Nicholls and Canning were already at Glanyrafon Villas when Mr Matthews, the photographer, arrived to capture the final images of Thomas Thomas’ dead body.
The corpse had remained in the property the deceased had shared with his landlord Thomas Hooper Mountstephen, Mrs Mountstephen and their sons Arthur, aged 11 and William, nine, along with the second lodger, Arthur Impey, after being transported there on Deputy Chief Constable Evans’ instructions following its discovery on Sunday morning.
It was in the Mountstephen home that Dr George Evan Jones, assisted by Dr Trefor Rhys of Glanaman, had the previous day completed the grisly task of carrying out a post-mortem to ascertain the full extent of the dead man’s injuries.
The examination had taken more than three hours.
When Matthews, led by the two police officers from London, made his way into the bedroom where the shopkeeper had slept in life and now lay in death he was met by the grim outline of a corpse draped beneath paper shroud.
From head to foot, the body had been covered in the pages of Saturday, February 12, edition of the Herald of Wales, a flimsy weekly newspaper given away without charge in the Swansea area.
While Matthews set up his equipment, Nicholls lifted off the sheet which had covered the head of the dead man and then removed a second which blanketed the chest and stomach.
The photographer, who had previously only ever taken the portraits of the living or captured the images of daily life around the Amman and Towy Valleys, fought the urge to vomit.
The dead man, so frail and thin, was marble white. A piece of rolled up cardboard and one of his old white work shirts had been fashioned into a makeshift headrest.
Beneath his thick brown moustache, Thomas Thomas’ mouth hung open as if caught forever in the early stages of a morning yawn. His eyes stared emptily at the ceiling above his head.
A thick band of flesh ran like a knotted cord from a rope-maker’s workshop from his groin all the way up his stomach and chest and over his right shoulder in evidence of the two doctors’ internal examination. Thick black thread had been used to close the body in ungainly pragmatic stitches without art or consideration held the remains of the dead man together.
A second band of sewn flesh ran from the centre of the shopkeeper’s throat up to and around the rear of his right ear. A third weaved its way from above the top of his left ear along the hairline of his scalp.
The right ear and surrounding area was swollen, bruised and showed numerous small cuts and gouges.
Further up the right-side of the head, close to the hairline and beneath the dead man’s brown hair the skull was misshaped and deformed and again showed a number of cuts and bruises.
The discolouration of the injuries stood out all the more against the pale cold flesh.
Matthews was astounded by the thinness of the man who lay before him, the stomach was sucked in under the ribcage; the arms lacked all meat and muscle. Thomas Thomas was mere skin and bone.
The photograper was in no doubt as to just how easily this specimen could have been overpowered and bullied by anyone of even the most average strength or menace.
The two policemen, well versed in the spectacle of death and with more than 40 years experience between them, also blanched at the brutality of what lay before them.
It was clear that the wounds were not limited to those which might debilitate or intimidate Thomas Thomas. The perpetrator would have been in no doubt of the result of his actions.
Once those gathered in the room had regained their clarity of thought, Nicholls, with the workmanlike authority he had mastered in his 21 years a detective, directed the photographer.
As instructed, Mr Matthews carefully photographed the left side of the dead man’s body.
He then moved his equipment to the other side of the room and set up once again, this time forever capturing the image of the right side of Thomas Thomas and the wounds which had brought him to his end.
With the photographer’s work complete, the two Scotland Yard men carried out their own minute inspection of the injuries.
Nicholls, at times, pulled a magnifying glass from his pocket and leaned in closely over the body, pointing out numerous points of interest to Canning who duly noted each in the small black notebook which he kept poised and ready.
Their examination over, they removed from their bags what seemed to Mr Matthews a bottle of black India ink.
Canning first lifted the dead man’s left hand as Nicholls removed the lid from the bottle and soaked a clean white cloth in the liquid, ensuring the material was given time to soak up the substance.
He then gently and with a tenderness far greater than that shown by the doctors who had last worked on the corpse, dabbed it in turn on the fingertips of Thomas Thomas.
He then smoothed a sheet of white paper beneath the hand and Canning gently pressed each digit against it, leaving a small oval black smudge.
The two men then carried out the same procedure on the right hand.
“Now we have his fingerprints for comparison,” Nicholls said to the silent photographer.