Molly Lefebure was born in Hackney on 6 October 1919 into a family descended from prominent arms manufacturers in 18th-century Paris. Her father, Charles Lefebure (OBE 1941 Birthday Honours), was a senior civil servant who worked with Sir William Beveridge on the establishment of the National Health Service (NHS), applying some of the revolutionary ideas of Robespierre, the Parisian Lefebures having professed Jacobin sympathies. Her mother was Elizabeth Cox.
It is 1941. There may be a 'war of chaos' in the skies over London, but 'the perpetual war against the underworld of crime' must nevertheless continue on the streets below.
At 12 o'clock on a Spring day in a London Coroner's Court, famed forensic pathologist Dr Keith Simpson asks young journalist Molly Lefebure if she might like to become his secretary. Recalling the 'horror of secretarial work and secretarial young ladies', she turns him down flat, resolving to stick to twelve-hour days covering 'everything from Boy Scout meetings to the blitz'.
By 3 o'clock that afternoon, curious about exactly what goes on behind a mortuary door, Molly has changed her mind. It is the beginning of an extraordinary adventure. 'Miss Molly' becomes Dr Simpson's right-hand woman, following him to crime scenes, courtrooms and mortuaries, taking notes, collecting evidence and witnessing the most shocking of sights.
'You'll never regret going to work in the mortuaries, Miss Molly,' a coroner's officer told her. 'There's never a dull moment with the bodies around.'