in the bathroom how can people tell whether one has been struck down by Cig Kofte or whether one is in fact a rare modern arsenic victim? And think of how hard it would be in such a crowded place to discover who put the arsenic in the food anyway? Or why?

8 ) In the Bosphorus (or the Golden Horn, or the Sea of Marmara). Taking a leaf out of the old Sultans book of murder, take one inconvenient person, tie up in a sack and throw into a deep body of water. Simple.

9) The Four Seasons Hotel. Again this is a case of appropriateness. This impressive and somewhat forbidding building used to be Sultanahmet Prison. It was only converted into a hotel in 1992 and I am so old and gnarly that I can remember both human and animals guards on the roof (they used to use peacocks as guards because they screech). One can, even now and especially when one looks at the scratches of prisoners past on the walls, imagine all too easily a modern day ingenue dying of fright within those thick walls.

10) Kiz Kulesi, the Maiden’s or Leander’s Tower is a small tower on an island just off the Asian shore of the Bosphorus at Uskudar.  Probably originally constructed as a tollbooth and defence point it is also thought, by the more romantically inclined, to have been built to commemorate the youth Leander’s doomed swim across the strait to Europe to be with his love, Hero. Now the tower contains a small restaurant and is rather uninteresting except for that fact that it is frequently cut off from the rest of the world. Where better to hide a dead body than on a tiny island in the middle of the Bosphorus that gets cut off?

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